Weekend Entertainment: Mass Effect Deception
Publisher: Del Ray Books
“My names is Anderson…”
Game-based novels are a polarising topic among gamers. Some of us love to see our favourite mythos expanded through another medium, while others see them as a waste of time designed to milk a franchise for all the money it can lactate. Of course, either scenario can be true, so each book should be taken on its own merit. The first three Mass Effect novels were brilliant, each one adding depth to the universe by fleshing out existing characters as well as introducing new ones. Some of those new characters – including Kai Leng and Kahlee Sanders – crossed back over from the books to be included in Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect: Deception, however, is another story.
The book is set between Mass Effect 2 and 3, and picks up the story from the first three novels. It follows a couple of young, socially challenged biotics through an intricate Cerberus plot involving the death of Aria T’Loaks daughter, as well as a cover-up of Reaper activity. Sound confusing? Well it should, because this book is.
While starting off setting up a story about the Reapers, this story-line never actually materialises as the book progresses. Instead, focus shifts to a rogue movement called “the Biotic Underground” and their shady dealings on Omega. Without giving away the ending, the author attempts to unify various disparate plot-lines in a climactic confrontation – but the resolution feels rushed, badly written, and out of character for most of those involved.
It doesn’t end there. Compounding the numerous plot holes are frustrating breaches of established canon that even casual fans will notice. Someone stabs a Krogan in the back of the neck with a knife, there’s a Volus described as having a face ‘partially covered’ with a mask, and locations on the Citadel are frequently described as being in the wrong place. Oh, and the book is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.
Here’s where I’m supposed to cite the positives in order to maintain a balanced review. Well, don’t hold your breath, folks, because there’s not much for me to say. To be fair there are large sections of the book that I enjoyed reading, but if I’m honest I was enjoying being in the Mass Effect universe again – I wasn’t actually enjoying a good book. And I am not alone; the book has been received negative comments across the board, with fans refusing to acknowledge it as canon. BioWare have said that they will publish a revised version, but that claim was made nearly a year ago now.
What went wrong? Well for one thing, Deception was written by a different author than the first three novels. Originally, Drew Karpyshyn helmed the series, while also a lead writer for the Mass Effect games themselves, and his illustrious CV doesn’t end there. He’s written videogame scripts and novels for Star Wars and Baldur’s gate too. For Deception, Drew was replaced by William C. Dietz, who also has a distinguished record of writing novels and game scenarios for Star Wars, Halo, and Resistance. While there is nothing technically wrong with Dietz and his qualifications, Mass Effect was born from Karpyshyn’s sticky creative womb, so there was always going to be a dip in the experience when he left the captain’s chair. While a dip would have been acceptable, a nose-dive is what best characterises Deception.
A book’s presentation includes basic things basic spelling and grammar, but goes all the way up to the writing style, the metaphors, and even the format and layout. Mass Effect Deception is riddled with spelling errors, therefore falling at the first hurdle.
While this story should fit neatly into the overall Mass Effect saga, deception makes so many canonical errors that this is just not the case. Key figures like the Illusive Man act noticeably out of character. For hardcore fans this will break the suspense of disbelief and be a source of endless frustration.
Does this book stand up as a good novel in and of its own accord? Unfortunately not. The plot holes and hap-hazard resolutions make this book as confusing to an outsider as it is to a fan.
Mass Effect Deception is a book for the hardest of hard core fans. Unless you literally cannot get enough of Mass Effect, steer clear of it.