Remember this guy?
I enjoy playing video games. I also enjoy reading and writing in my spare time. So why is it I’ve never read a novel based on a video game until now?
There are a couple of reasons. I’ve heard many of them are poorly written. Hopefully not like, 50 Shades of Grey bad writing, but with lots of grammatical issues and sometimes the events actually conflict with the story established in the video games they’re supposed to be aligned with. And until now, none of the video games I’ve been passionate about had books I could purchase to read. In English, anyway. I’d even get Xenogears: Perfect Works if it was in English.
While browsing online, I discovered there was not one, but 3 novels set in the Mass Effect universe. All of which are written by Drew Karpyshyn, lead writer for the video games. He’s also written other geek-centric novels too, and is apparently a New York Times bestselling author.
Mass Effect: Revelations is a prequel to the very first Mass Effect game. Throughout the trilogy, you learn that Anderson had “previous encounters” with Saren, but of course the games never explain what that meant. In Mass Effect 2 you briefly meet Kahleen Sanders, and Anderson does hint at having feelings for her in the games, but again, none of their background is fleshed out. The Revelations novel reveals (hardy har) the circumstances under which Anderson meets Saren, Sanders, and the conditions under which he was a Spectre candidate and why he wasn’t selected.
The not-so-spoiler ending of the novel shows how Saren evolved into the rogue Spectre who we all know as the final boss fight in Mass Effect 1.
When writing the novel, Karpyshyn made the assumption that readers like myself were reading this book because we, you know, played the game. Therefore, the novel is much smoother, easier reading than a typical science fiction or fantasy novel that has to dedicate a ton of pages to world building. We already know the world, so the author is able to cut right to the chase and focus on telling the story. It makes the book easy to pick up and read for 10 minutes at a time, or put down for a week and not forget what is going on. I didn’t need to spend time reading 100-200 pages describing a world when I already know what it looks like and how it functions.
With that being said, there’s a lot of supplemental background information and tidbits describing humanity venturing into the galactic community and other alien species that either weren’t described in the games or I didn’t bother reading in the codex. I absorb information better when it is presented to me through the lens of a story, not when it reads like an Encyclopedia. Plus, when playing a video game, I want to play, not read.
I didn’t find the book poorly written, but there were some editing oversights. And even though the introduced characters mainly fit overused niches and I was able to guess how many of them were going to be shot in the face by Spectre Saren or Anderson before they met their ends, I still enjoyed the book. I primarily enjoyed watching Anderson react to situations before the games, actually seeing some batarian characters, and picturing Saren acting like a “normal” Spectre.
I think any fans of the game series will appreciate this book, as it explains events leading up to the first Mass Effect. Even if you don’t like to read, I promise, it is an easy and quick book to get through: plenty of action scenes, not a lot of boring exposition. The book was certainly worth the teeny sum I paid for it. I’ve also already purchased the next novel, Mass Effect Ascension. Be prepared for an onslaught of Mass Effect posts!