Hayley’s parents disappeared when she was a baby. Since then, she has been raised and homeschooled by her grandparents. Grandad is overworked and travels a lot; Grandma is much too strict and never lets her meet any children her own age. When Hayley does something wrong—she is not quite sure what—they pack her off to her aunts in Ireland. To Hayley’s shock, her family is much bigger than she thought; to her delight, the children all play what they call “the game,” where they visit a place called “the mythosphere.” And while she plays the game, Hayley learns more about her own place in the world than she had ever expected. This original novella by Diana Wynne Jones is sharply funny, fast-paced, and surprising until its very end—like all of this acclaimed author’s work. (from Amazon)
I never know how to review Diana Wynne Jones’ shorter books. They’re not as complicated plot-wise as her longer ones (obviously), so there’s less to dig into there. However, they’re still wonderful stories, and if you look closely they still have a lot of stuff you can talk about. They’re also still very much full of the usual DWJ things.
The Game, for instance, has got her signature “terrible adult(s) get their comeuppance” plot. I said in my review of The Merlin Conspiracy that some people escape punishment– I now realize that KIDS escape punishment. There’s a bad kid in this book, but he’s never punished (not even by his parents) though he causes a LOT of trouble. Kids get it (realatively) easy in her books, or if they don’t have a good time for the majority of the book, they get a reward at the end anyway. (I don’t know what it is about me that I enjoy “bad people get punished” stories so much, but I do.)
The Game reminds me a little of Hexwood; it’s got the same sort of twisty feeling to it, where people aren’t who you think they are and there’s lots of confusing stuff and you feel a bit lost at the end. Unlike Hexwood, The Game is fantasy and full of more mythologically-familiar characters (Greek, mostly), so it’s a little easier untangling the ending sequence.
I really like how DWJ weaves in the Greek myths, and how she gives them modern clothing. The mythosphere is kinda like her multiple worlds thing– there’s layers and more layers, and the further away you get from your home layer, the weirder/harder/meaner things are. So, for example, the myth of Sisyphus is in its original form way out at the back of the mythosphere layers, but closer to earth it’s an office where you always have more paperwork to do.
Different clothing, see, but same situation! It’s really neat, and I wish I’d done a class in Greek myths or something before now. I recognized most of the references, but I didn’t even realize who “Jupiter” was until the author’s note at the end.
The Game is a short book, but it’s nevertheless lots of fun (with a twinge of sadness. There’s some MESSED UP stuff in this book, but if you’re not paying attention you might not catch it the first time around). If you like mythology, or DWJ’s weirder books, you definitely need to check this one out.
Read: March 6, 2013
I’ve actually got two editions of this book– the Firebird edition shown above, and this super fancy Harpercollins UK one. This cover is AMAZING! You really need to see it in person to get the full effect. There’s shiny silver stuff threaded throughout!
Which cover do you prefer? I think the UK one fits the age range/tone better, but the US one is interestingly moody. And I really like Hayley’s sweater.