Metal Gear (1990)

While reading is a pleasure enjoyed by many, it is unfortunately not the first choice for others, as a world of interactive, hyperactive forms of entertainment dominates for attention. The written word would have to take on some enticing material to compete. In the late 80s, Marketing guru and book publisher Seth Goodwin struck upon the idea of adapting video game plotlines to paperback novels for a younger audience, teaming up with authors to introduce them a world of reading. One such dealt with the soon legendary Solid Snake attempting his debut sneaking mission in Metal Gear.

Justin Halley (known by his codename Solid Snake) is the promising member of the elite unit, Snake Men led by C.O.s Commander South & Lieutenant General West. They send the solider to the fortified base of Outer Heaven. It is here that The evil CaTaffy (any resemblance to dictators living or dead is purely coincidental.) has a device known as Metal Gear that could bring the earth into a nuclear apocalypse, being helped by Dr Pettovich, Justin must infiltrate the mysterious base of Outer Heaven. With doubts cast by his superiors, the odds are heavily against Solid Snake.

Those of you who have played the Metal Gear games may be slightly confused at the plot description, (less so if you only played the N.E.S. version.) The limited information that could be gleaned from the manual is fully utilised here and the authors had to fill in the gaps in the limited copy as best as they could. It is here the imagination of Goodwin and Co. shine

Being a book aimed at younger readers limits some of the tools and methods available to the young operative. Solid Snake cannot shoot anybody, but the guns can be described in detail. Cigarettes are also a no go, with snake briefly considering a puff, then listing the horrible ingredients and after-effects of said cigarettes. It’s easy enough prose to take in, that is suitable for younger readers, or fans curious to see how the story of Outer Heaven could have been, not taking either example that long to devour but providing an enjoyable experience.

There’s an unfettered display of creativity involved with the project, translating an already translated piece of fiction to a new medium is a daunting task, but Goodwin under his pen name managed to craft a wild and intriguing tale from scraps and transformed it into something. Like the elaborate V.H.S. artworks of the past, where the artist had to work with the V.H.S. blurb and get going (or vice versa) A glimpse at a time way before the Games are Art debate when they were merely products and paradoxically could tell any tale they wanted. While the world has evolved since its publication and hidden tip sections at the end of chapters may not hold the same allure to readers as it once did, but in Metal Gear, Solid Snake manages to complete his mission.

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