Wednesday 1 January 2014

BioShock: Rapture - John Shirley

Title: BioShock: Rapture
Author: John Shirley
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2011
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

As a fan of the Bioshock franchise I personally really enjoyed reading “Bioshock: Rapture” by John Shirley. It is probably ranks as one of the best video game based novel I have read and expertly links the events of both Bioshock & Bioshock 2 in an enjoyable and entertaining manner which helps to flesh out the world and backstory.

The novel itself starts at the end of World War II with the world now fearing the threat of annihilation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Andrew Ryan, an incredibly wealthy industrialist believes nuclear war is inevitable and dreams of creating a place to escape the apocalypse. He also believes that such a place should be free of government, religion and censorship and so he decides to build Rapture, a city under the sea. The novel therefore takes the reader through the creation of the city right up until its collapse into civil war.

As the story commences there is a feeling of hope and ambition but as it progresses it begins to feel quite dark and violent as the reader get to see the ethically bankrupt actions occurring within the city. I quite liked this attempt by Shirley to take a mature look at the dangers of various ideologies and unrestrained science. These are things that were touched on in the game itself but the slower pace of the written novel and greater detail actually drives home the point.

I really appreciated the extra level of depth that this novel has given to the world of Rapture. It provides the reader with a different perspective for some of the events and bridges many of the gaps in narrative from the games. In addition I loved how Shirley has managed to flesh out many of the characters who may have previously just been a boss to fight or a name thrown in as part of the game’s narrative. These characters have been given back stories, personalities and relationships to the point that I felt a lot more empathy for many of them.

One thing to say is that if you haven’t played the video games then I doubt the book will appeal as much to you as it did to me. Yes, it is still an exciting and fun novel that takes an interesting look at the downfalls of extreme capitalism etc. but a fair amount of my own enjoyment came from seeing the events I heard about from playing the game and the greater understanding of Rapture’s lore. So if you haven’t played the games then there is probably still enough here for you to enjoy, but if you want the full experience you should consider picking up some cheap copies of Bioshock and Bioshock 2 first.

Overall, this is a superb example of what a decent video game tie in can be; entertaining, loyal to the feeling of the original games and full of interesting additional lore. If you have played the games then I advise you to pick up this book and delve deeper into the world of Rapture as I am sure you will love every minute.


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