Saavedro was stuck on J'nanin for twenty years. What did he eat?
You forget: these ages primarily consist of islands, and islands are surrounded by oceans, and you can catch fish in oceans.
And there's fresh water surrounding the greenhouse in J'nanin.
Not to mention fruit from Edanna and Squee meat.
Presumably, a lot of the fruits and leaves seen in the house on J'nanin were edibles he'd collected.
The short answer is that he wasn't stuck in J'nanin. He had access to Voltaic, Edanna and Amateria to modify the puzzles there, and had access to the tower in Narayan (once he found all the "poems" in the original versions of the J'nanin lesson Ages). In all of those ages as well as J'nanin, there's food and water sources around.
If creating Linking Books only opens a door to the linked age, rather than creating the age, then how would the poor quality of Gehn's books make Riven unstable?
He was sloppy and didn't go as much into detail as one would need to create an age such as Riven. Presumably, there were multiple ages that could fit the parameters set down by Gehn in the original linking book, and they all got spliced together into what we know as Riven. Which explains why the Star Fissure even existed in the first place.
That's not how it works. Riven was always unstable, with or without Gehn. Gehn's bad writing caused the book to link to an unstable Age; however, he also tried to fix their problems by adding additional text to the Descriptive Book that, because he didn't have a real understanding of what the words he was using meant (only what they tended to accomplish), the side effects of all his modifications resulted in a somewhat dangerous environment becoming the brittle catastrophe we see in the game.
And Atrus, having taken the time to experiment with how much detail is necessary to change an age, could fix Riven better the Gehn could.
No, sorry, this is close but still wrong. The entire problem with Gehn was that he believed the D'ni were creating rather than linking; by extension, he believed the entire substance of an Age was contained in the words of its Descriptive Book, and (rather sensibly, scientifically speaking, if you accept the previous premises) that this substance consisted of smaller parts into which it was reliably divisible (sentences, phrases, words). Therefore instead of actually writing an Age, he would go into the ruins of D'ni, find Books that linked to Ages that had something he wanted, locate the relevant passage in the Book, and copy it verbatim into his new Age. Riven was unstable- and it's made explicit that all of his Ages are unstable- because that isn't how the Art works. (He stubbornly refuses to accept this and blames his failures on the quality of his materials.) In my opinion it's meant to tie in with the general theme of "the world is more complex than we'll ever understand (even if we do understand quite a bit)". (You can confirm most of this in Riven and The Book of Atrus.)
Even if you buy that the Books don't create Ages, they just link to existing places, the idea that editing the Book once you've established the connection can change the world is pretty close to the same A God Am I trope as if you really were making them from scratch.
Not if there is a literally infinite number of worlds out there to link to. You're not changing anything except the destination of the bridge- and perhaps very slightly, such that the new destination almost totally resembles the old. This is the Great Tree of Possibility (or something) talked about in the lore (and it's a nice parallel with the many-worlds hypothesis too- Google that if you don't know what it is, chances are (as someone who is likely to be reading this page; ie. a critically-thinking Myst fan) you'll be intrigued).
Except if that were the case, then Catherine couldn't be rescued from Riven once Atrus had revised its Linking Book in an attempt to "stabilize" it. It would've taken the Stranger to a different Riven from the one where she was being held. Likewise, Catherine couldn't have saved her people once she'd added the dagger to her homeworld's book, because the people there wouldn't be her Rivenese anymore.
It's also possible that the D'ni are wrong and it /does/ create the age. Or that writing it causes it to have always existed, and links to it. Or maybe Yeesha did it, who knows?.
Or editing the Book doesn't actually change the Age. Rather, there are still multiple ages that fit what you wrote, and adding e.g. a dagger falling from the sky merely changes the Age to one that had a dagger about to fall from the sky to begin with.
That would have meant all the non-original inhabitants (eg. Catherine and Gehn) would seem to disappear when the book connects to a version of the Age that they didn't enter. Alternatively, entering an age would have to create a copy of you in every version of the Age that the book might potentially become connected to, and all of those clones would carry the same linking book back home.
