God of War (The Novelization): Draining the Life from a Masterpiece

The medium a story is presented in is often as important as the story itself. A book may work purely because it has the time to carefully describe everything the story needs at a leisurely pace. A movie may work because of its stand-out visuals, which creates a unique identity. A video game may work due to its weaving of the story with the gameplay. So on and so forth.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand this, so they’ll demand that a story be adapted into a different medium simply because they like that other medium. The book they read was good, but it would be cool to see it get made into a movie or a TV show! This cartoon was cool, but it would be better in live action (writing that sentence made me actually gag, not a joke). This comic would make a great cartoon! So on and so forth.

Some make the transition very smoothly. The Lord of the Rings films are widely regarded as the best book to movie adaptations of all time. Attack on Titan leapt from manga page to anime so gracefully that it took the whole world by storm. Marvel comics have taken to the silver screen to create the MCU, the single most successful film franchise of all time.

But some of these have been either disappointing or straight-up offensive. Unfortunately, this list is far longer than the former, more positive one. Avatar: The Last Airbender went from one of the best cartoons of all time to one of the worst movies of all time. Artemis Fowl quickly became one of the most hated book-to-movie adaptations of recent years. The list goes on and on and on.

This is my very long winded way of saying that I found a book version of God of War and I don’t understand why it exists.

If you’ve played God of War (PS4), then you know the story of this book. Kratos and his son, Atreus, must travel to the highest mountain in the realm to scatter the ashes of Atreus’ late mother. But the journey is set to be a brutal one; Kratos and Atreus are hunted by the gods of Asgard for unknown reasons. Can Kratos close the gap between him and his son to fulfill his late wife’s final wish?

It’s a simple but incredibly effective story. Kratos and Atreus are great characters who bring out the best and worst in each other. Watching this father, who had committed countless atrocities in his past, try and connect with his son, and watching that son realize that his gruff and intimidating father truly loves him, is an incredibly powerful story.

At least, it was in the game.

See, the God of War game worked because it had:

  • Killer gameplay
  • Incredible visuals
  • Gorgeous cinematography
  • Orgasm-inducing music
  • Fantastic voice acting

Notice how you can’t have any of that in a book.

Granted, with enough description, you could replicate at least some of these things. The problem is, the writing in this novelization is just so… lifeless. It feels like someone describing the events of the game without carrying over any of the emotions packed into said events. Like if a computer program read and rewrote the script.

Which is especially odd, considering that the dude who wrote this book also wrote the game’s script.

This lifelessness is most noticeable scenes where gameplay would happen. See, in the game, you’d occasionally take a break from the story to fight some monsters or solve a puzzle. In a book, this could be compelling. A well-written action scene or a mind-taxing puzzle is ‘fun set piece 101’ for fiction. All you have to do is describe it well enough and it could become something unique and interesting for this version of the story. Unfortunately, they settled for ‘the battle was brutal but Kratos won’.

It certainly doesn’t help that it’s repetitive. In the same chapter, the same lines will be repeated. When Atreus grows sick, Kratos has the realization that nothing else but his son’s safety matters not once, but twice. Practically within five paragraphs of each other. Like, I got it the first time. Believe it or not, but a reader’s attention span isn’t so short that you need to constantly remind them of information they’ve just processed.

In short, this isn’t a very good book. It’s a lifeless adaptation of a wonderful video game story. Honestly, though, I can’t find the energy to get really pissed about it. Partly because I’m writing this at 3 AM (my sleep schedule has been completely eradicated these last few weeks, please help), and partly because this book just isn’t that offensive. You could just go play the game and completely ignore the fact that this exists.

And if I’m being totally honest: that’s what you should do.

One response to “God of War (The Novelization): Draining the Life from a Masterpiece”

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