The End Games - T. Michael Martin You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews."I guess, sort of, it's heading 'home.' Viruses do that literally, sometimes: there're some that actually make infected animals migrate to the place on Earth where the virus originated. … But even if it doesn't do that, the goal of every virus is to 'go home' to itself: to make the ultimate, purest form of itself. … As with every virus, this one is evolving to its more powerful-slash-purest form."Michael asked if that form had a name.Holly said, "The endgame."Summary:On Halloween, the world as we know it came to an end … and then it came back in the form of what seventeen-year-old Michael calls "The Game." Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have now been playing The Game for weeks, battling strange monsters called Bellows which now plague the world around them. But now The Game is starting to change, and so are the Bellows … and there are other players who don't play by the rules. My thoughts:The End Games took me longer to read than it should have. It's 300-something pages, and it's about a zombie-apocalypse type scenario. So … should be exciting and fast-paced, right? Well, I guess it was technically pretty fast-paced. A lot of stuff happened, a lot of craziness, a lot of life-or-death scenarios. And yet, there was something about this book that really failed to hold my attention, and I found that every time I picked it up, I couldn't go for a few minutes without wanting to just put it back down again. It wasn't terrible or anything, but I struggled to feel invested in it––and for a while, I had trouble putting a finger on why. Ultimately, I think the concept of the book was good; it had a lot of originality and fantastic ideas going for it. But the style took away from it for me.What I liked:- As I just mentioned, the concept of the book was intriguing and it was different from a lot of other zombie books I've read. It was at least memorable in its uniqueness. The Bellows are zombie-like, but they have aspects that made them different from typical horror-movie monsters. (Mind you, I'm not saying I really liked what the Bellows were like––which I'll get to later––but I appreciate the author's effort to be original.)- The relationship between Michael and Patrick is sweet and believable. If I was invested in anything in the book, it was probably their relationship. As someone with younger siblings, the dynamic felt genuine to me. I could really feel the strong connection between the two brothers––a bond that was unbreakable, but also not perfect. - I can't really say this one without giving away the biggest spoiler in the book … but, let's just say there was a major plot twist about a fourth of the way through the book that really took me by surprise. This is hard to explain because … in a lot of ways, this twist really confused and annoyed me, but I loved the idea of it. Basically, it was a great idea; I just hated the confusing way it was presented … and really, it didn't have to be a secret from the beginning of the book.What didn't work for me:- Well, let's start with that major plot twist I just mentioned. Yes, I loved the idea. But I was kind of mystified as to why it had to be a plot twist at all. It would have been much better if we'd just known it from the beginning, I think. I'm sure those of you who haven't read the book have no clue what I'm talking about right now, but those of you who have read it (or who don't care about spoilers): So, what threw me was that it turned out there was no "Game" and that Michael was the "Game Master," etc. I mean … it made everything make a lot more sense, in a way, because up until this was revealed I really had no clue what the hell was going on. Like, there was some crazy zombie apocalypse going on, and I was like, "Wait so … is this actually happening? Are they trapped in some virtual reality?" So when it turned out Michael had made up the Game as a way to protect Patrick from the truth, it became a little easier to follow and I really liked the idea of that … I just didn't understand why it had to be a secret in the beginning, because all it did was make the story more confusing for the reader.- The Bellows were not that scary to me. In fact, they came off as being kind of comical … which gave the whole story a really weird feel to it. They were scary monsters out to kill everyone, sure. But then, they also did this thing where they repeat everything you say. And even that could have been creepy––you know, if maybe they'd repeated everything in an eerie whisper or something. But well, they're not called Bellows for nothing. The thing is, when they repeat after people, they talk "LIIIIIKEEEE THIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSS!" (Like, literally … the author wrote out the dialogue that way.) It didn't help that Michael and Patrick would shout things like "I'M A POOPY BUTT, HAHA" just to hear the Bellows yell it back at them. (Side note: There were a lot of poop/butt/fart jokes … Uggh, don't even get me started.) So … yeah, I don't know. The repetition aspect was original at least and it could have been made a lot more frightening, but I had a lot of trouble being afraid of creatures whose dialogue was written like the over-excited Facebook comments of a 15-year-old girl.- Building off of that, all the dialogue was strangely written. I think the author was going for realism … ? But somehow, it just made all the characters sound like stoners. I don't really know how else to describe it. Just an example:"Therefore. In conclusion. This isn't The End. The world ins't over.""So, what is the world?""Just paused, man."- The author also had this tendency of a) spelling words incorrectly … to make it appeal more to the cool kids or something, and b) dragging out vowels in words … for emphasis … ? Who knows. Both are demonstrated here:As they returned to the Hummer, Holly said, "May I say, for the record, how fab it is to have you guys here now? New friends rawk.""Totally," Michael said.Friends, Michael thought.Daaaaaang.- If you think that's annoying … well, the whole book is pretty much written like that. Not just the dialogue and the characters' internal thoughts. The whole thing. Somehow the writing simultaneously felt like it was trying way too hard to appeal to a teenage crowd, and at the same time it felt like it wasn't trying at all. It's like, it tried so hard to be original and attention-grabbing that it just became clumsy/silly, and I found it frustrating to read. For example:He found himself relishing the tasks, which were so awesomely familiar from almost Every Video Game Ever. It couldn't have felt more different than The Game did, and in no small part because somebody else was shaping the day, which––true fact––was awesome.So … I think you get the picture. Maybe it's just my taste, but I didn't find the style appealing. - I didn't like the characters. Well, okay … I wouldn't say that I disliked them. It was more that I didn't care about them. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with them; there just wasn't anything interesting. They didn't feel fleshed-out or believable, and hence I really didn't care whether they survived or what their relationships were or anything. As I said earlier, I did like the dynamic between Michael and Patrick, but that was the only one that felt believable to me. The romance between Holly and Michael felt super forced, and it wasn't that interesting considering they were virtually just the same bland character but with different genitalia. The final word:The End Games falls in a weird place for me … I didn't love it, I didn't hate it … but I didn't really like it, either. The idea had serious potential and I think I would have liked it a lot more if it was more focused on the relationship just between Michael and Patrick, if the concept had been far more fleshed-out, if the writing had been more natural and not as forced, if the tone had been more serious and less immature … so on and so forth. I think what I'm trying to say is, it's a pretty decent story, but so much of it could have been better and more powerful. Unfortunately, it's another book that I was really looking forward to reading, but which fell flat for me in the end. ~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~