I get that the ice spheres in Amateria are stable by themselves, but how the hell does an ice sphere carry you, a chair and the top of the tower over the Balance Bridge, through the Resonance Rings, and around the Turntable Tracks without breaking?
The top of the tower never came into it - it's only where the ice spheres were generated. Only the force of the chair on the bottom (or wherever the mechanism keeping the chair upright decides to put it) and the various forces encountered as the sphere moved along the track were subjected to the sphere.
Also, that is not normal ice - it's produced by a similar generating mechanism as the ice shields on Narayan, which are well-known for their durability.
In Exile, when Saavedro links into Tomahna, he does actually see you as well as Atrus. Why didn't he consider the possibility that it would be you, not Atrus, who came after him?
Not really an answer, just a thought - he wasn't really there all that long, and might have mistaken you for him. He also knows that he hallucinates things from time to time.
Because he spend 20 years going insane and plotting his revenge on Atrus. It simply didn't occur to him that someone else would follow (it helps that he didn't plan for the Stranger to be there either). He evidently didn't consider the possibility that the J'nanin book would be destroyed before Atrus could follow either. So his plan had some major flaws, but he wasn't really mentally stable enough to recognise and overcome them.
In Revelations, why couldn't Achenar have just shoved you out of the way and pulled the amber lever himself?
because Sirrus!Yeesha faking that her arm was bound wasn't fooling anybody, and he needed to keep the gun trained on her.
Another possibility is positioning. You're standing right in front of the panel and he's on the far side of it. He may have thought that if he tried to make a dive for the panel, you'd assume he was lying and pull the silver handle before he could reach the panel. Or, being the less intelligent of the brothers, he may not have realized that you'd have any reason to disbelieve him or that Yeesha might try to convince you that he's lying.
The whole Prison Book Retcon really bugs me. I'm not quite sure how Sirrus and Achenar could communicate with you before, even though that breaks the rules post-retcon. When and how did they change from modified Books to modified Ages?
The official explanation is that they were always Prison Ages and they just couldn't show that in-game (similar to how you only get to see the Linking Books and their places of protection for the Ages whose journals survived the library fire).
Unofficially, there's a fan theory relying on Riven's explanation that a Trap Book is just a modified Linking Book - it would function as a normal Linking Book were it not for, say, the addition of a few symbols that allow the link to open on this end but close it while keeping the other end blocked. Burning the Trap Book, or editing it and then burning it, would naturally destroy the modifications keeping the block in place, causing the prisoner to finish linking. Atrus's plan had been to trap both sons until he figured out who was guilty, burn that book (dumping him into the Prison Age), and release the other; in the end he just did it to both instead.
Which doesn't explain the time differential between the brother's imprisonment and the game, especially why none of the journals on Spire or Haven mention their hiatus in Link limbo. Sirrus and Achenar are both surprised to find no linking book, despite having been "prepared", so to speak, by the pseudo-nature of the books they linked to dumping them in And I Must Scream territory.
The Retcon works reasonably enough for Myst's red and blue books. My problem is that there's no explanation for how Gehn gets trapped. The book simply could not be a prison age, because the player has to go first, so he'd be trapped. Furthermore, it's important that when the player leaves the prison age, that he is transported to the 233rd, outside the cage; a simple linking book in the prison age would not do this. There is no simple way for this to work, and Cyan has failed to elaborate on exactly how Gehn was trapped.
Atrus's journal explains that the Trap Book doesn't link to anywhere; the book keeps the person in the black "between" Ages, but it can only hold one person. If somebody else goes in, the previous person gets spat back out. When you went into the Trap Book from inside the cage, Gehn pulled it from the cage and then went in, getting caught and leaving the Trap Book outside the cage.
Right, that explanation worked. But Cyan retconned Trap Books out of existence. The gist of what probably happened is that the Stranger went through, followed by Gehn. The Stranger then somehow overpowered Gehn. (I like to imagine that in the pause while Gehn picked up the book, the Stranger grabbed a big stick or rock and gave Gehn a sound thwack as he linked through, knocking him out.) After this, he took the Book Gehn had brought with him to return to 233, and did the old 'link while holding the Book over a fire' trick or something similar to destroy it.
