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I finished reading this novel just last week, and I still cannot decide whether or not I liked it.
The book takes place about 30 years before the computer game, Mass Effect takes place.
This book gives the back story of one of the main characters of the game, Anderson.
The book actually starts when Anderson was a recruit, only a decade after humanity was introduced into the Galactic Alliance.
The main purpose of this book was to do a few things. The first was to allow hardcore fans of the game to gain some back story into what happened in the beginning, when humanity was new to the whole galactic community.
The next objective was to give a whole new back story as to what happened to Saren when he "went bad." This also tied into the back story of the mission Anderson went on to become a Spectre, and what went so horribly wrong, which the game hinted at.
Then there is the whole origin of how Saren finds out about all the things he knows in the game.
For fans of TV tie in novels there is only one group that we can look down upon. We know that our books are churned out to make quick cash from a few hardcore fans, but even we know that we are better than this group. Most tie in novels based on shows such as 'Star Trek' or 'The X Files' etc have not been great, but at least they are populated with characters we know well and are interested in. This is more than can be said for fans of game tie in novels. The success of titles such as 'Halo' and 'Assassin's Creed' has meant that book publishers have contacted games designers about writing some books. Invariably these novels are abysmal as trying to make a story out of a game is very difficult. Games by their very nature often lack a story as people are more interested in action. However, despite my prior experiences I decided that the tie in for 'Mass Effect' may be different. Here is a novel based on an in-depth Role Playing Game, written by the story creator of the game. Was I proved right to give it a chance?
In only a hundred years or so the human race has begun to spread across the Galaxy. For many years man struggled with space flight until they stumbled across dormant alien technology on Mars. This technology allowed humans to create new space craft and traverse using Mass Effect Relays. It is not long until man comes across an alien race and initial hostility soon turns to uneasy peace. Now humans are the newest member of a Galactic federation. With many of the alien races untrusting of humans a crisis occurs when a human base is destroyed. Commander David Anderson is sent in alone to covertly investigate the reasons behind the base's destruction and hunt down the only survivor Kahlee Sanders. An alien called Saren is also on the case and he will ruthlessly do anything to achieve the goals of his federation as he is one of their enforcers known as a Spectre. Can Anderson find Kahlee before she is captured by Saren, or even worse a bounty hunter?
'Mass Effect: Revelation' acts as a prequel to the recent top selling 360 game. It introduces a number of characters and races that appear in the game, in particular Saren. Having played the first couple of hours of the game I found it hard going as there was so much to read and listen too. I therefore decided to read the book first to give me a better feel for the Universe. I am very glad that I did because Drew Karpyshyn has proven himself an accomplished science fiction author and has created a book that is not only a decent action book in its own right, but also a simple and entertaining introduction to the 'Mass Effect' universe.
The first point I would like to make about 'ME: Revelation' is that it can be read as a standalone book. There is no need for a reader to have any prior knowledge of the game. In fact the prequel nature of the book means that it is a far better introduction than the game. In particular I was impressed with the compact, but interesting, way that Karpyshyn described the human races fast rise into a space power. This type of internal politics can be very boring and dry like in 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace', but by being thrifty and explaining things in a believable way it's actually a joy.
Another area where the book succeeds is the action. There are two fight scenes which are especially good and Karpyshyn is great at creating a kinetic feel to the action. What was also good about them is that as a fan of the game you could recognise the way the characters fight in the text as the same in the game. It is a reference you do not need to get, but a fun one none the less.
The characterisation in the book is a more mixed bag. The issue is with the main hero and heroine. Anderson is almost too stereotypical as the alpha male sent in to covertly uncover the truth. Inevitably he falls for the beautiful Kahlee, and whilst she is initially given some steel, she soon falls into the damsel in distress role that you hope she would not. Karpyshyn has better luck with the bad guys. It's power, greed and reputation that motivates the enemy and of the three each one is different. There is a huge alien bounty hunter who uses biotech to subdue is enemies, there is an intelligent and greedy businessman and finally the enigmatic Saren. Fans of the game will know Saren well and it is a joy to read a little into his past here. Saren is a complicated character, but one whose motives can be recognised by anyone.
Karpyshyn manages to create a great book in 'Mass Effect: Revelation' by making it action packed and believable. In terms of action this book stands separate from the game as a great piece of B movie sci fi. There is enough gun fire and schlock to keep any fan of the genre happy. What makes it better is Karpyshyn's effortless descriptions of how man got to this position in space. He is able to take a complex issue and succulently explain it in a way that actually seems doable. This realistic style continues in his characterisation. All the characters appear multilayered and all have motives that you can understand. I really enjoyed 'Revelation' and it has reinvigorated me to finish the game. I would be willing to recommend this to any fan of science fiction, no matter if you are a 360 owner. If you can look past the slightly cliché hero you are in for a fast and interesting ride.
Author: Drew Karpyshyn
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
Every advanced society in the galaxy relies on the technology of the Protheans, an ancient species that vanished fifty thousand years ago. After discovering a cache of Prothean technology on Mars in 2148, humanity is spreading to the stars, the newest interstellar species struggling to carve out its place in the greater galactic community. 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 is 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.