Sins of the Fathers: A Gabriel Knight Novel (Jensen, J., 1996)

It's always interesting to see something you've loved for ages in a different form. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers has always been The Sierra game for me. Despite I had played King's Quest, Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and Space Quest before it, the first Gabriel Knight game was the game from Sierra to me. It was the title, which made me realize that games can actually have not only solid voice acting but also a strong story, that rivalled with movies and books.  Hell, I even liked that remake Jane Jensen pushed out with Phoenix Online Studios, despite it was a bit clunky technically and aesthetically in comparison to Jensen's original effort she did with Sierra. The story itself is, I think, Strong enough.

For a good while, I've been aware of the fact, that there's a book version of  Sins of the Fathers. It was released after the original game, but it hasn't been sold in ages. The only way to get a copy of it is to purchase it used from somewhere and to my knowledge the only digital release of it happened during Jane Jensen's Kickstarter campaign ages back when the book was promised as a reward for a certain tier of backers. But, alas, the digital version isn't sold anywhere either. So the best bet to get one is to try to find on from Amazon.

Anyhow, I did manage to find myself a copy and after years of wanting to read it, I finally got my change. And how was it?

Okay, I guess.

I mean the story itself is still good. It's a great thriller about a writer/used bookseller, who gets mixed up in a New Orleans-based voodoo cult after he begins to dig around a series of voodoo related killings in order to make his upcoming novel more authentic. As a book, it's kind of a mixed bag. At places, it is very well written and it does flesh out some aspects of the game very nicely. It even adds in things, that didn't necessarily come out in the game very well and some things in it work better the way they're narrated in the novel. But it also feels a bit broken, like it's an attempt at trying to write a walkthrough to a game in more lavish manner. Especially the first half of it feels strongly like that. It gets better towards the end though, despite it never really manages to escape the feeling of a lavish walkthrough.

Despite Sins of the Fathers isn't the greatest book around, it is better than some other attempts in turning games into books. For an example, I never did manage to read through the novelization of one my favourite games, Planescape Torment, as that one just was all the game text mushed up into a book without any real editing done to it. Despite it was well written, it also was a clump of poorly edited passages, of which many didn't feel necessary for the grander story itself.

Sins of the Fathers is better in those terms, but at the same time, it's following the game too closely as it writes in puzzle solutions as well. Especially with an adventure game, this becomes a bit problematic, as Gabriel needs to pick up things from here and there and at times he doesn't even have any clear idea of why he'd be doing that. The only answer is, that feels that there could be some use for something later one. Wisely enough Jensen dropped a lot of dialogue from the novel as well. In the game, Gabriel can interview people and pick their brains about their backgrounds as well as other issues. This does tighten up the narrative quite a bit, as a lot of the interrogations are nothing but extra colour not really needed for the big picture.

The most interesting things about the novel are the little bits that didn't end up in the original game itself. There are a couple of scenes that were re-introduced in the remake, but as such the novel has a scene or two, which would have been pretty decent additions to the remake. But instead of adding some of those nicer scenes, the remake added some pretty pointless puzzles instead, which didn't really fit in with the original puzzles the game had going on.

I wouldn't call Sins of the Fathers a must-read even for a fan of the game. It's fun enough for what it is, and at places, it's even very well written. But at the same time, it's evident that it didn't really manage to escape its game roots. If you've not played the game, I think the books might even be a bit off-putting because of how it's written.

But no matter. I'm glad that I finally did manage to read Sins of the Fathers. It's been a book I've wanted to read a good while, so that's one thing off the list. As said, if you want it, you might have luck finding it used somewhere. There are two books Jensen did about Gabriel Knight, the second one being the second game. With the third, she didn't bother, as I'd guess neither of them was a huge success as books.