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A (Bio) Shocking Story About Rapture…

It only took me nearly 1,800 days since Bioshock released for me to finish it and blog about it. And truth be told, this blog isn't about the video game - it's about the book based on the video game. I plan to do one on the video game but it might take a bit of time to collect my thoughts after that ending, heh heh.

WARNING: Minor Bioshock spoilers. Maybe.

Bioshock: Rapture (Amazon)

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.

Some of you know I read video game inspired fiction. A lot of video game inspired fiction. I tend to blog about it too...share my thoughts on the book and video game relationship. Among the long list, I've read all of the Gears of War, Splinter Cell and Halo books (except for the new one). Well, suffice it to say that Bioshock: Rapture is the best video game inspired book I have ever read. Yes, the best.

Bioshock: Rapture is the best video game inspired novel I have ever read.

The book weighs in at 430 pages divided into 20 chapters, and from start to finish is a fairly fast paced read. Even though I "knew" what the game was about (or thought I knew) and presumably knew what the book was going to be about, I was engrossed with the introduction of the story and mesmerized by the riveting ending.

The book is penned by John Shirley (his bio can be found here).

John Shirley is the author of numerous books and many, many short stories. His novels include Bleak History, Crawlers, Demons, In Darkness Waiting, and seminal cyberpunk works City Come A-Walkin', and the A Song Called Youth trilogy of Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. His collections include the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild award-winning Black Butterflies, Living Shadows: Stories: New & Pre-owned, and In Extremis: The Most Extreme Short Stories of John Shirley. He also writes for screen (The Crow) and television. As a musician Shirley has fronted his own bands and written lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult and others.

So, why was this book so amazing (or why did I think it was so amazing)?

I'm glad you asked (or wondered).

Time Period: When the book opens, the year is 1945 and Andrew Ryan is frustrated with current affairs of the world. He has a grand idea for this utopian domain that players of the game will certainly recognize as Rapture, but the book reveals all of the details leading up to the events of the video game, including the planning and construction of the facilities, but also Ryan's thought process and philosophy behind undertaking such an epic quest. The book concludes in 1959 just before the events of the video game. If you're a fan of the game or even just familiar with the story, well Bioshock Rapture expounds on everything you thought you knew and explores it to a greater fidelity. Who wouldn't love that?

Characters: Some of the big names from the Bioshock video game include Andrew Ryan, Anna Culpepper, Atlas, Bill McDonagh, Brigid Tenenbaum, Diane McClintock, Rose, Sander Cohen, Sullivan, Suchong, J.S. Steinman, Julie Langford, Peach Wilkins and of course who could forget...Frank Fontaine. If you played the game then you likely know the roles each of these characters contributed to the story. Did you ever wonder how or why they ended up on Rapture? The book does an outstanding job of introducing and developing these characters...AND...in many instances explains in great detail why Andrew Ryan extended an invitation to each of the characters. Ah, one of my favorites was old Bill McDonagh.

McDonagh grew up on Cheapside street in London, and worked his way through the East London School of Engineering and Mechanical Vocation, before moving to America, believing it to be the place where a man can rise to the top. There he started working for Bud Chinowski as a plumbing contractor, hoping to one day be able to found his own plumbing company.


One area where books excel where games cannot is sharing what the characters are thinking; and after reading what some of the characters in Bioshock are thinking...it's almost as amazing as playing the game and seeing them acting out their thoughts.

Setting: When Jack (the character you play) arrives at Rapture, the once beautiful underwater paradise had already been constructed. And even though you get to visit many different areas, from Fontaine Futuristics to the Little Wonders Educational Facility, you don't get to learn near as much about the various facilities like you do when you read about them in the book. The book details much of the technology and efforts expended in constructing this behemoth...and when you enter the lighthouse, descend in the bathysphere and view the underwater city from the various portholes, you have an even greater appreciation of the accomplishment...at least I did.

Story: The Bioshock story reminds me of an old episode of Twilight Zone, the one where this "bad guy" dies and when he wakes up he is surrounded by Heavenly figures dressed in white robes. The way I remember it...whatever he asks for they bring to him. Money, girls, booze. He wants to go at a casino and they take him to a casino. He wins, and wins and wins. Regardless of whether he plays cards or slot machines, he always wins. Always. To the point he gets angry...no, infuriated that he has everything he wants at his disposal. He finally yells at one of the men in white, "What kind of Heaven is this?" And the man responds, "Who said you were in Heaven?"

The video game proposes an interesting concept and story, but as a gamer it's easy to overlook much of the story as you fight for your survival. But when you read the book, you learn so much more about Andrew Ryan's master plan and idea of a utopian world beneath the sea. The book does an amazing, and I do mean an amazing job outlining how things are perfect at first, and how things slowly descend into chaos without any sort of regulations or laws to govern society. The shift is slow and random at first, but as things start to unravel it spirals out of control. The part of the book that reveals the first homicide on Rapture also reveals that humans have limits and when hope is lost, sometimes violence is the only mechanism they have left to resort to.

The book also does an exceptional job explaining plasmids and splicers as well as the origin of the Little Sisters and Big Daddies. Of course this is included in the game, but when you read the book and find out why there are so many orphans and how plasmids were developed, it's rather shocking.

The book is true to the video game!

There are so many little details I came across in the game that I recognized from the book. Little things. Things that when I read the book I wondered why the author included it, but when I played the game I realized the author did this just to link the two together.

In the game, I noticed some of the bathroom stalls required you to pay to use them, which was also mentioned in the book. Actually the book explained why this was occurring. Little details, like the smuggling that was going on, the leaky pipes in certain areas, and even the vending machines. The same could be true of the dialogue. Many lines of dialogue from the game were brilliantly interwoven into the conversations occurring in the book, so when you see them again, it's almost like you notice and recognize, but you don't.

The book and game are seamlessly interconnected stories that complement each other about as perfect as you can imagine but both are standalone entities that you can enjoy without the other, but why on Earth would you want to? Bioshock is an amazing game and highly regarded; the book can only add to your enjoyment of the game. If you like Bioshock and haven't read this book, you must.

Would you kindly?

 

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