Posts Tagged ‘Reading’


May The Fire Be With You

November 15, 2011

Reading Drew Karpyshyn’s Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan on the new Amazon tablet Kindle Fire — just icing on the cake for the gadget geek-girl in me.


Read Lately…In Star Wars, Mass Effect And MORE Fantasy

June 13, 2011

And the reading frenzy continues!

Currently, I’m still on track to reaching my goal of reading 100 novels for the year of 2011. June’s nowhere near over yet, and already 51 books in, to be exact. As to why I’m doing this, there are a couple reasons — 1) for my love of reading, and 2) I’m insane.

It’s also quite fun. I read every day anyway, and in the same way I like to track my games and playtime with Raptr, I like to track my books and reading progress with Goodreads. By the way, if you are on GR, feel free to add me. If you’re a science fantasy fan, I could also do with some fresh new sci-fi recommendations that aren’t based on video games or Star Wars, heh.

Once again, here are some of the titles I’ve had the pleasure of reading these past couple of months…

Feed by Mira Grant

A zombie book! In a world where the CDC is the most important organization in the country, children are trained in firearms as young as 7, and Alaska has been ceded to “the Infected”, the population has come to depend more on social media instead of the mainstream news to get their up-to-the-minute information. Enter our protagonists, a trio of bloggers who land the story of a lifetime — the opportunity to accompany a senator on his campaign across the country to become the next president of the United States…but of course, bad things start happening.

Not that I’m a huge fan of zombie books, but when this one was nominated for a Hugo and my book club chose it to read for the month of May, I seized the opportunity. For one, I loved the premise behind the book. The story, however, turned out rather predictable and “telegraphed”, and for the lack of a better term the characters are kinda full of themselves. Ah, but the ending was a bombshell that made everything worth it. Despite my indifference for the characters themselves, the emotional fallout that resulted was simply gut-wrenching.

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Shreiber

Did I say I wasn’t a huge fan of zombie books? Really, I’m not. Like, I don’t go out of my way to read them, but every so often something indulgent like this just falls in my lap.

And God help me, but I liked this book. I didn’t really think I would. When I first caught wind of a series of Star Wars books about zombies, I predicted only disastrous results. Zombies are good and fine, but I just couldn’t imagine their presence in my beloved Star Wars universe. But curse my curiosity, I wanted to see what it was all about. And it was a short read, so I picked it up.

And whaddya know, a few chapters in and I actually started enjoying myself. Sure, there were a lot of plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but the book was also everything its cover promised — blood, gore, dismembered body parts, more blood and gore, flesh eating Stormtroopers, and even Wookiee zombies. It delivered where it was supposed to, and I mean, you might say the secret is low expectations, but then again you don’t pick up a book like this and expect anything more. This book belongs in my closet of guilty pleasures for sure, and I’ll just try not to feel so dirty for liking it.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

No more putting this off; I’m making it a goal to polish off all the Dresden books by the time Ghost Story comes out, which gives me about a month and a half. Yeah, so maybe I have the attention span of a squirrel, but I usually have a lot of trouble reading books in a series back-to-back-to-back as I find myself getting antsy and needing a different focus after a while. The only series with which I’ve ever been able to do pull that off is A Song of Ice and Fire. Say what you will about the quality of the subsequent books after A Game of Thrones, but George R. R. Martin does have a way of engaging you and making you want to know what happens next.

Jim Butcher makes me feel the same way, which is how I’m now reading all these Dresden Files books in a row and still not feeling worn down. I still have issues with “emo Harry” sometimes, but the stories themselves are always so full of action and humor. Currently on the 7th book now and I’m pleasantly surprised at how the momentum has not slowed down, which is rare in an ongoing series. In fact, I’ve been told the books just keep getting better and better. At this point, I’m starting to believe it.

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

I’m always thrilled to give a new book and a new author a try, especially since everywhere I look, the consensus for this new series is the same: “Recommended for fans of the Dresden Files.”

I can see why — both are narrated by a male protagonist in the first person with a modern, “hip” voice. Both are humorous and full of pop culture references. Harry Dresden has a talking skull named Bob, Atticus O’Sullivan has an Irish wolfhound he talks to named Oberon. They both keep paranormal company like werewolves, witches and vampires. And always, there’s some bad guy trying to kill them, and action ensues. It’s inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between these two series.

Atticus, however, is a 2,100 year old druid. And despite taking place in modern day Tempe, Arizona, the Iron Druid Chronicles series is steeped in Celtic mythology and culture. You’ll love Hounded if you’re into that type of thing. Or even if you’re not. I had a lot of fun reading this book. I would say it is better than the average debut novel, but I’m also curious as to how this series will progress. Atticus seems to have a magical solution for every problem, or friends that do, so I’m interested in seeing how things will turn out in terms of character growth. In any case, it’s always refreshing to read an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t suck.

