Bipolar disorder, mania, depression, anxiety. I'm only just discovering what those words mean for my well-being and the shattered pieces of my life. The "work in progress," it turns out, is me. Expect an exploration of my thoughts, my feelings, and my journey. And hopefully some fun stuff like my opinions on comic books, movies, and books to name a few.

Old "archive" posts remain if you want to get to know me further.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bioshock: Rapture by John Shirley

Bioshock: Rapture on Goodreads.

A prequel to a video game. Oh boy. John Shirley’s Bioshock: Rapture made it on my shelf simply because the Bioshock video game was a stunningly immersive piece of work with a tight narrative and a surprising amount of philosophizing subtext. That you go into the video game after Rapture has already deteriorated (with strewn-about details that hint at the history that led to the chaos you see) was part of its appeal to me, and as much as I was interested in a book that told Rapture’s story, I was not free from apprehension that knowing the story couldn’t live up to the mystery. But I have to say that, for me, Shirley succeeds.

Much of the book follows Bill McDonough, a loveable everyman who gets pulled into the world of Rapture, and the villainous Frank Fontaine who bears a large part of the blame for Rapture’s fate. The story does check in with several other notables along the way: Andrew Ryan, Brigid Tannebaum, others. But keeping so much of it on two characters makes the inevitability of a prequel work in the book’s favor. If you know the Bioshock video game, you know how Shirley’s book has to end, and you know how it turns out for all the named characters. But the great thing is that, in most cases, the book doesn’t take us to these grisly details. Bioshock: Rapture is not the end of its story that leads to the next story, rather the book is the prologue before the first chapter of the game, and the book knows that.

Where I found less interest in the book were the scenes with Sofia Lamb, the antagonist from the second Bioshock game. Much as Bioshock 2 didn’t seem to mesh smoothly with the history established in the first Bioshock, Sofia Lamb also feels extraneous to the greater story, and in fact she does somewhat drop off the map (for a perfectly valid reason) relatively early on. But it establishes as good a reason as possible for what Sofia Lamb is all about in the Bioshock 2.

Perhaps the most important aspect for me that Shirley gets right is taking the philosophizing from both Bioshock games (objectivism and collectivism) and weaving them throughout the story. As I read the book, the narrative seemed to suggest that adhering too much to either philosophy was a danger—even before Fontaine does a great job of manipulating both sensibilities. I don’t know if Shirley meant for the book to have a side as to which philosophy is better, but I prefer the feeling that whatever statement was being made was up to me to figure out.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Star Trek: From History's Shadow by Dayton Ward

I don’t know if it’s possible to separate people who read Star Trek novels into casual fans and more than casual fans since if you’re reading a Star Trek novel you’re probably rather conversant with the franchise’s details—at the very least the details from the particular show the novel’s characters and circumstances are drawn from. But if it is possible to separate them, Dayton Ward’s From History’s Shadow is not for the more casual reader; much of the story features relatively obscure guest characters from three different series, and the plot linking Kirk and company to the story being told in the past is based on the Temporal Cold War.

In the abstract, I like what Ward did bridging fictional circumstances established as part of the past with the Star Trek universe still to come. The story itself is well told and, despite the time travel, never really devolves into something where you expect a reset button. He also did a great job building Wainwright—a character I remember as little more than a caricature from Deep Space Nine’s “Little Green Men”—into someone with depth.

The Temporal Cold War comes into play as the device that links the past with the novel’s “present.” It also creates the motivation for the antagonists threatening the Enterprise. I’ll admit I groaned a little when I read the phrase “Temporal Cold War;” I was never a fan of that plot in Enterprise because while it created some interesting notions and moments it was virtually impossible to define the nature of the conflict or feel like there would ever be any lasting consequences.

What doesn’t work for me is that the story in the novel’s “present” feels extraneous. I almost wish the story took place solely in the past—stretching over a longer span of time perhaps. By far the most interesting character is Wainwright, but it feels like there is a lot of potential in Mestral and the Aegis agents that never gets developed.

I wasn’t sure what I thought about From History’s Shadow when I finished it; I think it grew on me afterwards, so I’m glad this wasn’t posted right away. I’d be very interested to see the threads developed here built up in a subsequent piece.

I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.