Save Game: Joseph Sale
Reviewed by Steve Stred
If you’ve followed any of my reviews or writing stuff, you’ll know that I connected with Joseph last year and had the pleasure of beta reading his release ‘Beyond the Black Gate.’
Now, Sale returns – and what a return this is. ‘Save Game’ is a complex, layered story of the desperation and lengths you’ll go to save your loved ones. The book follows, Levi. A dedicated gamer who is struggling to wrap his head around the idea that his father is seriously ill and if they don’t come up with the money for the potentially life-saving surgery – he’ll die.
What follows is a stunning narrative that weaves nostalgia together to create a sweeping landscape.
At times I felt like I was reading a mash-up of Labyrinth with A Monster Calls with The Wizard. We get a challenge – Levi must save his father – then we get the majestic scope that is the game. Every time that Levi logged in to play, Sale transports us back into an ever-changing and ever-expanding world. Level after level, more and more depth is introduced, keeping us engaged but also wanting us to believe in our main character – as well as the secondary characters that get introduced along the way. I loved the little interludes, the moments when Levi would log off and check back into the real world.
Finding his mother growing more despondent and angry as his father’s condition worsened. Levi’s escape was to re-enter the game, a game that would reward him handsomely if he successfully defeated it.
Interestingly – I’ve never been a big gamer. I had a Nintendo when it first came out and have great memories of playing the original games, but as time went on, I mainly played NHL or MLB games before stopping altogether. It’s just not something I enjoy. Saying that – don’t let any personal issues/negative connotations regarding video games deter you or affect your reading enjoyment here.
Sale makes the gameplay portions feel very cinematic and even the in-game chat features, he utilizes effectively as a communication device.
‘Save Game’ is another stunning entry into Sale’s ever-growing bibliography. There are simply no limits to his imagination and you can be certain that whatever topic or world he’s tackling – the depth and detail that will be brought to it will be hands down the best out there. I’m a bit speechless after having read this book and hope that there is a second project with Levi set up in the future.
Contender for book of the year and very well maybe my favourite thing I’ve read from Sale.
Levi Jensen is, by all accounts, a loser. He failed sixth-form, never got to university, and works at a no-future fast-food restaurant. The only thing he’s good at is gaming.
When his father starts dying of a new type of cancer, only treatable privately and at impossible expense, Levi’s one hope of saving him becomes the million-dollar cash-prize for winning the dark-fantasy video-game Fate of Ellaria.
But Levi isn’t the only one with motivations beyond money for winning. And the price of success in Fate of Ellaria might mean the destruction of what little he has left in the real world.
Save Game is a heart-breaking story of an underdog against all odds, as well as a love-letter to the beauty of video-games.
Inspired by the amazing and eclectic everyday people who inhabit the gaming world, and the pain of their real-world lives, Save Game aims to show the courage of those who feel they’ve got no place in reality.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.
On September 1st, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the 1st Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here