The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Dark Game
Jonathan Janz
Fiction Without Frontiers
April 11, 2019

Ten writers are selected for a writing retreat with the most celebrated author in the world, the legendary Roderick Wells. They think they are signing up for a chance at literary prestige, but they are really entering The Dark Game - a lethal contest pitting them against one another in a struggle for their sanity and their lives.

Jonathan Janz may be rising above the “rising star” of horror status with several highly regarded novels under his belt. The Dark Game is another great novel to add to his list.

The premise is ten authors are invited to a secret writers retreat to compete for a publishing contract and cash. Roderick Wells, one of the greatest writers of all time in this setting, is the host and referee for this “Dark Game”.

As one would expect from a work of fiction, it’s not simply a competition between writers. There are darker, more sinister factors at work.

Fan Service

This is definitely a “fan service” novel. There are many, many references to The Siren and the Specter, another of the author’s other books. There are also several references to other authors, many of which are prominent members of the horror writer’s community.

For me the fan service was a plus because I’ve read most if his books and am very familiar with all of the authors referenced. It added to my enjoyment but I could see if the reader isn’t familiar with Janz or the other authors referenced, it may detract from the book or simply mean nothing .


Well, to be honest, the format of the book for a large portion of it is split into several independent stories about each of the authors. In the beginning, there didn’t seem to be much connection between these stories so it read like a short story collection, in my opinion. Nothing wrong with that, just small turnoff to me.

The premise of the book isn’t really a new one either, there have been many books about writers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are few truly original stories out there but this one has it’s own voice. Even though it’s not the same premise, the feel and tone of the story reminds me of Brian Keene’s, “Castaways”. I would count that as a positive in my book!

With the possible downsides stated, let’s move on to what makes this a good book! First thing is that each character has darker secrets than the next. As you read and find out these secrets you keep turning the page to see what’s going to be revealed next. And by the way, if I’m to believe this book, horror writers are a bunch of sick fucks!

The pacing is very good which keeps you reading. It’s not an action book, but there are action scenes. There’s always something pushing the plot forward. Nothing shuts me down as a reader more than pages, upon pages of backstory meanwhile the plot dies of old age. Not a problem with this book!

Roderick Wells was the most interesting character in the book. I won’t say anything that will spoil the story but, you’ll find out early on there’s something different about him.

There’s a little bit of everything in this book. There’s some splatterpunk, action, frights, romance, and action. There should be something here for every horror fan. Oh….and that ending! I won’t spoil it, but I definitely knew something was coming the way the book was coming to an end but didn’t guess it! I loved it, I bet you will too.

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