Last year, I wrote an article about weird novelizations. Doing so absolutely required a mention of GEX by Michael Teitelbaum, because why would anyone write a book about Gex? Today, all 80 pages of Michael’s classic gecko-based novel arrived in my mailbox. I guess there’s only one thing to do — go through this book one chapter at a time and figure out why it exists.
Some background: this book is an adaptation of the late 90s 3D platformer series of the same name. Three Gex games were released between 1994 and 1999, and this book was released in 2000 as one of the franchise’s final attempts at continued existence. I’m not an expert on Gex mythology; I’ve played the second game, Enter the Gecko, and read this very book as a tiny child. That’s it.
It’s tail time, I guess.
GEX: Chapter 1
Right away, unfathomable secrets are revealed.
“I’m GEX – short for Gecko Extraordinaire.”
I’ve been staring at this sentence for five minutes, and I don’t know if it’s a joke. Is Gex trying to be funny, or is his name — always presented in capital letters within this book, something inconsistent with the games — actually short for that…? This is page one, sentence one. We can’t afford to dwell on this.
“I’ve been fighting Rez for a long time (since way before I saw the report on the TV news telling me that Rez had kidnapped my beautiful partner, Agent Xtra, and pulled her into the media dimension).”
That sentence was impenetrable, but luckily Gex backs up to explain. This will be his “third trip into the media dimension,” and “it’s gonna be deja-ouch all over again!” That doesn’t mean anything, Gex. Our infallible narrator spends the rest of the chapter recapping the events of his first game.
Remember, this is the game the book is based on.
What follows is canon. This is the actual plot of Gex. He was a gecko living in Hawaii with his family, but everything changed when his father, a NASA astronaut, was killed in a space shuttle explosion. Yep.
“There were no survivors — only gallons of burnt tapioca.”
Gex is shockingly casual when discussing his father’s tragic death. This must be a recent change, because he describes the months after the explosion as a quick descent into solitude and depression.
“I closed down, bottling up my grief. I took comfort in the only thing that had always provided me with relief — TV.”
Why is the backstory so bleak and tragic? Who decided this character needed such a dark past? Gex uses TV as a crutch, spending entire days watching the tube until his mother grows concerned. She moves the family to California (a completely irrelevant detail) and throws out his TV.
He spends the next few months hanging around with “local punks,” sleeping in garages, blasting music too loud, and causing a scene.
“I hated this place. I hated myself.”
Again, this is the game the book is based on.
Luckily, this is all immediately rendered irrelevant when Gex’s Uncle Charlie dies unexpectedly and leaves the family millions of dollars. Gex’s mother buys NASA and shuts it down, his siblings buy Australia, and Gex retires to Maui with a giant television.
This backstory takes up most of the chapter, leaving only a few pages for an actual recap of the game’s plot. Gex gets pulled into his television and “the media dimension” by some TV ghoul named Rez who wants to make him into a bronzed channel mascot. He escapes by using TV sets to travel to different worlds like Cartoon World and Kung-Fu world, Super Mario 64 style — all the while making awful pop culture jokes, Gex style. The weirdest element in the writing here is that, in some really specific attention to detail that no one asked for, Gex describes and names each of his in-game attacks. It’s less of a video game adaptation and more of an instruction manual adaptation. He even coins his own catchphrase (ugh), “It’s tail time!”.
So Gex defeats Rez, returns home, and continues wasting his life watching TV. We’re ready for the book’s actual plot to begin.
But there’s an unavoidable question: why the fuck is Gex’s backstory so dense? Everything about it is baffling. Did we really need a father’s death, trauma, clinical depression, and a dead millionaire uncle to set things up? Gex’s past has so many elements of that they end up canceling each other out. Does any of it matter? I guess not, because this book is about Gex.
One last time, this is the game the book is based on.
Unbearable Pop Culture References in Chapter 1:
- “Luke, I am your gecko!”
- “Holy chrysanthemum, Batman!”
- “Frankenstein and Dracula Meet the Giant Tomatoes from Jupiter.”
- “Hi, I’m here for the Frosted Flakes interview!” (said to a tiger)
- “Will Chuck Norris please report to the front desk?
- “Paging Jean-Claude Van Damme.”
- “Goldberg’s Jackhammer was already copyrighted.”
- “Shaken, not stirred.”
So that’s how Gex became Gex. Next time, we’ll find out what Gex does when he’s Gex.
Jonathan Persinger is a fiction/pop culture writer from Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Cracked, eFiction, the Avalon Literary Review (Summer 2014), Quail Bell Magazine, and more, with upcoming work in the Potomac Review and Scribble. He makes fun of TV shows meant for children at Blog with a Dog. He’s also the founding editor of Remarkable Doorways Online Literary Magazine, which is currently open for submissions.