And whilst the ending does feel a little rushed, The Playmaker Project is mostly a great success.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.
The Playmaker Project: Where Sci-Fi Meets SoccerThose of us who follow sport know that individuals and teams are always looking for new ways to get an advantage over the competition. Sometimes it’s through legitimate ways. Arsene Wenger, for example, popularised the use of dieticians in the Premier League back in the late 90s. Other times, it’s less legitimate. Like widespread, state-sponsored doping (looking at you, Russia). In The Playmaker Project, neuroscience is the final frontier – the cutting edge, and the difference between success and failure. And it’s genuinely fascinating.
Science, SimplifiedIn brief, a billionaire tycoon wants to resurrect the success of a small-town Finnish team called FC Kotka. To achieve this, he hires neuroscientist Anna Lehtinen, who is paid handsomely for her research into brain-to-brain transmission. Essentially, the team is trying to develop technology that allows players to communicate via brain signals. The novel brings up a range of ethical questions, in both the soccer industry and scientific community, including whether success at all costs is ever legitimate and whether the greater good justifies the use potentially dangerous fringe science. This might sound overwhelming. However, Peterson does a brilliant job of conveying complex ideas in a straightforward way. It’s not a challenging read in the slightest.
The Beautiful Game Re-ImaginedI was impressed with how well-researched The Playmaker Project is. Yes, the science is approachable, but what impressed me the most was the understanding of the game of soccer itself. There’s a genuine knowledge of the English football game that I didn’t expect, partly because sport fiction tends to be a quite naff and unrealistic (see the movie, Goal! Really naff, but I do love it!). From jibes about Manchester United to ridiculing the modern footballers’ overly flash football boots, there’s a sincere understanding of the footballing subculture, which I really appreciated.
Peterson has even included some Finnish language in The Playmaker Project for authenticity. When Peter and Benny sign for Finnish side, FC Kotka, the club’s TV station conducts the interview in Finnish – nice touch.There is also a neat reference to the Tokyo Game Show, when the Kotka team are trialling a new VR soccer videogame. Again, a minor addition of seemingly little significance, but it adds to the believable world-building. Attention to detail like this is great. It’s immersive, without being gimmicky.
What About the Characters?Well, The Playmaker Project’s characters are very familiar – we’ve all seen them before. You have Eddie, the ‘everyman.’ He’s likeable, does a bit of everything, and you’re generally rooting for him. Then you have Anna, the reluctant scientist who gets in too deep; Victor, the tycoon billionaire with a ruthless side; and Dmitry, the Russian, communist, megalomaniac who is just a little too Bond villain-esque for my liking.
So, you aren’t going to see anything too original in the characters of The Playmaker Project.However, I don’t mind this at all because there’s a compelling story and setting framing the characters. And, they’re at least relatable (for the most part).
The Playmaker Project is a really enjoyable read – I’d definitely recommend it.
It isn’t without fault. The final section is a bit too brief and not quite of the quality of the writing preceding it. What happened to Aleks? Should we be expecting a sequel? The cold war politics, with the sinister Russian communist, was also a bit silly.However, these are very minor complaints.
Even if you aren’t interested in soccer, I’d thoroughly recommend picking up a copy of The Playmaker Project because it’s a very good sci-fi thriller.It would mostly appeal to the younger audience, but as a man pushing 30, I enjoyed it too!
With likeable enough protagonists, an interesting story, and a precise writing style, Peterson’s novel contains the bread-and-butter of fiction writing.I’m very much looking forward to his next book.
* A copy ofThe Playmaker Project was provided for free via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.
*For more information on the Tales from Absurdia rating scale, please read the review rating system.