Bioshock Rapture — book review

BIOSHOCK RAPTURE by John Shirley. Titan Books £7.99

Reviewed by Ian Hunter

Popquiz, has there ever – really – been a decent movie made out of a computer game? I don’t think so, and apart from Mark Morris’ recent foray into the world of books based on computer games with his novel based on the game Dead Island, the same could probably be said for books inspired by computer games; except, of course, for John Shirley’s Bioshock Rapture. But then this is a bit of a cheat, on two fronts. First, Shirley is a master craftsman, so this is a solid, nay, excellent piece of work; and secondly, it’s actually a prequel to the games featuring the iconic Big Daddies and Little Sisters and the sunken art-deco city of Rapture which was supposed to be a utopia but became something else entirely, something a whole lot more sinister.

Apart from being an award-winning writer Shirley has previous form in the adaptation stakes by writing the novel of the film Constantine, but this book goes way beyond mere adaptation as its prequel nature allows him to lovingly, painstakingly flesh out the world of the games, but from a pre-game stance, and populate the pages with familiar well-rounded characters that the gamers will know all too well. Truth be told, it could even have been longer (says one of the world’s most reluctant readers, so believe me this is high praise indeed). Here the plot is told from the viewpoint of engineer (and soon to be bar owner) Bill McDonagh who is down on his luck but shortly becomes caught up in a dream that becomes a nightmare.

If you are a Bioshock fan then this book is essential, and if this is your introduction to the dark mind of John Shirley then other treats await you, especially Wetworks, a horror novel for grown-ups in every sense of the word.