By now, even the most ardent Luddite has to be aware of Myst, the groundbreaking 1993 CD-ROM game that has sold more than a million copies worldwide, a software phenomenon that’s helped establish multimedia as a legitimate pop-culture industry. The game’s success led hungry publishers to an intriguing question: Can a best-seller in a novel medium be turned into a best-selling novel? The query arose last December, when Myst creators Rand and Robyn Miller signed a head-turning $1 million deal with Hyperion to develop three books based on their game. At the time many scoffed at this Myst opportunity, noting that fans would never sit still for a passive textual recapitulation of the game.
Thus, it is notable that Myst: The Book of Atrus (Hyperion, $22.95) is not a direct novelization but rather a prequel to the story of the game. As written by the Millers (with help from British science-fiction writer David Wingrove), Myst tells the tale of a young scholar named Atrus and of his training in the Art, a godlike power to create other-dimensional worlds by writing about them in magical books. Fans of the CD-ROM will recognize Atrus as the enigmatic father figure whose journals form the backbone of the game, and the Art as the method by which the player travels from world to world. In fact, gamers will be able to pick out quite a few familiar elements, which unfortunately is only a mildly amusing diversion; the story itself is flat and one-dimensional, as are the characters, who have less personality than — sorry — a videogame figure.
Ultimately, the book is doomed because it destroys the mystery of Myst. Much of the game’s charm is derived from its eeriness, a haunting aura that is lost in the text. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but with multimedia.let’s just say a formal exchange rate has yet to be set. C-