Black Chalk By Christopher J. Yates
Published 1st April 2014 by Random House UK
Disclaimer: I received a review copy c/o of the publisher, via Netgalley.
Summary: One game. Six students. Five survivors.
It was only ever meant to be a game.
A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.
Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.
Black Chalk takes place in the 90s where a group of friends at Harvard University decide to create a psychological game which is later backed by the Game Soc. The idea of this game is fairly simple: each player has to complete a series of embarrassing dares and forfeits. The final winner will win £10,00. Interesting? Yes. Well developed? Well… Almost.
I had many issues with Black Chalk, namely:
- Lack of development
The book is told in alternating timelines, the present and the past. Our narrator is unreliable and is later revealed as one of the six in the group. It was interesting at the start, but soon made the pacing a little jumpy. The present would start appearing whenever the past was getting good and it felt this whole alternating timeline was getting tiring. It didn’t help that it took almost halfway through the book before it got interesting again. The inconsistent pacing of the book really bothered me.
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the Game and more importantly the mysterious Game Soc. There was a lot that could have been done with this, the idea of a secret society, but it wasn’t explored more and was glossed over. It felt underdeveloped and I didn’t really know where this was going.
Finally, the ending. It ended too easily and too quickly that I got kind of pissed off. For this all to end like this feels like a cop out. It was confusing that I had to read it twice. The whole book felt like an overhype.
Black Chalk wasn’t all bad; it did have its moments. Mark’s revenge was fairly interesting and of course Game Soc (albeit underdeveloped) itself.
I struggled to read this book and I wanted to put it down several times. I’m glad I persevered enough to read the interesting bits, though I can’t say I was fully impressed. It’s readable; it is slow but still readable. However, I can’t say that this is a book I’d recommend right off the bat.