A Review of “Minecraft: The Island”

“Minecraft: The Island” by Max Brooks is the first book in an official Minecraft, multi-author, multi-adventure series aimed at middle-grade readers.

Imagine playing Minecraft in survival mode for the first time. You don’t know how anything works, and, in this scenario, no one is there to help you. No gamer guides. No online communities. Just you. Dropped into the middle of the ocean. Now imagine it’s real. That’s this book.

My son, who’s twelve and an avid reader and player of Minecraft, loved this book. In fact, the moment we finished the audiobook my son went straight for the second book in the series and was twenty to thirty pages deep by bedtime.

As a Minecraft fan myself, I enjoyed the story. It’s well-written and immersive. It did feel a little sparse and heavy-handed at times, but, it was intriguing to image real life in the world of Minecraft. And Jack Black as the audiobook narrator—Oh, Wow!—it’s impossible to imagine a more perfect match for this story.

Young fans of Minecraft fiction will enjoy Max Brook’s “Minecraft: The Island.”

“Minecraft: The Island” is available from Amazon and other book retailers.

Content Guide

Romance (low)

Violence (moderate)
Fighting zombies, spiders, and other dangers. A breakdown moment where chickens are harmed. Emotional, but not graphic.

Language (low)
Name-calling, discussion of bodily functions, and a few instances talking about saying bad words, but not saying the words.

Sensitive Topics (moderate)
Survival situation where the character considers the moral dilemma of eating animals to survive.

About “Minecraft: The Island”

The first official Minecraft novel! The author of World War Z tells the story of a hero—stranded in the world of Minecraft—who must unravel the secrets of a mysterious island in order to survive.

Washed up on a beach, the lone castaway looks around the shore. Where am I? Who am I? And why is everything made of blocks? But there isn’t much time to soak up the sun. It’s getting dark, and there’s a strange new world to explore!

The top priority is finding food. The next is not becoming food. Because there are others out there on the island . . . like the horde of zombies that appears after nightfall. Crafting a way out of this mess is a challenge like no other. Who could build a home while running from exploding creepers, armed skeletons, and an unstoppable tide of hot lava? Especially with no help except for a few makeshift tools and sage advice from an unlikely friend: a cow.

In this world, the rules don’t always make sense, but courage and creativity go a long way. There are forests to explore, hidden underground tunnels to loot, and undead mobs to defeat. Only then will the secrets of the island be revealed.

Visit Amazon or Goodreads for more reviews.

About Max Brooks

The New York Times bestselling author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, Max Brooks has been called “the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism.” He lives in New York City but is ready to move to a more remote and defensible location at a moment’s notice.

Max Brooks’s The Zombie Survival Guide formed the core of the world’s civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War. Mr. Brooks subsequently spent years traveling to every part of the globe in order to conduct the face-to-face interviews that have been incorporated into World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Connect with Max Brooks through his website (maxbrooks.com).

A Review of “The Girl Who Could See”

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson is a science fiction thriller with a thread of romance. While aimed at new adults (ages 18-25), it’s also suitable for mature teens.

Nineteen-year-old Fern Johnson struggles to hold a job and ignore her imaginary friend. She only wants to care for her niece, and shield her from the same childhood—the same trauma—Fern suffered. A trauma Fern can’t remember, but that brought Tristian, her imaginary friend, into her life.

In The Girl Who Could See, a contemporary sci-fi, Kara Swanson weaves a tale layered in action, mystery, and suspense with hauntingly beautiful prose. Exciting and, at times, heart wrenching, this novella explores the themes of love and sacrifice. Fans who enjoy a blend of crime-thriller suspense, science, and heart will enjoy The Girl Who Could See. Highly recommended.

And, if you prefer audiobooks, the narrator does an excellent job of reading.

The Girl Who Could See is available on Amazon.

Content Guide

Romance (low)
Flirting and a kiss.

Violence (low)
Mention of blood, bleeding, and violence. Nothing graphic or detailed.

Language (low)
Two instances of the word stupid.

Sensitive Topics (low)
Fern comes from a broken home. Mention of drugs, trafficking, and abduction. Nothing graphic or detailed.

About The Girl Who Could See

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see. 

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

Visit Amazon for more details and reviews.

About Kara Swanson

As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate to characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself.

​Shortly after moving stateside, Kara received the Mount Hermon Conference “Most Promising Teen Writer Award.” Her latest release, The Girl Who Could See, was a finalist for a 2018 INSPY Award and won the 2018 Parable Award. 

Swanson is on the faculty for the Young Writer’s Workshopalongside best-selling authors Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe, where they guide thousands of young writers. She is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency and has been on staff for the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conferenceand the Realm Makers Writers’ Conference. She works with many authors and editors as a communications and marketing assistant, as well as offering critique and proofreading services. She has had articles published in online and print magazines, including Brio MagazineThe Rebelution.com and Encounter Magazine

Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light shattering darkness, forming sincere connections with readers, and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order.

