Kotaku Book Club

Kotaku Book Club

We posted about Yahtzee’s Mogworld earlier, and it got us thinking. Games based on books? Yeah, we’ve got plenty. Books based on games? Hmm, not so much. But what sort of books to gamers enjoy anyway? What books are good enough to tear you away from your favourite hobby?

As a once avid reader, it’s a shame that I find there’s just no time to open up a book anymore. The fact is, there’s just too many damn good games coming out. So let’s continue a discussion started by Dan Staines when he was here not too long ago.

Now, we’re not just talking the latest sci-fi, or classics like LOTR (although those are good too). Moreso, if you’ve read a book and ever thought, “Man, this is made for an FPS player!” or something similar, post it. I’ll start us off:

Ender’s Game – This book is every RTS player’s dream. A young genius attends an advanced school where the most important thing is “the game”. It tests and trains the students in military tactics, aiming to one day identify a prodigy that could be used as a weapon. I’m not sure how easy this one is to find these days…

Masters of Doom – A true story that couldn’t be better if you made it up. This one tells the tale of John Carmack and John Romero – their pasts, how they met, the formation of id Software and the creation of the FPS genre. On the way, it connects its main story with the rise of gaming culture – and so it should. The two Johns are so alike yet so different, so compatible, yet eventually clash. If you know about id Software, it’s a bit like watching the Titanic in terms of knowing the ending. But that doesn’t spoil a great story, wonderfully told.

How about you?


  • My shiny new Kindle (which is deeply awesome, the screen is simply amazing) arrived in the post yesterday so I went on a bit of an ebook buying spree. Instead of getting lots of one series I’ve spread out and bought a few different styles.

    I read the new Terry Pratchett “I Shall Wear Midnight” which was great and I’ve started reading Metro 2033 and I think I’ll alternate between Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Hawking’s “The Theory Of Everything”

  • “The Road” Cormack McCarthy

    Awesome book and movie, game would be killer. First person RPG would be obvious choice of format at the moment but an isometric 2d rpg would be cooler

    • Yes the Road is an amazing novel but two things

      1. its Cormac McCarthy
      2. I don’t think a game should be made, it would just not be impactful enough

  • Hell yes for Ender’s Game. If they could establish an RTS that gave you control in a similar manner to Ender in the ‘training’ for the battles with the Formics, where Ender controlled no individual units per se, but rather gave orders to subcommanders etc, that would be super awesome.

    Some of the Star Wars Expanded Universe stories could make for some interesting games in the style of Jedi Outcast.

  • Dunno about adapting for games but anything by Chuck Palahniuk is a must read.
    Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books and Barry Eisler’s John Rain series both feature tough no-nonsense heroes who would adapt well as video game heroes – not sure stories are suitable for a fps or similar though…

  • Ender’s Game is a masterpiece. Its in Border’s, so I highly recommend it!

    I read a bunch of the cyberpunk classic stuff like Neuromancer, Snow Crash etc, they’re always fun. I quite liked Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan who is now writing a game that I also cannot remember the name of just now.

    But I’ve also read a lot of Henry Miller which is just about as different as you can get… 🙂

    • Heh, Second Life was pretty much Snow Crash: The Game, except y’know with sex, fetish and gambling in the place of plot and general quality.

  • Space Demons. A novel from 1985 that pretty much had FPS games already figured out.

    The sequel, Skymaze, was pretty good too. Although the third book was boring and stupid.

  • Just bought Ender’s Game from the Angus and Robertson website for $12.95, so it is pretty easy to find after all.

  • Magician – Raymond E Feist. Epic fantasy in every sense of the word.

    Harry Potter of course.

    Any Terry Pratchet book.

  • “The Gone-Away World” by Nick Harkaway.
    Just excellent. Reads like an old-school point-click adventure, but the setting would absolutely suit an open-world RPG.

