Literature / BioShock: Rapture

BioShock: Rapture is a tie-in Prequel to the video games BioShock and BioShock 2. It was written by John Shirley and released by Tor Books.

The novel goes into detail about the numerous events mentioned in the games' Apocalyptic Logs. After World War II, billionaire tycoon Andrew Ryan designs the underwater city of Rapture to escape; not just from the looming threat of atomic devastation, but from the control of those he percieves as parasites who unjustly steal the profits of the working man (while, at the same time, denouncing the protests of workers' unions as "leeches" demanding a handout). Seeking to prove his personal values effective, Ryan invites the best and brightest from various fields to live with him in this underwater utopia—chief among them Bill McDonagh, a former low-rent plumber who was elevated to Ryan's chief building engineer when the latter was impressed with his work ethic.

At first, things in Rapture seem to be going exactly as Ryan envisioned—a society free of taxes, with artists and scientists alike able to pursue their research without having to deal with the constraints of government. But several problems soon arise: an increase in population leads to a need for more housing; when a less educated group of people are brought in to build new housing, they soon find themselves unable to find more work and are thus left to fend for themselves. This creates a large underclass, many of whom are desperate to make ends meet—desperate enough, even, to join the underground smuggling ring which imports forbidden items from the surface world. Resources run short when the initial residents do not feel like being totally self-sufficent. A lack of regulation on industrial process causes chemical leaks which slowly compromise Rapture's structural integrity.

As civil unrest grows in the midst of all of these circumstances, the situation is made worse with the discovery and widespread distribution of ADAM, a genetic modifier which grants its users extraordinary powers, but at the price of addiction and mutation.

