Book Review: Ultimate Game by Christian Lehmann

Here’s a guest book review written by author Christina Hamlett

Ultimate Game cover imageTitle: Ultimate Game
Author: Christian Lehmann
Published: 2000 (originally published in French in 1996)
David R. Godine, Publisher

I’m clearly not the target demographic for Christian Lehmann’s gripping YA thriller, Ultimate Game. To begin with, I’m over 50, female, have never played a computer game beyond an occasional solitaire, have never seen “TRON,” and am daunted every time my husband upgrades our cell phones, computers, kitchen appliances or stereo systems. I often tell him, in fact, that he must never die because he’s the only one who knows where the “on” button is or how to troubleshoot pesky glitches when I can’t access my email. In a nutshell, if I were to find myself in the dark recesses of computer warfare such as the three friends in Lehmann’s novel, I would likely never be seen again.

The book is a fast-paced read (I finished it in one evening) and embraces two dark, very real themes. The first is the obsessive nature of virtual gaming and the insularity it breeds in young people whose time might be better spent reading books, playing outdoors and interacting with friends. Having interviewed a number of educators for magazine/newspaper articles as well as my own books, there’s a growing concern that communication skills are diminishing as students spend more and more time in front of their monitors or vigorously texting.

Secondly is the anesthetizing effect that violent video games and movies have on impressionable young minds. It’s almost as if they see it on such a regular and graphic basis that there’s a disconnect between the gore and horror of what’s on the screen and the realities of violence and bloodshed that exists in the real world. In Lehmann’s novel, it’s entirely plausible that the young pals would get caught up in their latest find—a single diskette with content that surpasses their wildest fantasies about daredevil deeds, destruction and death. It would make a good candidate for a book club read and discussion because of its undercurrent of morality issues and the underlying threat of becoming so obsessed with unhealthy pasttimes that you lose all sense of personal identity.

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