Title: New York Collapse: A Survival Guide to Urban Catastrophe
Author: Warren Merchant (Alex Irvine and Ubisoft)
My rating: 4/5
I’ve been playing The Division over the holidays, as it’s my favourite Christmas-themed game (although I’m not sure there are many other Christmas-themed games out there …). Post-apocalypse + Christmas decorations. Yes please!
Anyway, I finished all the main missions but suffered a bit of Division withdrawal when I came off it. I don’t have a Playstation Plus account, so endless plundering in the Dark Zone is a no-go for me. So I did a quick search and found a tie-in book called New York Collapse: A Survival Guide to Urban Catastrophe by the pseudonymous Warren Merchant.
Now, I’m always a bit sceptical about tie-in media: films of books (we all know they rarely work), films of games (which work even less!), games of films, companion guides, books of games, etc. There’s always a bit of a sense of me-tooing and cashing in on fans. If a book carries the name of a game, it can get sales based on that and not necessarily on the quality of the book.
So with a bit of trepidation, but reassured by the abundance of good reviews, I bought New York Collapse. And I’m so glad I did!
It’s actually supposed to be the survival guide that crops up in the game. A character appears in echoes (playbacks from surveillance equipment) called April Kelleher, and you can see in the game some of the moments that she writes about in this book. The survival guide itself is a guide to surviving a TEOTWAWKI event (The End Of The World As We Know It). In the margins are the scrawlings of April Kelleher as she survives through the apocalypse in Manhatten, in parallel with the events of the game itself. Rather suspiciously, the advice centres almost entirely around an outbreak of weaponised smallpox in Manhatten. Handy, considering that’s exactly what has happened in The Division game. But that’s all part of the mystery that April is trying to work out while trying to survive in an extremely hostile environment, with the constant threat of infection, federal aid collapsing and gangs whittling down what remains of the civilian population. The survival guide is also full of puzzles that April (and you) needs to work out in order to locate the author, Warren Merchant, who is clearly trying to get her to meet him for whatever mysterious reason. He clearly knows more about what’s going on.
The book is really well produced to look like it’s been through the apocalypse and back. The cover is all torn up and there’s blood and muck all over the pages. Rather than just using a handwriting font, they’ve actually got someone to hand write the margin scrawlings so it looks authentic. On top of that, there are bits and pieces waiting to fall out, which are highly realistic apocalypse souvenirs and clues that April picks up. It honestly feels like this is April’s actual copy.
Although I have played the game, I think you could get a great amount of entertainment out of The New York Collapse even if you haven’t played or even heard of The Division. At it’s core, it’s a highly realistic, engaging and original post-apocalypse story. If you’ve played the game, this adds a little more context, and you’ll probably have a deeper understanding of some of the references, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. The only frustrating aspect is that you don’t really get an ending. If you haven’t played the game, this will probably feel like the first in a trilogy. It’s got that embellished-beginning storyline, with the ending feeling like that’s the point at which it’s all going to kick off. But alas, this is a standalone. Not being party to the Dark Zone in the game, which is where the end of the book points you, I have no idea what the outcome is of April’s story either. This vexes me because it feels a little bit like it’s pushing you to spend even more money than you already have, and when you don’t have much of a gaming budget, like me, it can leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. I may never know what happens without resorting to Youtube, and where’s the fun in that?
Anyway, that’s why this has got four stars, not five. A book without a resolution and with a bid to drag more money you don’t have out of you can’t get five stars in my book of principles. In terms of production and intelligence and authenticity and the exercise for your own brain, this is a five star book. Whether you’ve played The Division or not, if you like apocalypses, conspiracies and you want to learn a bit about surviving in an urban environment, put this on your reading list.
Now I’m off to prep my go-bag.