  • You can still buy Ender’s Game – at least, when I went looking a few weeks ago, Dymocks had more than one copy. Ender’s Shadow is excellent too – same timeframe as Ender’s Game, but the whole thing is from Bean’s point of view. It tells quite a different story.

  • Just finished the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks.
    This was part of the reason I haven’t played anything more meaty than Puzzle Quest in about a month.

  • Halting State is a book by Charles Stross about blurring the line between reality and MMO’s and augmented reality games. It starts with an MMORPG bank robbery (one not planned by the games designers).

    Also by Charles Stross is Glasshouse. A book set so far in the future that your current state can be saved and machines can fabricate a copy of you. In this future some people duel each other for the thrill, knowing that if they die another version will still revert to save…

    It’s less about games than Halting State but I thought that a reality where you could load from the last save point was an interesting game-real world concept.

    • Halting State isn’t bad. Its also written in 2nd person, if I remember rightly, so it reads like a old adventure game. “You think this book is awesome.” etc.

      • Yeah, I’ve actually read them. The one thing I wish he would do is stop relying on those bloody Maghooks… pretty much every time someone starts falling or is in some danger out comes the Maghook… but that’s a fairly minor complaint for a series of bloody awesome books.

      • Ha, I prefer it the other way. Seven Ancient, Six Sacred and 5 Greatest are better than the scarecrow books (although, 5 Greatest was more like Jack West is Scarecrow. Kinda disappointed with it). Scarecrow books are just all action and stuff, it gets boring after a while. I enjoyed Jack West because of the ancient mythology stuffs, I’m a sucker for that. Still, all his books are excellent and thoroughly entertaining.

        • Nothing against you guys personally but Matthew Reilly is a terrible novelist, he just doesn’t have the skills to write a prose piece.

          an example?
          how about Hell Island?
          an excerpt from Hell Island anyone?
          “He turned on the radio –
          it sounded distinctively like apes eating his face!’

          I couldn’t make this up seriously what sounds like a ape eating someone, specifically there face

          • To be fair though, Reilly has said on a number of occasions that he’s not writing to create a literary masterpiece, he started writing because he felt there wasn’t a lot of books out there that specifically catered to the tastes of teenage males. He wanted to write something they would find entertaining and draw them back to books. And personally I think he’s succeeded with flying colours. I’ve always been an avid reader, and Reilly’s non-stop action books are a blast (no pun intended 🙂 ).

          • well, clearly you’re a bit of a douch. Reilly …a terrible novelist? I don’t think so. Selling 4 million copies is no easy task.

          • Yeah it isn’t a literary masterpiece where the author describes the scenery before he/she dives into explaining how sad and melancholic the characters feel, before they take one step and sigh collectively at their maudlin life. LOL
            But to be far reading Matthew Reilly is like reading an action book and that’s all there is to it, i guess that’s why quite a few people find it appealing lol
            Besides, Hell Island was like… 4 bucks? LOL

          • Yeah, I can certainly see your point. I think of them as basically your literary version of a big summer movie. As long as you don’t go in expecting War & Peace you should be able to get some enjoyment out of it.
            Hell people still say that Stephen King is a hack writer and it certainly hasn’t slowed him down or dampened his influence on popular culture.

  • This is one hell of a wacky coincidence. I spent a fair chunk of last week trying to find a copy of Ender’s Game in the Brisbane CBD (admittedly, I didn’t go to Borders which probably did have it) and finally found a copy at the QDB at Garden City. The later books are a lot easier to find, I was able to find a lot of books by Orson Scott Card with the word “Ender” in them before finally finding the real deal.

    The Brisbane Square Library didn’t even have a copy on shelf.

    • Yup, there are lots in the Ender series.
      Three sequels to Ender’s Game, with a fourth recently released. Then there’s a parallel novel to Ender’s Game (called Ender’s Shadow), which begins the four/five part Shadow series.

