Book Review: BioShock: Rapture

I’m a huge fan of the BioShock games. I think BioShock, Dead Space, and Halo are the only first person shooters that are really any good in terms of story and presentation. BioShock in particular has a fantastic story and art style.  The other day I was describing the plot behind the game to a co-worker and they seriously thought I was describing the plot to some movie.  There is an incredible depth to the BioShock story that the games alone really don’t do justice.  When I saw that they were releasing a book that told the story leading up to the events in the first game I couldn’t wait to read it.

The story in BioShock: Rapture starts somewhere around the time that Andrew Ryan decides to construct an underwater city to escape the rules and regulations of the government.  Early on you also meet some of the key characters who eventually come to occupy Rapture and learn about their motivations for coming to Ryan’s city under the ocean.  Once Rapture is constructed and people begin living in the city things start to get really interesting.  Ryan’s vision of a Utopian society built on free thinkers, free markets, and free from government control begins to fall apart.  Those who helped construct Rapture find themselves out of work, living in poverty, and forcefully prevented from leaving the city.  Scientists have come to Rapture to conduct experiments that society topside considers unethical.  Plasmids, a sort of highly addictive drug, are invented which give a person supernatural powers like the ability throw lightning or teleport.  These new plasmids combined with the trapped and suffering people ignites a bloody revolt.

As you’re reading all this craziness, the story from the first game starts to make a lot more sense.  Scenes from the game start to reappear in your mind.  I remember killing the crazy surgeon dude who liked to carve women’s faces up to show their “inner beauty”.  I remember Sofia Lamb trapping me in a room trying to mess with my mind with her incessant psychobabble.  I remember seeing all the weird tributes to Lamb with the butterflies and candles.  I remember walking by all the “Who is Atlas?” posters.  All this imagery comes flooding back as you’re reading the book.

All the characters are in the book too, Dr. Suchong, Brigid Tenenbaum, Frank Fontaine, Sander Cohen…I think nearly every character from the games makes an appearance in the book.  You get to know these people and experience all the calamities that brought Rapture to ruin.  You learn about all the evil plots and backstabbing that drove the people of Rapture into madness.

I really enjoyed this book and it has completely renewed my interest in the games.  Most books written around game plots have a lot of story to fill in since most games have a pretty shallow plot, but with this book I got the sense that the author really studied the games and worked with the studio to write a story that stayed true to the original vision.  There was already a lot of story to work with, it just needed to be pulled together into something cohesive and I think the author did a great job.

When I was done with the book I was glad that I had the games to replay and enjoy again, but I was pretty bummed when I started thinking about how the next BioShock game will take place in an entirely new setting with an entirely new cast of characters.  I’m sure the game will be fantastic, but I hope they return to Rapture some day because I feel like there is more story to be told there.  Let’s hope they come out with more books :)

BTW – Amazon has the book “bargain priced” at $6 currently.  I guess they didn’t sell a ton of copies.  Their loss, your gain!