2017 Reading List, Part 4

Welcome back for Part 4 of my 2017 Reading List, as I lay out the many books I have read this year.  In Part 3, I wrote about Outriders and Sungrazer by Jay Posey, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Camino Island by John Grisham, and The General History of the Pirates by Captain Charles Johnson.  Today, the four books I am presenting are all connected by the world of video games, either through fiction or journalism.  In another break from tradition, the last book on today’s list is a self-published novel; a format which does not garner much critical attention, often for a good reason.

Minecraft: The Island is distinguished for two reasons; it is the first officially licensed Minecraft novel and it is written by Max Brooks, the man behind The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.  This is not the usual video game adaptation.  Brooks does not try to adapt the world of Minecraft, with it’s focus on crafting and building, into a realistic story.  Rather, the book clearly takes place within the game itself.  The narrator wakes up one day in the world of the game, without knowledge of why or how they arrived.  The Island itself is strange and unnatural; everything is made of blocks, including animals and the terrain; zombies and other monsters march at night, on the hunt for the narrator; and the world operates on a weird set of rules that are in no way intuitive.  The book is also intended for a younger audience, like the game before it.  Every chapter is meant to teach a moral of some sort, as the narrator learns to survive.  The book is also noteworthy for recording two different versions of the audio book, one with a male narrator and one with a female narrator.  While writing the point-of-view character, Brooks was very careful to make sure that anyone reading could picture themselves on the island.

The video game industry is a mysterious and volatile business, a competitive realm where companies guard their secrets behind fortresses of non-disclosure agreements.  Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made, by Jason Schreier, is a rare peek behind the curtain for players, telling the stories of ten of the most anticipated video games of the last decade.  From Kickstarter campaigns to billion-dollar conglomerates, Schreier shows us just how nightmarish the games industry is, while also making it clear that the people who work in it do so out of a profound love for the art.  The metrics for how long a game should take to develop or how much a game should cost to make are nonexistent.  This is a young industry, and an industry without universal standards.  For the most part, the games described in Blood, Sweat, and Pixels would be considered financial and critical successes, but they threatened to ruin the lives of the people who made them.  Even without knowledge of gaming, Schreier’s book is an interesting read.

Red vs. Blue is the second longest running web series, and the longest running episodic web series, ever made.  Filmed using a style called machinima, where animators manipulate the characters in a video game to act out scenes Red vs. Blue has run for fifteen seasons over the course of fourteen years, with over three hundred episodes.  The company behind the show, Rooster Teeth, has since expanded into other web series, card and board games, and now feature length films.  Red vs. Blue: The Ultimate Fan Guide is exactly what it says on the cover.  Created by Rooster Teeth in 2015, it serves as a resource for fans of the show, giving glimpses into the lives of the characters and the greater world not seen in the show.  Despite the show’s trappings, it often deals with loss and pain in a way most shows struggle to get right.  Season sixteen begins next year.

The author of this last book, Jeremy Dooley, actually works for Rooster Teeth, the company behind Red vs. Blue.  His novel, however, has nothing to do with the job.  Self-published on Amazon, Go Nitro: Rise of the Blades is a comic book-inspired story following five superpowered teenagers as they combat a dangerous gang terrorizing Lattice Light City.  Aside form their give names, each main character also has a codename, such as Atomic or Explosion.  Villains are introduced under one name and quickly ask to be called by their supervillain name, like Shotgun.  Dooley clearly loves the characters and the city they live in, and imbues the entire story with a sense of fun ridiculousness.  However, the book does suffer from being self-published.  There are multiple typos throughout and it is often difficult to keep track of which characters are talking, injuries incurred by a lack of a professional editor.  Despite this, Go Nitro is a wonderfully fun ride, and the author plans on adding more to the world in the future.

The fifth and final part of my 2017 reading list will be up later this week, taking a day or two off so I can post my review of Tim Pratt’s The Wrong Stars tomorrow.  Part 5 will focus entirely on a certain science-fiction series which sets an example all other science-fiction series should follow.  And, with that, the total reading list will end at twenty-five books and novels, not including Artemis and The Wrong Stars.  Get reading!

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