Customer Reviews: BioShock: Rapture
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on August 1, 2011
!!WARNING!! This book is a prequel to the games, but DO NOT read this book before playing them (Why haven't you played them yet???). It will give away certain "details" that the player should not know about when playing the games. This holds especially true for the first BioShock. I won't mention any of these spoilers in this review, so read on...

I wasn't expecting much when my copy of BioShock:Rapture arrived in the mail, but I consider myself a pretty big fan of the series and the idea of a prequel in print was enough to make me preorder it. I was not disappointed... far from it in fact.

If you've played the BioShock games then you know a great deal of the storytelling is done via audio diaries. These audio diaries are exactly what they sound like... the audio recorded thoughts of those that lived in Rapture. As you progress through the games you discover these recordings scattered about here and there. Each diary contains a small piece of a puzzle; a very dark puzzle that paints a picture of what took place in Rapture. From these diaries we learn of some of the horrible experiences of its citizens, as well as the events that ultimately caused its downfall. John Shirley does an extraordinary job of tying these diaries together into a novel that really fleshes out the story of Rapture.

In bringing these diaries together, Shirley takes side-characters from the games and gives our brief encounters with them more meaning. People that had small cameos from the games are given new life as you see the events that led to their fate in greater detail and from different angles. Not every character is given as much attention as others, but overall I was very satisfied.

I'm a very big BioShock fan so I'll admit that I might have some bias, but I'm trying to look at the book as objectively as I can. As one other reader mentioned, there are many different POVs. I can see where one might feel that some of these don't quite fit when considering the book by itself, as they serve little purpose to move the story along at times and can seem out of place. But for those that experienced the games, these "teasers" that seem unnecessary are actually a prelude for what came afterward. They're more fan-service than anything else; Shirley even dedicated the book itself to the fans of BioShock and BioShock 2. In addition to the spoilers the book contains, this is another reason I strongly suggest reading the book only AFTER you have played the games. These different POVs will be more familiar to you and will likely be more appreciated if you've played the games. That's my opinion anyway.

The only other issue I could see some readers possibly having is that the book definitely doesn't read like your everyday novel... it's choppy and jumps around, taking place over the entire decade that housed the rise and fall of Rapture (430 pages to cover 14 years, actually). I had no problem with this myself; the story was still very easy to follow and flowed well.

Bottom line... this book was a great read and it has me wanting to play through both games all over again! If you are a fan of BioShock then I highly recommend this book.

UPDATE: The BioShock Ultimate Rapture Edition is out! $29.99 gets you both BioShock and BioShock 2, including all their DLCs!
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on August 18, 2011
This book is more ways than one.

I love BioShock. I mean, LOVE IT. It's one of the most inspiring works I've ever experienced before in the whole of my life. The very first time I sat down by myself and played the first BioShock, I started playing and thought to myself "This is INCREDIBLE" but then, after I continued playing, started collecting the diaries, paying attention to my surroundings and really analyzing the whole thing, I realized that what I was experiencing was much deeper than simply a video game. The message(s), themes, characters...they are as complex and as vivid as those of any great film or novel. By the time I was half way through the first BioShock, my reaction went from "incredible" to "this is important...this is tragic and deeper than they let on...". Of course, I played and got the "positive" ending, which I assume is the "true" ending to the story, so that made the experience all that much better.

Fast forward 2 years and I stumble upon this book by John Shirley. Needless to say I got it the day it came out. At first, I was amused with it and how the story was progressing...then I was troubled...then, by the end of the novel, I was thrilled. Make no mistake, this is not a perfect book. Nor does it give a good, in-depth view of Rapture. It certainly extends the story and tells a harrowing tale, but I often found myself wishing parts were longer and that the characters interacted more. Additionally, I think John Shirley had a mixture of success in the characters...I think he got McDonagh, Ryan, Fontaine, Sander Cohen and the Lutz's perfectly right. However, other character portrayals, particularly those of Tennenbaum and McClintock, were a bit flat and in some areas, just outright wrong from how I had interpreted them from the recordings/cut scenes/etc. The biggest problem though, is one I have with the cannon of the game itself and that is how Diane McClintock dies...for such a dramatic character with, in my opinion, one of the most tragic and heartbreaking stories in all of Rapture, I think the death the creators give her is far too quick and lackluster and that only furthers translates to John Shirley's version. Having said that, the use of McDonagh as the main protagonist and the bookends of his life beginning and ending with Andrew Ryan is genius. The ending is tragic, absolutely tragic and in whole, the second half of the book is much, much stronger than the first. In fact, by the time I was 3/4 of the way through, it was hard to believe that this story was a video game first. This is fully due to Shirley's concentrated effort to take actions and aspects from the game and make them seem perfectly plausible in a real and visceral environment. The plasmids went from being cool, to feeling very substantial. The cameras and turrets and bots and their placement went from seeming like game-touting randomness to deliberate, logical and terrifying additions to the beautiful art deco world of Rapture. Essentially, Shirley has taken the video game out of Rapture and what you are left with is something that feels very real and very applicable to today's world.

