Mysteries of Game Theory and Other Oddities
Joseph Raffetto’s Mysteries of Game Theory and Other Oddities is an intriguing and timely collection of writings inspired by the dichotomy between freedom and oppression as well as questions concerning the feasibility and form of a more equal society. It includes an essay, two novellas, and two short stories, which all explore these issues and more. Given the seemingly precarious nature of contemporary society and the increasing distance between the haves and the have-nots, the included works are relevant and thought-provoking, in addition to being entertaining.
The collection opens with “Bowie and the Berlin Wall,” an essay that examines David Bowie’s legacy in terms of the various walls he helped to break down during his life. Of course, the most well-known of these demolitions concerns Bowie’s 1987 concert in West Berlin, which was so loud that thousands of citizens of East Berlin gathered on their side of the Wall, risking life and limb to hear classic songs such as “Heroes.” The concert is now recognized as the catalyst for the movement that would eventually end the partition of Berlin. However, Raffetto also considers Bowie’s impact on more abstract walls, including his openness about mental health and sexuality and his outspokenness regarding racism.
The first novella, “Venice to Venice,” follows Brian, a former intelligence agent haunted by the failings of the Iraq War, as he comes to realize that life in sunny California is not all it’s cracked up to be. He moved to Venice Beach to start afresh and live near his daughter, but he finds that plague and pestilence have followed him there. The sins of the past also follow him when he attempts to take a vacation in Venice, Italy. Although the action can be difficult to follow at times, there are certainly strange and puzzling things afoot in this atmospheric story.
“The Mysteries of Game Theory,” the second novella, centers on former Facebook employee James as he attempts to navigate a world being rebuilt following a deadly pandemic. After spending two years alone in an underground hideout, James wants nothing more than to find his missing sister, but he is quickly recruited as a data analyst for the government. Attempts to balance his work responsibilities with his desire to locate his sister bring him into contact with various suspect individuals, and it seems the new world order might not be quite what it seems. It’s a suspenseful dystopian tale of what could have occurred in something like a post-COVID-19 world.
The short stories that close the collection, “Inside ‘75” and “Seeds from ’79,” are coming-of-age tales that follow Jay as he moves from relatively clean-cut fifteen-year-old baseball player to disaffected youth who might just make it to college. Along the way, he deals with the end of friendships, family breakdowns, and thwarted romances. The love of reading that permeates the entire collection, as well as the thread concerning Bowie’s music that ties all the pieces together, are particularly strong in relation to Jay, who ends up being more sympathetic than he really should.
Ultimately, Mysteries of Game Theory and Other Oddities leaves its characters apparently reconciled with the status quo, although there are indications that the spirit of rebellion still burns within them.
|Page Count||320 pages|
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