February 25, 2016

Review: Bioshock- Rapture by John Shirley

Title: Bioshock - Rapture

Author: John Shirley

Publisher: Tor Books

Date of Publication: 2011

Number of Pages: 444

Find it at: Book Depository


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.


Bioshock: Infinite is one of my favourite games. I don't usually play first-person shooters, but in this particular case, the story was so engrossing that I had to make an exception! Indeed, if you're looking for a great story in a game this is one of the titles that definitely come in mind. So, when I decided to read Bioshock - Rapture for the video games to books themed read I was equally excited and anxious. The first book of the theme (Assassin's Creed: Renaissanceturned out to be a disappointment although the game had an excellent story and I was worried that history would repeat itself. But with Bioshock there was a difference: I hadn't played the first installment of the franchise prior to reading the novel. And doing both of these, reading the novel and playing the game at the same period, gave me an experience I didn't expect. 

First of all, Bioshock - Rapture is a prequel to the game. We get to know from the very beginning who Andrew Ryan was and how he decided to build Rapture, an underwater city. Before even the foundations of the city were laid, we understood which people Ryan wanted to recruit. If everything went according to the tycoon's plan, the Rapture would surely be the utopia he was hoping for. When the city was finally built, Fontaine came into the foreground and the relentless game of power began. There was a lot of politics and manipulation while each one tried to control Rapture. Ryan wanted to avoid unions and nationalism at all costs, but he was forced to act as a tyrant. If you haven't played the game, then there are a couple of spoilers towards the end.

The idea of a city like Rapture is very appealing. A free city, with free market, where everyone will be entitled to his own work. No government, no religion, nothing to control society. The rise of such a city was rapid and the falling was even more rapid. If it weren't Fontaine, then there would surely be someone else that would want to control Rapture.

The key to the fall of Rapture was the discovery of the plasmids. This is one of the distinctive elements of the game and it couldn't be omitted. But at the same time, it offered a tool of manipulation. Plasmids were addictive and helped human genes to mutate, giving to the users super-human abilities, like telekinesis and incineration. The one who sold the plasmids was the one who possessed all the power.

As I've already mentioned, Bioshock is a first-person shooter game. If there were violent scenes in the novel, then it would totally be justifiable, but this wasn't the case. The novel indeed had a couple of fights, but the violence was mild. Also, looting was absent. To be honest, I would find it absurd if this gameplay element was included. What Bioshock - Rapture managed to do was to keep the atmosphere of the game and that was what impressed me the most.

Playing the game while reading the novel gave me an extraordinary experience. I was completely immersed in the world and the novel gave me a better understanding of some of the characters that appeared in the game as well. It was like I was reading about the cause and then I traveled into the future and saw the effect it had. If you haven't played the game, then I would recommend that you do both.

All in all, Bioshock - Rapture was an excellent read. If you expect to find the raw violence of the game, then you'll be disappointed. But if you want to dig deeper into the motives of Andrew Ryan and what the citizens of Rapture thought, then you'll definitely love it. This is a tough call for the score, as the novel is as good as the game, but I'll have to give the point to the book format.

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