Playing God

by: Morton Benning

330 pages
129mm x 198mm
ISBN: 9781532644993
Publish date: 7.11.2017

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Keenley Turnshoe is a young apprentice cleric living in Utopia, a medieval-like fantasy world of magic and monsters. But unknown to Keenley and the other inhabitants of Utopia, their world is also the virtually rendered plaything of a very wealthy and self-absorbed young man named Jeff, AKA the Great God Avatar.

When Jeff’s ‘answering machine’, the Deus Interface, decides that it is the Great God Avatar, it identifies Jeff as a threat and strands him in his own virtual world. Jeff seeks help from Keenley and his companions as he tries to return to his virtual throne room.

As they risk their lives on a quest to find the Great God, will they discover the true identity of their difficult travelling companion? And will the Deus Interface be able to locate and destroy them before they fulfil their quest?

Additional information

Genre Features

litRPG, fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, virtual environment

About the author

Morton Benning is an artist and writer and lover of all things science fiction and fantasy. He holds an MA in Creative Writing and lives in Adelaide, South Australia with his wife and two daughters. This is his first novel. Visit the author at


  1. D.M. Cornish, author of Monster Blood Tattoo series

    In Utopia the jeopardy is real, the stakes matter and yet there is a lovely touch of wry humour laced throughout. As a player of MMOs and RPGs, seeing from the denizens of a “game world’s” point of view is fun, intriguing and compelling; I thoroughly enjoyed the double narrative – the two worlds, and loved every time Jeff was made to squirm.

  2. James Cooper, head of Creative Writing, Tabor College of Higher Education

    An original and timely exploration of how apt we are to get it wrong in matters of ultimate importance. Anyone who’s ever attempted to create a world – on page or on screen – will find characters and themes to warm to in Morton Benning’s Playing God.

  3. Rosanne Hawke, author of Wolfchild, Across the Creek and The Leopard Princess

    A fascinating and thought-provoking journey through a virtually rendered world. With interesting characters, twists and surprises, this is a riveting story for readers from eleven to one hundred.

  4. Ash Pearce (verified owner)

    I absolutely love the premise, the story itself is well balanced and shows off the author’s storytelling talents. I enjoyed the journey, and I was kept entertained and engaged the entire time which I am grateful for. I really enjoyed Playing God, and I really hope to read more.

  5. Sue Jeffrey (verified owner)

    Playing God follows the story of Keenley Turnshoe, an apprentice cleric in the medieval fantasy world of Utopia. One day Keenley attempts to use the prayer glass in the clerical school’s library to ask the Great God Avatar a question. But something goes wrong. The God doesn’t respond as Keenley expects and the prayer glass goes blank. Keenley is terrified he’s broken the Great God.

    What Keenley doesn’t know is that his world is virtual, created to be the play-thing of Jeff Masters, a spoilt rich-kid. Through the Deus Interface, Jeff acts as the God of the world, the interface a form of ‘answering machine’ for the prayer requests of the people.

    The problem is that the Deus Interface has decided that it is the Great God Avatar and perceives Jeff to be a threat. It strands the self-absorbed Jeff in his own virtual world where he is forced, to his disgust, to live by the rules of the world. Jeff joins forces with Keenley and his friends in a quest to return to his virtual throne room and fix the problem. Meanwhile Paley, the creator and coder of the virtual world must race against time to rescue Jeff. Failure has real-world consequences. If the Deus Interface cannot be defeated, not only will Keenley and others of the world be ‘killed’, Jeff and Paley may die.

    Playing God is an entertaining tale that bridges the genres of science fiction and fantasy. I especially appreciated Benning’s humour which is, at times Pratchett-esque. In describing Keenley’s friend, Miyako, Benning writes: ‘She was the only one of her race many people in this part of the world had ever seen but she was so unassuming her teachers would often mark her absent by mistake.’ Later in the story, Jeff’s attempts to assert his Great God-ness are ironically contrasted with his impotence. ‘ “I’m God. This is my world. I’m in charge and I decide when it stops.” After a moment Jeff looked at the others and said, “So what’s the plan?”’

