Review: Bioshock: Rapture by John Shirley

Posted by DarkChaplain at 2/01/2014
Remember that I am a Gamer? Well, this extends to video game novels as well. Here's the Bioshock prequel novel "Rapture".
The Story:
"It's the end of World War II. FDR's New Deal has redefined American politics. Taxes are at an all-time high. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has brought a fear of total annihilation. The rise of secret government agencies and sanctions on business has many watching their backs. America's sense of freedom is diminishing…and many are desperate to take that freedom back.

Among them is a great dreamer, an immigrant who pulled himself from the depths of poverty to become one of the wealthiest and admired men in the world. That man is Andrew Ryan, and he believed that great men and women deserve better. And so he set out to create the impossible, a utopia free from government, censorship, and moral restrictions on science—where what you give is what you get. He created Rapture—the shining city below the sea.

But as we all know, this utopia suffered a great tragedy. This is the story of how it all came to be…and how it all ended."

The Review
Rapture is an excellent prequel novel to both Bioshock and Bioshock 2, featuring many familiar faces. It does a fantastic job weaving the story of Rapture, taking game mechanics and collectibles into account, dropping hints here and there, and overall managing to show us Rapture before its fall, and during it.

While the main Rapture plotline, including those of Andrew Ryan, Atlas and Sofia Lamb, are deliberately left open to be explored in the games, Rapture managed to come to a satisfying conclusion for me, by focusing the story on Bill McDonagh and his family.
Bill's involvement in the war for Rapture is framed by audio diaries in the game, which gives a decent enough view of his character and key points in the pre-game history of the city under the sea. However, the book does a far better job showing us exactly who he is, including his origins, his family, his hopes and doubts - and his trust in Andrew Ryan.

While many different characters are depicted in Rapture, the stars of the novel are undoubtedly the city itself, Andrew Ryan's descent into paranoia and Bill McDonagh, who may be considered Ryan's conscience throughout the book. I found it very easy to sympathize with McDonagh, which made the book a success to me. In general I thought the character setup worked nicely, especially in context to their eventual roles in the games, and they all acted more or less like you would expect them to, considering their characteristics and circumstances.

Even though it does not conclude the overall Rapture story arc, being a prequel and all, it ended on the right note for this particular storyline, and I think that, even without playing the games first, this is a scifi novel that may very well appeal to fans of the genre as a whole.
For fans of the Bioshock games, picking this book up should be a no-brainer, and I'll recommend it wholeheartedly.

Bioshock: Rapture on Goodreads

About the Author
DarkChaplain is a big nerd who spends too much time reading and thinking about books, organizing them on his ever-growing shelves, and yet increases his backlog by the month. DC is also an avid Gamer and owns more PC games than he'll ever be able to play. He is certainly spoiled for choice!
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain

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