It's not perfect. It's choppy at times, jumps far too often, makes time leaps that are far too broad, leaves out seemingly essential characters and plot points, doesn't do justice to the aesthetic wonder of Rapture and completely lacks the scope that it should. Overall though, it's far from a simple video game book and really makes you view future journeys to Rapture through different lenses. I would love to see several story lines from this used in a feature film about how Rapture came to be. BioShock made a great video game, this though, would make a great movie (provided it gets some major direction and tweaks). Overall, it was great and I thoroughly was surprised and happy with it.
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on April 12, 2012
The Good: Fills in the blanks in the first game, captures the atmosphere perfectly, everything in the game is in this book, a lot of questions answered from the game that couldn't have been otherwise

The Bad: Ending feels a tad rushed, a little slow to start

Rapture is a book that gets the novel translation perfect and all other games novels need to do. Rapture manages to used every single character, area, and even use word for word audio diaries from the game, and puts it into one cohesive narrative. The book starts off in 1945 with Andrew Ryan starting plans on building Rapture. The stories main protagonist is not Jack, but Bill McDonagh. He starts out as a plumber and Ryan plucks him up and has him help create Rapture. This all can be linked to the first game, and the whole book is just 100% spot on with everything.

If you truly love the lore and setting of BioShock this is the book to read if you want to know what happened during certain audio diaries, why certain ones were made, and even just how the hell did this underwater city get created. The book spans 14 years leading right up to the beginning of the first game. The book actually has you following a whole civilization fall into despair and depression. Slowly everyone starts going insane on ADAM and EVE and Plasmids. You even get to know how those things were actually invented. You even get to see how security bots, turrets, and cameras came to be, and even Circus of Value vending machines get mentioned.

The book does so much right that fans will just be shocked and awed about events playing out and will run through the game in their head and think, "So that's how that happened!". The book even made me go back and play through the whole game again just to link everything to the game. The book has the same insanity that the game does and you actually feel like you're in the game. The atmosphere is captured perfectly, and I don't think any other author could have done this game justice.

If you truly love BioShock then pick this book up and enjoy every word. It's not often game get great true-to-heart novelizations like this, and I wish there were more like it. Instead of making a new story with the lore and characters, or even copying it, John Shirley takes everything in the game and fills in the blanks. That is probably the hardest challenge of all.
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on June 1, 2013
I love books. I love video games. I have a special fondness for Bioshock - I remember when I first finished the game, I felt like its story easily rivaled some of my favorite science fiction books, and I feel the same way about Bioshock Infinite. Much as I've always felt that writing books based on video games is a horrible idea, I made an exception for Bioshock. I now wish I hadn't.

Rapture the book doesn't read like a book - it reads like a video game rewritten in book form - and while this may seem like a good thing, it works horribly. There's no added depth - every setting in the book is lifted from the video game - from the names of the establishments to descriptions of businesses. Character thoughts and motivations are explained via descriptions of characters recording themselves on the audio recording devices scattered throughout Rapture - with the recordings lifted verbatim from the game. Random characters from the video game appear, then disappear suddenly, as if they were never meant to be elaborated upon.

One impressionable moment in the video game involves sneaking up on a splicer talking to what seems like a baby - what is eventually revealed to be a handgun. In the book, splicers are never described beyond a basic one-dimensional character. What could've been an excellent opportunity to elaborate on a critical element of the city is completely ignored - instead, most of the book centers around Bill McDonagh, a character that ultimately comes off annoying.

Books and video games are both excellent media, for reasons that are completely distinct. Rapture could've been an excellent book - if it wasn't so bent on lifting content from the video game; instead, concentrating on the narrative. It does no such thing, however, and suffers greatly as a result. Ultimately, I found that another Bioshock playthrough was infinitely more satisfying than the 400+ pages of inaneness and one-dimensionality that this book put me through. On a positive note, at least it was what I expected.
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on February 15, 2016
I stumbled across this book through the superb graphics of the Big Daddy and Little Sisters that I had seen in the web. Intrigued by the steampunk style I researched Bioshock and found it to be a cult video game. In my youth I would have delighted in the single-player shooter game but, to be honest, I am no longer interested in this. But that's where this novel comes in. Even though I have neither played nor seen Bioshock the book is en excellent read for sci-fi fans. Set in an alternate timeline where a rich industrialist decided to set up a utopian world underwater, the story moves at a rapid pace and covers post-war period up to 1959. Yes, you have to take the rapid scientific understanding and progress with a pinch of salt (after all plasmids weren't identified as such until 1952, and the structure of DNA wasn't even understood until 1953, let alone exploited) , but that's the whole point of fictional writing!
Overall the characters are well- developed and the writing style fluid and easy to parse, and it was an enjoyable romp from a utopian vision to a dystopian nightmare.
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on June 24, 2015
John Shirley did a remarkable job adapting this book from the videogame Bioshock. He filled in a lot of the details that did not make sense when I played the actual game. The transition from utopia to dystopia was complete, from the conception of the idea of Rapture to the gangland chaos into which the city devolved. BioShock: Rapture was also an indictment of communes, where restriction and rules are avoided, and yet become more repressive than the societies its members originally fled.

