Words, you say? Those pesky numbered pages? Yes, those. While games are wondrous story-fuel to spark our imaginations, you can’t get better than a good book to scratch those narrative itches. Here’s a collection of texts to follow your favourite games when you fancy getting a little more analogue. And don’t worry if you’re not into the whole physical media thing, they’re all readily available on those digital readers you pretend to hate so much. Happy reading.
If you have nightmares about The Last Of Us’ Cordyceps virus, then the worst possible thing you could do would be to read this book. So what are you waiting for? The Girl With All The Gifts might have a sweet yellow cover but these pages hold a beautifully grim apocalypse where the world swarms with ‘Hungries,’ those infected with the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis virus.
This is the story of ten year old Melanie, who is rather different from her peers in a slightly more deadly way than Ellie’s natural immunity from the virus. There’s plenty of moral parallels to draw though and the concentration on characters makes a wonderful change from the often one dimensional stars of zombie stories. The relationship between Melanie and her teacher, Helen Justineau, is very different to Joel and Ellie’s fraught friendship but no less affecting. The whole idea of this feature might be to get you to read but a movie adaptation (opens in new tab) starring Glenn Close and Gemma Arterton is out in September this year.
You don’t ever need an excuse to pick up a Ray Bradbury book - go, now - but this short story, that features in collection The Martian Chronicles, is a perfectly poignant follow up to your Wasteland adventures. Written in 1950 during the tense post WW2 period where nuclear war was a very real threat after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the story is the heartbreaking tale of a robotically controlled house in 2026.
Cleaning, cooking and managing, the clockwork activity of the house gradually unfolds and we start to realise that something isn’t quite right. To say too much would be to spoil the poignant story on offer here but there’s many comparisons to poor Codsworth and his obsessive cleaning of a half destroyed house in Fallout 4. The story takes its name from Sara Teasdale’s 1920’s poem of the same title which you’ll actually find Mister Handy reading in Fallout 3. Unnerving, sad and essential sci-fi from the master himself.
This isn’t quite BioShock Infinite 2 but it’s worth noting in this list regardless as this non-fiction book was on Irrational’s recommended reading list before starting work on Booker’s adventures in Columbia. Much like Infinite itself, it starts out as a story of wonder as Chicago wins the right to hold the World’s Fair in 1893 before descending into darkness as the criminal of the century starts his deadly work. While the leading architects of the time worked on the so called ‘White City’ for the world to see, a far darker force was at work in Chicago: H.H Holmes.
You might not have heard of one of America’s most prolific serial killers but Holmes is responsible for what could be up to 200 murders. There’s no nice way of explaining his crimes in which he built his own hotel, nicknamed ‘The Murder Castle,’ complete with gas chambers built into rooms and a human sized ‘kiln’ in the basement for burning the results of his activities. The juxtaposition of both stories is incredible and Holmes is catastrophically despicable. He also has the problem of being, y’know, real.
Creative director of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Marc-Alexis Cote told me that if he could have, he would’ve linked up a smell generator to the PS4 and Xbox One to properly recreate Victorian London. While I’m exceptionally glad he didn’t, there’s something completely fascinating about the idea of a city creating such an abominable smell that its citizens literally could no longer live with the putrid scent of sewage from an archaic water system.
The Great Stink is the fictitious story of the grim underground of London’s sewers and the story of a man who returns from the Crimean War only to discover a corpse in a tunnel. His journey introduces him to Tom, a man who can literally identify the multiple scent layers of the dismal underground. It’s a fascinating tale from the very bowels of London and a corking thriller to boot. Jacob and Evie, who?
Another BioShock related title to add to the reading list but this time far more directly. Not only is Atlas the name of the first character you encounter within Rapture on your radio, but Andrew Ryan is literally based on Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand - yes, it’s no accident that their names are almost an anagram. Rand and Ryan both escaped the Soviet Union to be free of Communism, only to find themselves forced to create their own perfect cities. Ryan created Rapture while Rand created Atlantis in her novel.
There are plenty more parallels to Rand’s 4th philosophical sci-fi book too. Signs saying ‘Who is Atlas?’ can be found scattered across Rapture, while similar ‘Who is John Galt?’ can be found in the pages of Atlas Shrugged. The novel can’t be easily described but it crosses the genres of sci-fi, mystery and romance and furthers Rand’s theory of Objectivism. This is a philosophical stance that sees humans aiming to only pursue their own desires and happiness, regardless of its cost to others. Something that Andrew Ryan wholeheartedly agrees with.