By Marty Mulrooney
Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth by Christopher Golden is the official tie-in novel of the award-winning Uncharted video game series on PlayStation 3. In this standalone tale, adventurer and thief Nathan Drake is called to New York City by his mentor Victor Sullivan, whose friend, a world-famous archaeologist, has been found murdered in Manhattan. Together, they will unravel a complex mystery that will see them travelling to both Egypt and Greece, before uncovering the secrets of the deadly fourth labyrinth…
“What’s in New York?”
He could hear Sully blow out another lungful of cigar smoke before answering.
Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth begins with a relentless jeep chase through the El Oriente rainforest in Ecuador as Nathan Drake flees from a South American drug lord – so far, so Uncharted – before doing a complete U-turn and placing Nate in Chicago. It admittedly feels unusual, at least at first, to have Drake walking around as a civilian. He even professes a love for cinnamon rolls. Soon after landing at the airport, his friend and mentor Victor Sullivan phones, telling him to come to New York as soon as possible. Of course, Nate complies, setting in motion a story that is intriguing, action packed and above all, faithful to the video games upon which it is based.
Sully’s friend, a world-famous archaeologist named Luka Hzujak, has been murdered in the most gruesome fashion imaginable: his decapitated head and limbless torso left in a trunk on a platform at Grand Central Station. Somebody is obviously trying to send a message. Luka’s daughter Jada Hzujack believes her stepmother is involved, along with Tyr Henriksen, CEO of Phoenix Innovations, a weapons manufacturing company. As Nate, Sully and Jada investigate, the plot thickens and the danger quickly increases. What exactly did Luka Hzujak discover… and who killed him for it?
“Maybe you want to dial down the protective parent vibe a little.”
Sully gnawed on his cigar. “You’d love that, wouldn’t you, Romeo?”
“What are you talking about?”
”You know what I’m talking about.”
It soon transpires that Luka had been doing research for Henriksen on labyrinths, finding something he didn’t like in the process and pulling out of the project as a result. Our heroes will explore labyrinths in both Egypt and Greece on their journey as they race to stay ahead of Henriksen and his thugs – each labyrinth offering clues pertaining to the location of the next – but their ultimate goal is to find the fourth labyrinth mentioned in Luka’s journal, which may not even exist. But if it does, what secrets does it hold? Gold? Or monsters, perhaps? The historical content of this novel is impressive: even if it is factually inaccurate at times – and I admit I have no idea if it is or not – it certainly doesn’t read that way. There is as much attention to detail here as there is in the video games, if not more so.
Of course, the action is dialled down a notch in this tie-in novel – who wants to read over 300 pages of shooting and climbing? Instead, the characters are continually focused on and developed extensively. Nate and Sully have been captured perfectly by Christopher Golden, their banter authentic, their friendship real. Jada Hzujack is a great new character too, making up for Elena Fisher’s absence – it is highly probable that this novel is set before the first game. Golden wisely opts to present Jada’s relationship with Nathan as that of a sibling rather than anything remotely romantic – throw grumpy old man Sully into the mix (he’s Jada’s godfather) and you have a winning three-way stream of banter, putdowns and wisecracks.
Drake crouched behind a dented Sahin sedan and took aim.
“Leave the girl or I drop you right here!” He shouted.
One of the thugs spun and took a shot at him, blowing out the Sahin’s rear window. Drake pulled the trigger twice, and the grim-eyed man danced backward, one bullet taking him in the shoulder and the other in the chest. His gun flew, clattering to the ground.
Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth is a pleasant surprise – an official tie-in novel that truly lives up to the critically-acclaimed Uncharted franchise. Christopher Golden has successfully tapped into many of the key ingredients that make the Uncharted games so fun to play – great dialogue, exotic locations and breathless action. It isn’t a storytelling masterpiece, but neither are the games – this is solid, pulpy fun, historically jazzed up to read smarter than it really is. In fact, the biggest disappointment of the entire book is that Jada Hzujack is such a great character, yet Naughty Dog will in all likelihood not consider the book canon – and therefore her character won’t appear again in the future. Authentically written and extremely faithful to the games, Uncharted fans won’t want to miss out on Nathan Drake’s latest epic adventure!
9 OUT OF 10