Game by Barry Lyga
So the second book in this trilogy where we’ve got a baby Dexter clone fighting against serial killers goes kind of asshole levels of whatthefuckerous before settling into a nice depressing Empire Strikes Back groove. Spoilers abound if you plan on reading the rest of the series.
After Billy has escaped prison and is on the loose, Jazz and his friends have settled in to their happy lives in Lobo’s Nod. Except nope. Jazz is immediately whisked off to New York City (NEW YORK CITY!) by an eager NYPD detective named Hughes who is convinced Jazz can use his insights to help solve their current serial killer problem. A maniac is killing people at random, seeming to escalate, as he carves hats and dogs into his victims. Or is it TWO maniacs? Or is it THREE maniacs? OR FOUR?!
No, it’s two. There are definitely a bevy of maniacs afoot, but what we’re looking at is just two. See, they’re playing a game. Everyone’s playing a game, which quickly and illogically involves teenagers Connie and Jazz and even poor awful Howie, who spends his time sexually assaulting Jazz’s aunt Sam, who is back to help out temporarily.
The story has an excellent structure — in the series of what the game represents and how it’s played out by the killers and Billy who is proctoring them — but the payout is fucking horrid. It really and truly is. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, and it feels like Lyga decided, “Ah, fuck it that these are seventeen year olds, let’s just let this happen because it’s so great.”
And it is clever. I half figured it out, but I didn’t think that made sense. And then it did, and I nodded appreciatively. But the ending of the book, and where things stand are what elevate it. Aware that this is the middle point, Lyga banks on it with an epic assortment of corpses and downpoints that leave his main trio all in the hospital and at savage lows. It’s handless Luke finding out his worst enemy is his father, it’s Han getting frozen in carbonite, it’s Leia getting taken to Jabba. It’s a motherfucker sad ending. And it’s supposedly getting worse from here.