From game to novel
Driver: Nemesis by Alex Sharp (399 pages)
Great novels with a compelling story have often been made into quality games. Titles such as Dune by Frank Herbert, the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, and more recently A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin have spawned the Dune and Command and Conquer series, Betrayal at Krondor and A Game of Thrones: Genesis respectively. OK, the latter wasn’t exactly a classic game, but it was still an enjoyable experience for fans of the novels.
But being a semi-avid reader, I have noticed there have been an increasing number of games being adapted back into novels. When strolling through my local bookstore, titles such as Assassin's Creed Renaissance, Halo: The Fall of Reach and Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne were sitting on the shelves. And no I haven’t read any of them yet, so I’m not sure how well the games have translated into novel form.
When Driver: Nemesis by Alex Sharp turned up at our door thanks to the lovely Jess Malpass from Random House, I was a little hesitant. I had almost finished George RR Martin’s grand series (well the parts that he has written so far) and I thought it would be like watching an episode of The Road Runner after watching a Cecil B. DeMille epic. I was also concerned by the fact that video games turned into movies have for the most part, been tragic. Need I say more than Super Mario Bros? Would novels be any different?
Never judge a book by the cover
Driver: Nemesis, based on the Driver series featuring undercover wheelman John Tanner, is set in the humidity of New Orleans. On this occasion, Tanner’s mission is to infiltrate one of the major crime syndicates and bring down the leader known as The Indian. Early on in the story, Tanner comes face to face with a previous adversary known as Jericho… hence the title of the novel – Nemesis.
The action oriented story has Tanner running missions for his new employer, in an attempt to get closer to the crime boss. Amongst the driving sequences, Tanner is involved in gunplay, theft and generally anything that would normally get him thrown in prison if he wasn’t undercover. All this whilst attempting to keep The Indian and Jericho from killing innocent (and some not so innocent) people.
Amongst all this he befriends a couple of people inside the crime ring and attempts to set them on a path of morality. One such character is Julia Navarro, the sister of a friend from Tanner’s past. She though, has her own goal involving The Indian – a goal that puts her in danger, and one that Tanner tries to keep her out. Despite all his bravado in the eyes of The Indian and his lieutenant Jericho, whenever alone with these other underlings Tanner shows his softer caring side.
You definitely get to know Tanner more intimately than the other characters in the novel. Much of his back-story – especially that involving other characters – gets told, and you get the feeling that you know where Tanner has come from and where he is going. The same cannot be said of the other major characters, apart from possibly Navarro. There is no back story and personally I found that the characters were somewhat stereotypical. There’s the paranoid crime boss, the scapegoat of all the syndicates woes, the quiet and to some extent disapproving undercover partner and the gruff police commissioner who wants to see the kingpin bought down for his own gain. And then there is Jericho, the nemesis. Despite the lack of background history, Driver: Nemesis does flow nicely until it reaches the thrilling, if not unexpected, climax.
All through reading the novel, I was imagining how it would play out if it was the story of the next instalment in the Driver series. And I must say that despite it being a fairly short game, I could see myself playing it. The combination of driving sequences and the first-person (or third-person) shooting missions would keep the game entertaining. The new setting of New Orleans, would also keep the game fresh for those experienced Driver fans. If done in the right way, it could definitely be a heap of fun.
Not just cashing in
As for the novel, if you are a fan of the Driver series of games, or you like novels with an action oriented story, then this book would unquestionably be one worth reading. The non-stop ride complete with more descriptive metaphors than seagulls around a discarded potato chip, is an entertaining read. But for those who prefer something a little more detailed – especially in the character development area – you may want to look elsewhere.
Although, in having said that, I personally am looking forward to reading more novels based on video games. Although Driver: Nemesis isn’t at the same level of epics such as the aforementioned A Game of Thrones, it was still enjoyable enough to give me confidence that others are of a decent quality and not simply cashing in on the fame of their video game counterparts.
Driver: Nemesis is in stores now
Author: Alex Sharp
Publisher: Random House