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Myst: The Book of Atrus by Rand Miller

Myst: The Book of Atrus (1995)

by Rand Miller, Rand Miller, Robyn Miller (Author), David Wingrove (Author)

Other authors: William Cone (Illustrator)

Series: Myst (1)

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I've been a fan of the games Myst and Riven (and some of the following ones) for years, but previously I only wrote a brief overview of the 3-in-1 collection, the Myst Reader, back in 2006. I've recently come to re-read the individual books and decided to do fuller reviews.

In the Book of Atrus you find the backstory of the main character of the original Myst game, Atrus. For most of the opening chapters it concentrates on his upbringing by his grandmother, Anna/Ti'ana, after first having portrayed a scene where his father, Gehn, basically abandons him as a newborn to her care after his nameless wife dies in childbirth. Under Anna's protection and guidance Atrus grows up nurtured in a caring but educationally and physically demanding environment (they do live in a desert after all). There are some good scenes in this early part of the book, particularly with regards to Anna's characterisation and her amazing resourcefulness, intellect, scientific knowledge, creativity and compassion. In many ways she is by far the more interesting of the two.

However, this focus changes once Atrus reaches his teens, which is when Gehn returns to claim Atrus as his son and bring him to the underground world that once contained the D'ni civilisation, which is where he has apparently been holed up for the preceding fourteen years. Anna disappears from this point until the very end. To be fair to the authors; Gehn's characterisation was always going to be a tricky act to pull off as readers who had already played Riven in 1997, the second in the game series, before reading this book would know this was The Official Bad Guy.

At times there is some nuance to Gehn, momentary flashes where something more reasonable almost appears. He is an undoubted monster but one who did suffer some pretty major traumas at an early age (as well as fairly blunt hints that he is also an addict).

However, his cruelty and psychopathic delusions are writ large all too often and it is curious that Atrus, smart and caring as he appears to be, takes some years to realise that his father is really not good news to anyone as an individual, let alone thousands of Ages that he wishes to subjugate in the name of rebuilding the D'ni empire. This creates rather a long, and somewhat overwritten, build up to the inevitable discovery that breaches their relationship permanently and the events that most readers would be interested in; the creation of Myst and introduction of Riven. Some time is spent on introducing Katran/Catherine once the story reaches Riven, and yet the characterisation here is patchy at times, as though no-one were quite sure who she should turn out to be. One particular irritation is that her proper Rivenese birth name, Katran, is really not hard to pronounce, so why the authors decided to have Atrus look like a disrespectful idiot towards his future wife by getting her name consistently wrong is a piece of retconning that seems utterly bizarre. (However, this does continue a bit of a theme about attitudes towards women characters throughout the games and the novels, which reaches its zenith in the next book)

The epilogue of the book is a particular rush to tie up the loose ends. Anna's return is entirely off-page and pretty much the last readers ever get to see of her as an older woman. Anna and Katran's first meeting, their long planning to entrap Gehn and free Atrus of his destructive father is written off in a few paragraphs that feels like the authors simply ran out of energy to explain anymore. Even when I first read it, it felt like a disservice to the characters. For knowledge of what happened between Atrus and Gehn at the early stages of their lives, and events that explore this supremely dysfunctional fictional family, it does act as some enlightenment but it's really meant for hardcore fans only. ( )
  Belochka | May 27, 2014 |
It's been a long time since I read this series, but I liked it because my brother and I used to play Myst together all the time. I was emotionally connected before opening the cover. ( )
  CharityBradford | Apr 1, 2014 |
It's been a long time since I read this series, but I liked it because my brother and I used to play Myst together all the time. I was emotionally connected before opening the cover. ( )
  CharityBradford | Apr 1, 2014 |
Very well written. The quality of the story explains why the games were such a success. Like Tolkien, every single background detail has been pre-figured. Loved all three. ( )
  Snukes | Jun 14, 2013 |
Not nearly as good as the game, but a very interesting back story to it. Well told, but all in all forgettable. ( )
  benuathanasia | Sep 8, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rand Millerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, Randmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, RobynAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wingrove, DavidAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Cone, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To Mom and Dad
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Gehn's bootprints lay heavy around the tiny pool, the lush, well-tended green churned to mud.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786881887, Mass Market Paperback)

Based on the best-selling CD-ROM game, a fantasy novel fills out the lives of the game's characters, tracing the strange apprenticeship of Atrus to his father, Gehn, who wields the power to create worlds. Reprint.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:34 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A fantasy adventure novel based on a CD-ROM game by the same name. It is the story of the D'ni, a race of super-intelligent beings who are able to create new worlds. First book in a series.

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