While it is a major departure for what he is mainly known for, Niccolo Ammaniti’s new translated novel, Let the Games Begin, and is no less wonderful and stunning. Having said that, I expect people who know and love him for books like I’m Not Scared and I’ll Steal You Away to dislike this book, or put it much farther down on their list of favorites. It fits into my category of “personal favorites”; books that I like, but won’t defend too much if someone doesn’t agree with me due to the book’s glaring problems that I choose to ignore for its more favorable attributes. Books like Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Richard Russo’s Mohawk are both books I really liked but was by no means perfect. Let the Games Begin is really one of those novels. Even if you don’t like it because of it, he does something here completely different and unexpected with the direction of the story. If I can make a presumed assumption, this book is really Ammaniti’s attempt at a comedy, although a rather black one, since he does utilize many of the traits he is known for, such as multiple storylines colliding with each other through violence and how small betrayals can cause big rifts in the human heart. There is a little more action in this book than even his most intense thrillers, but if you can find the meaning behind the action, you might be in a similar camp as I when you finish this book. The novel’s central piece concerns a lavish, hysterically over the top gala in a park in Italy thrown by an eccentric millionaire, complete with three different kinds of safari hunts. Into this asinine (in a good way) situation come two very different groups. One is the writer Fabrizo Ciba, a famous author whose case of writer’s block is not helped by his endless pursuit of women and booze. He comes to the party, and falls in love at first sight with the famous singer Larita, whom he sees as an intellectual, as well as physical match to be his mate for life. The other story thread might stop that from happening, which centers on a group of halfwit Satanists who plan on executing the singer in the crowded venue to obtain immortality, lead by the long-suffering Saverio, whose relationship with his wife being more scary than his satanic plans. They enter the party under disguise, and somehow knock out all the power letting loose all the wild animals, as well as a few nefarious entities that are a little too hard to believe. It really is an absurd turn of events once the bodies start flying toward the last 50 or so pages, but you just have to give yourself over for the ride completely. Once everything dies down, Ammaniti leaves you with a bitter ending readers are used to, but an epilogue that lets us know that true love can survive. If you can handle the absurd with an open mind and open heart, this ride worth taking.