Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks

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Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: James Donald
Reviewed by James Donald
Summary: This is book perfectly captures the experience of living in the world of Minecraft. This is a brave and enjoyable adventure.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 286 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Century
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780897745

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Max Brooks perfectly captures the experience of playing Minecraft without instructions or assistance from the random punching stage through to building towers that touch the sky. Just as schools around the world are using Minecraft to teach computer science and other skills, Brooks uses his novel to demonstrate how valuable life lessons can be learned from this online phenomena.

I cannot adequately describe my emotions when I got the email. The first mail was just exciting We've got a copy of the uncorrected proof for the first Minecraft novel coming in, would you like to review it? Selected to review an uncorrected proof! The first to see a novel based in the world my youngest two children practically live in! I was sold…

…then came the next mail.

It is by Max Brooks.

At that point my brain went on holiday. I was going to be lucky enough to be just one of a handful of people who would get to read the latest book from the author of World War Z before it went on sale. One of the first to see what the inventive mind spawned by combining Mrs Robinson and the genius behind Blazing Saddles would do next. I barely slept until the package arrived.

World War Z was one of the bravest books I have ever read. If you have only ever seen the film you really have no idea what you missed. What appears on the surface to be a collection of interviews actually combines metatextually to reveal a dark story filled with villains, heroes and everything in-between… So you could say that my sights were set a little too high for a little book about a computer game.

And, to some extent, you'd be right.

This wasn't the dark, multi-layered ground-breaking exploration of what it is like to really experience Zombies or Creepers. This isn't a book that will make adults feel challenged or enlightened. This isn't really aimed at adults at all.

But that does not matter one little bit.

This book is brave in its own way and I love it for that. We are thrown straight into the world of Minecraft with no help or guidance. Our protagonist lays out for us perfectly exactly what it feels like to experience Minecraft for the first time. Everything I've felt about the game is laid bare. Every shortcoming or mistake I thought was unique to me is explored. You hit things and sometimes they vanish but other times they come away. You move things from one hand to the other and they change. You can only eat food. Everything is square. You don't really have hands. How do you make tools?

What Max Brooks has produced is a guide to Minecraft that allows you to learn from the mistakes of others… Or at least that is what you are supposed to think. What he has actually produced is an educational book for the masses. Brooks teaches mindfulness, life skills and environmental awareness using Minecraft as a useful frame to hang this on. At times these lessons seem a little heavy handed to an adult reader but we aren't the target audience. Children like my eleven year old son with Asperger's Syndrome are exactly his target audience. Number 2 son read a few pages of this before I snatched it away greedily and he giggled like a Tickle-Me Elmo. For those of you unfamiliar with Asperger's, simply imagine what it would be like if Mr Spock started to titter over something he read. Number 2 son has emotions but only the big bolshie ones tend to make it to the surface. His reaction to just a short passage of this book should tell Mr Brooks that all his hours digging and crafting were worth it as his target audience will adore this book.

I read this novel in one sitting and I thoroughly enjoyed its idiosyncrasies. It is great fun, it captures the experience perfectly and it does teach you about both the game and life. As this is an uncorrected proof I hesitate to be too critical of some of the editing as I suspect that this will be fixed before final publishing but there are a few sections where the descriptions of what to do in Minecraft take over and are a little hard to follow. In addition the editor will no doubt be asking Mr Brooks to take a quick glance over the 4 or 5 times the character admits to swearing as he repeats the same phrase to cover this up each time and the repetitiveness of it pulls you a little out of the narrative.

If you are looking for a fantasy adventure with a legion of characters and centuries of complex history then you've got the wrong book. It you are looking for adventure and to know what all this fuss is about then you've got exactly the right book.

Perfectly pitched at the target, brave in the approach and so accurate at capturing my own frustrations at being an inept player that it hurts.

Further reading: Minecraft Beginners's Handbook: Updated Edition by Stephanie Milton

Buy Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks at Amazon.com.


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