​Kara loves to hang out with other book nerds and chocolate enthusiasts on Instagram (@karaswansonauthor), Twitter (@kswansonbooks), and on her website (karaswanson.com).

The Invasion of Rocket City

Suck it up, buttercup.

The words were a mantra. They kept Jude going when her mind and body betrayed her. Weakness was death in the Rocket City. She’d learned that growing up as an orphan in this gang-infested territory, the last human colony on Earth. Ripping out your heart, distancing yourself, was the only way to survive.

That’s why she moved to the outskirts of town. Solitude was safe.

One last bolt and the heavy machine gun would be ready to test. Ax, the leader of the Raging Pistons, had requested the weapon weeks ago. He was coming to check it out today and, if it went well, he’d order enough to keep Jude working for a year. She needed this. Supplies were thin, and nobody else was willing to take a chance on a sixteen-year-old girl building specialized weapons for them.

Freshly greased, the large wheels glided with minimal force as Jude pushed the free-standing gun out of her dilapidated shop. Its dark, matte finish absorbed the glare of the sun instead of reflecting it. No one wanted a weapon that could double as a beacon.

Everyone was armed out here. The element of surprise mattered, unless, like Ax, you had five times more people than anyone else. Of course, he was also shrewd and knew arrogance could get you killed. No matter how fierce you were, there was nothing you could do if Ax came for you. He would wait, lulling you into believing you were safe, and then pounce, a predator in the dark, his eyes locked on yours a moment before releasing repressed rage.

Jude shielded her eyes and looked toward the city. Dust clouds blocked the view of the buildings in the distance. Ax rode hard, and he wasn’t alone. Jude tensed. She patted her thighs without looking away from the incoming riders, and then remembered she had removed her weapons. With only a few seconds to prepare, she ducked into the shop to arm herself. She belted the holster with her twin eighteen-inch machetes, pulled on the metal lined vest lying next to her toolbox, and grabbed the big wrench on top of the workbench.

Ax and his gang dismounted as Jude emerged from the shop. With narrowed eyes, Ax followed her movements. He grinned as she shifted from one foot to another. An older, brutish man with massive hands, his deep, gravel voice sent chills up her spine. “You seem nervous, Jude.  Is it ready?”

Jude licked her lips. “Haven’t tested it yet, but, yeah, it’s ready.”

“Good.” Ax walked over to the heavy machine gun to inspect it. In his hands, the weapon looked like a toy.

At any moment, he could crush it like a can, crush me like a can.

“Get the ammo,” Ax ordered.

Jude walked to the back of the shop to grab the ammo. From inside, she heard Ax’s men start shouting. Their words ran together. She couldn’t understand most of what they said, but she heard something about a ship in the sky. Jude rushed back outside; her arms weighed down by ammo cans. Ax grabbed them from her while she stood there with her mouth wide open. Hundreds of Shark Riders, zombies on the backs of cyborg sharks, descended from an airship circling above the clouds. It’s gleaming metal exterior reflected beams of sunlight like a disco ball.

“We need weapons, ammo – anything you got. Move.” Ax ordered.


Jude only had seconds to decide. If she revealed her deception, Ax would demand her head. However, if she didn’t, they might all die.

It was only one ship. Maybe we could take it down without the extra firepower?

The portal in the sky opened again, purging a dozen more airships like the first. This time, the Shark Riders hadn’t merely stumbled upon them. It was a full-scale invasion.

On heavy gun and a small arsenal wouldn’t be enough. They’d all die for sure without more firepower.

Stealing from Axe had been stupid. But desperation performed its own kind of lobotomy on a person. Jude never thought he’d find out about the extra parts. And now, her only chance at survival hinged on coming clean.

She clenched her jaw.

Commanding the attention of several of Ax’s men, Jude shouted, “Come on. Gimme a hand.” She motioned to the other large shop doors. Together, they retrieved three more heavy machine guns. Jude risked a glance at Ax as they loaded the weapons. Their eyes locked. Ax gave Jude a knowing look. Had he suspected since the beginning that she had overcharged him for parts?

“Fire.” Ax shouted. Jude’s ears filled with ringing from the loud, constant clanging. Her arms felt like they were being ripped from the sockets but she managed to keep control of the weapon. Sharks fell from the sky, but more took their place. The enormous, winged beasts with razor-sharp teeth had a blood thirst matched only by the zombies rising from the ground.

Jude looked at the men around her. Focused. Determined. Closing ranks.

Jude had existed alone most of her life. But alone, none of them would survive. None of them would live.

***This story has been modified and refined from its original version, first published in 2017. If you enjoyed this story, drop a line in the comments or share it with a friend.