  • The Otherland series by Tad Williams. Virtual reality conspiracies and so many different worlds that feel like games. I remember there was one scene especially that was pretty much the world of pikmin

  • I can’t play or enjoy RTS one bit but Ender’s Game is an amazing read and I can see the similarities. Too bad the following books were like terrible game sequels with the same IP that could never live up to the original.
    PS. Still easy to find many well thumbed copies in second hand book stores.

    Robin Hobb – Almost all of the books are set in the same sprawling world. Magic’s and dragons and great story lines. Has the potential to be adapted much the same way LOTR has been. I’ve always thought the world would make a great RPG/MMORPG setting.

    • Is that the Assassin’s Apprentice series? If so, I loved that. I remember being shocked that she should write male emotions and thought processes so well, heheh.

      Maybe we’re just that simple 😛

      • Farseer Trilogy – Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin & Assassin’s Quest. The same story line then picks up many years later with the same characters in the The Tawny Man Trilogy.

        You’re not wrong about her understanding of the male psych but maybe she writes that way because we’re not so different from women after all, we just reach different conclusions 🙂

  • The Cybergypsies : A True Tale of Lust, War, & Betrayal on the Electronic Frontier by Indra Sinha(ISBN: 978-0670886302)

    It’s an autobiography of a man’s obsession with a MUD in the early days of the internet and how it almost cost him his marriage and his life.

    I found it a fascinating book. He explores the existential question of, what is reality? And he tells his story about how he discovered what was really important in life, all while many huge events are happening offline and online.

    Definitely a book for all philosophical geeks 🙂

    • I’ve read the first chronicles and was blown away by them. Thomas really is an inspired character.
      How do the later chronicles compare? I’ve always thought about picking them up, but can never find the second as a box set or the like.

  • I know it’s been mentioned before, but anything by Matthew Reilly. In particular, Ice Station, Contest and Temple, I think would be good for FPS players. The storyline doesn’t pause for a second. Plus he’s an Australian author! <3

  • I have recently gotten into H.P. Lovecraft. While he doesn’t do novels there are a huge collection of short stories which works for me as I normally have the attention span of a goldfish. I started reading Call of Cthulu and I have just kept going on the others.

  • Reading the 3rd Mass Effect novel at the moment.

    Books that would make great games?
    Pretty much anything by Matthew Reilly.
    The Scarecrow series would make great FPS games and the Jack West one platformers.

  • I loved and enjoyed Ender’s Game (and its many sequels), before realising that Orson Scott Card was a fundamentalist wingnut with a whole host of wacky political views. Way to destroy an idol :/

    I’m reading a lot of non-fiction at the moment, ‘Collapse’ and ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, both by Jared Diamond, are awesome reads for anyone interested in human history, science and why things are the way they are. Not applicable to gaming, but good books…

    I’ve often thought Scott Westerfeld’s novels would be amazing video games – he ranges from space opera to teenage drama to cyberpunk World War I alternate histories.

  • John Dies At The End.
    Pretty hard to find unless you look online, but when you do.. My god, that book is like crack. Paperbound crack.

    Nods to gamers throughout the whole novel, with on chapter where the main character hallucinates on some paranormal drug, killing possessed deer and finding shotgun shells and particular green mushrooms inside the corpses.
    Not to mention the necessary breaking of crates to see what’s inside.

    Soon to be produced as a movie too, for that matter. A shame nobody had mentioned it up until now.

  • I’ve got a book called Gameworld by J.V. Gallagher. It could be turned into the most insane point and click adventure game of all time. Basically in the future gaming (of all kinds, board, card, video etc) is illegal, so a billionaire goes off to have what he thinks will be a high stakes game of monopoly, but instead he gets drugged with magic mushies and from there things just get weirder and weirder. Highly worth a read.

  • OK.