Mass Effect by Drew Karpyshyn

Have I mentioned this hour that I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn? No? Well, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn. Loved his Star Wars: Darth Bane novels and enjoyed my first taste of his Mass Effect books with Revelation. So then I went and finished Ascension and Retribution, which tied together rather nicely.

One thing I admire about Drew and his books is his ability to make you sympathize with even the biggest jackwads. This is the man who managed to make me root for an evil Sith Lord, after all. Enter Paul Grayson, a Cerberus agent, drug addict, and a ruthless killer who sold his own daughter out to science. Kahlee Sanders returns to make him see the error of his ways and also to kick some ass, and in book 3 our old friend Anderson even comes back to help out. There is essentially no filler in these Mass Effect books, just action and more action. Typical of video game tie-in novels, but I find these much better written than many.

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Right away, I sensed that Dalglish was attempting for a Song of Ice and Fire feel. The title format and certain phrases and names dropped as homages were a hint, but he also stated as much in his afterword.

Well, he succeeded in a couple ways, first and foremost in that the story is much too complicated for me to explain in three sentences or less. I also had the feeling I was going to be in for some political intrigue and that I best prepare myself for most of the characters I meet dying horribly and needlessly. Turns out I was right on both accounts.

I liked the book, but A Game of Thrones it is not. A very fine attempt, however, with plenty of character and world building. A little bit more of that and a little less of blatantly trying to shock the reader, then I dare say it could have come close. And speaking of shock-value, expect much violence. I’m so desensitized these days that I barely flinch anymore, but I still have a weakness for the eyes and fingernails and any time anything bad happens to those two specific body parts. Unfortunately for me, Dalglsih seems to have a particular fondness and fixation for eye-gouging and other eye-related torture and injuries.

The Ten Thousand by Paul Kearney

This was perhaps my first real taste into the sub-genre of “military fantasy”. History or literature buffs will realize right away that The Ten Thousand is directly based on the events from Xenophon’s Anabasis. So maybe it’s a little difficult to feel much excitement or suspense when you know what’s going to happen already, but I found some of the fantastical elements in this book really intriguing.

I wish more details had been put into these, such as the mysterious black armor pieces worn by the Cursebearers or the strange exotic race of the Kufr, but most of the focus was poured into the book’s martial elements. That said, Paul Kearney has an obvious talent for writing scenes of warfare, as the battles and the descriptions of the fighting were really well done. I discovered after reading this book that I can take military fantasy, but it’s not really so much my thing. If it is yours though, I recommend giving this one a look.

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order by various authors

Okay, what I actually wanted to do was read the newer Star Wars books, like stuff from the Legacy of the Force or Fate of the Jedi series, but decided to go back a little further in the timeline and read up to it instead. Sure, I could have just read summaries on Wookieepedia and called it a day, but damn my stubbornness, I wanted to do things properly. As such, I started with The New Jedi Order AKA the “Yuuzhan Vong” series that’s, oh, about a whopping 20 books long.

I’m starting to regret things, but once I start a series it gets hard for me to drop it, especially since I’m already more than a third of the way in. It’s been a tedious journey thus far, but NJO does have its moments every now and then. Also, being familiar with the events of the Star Wars expanded universe is one thing, it’s another to go right to the source and read about the finer details. I like knowing more about the stories that until now I’ve only heard of or read about in passing, which was my motivation to tackle this series in the first place.

Kraken by China Miéville

China Miéville came highly recommended, though everyone who had read this one before me warned that Kraken is not like any of his other books. I still wonder if it was a good idea for picking it up for my first taste of Miéville. Even now, I’m at a loss as to what to say about it.

Two things are certain — 1) it was nothing like I expected, and 2) it’s going right into the “Weirdest Books I’ve Ever Read” shelf. The book follows Billy Harrow, a scientist at the Museum of Natural History in London. An expert on mollusks, Billy was also responsible for the preservation of one of the museum’s most popular exhibits — the giant squid. One day, out of the blue, the thing goes missing — all 28.3 feet of it. Investigating into its disappearance, Billy finds himself thrown into a side of London he never knew existed, a world full of magic, secret cults, doomsday theories and other supernatural creatures.

If you’re into Neil-Gaiman-type whackiness, then this book is for you. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be up for reading another book like this for a long time, but I’m more interested than ever now to tackle Miéville’s other more “straightforward” books like The City & The City. Nevertheless, Kraken was a fun if also bizarre read. I give this book a thumbs-up, if for nothing else the entire chapter full of Star Trek references including a live Tribble and an actual working phaser gun, plus the fact I got to annoy my husband by shouting “Release the Kraken!” before settling down with the book every night while I was reading it.


