Book Review – Myst: The Book of D’ni By Rand Miller with David Wingrove

Title: Myst: The Book of D’ni
Author: Rand Miller with David Wingrove
Illustrations: Tow Bowman
Format: Hardback
Published: 1997

So we come to the third and final book in the set of three Myst tie-in novels.  The Book of D’ni reunites us with Atrus, several years older.  There’s a brief allusion to Atrus’s sons, which makes me think they were the center of one or more of the Myst computer game plots.  (I’m hoping I can find a used copy of the computer games to play.  If anyone has one collecting dust…)  Atrus and his wife Catherine have decided to take on the task of rebuilding the ruined D’ni civilization.  With the help of some young recruits from a modest Age, they start by searching for survivors and information to help them rebuild.  In the course of their exploration, they uncover a sealed tomb with an ancient book which leads them to an impressive civilization that dazzles them with its apparent perfection.  But of course there’s a secret hidden in the palatial walls of these grand marble houses.

Reading this book was a bit like listening to a fantastic piece of classical music on a record that keeps skipping.  The sentences and characters were solid.  The images and ideas are grand.  There was easily enough plot in the last book to fill a trilogy by itself.  However, the breaks are awkward, and there are pieces of information that seems to be missing, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.  To a degree every book should leave a little space for the reader to connect the dots, but there are several places where a little clarity would be welcome.  Moments that easily could have been the most dramatic and exciting are skipped over entirely, while the calm moments are detailed.

It was delightful to get back to Atrus and the smaller scale of the early chapters.  The later chapters slide more into grand world sweeping drama.  The intimate moments were strongest.  There was a good variety in the characters, which made them feel better developed.  The large scale events were for me the weakest parts of story, where they fell into the trap of massive fantasy armies which amass at unrealistic speed and unity of purpose than does not make sense for a technology still reliant on foot messengers and rower driven boats, and are dumb enough to constantly be burning crops without thought as to how they themselves are going to eat.  (Tactics and logistic lovers are likely to cringe repeatedly.)

Myst is supposed to contain elements of surrealism, so I think the gaps are intended to give it a dream like quality.  It blends a mix of modern, if not futuristic, science and technology from the Roman Empire.  They have deep understanding of microbes for instance but don’t seem so keen on this wheel thing or anything akin to a telegraph.

There is a massive logic hole or two, which in some ways reflects history (foreign microbes wiping out entire cultures), but don’t quite mesh with their level of scientific and technological understanding.  Nor does the rapid spread make sense when travel between houses and cities takes so long.

Still, there’s a charm and unique character to these novels, and I think this quote from the epilogue captures it.  “ultimately, it is that not knowing, that determination in him to do what he thought was right and not what was expedient, that has made his actions more than something fated”.

Overall, I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.  As an endnote to the chronicle of Myst, it does a decent job tying the threads together and balancing the intimate scale of the first book with the grand scale of the second, but it could have been much better with a few small additions here and there.

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