The Pandora Detective is a novelization of the fourth game in the Tex Murphy series. These are point-and-click adventures about a private investigator. Some of the other games in the series have been turned into books, and I’ll check them out at some point.
This story feels like a version of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You have someone hunting around for clues that lead to aliens in Peru. It also has to do with the Roswell incident.
The book takes place in San Francisco. I can’t tell if it is a dystopian world. There are hints of global disasters, and the government might be corrupt. The NSA is portrayed as above the law and can do whatever they want. It is rather funny to me.
We follow Tex Murphy as he works his way through a simple case. He has to find someone named Malloy. There is also some character-building here, just in case you haven’t read the previous book or if you haven’t played the video games.
We start in a bar with Tex trying and failing to hook up with Chelsee. He tried, but none of his charms helped him. She is important for the story as a character development for Tex. She also provides a reason why he isn’t interested in Regen. We also get introduced to Fitzpatrick.
After Chelsee leaves, Fitzpatrick meets up with Tex. Through their shared interests in tobacco and alcohol, Tex gets hired to find Malloy. This person is friends with Fitzpatrick and has a habit of disappearing. Now, let’s talk about Regen.
Regen shows up as a witness to a crime that Tex commits. In the course of his investigation, Tex meets Emily and learns about these boxes that Malloy sent to several people. Emely turns out to be Malloy’s wife, and Regen turns out to be his daughter.
Regen is also going to be one of our villains. She is constantly trying to manipulate Tex and is working with Cross, who is a corrupt NSA agent. There are almost too many characters in this book, and it makes retelling the story a little confusing.
Eventually, Tex meets up with Malloy, who tells him about the five boxes and how it all ties into the Roswell incident. If you don’t know, a UFO crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, and the government covered it up. There is more to it, but this is an overly simplified explanation that fits into the plot of this book.
Tex travels down to the base in Roswell. He gains access to the underground parts of the base, finds a power cell, and accidentally unleashes some virus or entity that killed everyone in the base. Then he leaves and mails the power cell to Fitzpatrick.
There are so many minor events that seem unrelated to the plot in this book. About halfway through the book, Tex finds Malloy, and the NSA kills Malloy. This seems to galvanize Tex into seeing this case to the end, even though he was only hired to find Malloy.
All of this leads Tex to try and gather these boxes that Malloy sent to five people. This does come into play near the end of the book. Let’s back up and talk about a character named Archie.
Archie is a UFO conspiracy theory stereotype. At least, he is the 1990s version of that stereotype. Malloy sent him one of the boxes. However, his box is stolen by someone, and he gets killed after talking with Tex.
It turns out that the NSA kills Archie and that Regen stole his box. That is how she gets involved in the story. She is trying to get a hold of what her father created so she can sell it to someone. We don’t know who, and we aren’t going to find out.
At the end of the book, Tex travels to Peru to find the second alien ship and destroy it. Regen and Cross follow him there, and we discover that Regen is evil. You probably should have figured this out from the beginning, but she is evil if you didn’t.
Cross, Regen, and Fitzpatrick end up dying to make sure that the alien tech doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. By the way, Fitzpatrick shows up at the end because we needed to have an out for Tex.
Tex returns home and tries to put his life back together. We get some answers to the questions left unanswered by the end of the book. Some of those answers aren’t great, but we get them nonetheless. There is also some closure on Chelsee and Tex’s relationship.
So, Chelsee hooks up with a hologram, which sounds like one of the most future solutions to not being able to find a partner that I can think of. The only thing better would have been if she hooked up with an android. Tex is a little sad about this, but he does the only thing he can think of; he orders two holograms to be his romantic interests.
Based on the Fourth Game
I’m used to reading novels based on games I’ve never played. In this case, I’m reading a book based on the fourth game in a series. It is also the second novel in the series of books.
Since these follow one case, you don’t need to know about the previous stories in the series. I’ve gotten this from reading the book and researching the other games in the series. I like this because it means you can start where ever you want.
Not only can you start with any of the four books, but you can start with any of the games. There isn’t a grand story being told. It is more like a comic book or a serial police story.
There were a few callbacks to previous cases that Tex had worked on, but those were kept for the end of the book. Tex and his supporting cast are introduced to the reader, which helps out quite a bit. It made it easier for me because I didn’t know who these people were.
Tex is kind of Stupid
Tex has many problems. Most of them are of his own making. He stumbles into some situations, but many of his problems are caused by his need to lie about things.
It is like he can’t get out of his own way. In several cases, he has no reason to lie about things, but he does it anyway, making things worse. Things would have been much easier if he would just tell the truth.
Having Tex lie about stupid things does make the book more interesting. This is one of those double-edged swords, where making him dumb is a good thing for the book, but it annoys the reader. It is similar to having someone run upstairs from the killer instead of having them leave the house.
He does have some selective incompetence. He can pick up on Regen flirting with him but has a hard time figuring out what Chelsee wants. It is strange, but it does make the book much better.
It is more of a plot device than anything else. He is brilliant when he needs to be and dumb when he needs to be. This is something that I don’t mind, but it was very annoying.
Book vs. the Game
There are some minor differences between the game and the book. Most have to do with Tex doing more in the game than in the book. All of the characters are the same, but some events are different.
The ending is entirely different in the book. The game stops after the ship is destroyed, while the book wraps things up for the reader. You also hear about Fitzpatrick’s alien origins, which is odd. The book does a better job of explaining why Fitzpatrick knows how to fly the ship.
You get more closure in the book. The plot threads are explained, and you discover what is happening. There are also some changes to why things happen.
When Tex travels to Roswell in the book, he finds two guys standing guard, and they let him into the facility. In the game, the base is deserted. The book’s explanation makes more sense, especially when Tex almost kills everyone on the planet. You wouldn’t just leave this place without a guard.
Locations for events have also changed. When our characters meet to decide what to do, the location differs in the book and the game. It is another example of the game having Tex doing everything. The book makes more sense as people with more experience with the boxes and alien technology assemble the Pandora Device.
Overall, both stories are very good. The book makes more sense than the video game, but it is like comparing apples to oranges. You wouldn’t want to have Tex do everything in the book. It wouldn’t make too much sense.
Likes and Dislikes
I liked this book. The book had some annoying parts, but it was a good read overall. There are only minor parts of the book that I didn’t like.
The character of Vasha was the only thing that I thought was strange. It also ties into something else that was dumb. Tex breaks into Witt’s home to steal part of the Pandora Device. This probably wouldn’t have been necessary if he had told the truth.
Vasha is Witt’s niece. She alludes to being held against her will and wants Tex to help her escape. This subplot is immediately abandoned after it is introduced. It made me wonder why it was introduced in the first place.
Aside from that, there isn’t much that I don’t like about the book. It is a fun story that reminds me of a comic book or a 1930s detective story. The story made me want to go and see what else is in this series of video games.
The Pandora Directive is a fun detective story. It brings in some conspiracy theories about aliens and the US government. The world that this story exists in is rather interesting. It is dark, and it is grimy.
Almost everyone in the book smokes constantly, and they drink like fish. It feels like a 1930s detective story set in s dystopian future. Not an overly technologically advanced future, but one that is further along than the late 90s and early 2000s.
There are other books based on Tex Murphy games. I’m looking forward to reading them. I might want to look at the games at some point. It seems like a very interesting set of stories.