Metal Gear Solid...A Book Review
The Official Novel of the Thrilling Konami Video Game Created by Hideo Kojima.
By Raymond Benson
A Del Rey Trade Paperback Original; ISBN-13: 978-0-345-50328-2 (pbk); 321 Pages; Price: $12.95
Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge
Two babies are cloned from the legendary soldier and dictator, Big Boss. One grows up to become a US black ops raider who takes out his ‘father’ as a member of FOXHOUND, before retiring to the Alaskan wilderness at the age of 33. The other is a renegade British spy who disappears in the Middle East, is rescued and then also joins FOXHOUND as an operative. Solid Snake is the American retiree called back to deal with his ‘brother’, Liquid Snake, when the latter glues together a terrorist team from the splintered remnants of FOXHOUND and an army of brainwashed genome soldiers, and threatens nuclear annihilation. Liquid’s lieutenants are formidable: Psycho Mantis – a Russian with powerful psychic abilities that keeps the genome troops under control, and distinct advantage in psychological warfare; Sniper Wolf – a Kurdish woman from Iraq who is sexy and lethal, and unparalleled with a sniper rifle, who can control the wolf and other canines; Decoy Octopus – is a Mexican master of disguise, a metamorph who can become anyone or anything and speak a dozen languages; Vulcan Raven – half Alaskan Indian and half Inuit Eskimo, is a veritable giant with Shamanist magic at his control; lastly, there is Revolver Ocelot – a Russian expert gunfighter and interrogator specialist. They have taken over the secret nuclear warfare facility on Shadow Moses Island in the Aleutians, and Solid Snake must go in and take them down. Alone.
And so begins possibly one of the longest, back and forth, to and fro, up and down, black ops rescues in fictional history.
The pace, of course, reflects video game play, with protagonist repeatedly ‘finding’ things that are helpful along the way; like ammunition for his gun, mines, several caches of Chaffee grenades, etcetera. Coincidental plot devices, like Solid Snake overhearing snatches of guards’ conversations that tell him exactly where his prey is located or things he needs to know right at that moment, abound. Meanwhile the men he is sent to rescue just happen to die of natural causes or results of their wounds right after they tell Snake everything he needs to know to continue his mission. Being dead, they don’t affect slowing Snake, nor the plot, down. Continuing the pattern of video game logic of acquiring talismans or ‘handy power items’, Snake manages to stock up on ammunition, pass keys, and valuable information from just about everyone he encounters and quite often defeats or kills.
The author’s extensive background in writing technical laden scenarios in ‘action hero fiction’ was made for writing this narrative. It positively wallows in superfluous expository technical dialog – usually supplied by the experts listening in to Snake’s activities on the Codec. Even if it is a prerequisite of the videogame itself, Benson supplies the details with aplomb and a nice touch of deft humor.
However, Snake is in the middle of it and isn’t being told everything he needs to know to complete his mission. Secrets abound on both sides of the equation, and not everything is as it seems – which probably accounts for a lot of the mis-directional toing and froing. To his surprise, there is at least one ‘mole’ with a personal agenda amongst his personal ‘Greek chorus’; and Snake isn’t sure about the rest. Throw a psychotically lethal stealth ninja into the mix on the island, intent on battling Snake to the death, and things get a whole lot more complicated.
Of course, the whole thing culminates in the deadly face off between Liquid and Solid (Snake) and the realization that our hero Snake has been manipulated all along by both sides – good and bad. And although there is a happy ending of sorts – the story doesn’t end there. You’ll just have to read it and find out.
The author has managed to create a likeable protagonist using the singular dimensional material he was given to work with. It’s a great romp with a touch of humor and actually manages to give the video game some fictional ballast that works. The novelization of ‘Metal Gear Solid’ isn’t something I’d recommend to serious readers of fiction, but those who play the game will find it a satisfactory and fun accessory to their gaming pleasure. Then again, serious readers who read Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler thrillers might get some fun out of this book too: it’s well written and a lot of fun.
Personal Note: My husband reminds me that I was introduced to Hideo Kojima at the Toho Pictures after event party for the Premiere of ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ movie in Hollywood in 2004. A very nice young man, as I remember.