The Myst franchise is centered around books, so fans of the series tend to be a literary bunch. With that in mind, here are five books published within the last 12 months…books that feature exploration, mystery, and narrative puzzle-solving…that will appeal to fans of Myst, Riven, and Uru.
S., by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. S. is a book for people who love books. Aged and designed to look like a library book from the 1940s, S. is actually a novel titled Ship of Theseus by a controversial (fictional) author who died (or disappeared) under mysterious circumstances. But every page of the novel is covered with the handwritten notes of two present-day readers who have used the book as a “message board,” passing it back and forth in a university library as they try to solve a complex literary puzzle together. They’ve also tucked a variety of objects into the pages: a hand-drawn map on a napkin, postcards, telegrams, newspaper clippings, etc.
You might need to keep your own notes to fully appreciate the investigative joys of S. (got a blank Myst journal handy?), but it’s worth the effort.
The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara. If you love Myst and Riven, you probably love islands. In this debut novel, a biologist joins an expedition to the islands of Ivu’ivu in the South Pacific. On one of the islands, a mountainous tract of jungle thought to be uninhabited by natives, are the “Dreamers.” They live in complete isolation, guarding an ancient secret: they do not seem to die. The unreliable narrator (who turns out to be a deeply flawed human being…think Gehn) investigates a biological explanation for immortality, informed by the natives’ mythology. When he arrives on the islands, you’ll get that same sense of wonder you might remember from linking to a new age. Just be warned: the story gets dark. Very, very dark.
Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer. Annihilation is probably the best literary approximation to the Myst experience in existence (I blogged about it last week). An unnamed narrator explores Area X, an uninhabited stretch of forest, marsh, and dune that has been cordoned off by the Southern Reach corporation and a mysterious Event. After discovering a submerged tower tunneling into the earth, the narrator uncovers unsettling truths about the area’s wildlife and previous expeditions. It’s strange, brilliant, and addicting (and now there’s even an ARG). Best of all, it’s just the first book in a trilogy.
Strange Bodies, by Marcel Theroux. I could hardly tease this novel any better than its official synopsis does: “In a locked ward of a notorious psychiatric hospital sits a man who insists that he is Dr. Nicholas Slopen, failed husband and impoverished Samuel Johnson scholar. Slopen has been dead for months, yet nothing can make this man change his story. What begins as a tale of apparent forgery involving unknown letters by the great Dr. Johnson grows to encompass a conspiracy between a Silicon Valley mogul and his Russian allies to exploit the darkest secret of Soviet technology: the Malevin Procedure.” You won’t find any Myst-like environments, but the mystery and the author’s affinity for the written word will appeal to literary Cyantists.
The Resurrectionist, by E.B. Hudspeth. The Resurrectionist is like a journal you might find left behind in one of Sirrus’s bedrooms. The book is broken into two halves: the biography of Dr. Spencer Black, an experimental surgeon in Philadelphia who disappeared in the 1870s, and his anatomical illustrations of mythological creatures, which he believes were the precursors of Man. The book is haunting and exceedingly beautiful.