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... for taking the time to stop by. I hope some of these ponderings will resonate with you.

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(Unless stated otherwise, all text & pictures are © Lee Labuschagne, all rights reserved.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

1+1+1 for 365, day 38: The Mysts of Fantasy


"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” - Albert Einstein

Myst - The Book of Artrus and Myst - The Book of T'iana by Rand & Robyn Miller with David Wingrove

I did it yesterday, so I am cheating again by slipping in another two-for-the-price-of-discussing-one-book.   This is because once you've read the first of these, you more or less feel obliged to read the next. Like the three original books of The Lord of the Rings or the five volumes of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (no mistake, Adams fans will know that!) and indeed of most fantasy novel series and sagas, they form parts of one big story.

The reason, of course, why I originally bought and enjoyed these books is that, like millions of others around the world, I got hooked on the Myst PC game soon after it was first released in the early 1990s (and went on to become the all-time best-selling computer game until the Sims came along).  I continued to buy all the Myst games over the years until the last one was released in 2005.  

The Myst books were written as background to the games - but could stand on their own as fantasy stories about the D'ni people who create their mysterious worlds. As all good fantasy sagas this one contains within itself its own set of symbols, mythologies, heroes and villains and the fight between good and evil as well as reason and intellect versus violence and moral corruption.   There are twists and turns in the plot and it is easy (and advisable) to become immersed in this world in the same way as you did when you read fairy stories as a child.

I don't own the third volume (Myst - the Book of D'ni) but as Myst aficionado, have been tempted to acquire the collected volume, published under the title "The Myst Reader."

Although the books are not highbrow books of literature or likely ever to be compared with The Lord of the Rings in terms of lasting literary value, they are fun to read, especially for those who do battle with the games - or for people who are still intending to tackle them at some stage but would like to know something of the context. They were written after the Myst I game was released, but are a very good "prequel" to the games and companion to the overall saga.

A bit more about the games: they are really as fiendishly difficult as their reputation has made them out to be.  Don't expect the usual  action-shooting-war-strategy kind of stuff, but rather a refined version of those adventure "quest" games that we all loved and enjoyed so much in the 1980s and 1990s.  Myst is cerebral and clever - while at the same time being very beautiful and, despite some later imitations, unique in concept and design.

I still have to progress to the last two - although I started the 4th one, and briefly looked at Myst V: End of Ages, they will continue to frustrate and simultaneously delight me for a long time, because unless you are really brilliant at solving their puzzles, there is no sense in trying to play them in one go.  You work through them sometimes frustratingly slowly. To some extent I've put off playing them because once I've worked through them all, there will be no more Myst challenges...

I can recommend the Myst series to anyone who likes visual and other puzzles even if you have never played a computer game before (although experience in some of those "quest" games might be useful).  They are great for the grey matter and a bit therapeutic as well because they take you away from everything else during those hours that you devote to making some progress towards solving them.  Tough luck for those who think of all PC games as pure time-wasting.  If that is the case, then going to the movies or lying on the beach or chilling in front of the TV is also time-wasting.

In the case of Myst, it is more than just fun - these challenging games are far better than a lot of things on the movie circuit or on TV. They have the same effect as building a really difficult jigsaw puzzle or working your way through a maze or solving a tough cryptic crossword puzzle.  It is frustrating - but rewarding. 

Yes, there are cheats and walk-throughs on the Internet - but why spoil it for yourself? Rather be patient or rope in a friend to help you sit and puzzle through them.

Have fun. And while you're stuck (which I predict you will be rather often), read the books.


The model of Table Mountain and surroundings (it is to be found top of the mountain as an aid for visitors) somehow reminds me of the worlds built by the fictitious people of D'ni 


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