Books Versus Games

May 19, 2011

Drew Karpyshyn (author of the the Mass Effect books, the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy, as well as the upcoming Star Wars: The Old RepublicRevan) is one of the authors I “favorited” on my Goodreads page, so that was how I saw the notification for a new entry on his blog yesterday, in which he contrasts Revan as a game character versus a book character:

“To put it bluntly, Revan in the book will not be the uber-powered death machine you controlled at the end of the video game. You might have min-maxed your character to smack Darth Malak down in seconds without breaking a sweat, but in a book that battle would have been a brutal, hard fought affair spread over multiple pages. In a video game it’s fun to kill hundreds of Sith Masters, but in a book that would just be boring. It would suck out any drama or conflict or tension, and as an author I have no interest in writing that.

Now, I suspect some of you are already getting worked up about how I’m ruining SW canon by nerfing the Revan from the game. Well, tough.”

You tell ’em, Drew. Sometimes I think what FUN! it must be to be a Bioware writer and be able to write cool books, but in the end I see stuff like this and I can’t say I envy him his job. There’s already been resentment from some Knights of the Old Republic fans over the establishment of the male, “redeemed by the light side” canon Revan, and it’s hard to believe now that even his power levels are under contention.

I respect canon as much as the next gamer, but there’s gotta be a line drawn somewhere separating game mechanics and the elements that makes a story good. I played a female Revan in KOTOR and I’m not pissed off…heck, I’m happy I even had the choice to begin with! Like Mr. Karpyshyn points out, games and books are not the same thing. You do one thing to make a game fun for gamers; by the same token, you must do another to make a book fun for readers. Good to see him sticking to his guns.

To be honest, when a video game tie-in novel actually tries to work in too many of the game mechanics into the story, I get annoyed. I’m okay with a little bit — just enough for flavor — but I really don’t need it thrown in my face. It’s harder to get immersed when whatever I’m reading is making me think about stuff like class, levels, abilities, quests, etc. If an author needs to take a few “artistic liberties”, I say by all means — because I’m reading something, even a game book, I’m definitely in it for the reading experience.


Read Lately…In Fantasy

April 27, 2011

Ever since 2011 rolled about, I’ve been devouring books like a beast. Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes apart from gaming and art, but in the recent months I’ve been going through books more ardently than usual because I’ve set a challenge for myself — to read 100 novels this year. Yeah, good luck to me!

Anyway, I’ve always admired other bloggers like Syp or Anjin for writing about the books they’ve read lately, and I realized it has been quite a while since I myself wrote a book post on this blog. The last time I considered writing one was late last year, for lack of a better explanation I changed my mind because I didn’t feel like I had enough good books to talk about. Ever since I set my reading challenge, however, there has been an abundance! I’ve been dying to talk about good books lately, and my favorite genre is fantasy, so I hope you won’t mind my sharing some of the better reads I’ve had so far this year:

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series and follow up to 1997’s The Name of the Wind. Admittedly, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about with these books until about a third of the way through WMF when I changed my attitude and finally stopped trying to make the book conform to my expectations of what should happen in a fantasy novel.

After that, following Kvothe around on his adventures became so much more enjoyable. We’ve all heard how he’s supposedly this badass hero who has done all these amazing things, but now he tells us the true story in his own words. Hopefully at some point, we’ll also get to find out how he came to wind up behind a bar as a simple innkeeper.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

A really cool book about a world where demons rise at sundown from the Core and terrorize the nights. Humanity hides in the shadows, and their only means of protection are their wards that shield their homes and make them impenetrable to the Corelings — but only if their ward symbols hold. As a fan of modern fantasy, I enjoyed this one a lot. It had a character-driven story and just the right amount of action to keep the momentum going. However, I did feel that the second book of this series The Desert Spear was a little weaker, but regardless The Warded Man was still well worth the read.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Weeks is probably better known for his Night Angel trilogy, but when I became curious about his work I decided to pick this one up instead. The book is about Gavin Guile, a powerful man attempting to complete five great purposes before his death in five years, meanwhile guarding a terrible secret that could unravel everything he has accomplished. Then there is Kyp, an orphan boy who suddenly finds himself a father figure in Gavin, and together they are drawn into a war that threatens to shatter their world.

Yeah, the story is kinda hard to explain. It was all right, but in the end it was the unique magic system that really made it memorable. Based on chromaturgy, some people in this world called “drafters” can harness light to create a substance called luxin which can take on different colors of their spectrum. Each color has unique properties, so drafters can construct many different things out of this substance. Interesting magic systems always stand out for me.

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Very rarely do I find a series, especially in a trilogy, where the later books actually outshine the first. I wasn’t sure I was going to like The First Law when I picked up the first installment The Blade Itself, but now I’m really glad I stuck with the series, reading Before They Are Hanged and finally Last Argument of Kings. I love being able to read an epic tale of war and magic, and yet still feel connected to amazingly well-developed characters that breathe and bleed.

