Thursday, December 31, 2015

31. Crysis Legion by Peter Watts

This is possibly the worst book I have read since I started this blog.  That's not necessarily so bad as there have been few books that I truly hated in that time and the quality mean is quite high.  It's more frustrating because I paid $5.50 for it at a used bookstore on West Broadway in Vancouver, that should have known better (or perhaps they did, I bought it after all).  I had high hopes as well.  I like Peter Watts' work a lot, but always found it a bit conceptual and science heavy.  When I heard that he was writing a fiction based on a videogame, I thought it might allow him to focus on his badass action writing.  It did, but the result was not what I had imagined. 

Currently, for the things I enjoy in fiction, videogames are just not a medium that allows for creativity.  Crysis Legion does have tons of cool action, but it's mostly repetitive.  Even worse, the main character has barely any character and even less agency.  It's a first-person shooter, so the story is basically on rail road tracks.  Watts writes it like he is an observer, which I suspect he was, probably basing the storyline on watching walkthroughs of the actual game.  Worse, he relies on a few gimmicks over and over again, in paticular italicizing words constantly (really, like when describing big destruction he will do it several times in a paragraph).  It gets really grating.

It has bits and pieces of Wattsian crazy science reality gussied up into science fiction and the way he describes the final exposition is pretty compelling.  Also, at times you can feel Watts himself exasperated with the constraints and even poking fun at them (or at least pointing them out).  It's a valiant effort, but ultimately, nobody is connected to anything going on (neither Watts nor us) and it became a real slog to get through.  I have been reading this book for over two years!  (and man, what a relief to get it done.)

I love the idea of real authors doing the story behind videogames (Richard Morgan was the writer for the videogame and Watts worked under him for the novel) and I hoped it made the game better.  But going the other way, taking a game to make a novel out of, seems like basically cheap heroin for the Crysis addict who has already finished the game and wants more.  I also hope that it made Watts a good chunk of cash so he could go on writing the books he wants to write.

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