Reading & Books

‘Bioshock: Rapture,’ by John Shirley

I just finished the BioShock prequel novel, “Bioshock: Rapture,” by John Shirley. I stumbled over it the other day, I didn’t even know it existed. It was a pretty great read.

What struck me most about it was the mindboggling inevitability of it all. Like, nothing that happens in this book is a surprise. Of course everything went to shit, of course everyone lost their damn minds, of course the whole thing turned into a dumpster fire.

You took 20,000-some people and locked them up forever in a pretty tin can under the ocean with no regulations, safety laws, nothing held in the common public good. Ryan was talking about charging people for air at one point, FFS.

There was a scene where the lead engineer had to go fix something and it was a big ol’ hassle because some idgit had come along and built his pawn shop over the access panel the engineer needed to get at the thing he needed to fix. That’s exactly why we have building regulations and zoning laws, to prevent that kind of thing.

Nobody’s taking the trash out. People are starving to death and selling their bodies. They’re living 20+ people to a falling-down studio apartment. The wealth gap is breathtaking. The place is tits-deep in drug problems and crime because there’s no other options.

Rapture is, by literally any definition, actual Hell. Life sucks even for the elites because of all the problems. And Ryan, this paranoid weirdo, and his henchmen, can’t see any of it.

Everyone’s mental health is straight down the shitter because there are no options for anyone, and even fewer than that for the poverty-stricken. And the poverty-stricken are the majority.

Apparently Rapture lasted 14 years before the first game starts and I’m genuinely shocked it lasted that long. By year 5 in the book everyone in the place is entirely out of their damn minds. Our protagonist, Bill, the lead engineer, is presented as the “best” of the elites and appears to have a tattered shred of conscience left, and even he’s an apologist asshole. He has a chance to shoot Ryan and maybe save everyone and he’s all “But I CAN’T he’s my FRIEND he lifted me up from FIXING TOILETS…”

Like. My dude. You’ve been living in a horror show prison for 14 years because of this guy. The only reason your life hasn’t sucked balls this whole time is because you’re Ryan’s pet. You have Stockholm Syndrome.

Seems like about 6-ish months pass between the end of the book and the beginning of the game, and it’s shocking to see how quickly things have devolved in that time.

Things are beginning to come apart, physically, at the end of the book, but by the time the game starts, there are tunnel collapses, nothing’s been maintained, places are flooding and falling apart. The only things left alive are a handful of the functionally insane like Atlas and Ryan and a few more, homicidally insane drug addicts with superpowers, and the monsters these guys built.

I can see how if you were just picking up the game for the first time you’d be all “WTF happened here,” but if you’ve read the book and then you start the game, you’re like “Yeah, this is about what I expected. More left than I thought there’d be, actually.”

Anyway, great read. If you haven’t ever checked it out, put it on your to-do list.