With mere days to go before the release of the highly anticipated Bioshock Infinite I thought I’d take a look at Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt an e-book that provides some insights into the game. It’s been written by Irrational Games’ writer Joe Fielder with input from Ken Levine and relates to events prior to the start of the game. The book was written in response to requests for information from fans of the Bioshock games, particularly around the new setting for the game that leaves the previous games underwater city of Rapture and focuses upon Columbia, an intriguing airborne city riven by factions, rebels, turmoil and general mayhem.
The book is set in 1909, three years before the game begins and focuses on Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Voxpopuli, the main rebel group in Columbia. Written in a diary style (also including interview transcripts which is a nice touch for fans) it rattles along nicely with a simple but satisfying plot and highlights some of the themes that the game will explore such as racism, eugenics, social Darwinism and anarchy.
The major success of the book is in reassuring me that Irrational have nailed the feelings of a city at the turn of the century. The world that appears in the book, particularly the scientific aspects, are reminiscent of H G Wells, Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson and the whole thing reads like a draft for a new League of Gentleman comic. Best of all it doesn’t give away anything significant about the world of Columbia that could be considered a spoiler (I think!). This has to be a legitimate fear for fans when you consider the crucial role mystery and surprise played in making Rapture one of the most exciting places to explore in this generation of games. Thankfully rather than dilute my interest in Bioshock Infinite I’m on countdown for the games release.
Now for the rub. At 30 pages its not a long read and it costs £2 (however if you pre-order Bioshock Infinite through Amazon I believe the book is free*). Is it good value? It is less than a pint in a fancy pub or bistro. However with the days of iOS gaming and Steam you can get some real quality computer game related stuff (specifically computer games) for less than two quid. And if I’m honest as much as I enjoyed reading it, it took me twenty minutes and was it essential? Will it make the game world richer for having read the book? Hmmm… Was it more revealing than the trailers? Or interviews with various members of the development team? Will people be getting in touch with me on Twitter on the day of release for help with plot intricacies and characters motivations? No. No they won’t. And I imagine the game will have broadly filled you in with the details present within the book after about half an hour of firing up the disc. So… My feelings are that judged on a stand alone basis, as a book, it would be a pretty good short story that was maybe a bit pricey. As an aperitif for Bioshock Infinite it succeeds admirably. Should you buy it? Only if you’re a die-hard fan and can’t wait the week or so until launch. If you’re looking for a good read? Treat yourself to one of the Witcher books. They are fucking brilliant.
*as free as a £40 quid game plus a small book you may not bother to read before the game comes out, rendering it totally fucking pointless in many ways is free.