The “BioShock” game series is one that certainly deserves the good praise it’s gotten, but after playing through “BioShock” and “BioShock 2”, I found myself yearning to know more about the fateful city of Rapture. Through the games, we only truly get to see it at it’s worst, while merely hearing glimpses of what it was like at its best. Fortunately, author John Shirley has come to tell the tale of the rise and fall of Rapture in his novel: BioShock: Rapture. Taken as a bit of a prequel to “BioShock”, BioShock: Rapture is a wonderfully paced and immersive story, detailing everything from the city’s construction and completion, its success and failures, and the inevitable fall into chaos. While we get to see through the eyes of many of the iconic characters from the game series, including brilliant founder Andrew Ryan and conniving entrepreneur Frank Fontaine, we mostly get to see the glory of Rapture through the eyes of Bill McDonagh. A British immigrant fixing toilets in New York, Andrew Ryan gave him the chance to help build one of the greatest marvels in engineering ever conceived. Bill agreed, and got to watch the city grow with his own hands, before falling all around him.
I was particularly impressed with how accurate to the source material this story was. It was clear John Shirley did a great deal of research in the games as he worked on this story, and that level of detail really pays off. I felt incredibly immersed in the world painted in this story, like I was returning to Rapture once again. I found it easy to imagine the shimmering waters through the glass, and the brightly lit, art deco designs that adorn the halls of the underwater city. And though I knew the fate that would befall them, I was enthralled while reading the journeys of the various influential figureheads of Rapture. Following along as Andrew Ryan proudly watched his city grow, then desperately fought to preserve his vision as it all fell apart around him was a journey I found difficult to walk away from. I also found myself quite invested with the internal dilemma that developed in Brigid Tenenbaum as the reality of her experimentation, and her humanity, caught up with her in the deep depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing these and all the other characters develop from relatively normal people into the disturbed individuals we encounter in the games were stories I could not stop reading. Especially the adventure of Bill McDonagh and his family, caught up in the current of a river far too great for them to handle.
Full of intrigue, industrial espionage, colorful characters and plenty of action, BioShock: Rapture is a must read for anyone who’s played through “BioShock” and “BioShock 2”, and wants to return to the ill fated city. For those who haven’t played yet, this novel may serve as a wonderful first step into the depths of the North Atlantic, but be aware that there are spoilers for a few major plot twists in the games. If that doesn’t bother you, then read away! Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel a strong desire to play those games just one more time.
It was the end of World War II. FDR’s New Deal had redefined American politics. Taxes were at an all-time high. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had created a fear of total annihilation. The rise of secret government agencies and sanctions on business had many watching their backs. America’s sense of freedom was diminishing… and many were desperate to take that freedom back. Among them was a great dreamer, an immigrant who’d pulled himself from the depths of poverty to become one of the wealthiest and most admired men in the world. That man was Andrew Ryan, and he believed that great men and women deserved better. So he set out to create the impossible, a utopia free from government, from censorship, and from moral restrictions on science, where what you gave is what you got. He created Rapture – the shining city below the sea. But this utopia suffered a great tragedy. This is the story of how it all came to be… and how it all ended.