This is the 98th in my series of Forgotten Books.
I had been planning on doing one of K. D. Wentworth’s novels as a Forgotten Book for some time. I had them all and she is not nearly as well known as I felt she should be. And she’s a friend of mine, so that never hurts.
Then, her husband called me and told me that she had passed. I knew she had been fighting cancer for a while (less than a year) and that she was in the hospital with pneumonia. But just the day before, things had been looking better and they thought she would be out in a day or so. So, I missed my opportunity to show her this review and to see her again.
Anyway, I still wanted to discuss this book. Kathy began publishing in 1988 with an appearance in a Writers of the Future anthology (#4, if I recall correctly). She sold stories regularly and began to work on a novel. THE IMPERIUM GAME was published as part of the Del Rey Discovery line which included writers such as L. Warren Douglas, Carol Severance, Mary Rosenblum, Nicola Griffith, and more. It sported a nice cover from Nicholas Jainschigg. They even issued trading cards to help promote the books.
This is not a jaw dropping debut, like A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ or THE DEMOLISHED MAN. It is a clever well written science fiction mystery title, though. The story primarily takes place in a simulated Rome, created by HabiTek as a Live Action Role Playing game, accumulating experience points and wealth to try and become Emperor, then to remain Emperor. Arvid Kerickson is one of the two primary programmers for the game. He is contacted by the other programmer Wilson and told that things are going wrong in the game. Gods are performing improbable acts, fires are starting and there has been a murder. A real murder with a dead player, which is going to cause HabiTek some grief, especially when it is noted that the dead man is Micio Julius Metullus, current Emperor of Rome and the man married to Arvid’s ex-wife Demea, which makes him a prime suspect. This suspect status is upped when Wilson is found murdered also with Arvid’s dagger in his back.
Arvid assumes the identity of a gladiatorial trainee named Gaius and begins trying to find out what is causing all the problems. His ex seems to be into stuff way over her head. She is a vengeful person and when she achieves Godhood by becoming Proserpina and Queen of the Underworld, she wants revenge on Arvid and on her step-daughter Amaelia who finds herself going from Vestal Virgin to slave to possible Empress to dead girl to Underworld escapee all in a couple of days.
The book is a lot of fun, especially when the Gods are around. These are programmed deities who begin to exceed their parameters and run a little rampant. Mars really wants to bring a war to the city and have a live human sacrifice.
All in all, this is a very fun book. And it foretold the things to come. The two Moonspeaker books are also well worth your time to track down. None of these titles is particularly expensive and they do seem to be around. Scott says “Check them out!”
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.