    Cormac McCarthy,

    If you liked Red Dead Redemption read Blood Meridian, or The Crossing

    If you liked Fallout 3 or the other dozen post-apocalyptic RPGs read The Road

    If you liked Heavy Rain read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    If your a sci-fi fan read some Phillip K. Dick, Do androids dream of Electric Sheep?, A scanner Darkly and The man in the high castle and some of his bests

    If you liked Dante’s Inferno you, you know could actually Read The Divine Comedy

  • I am legend – forget the movie. This book is nothing like that. It’s a fantastic book and would make a great survival horror rpg. And probably movie too. If only someone would keep to the book.

    The paratwa series by Christopher Heinz (very graphic) would make an awesome game. It’s about mind-linked assassins (ie two bodies sharing one consciousness) and features the best weapon since the lightsaber; the cohe wand (sorta a lightsaber in whip form)

  • Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (the davinchi code guy) excellent novel about a team of NSA code-breakers tasked with stopping the release of deadly weapon: an uncrackable encryption method available to the public.

    every email, website and attachment sent or recived by hostile forces would become unreadable and worldwide national intellegnce gathering would be destroyed.

  • I read and loved the entire Ender series. The Shadow series not so much.

    As for something else, to fantasy fans I would highly recommend the Living Towers trilogy by Martin Middleton. Easily the best fantasy I’ve ever read. Might be hard to find nowadays, though. The idea is that there’s your normal world and a demonic other world, and there’s a number of towers that serve as the gateway between the worlds. The writing, setting and… Just everything is all top-notch.

    For a sci-fi angle, there’s also The Tripods by Samuel Youd/John Christopher. It’s set in the future where aliens have enslaved humanity and follows the few free-minded humans and their rebellion.

    For horror fans there’s House of Leaves. You can’t possibly go wrong with this.

    Sadly I don’t get much time to read lately. Those are my highlights of all the books I’ve ever read, though.

  • Terry Pratchett has already been mentioned a couple of times, but if you can find a copy of “Only you can save mankind” pick it up, give it a read.
    Also, for fans of Dead Rising, Dawn of the Dead and zombies in general, read World War Z by Max Brooks, the same guy who wrote the Ultimate Zombie Survival Guide.

  • Richard Morgan’s Market Forces could easily be turned into a deathsport/racing game. But really, that genre has pretty much been done, and whilst it’s a great book (my favourite of his by far), I don’t think it could really bring enough to the table to make a game adaptation worthwhile.

    Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey is a great urban fantasy book that could make a good third person action/rpg. Check out the book online and if it sounds like your sort of bag I can definitely recommend it. Read it in a 2 sittings, just couldn’t put it down.

  • Two major series come to mind that would make brilliant games:

    – The Sword of Shannara trilogy (particularly the first) by Terry Brooks. There was a Shannara adventure game in ’95 which wasn’t too bad but I think a good RPG using the plot(s) from the books would do well.

    – The Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter Hamilton. I will never stop raving about these books. There is so much I could say here and never do them justice. There’s past souls coming back to possess the living. There’s a Satanist who is initially possessed but absolutely horrifies his possessor so much that he is able to regain control and still keep the abilities gained through the possession to continue his campaign of torture and terror (the squeamish might have trouble reading some of his exploits – I always do). There’s living starships and habitats. There’s an incredibly well thought out blend of tech and biology, some of which is probably closest in current day terms to having the internet wired directly to your brain. There’s a hero that has his faults and failings… Wikipedia says it pretty well: “he is an amoral lothario with a pathological need to sleep with and then abandon vulnerable young girls, who are attracted to him due to his status.” And yet he gets so much right and you will cheer for him the whole way through the stories. Despite how fantastic and outlandish any summary seems, it’s all presented in such a way as to be completely believable.

    These books truly deserve the term “science fiction” and not just slapped with the “sci-fi” label. There is so much more to this series and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but I’d love to see a series of games based on this. Go read the Wikipedia page for more info (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night%27s_Dawn_Trilogy – sorry, never worked out how to do links in here).

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