Official Review: Playing Chess with God

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LinaMueller
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Official Review: Playing Chess with God

Post by LinaMueller »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Playing Chess with God" by Verne R. Albright.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Playing Chess with God by Verne R. Albright is a historical fiction novel and what a great novel. As biased as I might be (because I love this kind of genre so much), I can't praise enough Verne's skills as a writer. I've read some historical fiction novels this year, but Playing Chess with God is a unique book.

First things first, the plot is based on real events that have happened during the period of the California Gold Rush. I mean, the book is a novel and, thus, all characters are not real. The situations that happen in the book, on the contrary, were actual events that used to be commonplace. Anarchy and the total absence of law and order were prevalent. You can find in this book (and in history books as well) not only random killings but also people in terminal conditions trying to get rich before their death. As Eduardo Vásquez said, prospecting is like playing chess with God. But the protagonist, deeply in love with a Chilean woman named Encinas, decides to take chances and go to California before everybody else.

All characters are mainly well developed. Henning Dietzel is an idealistic representation of what a hero could be. He is so perfect that sometimes the reader cannot relate to him. The main character is a puritan in the right way. He neither drinks nor smokes. When he is in love with some woman, he doesn't want to have fun with prostitutes. Throughout the entire book, he is looking for a profitable new business. His obsession with work, however, is motivated by a noble purpose not by greed. On several occasions, he mentions the "rational self-interest" from the book The Wealth of Nations written by Adam Smith. According to his mindset, a wealthy capitalist who exploits workers is a disgusting human being. In many chapters, it's clear that Henning Dietzel is more concerned with worker safety than profit.

I hated the fact that there was no relevant villain to oppose the protagonist. There are some antagonists in the book. Like the Mexicans who robbed Henning's gold, they are all easily defeated and disappear from the story in the blink of an eye. That's what I disliked the most about the book. On the other hand, the book is fascinating, and the description of the environments, customs of the time, and historical events caught my attention from beginning to end. There are many aspects to praise in this book, but the fact that Playing Chess with God is a real page-turner stands out as the most alluring element of the entire book.

In a nutshell, Playing Chess with God deserves 4 out of 4 stars. This book is gripping, funny, and well-written. Some minor flaws aside, there is no reason to give it a lower rating. It's a professionally edited book. I found some missing commas after introductory clauses and two other grammatical errors, but nothing so important in a book with almost 300 pages. I recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction novels. Playing Chess with God is appropriate for people of all religions. I firmly believe that people from different cultures can equally enjoy this book.

******
Playing Chess with God
View: on Bookshelves
Heart! We will forget him!
You an I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

Emily Dickinson
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rumik
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Post by rumik »

I certainly agree with Henning's views on capitalism haha. I'm not particularly interested in this setting, but your review is so good I might try this. Thanks!
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Post by Andy_C »

Yes, nice review. I'm bothered by your reservations with regards the characterisations. As a reader, I love character, I love writing that is driven by deeply flawed yet equally deeply empathic characters. Characters you know because they are composites of people you have known in real life. To that end, I'm not sure this novel will excite me.
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Post by Rachel Lea »

I love historical fiction novels, so I think that I would enjoy digging into this book! Thanks for your review!
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Post by kandscreeley »

This sounds like historical fiction at its best. I love your enthusiasm for it. It's not a genre I read, so I'll probably skip it. Thanks.
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Post by Magnify3 »

I find it amusing that the Mexicans who robbed Hennings of his gold were easily defeated and disappeared in a blink of an eye. Thanks for the review!
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Post by Miller56 »

Thanks for the review. This doesn't really sound like a book that would interest me, not because I dislike historical novels, but because the characters seem to disappear quickly. I think I would find the descriptions of the places and time interesting. I think I will add this book to my low priority to read list.
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Post by sursangeet_2000 »

LinaMueller wrote: 17 Sep 2019, 14:01 [Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Playing Chess with God" by Verne R. Albright.]
Book Cover
4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review


Playing Chess with God by Verne R. Albright is a historical fiction novel and what a great novel. As biased as I might be (because I love this kind of genre so much), I can't praise enough Verne's skills as a writer. I've read some historical fiction novels this year, but Playing Chess with God is a unique book.

First things first, the plot is based on real events that have happened during the period of the California Gold Rush. I mean, the book is a novel and, thus, all characters are not real. The situations that happen in the book, on the contrary, were actual events that used to be commonplace. Anarchy and the total absence of law and order were prevalent. You can find in this book (and in history books as well) not only random killings but also people in terminal conditions trying to get rich before their death. As Eduardo Vásquez said, prospecting is like playing chess with God. But the protagonist, deeply in love with a Chilean woman named Encinas, decides to take chances and go to California before everybody else.

