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Max Brooks on the importance of Minecraft, his dyslexia and what you’ll need to survive an apocalypse

You’ve written a book about Minecraft…

It’s the first official Minecraft novel. When I started playing Minecraft with my son, I discovered it was more than just a game, it was training for life. The survival element teaches you patience, planning and recovering from failure — everything your parents are supposed to teach you.

What’s your proudest Minecraft achievement?

I built an amazingly beautiful house and accidentally burned it down. I used lava to heat my hot tub.

How often do you play it?

My son’s 12 and we play it all the time. I’m trying to get him to play on survival mode rather than creative mode. The accomplishments are more worthwhile. If you want a bed, you have to chop the tree down, find a sheep and shear it, and find all the other components. Creative is like living at your parents’ house and survival is like being out in the world.

Early gaming: Brooks had an Apple IIGS

Have you always been into games?

I’m an only child who grew up in my room with my Apple IIGS and games such as Strike Fleet. Then I went to college and went berserk on Sid Meier’s Civilisation. It’s one of the greatest games created.

Has any technology helped with your dyslexia?

Audiobooks were a big game-changer. When I was a kid, my mother had my schoolbooks read on to cassette. That enabled me to get through high school. I loved F Murray Abraham’s narration of Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and when he agreed to do the audiobook for my novel World War Z it was a dream come true.

Is there any tech you’re unsure about?

Driverless cars. Everyone says how wonderful they’ll be but what’s in place to ensure they can’t be hacked?

Are there any tech-related disasters on the horizon?

So many. We take our infrastructure for granted in the US. Our major tech companies are in Seattle, a place ringed by active volcanoes on a major earthquake fault. Apple is right next to a giant earthquake fault. When people talk about cloud computing they’re talking about warehouses full of servers and where are they? On an earthquake fault.

Dream narrator: F Murray Abraham

What are the essential gadgets people need to survive a zombie apocalypse?

A flint to make a fire and a metal bucket to boil water. You can only go three days without water. The film 28 Days Later should have been called Four Days Later because if the zombies in it needed to eat they’d need to drink too. People would die of dehydration, malnutrition or infection before they saw a zombie. For every person that dies from a zombie bite, there would be 100 dying from overflowing toilets.

What’s been your most disappointing gadget?

Right now I’m at war with the rats in my compost bin. My wife won’t let me shoot them so I bought a humane trap but the mechanism wasn’t wired correctly. The rat was supposed to go in and a door would shut but the door wouldn’t do anything.

If you could invent a gadget what would it be?

Something I could plug into my brain that would enable to me read at the same speed as everyone else.

Minecraft: The Island (Century) is out now