Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz

Lowdown: More adventures for the characters from previous Mass Effect books.
Hard to believe, given the scope of discussion here revolves around a video game, that a book can create as much controversy and antagonism as Mass Effect: Deception. This fourth, and thus far last, in the series of Mass Effect books (the previous entries are Revelation, Ascension and Retribution) was denounced by fans and later modified for consistency’s sake. Most notably, it was not written by Drew Karpyshyn, author of the previous trilogy, but rather by William C. Dietz. Were the fans right to criticise? Were the modifications able to fix the damage? I did not have much in the way of expectations, but given I had a few days to wait out prior to the release of a new book I was highly anticipating I decided to go for the easy intermediate read and give Deception a go.
Despite the new author, the plot continues from shortly after the third book in the series and revolves around familiar characters. This implies things are set in the period between the Mass Effect 2 and 3 games; however, unlike the previous book in the series, Commander Shepard is not mentioned in the proceedings.
We start off with David Anderson and Kahlee Sanders presenting their findings regarding Cerberus’ attempt to recreate Reaper technology before a sceptical Citadel Council. Nick, their teen biotic prodigy, uses the opportunity to run off and join a biotic underground movement set on Omega. And, in parallel, the biotically talented and previously autistic teen Gillian, travelling with the quarians in the company of previous tutor Hendel, gets to learn of her father’s fate and decided revenge is due on Cerberus. That leads her to Omega, too, where the Cerberus assassin Kai Leng is lurking.
For multiple reasons, there is not much point for further account of the plot. First, because there is not much point to the plot; it is essentially a collection of thrilling action encounters of the type that’s too predictable and cliché filled. Second, and more importantly, because the plot does not seem to lead us anywhere.
What do I mean by a book that goes nowhere? I mean a book where major characters die "just like that". Sure, people die for no particular reason all the time; yet no one writes a series of four books about them. What is the point of a long spanning space opera career if it is to end in such a dismal manner? My feeling was that the book simply chose to dispose of any of the series’ characters that did not make it through to Mass Effect 3. That conclusion leads me to assume the purpose of Deception is therefore to set things up for Mass Effect 3, but then again did Mass Effect 3 need any further introductions? I argue it doesn’t. I argue all we already knew all we needed to know about the relevant characters through the previous books in the series. Thus it is clear: Deception serves no purpose in the Mass Effect canon.
There is a difference between serving no purpose and subtracting from what has already been achieved, and Deception crosses that border. Most noticeable is its departure from previously set literature standards. As in, it is written in a bland, too simple a way. I’ll put it this way: quality wise, it feels as if I wrote it with my limited vocabulary and all rather than a writer who knows their trade.
More troubling to series fans are the inconsistencies. I believe I was reading the modified version of the book, as opposed to the original, yet I could not but feel amazed at Gillian’s miraculous recovery from the autism plaguing her in previous books (achieved entirely while secluded from human society on a remote quarian ship, no less).
So yeah, the action was a bit of fun if one puts one’s mind in gear for reading trashy book. Was it so good as to make reading Deception worthwhile, though? Simply put, no.
Overall: A pointless, redundant book if ever there was one. 1 out of 5 stars.

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