Book Review: Minecraft: The Mountain by Max Brooks
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: Fantasy, Media Tie-In
Publisher: Del Rey (March 2, 2021)
Length: 272 pages
Ever since the publication of The Island by Max Brooks, there have been many more Minecraft novels released in the official series of novels based on the video game, each exploring a different aspect of the world. While so far they have all been standalone stories, in The Mountain, readers can actually look forward to being reunited with the intrepid adventurer protagonist who was introduced in the very first book!
Upon learning about this, I just knew there was no way I going to want to miss this follow-up. To recap, at the end of The Island, we saw our unnamed hero sail off into the distance, leaving behind the mysterious island on which he was stranded in the hopes of finding his way home. The Mountain pretty much begins this next chapter of his journey, opening with our protagonist stumbling upon a completely new world.
Obviously, this being a book based on the world of Minecraft, our protagonist just can’t help but explore his surroundings, despite his eagerness to move on. To his shock and delight, during his sojourn, he encounters another castaway. All this time, he had thought he was all alone, but the appearance of Summer changes everything. Like him, she has been surviving off the land, using only her wits—and doing far better than he had been, apparently. Our protagonist learns a lot from Summer and lets her convince him to stay and help her finish a building project before striking off together to find answers. Still, after a while he begins to grow restless once more, wondering at the truth behind this strange blocky world, and a nagging part of him also can’t help but suspect that his new friend might not be telling him everything.
For fans of Max Brooks, this is going to be completely different than what you’d expect from the mind that brought us World War Z. Intended for Middle Grade to Young Adult readers, The Mountain is an adorable adventure written as if you are actually in the world of Minecraft! While previous experience with the game is unnecessary to appreciate the story, it’d help if you’ve played the game as it’ll make it that much easier to visualize the people, the creatures, and the landscapes. If you came to this from The Island, expect a similar type of survival narrative that unfolds almost like a questline, following the characters as they overcome a series of increasingly difficult obstacles like environmental challenges and hostile enemies.
But of course, this book also brings plenty of changes and development. For one, our protagonist’s identity has been further defined, and he’s even given a name—Guy (hey, I never said it was going to be original). Furthermore, we have the introduction of Summer. Finally, the long and lonely days of having only animals to talk to are over! Guy and Summer become fast friends, learning so much from each other. Keeping in mind that these novels are written for children, I think for many young readers this relationship dynamic between our characters will also serve as a jumping off point for lessons on communication, cooperation, and respect. As well, a lot of their conversations are intended to encourage exploration and consideration for others’ opinions and ideas. Speaking as a parent, I was quite honestly impressed with the sincerity and straightforwardness of these messages, not to mention the fun and fresh-faced approach in which they were delivered.
So saying, I might be an adult but I had a blast with this book. Personally, I found the story of The Mountain better and more entertaining than The Island, and no doubt the addition of Summer had a lot to do with this, introducing human interaction into our protagonist’s life and an extra layer of meaning to his experiences. As long as you don’t expect anything too deep and or narratively complex, I think most readers will find just as much joy and fun in these books even if they aren’t Minecraft experts, but ultimately the target demographic is probably going to be gamers in the ages 8-12 range; those are the kids who will be geeking out over this book and adoring it to bits.