The Mortal Kombat novel, written by Jeff Rovin, was released January 1995 to coincide with the release of the Mortal Kombat movie. It was based on the Mortal Kombat characters created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, and spawned a lot of non-canon characters that made their only appearance in the novel.
As lore was scarce as the novel was being written, Rovin populated the novel with characters, concepts, and mythology from Chinese folklore, specifically citing Great Civilizations: China by Ian Morrison, and Alchemy, Medicine, and Religion in the China of AD 320. Many of the characters have new backstories and identities. The plot follows the backstory presented in the original arcade game, noticeably deviating from the later mythology in many ways.
The young man Kung Lao seeks wisdom by climbing Mt Ifukube. There he meets Rayden, and realized that the beggar who had tutored him as a child had been the god in disguise. Kung Lao founds the Order of Light. He is given an amulet by Rayden, forged by the thunder god with piece of the sun and a piece of the moon, the two dichotomous parts of P’an Ku. Before his final loss to Goro, Kung Lao hides the amulet.
Shang Tsung is a human sorcerer headquartered on the island of Shimura in the East China Sea, dealing with Shao Kahn, Lord of the Outworld, master of the Furies, and his servant the demon Ruthay. The Mortal Kombat tournaments are arranged to find a soul that can be used in alchemy to allow Shao Kahn to cross over from Outworld to Mother Realm, as Earthrealm is called in the novel. After thirteen victories, Kung Lao is killed by Goro.
In modern times, Kano and his Black Dragon associates, Schneider, Woo, Moriarty, Senmenjo-ni, and Gilda, follow an ancient map to the temple of the Order of Light and are greeted by Kung Lao, descendant of the original Kung Lao. Black Dragon are searching for the amulet.
As a boy, Liu Kang, who was raised in the Order of Light,was tutored in martial arts by a beggar, (Rayden in disguise) much as Kung Lao was. Wanting to be more active Liu immigrated to the United States. Shortly after he arrived in the United States, Liu's parents died in a plague and his brother Chow mysteriously vanished. Liu joined White Lotus, a vigilante organization. It is in pursuit of Kano, allied with Sonya Blade and the US Special Forces, that Liu Kang encounters Mortal Kombat.
Yong Park was a ferryman and former Lin Kuei, (specifically described as an order of Japanese ninja who immigrated to China in the 1300s) who was disemboweled for his apostasy in front of his family by Sub-Zero. The demigod of waterways Yu was enraged Yong's body was polluting the canal, and allowed Yong the opportunity to seek revenge as a ghost. Yong's spirit was permitted to merge with his son Tsui Park's body, in order to seek revenge under the form of Scorpion.
Sub-Zero is hired by Shang Tsung to kill Liu Kang. He kills two of Liu Kang's fellow White Lotus monks, and proceeds to battle him. He almost wins, but Liu Kang awakens his fire powers and forces him to flee. Later Scorpion attacks Sub-Zero, and Sub-Zero flees, not to seen again.
Goro and Sub-Zero are joined by Reptile, who is described as Shao Kahn's personal bodyguard and is constatnly drooling acid.
"Gilda" in the Black Dragon crime organization was actually Special Forces agent Sonya Blade undercover, who wanted revenge on Kano for killing her partner and fiance Cliff LoDolce.
When Kung Lao will not help Shang Tsung find the amulet, Tsung uses alchemy to merge Lao with Kano, forming an entity described as Kano Lao, who has the knowledge he needs but the loyalty of Kano, an entity made of smoke, held together by Shang Tsung's will.
The tale ends with a sly reference to sequels:
"Shao Kahn’s ferocious teeth were visible as his mouth pulled into a smile. “Ruthay,” he said, “I look forward to such a Mortal Kombat... too.”
Kano makes reference to Drunken Master Fei-Hung and a Scottish swordsman named Conner as members of Black Dragon, possibly references to the films "Drunken Master" and "Highlander."
From his comments, Kano is apparently a fan of "The X-Files" and the musical "Cabaret"
Johnny Cage is the only original kombatant not to appear in the novel.
The novel hints at a possible relationship between Liu Kang and Sonya Blade.