An arrogant investment banker with the world at his feet meets an owl on a lonely road and then loses a slice of time he will never remember. From that moment on, his successful career begins to disintegrate and his life is pitched into madness.
Meanwhile, a newly dead man is preparing to review his mortal life while his granddaughter considers moving to Greece, to follow in the footsteps of her beloved Socrates.
Elsewhere, an energy-channelling alien prepares to ascend to a new level of consciousness.
They are all unknowingly locked in the spirals of the ‘unity game’, a game that has been intricately designed so that all the players can experience universal love in all its possible manifestations – “every combination of everything”. But while the granddaughter, the grey alien, and the newly dead man seem to be winning the game, the investment banker commits a horrible assault on a homeless man that could damn him forever. Or will it? Could cruelty be part of the unity game as well?
Let’s start with the positive: The Unity Game is a novel which is packed with some intriguing ideas about the nature of the universe, the afterlife, and the forces that drive us to become who we are. It is part fantasy, part science-fiction, and part philosophy. And if you enjoy how Leonora Meriel meshes each of those elements together, you will have a lot to think about when the story reaches its end. But, despite all the great reviews this book has already received, this reader just didn’t get it. Maybe because the character of the investment banker (who is arguably the centre of the story) is so unlikeable, it is impossible to care about what happens to him and – without giving away spoilers – the redemption he is supposed to feel at the climax of the novel just feels fake and wrong. Maybe because the grey alien narrative is plodding and abstract and when it finally gets going its pay-off hardly seems worth the wait. Even the granddaughter’s story, which feels like it was culled (badly) from the early chapters of John Fowles’ The Magus, fails to stir up interest. In fact, it’s only the segments involving the dead man and his guide that hold any real interest, but not enough to make this journey worthwhile. And Albert Brooks did the whole afterlife thing so much more entertainingly in his movie Defending Your Life.
Fans of Meriel’s previous book The Woman Behind the Waterfall (this writer is one of them) might find this offering a major disappointment.
THE UNITY GAME / AUTHOR: LEONORA MERIEL / PUBLISHER: GRANITE CLOUD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW