Book Review: Bioshock: Rapture
When I first got wind of a tie-in novel, Bioshock: Rapture, for the awesome videogame Bioshock (2007) I was eager to get my hands on it. Author John Shirley, who is well-known in the sci-fi world, delivers the prequel to the crazy-ass, head-scratching, and often funny videogame. I just didn’t know it came out back in 2012. Oh well, it’s never too late to read something you never knew existed. Personally, I am glad this wasn’t just a novel version of the game itself though I would have read it anyway. But, to see his interpretation of how the underwater city of Rapture got to be so fucked up…made sense and it helped me better understand the game and want to play it again. If you are a gamer then you are probably well aware there are so many questions often left unanswered in the gaming world.
The story begins at the conception of Rapture…in the mind of Andrew Ryan who rose from poverty with the utopian idea of an underwater city where people were “free” to do as they wish without government restrictions or sanctions. Ryan feared the firebombs of World War II were surely to explode over the rest of the world in just a matter of time. His solution was to gather the best of the best and hide away in an underwater paradise as the world destroys itself. Yeah, how could anything possibly go wrong?
As the city begins construction, Ryan recruits his people with promises…promises that are kept in the initial beginning stages of Rapture in 1955. Things actually went well for a time. However, over the course of only about four years, this ideal paradise begins to look awfully like the world above with its slums, strips clubs, back door deals, and greed. It seems like no matter how much the promise of paradise, someone always wants more. And so, the story leading up to the sleeper hit Bioshock game begins to unfold and take a familiar tone.
The transformation from pleasure and paradise to a living hell happens right under Ryan’s oblivious nose. So, intent on letting people have their freedom, they form secret societies and conduct experimentations that would surely not be ethical on the surface. Soon, ADAM is developed…a highly addictive serum derived from sea slugs that gives users some very unique powers…one of the game elements that was really cool actually. A side effect of these powers such as electro-bolt, fireball, and teleport (kind of self-explanatory) is that the body becomes highly addicted and undergoes severe mutations that are, let’s say very unpleasant to look at.
In a normal world, one would probably look at the end result and decide the experiments were an ethical failure, but this is what happens in a place with no moral restrictions on science. In Rapture, this only fuels the greed of the capitalist leading the charge…Fontaine. There’s money to be made here. More and more special powers are created and soon Rapture falls into chaos. The city becomes a police state, parts of the city are locked down…going against everything Ryan thought he stood for as he too succumbs to the natural order of control and creates his own clan of killers. After the bloodshed trying to regain control Ryan becomes keen on harvesting a “better” version of ADAM. Things only get worse for Rapture from this point on.
The author does a great job detailing how the Little Sisters become the mind controlled girls they are. Their job is to harvest ADAM from the dead bodies so “they” can continue to refine it and sell it. He also explains how the Big Daddies become the Little Sister’s protectors. As the struggle for authority ensues, the people who are left are insensible to the carnage around them. Bodies are placed on spikes sending a message of lethality to other factions vying for control in other parts of Rapture. Ryan becomes his own worst enemy as the city collapses into bedlam around him.
I like how the book evolved up to pretty much where the videogame begins. I won’t spoil it, but if you played the game you can make some safe assumptions. If you read this just because you like noir sci-fi then I will just say there is room at the end of the story for another novel. However, since there is a videogame that tells that story, I would be surprised if we ever get another book unless it’s set in post-Rapture times.
Below is the trailer for the Bioshock videogame which shows a Little Sister and her Big Daddy…one of the main elements the game is centered around. Photos in this article from the Bioshock videogame.
Published: 2013 (Tor Books)
Available in Hardcover, Paperback, Audio CE, and Digital Download