cover image Ultimate Game

Ultimate Game

Christian Lehmann. David R. Godine Publisher, $16.95 (178pp) ISBN 978-1-56792-107-6

In this novel about teenage boys obsessed with computer war games, the first by French physician-author Lehmann to be translated into English, the moral overpowers the story. The tale has eerie resonance in the wake of the Littleton, Colo., massacre. Yet despite snappy dialogue and exciting (though often gruesome) war scenes, Lehmann's broadly painted characterizations and clunky, far-fetched plot bog down the narrative, which switches among the three French youths and a refugee Bosnian Serb girl. A mysterious computer game transports them to, variously, a WWI battle, the bombing at Guernica and an ""ethnic cleansing"" sortie in Bosnia. And just in case readers don't get the point that computer games are unhealthy, a character named Dr. Munier steps in to intone, ""Video games, all this virtual stuff... it's a world that's beyond this world, beyond what's real, a place to escape from reality."" The ending--in which fascist, violent Andreas winds up in Nazi-era Paris and meets the teenage self of the old man who sold him the computer game--not only defies credulity, but is a facile resolution to a complex issue. Ages 13-up. (June)