Eventually Rapture erupts into civil war, and the city falls apart until it reaches the shattered condition in which the player will later discover it. The book follows this decline into anarchy, told from several perspectives along the way: Bill McDonagh, as he watches the utopia he helped build lose its way; Frank Fontaine, cutthroat gangster who seeks to exploit Rapture's secrets for his own criminal gain; Chief Sullivan, the beleagured head of Rapture's security as he tries to keep doing his job in an increasingly-deranged environment; Bridget Tenebaum, the brilliant-yet-troubled scientist who discovered ADAM in the first place and later comes to regret her actions; and Andrew Ryan himself, as he stubbornly clings to his beliefs even as it becomes clear that they are flawed, and causing Rapture to steadily collapse...
  • Adaptational Heroism: Dr. Sofia Lamb, the Big Bad of Bioshock 2, is depicted here as showing a greater degree of empathy towards her followers compared to her more detached attitude in the game to come.
    • Start of Darkness: Of course, it can be argued that this was before the upcoming civil war hardened her, and before the discovery of ADAM gave her the idea for her later goals.
  • All Myths Are True: During a meeting of Rapture's council, one of the experts suggests that the reason Plasmids work is because they're unlocking long-dormant genes that gave humans similar abilities in the past, thus explaining the legends of things like genies and magicians.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sander Cohen's possible homosexuality is alluded to several times throughout the book—his lavish praise and description of his male proteges, his rather dismissive opinion of Jasmine Jolene, and the whole Does This Remind You of Anything? situation below all point to this being the case.
  • Apocalyptic Log: We find out it was Ryan who persuaded everyone to keep recording audio dairies, so that generations would see how awesome Rapture was and would end up becoming.
    • In a sense, the novel itself could be one for the story of Rapture.
  • Ascended Extra: Bill McDonagh, a secondary Posthumous Character from the first game's diaries, who is as close to a hero as the book gets.
  • Asshole Victim: The book has a few over the course of its run. A few notable examples include:
    • The cutthroat owner of a grocery store and a trash collection outfit drives a rival grocer out of business by dumping his own garbage in front of the rival's store, gloating about it when Ryan refuses to help. It's hard to pity him when said rival takes a gun and shoots him.
    • Greavy, one of Rapture's city council, speaks quite dismissively of the misfortunes of the working class who are suffering in Rapture. He's practically asking for death from Splicers, which is exactly what happens.
    • Cavendish, a Dirty Cop of the highest order, gets gunned down by fellow officer Karlosky.
  • Ate His Gun: In the aforementioned grocery store incident, the victimized store owner turns the gun on himself after shooting the rival who ruined his business. Later, it's implied that Sullivan does the same thing after killing Anna Culpepper.
  • Body Horror: Attention is called to the deformities that Splicers suffer from, along with the destructive effects that Plasmids cause when used on their victims. And that's not counting the experimental subjects that Plasmids were tested out on, of which special mention goes to the... thing in the Special Studies room...
    Clinging to the walls opposite Fontaine was something that might've once been human. It was as if someone had taken human flesh and made it as malleable as clay—bones and flesh made pliable—and plastered it onto the wall.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bill tries to escape and fails, resulting in his execution, but his wife and daughter make it to the surface to live a happy life.
  • "Blackmail" is Such an Ugly Word: Implied In the last meeting between Fontaine and Ryan, as Fontaine subtly tells Ryan to stay out of his way, or he'll make him and Ryan knows exactly what's going on.
  • Broken Pedestal: Andrew Ryan becomes this to Bill McDonagh by the novel's climax, as he steadily becomes the same kind of corrupt totalitarian leader that he built Rapture to escape. However, Bill still can't bring himself to shoot his former benefactor in the end. It comes back to bite him.
  • Call Forward: Pretty much every character except Andrew Ryan makes a comment about some flaw in Rapture that will eventually make it the mess Jack finds it to be in by the time of the game.
    • When Bill McDonagh first meets Sander Cohen, Cohen invites Ryan to a gallery show specializing in tableau vivant art that he is holding in Greenwich Village. This, perhaps, is the precursor to the host of plaster-coated corpses that the player later finds in Fort Frolic.
    • One character comments about the old Comstock mining empire.
    • One of Gorland's former aliases is "Wang", referencing Fontaine's late-game boast that he "was even a Chinaman for six months".
    • When discussing the potential of subliminal brainwashing and hypnotic commands, Fontaine asks Dr. Suchong if it would be possible to command a kid to snap his beloved puppy's neck. In one of the audio logs in the game, you learn that yes, Suchong was able to do just that.
    • In the novel's climax, Bill's family is menaced by a member of the Saturnine cult that's popped up in Arcadia—the initial Houdini Splicers that the player will face in the first game.
    • We see Sophia Lamb's rise to power as she takes control of Persephone.
  • Canon Foreigner: Elaine and Sophie McDonagh have no counterpart in the games, presumably so that the reader will have at least a couple of major characters in the book whose fate is genuinely uncertain.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Andrew Ryan, whose views of altruism and workers' benefits are poisoned by his memories of his uncle and aunt being mercilessly gunned down by the Red Guard in Soviet Russia.
    • Frank Fontaine also gets hints of this. What glimpses we get into his past suggest that he grew up in an Orphanage of Fear, then had to scrape and struggle while living on the streets as a kid. With a hard childhood like that, it's small wonder he grew up into a ruthless con man.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Frank the conman kills the real Frank Fontaine so he can steal his identity and fishing business, which he uses to get into Rapture.
  • Decoy Leader: Frank gets Steinman to make one of his henchmen to look like him so he will take the bullet in the upcoming raid and Frank can go underground as Atlas.
  • Dirty Cop: Cavendish, who is implied to have started the process of kidnapping the children of lower-class people to turn into Little Sisters.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Martin Finnegan's first Plasmid-injecting experience, courtesy of Sander Cohen.
  • Doomed by Canon: Every character except Elaine and Sophie McDonagh.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mariska and Samuel Lutz after seeing their daughter as a Little Sister via overdose, along with Sullivan who shoots himself over the guilt of killing Anna Culpepper.
    • Likewise the shopkeeper who has his business being run into the ground by a rival who also owns the trash collection company and thus refuses to pick up the trash from the former's store to drive him out of business. When Ryan refuses to help, the disillusioned shopkeeper shoots the rival, then turns the gun on himself.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Several.
