Christopher Golden’s Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth is another tale set in Nathan Drake’s adventure-filled universe. For the first time, fans get to follow Drake through the plot of a book instead of actually getting to control him through one of Naughty Dog’s beloved games. As Drake and his mentor, Sully, race across the world trying to unlock the secrets of the labyrinths built by Daedalus, they unravel an ancient mystery and end up with more than they bargained for. But is an intriguing plot fueled by these famous characters enough for this book to be a success?
Author: Christopher Golden
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Nathan Drake is up to his old tricks again, only this time, it’s a murdered friend of Victor Sullivan’s that pulls him into a mystery. Sully’s friend, Luka Hzujak, was found cut into pieces in a trunk on a train platform. Sully, Drake, and Luka’s daughter, Jada, sort through his research to figure out what he could have been working on that would have gotten him killed so brutally. Luka’s wife, Olivia, and her boss, Tyr Henriksen, are obvious suspects. But as things start to get more complicated, the line blurs between good guys and bad guys, and moral choices must be made.
The story itself – while it started out a little rough – is actually not as bad as I’d expected it to be. It started off with cliches and general silliness, and it was hard for me to take it seriously. But as Golden got to the heart of the story and fleshed out the mythologies behind it, I found myself more and more interested in it. This is not an easy feat, seeing as I am an avid reader, and have been summarily disappointed by most books based on video games. Of course, it could also be my weakness for Greek mythology, of which there are many references in this novel.
There are two main gripes that I had about Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth. The first one is the general quality of the writing. I know that I shouldn’t expect much on that front, but after reading the Ico novel, I can’t help but hold my video game novels to a higher standard. Novels based on video games can actually be written well – it has been proven. There needs to be a passion for the material for the novels to actually become literature. Sure, these poorer quality books are legible, tolerable, and sometimes even enjoyable, but the video game companies should be striving to do more than just expand their franchise to other media. They should genuinely want to fulfill it in the same way they do the video games: with a high quality product.
The other issue I had is a bit of a spoiler, and that is just that there are aspects of the plot that are extremely similar to the plot of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception itself. I was surprised when I got to a twist in the novel and found that it was so close to what had happened in the video game. It seems to me like this is a creative blunder, and that either someone wasn’t paying attention to the quality control, or the people involved just didn’t care enough to cross reference the two.
Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth is not a bad novel. In fact, fans of the series will be pleased to have another chapter in the life of Nathan Drake. It would have been a better idea to release it on an off-year between games, to hold people over while they waited to play as Drake again. Releasing it so close to the third game – and the VIta game, Uncharted: Golden Abyss – may not have been the wisest idea. But anyone who enjoys the snarky humor and adventurous plot of an Uncharted tale will surely be taken in by this novel.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.