Through colloquial writing and an extensively constructed backdrop, Andrew Orange’s fantasy novel, The Game of VORs, depicts an oppressive imperial society while providing elements of our own world (past and present). It's a society placed within a wider-encompassing alternate universe that feels somewhat familiar and entirely disconcerting to experience. Follow an estranged count-heir, who, after failing his high school finals, is thrown off trajectory and forced to become a weatherman at a secluded military base amid violence, hidden agendas, and government censorship and propaganda.
In terms of narrative style, The Game of VORs feels slightly reminiscent of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. This is entirely due to the simple, modern, and easy-to-understand voice used, while simultaneously providing allegorical insight that is critically observant of the human potential in a truly dystopian way. However, that's where the comparisons end.
While this novel began with an engaging start, it had some lulls throughout because some information given felt irrelevant to the plot. However, while sometimes difficult to maintain this reader’s interest, the intriguing characters and concepts of Orange’s story could make powering through the somewhat verbose and seemingly arbitrary segments worthwhile to other readers.
Some conversations felt awkward in execution, evoking a quality specific to a fictional realm rather than a real one. However, this could be excused as an authorial choice to place the characters in a different reality than the reader’s, and if so, the different conversational mannerisms complimented this fact.
There were straight-forward yet multiple mentions and situations involving murder, suicide, prostitution, infidelity, excessive alcohol drinking, and use of impolite language, which may be inappropriate for younger readers. Similarly, frequent and explicit talk of sex (both consensual and non-consensual) might be too mature for some.
The females in this novel were treated as sexual objects or side characters who were barely seen, and when seen, those women were perceived through the gaze of somewhat sexist heterosexual males. Whether this inhibits one’s reading experience is up to the reader. It can be seen as either the personality of the characters or as a general atmosphere of the novel. This reader felt it to be the latter. On the other hand, this book isn’t set in a pleasant or picturesque world. It’s dismal, corrupted, and often disgusting. While some of the conversations, thoughts, and actions of characters were revolting to read, it felt like an intentionality of the author in terms of setting the scene of the world in which the characters live. This could be compared to reading a history textbook and feeling repulsed by past actions of the human race. While the information isn’t nice, it isn’t necessarily meant to be. Just as a history textbook would, Orange reported the cultural horrors of the time period he invented, which doesn’t make this a lightweight read but a possibly interesting one nonetheless.
In conclusion, The Game of VORs is unpredictable, yet not in an inconsistent or surfeit manner. The roller-coaster-esque ride brings surprises around every corner (or rather page), without making it difficult to keep track of the plotline. While several sections felt tedious to sift through and the material rather grim and crude, overall, the novel’s vibe can be mysteriously intriguing enough to collect attention without being mysterious to the point of vagueness.