For the most part, BioShock: Rapture told the story of Bill, the plumber turned engineer for a powerful tycoon, Andrew Ryan. Bill was a congenial, empathetic former Brit who was level-headed and loyal. The reader will generally like his character. He is mentioned in the original bioshock game, but the game seems to take place after the book ends.

Andrew Ryan, the creative force behind Rapture, began as an empathetic character, but slowly let his obsession for the perfect free market economy drives him to extremes. Eventually his capitalistic society stagnates into a depressed police state, with hostile factions forming. Ryan tries desperately to maintain his ideals, but it is a losing battle.

The antagonist of Rapture was Frank Gorland/Fontaine, who pursues Andrew Ryan throughout the book. He was the classic conman/thug or mob boss. His ultimate motivation seemed to be having power over people. This was never resolved, but seems again to end where the videogame began.

BioShock: Rapture was worth reading, despite the risk of its being an adaptation. It was well thought-out, had complicated characters, and helped to set the scene for the original BioShock game.
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on April 22, 2015
This is something that I think all serious BioShock fans should look into purchasing. The book follows a switching narrative perspective, wherein, you spend a chapter as multiple people usually. This book is a prequel to the story of the first BioShock games, and is very well written, and you can rest assured that it is legitimate, as the writing of the book was supervised by Ken Levine and the Irrational Games team along the way and green-lit at each addition. It adds some whole new characters to the world of Rapture, and expands greatly on the stories of pre-existing characters in the universe. The book is well-paced, and you WILL learn things from this book that you would not otherwise know about the BioShock universe and the founding and growth and eventual collapse of Rapture. A great enjoyment for all collectors and readers. I will note, however, that the mass produced paperback version of the book is very susceptible to taking on damage easily and will bend and tear and is quite hard to hold open to read, but that's the price paid for getting the cheapest print copy available.
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on January 13, 2016
As someone who is lazy and somewhat tired right now (and because I already wrote a review but this stupid site opted not to save it) I will make this review quick.

Bioshock is one of my favorite video games, so I was intrigued to read the book. I had difficulty understanding some of the characters motives and stories while playing the game and loved that the novel allowed more insight into their backgrounds, as well as all that contributed to the destruction of Rapture.

Good book, grossly addicting (especially if you like the game) but be warned it is incredibly morbid.
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on October 1, 2011
For fans of the Rapture universe (as opposed to the Bioshock universe which is soon to include a new city, Columbia), this is a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable treat. This is my first video game novelization, due in no small part to the great writing already in both of the original Bioshock games. You should really be familiar with the games before reading though (at least the first one, but the second is good too, don't let anyone tell you otherwise).

I say this because of the few minor quibbles I have with the novel.

1) There is little in the way of suspense, as many of the plot developments are spelled out in advance and with little subtlety. This is not an issue because the fun of reading the book comes from the way all the pieces fit together, the way the author ties all these disparate threads together into a whole that makes you, "oh wow, that's how that came to be..." in tragic, convincing, and memorable ways.

2) The passage of time is also not the authors strong suit. It's difficult to say how this could be done well, because I'm not an author. But again, it's not really an issue because, perhaps understanding the weakness, every single passage is dated with varying degrees of preciseness for clarity.

3) Lastly, throughout the book, there are a few odd passages that just seem to be there to address random things from the game(s), but that don't support the story the book itself is telling on its own. Again, for fans of the games, it's just more detail we crave, but it makes the book itself even less of a standalone novel on its terms, and more of the companion piece that it is.

I loved it, and was far more moved by it that I ever expected to be. If you finished the original Bioshock and felt like you had just experienced a great story, you owe it to yourself to read this.
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on April 3, 2013
I would recommend this product to anyone interested in reading about the Bioshock universe. You will learn about the birth of Rapture and of its down falls. I read this book after playing the video game. Upon completing the book it has made me want to play the original game over again, to relive and revisit Rapture and its characters. This was a really good book to read, clearing up many of my unanswered questions while playing the game.
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