No, the Stranger never used the prison book. The official line is that he talked his way out of it, but the player can't really do that. Riven works fine with the retcon, but basically the entire plot of Myst goes out the window since the Stranger never spoke with the boys and the books were intact.
In one of his journals from Real-Myst, Atrus insists that if you change a Descriptive Book's text, you don't alter the world, you just cause the book to link up with an alternate world that better matches its contents' new parameters. But if changing the book links to a parallel world, doesn't that mean that the real Catherine was never rescued? Both Atrus and Gehn had altered ("stabilized") Riven's book repeatedly since she left Myst Island, which would've caused its link to shift to an alternate version of Riven. It might be a very close match, complete with an alternate-Gehn and his alternate-Catherine prisoner, but it still wouldn't be our Atrus's wife whom the Stranger released from prison.
Myst is not a quantum multiverse - there is only one Katherine and Atrus). Editing a Descriptive Book is something like using a reality-bending version of Schrödinger's Gun; you can't just say that "the sea is warm" when everything else suggests that the sea should be cold, because the link will "panic" and either infer all sorts of requirements that go along with that edit which will probably make the Age unstable, OR, if the edit is significant enough (like striking out entire lines of text), jumping to a different Age entirely. BUT you can go through and systematically add additional phrases about things you haven't yet written or observed - peculiarities of magma flow in the mantle, say, which will soon cause a fault rupture that opens lava chambers here, here, and here, which will result in new thermal vents and cause the sea to warm up. As long as you haven't already described those kinds of details about the marine geology, it will have always been that way.
(This is only further complicated by the fact that the Descriptive Book is only a perfect description of the Age at the moment of the first link; the Riven book describes the enormous tree that Gehn later saws down, for instance, and if Atrus had tried any modifications that depended on the presence of the tree... yeah.)
Also, Myst was early on, and Cyan may not have had all the rules down yet. They didn't change much from Myst to Real Myst other than adding Ti'ana's grave and the stuff related to Rime.
So a rewrite to a Descriptive Book that makes changes that are too drastic will make it link to a completely different Age. That's fine. But what's the big deal with severing that book's link with the previous Age permanently when you can just write another copy of the book without the changes and create a new link to it?
That's the thing. They've tried that, but it never links to exactly the same age. See, the way I understand linking is that it takes the parameters of what you write, and links to an age like that. For example, if you made an age that was "A green sky, and an ocean", it would create an age with a green sky and ocean. However, what colour is the ocean? Are there other land masses? Every time you re-wrote that sentence, it would link to a different age. Even if you made the most specific age, it could simple move an underground boulder a few inches to the right. You specify that boulder's position? Wonderful, the age makes another. You specify the number of boulders the age has? It quickly deteriorates into an unstable age because it can't support the weight of it's soil. Writing is a game you can't win.
In Riven, they used a distinctly different sound effect for the linking books; during the ending, when Atrus arrives and when he exits back to Myst Island, they used the old sound effect from the first game, which suggests that Riven's books sound different because Gehn made them (and was Doing It Wrong, what with needing the fire marbles or geode crystal thingies to allow them to link). However, for some reason (probably laziness), the trap book Atrus gives you at the beginning of the game uses the "Riven" linking sound instead of the "Myst" linking sound. And that just bugs me.
Perhaps that sound indicates a link that is somehow less than perfectly stable, which would be true of both Gehn's retroengineered Books and Atrus' Trap Book.
My thought has always been that the style of writing defined the linking sound, and the "Gehn-link" sound was based on the ancient D'ni writing style that Gehn copypasted/imitated all the time. The "Atrus-link" sound was due to Atrus's style being his own, having mostly self-trained. The D'ni linking book would have to fit the style of the ancient writing to be a plausible facsimile of a D'ni linking book, so its link sound would be the D'ni (and thus Gehn) sound. This actually fits with the follow-up games, because the links that Yeesha created that you use in Uru (including the Relto book) sound like Atrus links, which makes sense considering she learned from him.
