Mar 11, 2014

[Books] The Book of Ti'Ana (Myst Book 2)

The Myst prequel books didn't start out quite as strongly as I had hoped with The Book of Atrus, but I suppose it was a decent enough adventure to begin with. It was a good prequel to cover the early days of the noble Atrus and even some of the history of his mad father Gehn. But it did feel like it skipped out on a lot of the more interesting aspects of the Myst universe - such as the origin of the Linking Books and a decent explanation of how they work.

This second book in the series, The Book of Ti'Ana, actually answers a lot of those questions that I was asking after having finished the first book. In fact, this book takes place before the first one, which is a little confusing when you think about it. Then again, it also helps explain some of the discrepancies between what I was expecting from a prequel and what we actually got in Atrus.

But to be fair, this book wouldn't make as much sense without having first read Atrus before it. There were certain concepts that were setup that made more sense by the time I got to this novel.

But isn't that the way of prequels? They actually make more sense when you read the books that take place after and not those that come before in a chronological sense.

Synopsis: Myst: The Book of Ti'Ana is the second book released as part of this trilogy of prequel titles connected to the Myst video game franchise. Like The Book of Atrus, the book was based on the original story by Rand and Robyn Miller with the assistance of David Wingrove.

We are first introduced to young Aitrus, a recruit of the Guild of Surveyors who are on an expedition from D'ni. Their task is to create a tunnel to the surface of the planet and determine if there is intelligent life out there. But the expedition is a somewhat controversial project and even now the Council deliberates whether or not they should continue on. In line with this, several representatives of the Council had journeyed to the current location of the drilling in order to observe the proceedings and report back to the Council regarding their progress.

Some time later, we are introduced to Anna, an 18 year old surface dweller. She lives with her father at the Cleft and the two spend their days studying the desert and the rock formations as geologists as part of a charge by Lord Amanjira in Tadjinar. In their explorations they come across a curious rock formation that does not to be natural in nature. In truth, they have discovered the cap of the D'ni tunnel to the surface. And when Anna's father dies from an illness, she ventures out on her own and manages to find her way into the D'ni tunnels and all the way to the great underground city of D'ni itself.

The book is set during D'ni's heyday, and thus we are introduced to a completely different social structure divided into different Guilds that serve different functions in D'ni and a large underclass of lesser citizens. But one of the most prestigious guilds is the Guild of Writers - those who possess the knowledge of The Art, the almost magical way Books are created to bridge the gap to other worlds. And this is how D'ni manages to survive despite being completely underground - they are able to gather food and other resources from the different Ages that they link to.

The Book of Ti'Ana sets out describe D'ni society and many of its nuances and complexities. We had only glimpsed some of this based on the ramblings of Gehn and the ruins of the great city of D'ni itself as depicted in the first book. This is the whole nine yards and there's so much to D'ni culture that is a lot take in. And one of the bigger quirks is the fact that the people of D'ni are very long-lived, and that means even this book's scope is pretty far-reaching in scale.

The book doesn't really talk down on you or divert into exposition without clear context or connection to the narrative. Thus there's a lot more show instead of tell, and I'm glad for this. Thus the book is really locked in with the perspective of whoever we're following for each part of the story and thus we feel like we're right there in the middle of the action.

The overall story is a bit long-winded though - they had a lot of material that they wanted to get into this story and the way this was done was a bit of work. They're good enough stories when taken individually, but as a single volume it's a lot to take in. The character who suffers the most ends up being Veovis, but I don't want to spoil it for you too much. What I will say is that he ends up being a bit of a caricature and this lingers for most of the book.

The Book of Ti'Ana is a more fulfilling look at the mysterious D'ni, who have always been at the root of the worlds of Myst. It's a lengthy read, but one that makes more sense as you progress, but a little hard work and dedication is definitely needed. Thus it rates 4 magical linking books out of 5.

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