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The Settlers of Catan Paperback – November 15, 2011
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Interview: Author Rebecca Gable & Settlers of Catan Creator Klaus Teuber
Klaus Teuber: When we saw each other at the Frankfurt Book Fair recently, I recalled how we met there 10 years ago. Do you remember?
Rebecca Gable: Of course! You asked if I could imagine writing a novel based on your famous board game.
KT: I had read one of your books and was so excited about it, I wanted you to bring the story of the settlement of Catan to life. What was your first thought when I asked you?
RG: I thought, "This must be the most unusual and fascinating project ever proposed to me." What gave you the idea for a novelization in the first place?
KT: In the game, seafarers land on Catan. They harvest, trade, build, and settle the island. But where did those seafarers come from? Who are they? Why did they undertake this dangerous journey? The game doesn't answer any of those questions. I had some ideas but no story yet. Then you entered the picture.
RG: We met in Cologne to discuss some basic plot ideas, and it turned out we both had the word "Vikings" in our heads. What is so "Viking" about the game?
KT: Catan is set in the Early Middle Ages, and at that time the Vikings were the only seafaring people to venture into the open ocean, and therefore the only ones capable of reaching a fictitious island in the middle of the Atlantic. That was probably at the back of our minds.
How do you move from a draft outline like ours to developing your characters? Do you use people you know as models?
RG: Never. I'm fond of my friends and want to keep them, so I make sure the characters in my books don't resemble them. Speaking of characters: If you had to choose, would you rather sit down in a beer garden with Candamir or Osmund?
KT: Well, I'd prefer a little flirt with Siglind. But if I may only choose one of the men, I'd like Candamir to explain to me how to build a nice wooden chest. I still need a Christmas present for my wife.
How did you come up with the idea to season the novel with Austin, a likeable character who so insistently (and unsuccessfully) tries to evangelize his master, Candamir?
RG: The game inspired the creation of Austin. You've got to be clever and sometimes mean to win at Settlers of Catan, but whenever I play, it strikes me that what you need most is the ability to cooperate and compromise. Austin stands for that ability, I think--though he can be clever and mean, too.
KT: In your telling of the legend of Catan, the god Odin falls in love with Tanuri, the king of the Albs' daughter. Normally Odin can have any woman, but Tanuri makes a fool of him when he creates an idyllic island for her. Grief stricken, he moves the island to a place where nobody can find it. Of course, the island is Catan. Where did you get this wonderful idea? Did it come from an archetype in Norse mythology?
RG: It's not based on any particular Norse saga, but I tried to capture the atmosphere and narrative patterns of the form. I also wanted to emphasize how very special Catan is--not just in the book, but for millions of fans all over the world who love the game. Catan is a mythical and wonderful place.
Fans of the popular board game that inspired this novel will be thrilled to learn the backstory. For those with an interest in fiction set during the Viking era, there is something here for you, too. A village is attacked by raiders, and the surviving residents must decide whether it is worth staying on in the hardscrabble of northern Europe. One villager tells a tale of a wondrous land on the island of Catan but notes that the journey there is fraught with peril. No one can verify the tale, but it provides a glimmer of hope for a band of villagers who decide to venture to the mysterious island. Slavery, greed, religion, and social mores are all touched upon in the story, and all of these factors play roles in determining the future of the people living on Catan. Characters are fleshed out with plenty of interactions and dialogue, and the varieties of landscape on the island—so integral to playing the game—also are significant elements in the storyline. — Rebecca Gerber
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Top Customer Reviews
The book, in general, will add depth to your gameplay of Rivals of Catan. Rebecca Gable does an excellent job of making sure the book matches in the book in historical perspective and gameplay. You will get a certain thrill when you play both Cadamir and Osmund out on the table. Knowing now that they are close friends and foster brothers. I cannot say enough about how much more fun this game has become after reading the book.
There is even an explanation of how the land of Catan came to be. The author uses mythology of the people to give a story about Odin and a beautiful fairy princess he desired. Gable makes a great effort to make the book historical in nature. I really appreciated how real it made it feel. As a side note, you can find this book also in German. Which some people might enjoy more.
A great story to a great game. Gamers should enjoy this book greatly. It is a must read. for Catan players. It can be enjoyed without the game background! It is one of those books you pass on to another player of the game. Definitely, would make an unique gift for Catan players.
It makes sense that the people are Vikings, who fled their homes where resources were short and looked for a new, warmer land. They were ready to fight for land but found a wonderful, warm island that was unpopulated and had plenty of the resources they wanted. So they established a settlement that used all the same resources we find in the game. Should have been happily every after, except for the greed and vices of some of the settlers. These settlers were exiled from the original settlement, so they established a new settelment for themselves. I guess they settled in the barren desert so that original settlers couldn't find them, but then they couldn't get resources, so became robbers, which again works with the mechanics of the game. Sheep were not native to the island, so this explains why they are a more important resource than other animals. So most of the major game features are explained nicely, in a good story that also educates on viking culture and has good characterization. It's difficult to make characters who hold slaves become relatable to modern readers, but author did a good job of that. A few features of the game were ignored (cities, soldiers, roads) but understandable given that storytelling was more important than fitting the game features.
All together, a good read with nice connections to the game.
While I expected a book licensed by a board game IP to be rubbish, I was shocked at just how well the author captures the spirit of historical fiction. While the places and people are almost all made up, the cultural setting is rather deep. The ongoing religious conflict between the Norse pagan traditions and the new Christian faith is fascinating.
The characters are nearly all quite three-dimensional, with a balance of strengths and flaws.
TW: contains slavery, and non-explicit non-consensual sex.