In the library on Myst Island, most of the books have been burned—Atrus forewarns you of this before you first arrive. But why have they then been carefully put back on the book shelves alongside the unburned books?
Two possible explanations: Either the books were burned while on the shelves so that the fire didn't reach all of them, or Atrus put the burned books back onto the shelves himself along with the undamaged journals.
Or Atrus's sons put them back on the shelves, all in their proper places, out of habit after burning them. That could even be why Atrus originally came to suspect it was one of them: an intruder wouldn't have known which order to put them back in.
How does communicating through Linking Books work? Particularly though intact links like through the D'ni Linking Book on Myst? Does a window pop up in thin air inside Atrus' chamber?
Why not? The link to D'ni puts you right in the middle of the chamber; maybe opening the book opens a two-way window. It would make sense for the D'ni to figure out how to do that. It's possible that Atrus's secret D'ni book was made especially with that ability in mind.
Perhaps Atrus's desk incorporates a less-gaudy version of the image screens seen in Uru.
The officially given reason (sorry I don't have a link to where, at the moment; it was in an interview with a gaming magazine and I can't remember which one) for both Atrus and his boys communicating through a linking book is that they didn't, but instead that the Stranger read through their journals and figured out what happened, and was just depicted the way it was in-game because it was easier.
Several things in Exile. First, how exactly did Saavedro "change the symbols" used to reach the Narayan book? I can believe he could change the Edanna symbol, and the Voltaic one was possibly hinted at by his experiments, but how exactly did he change the Amateria symbol when it was built into the side of the island? Second, how was Atrus able to predict or reset any of the puzzles on Edanna? They mostly depended on the actions of animals, which are rather unpredictable. Finally, the cage holding the Narayan book resets after Saavedro uses it. That would make sense if the puzzle was meant for one person, but the lesson ages were built specifically for Sirrus and Achenar. How did they both get to Narayan if the cage had reset itself? Hell, how did any of the puzzles work for two people? The ice orb on Amateria only had one seat, and the airship in Voltaic only had room for one person.
It could be that the lesson ages were rigged by Saavedro to be completable by one person, so he could traverse each age by himself while he planned his revenge. Another possibility is that each lesson age was written to only be solvable by one person at a time, so both Sirrus and Achenar could experience each lesson by themselves. However, until there's some official word on this, we'll never truly know.
Many of the teaching Ages' components are probably designed to reset themselves automatically after a first pass, so one boy could complete them and then the other. For that matter, the Linking Books for those Ages might've been designed to switch to a new, nearly-identical Age, complete with freshly-reset obstacles, each time their respective challenges were overcome.
There were some broken-off pieces of rock from Amateria in Saavedro's living quarters on J'nanin. Presumably he's had plenty of time to chip away at the crystal or tip over stone pillars to alter that symbol. As for the animals, it's quite possible that the original set-up that Atrus designed had used only plants: the journal does suggest that the bird-eating plant was Saavedro's own addition.
Bearing this out is the broken remains of a tongue fern on one side of the first Swing Vine chasm, and the fact that the puzzle with the barnacle fruits that Saavedro set up is patently not reset-able.
In Myst IV: Revelation, why did Sirrus work so hard to figure out how to blow up the nearly indestructible ball surrounding the linking book back to Tomahna rather than working out a way to break open the little tilting drawer used to pass stuff through the bars, or building some device to reach through the bars and retrieve the linking book from its resting place? It follows that he'd have to figure out the explosive once he got to Tomahna to get out of the book vault, but how would he know that before he linked? Even easier, he could set a specific time for Yeesha to visit, link into the book vault and wait for Yeesha to open it at the appointed time, which would be a lot less likely to draw the attention of Atrus than an explosion, since Sirrus had no way to know that Atrus would be trapped in Rime when he blew up the vault. Additionally, since his plan involved abducting her, this would allow him to grab her quietly and proceed to Serenia without the aforementioned explosion.
