Book Review: Tom Clancy’s The Division: New York Collapse


Hey, game companies and book publishers, do more tie-in books like this please!

Art books, novelizations, and prequel comics are great–Lord knows I love ’em all!–but New York Collapse, an interactive survival guide and novella-like story set in the world of Ubisoft’s new Tom Clancy shooter The Division, really pushes the boundaries of what cross-media storytelling is capable of.

Anyone who has played The Division has probably noticed the collectible survival guide pages. Well, those pages are digital collectibles pulled straight from this full, printed New York Collapse guide book. While it is a fictional survival guide, its application is actually quite useful for learning how to prepare for emergencies and potentially catastrophic events. The guide shows how to treat wounds, build temporary shelters, start fires (beyond the rubbing sticks together method), create makeshift heaters, filter/purify water, speak important phrases in other languages, and just plain stay alive with limited resources.

The neat thing about New York Collapse is that it is literally two books in one. Within the pages of the survival guide is also written the story of a woman living through the pandemic apocalypse, penned by her own hand. This particular copy of New York Collapse is (or was I should say) the property of one April Kelleher, who received the book as a sort of gag gift from her husband, Bill, some kind of a doctor or scientist working at a biotech lab. April makes direct comments about tips from the guide that she found helpful and chronicles her plight through journal entries logged within the margins, wrapping around and intermixing with the printed guide text. I was immediately reminded me of how Pi, in the movie Life of Pi, kept a journal within the survival at sea guide he found in the lifeboat’s supply cache.

April’s tale is harrowing indeed. At the start of the “Dollar Bug” outbreak her husband is murdered under suspicious circumstances, leading her to believe that maybe his gift of the guide was no joke at all, and that perhaps he had knowledge of the pathogen and was possibly even working on the treatment. The deeper you go into the guide the more her journal entries begin to question how the author’s descriptions of a potential pandemic that would lead to New York’s downfall sound so on point with what has actually occurred, which stirs up paranoia and conspiracy theory musings. She also begins to discover hidden messages and code words within the text, leading her to believe even stronger that the fictional author, Warren Merchant (who she lovingly calls “Merch” in her many rhetorical addresses to the mystery man), knew what was going to happen and left a trail of bread crumbs to find him within the city.

That’s where the interactive part of the story comes in. Through April’s hints, the guide contains decoding puzzles and other secrets, as well as a collection of removable artifacts containing further clues to decipher, including a full tourist’s guide map of Manhattan, missing persons flier, cryptic message on a sticky note, comic sketch card of Bill’s, vaccine notification, torn page from an old book, and a transit pass with cutouts suggesting it’s a decoder. I haven’t found any direct connections between messages in the guide and secrets or story beats within the game world, and I honestly don’t know if there are supposed to be or not. But it is fun to feel like you’re uncovering a mystery and gaining deeper insight into the events depicted in the game.

The design of the book is also very well done. April’s logs are in different colors of ink and pencil as she had to change writing utensils over the month-long duration of her entries, between December and January. The pages are also tinged with water spots, bloodstains, scorch marks, and other indications of general wear and tear representing April’s struggle through dire circumstances. While the interior markings look believable, the torn edges of the front and back covers look too smooth and manufactured for my liking; you can tell they were cut by a machine in some mass-production factory. Yes, I know it’s nitpicky, but the outer aging definitely could have been more natural looking.

From a readability standpoint, New York Collapse isn’t exactly the easiest book to comprehend due to the out of order sequencing of the journal entries in addition to the way the handwritten text wraps around all sides of the pages, requiring the book to be constantly rotated and held at odd angles to see everything. However, all of that stuff just adds to the immersion and lived-in quality of someone’s real lost journal.

I’m about 10 hours into the game so far and enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Even though I haven’t found any direct narrative links between the two yet, the guide has drawn me into caring more about the events taking place, and made me look at the environment with a keener eye to try to spot potential clues and familiar scenes to what April described. Even as a standalone, April’s journal is a whole lot more compelling than the game’s storyline as well.

Buy From: Tom Clancy’s The Division: New York Collapse is now available at and Chronicle Books for $24.95.

Disclosure: A copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division: New York Collapse was provided to for review by Chronicle Books.

Tom Clancy's The Division: New York Collapse (Excerpt) by ChronicleBooks

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!