cover image Let the Games Begin

Let the Games Begin

Niccolò Ammaniti, trans. from the Italian by Kylee Doust. Grove/Black Cat, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2111-0

Sometimes warmhearted, sometimes shockingly offensive, and much of the rest of the time very funny, Ammaniti’s (I’m Not Scared) new novel is like a rich, delicious stew with a few pieces of spoiled meat included for good measure. Saverio Moneta is a Satanist whose sect, the Wilde Beasts of Abbadon, is in trouble after shrinking to just four members, including the plump Roberto Morsillo (nicknamed “Murder”) and “Zombie,” who has digestive problems. Silvia, the fourth member, joins up after escaping from being buried alive by the group. Saverio’s solution to their diminishing numbers is to concoct an ambitious plan involving Larita, a singer who recently had a religious conversion. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Ciba, a popular author, is having trouble writing the great novel he knows he’s capable of. When he and the Beasts meet at one of the most lavish parties modern Rome has ever seen, any number of things can happen—and they do. This book pulls off a rare feat: an action-packed but well-paced satire populated with characters rather than caricatures. (Aug.)