Book Review: Minecraft: The Crash by Tracey Baptiste
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Media Tie-In
Series: Stand Alone/Book 2 of Minecraft
Publisher: Century (July 12, 2018)
Length: 288 pages
Minecraft: The Crash is the second official tie-in novel based on the popular survival sandbox video game, though unlike the first book, whose clueless protagonist wakes up in the strange blocky world of the game with no explanation, this standalone sequel is rooted more in our own reality. It is also, in my opinion, a more mature book. While the target audience for this series falls in the middle grade to young adult range, I feel that some of the story’s deeper themes will be lost on younger readers.
Still, depending on how you look at it, that might be a good thing. The Crash is a book that can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Obviously, you can expect a Minecraft novel to be adventurous and fun—and trust me when I say there will be no disappointment there. However, I was also surprised to find a more complex and deeper thread of meaning woven subtly into this novel. I won’t lie—the ending made me cry. It wasn’t that the story was unduly sad or made me miserable and distraught, but there was a powerful and bittersweet element to the conclusion that really pulled on my heartstrings and made me tear up.
The story follows two teenagers, Bianca and Lonnie, who have been best friends ever since the fateful day they met on the playground and bonded over a love for Minecraft. Almost ten years later, the game is still the glue that binds them, even though they go to different high schools and Lonnie is a junior, while Bianca is a newly-minted freshman. Then one night, while on their way to a homecoming game, the two friends get into a terrible car accident. Bianca finally wakes up sometime later in the hospital, after multiple surgeries to save her life. She learns from the doctors and from her parents that the accident was very serious, and that she could have been paralyzed from her injuries. No one tells her anything more, only that she needs to concentrate on getting better.
Soon, Bianca discovers that there are other children at the hospital, some who are very sick and are admitted for long-term care. To provide entertainment for their young patients, the facility is equipped with a state-of-the-art virtual reality gaming system so that users can play and interact with each other in-game. To Bianca’s delight, it even supports a VR version of Minecraft. One day, she meets AJ, a young boy who visits her room and invites her to his Minecraft server which has been heavily customized with mods that he designed himself. As Bianca explores AJ’s realm, she also meets Esme and Anton, two other teens who are at the hospital playing on the server. She teams up with them, hoping to find Lonnie along the way so they can all work towards playing to the End, which is the final dimension of Minecraft. Strange things have been happening on the server, which isn’t running the way it is supposed to. Our characters find themselves trapped in the game, and it is their hope that reaching the End will help them get back to the real world.
Minecraft: The Crash raises several interesting topics. We all know that games can be useful educational tools. But can they also be used for therapeutic purposes? Bianca is a strong and resourceful character, but also extremely stubborn. She has a lot of questions, but after a while, it’s clear to see she’s neither physically nor mentally prepared to handle many of the answers awaiting her at the end of her journey. She frequently gets into arguments with her companions, especially Esme, whose personality clashes strongly with our protagonist’s. Anton is like the mediator of the group, who tries to defuse tense situations and get everyone to work together. Still, despite the constant conflicts and infighting, our characters’ time in the game ultimately becomes both a learning and healing experience—for all of them. While adventuring through Minecraft together, they had inadvertently created their own little support group.
This probably goes without saying, but this book will also be perfect for Minecraft fans. Readers who love the game will no doubt recognize something of themselves in the characters, who are all Minecraft enthusiasts. Each of them has their own building styles, from Lonnie who loves to plan his projects, to Bianca who is more of a “wing it” type of player who improvises as the inspiration strikes her. Then there’s AJ, who likes to build massive, intricately-detailed and elaborate structures, or paranoid Anton who surrounds his fortress base with explosives and other deadly traps. You’ll also find plenty of Easter eggs and other game references scattered throughout the story. The bulk of the book is the actual adventure, following our characters in-game as they gather, explore, craft, build, and fight. It’s all very entertaining.
That said, as I alluded to earlier, there are also some darker and sadder themes underlying this novel. Most of the characters in the story are kids who are very sick or injured. There’s also the question of what happened on the night of Bianca’s accident, along with the difficult truths she must figure out for herself. This novel genuinely surprised me, because I did not expect such an emotional conclusion, or that the final message would be so beautifully or poignantly written.
Overall, I would recommend Minecraft: The Crash. It features a fun and fast-paced adventure which would undoubtedly appeal to fans of Minecraft, though I daresay even non-gamers will be able to find a lot of joy in the book as it contains a story with themes that will speak to readers from all walks of life.