Written by Joe Fielder under the supervision of the game’s creative director Ken Levine, Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt is a recently released novella that acts as a prelude to the upcoming game.
The story, set in 1909, finds itself in the unenviable position of having to introduce the floating city and seceded state of Columbia, along with its tensions and politics, while not revealing any information that would detract from the game’s ability to tell a compelling tale. It is much to Fielder’s credit then, that it works well as a standalone piece of fiction, telling a complete, intimate and satisfying story that hints at a wider conflict without ever revealing it. He effortlessly mimics the linguistic style of the time while also reflecting the distortions and fabricated morality that plague Columbia.
A short story told in epistolary format, it is not dissimilar to Kurt Vonnegut’s sci-fi (now retro sci-fi) works, thought it certainly lacks his whimsical tenor and humanism. Indeed, told from the cold, academic perspective of Dr. Pichot, a scientist blinded by his faith and his bone-deep prejudices, it’s certainly sharper than most speculative fiction.
Interview transcripts between Dr. Pinchot and the captive leader of the Vox Populi resistance movement, Daisy Fitsroy, make up the majority of the text. Their conversations address slavery, supremacy, faith, eugenics and phrenology and are as morbid as they are fascinating. As the pair attempt to manipulate one another, tensions rise both in and outside of the interview room and come to a head in an explosive manner than closes this story but leaves the wider fate of Columbia very much in the balance.
Compared to other efforts in extra-textual storytelling, from superfluous, cannon-defying Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed novels to Halo 4’s decision to lock universe altering secrets in hidden terminals , Mind in Revolt strikes a perfect balance. It won’t and shouldn’t be vital to your enjoyment of Bioshock Infinite but it does flesh out some peripheral characters in a meaningful way for those willing to delve deeper into this fascinating fiction.
At £1.91 for the Kindle release, it’s perfectly priced for a piece of short fiction. Hopefully this digital distribution method will help revive the struggling short-story format.
Highly recommended for fans and newcomers alike, Bioshock: Mind in Revolt is a spectacular work of science-fiction and hopefully just a taste of what’s to come.