No Gods or Kings. Only Man.
In the year 2007, Irrational Games gave the gaming community a gift that some would argue revolutionized video games on the whole. Despite having a first person shooter (FPS) base, it gave us an immersive world to explore, rich character development, a story riddled with moral choices that kept you on your toes and political ideologies that made you think. Many considered this to be one of the greatest video game series ever created and this game was known as BioShock. What followed would be two sequels (BioShock Two and BioShock Infinite), a massive following that carries on to this day, memorable lines, a previously considered movie, and printed media. Today, we will be discussing the lone book that was written for the series as a prequel and ask if it holds its merits to a legendary series. Now, would you kindly keep reading? Oh, you knew I had to say that at least once in the review, don’t act so disappointed.
About the Author
John Shirley would have an extensive history of writing novels and short stories dating back to his 1979 release Transmaniacon and the 1980 proto-cyberpunk release City Come A-Walkin. Throughout his career as a writer, he has actually written the novelization of several popular culture items ranging from the novelization of the film Constantine to the recent video game based novel Watch Dogs //n/Dark Clouds. It is clear to see that John Shirley has a clear understanding of how important it is to appease the fan base of the source material.
I will try my best not to spoil that much of the story, whether for the video games or the book, so here we go.
The story would follow an alternate timeline of American history following the events of the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A lone business tycoon named Andrei Rianofski (though known throughout the book and video games as Andrew Ryan) fearing the rise of ‘parasitic socialists’ and the potential for a nuclear war decides to leave society to create a city far from the reach of humanity, where one’s position in society is determined by their own ability (a parallel to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism) and worth. The book actually describes this best before the story actually begins.
I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Washington, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘It belongs to God.’ ‘No!’ says the man in Moscow, ‘It belongs to everyone.’ I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, Where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.
From the beginning, the story centralizes on several characters over the course of fourteen years from the planning and development of the underwater utopia Rapture to the inevitable fall.
I have to say, that I love the story in this book as much as I do the video games. Even if it wasn’t based on another source material, the story would hold up on its own as a story of the ‘perfect’ society falling to ruin. It provides the backstory to many of the concepts and characters that people know from the games such as the power granting plasmids to the relationships between the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters.
The one complaint that I would have would be more or less a personal one. In the games, there was always one point of the game where it would just mind-f*** you to the extent that you would just sit there almost catatonic as you tried to put together what just happened. It might have been because I have played each of the games, but there were no real surprises or mind blowing twists in the story. Don’t get me wrong, the story is great from start to finish, but don’t expect it to leave you absolutely breathless.
While this story boasts several well developed characters with their own perspectives towards Rapture, this novel belongs to Frank Gorland/Fontaine and Andrew Ryan. From the very beginning, you see what they are willing to do in order to get what they want whether if it is power, money, or control. The reader definitely sees their changes over the course of the book and why they do the things they do. In their minds, they see their actions as justified whether if it is Fontaine creating the addictive Adam and Eve/Plasmids or Ryan’s punishment of people who violate what Rapture is supposed to be. If it wasn’t for these two characters, there wouldn’t be that much of a story. Though I would have liked to read more about Jack Ryan’s character and what happened to him in the story, but what has been written about him is enough. Besides, I really can’t talk about his character without dropping major spoilers about the story.
The Writing Style
As mentioned before, this is not John Shirley’s first attempt at writing video game literature and it easily shows. The writing makes you feel like you are in Rapture from the lively beginning where it is portrayed as the underwater utopia to the end where the city has become a body filled war-zone where Adam addicted splicers kill just for the fun of it. The reader experiences the highs and lows of the characters who were once excited to be a part of Rapture, but now want to flee from it. It will keep you reading the story from start to end.
What can I say about BioShock Rapture except that it is an amazing read that fully embodies what the video games were about from the world building to the characters. It is a welcome sight to see that a secondary medium has stayed loyal to the source material that it has been based on while being entertaining as well (If only I could say the same about some video game movie adaptations). Even if you have never played or heard of the BioShock series, I would still recommend this book. Now, can we please get the bloody movie made?
Well, I hope you enjoyed the review. For the next post, I will begin my search for the worst Fan-Fiction ever written. May the gods have mercy on my soul.