Invitation to the Game

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Invitation to the Game
Author Monica Hughes
Country Canada
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 192
ISBN 0-00-639365-9
OCLC 56752172

Invitation to the Game is a science-fiction book written by Monica Hughes. It has recently been published as The Game.

The book is a hard science fiction dystopian novel set in 2154,[1] a time when machines and robots perform most jobs and children go to government schools. Because of this, very few people are employed, with many people living on a social welfare system for support. The unemployed people have nothing to look forward to, except various illicit drugs. Some have formed gangs, some are shown to be agitating for political reform (in chapter 5 there is a reference to leaflets printed up), and many are involved in organized crime of some form or another. The government, possibly the only government in existence at this point, is shown to have complete control over its citizens by restricting the unemployed to designated areas (DAs), and having similar control over the working-class.[2]

The working-class people are taught to hate the unemployed citizens, and the unemployed generally want money and employment, in a classic class struggle.[3]

The story is told from the perspective of Lisse, a recent graduate of school.

Plot summary[4][edit]

Lisse and her seven friends are unemployed after graduating from a respected private school, and are assigned to live as a group in an abandoned warehouse in a Designated Area (DA). They discover that by day, the area they live in is a dreary, dirty, unsafe place. By night, however, the unemployed party. Lisse and her friends spend care-free evenings after they realize that they are a team and that this is their life now. The thought police quickly step in to quell any large problems or disputes. For their own safety, they study karate and other self-preservation skills. In the night, Lisse and her friends hear of a mysterious 'game', called "The Game" with capital letters. It is known that participants can only be selected, and that anyone who requests to join will always be declined... In the unsafe night, they encounter a suspicious man named Charlie, who offers Lisse's friend and housemate Alden a partnership. Charlie wants to use Alden's skills in chemistry, this and encounters with other young homeless people suggests the use of drugs in their DA. Alden declines and beaten up by a gang of Charlie's thugs. Lisse and her friends learn that they need to protect themselves, and another housemate, Brad, scrounges for materials to turn their warehouse into a protected "castle".

One day the group get invited to "The Game", which turns out to be a virtual-reality full-world simulation. They are given electronic passes and have to travel by train to where The Game is taking place. During the journey, they are treated disdainfully by the employed workers they encounter. Once at The Game's location, they lay on couches and enter the simulated world of The Game. This simulation is based in an outdoor environment and the aim seems to be survival in this different climate. Having little else to look forward to in their lives, the group focuses on training and information gathering during their time between Game sessions. They develop a schedule of regular exercise (consisting of jogging and weight-training), search for information in the local library, and discuss their experiences and motivations. As they progress in The Game, they find that they have needs (for a doctor and someone with agricultural knowledge). People they knew from school re-enter their lives, filling those needs, although they initially believe this to be a coincidence. During their sessions in The Game they are always brought back to reality if they experience danger, such as eating poisoned berries. In the real world, they record everything that happens in The Game, mapping the areas they find and keeping track of the flora and fauna they encounter. They also speculate what they would win if they won The Game, thinking about prizes of credits to buy anything they like, including travel.

After a year of such training, The Game session changes, they have a different initial experience and although they are placed in the same world, it feels different. They discover they are not awakened if they are in danger of hurting themselves. They first think this means they have gone to a new, higher level of The Game but start to realize they are never going to 'wake up' and that they are in their new home forever. At first they believe they have been sent to another country, but they recognize this cannot be true when they realize they have never seen the moon, which is visible from everywhere on Earth. They stay up at night to look at the stars and the position of these makes them realize they are in a totally different part of the galaxy.

They realize that The Game was a kind of training program meant to prepare the group- and others like them- for an off-world colony project. This project is designed to halt the massive overpopulation the world is suffering. The different start of this phase of The Game, which they thought was a new level, was in fact their transportation to the new world, where they have been left forever. Lisse remembers them landing in an egg-like structure which they rediscover and this confirms they have been transported. Eventually, they christen the new world 'Prize'- ironically at first- as their new life there is what they have won in The Game.

It is hinted that part of the reason such a group of people were unemployable out of school was to help in the colonization of other worlds, since each seed group would need a variety of talents. Indeed, an early portion of the book reinforces this supposition, as it explains that the prestigious school from which Lisse and her friends graduated once had a 90% job-placement rate, which is now a mere 10%— possibly suggesting that the most qualified workers are being placed within the Game system rather than the workforce.

Lisse and her group meet and integrate with another group and they all eventually pair off into relationships. Lisse explains that her original group could not intermarry as they are too close and feel like family. The book ends with Lisse making paper to write a story to the unborn baby she is revealed to be carrying, which she thinks will be a girl. The first child born on Prize.

The first sentence she writes is the first of the book and by this literary device it is revealed that the book they have read is what Lisse herself has written of her story.