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Borderlands: Debt or Alive – Book Review

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Borderlands Debt or Alive Book Review
Borderlands Debt or Alive

I do enjoy a good read. Switching off all external stimuli and relying only on the written word and my own imagination to picture what is happening in the safety of my own head feels like proper relaxation. When I can combine this activity with my love of video games, then well, that is truly a great time. 

And wouldn’t you know it, but there is a new book from Titan Books based around the Tales of the Borderlands games, entitled Borderlands: Debt or Alive.

The first thing that drew me to it was obviously the Borderlands name, but then I realised that this particular tome is also written by Anthony Burch, writer of my favourite game of the whole series, Borderlands 2. With a pedigree like that on board, what could possibly go wrong?

The story of the book picks up at the end of Tales from the Borderlands, where Fiona, Sasha and Rhys have just opened the Vault of the Traveller. It is always tricky in a review of a book as to how much detail to go into – too much will spoil the story, obviously, but I want to gee you up to go and read the rest of the book! 

Anyway, as a bare bones outline, Fiona and Sasha get their hands on a Typhon DeLeon Vaultlander doll, which is worth an obscene amount of money. Of course, they now need to sell said doll to a “nerd with deep pockets” and so head to Eden-5, home to quite a lot of billionaires. As they are about to complete the sale, a certain Mechromancer comes through the wall and attempts to kill their buyer. What will happen next? Well, I’m not going to explain any further, but suffice to say that there are more than a few crosses, double crosses and I think at least one triple cross!

The writing on display here is very good indeed, from the language used to the exact turn of phrase that you just know that a Vault Hunter would use. There is a real urgency to the story, an almost physical need to get to the next part of the narrative and see how everything turns out. The Mechromancer is of course Gaige, along with her trusty murderbot, Deathtrap, fresh from Borderlands 2. But we get to see a different side of her here, and we also get to know more about Fiona and Sasha. Rhys? Well, not so much, as he has a very background role this time around. Getting a peek into the three main characters’ motivations and inner thought processes, is something that a book will always do better than a video game, and for this reason I for one hope Mr Burch can be prevailed upon to write a few more. 

One thing that older readers, such as myself, will appreciate about Borderlands: Debt or Alive is that at certain points in the narrative, it turns into a “Choose your own Adventure” book. Remember those? Yes, this will pause and give you a few options to follow – will you bribe someone or threaten them, for instance? Well, luckily all the choices lead to the same place (and yes, I did read them all) and so the jeopardy isn’t as high as it used to be in the Ian Livingstone days. It is, however, still an enjoyable diversion. 

Also scattered through the work are a number of amusing footnotes, very much in the style of Sir Terry Pratchett, that lend an extra bit of the background to whatever is happening at the moment. There is a playfulness throughout Borderlands: Debt or Alive, which is often at odds with the extreme violence and general mayhem that is going on, but it is this that captures the spirit of the Borderlands games – and captures it brilliantly. The same dark humour, the same use of violence as a way of self expression, the same banter between the characters; it is all brilliantly Borderlands, and I loved every page. 

I guess the moral of the story here is that if you want a book representation of one of your favourite game franchises (as Borderlands is for me) the best thing to do is to get the bloke who wrote the best of the games to scribble it for you. It has worked brilliantly in this case, and Borderlands: Debt or Alive should be on the reading list of any self respecting fan of the franchise. Of course, as this is a standalone story, it also works really well as an introduction to the characters found in the Borderlands games. And, frankly, more background to any games universe is alright with me. 


Huge thanks go out to Titan Books for sending us a copy of Borderlands: Debt of Alive for review. Grab a copy for yourself from Titan Books direct. £9.99 is a steal. 

And if pretty pictures are more your thing, seriously consider checking out Titan’s stunning The Art of Borderlands 3

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