    • Andrew Ryan is first introduced railing against miners on strike, then expressing his dread over the looming threat of atomic devastation.
    • Bill McDonagh morosely considers his poor lot in life, but encourages himself to carry on nonetheless as he enters Andrew Ryan's apartment to fix the plumbing.
    • Chief Sullivan enters Ryan's office after a long day, and just wants a drink and the chance to put his feet up; but nonetheless delivers his report to "the Great Man" (his private term for Andrew Ryan, which he himself uses half-seriously, half in jest).
    • Frank Fontaine is conning a guy out of his business while using an alias.
    • Sander Cohen is starring in a show of questionable quality, and is described as craving the spotlight whenever he can get it.
    • Sofia Lamb dispassionately asks some piercing questions about Rapture to Andrew Ryan.
    • Tenebaum approaches the fisheries for lab specimens while recalling how her last job ended when she performed an injection on a man's more delicate region.
    • Dr. Steinman absently reflects on how he "hears the voice of Aphrodite" while considering his latest plastic surgery, wishing he could operate further to satisfy his sense of perfectionist aesthetics.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Fontaine is at first genuinely creeped out by the methods Suchong and Tenenbaum come up with for producing more ADAM. He gets over it when he realizes how much money can be made, however.
  • Eye Scream: Poor Blinky—at least, that's what Sander Cohen calls him, while putting out a cigar in his eye...
  • The Fettered: Bill throughout the book. He sees everything going wrong, but can't bring himself to turn against Andrew Ryan—partly out of loyalty to the man who gave him a chance, and mostly out of concern for what'll happen to his family if he's arrested.
  • First Time in the Sun: Sophie McDonagh.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Rapture is not going to last. It even says so on the back of the book.
  • Foreshadowing: Alot of it to later events in the story as well as the games
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The narrative switches between Andrew Ryan, Bill McDonagh, Frank Fontaine, Sander Cohen, Brigid Tenenbaum, Sofia Lamb, Sander Cohen, Dr. Steinman, Sullivan, and occasionally minor characters.
  • Gilligan Cut: When hearing about a emergency involving sabotage, Andrew Ryan guesses that Bill is already dealing with it. Cut to Bill (knee-deep in water) wondering how on earth he's going to deal with the emergency.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Bill McDonagh smiles as he's shot point-blank.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Poor Diane, courtesy of Frank Fontaine when she discovers his secret identity.
  • Harmless Freezing: Averted when Martin Finnegan uses his freezing Plasmid. Attention is called to the way the victims' throats lock up, and their eye sockets are packed with ice.
  • Healing Factor: The Little Sisters. Indeed, a direct infusion of ADAM seems to induce this in someone who's badly injured; Bill considers finding some for Greavy when the latter is mortally wounded.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bill at end, asking that his wife and daughter go free since Ryan only ordered for him to be arrested.
  • Honor Before Reason: As Rapture begins to turn into a dictatorship, Bill McDonagh admits what's happening, but can't bring himself to abandon Andrew Ryan. It doesn't last forever, though, and he finally decides to try and escape with his family.
  • Hypocrite: Andrew Ryan becomes increasingly one. Even at the very start it is revealed that Ryan founded his empire on oil which he discovered purely by luck, even though he is so insistent on self-sufficiency. He abhors taxes, but puts a surcharge on the oxygen produced by his park when he needs to build more capital to compete with Frank Fontaine's rising business. He takes over Fontaine Fisheries by force. In the later stages of the book he is even using black market goods like pork and smoking cigars.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Said throughout the book, mostly by Karlosky but also by Sullivan and Bill.
  • Mercy Kill: In a way. After he's captured, it was ordered that Bill be pinned to a wall first then killed. However, Karlosky decides to give Bill a quick death out of respect for their friendship.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Security chief Sullivan goes through this after Ryan orders him to drown dissenter Anna Culpepper in her bathtub. He kills himself shortly after he confesses to Bill.
    • We see the start of Tenenbaum's attempt to redeem herself when she rescues several Little Sisters and hides them away.
  • Mythology Gag: In a meta sense. Fontaine has a Plasmid that allows teleportation, but pulls it from the market because it makes its users more unstable than the rest. There WAS going to be a Teleportation Plasmid in the game, but it was cut for scripting purposes.
  • One Steve Limit: If Sophie and Sofia are close enough to qualify as the same name, the book defies this trope by introducing Bill McDonagh's daughter.
  • One-Scene Wonder: There is only one chapter that stars Sander Cohen, It's about what you'd expect.
  • Only Sane Man: Bill McDonagh, the closest thing this book has to a protagonist. Especially apparent when all the other characters start going from deluded to insane. Even moreso his wife Elaine, who points out problems with Rapture right at the beginning.
  • Prison Riot: Sofia's takeover of Persephone.
  • Pun:
    Andrew Ryan: I'm going to show you a marvel taking shape southwest of Ireland. And I promise you that you will be...enraptured.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: During Ryan and Fontaine's meeting
    Fontaine: What I'm here for really is to tell you that if you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone. All that recruiting you're guessing about won't come and bite you in the ass. If. You Back. The fuck. Off!
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Andrew Ryan eventually feels that only other people have to follow the rules of Rapture.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Diane McClintock and Bill McDonagh both decide to go against Andrew Ryan because their consciences tell them to.
  • Start of Darkness: For Rapture itself, and debatably Andrew Ryan.
    • For Ryan, it could also be him witnessing his uncle getting murdered by Bolsheviks.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Bill to Elaine as more splicers start showing up in the city. It comes in handy during the infamous New Years Eve party.
  • Villainous Friendship: The book reveals that Dr. Steinman and Sander Cohen were quite chummy.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Karlosky, who is always eager for a drink, but sober when on duty.
  • With Due Respect: Bill to Ryan near the end. It's a mark of how unstable Ryan has become since the beginning, where he openly invited Bill to criticize him.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Ryan's, and, ironically, Fontaine's, entire reasoning throughout the entire book.
    • Fontaine, at least, is pretty certain from the beginning that Rapture is going to collapse. However, he sees a mighty profit to be made in said collapse, if he plays his cards right.