Alan Wake is an adaptation of the video game of the same name. Title character Alan Wake is a best-selling author specializing in crime novels who has hit a hard case of writer’s block. At his wife Alice’s suggestion, Alan goes on a vacation to a small lakeside town called Bright Falls in order to clear his head and get his writing back on track. But then something strange happens and Alice disappears under mysterious circumstances. Alan blacks out and wakes up only to discover that it has been days since Alice vanished. Desperate to find his wife, Alan begins to search for clues and quickly realizes that sinister forces are at work on the shores of Cauldron Lake.
Books made as video game adaptations are a fickle thing. The Alan Wake video game was one of the best video games of 2010. It tells the tale of a fantastic Stephen King-esque horror story; the style of which gives fans enough information to leave them pleased but does not fully explain the supernatural elements that occur. This story gives the feel that there are things going on that extend far beyond human understanding and that Alan Wake and the other characters are but small pieces in a much larger, longer game. That being said, the book is not perfect.
Different mediums of storytelling can produce vastly different results. Something that is fantastic as a book may not do well as a movie (as many, many readers know), or a video game does not transition as well as it could into a book. The thing that makes horror video games so scary, often more so than a book, film, or some other form of storytelling, is the fact that you are in control. While watching a horror movie, it is easy to see the mistakes that a character is making and yell things at the screen like, “What are you doing? Don’t go in there! The killer’s in that room!” While playing a video game, any mistakes that are made are on you. Maybe you hear the monster creeping up behind you and can fire a round between its eyes before it gets you, or maybe you will turn around just half a second too late and find yourself at the game over screen. The sense of real danger that a video game is able to generate when you get really into it is harder to convey in a book and that makes the Alan Wake book much less frightful than its video game counterpart.
One of the positive things about this story is the addition of scenes that were not in the video game. Since this story has a fair amount of mystery, any amount of new information is good and it helps fill in a few of the gaps from the game. However, the opposite is also true; there are bits of the video game that were not present in the book. Not all of this is need-to-know information, and it is a little irksome, but that is just part of the give-and-take process here. If you have not played the video game first, you may be a little lost during parts of the book. If you jump right into the book and decide it is good enough, the game is still worth picking up for the DLC packages that expand upon the original story (which is all that the book covers); there is also a short sequel game called Alan Wake’s American Nightmare that is worth playing at least once. Considering that this was author Rick Burroughs’ very first book, he did a good job. Great literature this is not, but it is what you can reasonably expect from a video game tie-in.