Monday, September 8, 2008

The book game

There is a balance we try to strike at Select Editions between big best-selling books by famous names and discovery books by new up-and-coming authors. Which means that we keep an eye on the best-seller list to see what’s happening in the world, and if there’s anything we’ve missed that we should know about. The list, unfortunately, is not always that helpful. Often the biggest titles at any given moment are the latest addition to an ongoing series, or else their subject matter is simply too special for us. We’re not big on horror, for instance, or sword-and-sorcery. We’ve got nothing against either of these genres; we’re just looking for a more general type of story.

So what can I make of this? Entering the Times list at number one yesterday was a book that is not only part of the ongoing “Star Wars” universe of novels, but that has a most unusual provenance even for a Star Wars story. This one is based not on a movie, but on a video game! The title is The Force Unleashed, the same title as a game being released by LucasArts this month. The Times also felt that this was a remarkable event, pointing out that this was the first time a book derived from a video game has been number one on the list. Have there been others that simply didn’t make it so far?

In our complex and often confused era, there are so many competitors for our valuable spare time, and video games have been steadily gaining on more traditional forms like books and movies for a while now. And the relationship of games to movies is well-known, with movies often inspiring games, and games less often but occasionally inspiring movies. Books, I guess, are not exempt from the crossover possibilities. Read the book—See the movie—Play the game! I can sort of accept that, in that order. Play the game—read the book? I have a harder time with that one. The world at large, however, seems to have no such compunctions.

Welcome to the 21st Century.


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