A Quick Look at the Mass Effect Novels

My favorite part about Mass Effect 3, as mentioned in my long review of the last entry in BioWare’s Commander Shepard trilogy, is the amount to which BioWare paid off fans of the universe. Just about every thing ever begun in the earlier two games gets a conclusion by the end of Mass Effect 3, and even characters from side content like comic books and novels get at least a few seconds in the spotlight.

In fact, content from the “extended universe” of Mass Effect plays a significant role in Mass Effect 3. Much of the storyline concerning the pro-humanity terrorist group Cerberus in the game is begun and developed in the four novels that take place outside the Shepard storyline but within the Mass Effect universe. But it’s a fair bet that not everyone has read them — and with good reason in some cases. The latest novel, Mass Effect: Retribution has been eviscerated by fans for rampant story errors and incongruities.

Well, we’ve actually sat down to read all four Mass Effect novels, so you don’t have to. Below is a quick look at each one, to help you determine if they’re worth the time and money of the Mass Effect aficionado. There are spoilers scattered throughout here, so be warned; you’ll also want to have a working knowledge of the Mass Effect universe and know about the various races, the Geth and the key characters in the games.

Mass Effect: Revelation
Relevant to: Mass Effect
Amazon Average Rating: 4 out of 5
Summary: About 20 years before Shepard became the first human Spectre, there was another candidate for the honor: David Anderson, Shepard’s future commanding officer on the Normandy. Anderson was dispatched on a mission with turian Spectre Saren Arterius, where they discover a facility where a rogue Systems Alliance scientist is researching some scary artificial intelligence system based on research of a spooky artifact. Turns out, the evil scientist had the high-level secret Alliance research facility where he was working attacked by Blue Suns mercenaries so he could abscond with the research; the only survivor is Kahlee Sanders, an Alliance researcher, who teams with Anderson in the search for the scientist. Eventually, the whole thing goes belly up as Saren blows things up, the scientist is killed and the research and such is lost. The book ends with Saren finding the artifact responsible for the scientist’s dangerous AI research — Sovereign, a dormant Reaper.

Quick Review: Mass Effect lead writer Drew Karpyshyn pens this (and two other) Mass Effect novels and really has a good grasp of the universe. The great part about that is that this really feels like the Mass Effect world set up in the game. The bad thing is that the story itself isn’t extremely compelling, especially because it’s mostly a foregone conclusion: Anderson is disgraced, Saren turns evil, and Reaper technology is discovered. The book does do a good job expanding on a few things found in the original Mass Effect game, like the galactic attitude toward AI (spoiler: they think it’s a bad thing) and showing how Saren got entangled with Reaper indoctrination and found Sovereign. But it doesn’t do a whole lot to really inform the events of Mass Effect; good for Mass Effect fans only.

Our Rating: 3 out of 5

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