Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn

Lowdown: An Introduction to the Mass Effect world through an action packed story.
Hungry to know more about the universe in which Mass Effect 3 takes place, I sought my refuge in some of the books and comics released to support this video game trilogy. The first of these, a book that was released around the first Mass Effect game back in 2007, is Mass Effect: Revelation. The book tries to set the scene for the game, but as no one would have read it before playing the game you should already have an impression of what Revelation would be like: a commercial product tailor made to make the most of the success of its video game namesake.
Revelation’s main hero is David Anderson, a young and recently divorced lieutenant this time around (gamers would know he would go up the ranks later). Anderson is sent to investigate a mysterious attack on a human alliance research station. In parallel, we follow Kahlee Sanders, the station’s only survivor, as she is trying to escape from whoever it was that attacked the station. The two will meet, and the reader will meet multiple other characters from the games in this Star Trek like universe of aliens and villains. If you were to play your Mass Effect 3 you would encounter the aforementioned characters relate to events taking place in Revelation; Revelation is thus a proper member of the Mass Effect canon.
The best impression I can give for what the Revelation experience is like is to say that it mirrors the Mass Effect games. There are multiple characters from multiple species, there is lots of detailed action scenes featuring much blood and gore, and there is the diplomacy and negotiations from the games’ role playing side. The obvious catch is that what counts as a detailed and deep plot for a video game is not worth the same credit in book form. Revelation is thus shallow, with too many glitches and inconsistencies (e.g., a key character accusing humanity of something us readers only learn about through other characters the accuser has no contact with). One should take this into account when opting to read Revelation. Indeed, one should take into account this is no pure and distilled science fiction: you will not find original explanations as to how all the various species speak English so fluently and why they are all of similar bipedal structure. Let it never be said Mass Effect did not borrow from Star Trek!
So, is Revelation good for nothing? Not at all. First, although this is not Shakespeare you probably will find Revelation an exciting read. There is too much action for that not to be the case. Besides, I don’t like Shakespeare; I can appreciate his work, but it’s too damn hard for me to read. Revelation is easy reading that delivers. Second, and more importantly, Revelation explains a lot about the Mass Effect world: it tells of the different races, their political background and their histories. It even explains things like Specters and biotic powers. In short, the Mass Effect fan should find plenty of sweet reasons to chew on this one.
Overall: Revelation has to be taken in the context of the commercial product that it is. As such, it is good entertainment that will reward the Mass Effect fan and is well worth 3 out of 5 stars.

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