Most likely it was the first thing he thought of that might work. Furthermore, he was working with what he was given- there's not much that's stretchy on Spire, and making the parts for a crane arm? "It's really hard to carve figures that small." Besides, he was already working closely on studying the crystals and rocks in Spire (see the rock ship used to get to the second palace), meaning that a static discharge could have given him the inspiration he needed, leading him to hyperfocus on that and ignore more practical courses of action.
In Myst, we clearly see Atrus jump into the Star Fissure and Panic Link to Myst, kicking off his narration and the opening credits. However, this happens at the end of The Book of Atrus - part of Atrus' plan to Portal Slam Gehn into Riven. A few years later, Sirrus and Achenar are born, and when they grow up, they help Atrus with Rime, visit all his Ages, go through the Philosophy of the Art course on J'nanin, and then go on their rampage. Atrus' original Linking book to Myst, meanwhile, is still sitting in the New Mexico desert. My question is this - Why was it still intact, let alone legible enough to link to Myst Island, after the 30 years, give or take, it took for Sirrus and Achenar to grow up, start their destructive spree, then get trapped in Spire and Haven?
There are parts of Uru (and now Myst Online) where time is out of sync between two adjacent locations (Er'cana's well is a good example) so the idea that something falling through the Star Fissure could arrive on Earth at a much later time isn't beyond belief.
Assuming it's not lying at the bottom of a gulley to get washed away in a flash flood, a desert is a pretty good spot for a closed, thick-covered book to last a long time. Its cover does look a bit worse for wear when it's found.
We can't actually be sure that the book did land in the New Mexico desert. The Star Fissure dumping the viewing device, the bits of floor, and the dead wahrk in that spot may have been a one-time coincidence, or a side effect of all the editing Atrus did to try to stabilize Riven.
Atrus' actions at the end of Riven really bugs me. He just lets you fall into the fissure without even offering his Linking Book on the belief that you'll just find your way back somehow. And this is after already helping him deal with his sons, escape from D'ni, deal with his father, and rescue his wife.
He was banking on the idea that 1) the Fissure would spit anything dumped in it from Riven back out in the same place and that 2) you would survive the fall. If his Myst book didn't get pulverized by the terminal velocity fall through the fissure, there's no reason to assume the player wouldn't go at terminal velocity either. Also, he jumped into the fissure during Myst's opening credits; he has a glimpse of a feel for what the environment of the Fissure actually does to a human, and knew (or at least suspected) it would be non-lethal. Besides, "sending [The Stranger] back, to the place that [he] came from" was the carrot Atrus dangled in front of you at the beginning of Riven, and offering him a Myst book doesn't really help in that regard.
Indeed, letting the Stranger use his Myst book would only leave his friend back where it all started: trapped on Myst.
Except the Stranger is from Earth...which is where D'ni is...which can be linked to from Myst...
The Stranger found the original Myst book after its fall through the Fissure, so logically the Stranger's place-of-origin is the spot the Fissure leads to. Easier to just send them through the same way than to try and dig a way out of D'ni.
In Revelation, Atrus describes Spyre as a place of eroded rocks that uncannily resemble ancient ruins, and specifically states that the Age has never had any intelligent life. But the stone archways have got iron rings and other details that could have never been wrought by erosion. Someone must have made them, and it's hard to believe that Sirrus would take the time...
In any of the first three games, we never learn the answer to the obvious question: who are you? Who is "The Stranger?" Where does The Stanger come from? It is entirely likely that Atrus created (or wrote) the player character into existence for the sole purpose of helping him... All well and good until you realize Atrus just keeps leaving The Stranger stranded in various places at the end of the games and does not seem concerned by this at all. Thanks a bunch! There's no transportation, and no food. Although, that could be because Atrus wrote The Stranger not to have to eat to stay alive, something that's entirely possible based on further information received in the novels. And yet even though Atrus seems nice toward you, he's also somewhat dismissive, in the same way a scientist would dismiss a specimen. Hmm, bit of a god-complex much, Atrus? Not as bad as old, psycho Gehn, but still...