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The Last Wish
Author:
Andrzej Sapkowski
Game: The Witcher

The Last Wish is a short story collection which includes the story of The Witcher’s Geralt - the fantasy equivalent of John Shaft. Within the first five minutes of reading, Geralt has had wild sex, murdered three people and extorted 3,000 orens out of a king for his recent murder of a mutated princess. The English translation of The Last Wish is incredibly gritty and inordinately expletive-packed, striking a great balance between contemporary language and fantasy elaboration. The world Sapkowski creates is bleak, but Geralt seems to exist to primarily right wrongs, and in the process have mucky relations with as many women as he can find.

The Last Wish is a must-read for fans of The Witcher - it’s amazing how contemporary its setting is, despite the gnomes. Don’t expect to want to be Geralt’s best friend though. He’s a gloomy a-hole, and nobody understands him, not even the various women he picks up along the way, or the disgusting pig-monster that he decides to sit down and have dinner with on a casual monster hunt in the forest. Such is life for a witcher.

Roadside Picnic
Author:
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Game: STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

If you enjoyed STALKER and look forward to the next entry in the grim series, then it’s imperative that you read this novel. It’s set in and around one of several toxic Zones created by an alien visitation, where mind-bending mutagens and deadly phenomena are braved by foolhardy scavengers - stalkers - who illegally forage for items of incredible scientific value. In fact it concentrates on the tragic life of Red Schuhart, a scientist who supports himself with increasingly suicidal trips into the unknown.

The text may be dense through translation but it comes alive during Red’s fascinating (yet rare) ventures into the Zone’s badlands. The book is the root of STALKER’s strange artifacts and invisible, incomprehensible anomalies. What’s more, as you read of the effects the Zone has on the local populace, and Red’s family, it’s no surprise that STALKER’s developers latched onto it after the Chernobyl tragedy. This is an incredibly clever book too; when the explanation of the odd title comes around you realize that you’re reading a champion of sci-fi thinking. There are no deadly mutants, but the novel is even more haunting than the game it inspired.

Jun 18, 2008

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