Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots

VIZ MEDIA/Haikasoru - @VIZMedia; @haikasoru

AUTHOR: Project Itoh
TRANSLATION: Nathan Collins
COVER: Yoji Shinkawa with Kam Li (designer)
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4001-6; paperback, Rated “T” for “Teen”
364pp, B&W, $15.99 U.S., $18.99 CAN, £9.99 UK

Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots is a novel tie-in to the 2004 Playstation 3 video game, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Guns of the Patriots is an entry in the stealth video games series, Metal Gear, which was created by Hideo Kojima and developed and published by Konami. The novel is written by Project Itoh, which was the penname of the late Japanese science fiction author, Satoshi Ito (Genocidal Organ).

Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots is the latest episode in the bullet-ridden adventures of Solid Snake, the legendary infiltrator and saboteur. A crack soldier, Solid Snake (or simply, “Snake”) is part of a worldwide nanotechnology network known as the Sons of the Patriots (SOP). The SOP system is a network that controls soldiers via the nanomachines inside their bodies. Time is running out for Snake because he is a clone, and he will soon succumb to the FOXDIE virus (which is programmed to selectively kill specific people). Before he dies, however, Snake will end up spreading the disease to nearly everyone he encounters, in essence becoming a walking biological weapon.

Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots is set in a time when the world economy relies on continuous war. This war is fought by private military corporations (PMCs), which outnumber government military forces. PMC soldiers are equipped with nanomachines that enhance their abilities on the battlefield, and are thus controlled by the SOP system. Snake’s enemy, Liquid Ocelot (or simply “Liquid”), is preparing to hijack the SOP network, and whoever controls SOP controls the world. With the help of Dr. Hal “Otacon” Emmerich (who is also this story’s narrator) and a host of old friends and “frenemies,” Snakes races around the world from jungle to desert and from the frozen tundra to the ocean to stop Liquid.

Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots is a light novel, a style of Japanese novel apparently aimed at middle school and high school students, but Guns of the Patriots will interest older readers. This video game tie-in is military science fiction and alternate history fiction. At least as far as I can remember, it’s the best military science fiction combination alternate history book that I’ve read to date. I certainly enjoyed it more than my first military/alternate history sci-fi experience, S.M. Stirling’s perplexing Marching Through Georgia.

Rather than offering some mere action novel, author Project Itoh presents a blend of character drama and political commentary. The author even explains why the idea of equality is actually the cause of war, death, and destruction. Don’t get me wrong: there are some good action set pieces here, and Nathan Collins’ translation deftly captures Itoh’s multiple flavors of battle action. However, Itoh’s novel is a critical look at war, from the perspectives of global economics, international politics, history, technology, culture, and society. This is all played out as character drama with a group of characters in the present and with another group of characters that only exist in the back story or in the novel’s past (many of them dead) whose actions are of perpetual consequence.

When I asked my VIZ Media representative for a copy of this book for review, I did so because something told me that it would be an interesting read. Maybe, it was just a lucky guess, but I was right. Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots is solid, indeed.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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