Book Review: The Dig by Alan Dean Foster (1996)

Alan Dean Foster has done the novelizations for many movies, including the Alien series and Outland. So what’s the next challenge for an author like that? How about a video game novelization?

The Dig comes from the video game of the same name which ran right nicely on Windows 3.11 or Windows 95 boxes. Still, the storyline follows an archetype I like: a strange interstellar artifact shows humans that a greater intelligence exists. 2001, Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama used the same conceit (although I think the Commodore 64 game Rendezvous with Rama came after the book).

When a strange asteroid falls into a slowly decaying orbit, NASA and the EU send up a shuttle mission to nuke the asteroid into a stable orbit. Once the astronauts successfully stabilize the asteroid, the commander, a scientist, and a journalist visit the surface for a moment of study and sample gathering. They discover what appear to be manufactured components on the surface and when they explore further, the asteroid activates and transports the trio to a far off planet, where they’re confronted with a number of puzzles, locations to explore, and objects to manipulate.

It’s not that bad, actually; certainly, since I know it’s built from a game, I know to look at it in that context, and I spent a lot of time (well, a couple of brain cycles) thinking about its impact, but the novel’s an interesting, enjoyable read, and I didn’t spend almost a decade reading almost 2000 pages to find out that the ultimate point is that it’s all an idle experiment of God’s (curse you, ACC!)

In a related note, the synergy worked. After buying this book at a reduced price second-hand, I’ve won an auction for this game on eBay (for $2.00) for this game. Now, I’ll retrofit one of my older PCs with the appropriate operating system and I’ll enjoy the adventure of Boston Low (voiced by T2’s Robert Patrick). Unfortunately, the media blitz worked almost ten years too late, in a post-shuttle, post 1990s world where the social structures and international cooperation illusions are ancient alien artifacts of their own.

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