Written by: Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent
Release: October 20th 2014
Bought @ http://www.amazon.com/Tomb-Raider-Ten-Thousand-Immortals/dp/1465415475
Tomb Raider: the Ten Thousand Immortals is a novel. It is also a sequel. Not to a novel, but to the 2013 videogame called Tomb Raider… which rebooted the long running series of videogames not for the first time, but already for a second time since we were introduced to it and its tomb raiding protagonist, Lara Croft, in 1996.
With nine videogames in the main series, two spin-off games in the Lara Croft &-series, several mobile games (among which a pretty decent Nintendo Game Boy Advance game), two motion pictures (staring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft), several comic books, etcetera, etcetera, it is not an exaggeration to say that the authors got a lot of history to work with – pun intended. Indeed, ancient and occult history are not just the series main staples, the series itself can also be described as historic in its own right. Lara Croft is not just any videogame character. She is a bloody icon. Well… Not actually bloody… Only in that one scene… And she does usually spill an inane amount of blood…
Anyways, how authors Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent were able to turn Lara, one of the pioneering characters of 3D-videogaming, into a two-dimensional character is… interesting to say the least. And when I say “interesting”, I actually mean that it is completely beyond my understanding.
Would the book have been a sequel to the first 1996 Tomb Raider game, the authors may have had somewhat of an excuse. Back then, though she was obviously rendered as a 3D-model, Lara could be considered somewhat of a two-dimensional character, especially with her pointy… extremities being such a defining trait. Back then, Lara did not bleed when she (elegantly) jumped down from a several meters high cave opening, she never called for help, and never hesitated to pull the trigger.
She was a beautiful, stone cold, killing machine.
In 2013’s reboot, however, we saw a very different Lara. A Lara who did bruise after falling, who desperately cried out for help when in need, who got sick after shooting and killing her first fellow human being. We were introduced to a very human Lara. A Lara who had only just become part of a treasure hunting crew in search of the lost kingdom of Yamatai, who had friends, who had a family. And most of all, who had a reason for surviving the ordeals she was presented with on the isle of Yamatai – which, of course, they found. There was a life she wanted to get back to. A place she wanted to get back to.
Tomb Raider: the Ten Thousand Immortals is supposed to continue the story of this human Lara and should get us excited for the upcoming videogame: Rise of the Tomb Raider. But it doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to do.
Yes, we get to know what happens to Lara and her friend and flat mate Samantha “Sam” Nishimura after they get home from Yamatai. No, this is not the Lara we learned to love in the videogame.
Her confrontation with the ancient and immortal Sun Queen Himiko and her followers on the isle of Yamatai affected Lara with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and paranoia. An interesting premise. But one which goes very much unexplored. PTSD is mainly used as an excuse by the authors for making Lara flounder whenever there’s a loud, random, noise. Paranoia is used for creating tension in otherwise very mundane situations that shouldn’t have been given the amount of attention they were given in the first place, e.g. train rides, subway rides, turtle rides… scrap that last one (though that one might have been interesting). In the end (spoiler alert!) we read that none of Lara’s persecutory beliefs are illusions to begin with. She is always being followed. Creepy, right? But far from a decent look into the effects of paranoia on the psyche.
Sam, who is not only Lara’s flat mate but also a descendant from Yamatai, is even worse off than Lara after returning from the accursed island. She does not suffer from PTSD, like Lara, but after waking up from an unexplainable coma, thinks she is the Sun Queen herself. Doctors are puzzled, obviously, because they cannot think of any medical explanation whatsoever for Sam’s behavior.
Lara knows what’s going on though. After all, she was the one who thwarted the ritual that was going to turn Sam into the latest vessel for Himiko’s undying soul in the videogame. To save Sam from the clutches of Himiko once more, Lara goes on a worldwide hunt for the Golden Fleece, which is said to have healing powers. Of course, Lara isn’t the only one interested in the Fleece. No less than three other parties are after the Fleece as well. And they do not back away from violence.
Of course, they don’t.
Ares and his ten thousand immortals (including Hydarnes and Xerxes) are the main antagonists, but it is never really explained why they are looking for the Fleece as well, and… being what they are… why they do not already have the Fleece in their possession to begin with. Their characterization is flat, just like the characterization of most of the other antagonists. Worst off are Frink and Peasly. They are the emotionless (and selectively immortal) bodyguards who aren’t all that bright. They are stereotypes. They seem to be stolen from the discarded script of a 90’s B-movie.
Thank God there are some interesting characters that aid Lara in her quest for the Fleece. Jonah and Reyes, the other two surviving crew members from Lara’s expedition to Yamatai are… Eeerrr… What do you mean they aren’t mentioned in the book?
Okay fine. We don’t need them for the story.
Lara’s other friends… Eeerrr…
She has no friends?
But there is this girl she meets on the train to Oxford and instantly becomes her friend, and this other random girl on the Greek island Anafi that is really helpful, but doesn’t deserve any further contextualization other than that she wants to go to the UK one day and knows a lot about maps…
So instead of the human Lara who had both feet firmly set in reality from the 2013 game, we get another Lara who can hardly be described as human. Not because she is a stone cold killing machine, but because she has no ties to the world that surrounds her. She has no job. No family – though her father is mentioned on occasions. No friends. Well… one friend, but she doesn’t talk to her on account of her thinking she is the Sun Queen…
In the end, there is not a lot that ties this book to the 2013 videogame. Yamatai, Himiko and Sam are mentioned, but remain in the background. Lara isn’t the person we got to know in the videogame, and the other characters aren’t mentioned at all. There’s very little exploration, there’s no tomb raiding…
So should you read this book to get a better understanding of how Tomb Raider (2013) leads into the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider?
Probably not. Going by the ties between Tomb Raider (2013) and The Ten Thousand Immortals (2014), chances are small that any of the characters from the book are going to make it into Rise of the Tomb Raider. And even if they would end up in the new game, you wouldn’t have missed much since they are represented rather shallowly.
Any redeeming qualities?
The Golden Fleece is a more than decent MacGuffin. The historical link between the story of Jason’s quest from Greek mythology and Colchis (part of current day Georgia) is interesting enough, though the authors do not make any connections that aren’t mentioned on Wikipedia. Chances of Lara’s quest for the Golden Fleece being mentioned more than superficially in Rise of the Tomb Raider are very slim as well.
Are we excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider?
Yes. But the book has very little to do with that. On the contrary. If Rhianna Pratchett’s involvement hadn’t been confirmed yet, it would have made me very wary to say the least.
Whom should read this book?
Die hard fans that cannot wait for Lara’s next adventure and do not mind clumsy writing.