I’ve always been intrigued by the sea. Maybe because it’s a real “terra incognita” for every human being, both in size and in depth, but also for myself. I’m highly sensitive to seasickness each time I take a step on something that is floating with a rocking motion and I’m more comfortable with the continental stillness. So most of the time I tend to rest on shores, coastal towns and beaches to enjoy at least a bit of the sea’s generosity (the breeze, sea-friendly people, and the coastal wildlife).
So for that new article I will compare two masterpieces that take place across the most dangerous seashores ever imagined. And no, I’m not talking of a weird mix between a post-apocalyptic Ibiza or an zombie-infested Cancun, but more of : “Tomb raider” which retraces the origines of Lara Croft, the famous adventurer and “Shipbreaker” which is a novel written by Paolo Bacigalupi.
First, the settings. Tomb Raider takes place nowadays on an island, near Japan, a place known for having some kind of old weird mystical powers and malediction, like the “Bermuda Triangle”. This place has crossed centuries until now, and you will learn its history with several written logs scattered around the game. The layers of local history is there, like a palimpsest that tries to recover an exhausting and never-ending action. Boats or ships that pass nearby or aim for it, get all inevitably caught in a storm, or a typhoon and then sink. The seascape becomes then a cemetery made of shipwrecks, sea débris, sea buoy, and all kinds of rusty and broken materials. You will find old Japanese middle-aged villages and castles hanging onto a cliff, recent and WWII shipwrecks scattered along areas of skittish sand.
As stated before, the journals will bring to you the state of mind of past dwellers of the island, but also of recent thoughts of your friends and enemies. Read them so that you can get the real sense of each relationship in time. It is really “Robinson Crusoe”, although you are a hot and desirable woman who the developers took on a trip with malicious pleasure to push her to her own physiological and psychological boundaries. For the physiological aspect, we got some weird changing of Lara Croft’s look, and unless you are a real macho sadistic gamer you won’t like the Croft’s transformation, but isn’t it supposed to look “real” after all, no? For the psychological aspect, of cutscenes for example, it could have been better made. The conversations , the faces and facial expressions look dull and fail to transmit real emotions. The journal of Lara Croft , which is unlocked through monologues when the player is sitting near a campfire (also useful for crafting, saving) could have been extended through. The crawling in weird, old and dangerous places (ruins, caverns, cliffs) could have been seen as more emotionally difficult and exasperating.
Your enemies are a bunch of “lost guys” (maybe they watched too many tv show),brought together by fate and stuck on the island in a huge sausage party. Consequentely : they will chase you, miss Croft, because they want to cook, do the laundry for them… oh well not exactly. They hate you and they want to sacrifice one of your friends for their own sect, which worships an old goddess of mystical and phantomatic power. Her powers still irrigate the island and provoke the storms and typhoon surrounding the island. Despair, rage and fanatism fill the hearts of this trapped people, so get ready for a lot of fighting. Did they dig their own grave in their madness? You wil have to finish the game to get the answer.
Now that you have absorbed your visual cortex with all these impressive landscapes and particularities, you can use them to generate some cool visions while reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s book. Trust me , that way of thinking can look weird but it worked (for me) ! You will read faster and enjoy more this award-winning story, which takes place in a close future. A dark tale of social despair, poverty, destiny enlightened by a survival trek leading to adventure, emotional bond and eventually, hope. No pictures in that book, I’m really sorry.
It’s just a story of a every day normal guy (at least in this universe), Nail, living in a derelicted ( this time inhabitated), slum near a coast, with the will of surviving his poor and life-threatening job (he’s collecting rusty things from shiwrecks). To be more precise, the book begins when he’s exploring an old oil tanker and is collecting copper and various metals. With a friend, Nita, he will fortunately find with a great luck, a rich, shiny goelette that was taken and broken by a storm. And inside, a rich, mysterious and worthy princess. This will be the start of a great journey to save her from the coastal gangsters, helped by a genetical enhanced giant, they will start a trip towards her home, salvation, and I let you discover the rest. The characters are well painted, though minimalist, and so the nowadays absurd clash between the rich and poor take some sense when they look both at the same direction, to save their life. This weird and unusual unity is one of the fuels of the story. But also, sadly, this could be a metaphor of one of the multiple consequences of a society driven by hyper-capitalism (not necessarily the American society , to be noted). In Tomb Raider, it was a collision between reason, freedom, modernity, against enslavement, obscurantism and fanatism. It could also be the clash between old , medieval Japan (which tourists usually look for when they come to visit modern Japan), and international, modern time with the sea as a medium. Sea and land will always separate the people on the earth. Though emotions are human after all, have an international potential of sharing, and transcend frontiers, our past and also our future.
That book received numerous awards (Hugo and Nebula award), some national book prices for children literature, but it can also be read by adults, don’t be picky ! It completes well the views driven by Tomb Raider. It was followed by another book which takes place in the same universe and period, the drowned cities. If you want to read more about “Shipbreaker”, I advise you to take a look at this blog http://dgcshipbreaker.blogspot.fr/ . It features several images and concept art which aim to recreate the universe of “Shipbreaker”.