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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recently read: "The California Voodoo Game" by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

The California Voodoo Game: A Dream Park Novel

The California Voodoo Game: A Dreampark Novel

The third book by Niven and Barnes to focus on Dream Park, the fictional California amusement park which hosts LARG in addition to typical rides.  This one takes place eight years after the first.  The new game, focusing on voodoo, is set in Meacham's Folly (Meacham Incorpaorated Mojave Industrial Community) which was meant to be a giant planned community.  Damaged in the big quake (which occurs before Dream Park), it has been abandoned until now, when it is being used as the setting for the newest game, and then will be used as the test bed for the terraforming being planned for Mars (part of the background for The Barsoom Project)

Alex Griffin, Dream Park security chief, has a new girlfriend who is found murdered just before the game starts.  Tony McWhirter (jailed by Griffin in Dream Park, then hired for security when he is released from prison, and now one of the Game Masters for the new game) guesses that the killer is possibly in the game and that there is some sort of gambling fix planned. Griffin once again enters a game as a player.

The game itself is based around Voodoo, and gods (or aliens), and is different in that instead of a single team, there are multiple ones, competing against one another.  This leads to a lot of strategy by the Lore Masters (the heads of the teams) with alliances formed and broken. This adds to the complexity of the game, but sometimes adds to the confusion, since the cast of characters is pretty large (though there's a lot of game "deaths" fairly early in the game).  We also see several returning characters among the gamers, including Mary Em and Acascia Garcia (former lover of both McWhirter and Griffin).  I did enjoy some of the teams (the Army team in particular).

As a mystery (and as a game) this one is better than The Barsoom Project, but still lacks something compared to Dream Park.  I did think the ending, which Griffin finally realizing what his life has lacked, is fitting.

As a side note, like the Kindle version of Dream Park, the cover art for this one isn't very good, especially compared to the art of the original hardcover edition.

The California Voodoo Game: A Dreampark Novel

We'll see a new Dream Park book, The Moon Maze Game, later this year (though it will be set more than 25 years after this book)

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