So for this book, I’ve gone into territories that I don’t often go into and also gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. The two are only partially related. Today’s book is Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn. I can hear you now “What’s wrong with that? I remember you going on and on about Mass Effect 3 a while back?” Well it’s a tie in book. Star Wars and Star Trek books take up shelves upon shelves in bookstores because they’re a proven commodity among nerds, but tie in books have a bad reputation for not always being the best there is.
As part of the Sixty-Four last year, I read two. Well… I tried to read two. Sooner Dead, a D&D Gamma World tie in set in Oklahoma (get the joke?), I liked. It was solid. I tried to read Homefront: The Voice of Freedom. That’s a tie in with the Homefront video game which was written by the same guy who wrote Red Dawn (Wolveriiiiines!). The story was the main selling point of that game even though the game is gathering dust. That book got technical and lame real fast and I sent it off to the used bookstore just as fast. But Mass Effect is known for it’s top shelf writing, so I figured I’d take a chance.
Before I go to far, let’s get to the back of the book so I can start dropping specifics.
On the edge of colonized space, ship commander and Alliance war hero David Anderson investigates the remains of a top secret military research station: smoking ruins littered with bodies and unanswered questions. Who attacked this post, and for what purpose? And where is Kahlee Sanders, the young scientist who mysteriously vanished from the base hours before her colleagues were slaughtered?
Sanders in the prime suspect, but finding her creates more problems for Anderson than it solves. Partnered with a rogue alien agent he can’t trust and pursued by an assassin he can’t escape, Anderson battles impossible odds on uncharted worlds to uncover a sinister conspiracy – one he won’t live to tell about. Or so the enemy thinks.
Chances are, if you’re reading this book, you’ve played Mass Effect. Ok, that’s cool. You can make some logical assumptions based off the cover of the book, not listed in the text. Saren, the villain of the first Mass Effect game, is smack on the cover. Can you guess who the “rogue alien agent” is? Also, Anderson is a primary character in all three of the games. As Revelation is a prequel to the games, he clearly lives through the ordeal. Although, the book is from 2007, the same year as the first game so when this was fresh you’d only know he was in the first.
Speaking of Revelation‘s prequel status, this book revolves around some of the really cool back story that is only hinted at in the games. Anderson starts out as Shepard’s boss in the first game and there’s a lot of talk of history between him and Saren. Then way later in ME3, Sanders makes an appearance. The game nerd in me thought it was pretty awesome to tie all that stuff in together.
But this is a book, so I’m getting out my book nerd hat now. This book is very… streamlined at times. Pieces of it move in a real quick staccato fashion where I think other books would dive a little deeper. Style has got to place a part of that, but I think the target gamer audience might have another part. But it’s not a distracting thing while I was reading it. It was the kind of thing that you realize on retrospect so I’d take it with half a grain of salt rather than the full grain.
Occasionally, Revelation degenerates into Gamer Weapon Mode. This was one of the big reasons I ditched Homefront last year. There’s a certain type of gamer who really enjoys all the nuances of guns and ammo. Now, Mass Effect is less of a shooter game than Homefront, but it still has a high armament pedigree. Revelation will throw down with “He unholstered his pistol manufactured by yadda yadda I don’t care and knew the other guy was imposter because his weapon was made by whatever I don’t even remember manufacturers from the game.” That stuff is utterly distracting because it destroys the flow of the prose. I understand that there’s a section of this book’s audience that would loudly complain and whine if that kind of gun porn wasn’t included in the book, but that doesn’t mean I care one bit about it when I’m reading. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often in Revelation. Enough to satiate those who want it, but not enough to turn off those who don’t.
The story itself is worth of the Mass Effect name. There’s action and emotion and it’s a solid fun read. Strip this book of all its Mass Effect setting, I think it would still be a good solid popcorn read. I would compare it to a movie like National Treasure or a Clive Cussler book. It’s quick, it’s competent, it’s fun. I would recommendRevelation to someone who didn’t even have an interest in the games because it stands up on its own.
Next up… The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson