Ammaniti is at it again, with a social satire that skewers elites of all flavors: political, cultural, culinary, athletic, you name it. For my money, he is the unrivaled master of this game in our time. As with his other books (especially, As God Commands/The Crossroads), class division and hypocrisy are central. His sympathies are clearly with the fallen working classes, notwithstanding any Satanist leanings. Truthfully, in Let the Games Begin, unlike in Ammaniti's other books available in English translation, most of the characters are caricatures, with the exception of the two "protagonists," Ciba and Saverio/Mantos. [For example, who could ever forget Quattro Formaggi in As God Commands?] In alternating chapters, the story follows these two: Ciba, a successful (though never successful enough!) writer and Saverio/Mantos, a wannabe provincial high priest of Satanism whose day job is, miserably, to sell furniture for his father-in-law. Their paths cross when Ciba attends the party-of-the-century thrown for all of Roman celebrity by a real estate baron who has managed to obtain a public park and turn it into a luxury, private Safari-land. Mantos and his cohorts agree to temp for the party's caterer so they can kidnap and sacrifice a former heavy metal diva who has committed the mortal sin of converting to popular music. Don't ask. In fact, forget the whole silly plot. Although amusing, it is largely beside the point. The point is to show us what we have become. Ciba appears to be conflicted, but do his self-awareness and value conflicts redeem him in any way? The climactic scenes take place at this mega-party, set in a (real) Roman park, Villa Ada, that (fictionally) was privatized by corrupt politicians. According to the Acknowledgements (presumably written in 2009), Villa Ada truly is "in a terrible state of decay. One of the last green lungs of a metropolis smothered by smog and stunned by noise is about to die." Well, rest assured, Ammaniti will let nature take a little revenge before it bows out. Bottom line: this book is a fun read, a kind of wild ride, and Ammaniti's finger is still firmly on the pulse of western society (though, in 2009, still pre-crisis?). As he says "See you next time." Yes, he will.