While the third game is just a rumor at this point, fans of the shooters The Division and The Division 2 still have a lot to look forward to. Not only will there soon be a spin-off game called Heartland, but there’s also a movie in the works, with Jessica Chastain [Zero Dark Thirty] and Jake Gyllenhaal [Spider-Man: Far From Home] slated to take direction from Rawson Marshall Thurber [Skyscraper]. But first, fans can enjoy a suburban vacation (of sorts) with Tom Clancy’s The Division: Recruited (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), a new novel from writer Thomas Parrott. In the following email interview, Parrot discusses how he came to write this survival thriller, what inspired it, and why he balked when I referred to the games as “post-apocalyptic sci-fi shooters.”
To start, what is Tom Clancy’s The Division: Recruited about, and when and where is it set in relation to the games The Division and The Division 2?
Recruited picks up after The Division 2 in the timeline. Order is being restored to Washington, DC, but that doesn’t mean a return to normal is possible. The remnants of the gangs and militias that tore the city apart are retreating into the surrounding area and making life hell for the people there. One such outlying community is Athena, in the ruins of Rockville, Maryland. Maira Kanhai is a Navy veteran who has ended up in charge of the community’s security by virtue of knowing how to carry a gun. When destruction comes for Athena in the form of a mob of Outcasts, the community is poised to fall in spite of her best efforts. Only intervention by a cell of Division agents saves them, and they take a loss in the process.
For Maira, that’s only the beginning. They want her to come with them, on a mission into the heart of the country that will have far reaching consequences…
And is there any connection between your novel and the previous Division books, New York Collapse: An Urban Catastrophe Survival Guide and The Division: Broken Dawn, both of which were written by Alex Irvine?
Only in the sense that they happen in the same world. You’ll recognize locations and factions and things of that nature, but this is a new story with new characters. We didn’t want people to get locked out by having to read the past books before they could jump into this one.
How familiar were you with The Division games before you got hired to write The Division: Recruited?
Not at all. I mean, I’d heard of it, but I’d never played it. I don’t have the reflexes for shooters. I’m still pondering what to do by the time someone else has sniped me and moved on with their life.
So then where did you get the idea for The Division: Recruited, and how, if at all, did that idea change after you suggest this idea to the good people at Massive Games?
That’s a funny thing, because I did not suggest it. This was a very unusual situation. Another author came up with the idea and pitched it, and then had to back out at the last minute. I had just finished another project for Aconyte [Recruited‘s publisher], and so they offered it to me. By the time I could agree and get signed, time was short. It was a challenge. I definitely had to hit the ground running.
I assume, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that like the games, The Division: Recruited is a post-apocalyptic techno sci-fi thriller….
I can tell you Massive don’t like the words “post-apocalyptic.” They prefer to think of The Division as preventing a disaster, not just living in the wake of one. And I think it’s more grounded than sci-fi would suggest. There’s really not a lot in the way of miracle technologies. The characters spend most of the story traveling by shank’s mare and living in all the discomfort that would suggest.
I might call it a survival thriller.
Now, The Division: Recruited is not your first published work. You previously wrote the novella Isha’s Lament, as well as a number of short stories. Are there any writers who had a big influence on Recruited but not on anything else you’ve written?
That’s a tough question to answer. I learn a ton from reading other authors, but I never set out to emulate anyone specifically. That said, in a weird way this book makes me think of such planetary romances as Burroughs’ John Carter Of Mars or perhaps Ringworld by Larry Niven. It’s set on Earth in a familiar world, but at the same time the Green Poison has changed the face of America irrevocably. The agents are definitely traveling into the unknown. What strange groups will they meet? What adventures will they have along the way? That kind of thing.
What about Tom Clancy?
The honest truth is I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel. I’m a fan of the movies, and I loved Amazon’s Shadow Recruit series, but thrillers aren’t usually my genre when it comes to reading. I’m more of a dragons and spaceships kind of guy.
As we’ve been discussing The Division: Recruited is connected to the video games The Division and The Division 2. But was it influenced by any other games, or, while we’re on the subject, any movies or TV shows?
I thought of the movie I Am Legend a lot when I was describing the visuals. The modern cities falling into ruin, creepers scaling skyscrapers, and grass pushing through concrete. That kind of thing. The Last Of Us was very instructive in that regard, too. And I took some inspiration from the real life journals of the Lewis & Clark expedition. I’m not sure if that counts as literary or not.
Now, in researching you for this interview, something came up, and if you don’t want to talk about it, I completely understand it, but I have to ask: Should we read anything into the fact that you have the same name as a noted CIA officer…who died in 2007…supposedly…
Ha! You had me there in the first half, I’m not gonna lie. I was starting to sweat.
But the CIA? What, like I’m some kind of former agent in hiding? Don’t be silly.
Actually, could you tell me if this rag smells like chloroform real quick?
I’m getting hints of oak…cherries…. Moving on, The Division: Recruited is subtitled An Operation Crossroads Novel. Which seems to suggest this is the first novel in a series.
That certainly does suggest the possibility of more, doesn’t it? I would love to continue Maira’s story. Alas, we live in a world full of uncertainties. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Which means you probably can’t tell us if the Operation Crossroads novels will ultimately lead up to The Division 3, can you?
That would be super cool! You’d have to ask Ubisoft about that one.
Speaking of which, do you think the story you’re telling in The Division: Recruited could work as a game, like maybe as part of The Division 3?
Just personally speaking, I don’t think any novel’s story is going to make for a good game on a 1:1 basis. Novels are non-participatory by their nature, while player involvement is the great strength of video games. But something like Recruited? The tale of someone pulled into the greater web of events in this world? Absolutely.
I don’t think it would work within the current game style of the series, though. The Division and The Division 2 have had to convey narrative very indirectly, in the recordings you find and things you overhear.
If you gave me my druthers — and why wouldn’t you when I’m so obviously brilliant and have so many successful AAA games to my name — I’d love to see something like XCOM set in this universe. A starting cell of Division Agents inserted into a region and confronting a crisis there, forced to recruit from the locals to keep their mission going. That would be fun.
Now, The Division: Recruited will obviously be of interest to fans of the game. But do you think people who aren’t into the game, but are fans of Tom Clancy or just survival thrillers will enjoy this story as well…and be able to follow it?
I think anyone can pick it up and follow it. And (I may be a bit biased here) I think they should. We were careful to stage this book as an introduction to the world. Maira lives in the reality of the Green Poison, but she’s new to the specifics of The Division and how it works. The reader can learn along with her.
Finally, is there anything else you think someone should know about Tom Clancy’s The Division: Recruited?
Where else can you read about chlorine gas, dirty bombs, and a bear? Come on. That’s got to be intriguing, right?