Myst: The Book of Atrus
|Release Date||January 1, 1995|
|Followed by||Myst: The Book of Ti'ana|
Myst: The Book of Atrus is the first Myst novel sorted by release, although chronologically, the events of Book of Ti'ana happened earlier. Originally released in paperback and hardcopy, both are now out of print. Aside from second-hand copies, the easiest way to obtain this edition is now through the Myst Reader trilogy wrapper.
In September 2023, for the 30th Anniversary of Myst, a new edition with a different cover was published. This new edition has a slightly revised text, mostly correcting typos.
The original paperback edition features a D'ni text in the backcover, about Talashar.
Like its two sequels, the book was published by Hyperion, a subsidiary of Disney. Before they were signed as publisher (bringing David Wingrove onto the project), James Lileks had written an early draft for Cyan to review.
The book description reads:
- The ages of Myst are worlds of adventure and awe; of mystery and beauty; of intrigue and betrayal. The world's best-selling CD-ROM game is just a piece of the picture. Now, take a step into the fictional legend of Myst.
- These pages are your link to the story of Atrus, son of Gehn, and the last of the race of D'Ni—the masters of The Art, the craft of linking to other worlds through the descriptive art of writing in special books. For most of his young life, Atrus thought the stories his grandmother told him were just strange legends. Then his time came to explore the magnificent underground realm…
- The Book of Atrus is a tale of son against father; of truth versus evil; and of love and redemption. You will travel to wonderful new ages and have all your questions answered — for this story ends where the world of the MYST game just begins.
The novel chronicles the adventures of Atrus during the early years of his life, from when he was born to a time when his sons, Sirrus and Achenar, were young boys. It describes his life at the Cleft with his grandmother, Anna, his teenage years in D'ni with his father Gehn, and his romance and early life on Myst Island with Catherine.
The book opens on a stormy night in the desert with Gehn burying his dead wife soon after the birth of their son. Anna, Gehn's mother, begs him to keep the child, but he angrily leaves for D'ni without even naming his child. Anna names him Atrus, after her late husband.
Life in the Cleft (Chapters 1–4)
The first few chapters show Atrus learning valuable life lessons from Anna: those that relate to ethics, morality, and logic. It is these lessons that he would later carry with him throughout his life. Anna also keeps telling him tales from and about D'ni and teaches him the D'ni language but Atrus considers them fables. Also, the reader is introduced to the phrase, "What do you see?" which Anna constantly asks Atrus, and he later asks himself. (In The Book of Ti'ana it is discovered that Anna's father coined the phrase.)
When he is fourteen, Atrus conducts an experiment within the crater of the volcano to charge a battery he's made so he can automate the drawing of water. An explosion uncovers an artificial cave. Anna calls him away as the crater would be too dangerous. Later, unbeknownst to Anna, Atrus returns to retrieve his battery and to investigate the tunnel. In the tunnel he finds a huge carved D'ni word and a fire-marble and realizes that the tales of D'ni are true.
Anna finds him and she tells him about the Fall of D'ni and Ti'ana's role in it, but doesn't tell him that she is Ti'ana. Atrus promises not to return there until 'he is ready'. Anna introduces him to the ideas behind the Gahro Hevtee in The Art, and thinks about being able to teach him soon.
A significant event in Atrus's early life the the death of his cat, Flame; she died after licking toxic substances on herself as the result of Atrus's failed soil experiment.
Gehn and D'ni (Chapters 5–16)
His father, Gehn, suddenly showed up and almost immediately took Atrus back to D'ni with him, promising Anna that he would bring the boy back in three months' time. Atrus and his father lived on K'veer with their mute servant, Rijus. Atrus's immediate tasks included learning written and spoken D'ni and repairing the damage to D'ni that occured during the Fall. Gehn also, reveals to Atrus that his grandmother was indeed that 'Ti'ana' of the history. Atrus' feelings for Anna are wounded for keeping this fact from him.
A large section of the book is dedicated to Atrus's and Gehn's dealing with Gehn's Thirty-seventh Age. Gehn presented himself and Atrus as gods there, however Atrus started to befriend the natives, Koena, Salar and others. Gehn and Atrus found out however that the natives revered a geological-weather phenomenon known as the Whiteness. Gehn, in order to be the only entity to be revered in the Age, made some corrections to the book and made the phenomenon disappear. Like all Gehn's ages, this one eventually became very unstable.
