Minecraft: The Island

Minecraft: The Island was written by Max Brooks and first published in 2017. It is a fantasy story based around the immensely popular video game, focusing on a youth who wakes up to find themself in a strange world. The novel proclaims that it is the first official Minecraft novel, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

A youth finds themself drifting in the ocean with no idea of who they are or how they came to be there. As they swim, desperately searching for land, they eventually come across an island and head to it in the hope of finding answers. However, this is where everything takes a turn for the odd. Everything on the island, from rocks to trees to animals, seem to be made up of cubes.

To the youth’s horror, they discover that they have also changed. They have become some bizarre fingerless mutant with a square body and blocks for hands. Unable to manipulate things in the usual way, they learn by trial and error that they can only eat certain objects that they find, and that others can be combined into new items by passing them from hand to hand.

As night falls, they discover that the island is full of danger. Zombies, spiders and explosive “creepers” appear in dark areas and seem desperate to hunt them down. To survive in this strange world, the youth realises that they need to use their power to combine blocks to create shelter and weapons. With this knowledge in mind, they set out to learn the mechanics of the world and craft themself a home.

This book is certainly a contender for the coveted “weirdest thing I have ever reviewed” award…

Perhaps I should begin by bringing the non-gamers among you up to speed. Minecraft was released in 2011 and is what is known as a sandbox video game. While it has a few different modes of play, the idea behind it is that you play in an open world and use the materials to hand to build and explore. This novel is based on the game’s survival mode, in which assets are limited and your goal is, basically, not to die.

I was recommended this title off the back of my reviews of the Five Nights at Freddy’s books, however I would say that Minecraft: The Island is a novel of a different kind. While the Five Nights at Freddy’s stories are written in such a way that even a non-gamer could pick up and enjoy them, Minecraft: The Island is clearly written with fans of the games in mind.

If you’ve never played Minecraft before, this book will make very little sense to you and so I’d strongly advise that you don’t waste your time. Brooks isn’t a very descriptive writer and so some of the things that he builds and encounters (such as creepers) may be hard for you to envision if you don’t already know what he is talking about.

However, it’s also difficult for me to understand the appeal of this novel for fans. The entire book painstakingly recreates the experience of playing Minecraft, down to the mechanics of moving blocks around on a grid to generate new items. While this is really my own personal opinion, I don’t think that in-game mechanics make for fun reading. It just doesn’t read naturally when the youth describes the “floating grid” that appears over his left hand. This book was like the experience of watching someone else play a game, which isn’t really something that I find entertaining.

If you try to strip down Minecraft: The Island to its barest elements, it still doesn’t really function as a novel. It is, in essence, a story about survival. The youth describes every moment of their isolation, including the horrible mistakes that they make and how they resolve them. At times, this can even be fairly brutal. Although monsters they fight just “flash red” when they strike them, the youth is capable of feeling pain and starvation. An early encounter with a creeper results in them nearly being blown up, while a they soon learn the importance of growing food when they discover that their “hyper-healing” only functions when they are well fed.

Beyond this, there is nothing resembling a plot. The youth just digs further down into the island, learning to craft new tools and items as they uncover different crafting materials. While they occasionally encounter a new hazard that they need to overcome, such as a powerful monster or sea of lava, there isn’t anything else to it. The book has no structure and just kind of peters out at the end without any kind of resolution. Really, this is more of a walkthrough than actual literature!

The unnamed protagonist is also a complete blank slate. Like the avatar in game, they are just a vessel that the reader can project themself onto. He (or she) has no memory of their past life, and does not regain any as the story progresses. While they occasionally remember flashes of pop-culture which implies they came from our world, we never discover how they came to be drifting in the ocean.

The one saving grace in this whole mess is, probably the supporting cast. While no other people appear in this story, the youth holds lengthy conversations with the farm animals that they find on the island, imagining how each would respond to him. A cow called Moo becomes his particular friend, offering him helpful advice as the story progresses. Seriously, I actually got more attached to these critters than the youth. The scene in which the youth finally decides to slaughter some chickens was pretty disturbing.

So, I don’t really have a lot more to say. Minecraft: The Island is a bizarre idea for a tie-in novel and I personally don’t think it works at all. If you’ve never played Minecraft before, it will make no sense whatsoever. If you have, the most you will gain from it is possibly a few new crafting ideas. If you’re curious about this franchise at all, I’d probably suggest just buying the game and giving that a try instead.

Minecraft: The Island can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. EpicChasGamer
    Sep 11, 2017 @ 07:22:40

    Minecraft: The Island is an interesting book. I enjoyed it a lot. Please check out my blog if you want to 🙂

    Reply

  2. EpicChasGamer
    Sep 11, 2017 @ 07:22:51

    Did I get marked as spam?

    Reply

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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