[Audio Book] Endgame 1: The Calling by James Frey

Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. They needed gold and they built our earliest civilizations to mine it for them. When they had what they needed, they left. But before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.

This is Endgame.

For ten thousand years the lines have existed in secret. The 12 original lines of humanity. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. They have trained generation after generation after generation. In weapons, languages, history, tactics, disguise, assassination. Together the Players are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. They are good and evil. Like you. Like all.

This is Endgame.

When the game starts, the Players will have to find three keys. The keys are somewhere on Earth. The only rule of their Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. Endgame: The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. And just as it tells the story of the hunt for a hidden key, written into the book is a puzzle. It invites readers to play their own Endgame and to try to solve the puzzle. Whoever does will open a case filled with gold. Alongside the puzzle will be a revolutionary mobile game built by Google’s Niantic Labs that will allow you to play a real-world version of Endgame where you can join one of the lines and do battle with people around you.

Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out.




People of Earth.

Endgame has begun.

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I jumped in the Endgame train when the first book of this trilogy was published in German. The hardcover edition was simply too stunning in its golden attire to be left standing in the bookstore. But unfortunately, it was left standing on my shelf for several years after that. Although I loved looking at it and eventually looking through its beautiful pages as well, I stopped reading after a few pages once I started. Back then, I was apparently not in the mood, and then I simply lost interest. Putting this book on my reading challenge list certainly created some pressure. Although I did not read the book after all, I at least experienced this opening chapter of the story as an audio book.


The Hunger Games on a global scale

I felt intensely drawn into this story after falling once more for the current The Hunger Games hype. Starting this story, I saw some intriguing similarities as we have not twelve districts but twelve ancestral lines fighting each other to the death. The individual fighters are likewise adolescents although all of them were trained to fight for their survival. The main difference is the scale of the arena. James Frey’s twelve characters logically come from all over the world and have to travel long ways to begin the games. Moreover, they discover new places on their quest to find the keys. The game in my opinion carries similar messages and notions with it. Humanity’s moral decline and a reminder of human weakness when it comes to extreme situations—like overpopulation and the planet’s destruction due to it. I really hope it turns out to be the message of this series that fighting each other for one’s own survival is not the solution.


Twelve, eleven, ten, nine…

The author allows us to follow several of the players in their first moments after the game’s announcement. Throughout the book, we nonetheless are focalizing through a few of them, certainly those that survive until the end. Some of the remaining players had only few chapters but will certainly play a bigger role in the sequels. Especially Aisling’s backstory intrigued me and will surely shape the remaining story. For now, our sympathy is especially evoked for Sarah and Jago who—in contrast to some other players—teamed up to solve the riddle. I personally believe that this might be one of the keys to surviving despite the apparent rule of only one survivor. I most enjoyed whenever players encountered each other and realized something new about themselves, saw themselves reflecting in the other. The novel is an interesting process of self-evaluation for the characters, wrapped in a Lara Croft-like treasure hunt. I’m excited to see how the story will continue.



The book surely became as popular as it was not solely through its golden appearance. It involved the readers in an unprecedented way. While reading, you were supposed to yourself solve the riddle of endgame and find the keys for survival. That is, until the final book was published. If you could make sense of the apparent nonsensical codes in the book that the characters likewise decoded, you could win a fortune. This concept certainly increased this book’s sales and raised a fortune for the publisher. And it likewise intrigued the readers to keep up with the story and the following books. For me, listening to the audio book, some clues were lost (as we were warned at the beginning of the recording). Nonetheless, I had fun with the worldbuilding that James Frey put into these almost 500 pages.


In conclusion,

I once more regret not immediately reading a book after buying it. Picking this one up—even as an audio book—several years later was nonetheless no less of a pleasure. James Frey not only creates diverse and appealing characters but an enigmatic world and quest for them to decode. I surely hope to keep the most essential clues in mind until I read the next book of the series.



The author:

James Frey an American writer and businessman known for his first two first books, A Million Little Pieces (2003) and My Friend Leonard (2005), were best-sellers marketed as memoirs. Large parts of the stories were later found to be exaggerated or fabricated, sparking a media controversy. His 2008 novel Bright Shiny Morning was also a bestseller. Source

The reader:

Sunil Malhotra is an actor and writer, known for Fair Game (2010), Halo: Reach (2010) and Mortal Kombat 1 (2023). Source

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