76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
!!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!
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2011
This book is odd...in 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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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.
20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2011
*Will Contain Slight Spoilers*
"Bioshock Rapture" is essentially what the front and back cover dictates: the rise and fall of Rapture. This book was a worthwhile welcome to the game's major success and is pretty much what most fans wanted to read: a prequel rich in background information about the characters in the game and how their decisions and actions brought them to their eventual end. The book not only has this, but it also has 100 pages worth of backstory detailing how Rapture was built. With the book being 430 pages, there could be room for a decent story.
The problem with "Rapture" comes in the insane amount of POVs, which damage the overall impact that some of these characters have on the story as well as the impact they might've had on the readers. These are the POVs, and are not in any chronological order:
That is a lot of characters, with Bill McDonagh taking up more than half the POVs in the entire book. Most of the characters, like Sam Lutz or Elaine McDonagh, have only one POV, while others have POVs so insignificant that they were much better off removed from the story entirely. It all boils down to personal tastes when it comes to these POVs. The problem is that they are barely developed, with exception of Bill, who is the only character with decent amount of character development. It probably has to do with the fact that Bill has 36 segments told through his perspective.
On top of that, the book has twenty chapters with each chapter being split into POV breaks with locations and a year. From 1945 to 1959, this book also has to tie in all of these events together and not once did it have the feeling that such a long amount of time has passed. The characters don't seem to age nor change in their viewpoints and seem rather settled into their roles and stay that way throughout, with the exception of slight changes.
Another problem with this book is the convoluted explanations that make certain events sound way too complicated then they have to be. One of the more annoying ones would be how Frank Fontaine discovered that Ryan was building a city at the bottom of the sea. There are tons of undercover cops and detectives trying to figure out what Ryan is doing, yet Fontaine is able to figure it all out by pretending to be a cop and interrogating one of Ryan's crew members. Wouldn't it have been simpler, and perhaps better, if Fontaine was just another smuggler selling supplies to Rapture?
There were some rather enjoyable parts in this novel, like the odd relationship between Tenenbaum and Fontaine and the one between Sander Cohen and Martin Finnegan. Too bad they were very quickly brushed aside to make room for other events that weren't of much impact. The ending itself leaves much to be desired, as it felt more like a very forced happy ending then something that naturally happened.
In all, I would say it's an average video game novel with some rises that make it a worthwhile read. The characters do feel like the ones in the game; Ryan does play to his ideals (even though his dialogue veers into the cheesy sometimes). Cohen and oddly McClintock had some interesting quirks that kept the book going. The relationship between Bill and Ryan is there, but could've benefited from a much stronger relationship. Fans might like this for what it was trying to be, others would like it simply for being a Bioshock novel, while others might absolutely hate it. For those who aren't fans though, the book might not be too hard to understand since it really spells out the events, regardless of the large amount of POVs.
[I decided to give the story 3 stars, even though I felt like giving it half a star more. Its between an OK/Good for me because it wasn't all bad.]
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2011
I just couldn't wait to buy this book when it came out. I have just finish the book, and the end, well it is bittersweet. I enjoyed reading it, it was like going back to Rapture just before everything felt apart. If you have played the game, you won't have trouble keeping up with the story, the names and the locations. It is easy to read and get hook up, it was intense to see trough the eyes of Bill Macdonough how Rapture begin and end. I love it.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2011
I've been a die-hard fan of Bioshock for two and a half years now, and I've played through it four different times. I've read everything I can get my hands on when it comes to the history of Rapture, and I write about it extensively. When I found out there had been a novel published that existed as a prequel to the events of the game, I purchased it without a second thought. I've rated this book four stars, and I'll explain first what made this book positive for me and then what I wish would have been improved.
Shirley has woven us a story that fits so well with the game that it could have been written by one of the game writers themselves. He sticks to the game's characters, atmosphere, era, and imagery to a T. I even think he improved on several characters, namely Dr. J.S. Steinman and Sander Cohen; Shirley delved into their inner mental workings and therefore made them about twice as gruesome as they were in the game. He also answered several big questions that existed for me, namely the details about ADAM and EVE. I learned that they were far more unstable and addictive than I originally thought, and the side effects were nothing short of stomach-churning. He also illustrated Frank Fontaine's past extremely well and gave him more of a villainous aura than simply being an antagonist who comes jumping in near the middle-end of the game. I appreciated that Shirley was not afraid to write some pretty brutal scenes, namely the exploits of Dr. Steinman, but he stuck to the true colors of the game.
As for things that fell short, I feel that there was not nearly enough focus on Bioshock's voiceless protagonist, the unlucky Jack Ryan. We only see Jack for a couple of pages, when he is an infant floating in an incubation tank, but that cuts off any and all mention of him. There's no detail of who put Jack onto a sub and sent him up to the surface, what he did while he was topside, or how he ended up on the plane that flew over the Atlantic. One of the main reasons I purchased the book was because I read it was a prequel, and instantly thought that we would finally see how Jack came to be. I was disappointed because Jack was such a vital part of Bioshock. The ending of the novel felt a little rushed to me and left a lot of questions unanswered, namely what happened to Atlas between his revolution and his falling into hiding. I feel that this novel would have been more powerful and complete if it had finished right before Jack's plane went down; there seems to be some lost time between the novel in the game.
Balancing the pros and cons, though, I recommend this book to anyone who loves Bioshock. This is such a momentous game that has stood out boldly among so many others, and the story is a vital part to its fame. And I applaud Shirley for tackling such a spectacular tale, for publishing a novelization of the Bioshock prequel is no small feat. He was definitely a success.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you played Bioshock 1 & 2 then I'm sure you want to know how the underwater utopia got destroyed and how the occupants of Rapture got transformed into splicers. This is the book to read. It is perfect to know how Andrew Ryan created Rapture and how he recruited people that share the same interests as him. Very well worth the money.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Want more Bioshock story? Then this book is for you! You will want to play both Bioshock games again after reading this book.