Atrus also learnt the Art and created his first Age, Inception, which his father didn't like. Gehn and Atrus returned to Age 37 and order a 'god crowning' ceremony to take place for Atrus's first writing of an Age. During the ceremony, a great storm and earthquake occurred.
After having been pleaded to by Atrus to do something to save the world (Atrus plays on Gehn's feelings that he and Atrus are gods), Gehn made many erroneous deletions from Age Thirty-seven's descriptive book. When Atrus linked back, he realized it was a new age that was very much like Age Thirty-seven before Gehn arrived. This only meant that the people of the original Thirty-seventh Age remained sealed to their doom.
After having a large argument with Gehn about his abilities, Gehn starts criticizing Inception and deleting words from the book, ruining it. When Atrus asks him a chance to fix the link of the Age 37, and about whether a Writer is indeed a creator or just describes an already existing Age, Gehn maddened throws the book in the fire destroying any hopes about linking back for ever. Atrus decides to flee to the Cleft. While his father is intoxicated and sleeping, he steals his book of maps and notes that Gehn is constantly referring to; they contain directions to return to the Surface. However, Gehn and Rijus catch up to Atrus, and he is locked in a blocked room in K'veer (in which he is seen in the Myst, Riven and Myst V: End of Ages video games).
Trapping Gehn (Chapters 17–23)
In the prison room with Atrus is the descriptive book for Gehn's Fifth Age, Riven. Atrus having no other choice, links to Riven. After an accident he had with a pool, he is rescued by two natives, Carel and Erlar; he eventually falls in love with their cousin, Katran, whom he calls Catherine because he cannot pronounce her real name correctly.
Katran was a member of the Guilds that Gehn intended to reestablish in Riven. Katran encouraged her friend Eavan to question something Gehn said to him, and in a fury Gehn had him executed. Gehn then left a fissure in the Great Tree and proclaimed that if he was ever questioned again, he would destroy the Age.
It was then learned that Gehn intended to wed Katran. Catherine and Atrus hatch a plan to stabilize Riven and trap Gehn there forever. She presents him with the 'impossible' Age she had written out of the lessons Gehn has been holding with her, and then the age of Myst, which she claims to have written.
Atrus makes all the proper corrections to Riven and then links in to destroy all the linking books leading out of the age. He is captured by Gehn but is set free by a series of earthquakes and massive daggers that fall from the sky that Catherine writes into the age. She subsequently links in and escapes with Atrus after he has destroyed one of the two remaining linking books left on Riven. A Star Fissure opens up in the age and Catherine and Atrus escape through it with the Myst linking book, successfully trapping Gehn.
Atrus soon discovers that Catherine has not been acting alone: Anna has been following Atrus since his descent into D'ni and has watched for his safety from the shadows. It was Anna who helped write Myst, and it was Anna who convinced Catherine to help them. While Anna watches Sirrus and Achenar play and Catherine stands by his side, Atrus concludes his journal entry with the speech heard at the beginning of the Myst video game:
- I realized the moment I fell into the fissure that the book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse, of which I has only a fleeting glimpse. I have tried to speculate where it might have landed, but I must admit that such conjecture is futile. Still, questions about whose hands might one day hold my Myst book are unsettling to me. I know my apprehensions might never be allayed, and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.
- In the book description, "D'ni" is incorrectly spelled "D'Ni". This mistake was fixed when the story was included in The Myst Reader.
- Also in the book description, Atrus is decribed as "the last of the race of D'ni". Even though this was what Atrus may have thought at the time the novel takes place, it is an inaccuracy because there were many D'ni who fled to other Ages that were not ravaged by Veovis' plague. Atrus was also only one-fourth D'ni (which came from his grandfather, Aitrus).
- Gehn's version of the Fall of D'ni differs slightly from what is depicted in The Book of Ti'ana but this can be explained by Gehn's young age when it happened.
- Atrus claims that through his study of D'ni history he has learned that D'ni existed for the "best part of sixty thousand years". According to canon, the D'ni Empire existed for about ten thousand (10,000) years; it could be that the sixty thousand years figure includes the Ronay.