All characters are mainly well developed. Henning Dietzel is an idealistic representation of what a hero could be. He is so perfect that sometimes the reader cannot relate to him. The main character is a puritan in the right way. He neither drinks nor smokes. When he is in love with some woman, he doesn't want to have fun with prostitutes. Throughout the entire book, he is looking for a profitable new business. His obsession with work, however, is motivated by a noble purpose not by greed. On several occasions, he mentions the "rational self-interest" from the book The Wealth of Nations written by Adam Smith. According to his mindset, a wealthy capitalist who exploits workers is a disgusting human being. In many chapters, it's clear that Henning Dietzel is more concerned with worker safety than profit.

I hated the fact that there was no relevant villain to oppose the protagonist. There are some antagonists in the book. Like the Mexicans who robbed Henning's gold, they are all easily defeated and disappear from the story in the blink of an eye. That's what I disliked the most about the book. On the other hand, the book is fascinating, and the description of the environments, customs of the time, and historical events caught my attention from beginning to end. There are many aspects to praise in this book, but the fact that Playing Chess with God is a real page-turner stands out as the most alluring element of the entire book.

In a nutshell, Playing Chess with God deserves 4 out of 4 stars. This book is gripping, funny, and well-written. Some minor flaws aside, there is no reason to give it a lower rating. It's a professionally edited book. I found some missing commas after introductory clauses and two other grammatical errors, but nothing so important in a book with almost 300 pages. I recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction novels. Playing Chess with God is appropriate for people of all religions. I firmly believe that people from different cultures can equally enjoy this book.

******
Playing Chess with God
View: on Bookshelves
Interesting review. However, I like the characters in a book to be realistic and also a bit flawed. I also woild like to have some good antagonists as otherwise it might be boring. I think I will have to pass on this book, despite a good rating from you. Thanks for the review.
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Post by Ekta Swarnkar »

After seeing the title I was like "Now, that's challenging!"
But the book in a historical genre is something interesting. I can imagine why you enjoyed the book. I'm also the biggest fan of the genre until it's interesting. Thank you so much for this informative review!
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Post by esp1975 »

Set in the time of the California Gold Rush does make it a little more interesting to me. It sounds like it is more a "slice of life" novel than a plot driven one, which I do not mind at all. I will have to keep an eye out for this one.
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Post by Kelyn »

Historical fiction isn't really my bailiwick, but it sounds like this book has the right mix of history and fictional narrative to appeal to those who do read the genre! I enjoyed reading your review!
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Post by kdstrack »

Your enthusiasm and high praise for this book is contagious. I appreciate your background with other historical fiction novels and your comparisons with other books in this genre. This looks like a fascinating read. Thanks for the great review.
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Post by LinaMueller »

rumik wrote: 19 Sep 2019, 12:43 I certainly agree with Henning's views on capitalism haha. I'm not particularly interested in this setting, but your review is so good I might try this. Thanks!
I agree with him as well, rumik. Capitalism has helped speed up technological advancement in the world. The Industrial Revolution, for instance, made possible the survival of countless millions of people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who exploit workers. Some rich people should read Adam Smith more carefully. Thanks for passing by. :tiphat: :tiphat:
Heart! We will forget him!
You an I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

Emily Dickinson
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LinaMueller
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Post by LinaMueller »

Andy_C wrote: 19 Sep 2019, 12:52 Yes, nice review. I'm bothered by your reservations with regards the characterisations. As a reader, I love character, I love writing that is driven by deeply flawed yet equally deeply empathic characters. Characters you know because they are composites of people you have known in real life. To that end, I'm not sure this novel will excite me.
You're right. I have to read The Wrath of God. Considering that the main character was always traveling to other countries, maybe it was impossible for Verne R. Albright to create an omnipresent villain in this novel. Anyway, if you like historical fiction novels Playing Chess with God is a fantastic book. You will enjoy it. Thanks for passing by, Andy. :tiphat:
Heart! We will forget him!
You an I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

Emily Dickinson
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LinaMueller
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Post by LinaMueller »

Rachel Lea wrote: 19 Sep 2019, 17:41 I love historical fiction novels, so I think that I would enjoy digging into this book! Thanks for your review!
Playing Chess with God is the best historical fiction novel I've read in many years. If you love historical fiction novels, you will definitely enjoy digging into this book. Thanks for passing by, Rachel. I deeply appreciate your post. :tiphat:
Heart! We will forget him!
You an I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

Emily Dickinson
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