________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 24 . . . . February 24, 2012


Erebos: It’s a Game: It Watches You.

Ursula Poznanski. Translated by Judith Pattinson.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2012.
434 pp., trade pbk. & hc., $19.95 (pbk.), $29.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-372-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-373-4 (hc.).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Rob Bittner.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



It always begins at night. At night I feed my plans on darkness. If there is one thing I command in abundance, it is darkness. Darkness is the ground that will nurture what I desire to grow.

I would always have chosen night over day and the basement over the garden, given the chance. It’s only after sunset that the deformed creatures of my mind dare to venture from their bunkers to breathe icy air. They are waiting for me to lend their misshapen bodies a grotesque beauty. After all, a lure must be attractive so the prey only becomes aware of the hook when it sits deep in the flesh. My prey. I almost want to embrace it, without knowing it. In a way, I will do that. We will be one, in my spirit.

I have no need to seek out the darkness; it is always around me. I release it like my breath. Like the transpiration of my body. Nowadays people shun me; that is fine. They all creep around me, whispering, uneasy, fearful. They think it’s the stench that keeps them at bay, but knows it’s the darkness.

Nick Dunmore, 16, wants to know what is on the discs that students are secretly passing to each other in the school halls. His curiosity is sated when he is handed a disc by a girl named Brynne, who also passes along three rules. The first rule is, you can only play the game once; if your character dies, it’s over. The second rule is that you must play the game alone. The third rule: the contents of the game are secret and may not be passed on to anyone. Ever.

      The game seems harmless enough until students begin to show up to classes having not slept for days, secrets become more insidious, and people begin to get scared by mysterious notes that show up in textbooks and coat pockets of people who are no longer playing the game. And then there’s the name of the game, Erebos—the Greek god of darkness and fire. This is only the first of many mythological allusions throughout the novel, adding depth and complexity to every aspect of the game space.

      When Nick starts receiving sinister assignments to perform outside of the game world, everything begins to unravel for him. Nick and other players start to notice other strange things about the game, such as the fact that an enigmatic messenger seems to be able to read their minds. Some players begin to get desperate, acting irrationally and fighting to get another try at the game. When one of Nick’s friends is injured by an act of sabotage, a resistance group forms to get to the bottom of things.

      The game, itself, has a personality, learns about its players, and becomes more clever with each assignment it gives to students. When the purpose of the game comes to light, and Nick and his friends find out the goals of the game’s creator, desperation, sleeplessness and inspiration collide as each of the characters pieces together the puzzle of the many seemingly unrelated assignments given out by the messenger. Once the big picture is revealed, Nick and his gang work relentlessly to stop an explosive situation before the game can beat them to it.

      Nick is an intricate character to whom readers can relate, but also someone with whom they can become infuriated. Each supporting character is endowed with a delicate and sometimes irrational personality. Poznanski is a master of detail, mirroring high school social structures with incredible depth. Erebos is a true suspense novel from the first page to the last. Annick Press is truly to be commended for publishing Poznanski’s text in translation. From its opening notes of eerie virtual landscapes, to its mesmerizing conclusions, Erebos is a nuanced thriller that weaves effortlessly between reality and virtual space, bringing its protagonists closer to the brink of destruction—or salvation—with every turn of the page.

Highly Recommended.

Rob Bittner is a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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