Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review: Bioshock: Rapture by John Shirley

BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley
430 pages

If you have followed my blog at all you might have picked up on the fact that my favorite author is cyberpunk legend John Shirley. I am not a fan of the video game, infact I really never ever play modern video games. Infact the first time I ever heard of Bioshock was when Shirley let the cat out of the bag on this project. I really wanted to look at this as an original Shirley piece. It's not that at all, the characters and setting are not really in a Shirley vibe. That is not to say that he wasn't the perfect choice for this book because he really was the best possible author to write this novel.

Rapture is the name of the underwater city that is the haunted house type setting of the the video game. This novel is the prequel that tells the story of how the dream of hyper-capitalist right wing tycoon Andrew Ryan rose and fell. Considering the political upheaval in the story I see why Take-Two thought John Shirley was the person to write this.

Andrew Ryan saw Rapture as the libertarian dream, a nation under the seas hidden from nuclear war(this was in shadow of WWII and the coming cold war) and a chance for the free market to reign. This is the theme of Shirley's upcoming novel “Everything is Broken.” So Shirley does a great job of exploring the challenges that the “free” market of hyper-capitalism would go through in such a packed intense environment.

As someone who never played the video game those are the most interesting parts, not to mention the variety of characters that Shirley had to create to populate this world. The character who becomes the major point of view is the city's plumber (turned bar owner) Bill Mcdonagh who Ryan trusts long after Bill has lost his faith. By that point such a spirit of fear and mistrust has over taken the city.

The weak point for me, probably wont bother anyone who plays the video game. Once the genetically engineered worms that give people super powers showed up I realized Shirley was having fun setting the stage for a video game. I am sure that back story will be fun for anyone who has spent hours playing the game. To me it seemed left field, but like I said I never played the video game.

It seems that Bioshock:Rapture will deepen the understanding and texture of the world created by the video game. That game is considered by many to be one of the smartest out there and the creators of the game found the right author and I think they have done the fans of the game a favor. If your not a fan of the game already I suggest sticking to John Shirley's original cyberpunk like City come a walking or Black Glass.

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