Book Review: Silent Hill 2, by Mike Drucker

Boss Fight Books’ latest, Silent Hill 2, officially releases on January 26th.

But since I got in on the kickstarter, I got my copy early, so now I can be ahead of the curve, for once! And I even managed to sit down and get this review written, to boot! Fancy that.

So yeah, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know the rundown. Boss Fight Books releases books about video games, with each one written by a different author, taking a different tack. Some are more personal affairs, looking back on nostalgia and identity and stuff, while others have a more academic bent. Mike Drucker’s Silent Hill 2 leans towards the latter, though he does mention some of his own personal experiences throughout.

For those who might not be familiar with Silent Hill 2, it’s a video game of psychological horror, released by Konami in 2001 (you know, back when Konami still made good games). Drucker makes a very good point in the book that Silent Hill 2 is certainly a good game, but really not a fun one. As on the surface it looks like a survival horror romp a-la Resident Evil, but the game is more interested in exploring themes of abuse, neglect, depression, murder, and suicide. So, uh, not exactly Mario Kart.

I honestly haven’t played Silent Hill 2 all that much– rather, it’s a game I watched someone else play. When it first came out, my horror-loving best friend scooped it right up– and promptly got mad at me and the other guy hanging out at his place when we kept making snide commentary about the game’s slow burn of an opening. He’s forgiven me for this since then. I think. Later, in college, I had a roommate who played through Silent Hills 1 & 2 in preparation for the release of Silent Hill 3, so I at least absorbed some of the stuff about rust-world and Pyramid Head and whatnot via osmosis.

This said, even though I’m not super into the series, I still found Drucker’s Silent Hill 2 to be an interesting and informative exploration of the game. Drucker gives each of the game’s character a chapter’s worth of analysis, and also explores some of the bigger themes presented by the town itself. Early on, Duncan notes the Silent Hill games are are explorations of American surrealist horror a-la Twin Peaks or Jacob’s Ladder, as done by a Japanese video game developer, which is one of the things that make them so wonderfully weird.

Silent Hill 2 is definitely on the more academic end of the spectrum of Boss Fight Books. Partly because Silent Hill 2 has a surprising amount of academic research written about it– in particular, the work of Ewan Kirkland is cited multiple times throughout the book. Factor in a bunch of citations from books and articles about horror in general, Silent Hill 2 is downright educational. But even still, things never get dry and academic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as Duncan writes in a tone that’s both informative and entertaining, particularly when he throws shade at the game’s protagonist for being both excessively boring and also an awful, awful person.

As mentioned before, Silent Hill 2 is a good game, if not a fun one.

Lucky for us, Drucker’s Silent Hill 2 is both good and fun. So if you’re a fan of horror games, or just horror in general, I’d definitely recommend this book.

And heck, with the citations and bibliography and all, it’s downright educational!

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