Mass Effect: Retribution (Mass Market Paperback)
by Drew Karpyshyn
Del Rey, July 2010
The way I see it, there are two types of “science fiction”. The first is “modern” science fiction which features a realistic possibility of the future of mankind. Books like Minority Report and Neuromancer fall in to this category because they mankind, technology, and society. On the other hand, there is “extreme” science-fiction, or “Xtreme Sci-Fi” if you’re stuck in the 90′s. Wikipedia notes that there are more categories for the classification of science-fiction, but for simplicities sake i’m sticking with my two. For me, “extreme” books are ones that heavily feature aliens and revolve around intergalactic society. Star Wars and Star Trek full under this category. I am more drawn to “modern” science-fiction because of what it tries to say about the future of society. Call me crazy but I don’t care about Klingons, so I’ve never jumped on the “extreme” bandwagon.
Until Mass Effect that is.
Brief history: Mass Effect started as video game for the Xbox 360. Mankind has recently joined intergalactic society and you play as human soldier Commander Shepherd. As you play, you discover a dormant threat to the entire galaxy, the Reapers, who want to wipe out all organic life. Then you spend 20-ish hours shooting things until the credits role. I really am selling the game short here. It’s complex and no two experiences are the same. Bioware, the developer, incorporated a morality systems (“Paragon” and “Renegade”). Based on the player’s actions throughout the course of the games, different events may happen or characters will react differently to you. It’s pretty awesome.
Anyway, because of the success of the games, Drew Karpyshyn, writer of the two Mass Effect video games, has also written three novels based on the Mass Effect universe.
The books do not follow Commander Shepherd due to continuity issues that would arrive based on the player’s choices when they play the games. Instead the books follow secondary characters like Lieutenant David Anderson, Saren, and the Illusive Man. Previously I had listened to Revelation and Ascension in audiobook format and greatly enjoyed the quality of the voice work that was done in addition to the compelling story. When Retribution was released, I opted for the more traditional text-on-paper format, hoping it would be just as compelling as the audiobooks.
Don’t worry, it was.
Mass Effect: Retribution is chronologically the last entry in the Mass Effect series so far. The book centers around the pro-human/anti-alien Illusive Man as he subjects Paul Grayson, a former employee turned traitor, to experiments based on Reaper technology. The experiments slowly change Grayson from a human into husk controlled from the far reaches of the galaxy by the Reavers who hope to use Grayson to learn more about mankind.
I would not recommend this book unless you 1) like “extreme” science-fiction and 2) are familiar with the Mass Effect series. In an attempt to save time and avoid being repetitive, Retribution does not waste time on describing what aliens look like or how technology in the Mass Effect universe works because it’s already been pre-established in the games and books. However, if you are a die hard fan of the Mass Effect universe, all three books are incredibly enjoyable to read. They help flush out the backstory of some of the minor characters from the videos while telling a story that compliments the games. The books do contain some violent descriptions, but if you’ve played the games, you’re probably old enough to cope with that.