Throughout the history of gaming, there have been many examples of franchises and games breaking the previously set out boundaries. Super Mario, Pac-Man, Game & Watch, Mega-Man and countless other examples exist of this. One of the more recent examples is Minecraft. Many kids (and plenty of adults) spend hours building and surviving in Minecraft. People have made a living uploading their comedic adventures to YouTube. As parents are confused at the dinner table when their offspring talk about “Endermen” and “spleefing” and other words they don’t know.
It seemed inevitable that eventually Minecraft would expand its blocky horizons to the medium of written fiction. With that comes Minecraft: The Island, a novel from Max Brooks, known by many as the author of World War Z. The idea is exciting. Minecraft is a world where the only limits are the things you build and the rather angular shapes you have to build them in. So a novel about such a free world would be a very entertaining read, packed with excitement and intrigue. Right?
Well, the book is certainly very faithful to the original work, whilst adding a background of its own. The protagonist wakes up in the Minecraft world, shocked to find that everything is now built from cubes. He has no memory of his past life, he’s trapped on an island where scary monsters come out at night and must learn the skills necessary to survive. Read as he learns many things about Minecraft, such as how to set up a sustainable farm and Zombies being bad (that seems to be a continuous theme in Max Brooks’ works).
Unfortunately, whilst the book is very faithful to the game, this is what simultaneously holds it back from doing anything particularly exciting. When making a novel based on an established piece of media, one would hope the rules and laws of that media would give it a platform to work off, but here, it feels like they pin the story down very firmly. The plot is too bogged down by these rules, and when a novel is spawned from a game with such a creative message, it’s a shame that The Island feels so constrained and trapped, much like the protagonist.
Young readers might find some enjoyment in this book, comparing this story of survival with their own games, and perhaps thinking very smugly to themselves about how they’re better at the game (and they just might be; it took 12 chapters for the protagonist to learn how to make a sword). The occasional geeky reference will treat some readers, but ultimately, Minecraft: The Island pulls its punches and doesn’t really do much with the source material.
MINECRAFT: THE ISLAND / AUTHOR: MAX BROOKS / PUBLISHER: DEL RAY / RELEASE DATE: JULY 13TH