Mexican food existentialism, bear gods, and the death of a galaxy: the Far Cry 5 novel is weird

Far Cry 5 has a novel tie-in, because of course it does. It's not a necessary story, it's one that flails around in information we already know or could have gleaned from a conversation or two with those involved in the final game. This isn't to say it's an awful book. Absolution is decent afternoon of action, a story about people with guns, some of whom are sad and some of whom are crazed religious cultists forcing the locals to take hallucinogenic drugs—a tale as old as time itself.

But the novel has a penchant for trying very hard to sound like Cormac McCarthy, describing simple actions with near biblical profundity. Modern day Montana is not the old west, so treating violence and nature with the same crude tools as an infinitely burning bush or a dope ass Clint Eastwood monologue is going to feel forced. Absolution is at its best during its frequent action scenes where the writing is clear and vivid, not when reaching to transcend its videogame novel tie-in reality. 

So in the name of fun, we've selected a few choice quotes from Absolution where it veers off track, and channels or contradicts what we think of when we think of playing Far Cry 5. Ragdoll effects are difficult to capture with the written word, turns out. Be warned, if you plan on reading Absolution, we're going to spoil it from top to bottom. 

To set up these passages with the proper context, all you really need to know is that Mary May (yeah, the bartender from the early trailers) goes looking for her brother at Eden's Gate (the cultist HQ). They give chase, sending their best hunter Will after her. Will is battling some internal, gastrointestinal demons, as we'll soon find out. 

A man is tired and thirsty 

That wise old scripture-stealing cowboy syntax doesn't work too well when describing basic bodily needs.

"He was running on empty and he knew it. No sweat now felt across his skin and a desperate need felt in the bowels of his stomach and on his tongue for liquid."

He was tired and thirsty.

The cultists don't actually believe in anything 

"We stand on the edge of a great chasm. Below us is the fate of mankind. Humanity has grown numb to the machine of strife that it has created, but we cannot. We and we alone have been chosen to survive this calamity and rebuild. We are all angels, and we few are set on a path back to the garden. We are a Family. I am your Father. You are my Children. And together we will march to Eden's Gate."

The author must have had one hell of a time writing the cultist leaders. Almost any time they speak—and this is something I've noticed from playing Far Cry 5 and watching the short film—they say nothing at all when they open their mouths. I suppose that's why they dunk people in drugs though.

Gun cape / Gas cape

"Will looked the first guard over, but decided there was no time to try and wrestle the strap of the AR-15 off his shoulder and from underneath this now-unconscious body. Instead, Will lifted Drew up and went out through the rear door of the house and into the open beyond. He had only begun to smell the gas, and now as he came into the open land outside the house he felt almost as if he wore it like a cape around his neck, dragging it forth upon the world."

Whew, this simile is a doozy. We get this whole bit about him not taking the AR-15 off, then we get him walking through the gas. Is he dragging the gas out like a cape? Is the gun the cape? Why are they capes? I don't get the hero vibe from Will, and I don't think he sees himself that way either. 

Hey, that's the name of the book! 

Looks like the cape simile worked out for Will in the end. 

"He couldn't just hit and hope it all went away. He knew he was doing something now. He hoped it was enough for absolution."

I imagined the guy looking directly at me when he said this.

In which Mexican food causes a small existential epiphany 

"They were eating corn tortillas heated in a pan set by the fire and in the pot simmered a kind of thick stew of meat and beans and spices that smelled of some other world she had not known existed here, but that caused her mouth to water."

We're meant to read this as the character, Mary May, longing for a better (tastier) world, one post the Eden's Gate crisis, but it just makes her sound like the most naive, inexperienced person alive. I love genuine Mexican food, but it exists in Montana, I promise.

Bears are God? Bears are God.  

Absolution sets up the big questions early on.

"Lonny finished the cigarette and flicked it away toward the fire pit, 'You think this bear is supernatural? You think this bear is some heavenly retribution? The Father would love that. That would be scripture to the man."

And follows up in the final pages.

"The flash of brown was the first thing he saw. The bush moved again and he saw the fur. It was a grizzly bear, but he could not tell its height or girth or anything more than that he was not alone. He thought of the big boar grizzly he had seen in the lightning storm that night. He thought of the same bear seen across the river a couple days later, probably returned to whatever haunts it had before. But Will knew it had not disappeared, that nothing disappeared, wherever it went it was always somewhere, like a ghost or like a memory that never seemed to fade."

If the final scene of Far Cry 5 doesn't involve your good bear friend Cheeseburger revealing that he can speak and move mountains, I'm done. 

What is real? 

The lines between game and book blur when Will spots Mary May for the first time.

"He placed the scope to his eye again and marked her."

I couldn't help but imagine a little triangle snapping into view above Mary's head. On purpose or not, it got me.

Ragdoll prose is not funny 

A man tumbling down a cliffside is funny when I think of it happening in the Far Cry engine. Ragdoll effects are clumsy slapstick comedy. But they don't carry the same charm in written form. 

"Will saw him falling. It seemed like a minute before Lonny hit, but it must have been merely a second or two. The body landed in the loose rock and talus a hundred feet below then bounced awkwardly as it somersaulted and careened, legs and arms stretched outward down the slope, sliding to a stop amid the larger boulders toward the bottom of the cliff debris."

My brain graphics are too good. 

"Will stood there staring down. One of Lonny's arms lay behind him in a strange backwards rapture, while his face looked upward and his head appeared like it had been popped and then stretched away from off his body. The skin of the neck was the only thing to keep it now attached."


A person runs 

"As her lungs beat, pulling at the air like the air itself was not enough and the capillaries in her heart burst like distant stars, far away but looming ever closer—she ran."

That is a busy sentence. She's running, not experiencing the death of a galaxy inside of her. It continues.

"In the checkered light of shadow and sun that came streaming down through the pines, the world bounced across her vision with the frenetic pull of some devil's hacksaw, raking away at the earth far down below."

She's running. 


One of the lead characters is dealing with some shit. He's also old and coughs up blood from time to time. It means something.

"After an hour he was still awake, just lying there watching above as the sun chased the last remaining stars from out of the sky. On the ground beside him, dark as a pool of tar was the blackened and drying blood of an ulcer or some other wickedness he had brought up from somewhere deep inside."

It happens a lot, but in case you don't catch on by the end, Absolution makes the message crystal clear.

"He was so tired. So very tired and once more he felt something move inside of him and come loose and he coughed it up and stood looking at it on the ground, a clot of blood that was the size and shape of a golf ball. An ulcer surely grown in his stomach—a physical manifestation of his own fears and doubts concerning Eden's Gate."

The lesson is clearly that you should head to your doctor and get that shit checked out already, yeesh.

Hey, that's the name of the game! 

"The far cry of a loggerhead shrike sounded to his right, the bird launched from its perch and dipped through the trees until it broke into open grasslands beyond."

Honestly, I'm surprised this didn't happen more. A shame.

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.