A Quick Look at the Mass Effect Novels

Mass Effect: Deception
Relevant to: Mass Effect: Retribution
Amazon Average Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Summary: After the events at the Grissom Academy, Sanders and Anderson have taken Grayson’s body to the Citadel Council in an attempt to prove that the Reapers are a real and imminent threat. They bring along Nick, who survived his wounds, and visit the Council, where they’re ignored and insulted, with the Council convinced Grayson’s body isn’t the result of Reaper tech, but of Cerberus. Meanwhile, Nick disappears, and Sanders and Anderson discover he’s joined a biotic supremacy group called the Biotic Underground and has disappeared to Omega.

Meanwhile, Gillian and Hendel’s quarian ship is attacked by batarian slavers. The attack is repelled and a Cerberus operative captured there tells Gillian her father was killed. She heads to the Citadel with Hendel to talk with Sanders, finds out the Illusive Man was behind her father’s death, and takes off for Omega to find a way to kill him. Her whole motivation for the entire novel is revenge.

A bunch of stuff happens with the Biotic Underground, which attacks Aria T’Loak’s gang to gain some notoriety. Kai Leng is dispatched to Omega to kill Gillian, and Sanders, Anderson and Hendel head there to find the kids. Eventually, the biotics recruit Gillian and capture Kai Leng, intending to use him, as Gillian suggests, to lure out the Illusive Man and kill him. When Gillian and some of the biotics head to a meet with the Illusive Man, Hendel, Sanders and Anderson attack the biotics with the help of Aria T’Loak, who was planning some serious retribution. Hendel and Nick are killed; at the meet with the Illusive Man, Leng manages to escape and kills Gillian in the process. Protected from the threat of Gillian and with Grayson’s body recovered by Leng, Cerberus is free to keep doing evil crap.

Quick Review: Deception really is wrought with problems, as noted by lots of readers and rabid Mass Effect fans. It’s the first novel written by game novelization veteran William C. Dietz, with Karpyshyn having departed to work on Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s also filled with troubling issues ranging from superficial (like descriptions of quarian clothing instead of environment suits or failure to consider a krogan’s redundant organ systems) to lazily missed (like Hendel no longer being a gay man, Gillian no longer being autistic as she was in Ascension and details mentioned in the other novels being incorrect in this one). Lots of users have trouble with the writing style, which is heavy on fragments and cliches (though to be fair, cliches are extensive in all the Mass Effect novels and games).

Overall, it’s not really a good book — the story amounts to nothing and the characters previously established shift drastically throughout it; plus, it adds little or nothing to the context of Mass Effect 3 that didn’t show up in Retribution. And for some reason, despite trying to save two troubled kids, Anderson and Sanders are constantly stopping to have breakfast before hurrying off to find them.

Our Rating: 1 out of 5

As a group, the Mass Effect novels add some to the universe, but you can easily enjoy the games if you’ve never read them. The fourth book, Deception, is a considerably painful read and adds almost nothing to the greater universe of Mass Effect — it exists mostly to tie off the loose ends presented in the other novels. But if you’re looking to get into the novels at all, the first three are a pretty good expansion of BioWare’s universe. Retribution, really, stands out for adding some strong side- and backstory to Mass Effect 3. It’s not essential, but it does provide a little more of an understanding of a few of the main characters, including the Illusive Man and David Anderson. Fans will definitely get at least something of a kick out of these three books; feel free to steer clear of the fourth, though.

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Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw

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