A Flurry of Poorly Described Punches
by Dewie Booklover
Editor’s note (Peartree): I named my first cat Sonya after Sonya Blade when I was about 8 years old. Ever since then I’ve always wanted to be with a woman who could not only crush me in her arms if she wanted but also kill me with blowing a kiss. Also, the fact she wasn’t in MK2 is bullshit™. She would never get caught in outworld and be chained to a wall like that.
One of the first pieces of writing I was proud of as a child was based very heavily on the video game Diablo. I loved the dark, bleak world of the game and was inspired to write my own tale set in the Diablo universe. People in 2017 would call it fan fiction. My fourth-grade teacher praised my use of detailed and imaginative language because I had a visual aid to guide me in my masterful descriptions of Diablo and his evil minions. Unfortunately, my old writing is lost to the sands of time, which is a shame because I am almost certain they sounded a lot like the book I was assigned: the novelization of the video game Mortal Kombat. After some discussion it was determined that this is a novelization of the game itself, not the 1995 movie that I have never seen (rated only 1% higher on rotten tomatoes than Paul Blart Mall Cop, so I don’t think I’m missing much).
Without any prior knowledge of the video game (which I admit is probably rare if you’re reading a book called Mortal Kombat), at no point in the 182 tedious pages would you ever have a clear idea of what anyone looked like or where anyone actually was. All the characters were introduced a similar way, a half-baked description of what colour the characters hair and clothes were, followed by another character saying their name, which would almost always end a chapter. Hinting that the author thought you would be so floored that Sub Zero is ACTUALLY in the novelization of Mortal Kombat that you need a few line breaks to catch your breath and dive back in. (I was actually shocked to learn that Sub-Zero is a bad guy, and Scorpion was a good guy. The opposite of what I thought for the last twenty years. So thank god for those line breaks) The settings were just as vague, from Chinese village to stormy ocean cliff, it sure seemed like the characters COULD have been in cool places, but they were never really described in detail enough to know.
Someone please tell me if this is canon or not.
As the book is based on a fighting game, a large portion of the book is characters fighting. At face value you would almost think that’s exciting, but once you read about one flying jump kick to gut-punch combo you have kind of read them all, and I found myself waiting for the battles to be over so I could go read about another conversation on an island described as a “forbidding mass in a glass-smooth sea.” One thing I enjoyed very much was the shoehorning in of the characters poses and combos from the video game, after a vague description of what I assumed to be an exciting fight, the author spent almost a paragraph describing how Liu Kang held his hands and stood in just a certain way, just to remind you that this book is about your favourite video game, and not an original piece of fiction.
The story is about people FIGHTING, different people fighting in different places. The unfortunate part is there has to be a reason for them to fight. Bad boy Shang Tsung needs souls to open a portal to the Outerworld (Hell) and summon the demon-king Shao Khan. To do this he corrupts Mortal Kombat, an ancient tournament that invites the greatest warriors in the world to compete for honour and glory, and uses it as a sort of soul farm by sacrificing the losers souls to make his portal stronger. This story works well as a two sentence summary or even window dressing for a violent video game, but stretched over even a short novel and a mess of non-canon characters and creative liberties thrown in, the story becomes a jumbled mess. This mess leads to one of the worst and most unfulfilling endings I have ever read.
After what was described as an epic battle, the good guys close the portal to hell. They come face-to-face with Shang Tsung, stripped of his power and are finally able put a stop to all of this once and for all. You will be shocked to learn they don’t. Why? BECAUSE IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO KILL HIM. After saving the world from what would essentially be the apocalypse, the good guys decide to keep it legal and let an evil wizard and his terrifying four armed monster just continue to hang out and go about their evil business simply because the laws of the land say so. Like an episode of Scooby Doo, the mood then shifts to this weird tone where everyone is kind of friends and the book ends with the evil wizard saying “see you at the next Mortal Kombat.” I could almost imagine Goro, the four armed monster, summoned from hell to wreak havoc on earth, turning and winking at the camera. I can’t believe a paid writer and editor both read that ending and thought “good enough.”
To anyone thinking of reading this book: I got more enjoyment out of reading the Wikipedia article on Mortal Kombat than the actual novel, which I will conveniently link here to save you the trouble.