‘Minecraft’ novel builds on hugely popular video game

The Microsoft-owned Minecraft franchise has tens of millions of players, so a book about the blocky world they inhabit seems like a good business idea. For Max Brooks, author of zombie apocalypse novels, it was a natural because he’s a fan himself.

The protagonist of Max Brooks’ new fantasy novel doesn’t have a name, a gender or even normal human appendages. Instead of hands, the narrator has clumsy, flesh-toned cubes, just one more weird feature of the strange and unsettling world where the story unfolds, where everything — the sun, clouds, cows, mushrooms, watermelons — is composed of squares.

For the uninitiated, the setting may seem bizarre and disorienting, but Brooks isn’t writing for novices or lay readers. He’s writing for a very particular tribe: die-hard devotees of the video game “Minecraft.”

“Minecraft: The Island,” which was released this month by the science fiction and fantasy publisher Del Rey, represents an unusual experiment in multiplatform brand extension. It marks the first officially sanctioned novel commissioned by Mojang, the Swedish game studio behind “Minecraft,” as the Microsoft-owned company seeks new ways to capitalize on the game’s enormous popularity. (To eliminate any doubt about the company’s consent, Mojang’s name and logo appear twice on the book’s cover, which bears the bland endorsement, “Mojang Official Product.”)

Unlike most video and computer games, “Minecraft” doesn’t have clear-cut objectives or levels to ascend. Instead, it’s more like an elaborate digital Lego set that allows players to build whatever they like, designing their own castles, skyscrapers, underground bunkers and booby traps.

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The open-ended nature of the game is a big part of its appeal. Since its release in 2011, “Minecraft” has sold more than 122 million copies and now has 55 million active monthly users….

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