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BioShock: Rapture (Novel)

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Novel Hardcover

An alternate cover for the novel.

BioShock: Rapture is a science-fiction novel set in the eponymous BioShock universe and was released on July 19th, 2011. It was written by John Shirley, and published by Tor Books in the U.S.A. and Titan Books in the United Kingdom. Its story covers events from the creation of Rapture until a point before the first game starts. Both familiar and lesser-known characters from the BioShock universe are expanded upon in the story, as well as are locations like Apollo Square or Point Prometheus.

The cover art was designed by Craig Mullins.[1] The glowing light on the globe indicates the coordinates of Rapture.

Development and Book StatusEdit

In 2009, in an interview with Gamasutra, creative director Ken Levine indicated that he was working on a novel set in Rapture with writer John Shirley.

"I'm working on the BioShock novel being done, with a writer named John Shirley, and I'm going to just sort of peek my nose in and write the prologue and the epilogue of that. And I'm sitting down to write it, and it's like, 'Oh! I can just write about Tenenbaum! I can just say what she's saying! And she can talk! And the audience may not go off and, like, shoot her in the head while she's saying it!'"[2]

By 2011, in an interview with Console Obession after the release of the book, writer John Shirley noted that one of the reasons for the novel's delay with the incorporation of BioShock 2 into the plot as well as getting Ken Levine's approval on the content.[3]

However in the same year, Ken Levine replied on twitter that he had not read the book.[4][5]

In 2015, Ken Levine revealed on twitter that a book based on BioShock Infinite was underway with a new collaboration with writer Joe Fielder.[6]

On the BioShock Wiki, to segregate between information only given in the novel versus what is established in the games, a banner will appear above the paragraph with the following format:
The following is based on the BioShock: Rapture novel and has not been confirmed by canon sources.

Author's NoteEdit

The following is an unpublished author's note which was intended to be included in the novel.

This novel is a dramatization of the backstory of BioShock and BioShock 2. It is essentially a “prequel” to the events in the first two BioShock games. It incorporates information I gleaned in playing the games through several times and in consulting with designers, online sites, books, interviews. I also pored over background and timeline materials provided for me by 2K and by Tor Books.

The tale you hold in your hands begins shortly after Rapture was first conceived, and carries on, through Rapture’s civil war, into 1959. The main characters, and some minor characters, from BioShock are to be found here; characters from BioShock 2, like Sofia Lamb, and the Wales brothers and even Delta, as well as settings and historical details from BioShock 2, are also incorporated.

While we sometimes leap several years from one chapter to the next, the story’s arc is unmistakable, and is close as possible to the tale that emerges in the audio diaries, public address announcements, and radio conversation found in the game. It also incorporates consultancy provided by Ken Levine (through the conscientious efforts of Sarah Rosa). I drew terminology, large events, and characters from the game, but invented a certain amount of connective story and character background. I created a few new characters, as required in the composition of a novel, but never knowingly contradicted BioShock. As suggested by Ken Levine, the narrative’s chief protagonist is Bill McDonagh.

Most of the narrative threads begun in this book are resolved by its finale. A few are resolved within the games themselves. I was very pleased to be involved in adapting this unique, artfully designed game.

—John Shirley, [7]


"I am Andrew Ryan and I’m here to ask you a question: Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor. No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God. No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose....Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well."

It was the end of World War II. FDR's New Deal has redefined American politics. Taxes were at an all-time high. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has created a fear of total annihilation. The rise of secret government agencies and sanctions on business has many watching their backs. America's sense of freedom was diminishing . . . and many were desperate to take their freedom back. Among them was a great dreamer, an immigrant who pulled himself from the depths of poverty to become one of the wealthiest and most admired men in the world. That man was Andrew Ryan, and he believed that great men and women deserved better. So he set out to create the impossible, a utopia free from government, from censorship, and from moral restrictions on science, where what you gave was what you got. He created Rapture---the shining city below the sea.

But this utopia suffered a great tragedy.

This is the story of how it all came to be . . .and how it all ended.[8]



1945, New York City, Andrew Ryan, a successful businessman, receives from his chief of security, Sullivan, reports on the terrifying results of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the United States. Convinced of the impending doom of civilization, Ryan shares with Sullivan a project he has been designing in secret to enable escape from an Atomic war. With all the preparations done (employing researchers, sending surveyors and picking a spot), Ryan is ready to start building this grand work. Remembering the exile with his father from Russia and Communist persecution, Ryan dreams of what will be a fortress against the madness of the men in power, dedicated to freedom, Rapture.

Part One: The First Age of RaptureEdit

Chapter 1Edit

1946, New York City, Bill McDonagh, a freelance plumbing contractor, is sent to do maintenance work on the bathroom of a recently built penthouse apartment atop the Andrew Ryan Arms on Park Avenue. He is noticed by the owner, Andrew Ryan, when he starts replacing the tin-plated fittings with brass, rebuilding it to a better quality at his own cost. Ryan is impressed by the plumber's honest craftsmanship and sense of initiative, traits that they both share, and sends his man Sullivan the next morning to offer McDonagh a job as his new building engineer.

