24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The God of War is rather a bore,
This review is from: God of War (Paperback)
This is a book I really wanted to like. While I'm familiar with neither the God of War game nor the fiction of Robert E. Vardeman, Matthew Stover is one of my very favorite writers and the cover blurb made the story seem very much up Stover's alley. Unfortunately, whereas it seems many of the best-acclaimed novels based on video game franchises (like Halo and Gears of War) tell stories set around and between the events of the games, this novel is directly based on the first game in the God of War series and, I can only imagine at Sony's behest, hews so closely to the events of the game that it reads more like a glorified strategy guide than a novel in its own right.
Over the course of these 300 pages, the book reads exactly like a video game set to prose. The main character Kratos kills innumerable hordes of monsters; as he faces increasingly powerful monsters, he gets power-ups in the form of gifts and artifacts from various gods and mythological figures. Later on, the flood of monsters slows to a trickle and instead there are more puzzles involving timing and jumping and miniquests to find keys to unlock doors, and the overall impression is that while video game puzzles may pleasurably kill many hours in a game, they don't make for very interesting reading, especially when they're being solved by a character who hasn't changed or grown or become any more likable between pages 1 and 250, by a character whose life seems dictated more by the demands of the plot than because he's got any sort of personality or wit or cleverness about him (more than once monsters stand around and wait (quite graciously) for Kratos to recover as he collapses exhausted for "long minutes"; at one point he kicks a notch in a rock wall with his sandalled feet).
As for Kratos himself, he's a brutal, unstoppable and virtually indestructible sociopath, haunted by an atrocity he committed a decade ago but apparently not haunted enough to refrain from slaughtering noncombatant citizens left and right in the present; rather than seeking to make peace with himself through atonement or by any other means, his response to his shame has essentially been to redirect his destructive lifestyle. He's basically a big baby who wants the gods to relieve him of his painful memories but is unwilling to do anything for himself other than spread more pain and death in the world. It's very hard to square the pain and shame he feels at this terrible act in his past with his utter lack of remorse or regret for any of his ongoing terrible acts, and the novel doesn't really manage to develop his personality to an extent that this makes sense. It doesn't help that throughout the novel he is the only significant character aside from the gods; every other character is basically an NPC who wanders into the book for a paragraph or two, fulfills his or her purpose and is never heard from again. Every so often we do switch to Athena's point of view as she conspires or quarrels with other gods on Olympus; these diversions from Kratos are welcome but rarely tell us much that we don't already know.
Overall, this book is a tremendous wasted opportunity; for a book "offering deeper insights" into the events of the game, it stays much too loyal to gameplay mechanics and puzzles, at the expense of any opportunity for character development that might earn a more satisfying emotional payoff. Games and novels are two different media and in striving to adapt this story from one to another too literally, this epic quest for absolution and vengeance has been reduced to rather a bore. To the writers' credit it is readable, no mean feat given the restrictions of the project, but I can't imagine that it has much to offer fans of the game, and only rarely do the authors' styles have the chance to shine through. Not recommended except to the most die-hard fans of the game or the authors.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 3, 2010 9:15:07 PM PDT
This is a good, honest review, and from what I've read of the book I'm inclined to agree with you. Though I got really confused when you said you were not familiar with the game, but followed it up with: the book "hews so closely to the events of the game." o.O
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 9:32:34 PM PDT
I wasn't familiar with the game, but after I read the book, I went to Wikipedia to check out the game's storyline, and I went to YouTube to check out some gameplay videos, and both were remarkably consistent with what I had just read. I don't know if the sections with the gods were in the game, as cutscenes or something, but pretty much everything with Kratos at least seemed to have been ripped directly from the game.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 9:56:14 PM PDT
All right, cool. That makes sense. In any case, you were right, it did read just like a video game would play out. I was half expecting the Zelda tune to go off when he obtained those godly powers. xD
Posted on Jun 21, 2010 9:44:41 AM PDT
"He's basically a big baby who wants the gods to relieve him of his painful memories but is unwilling to do anything for himself other than spread more pain and death in the world."
Yeah, I think you've got a perfect handle on Kratos's character.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2010 3:20:56 PM PDT
I'm not sure whether or not you're being sarcastic. . .
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 8, 2010 12:41:57 PM PDT
Kindle Customer says:
Being a writer myself, and a once huge fan of Stover's, this novel left me wanting. Lackluster. Great ideas, poor execution, overall. I am not a gamer, but know enough about the game to know about this book.
Still didn't impress me. A mish-mash of action sequences, and the dramatic effects didn't work.
Posted on Jan 10, 2011 6:44:48 PM PST
T. Santiago says:
Wow! GREAT review I am a fan of Kratos and of the playstation series. You are on the mark when you explain how puzzles and character development makes for well used hours of gameplay, but not for reading. I was looking into reading this novel hoping I would get more from the God Of War story but I really dont need a page by page rehash of the actual games!
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2011 1:25:30 AM PST
Dameyon Moore says:
It prolly reads that way 'cause that's apparently how they did research for the game: watched other people play it via Youtube. They even thank the guy in the acknowledgement section of the book, Raven Van Helsing, a youtubing video strategy guide sort of person that does walkthroughs of games. Including God of War.
The book is awful. The game is not.
But what's sad is how far off most of this book is in what actually happens in the game. Just look at the battle with the hydra and it's conclusion, th
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