Today's Sunday Conversation is the first of a series that aims to make and solicit recommendations from other media formats. With it being summer time, it seemed wise to start with our book choices. Games slow down. People get to the beach, or just pull out a chair in their yard and enjoy the weather, and reading is the perfect activity for the season of leisure as it is for many. Did you like Game X? You may enjoy Book Y! You get it. Here are some of our picks. Don't forget to share some of yours in the comments below!
Sam approached the subject from a non-fictional, historical perspective.
For a quick and easy read, Speccy Nation
is a love letter to the ZX Spectrum, and the very British games that appeared on it. Those of you who have sampled the first third of Rare Replay can find a little context here, as well as feel relief that games such as Everyone's A Wally
weren't made by Ultimate, Rare's predecessor, so that you don’t have to endure them. It's easy to see how these quaint and eccentric titles had a subtle influence on the games we play today. It’s incredibly short and crying out for pictures, so definitely don’t pay more than a couple of bucks for it.
In a similar niche, those of you interested in point-and-clicks can get your nostalgia fix from the excellent Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures
. It’s considerably more exhaustive – 250 games! – but a great read for diehard fans of the genre.
For a wider ranging history, probably the best of the tiny selection of titles available is Replay: The History of Videogames
. It’s curiously focused on the beginnings of various gaming revolutions without ever charting their progress, but then the author is trying to cover a lot of ground, and what he does choose to include is honestly fascinating. An appendix of milestone games, genres and consoles at the back makes it easy to launch your own research, so it’s a useful tool for budding gaming historians out there.
Andrew offered up a pair of titles, one of them being a direct prequel to an award-winning game.
Whilst some people might have a reservation about reading a prequel novel to such force majeure of video games, BioShock Rapture
is possibly one of the finest examples of game tie-ins and fits perfectly with the iconic title. The story takes place before the events of the game and starts with the building of the underwater city. Like riding on the Titanic, the reader gets to enjoy the splendour and grandour, whilst knowing that it’s not going to end well. The reader is also privy to the dark undercurrents, the growing dissatisfaction, the festering discontent. The story gradually reveals how the utopian dream unravelled into the nightmare world that players encountered in the original game. Brilliantly written, the story weaves together familiar places and characters, whilst introducing new heroes and villains along the way.
Secondly, those who grew up in the early 90’s will remember the impact that the id games Wolfenstein
made on the gaming industry of the time. Masters of Doom
is the factual story of how the team at id came together and how they went on to create possibly the most important computer game in history
. The book charts the early days, the lead-up to the phenomenal success, and the eventual fallout. Whilst such a fact-based book could have been a dry and dull read, Kushner relates the facts and writes the story so well that it becomes a fascinating tale. Those old enough to remember those days will no doubt read it with a feeling of nostalgia, nodding and inwardly smiling, recognising many of the references to that particular time.
Chanse submitted something for military sci-fi fans.
As a major fan of the Halo
series I have come to enjoy good military sci-fi in writing. There are quite a few choices out there, but one series that really is enjoyable to me is the Star Carrier
series by Ian Douglas (a pseudonym of author William H. Keith, Jr.).
The series finds that nice mix of not being a rote and boring military romp, but still having plenty of action and sci-fi goodness within its pages. The series focuses on the travels and trials of humanity as they fight an intergalactic battle for supremacy against an alien race. With some decent character development and good action sequences, I enjoyed the books as an entertaining, though not necessarily intellectually deep, adventure.
Obviously this has tones of Halo
in it, even from the basic premise mentioned above, and between the science-fiction alien/oddities, tense battles and the deep space setting you may think that you are sometimes reading a story set in the very Halo
universe you know and love.
Kevin offered up a sci-fi epic as well as his favorite dark fantasy.
Around the time Mass Effect
launched, there was a small sect of sci-fi purists who cried out that the game was a ripoff of a particular novel called Revelation Space
by Alastair Reynolds. I don't think I'd agree that ripoff is the right term, but it clearly took some inspiration from Revelation Space
in a very good way. In Revelation Space
, our heroes are investigating an ancient space-faring alien race that mysteriously went extinct millions of years ago, and they weren't the first alien race to have mysteriously disappeared. Reynolds is a physicist and astronomer by profession, so an interesting hook in the book is that it's actually somewhat realistic. Space travel is a long and arduous process and, while the technologies present are advanced, they are at least grounded in possible scientific theories. With many mysteries to solve with both the extinctions, the coming threat, and the crew of the novel's central ship, the Nostalgia for Infinity, this novel is certainly one to keep the pages turning and it tells a story worth reading. If you enjoy it, it's actually the first in a trilogy so there's plenty more to discover if you love the universe. If you don't have the time, the novel stands alone as well so everyone can come away fulfilled.
