By Rand Miller and David Wingrove
Hyperion Books. © 1998
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages
Seventy years after the fall of D’Ni, Atrus and Catherine return with a team of enthusiastic assistants, intent on rebuilding. The devastation is overwhelming, unimaginable. The team hardly knows where to start. But Atrus feels certain some D’Ni could have escaped to other Ages. Their first task is to find them and bring them home.
The search begins with Books. Find and examine all that remain, even ancient texts so old their Maintainer’s Guild seals are faded almost into obscurity. Those survivors they find are reunited with their people and their fallen city, and the task of rebuilding begins even as the testing of Books continues.
But when a structural support in one of the buildings is deemed too damaged to repair and the floor is broken away, the survivors discover a crypt unknown to even the oldest D’Ni among them. Inside are Books more ancient than any even imagined, vaults sealed with the hardest of D’Ni stone, and a mysterious temptation Atrus cannot resist.
The Book of D’Ni is the third book in the Myst trilogy, and concludes the tale of young Atrus, who starts out Book I as a boy. Not every loose end is neatly tied, but then some things are better left to the reader’s imagination. Miller and Wingrove do a great job here in setting a scene, describing Terahnee, one of the new Ages. Beautiful and lush and prosperous, it sounds like paradise. I could see the buildings and gardens and waterways as I read. Characterizations also work here, though maybe not quite as well as in the Book of Ti’ana; while there are a number of characters, I had a little trouble picturing or feeling some of them, even though they appear numerous times in the story. Atrus seems, at times, a bit too good, too nice, too moral, but I think he represents an ideal. The antagonists in this story are somewhat stereotypical. They are also many; take one down and another takes his place. But I believe they too are symbols, exemplifying that which we ought to reject.
Of particular note is the lack of many truly strong female characters. If there is any serious flaw in the Myst books, this is it. Catherine and Ti’Ana both fill these shoes, but the writers didn’t take their roles far enough. Society in D’Ni falls back on male-only guilds and male heads of households. I suspect no malice in the writers’ lack therein; rather, I expect it was more a product of the times. Remember, these were written 20 or more years ago.
All that said, I still got lost in this book. It’s difficult to say much about it without spoiling the twist. Just as in the first two of the series, the authors weave a tale around ethics and compassion that could just as easily fit our own society, even almost twenty years later. I don’t think any reader will be able to miss these larger-than-life themes, even in a casual pass. The Book of D’Ni—indeed, the whole trilogy—is almost like a fairy-tale, a moral lesson on ethical behavior. Personally, I enjoyed it.
As I said with the other books, this series was written specifically to the fan base of the wildly popular computer games Myst (released 1993), Riven (1997), Exile (2001), Revelation (2004), and End of Ages (2005). If you played any or all of these games, but haven’t yet read the books, you’re missing out.
Yet you can enjoy the books without having played the games. Hyperion offers the entire trilogy in one volume, The Myst Reader, which is easily found online. If you enjoy fantasy, or a well-told tale, it’s an enjoyable, inspiring adventure.