Title: Challenges of the Gods
Author: C. Hofsetz
Genre: Science Fiction
[it'll seem like 20 cause you're gonna rush through this book and then be sad when it's over]
What Goodreads has to say:After Mike goes through a gut-wrenching betrayal by his fiancée, he finds himself in what he thinks might be the afterlife. But this is no heaven. The gods made a mistake and created another Earth in a parallel universe, putting both universes in peril. They need someone from his planet to destroy the alternate, and Mike is randomly selected for the job.
Trapped in an impossible choice, Mike accepts his mission and is returned to an Earth—and a body—so unlike his own. There, he meets Jane, who is—unbeknownst to him—the secret leader of an organization bent on tracking down Earth's saboteur. In the face of her passion for humanity, Mike's resolve falters. If Mike won't complete his mission, the gods will.
What I have to say:When I heard about this book, I was dubious. The premise sounded… odd. But something made me pick it up anyway.
And for that I’m very glad because as soon as I started reading Challenges of the Gods, I fell in love.
Wait… I just realized the title is a wordplay thing. Cause like, the gods have challenges but also the gods assign challenges to the people in the book and… never mind. Let’s move on.
Turns out the premise is slightly misleading (*spoilers ahead—but like, spoilers you find out in the first two chapters*): the main character doesn’t die and go to heaven. At first, when he finds himself inexplicably in a strange alien landscape, he thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. The truth is much more complicated—and terrifying.
Our main character (and how much do I love that we don’t even find out his real name until near the end of the book? Yeah, you guessed, I love it a lot) has been sent to another realm, where he meets the messengers of the gods before heading to Earth on a mission: find a way to destroy the entire planet and everyone on it—or watch as his own planet is destroyed—with everyone on it. [Also, yeah "Mike" is his alias but not his real name.]
Because there’s another variable in this game: someone from Earth has been sent to our hero’s planet—and now he has to destroy Earth before his own planet gets wiped out.
As you can imagine, various complications arise. Not the least of which being our hero’s growing affection for the people of Earth, and his stark sense of morality (planetary genocide is a hard thing to sleep with at night).
Meanwhile, every night he returns to the realm of the messengers, where he engages in a series of war games against the people of Earth.
Oh yeah, no one on Earth knows who he really is, and he manages to assimilate very well into their team.
So it’s a bit like The Hunger Games meets The Night Manager meets Ender’s Game.
It’s also heck of good.
I was alternately fascinated, terrified, heartbroken, shocked, enraged, and relieved. But through it all, riveted.
Also, I laughed.
The narrator has a great sense of humor, and when he dryly points out the differences between his planet and our Earth, it’s funny in that (almost) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy kind of way. You laugh, and then you think, wait, but why is it like that?
It’s the differences as well as the commonalities between alien races of people that form the heart of this story. And maybe, at heart, it’s about connection—finding it, making it, or just looking for it.
Before I wrap this up, can I mention how hard it is to end a good book? It’s hard for the reader. It’s hard for the writer. But let’s talk about the writer for a moment. And this isn’t just a problem for books.
This book is not like that. Holy cow it has the most satisfying, beautiful, perfect eucatastrophe (Thanks, Tolkien) of an ending.
(OK, my thoughts probably weren’t that well-formed. It was more along the lines of “wwwwwwwhhhhaaaa yeeeeessss oh yes woooooow.”)
And then I had to face the fact that it was over and yes, ending a good book is also hard for the reader.