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On video game novels



The past three years have been a literary renaissance for me after I discovered a new subgenre creeping into my local Barnes & Noble: Videogame novels.


The concept itself isn’t novel: take a popular media franchise and hire a writer to churn out novelizations, prequels, sequels, or side-stories in the franchise’s universe. The major precedent I’d cite is Star Wars. Some may describe it as licensed fan fiction, but the extended Star Wars universe wouldn’t exist without the dozens, maybe hundreds, of authors who have created it with Lucas Film’s support. – look at this list. It’s massive.


So, in the fall of 2011 I discovered Bioshock: Rapture in the Sci-Fi section. For reference, I’d only played the first Bioshock at this point. Rapture claimed to be a prequel to the series, going from the conception of Rapture in 1945 up to the beginning of the first game (1957). Its author is John Shirley, whom Wikipedia assures me is a long-time, “prolific” writer that has won awards for Horror stories. (i.e. the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association)



I took a chance and bought it, only to marvel, eyes blown wide, at the sheer masterpiece I’d stumbled on. Bioshock: Rapture is by no means a literary classic, but it possesses every trait needed to succeed as a videogame novel. Character development, complete compliance with canon, magnificence in prose, strong plot, and a compelling spiral into anarchy all make it not just a good Bioshock book, but a good book, period.





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