    The story draws to a tension-filled conclusion where the two realities collide and a temporal twist raises the stakes even further.

    One of the benefits of writing in different worlds is that an author can explore issues and ideas out of their normal context. In Playing God, Benning considers the question ‘why is it that people want to be God, or be their own God, yet are really bad at being God?’ This subject has been dealt with frequently in pop culture, such as the iconic 2003 movie, Bruce Almighty. In this film, Jim Carey plays a down-on-his-luck news reporter who tells God he’s not doing his job properly. God, in response, gives him the job, with disastrous results. While Playing God is set in a completely different genre than Bruce Almighty, a similar truth is conveyed. The self-centred Jeff’s extreme lack of God-like character has, at times, dire consequences for the people who live within his created world.

    Playing God is an enjoyable read and I would recommend it for gamers, science fiction/fantasy aficionados, and anyone else willing to take the leap into Benning’s thought-provoking and entertaining virtual world.

  6. Astro’s Adventures Book Club (verified owner)

    If your grandkids love video games, this may be the book for them. Written by fantasy writer, Morton Benning, Playing God is a great read for children who love fantasy stories and action packed adventures.

  7. Adam Collings (verified owner)

    Playing God is a fun fantasy LitRPG story. It follows a cast of characters, most of whom are actually software constructs in a virtual world. And yet the author treats these characters just like any other, fleshing them out with their own personalities, strengths and flaws.

    Just as you start to think the book is becoming standard fantasy fare, it twists and turns in delightfully geeky ways. One of the fun elements for me, personally, was that this book portrays coding as a magic system. As a programmer, I found this idea quite empowering.

    At the centre of it all is a character named Jeff, who fancies himself a god in this virtual world, but is unwilling to live up to the responsibilities such a role entails. He’ll need to learn the kinds of lessons that can only be imparted by a couple of kind-hearted software constructs.

  8. Lisandra Linde

    With a wry humour reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, Morton Benning treats the reader to a quest fit for any lover of role-playing fantasy games. Playing God explores the fallacy of making yourself a god – something ‘God Avatar’ Jeff created the entire digital world of Utopia to do. When the A.I. of Jeff’s game world malfunctions and turns on him, he finds himself trapped in Utopia. His quest to get back to the real world forces him into a party of rag-tag travellers including a cleric-in-training, an elf, a loveable little cat-creature, fairies of an aquatic variety and a surly goblin. Through a series of misadventures, Jeff is forced to unlearn his selfish ways and see the importance of helping others and working as part of a team.

    This is a book that will certainly appeal to a teenage audience. It is easy to read and the story feels a lot like a madcap Dungeons & Dragons campaign. That being said, while the plot is plentiful in encounters with monsters and the odd flesh-eating tree, it doesn’t delve much into character. Jeff is easily the most developed character, but at times when he isn’t present the story feels a little more stagnant with other key characters such as Keenley, Turnshoe, and Miyako coming off as a touch shallow. This is a little disappointing given that Keenley is, arguably, the main character – not Jeff.

    There is also a bit of ensemble-cast-syndrome going on as sometimes it feels a little like there are too many people in the party, to the point where none of them truly get to shine – something not uncommon in D&D style fantasies in which a big party is common.. The pacing can also be slow in parts, particularly when the characters are travelling, but this is made up for by the action-packed sequences peppered in-between.

    The concept behind Playing God is a compelling one. What is it like to be one of the NPCs inhabiting a game world? It’s the kind of angle rarely examined – the exceptions being the likes of Viva La Dirt League’s Epic NPC Man series on YouTube. With a similar turn towards humour, Benning takes the NPC experience a step forward by looking at how the characters in Utopia react to their creator, Jeff, whose decidedly 21st century quips and analogies leave Keenley and co baffled.

    Overall, this is a playful and enjoyable debut.

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