Book Review: Bioshock Rapture

Titan Books have released some great gaming fiction recently, and their latest title – Bioshock Rapture – sits squarely in the years preceding the first Bioshock game and the building of the Rapture underwater city. Being a prequel, those who have played through the Bioshock games will know a decent chunk of what to expect, but there’s still plenty here to both fill the gaps in Bioshock fans’ knowledge and excite those who have never touched a Bioshock game.

The story focuses on businessman Andrew Ryan’s idea of an underwater utopia to escape the politics and potential nuclear aftermath of World War 2. However it isn’t Ryan who takes the main focus of the book, but Bill McDonagh who after fixing Ryan’s toilet gets hired to oversee the building of Rapture. McDonagh soon becomes the main character and it’s easy to become emotionally attached to his part of the story as he begins to realise that life in Rapture isn’t all it was hyped up to be.

And yet despite McDonagh being the main guy, there are a lot of other characters and themes running through the book which either rumble on constantly under the story or flair up to become the main focus of the plot. Power struggles, defection, addiction and the impossible task of creating a totally free world all twist and turn during the several years spanning the book’s goings on, giving a story that not only stick religiously to the Bioshock world but gives non-gamers a gripping and compelling series of events that, despite starting slowly, end up being exciting and demanding you read that “one more chapter” before putting it down.

Fans of the series definitely have plenty to keep them happy. You’ll find out about the history behind the Little Sisters (although the initial hope to see the development of the Big Daddies never really takes off), see how Fontaine came to be so powerful in Rapture and the connections to Atlas’s contributions to the saga. But the greatest element is the research, development and usage of ADAM and EVE, from an accidental discovery regarding the sea slugs through to the quite horrific effects this has on the residents of Rapture. These powers, just as much as the rich/poor divide, make Rapture a frightening and dangerous place to live, with previously “normal” people now possessing colossal strength, the ability to sent lightning and fireĀ  where they choose and teleportation amongst others. Some use these powers for good reasons such as enhancing their working ability, but it is the other side of the drugs that cause the Rapture community to fall apart.

Several moments, most of which are ADAM related, are pretty gruesome, demonstrating the powerful effects on its users, both physically and mentally. A segment which follows a famous artist and his torturous experiments will definitely have you wincing slightly as you read. But this is never over the top, it’s simply showing in startling detail just how influential ADAM was in taking Rapture from a struggling underwater city all the way down to an underwater hell.

The pacing is a little inconsistent though; the main bulk of the story takes a little while to get going and there’s a huge war bubbling up towards the end that never actually boils over into anything massive, but that aside it’s an extremely well balanced and exciting read.

Gaming fiction is a bit tricky, sometimes you’ll only enjoy it if you know the games inside out. But with Bioshock Rapture John Shirley has done an incredible job of making a novel that not only appeals to fans of the series but also provides an exciting and fascinating story for those living away from Bioshock. Either way, it’s a brilliantly written book that really deserves your attention. Not only that, but you can buy it for under a fiver at Amazon. What more could you want?

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.