Peter Watts writing a game-tie in novel, that is like…Greg Egan writing a Star Wars novel. You know, it’s not impossible, just widely inconceivable. But reality likes to throw a curveball from time to time, and here it is. There are two valid approaches to this book, as a member of the audience of the game or as a member of the audience of Peter Watts. I’m a fan of Peter Watts, so you know where I’m coming from.
So how well does the book stacks up against all the other stuff Watts has written? Call me positively surprised, but there’s a depth to the book that is in the same league as all his other fiction, despite being essentially a media-tie in (you can take this statement however you like, but if there’s one thing most media-tie ins lack is a certain originality, which is not the case with Crysis: Legion).
Basically it’s an alien invasion novel (or at least it looks like one at first) with one human marine stuffed into a suit based on alien tech to counter the invasion. What follows is a tour de force that touches on all the subjects close to Watt’s interest: neurological wiring and rewiring, subverting our usual notions of self, free will and so on. If that weren’t enough, Watts presents a very convincing argument why the aliens tactics and weapons seem to ape ours so much. It’s fun to see someone taking what are essentially design decision to look cool and fun in a computer game and integrates them into a framework where they actually make sense and look pretty clever.
That, I think, is the hallmark of true genius, working under conditions most writers would call averse to any form of originality, yet managing to be exactly that, writing something that is both entertaining and smart and feels fresh (most of the ideas aren’t completely original, but Watts manages to make them look like it). Crysis: Legion is a book that speaks to both the gamer and the hard SF fan in me. It’s a testament to just how good a writer Peter Watts is.