The Sacrifice Game. Brian D'Amato. Dutton: A Division of Penguin USA Group. 2012. 672 pages hardback. ISBN #: 9780525952411.
When Jed was a small boy, as depicted in D'Amato's first novel (In The Courts of the Sun) in this planned trilogy, his mother taught him a game that turned out to be a Mayan divination ritual, a game in which one could predict the future and even time-travel. Now in this second novel, it turns out there are two Jed characters, one who is living in the Mayan civilization in the year 664 and the other who is living in 21st Century America. The first puzzle the reader finds in this newer novel is understanding how this divided person can be so different. For with the help of education and the financial backing of a research institution, Jed has learned so much more about this "Sacrifice Game." He and others have refined it so that the world can truly understand the Mayan civilization that is so often misunderstood by our century's citizens, too often confused with other parallel civilizations existing during and after the time of the Mayans. But what Jed learns in that civilization is so decadent, cruel, and so much more that is devastating to him that the Jed living in our world has decided he will fulfill the Mayan calendar prediction of ending the world in December of 2012!!!
The style of this sci-fi, gaming novel is unique - not quite stream of consciousness but a type of random and linear writing that takes us into the mind, heart, and even body of Jed and others with whom he interacts. Allusions to history, mythology, current events, religion, power-mongering, and so much more fill these pages so that if one is attentive one gets a fascinating education in the connection between supposedly unrelated events and personalities. We also see the baser aspects of humanity in the way it seeks to destroy anyone who gets in the way of its motives and plans - from the leaders of the Mayan society who practice cannibalism, suicide, and murder without batting an eye and so much more for the reader to explore. It's not much different in American a la 2012.
The central conflict is a battle between Jed who has figured out a way to make every living human vanish in a second, even less, so fast indeed that they won't realize it happened and those who earlier supported Jed and his skills and who discover his intentions. They desperately begin to attempt to stop him from carrying out his "righteous" task, one he believes he is inspired to by the sacrifice game. His alter-ego, on the other hand, in Mayan society has found a way to save those people from the extinction we know actually occurred. There's quite a bit of craziness like having chili enemas or taking mind-altering drugs (that helps one go "deeper" in the game), etc., etc.
This novel will stretch your imagination and focus beyond where it's been; it's like a mind-altering drug in itself in a way. It will, however, leave readers thinking about the role of humans never learning from history or culture and the underlying tension between destruction and salvation that is constantly going on despite the oblivious lack of attention of most of us. It's a read you definitely won't forget. If you love classic and non-classic sci-fi and relish an "offbeat," novel approach to stories, this is your book. Amazing job, Brian D'Amato.