Chapter 2Edit

1946, New York City, Sullivan goes on to the docks to inspect The Olympian, the largest of the three ships Ryan bought for his secret North Atlantic project and being filled with pre-fabricated parts. He meets there with Ruben Greavy, head engineer for the Wales brothers, the architects commissioned by Ryan for his plans, and both men discuss the project : How Ryan gathered the means for it, as well as its attraction of prying eyes such as government agents. Greavy voices the same concern as Ryan of a world divided by the United States and the Soviet Union, and trusts in Ryan's need for secrecy for this project.

Meanwhile, a rising con man going by the name of Frank Gorland takes over The Clanger (a bar) from its owner, Herv Merton, after cheating him over a loan. Gorland then enjoys the boxing setup at the bar, but mostly uses it to gather information from his customers. One day, he receives a visit from Voss, an FBI agent, who asks him questions about things happening on the docks, mentioning the North Atlantic project bankrolled by Ryan and millions of dollars of materials being sent out to sea. Working to find out more and a way to eventually profit from this secret operation, Gorland learns a few days later about a death from a grieving woman, of her lover Irving, employed by Seaworthy Construction on underwater construction for Ryan. Gorland's efforts finally pay off when he locates The Olympian, and makes one of the ship's deckhands spill the beans, discovering the ships use in supplying construction of an underwater colony in the Atlantic.

Part 2: The Second Age of RaptureEdit

To be completed

Part 3: The Third Age of RaptureEdit

To be completed


1959, New York, Elaine McDonagh brings her daughter to a medical examination after their fleeing Rapture and reaching North America.

List of Known ContradictionsEdit

Even with oversight from creative director Ken Levine, the novel is known to show inconsistencies and contradictions with evidence presented from the games.

It should be noted that the novel was published in July 2011 with BioShock being released in August 2007, BioShock 2 in February 2010, and the Rapture-based DLC for BioShock Infinite, Burial at Sea, released in November 2013 for Episode 1 and March 2014 for Episode 2.

Novel Note(s)
Bill McDonagh kills a spider splicer with a tommy gun during the raid on Fontaine.[9]
  • In an audio diary found on his corpse, McDonagh states that he has never killed a man.[10] The Rapture Civil War appears to have been going on for quite some time.
  • The audio diary is also directly mentioned in the novel. However the line about killing is omitted. McDonagh details being inebriated and erasing the tape later on.[11]
Andrew Ryan strangles Jasmine Jolene by using his hands to choke her neck.[12]
  • Jasmine Jolene's room in Eve's Garden shows a large amount of blood and bloody footprints. This along with a bloody section of pipe implies a far messier death.
Diane McClintock stops by Pauper's Drop in the Fishbowl Diner and observes Atlas taking charge of a bread line.[13] Though no exact date is given, two sections later it is shown to be Christmas Eve, 1958. [14]
  • It was later established in the 2013 DLC for BioShock Infinite Burial at Sea that Ryan had imprisoned Atlas and his thugs in the sunken Fontaine's Department Store sometime between Fontaine's death in September 1958 [15] and early December [16].
The novel states that Dr. Yi Suchong is alive in 1959.[17]
  • In BioShock 2 Gilbert Alexander reveals that Suchong had died at some point in the past, and his work was used to create the Alpha Series, the first successful candidate being Subject Delta [19]. In the beginning of the game, Delta is actively wandering the halls of the Adonis Luxury Resort. It is stated to be 1958.
Roland Wallace is captured and taken by Ryan's men to Dr. Suchong, sometime in 1959.[20]
  • Suchong's experiment on Wallace is detailed in the Enrage Trial audio diary. However, it is established that Suchong was still working for Fontaine Futuristics. Wallace also seems friendly and affable.

See AlsoEdit

References Edit

  1. Craig Mullins' portfolio with the uncropped, full version of the cover art
  2. Ken Levine on Studio Culture: From Looking Glass to 2K Boston from Gamasutra
  3. "BioShock: Rapture – interview with the author, John Shirley" article at Console Obsession
  4. tweet by Ralph Arend "@IGLevine ugh I hate that I'm asking this, but is Bioshock: Rapture considered canon? I assure you I feel appropriately disgusting now."
  5. reply by Ken Levine "@ralpharend since i haven't read it, would have to say no."
  6. tweet by Ken Levine"RT @TS6154: @IGLevine anything new about mr. fielder and the novel? --He's handed in first draft! We'll review when prototype is done."
  7. "BioShock: Rapture – interview with the author, John Shirley" article at Console Obsession
  8. The synopsis of the novel on
  9. p.329
  10. Stopping Ryan
  11. p.399
  12. p.396
  13. p.348-352
  14. p.353
  15. BioShock Loading Screen Quotes "Ryan takes down smuggling operation... Fontaine and thugs killed in fiery shootout!" - Headline, Rapture Standard, 9/12/58
  16. Left Behind
  17. p.389-392
  18. Protection Bond
  19. The Pair Bond Mechanism
  20. p.426-427

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