On a different note, my favorite book series is The Black Company
by Glen Cook. It's a 12-book epic in the dark fantasy genre. It's the series that inspired The Malazan Book of the Fallen
, so if you enjoy that you're bound to enjoy this (and frankly, it's a lot better as much as I do love the Malazan
series). Dark fantasy is exactly what it sounds like - a subset of the fantasy genre where there are not always happy endings. Its tone is most similar to Dark Souls, hence the recommendation. The hook of this series is that it's actually the story of a mercenary company, The Black Company, as opposed to the story of the individual characters within it. The story is framed as the annals of the Company, so it's written in the voice of many different members of the Company. This creates an interesting literary device where the stories are told with a personal bias - one character might be a hero in one book but, in the next, the same scenes are recalled with quite a different slant. Of course, the authors of the Annals see themselves and each other differently as well, which makes the entire series fascinating and a great look at the characters from all sides. Top it off with an epic story worthy of being told, and you've got a recipe for what's by far and away my favorite fantasy series.
Kelly found a whole tie-in series worth reading.
A couple years ago someone gave me all five books in Karen Traviss' Gears of War
series. I was skeptical. Books and films associated with video game series generally have a bad reputation -- for a good reason. How could a book about a bunch of dudes in comically-large armor chainsawing mutants possibly provide a deep reading experience? Boy was I wrong. For the true Gears
fan, they bridge the gaps in the games, fleshing out all the topics merely mentioned in the trilogy. What happened before Marcus went to prison, Marcus and his childhood with Dom and Carlos Santiago, and the relationship between Marcus and Anya are all topics that are covered, as well as getting a more in-depth look at the past of supporting characters like Sam, Bernie and Hoffman.
If you're a die-hard Gears
fan grasping for more content at every opportunity, there is no question in my mind you'll love the books. If you enjoyed the games but found the plot to be a little shallow, the book series is the perfect filler. If you haven't played the games but are a fan of military fiction, there is plenty to like here too.
Megan wanted to remind us how effective screaming in space is not.
Sometimes the story of a book sticks with you a long time, even if you can't remember the name or the author. With a little helping hand, I remembered the book I wanted to talk about was Gravity
by Tess Gerritsen (not to be confused with the recent Sandra Bullock movie). The basic story of the book is a female physician going into space on a mission to study creatures, but things take a turn for the worst and her fellow astronauts start being killed one by one from deadly infections.
The overall feel of the book has more than a few familiarities with the Alien
films, and definitely has some similarities to the Alien: Isolation
as well. Aside from the obvious female protagonist and space setting, there's the general feeling of unease all the way through the book, which mirrors how you feel whilst playing the game. The uncertainty of which characters will survive to the end, and that eerie thought that any of the people you meet could die next, and wondering what gruesome way that the death will end up being. While the Xenomorph itself is the main killer in the game, the book sees organisms infecting the astronauts, ending in an equally gruesome death as being ripped apart by the Alien. Even with the difference in the ending outcome between the book and the game, it's easy to recommend Gravity
to fans of Alien Isolation
, and perfectly reflects the kind of creepy and disturbing horror story that will have you on the edge of your seat.
For my submission, I chose to recommend one of my favorite Batman stories.
If you played the Arkham
series and wanted more but didn't know where in the dizzying backlog of Batman comics to do so, I can't recommend The Long Halloween
enough. It features a wide array of the Dark Knight's classic rogues gallery, just like the games which it clearly inspired it a lot. Chronologically it's meant to take place after Frank Miller's Year One
, showcasing a younger Batman in one of the best stories centering on the World's Greatest Detective ever written. In my opinion, it's even better than that seminal work by Miller.
If you really like the writing style of the narration-heavy Loeb, you can further your reading with some of his other major Batman works, Dark Victory
. If you played the games before ever reading any of the comics, you'll see just how much Rocksteady, amazing in their own right, truly owe to the deep history behind the best superhero ever created.
These are a few of our suggested reads based on games we love. We hope you'll share some of yours with the community as well.