Invasion of the Overworld, by Mark Cheverton (2013, Sky Pony Press) $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-63220-711-1
Recommended for ages 8-12
If you’re around tweens at all in the course of your day, you’ve probably at least heard of Minecraft. It’s an online game and community that allows users to create their own worlds in 8-bit, or face off against other users on other servers. My kids have been Minecrafting for a few years now, and some of the stuff I’ve seen is nothing short of mind-blowing. I’ve seen Hogwarts, Middle Earth, and castles and creations that defy all explanation, created by anyone from young kids to architects and engineers who use Minecraft. That said, there are – as in real life – creeps who find amusement in destroying other people’s creations. Called “griefers”, they find their way into users’ areas and burn down and destroy other people’s hard work. Invasion of the Overworld addresses this beautifully.
The story begins with a boy whose Minecraft name is GameKnight999. He’s a 12 year-old kid who loves griefing and setting up traps to lure his teammates and friends to. It’s his way of exercising power that he doesn’t have in real life, but it’s not doing him any favors. When – in a scene that reminded me of Disney’s Tron – he finds himself digitized and in the Minecraft world itself, he learns that his online actions have repercussions, and when he’s confronted with the fallout from his actions, he begins to see things in a new light.
He also learns that all is not well in the world of Minecraft. The monsters that exist in the game are finding their way, server by server, to the Source, a source of power that will lead them to our world. GameKnight – called The User That is Not a User – is the one things standing in their way. We see GameKnight on a voyage of personal discovery as he matures and takes on the responsibility not only of defending Minecraft, but his own world.
The book is Minecraft-heavy. There are detailed desriptions of settings, tools, and game vocabulary. Minecrafters will recognize and love this, and newbies to the game (and I count myself in this number) will appreciate Mr. Cheverton’s explanations. Mark Cheverton wrote this series after the Minecraft world he and his son created was destroyed by griefers. Parents will appreciate the discussions about cyberbullying and bullying in real life, and I’m hopeful that kids reading this series will see that every action brings with it some consequence, whether or not they hide behind the anonymity of being online.
I bought a set of these books for my library, because the kids are avid Minecrafters. I haven’t seen the books since the day I put them on the shelves – they’re constantly in circulation, and I really should by a new set, along with Mr. Cheverton’s latest series, The Mystery of Herobrine.
Keep up with Mark Cheverton’s Minecraft novels at his website, where you can sign up for email updates.
Full disclosure, I am mortified by how long it took me to get to this review. I received a copy of the GameKnight999 trilogy at New York Comic Con last year, and only just got to sit down and read this first book in the series. I hope that all the booktalks I’ve given this series in the time it took me to read it helps make up for the delay!