If you are a fan of the game Minecraft, this book will fill the void when you are unable to play. Minecraft: The Island, written by Max Brooks (World War Z), takes our main character from day one in the world of Minecraft to feeling somewhat comfortable with his new surroundings. The audiobook version can be purchased narrated by either Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda) or Samira Wiley (Orange is the new black). I’m reviewing the version narrated by Jack Black, which I enjoyed very much. If you are under fifty, nearly everyone under this age has either played Minecraft or knows what the game is about. If you are coming to this book without prior knowledge of Minecraft the game, I recommend you first get some hands-on experience as it will make the book that much more enjoyable. Not having firsthand knowledge of the landscape, creatures, day and night cycles, etc., you may lose out on what makes this book fun and interesting. It should be noted that the book is written at an eight to ten year-old level and is classified as a kids book. You will be sadly disappointed if you are coming to this book with hopes of adult deep character development, storyline, or romance. If you like Minecraft and can put up with some of the silly and light-hearted humor expected in a book of this genre, I think you should pick up the book.
This book contains everything that makes the game of Minecraft interesting. It is full of discovery, crafting, building and of course survival. For those familiar with the game, you may find it interesting that the main character’s discovery process was unlike what most who start the game experience. It was not simply seeking shelter, building a fire, survive the first night one is accustomed to, but more a unique discovery and journey from the norm; for me that was refreshing and new. Those who enjoy the Literary RPG (LitRPG) genre, you will find this is right in that niche with a Minecraft focus. Like with the game itself, the book is full of new and wonderful discovery told in a way that is engaging and fun. The game of Minecraft is very interactive, and this book has that same feel when you read or listened to it. Overall it is a clean, fun, action-packed story that is targeted towards players of the game. I was excited to learn that the author kept to the roots of the game and it is the first book released approved by Mojang.
Although Minecraft is an open world where the player is able to take whatever action desired, knowing there may be consequences, the book has that same feeling of being vast and open-ended. I like that it was not all about survival and monsters. You get a sense of the complexity of the game and scale of the world itself as he character experiences the world around him. The author included many not required additional aspects making the book interesting and fun. For example, our player befriends some of the local livestock early in the game and they take this wonderful journey along with him; except during his mining. The book is ripe with friendships, sacrifice, and exploration.
As with the game, this story is full of encounters, disasters, and a time of recovery. Encounters can include anything from the standard monsters (mobs), items (books, rugs, records, spawners, etc.) and so much more. Apart from one section where the main character references being “green” (referring to recycling), there were no agendas being pushed by the author, the book really is simply intended for shear entertainment. I often include in my reviews a section warning parents or young readers of any potential offensive or more adult subject matter. Even with a few sections of the book containing crude childish humor, the book’s age is appropriate for its intended audience. The humor is what would be expected in a book of this type and category. I will say that a few quips made me laugh out loud as I imagined the character being frustrated that he was unable to put his hands on his hips; for example.
Let me turn to the narration by Jack Black (voice of Kung Fu Panda). Even though he has not narrated many other audiobooks on Audible, his narration is professionally done; as expected from a person who does character voiceovers for a living. Random House, the publisher of this title on Audible, did not pull any punches when it came to lining up narration talent. I liked Jack Black’s rich and deeper voice making the story feel vaster and at times darker. The narrator had great inflection and the audio did not contain any noticeable issues such as swallows, page turns, etc. I also liked some of the added extras included in the audiobook edition. The inclusion of sound effects and music brought the book to life. They were not over used, but became the icing on top of the cake.
If you are a fan of Minecraft, your decision to pick up this book is something you will not be disappointed with. Although geared towards younger audiences, I think there is enough that nearly all ages can laugh and enjoy the book. It is so much better with existing knowledge of Minecraft itself, so make sure that if you plan on reading this book you have some prior knowledge of the game.