Max Brooks’s first foray into Minecraft literature, The Island, was better than it had any right being. So naturally, I was excited to see what direction he’d take the follow-up, The Mountain, in. While The Island was a charming, unique take on a Minecraft story, The Mountain overstays its welcome a bit. The whole “protagonist finds himself in the world of Minecraft and is confused about everything” gimmick grows stale, even with Brooks’s attempt at spicing things up by introducing a new character, Summer, to act as a foil to Guy, the protagonist of the two books. The problem with The Mountain is that it’s too much like the first book. What felt quaint there feels tired here. It’s just another book that hints at this grander, more interesting idea (why have these people suddenly found themselves trapped in the Minecraft world, with barely any memories of their former lives?) instead of properly exploring it.
Now, to be fair, this book is blatantly aimed at an audience much younger than I am. And, in that context, there is a lot to like here. It’s a very quick read, with some clever, easy-to-digest prose and characters who feel nicely fleshed out. Those characters aren’t necessarily likable, though, with Guy’s never-ending inquiries growing grating when compared to Summer’s pragmatism. That being said, there’s a pretty wholesome moral about friendship, and the difficulties and the rewards that come from it. But these morals feel a bit blunter than those in the first book did. Still, the plot moves along at a nice pace and the book is filled with little easter eggs that should make longtime Minecraft fans very happy. It’s especially nice seeing Brooks continue to play around with the idea that Minecraft’s real-world updates would appear as sudden world changes to any character that lived within the world of the game.
Overall, I don’t think The Mountain is as good as The Island was, but it’s still an enjoyable read. Brooks’s humor shines through the prose, even though it’s been tapered down some to appeal to a younger-than-his-usual audience crowd. This installment feels like it’s treading water a bit, failing to further the overarching mystery any but excelling in expanding the world and developing its characters. Minecraft fans of all ages will likely have a lot of fun with this, though, as it remains a fairly unique take on the whole “videogame tie-in novel” craze. All in all, it’s a quick and solid read and it ends with a pretty wide open ending, allowing the possibility for a third installment that could start answering some questions. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)