God Of War Novel – Author Interview
The author of the recent God Of War novel based on the original PS2 game speaks exclusively to Play
In Issue 195 of Play we promised you our full interview with God Of War novel author Robert E Vardeman, so here it is. Enjoy.
Play: Was there anything in particular that attracted you to working on the God Of War novel?
Vardeman: When I was in the fifth grade, the only interesting book in the library was an old book of mythology dating back to the 1930s. It had slick pages, unlike the other books with their pulp paper, and best of all were the full-color illustrations. The pictures of Pegasus and Hercules and Jason and Achilles were magical. I was already hooked on reading science fiction and had read everything Clarke and Asimov had written (up to that point), but this old textbook got me started on fantasy, especially Greek mythology with the intricate pantheon of gods and goddesses. The chance to frolic in Olympus and fight with the Ghost of Sparta was an opportunity not to be missed.
Play: How closely did you have to stick to the plot of the game itself?
RV: It was necessary to give gamers a solid foundation—and this was the story of Kratos they already knew so well. But a novel is a completely different creature from a game. Fighting minotaurs and undead legionnaires requires a lot of dexterity and reflexes but not much in the way of dramatic tension or plot arc or characterization. To make a novel that didn’t simply follow the splendid action of the game required additional material. What was Zeus doing while Kratos battled? What did Athena do to remove Ares when Zeus had decreed that one god could not fight another? This added political fighting, subterfuge, back-stabbing and clandestine alliances behind the scenes to give motivation to Kratos’ battles.
So, the game plot is all there but with new material to add dramatic elements best suited in a novel.
Play: Did you need to play the game extensively beforehand to familiarise yourself with it?
RV: If I’d had to play through the game to learn what was happening, I’d still be playing (after all those years I’d still be waiting to blow the horn to summon Cronos!) When DOOM was new, I took an impossible time to get through it and proved to myself sudoku is where I ought to spend my time. I am still working up the nerve to get started on HALF-LIFE, and probably will still be working up the nerve this time next year. But you can bet I’ll have done a lot of sudokus before then.
Play: How much additional research did you do into Greek history and mythology to support the book?
RV: The mythology of GOD OF WAR is based on traditional Edith Hamilton Greek mythology but has added trials, tribulations and motivations. The Olympians are still venal and heroic and self-centered and high-minded, with all human traits vastly magnified, but there are stories not found in conventional Greek mythology. Think of the GOD OF WAR universe as the accepted mythology on steroids.
Play: What do you think of Kratos as a lead character? Is he quite unique?
RV: Kratos is a tortured soul, wanting only surcease from the fate Ares has decreed for him. The hero on a quest is the mainstay of mythology, and Kratos fits this mould well. His single-minded mission turns him into a force of nature, the irresistible force that cannot be stopped. Throughout, his tortured spirit drives him. So, yes, he is a substantial character who must carry out the will of the gods but does so for his own reasons. This conflict of motives makes him a great, if troubled, hero.
Play: Do you think Kratos could support further novels, perhaps going beyond the events of the three games?
RV: I am currently working on the second GOD OF WAR book, again following the game while adding and expanding and explaining the machinations of the gods (and heroes)(and Titans)(and Fates) to the mix. Beyond the games’ plots are so many potential story ideas where Kratos would be a perfect fit that it would be a shame if there weren’t auxiliary books to fill in the details of his quest as well as stories while a minion of Ares (or even a Spartan commander before he met the Barbarian King). And then there could be…but there are so many exciting possibilities to expand the adventures of the Ghost of Sparta.