We’ve been exploring how themes of literacy play out in the Myst games. In Myst, we opened a book. In Riven, we were shown and given a book. In Exile, we must chase after a book. The third Myst game involves a story of betrayal and revenge, similar to the first installment, but also one of exile.
Atrus continues to write reflections on his family and his own dreams of healing his world. Meanwhile. the antagonist Saveedro has been writing his own history. Using various murals and video recordings, he creates messages for Atrus to tell him the truth about what his sons did, but also to process for himself. That processing alone is not enough to heal, however, as he does it in total isolation while watching his family suffer. Saveedro attempts to make meaning out of what happened to him through various mediums, including writing.
But as we go back into the story of Sirrus and Achenar, we learn of their education. Maybe Atrus wasn’t the most competent educator, or maybe he was and they were just more persuaded by the pirates they met. Atrus wrote four entire ages just to teach his sons the art. And just as Atrus wrote these ages into being, writing and reading can become in themselves the very adventure of learning, just as the age of J’Nanin looks like a rock climbing course of fun.
There are also different genres of informational writing, and the three featured ages reflect this. There is nature writing, represented by the life-teeming Edanna, logical/mathematical writing, sort of like the precise physics of Amateria, and technical writing, represented by the how-to of Voltaic’s energy-harvesting equipment. Maybe that’s a stretch, but there are specific lessons found in these ages.
But good writing, the best writing, is also about balance. We see this in Narayan, the age that brings the lessons of the other ages together. It is these forces at work that allow for a civilization even in a world that doesn’t seem like it should support one. Nature, force, and energy come together to foster a unique community. Reading balances us out and helps our communities grow.
When someone is isolated in exile, they have their writing. They can talk to themselves, but they can also write to prepare for others what they plan to say should they ever see them again. This can bring pain, but it can also bring something else.
And here we also learn that a man thirsty for revenge instead finds solace. Reading and writing can bring us peace. While Saveedro stole a book to get revenge on Atrus, he finds instead, coming from a book, that not all is lost. One could even say that the “stranger” is able to teach him this lesson after reading Atrus’s journal. It all kind of comes full circle for so many years.
Next week we will look at Myst 4: Revelation.