And ugh, do they bleed. Joe A’s books are definitely not for the faint-hearted. I have a pretty strong stomach for violence and I don’t really consider myself squeamish, but even I cringed at some of the scenes of torture and bloody battle. The dark grittiness and cynicism in his books can sometimes be a little too much to take, and I had to give myself long breaks between the books instead of reading them back-to-back. I recently realized how tired I was of the dreariness after reading Best Served Cold, a sort of “spin-off” which takes place in the same world as The First Law books but stars a completely new character. Makes me think it will be a while before I’m ready to take on Abercrombie’s latest novel The Heroes.

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

I gave this new author and his debut novel a try, and I don’t regret it one bit. His style may still lack a bit of polish, but in the end this book delivered a great story that was full of action and interesting twists and turns. Drothe is a “Nose”, which is like an informer for the underworld. I was immediately thrust into his world of intrigue and betrayal, and the action seriously doesn’t let up. Even though the beginning was a bit confusing, the end managed to come together and all the subplots tied up nicely.

I can see myself reading something by Douglas Hulick again. With more time and experience, I think he can deliver some amazing stories

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I confess, I was never big on urban fantasy. To put it mildly, so much of it out there is just utter crap. But I’d heard so many good things about The Dresden Files from so many people, I felt like I was the last person on earth to read this series. I finally took the plunge and picked up the first book Storm Front earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised with what I read. These books center around the life of Harry Dresden, a wizard who is also a private investigator looking into paranormal disturbances in modern-day Chicago, striking a fine balance between fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction.

I’m currently on book 5, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series because apparently these books just get better and better.

And speaking of Jim Butcher, I gave his Codex Alera series a try as well, but after reading Furies of Calderon, I think his Dresden stuff is clearly where his forte is.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I loved this book. When asked to describe LoLL, I always say it’s like Oliver Twist meets Ocean’s 11 meets The Godfather. It’s fantasy, but also reads like a dark action-adventure thriller, with its tales of thievery, gang wars, subterfuge, and themes of vengeance. I fell in love with the Gentleman Bastards right from the start, which made some parts of the novel hard to take whenever unfortunate events befell them.

Anyway, a great start to what looks to be a very fun series. I currently have the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies already on my to-read list.

Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan

Yeah, this is not your typical werewolf story. If you’re into Vikings and Norse mythology, and are sick of the usual paranormal romance stuff that passes for werewolf fiction these days, then this book is for you. Wolfsangel begins with a Viking raid on a small village, the leader a king who has seen in a prophecy that he was to kidnap a child to be his heir. But what he finds is not one but two infants — twin boys whose origins and fates are entwined with the gods. Vali grows up as a Viking prince, while his twin Feileg is raised in the wilds with wolves to be the protector of a witch.

At times, this book was difficult to follow, but all in all I was impressed by the story and the writing, which invoked some very powerful imagery. A hauntingly decent read, some parts being downright bone-chilling.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Just finished this book earlier this week, actually. A friend of mine who was not a fan of fantasy read it and ended up loving it, which made me curious to take a look.

It started off typically enough, a bastard son (my friend asked me why fantasy novels are always full of bastards…I honestly didn’t know what to say to that) of a prince is raised in the shadow of the royal court, secretly trained to be an assassin by the king. I found most of the novel rather average and predictable, until the end where the many plot twists and turns finally got me hooked. I was a little disappointed that the last chapters wrapped up so quickly, but luckily there is more to this trilogy so I can still follow more of Fitz’s adventures.

I am always on the look out for great books. Much of my to-read list is populated by fantasy, but I am open to all sorts of genres in fiction. So if you look at this list and can think of something you think I might enjoy, feel free to throw some recommendations my way!


SWTOR: OMG I Love Drew Karpyshyn!

April 22, 2011

Why think of a proper title for this post when I can just go with my first reaction at seeing today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update? I’m a huge fan of Drew Karpyshyn’s work.

Last month Darth Hater posted an article about the possibility of a third SWTOR tie-in novel coming to us later this year, penned by none other than Drew himself. I’m so glad that this has been confirmed today by BioWare — along with a title reveal: Revan.

A whiny and obnoxious hockey-haired pansy!

Yes, that Revan. You can’t imagine how full of squee I am right now.

I think some stories benefit from an open ending, while others suffer from a conspicuous lack of closure. Personally, I’ve always felt Revan’s story falls in the latter category. Whether you agree with me or not, it’s still sort of a moot point —  because I can’t imagine that even the most casual fans of BioWare and their games really didn’t see this one coming. Nothing screamed “To be continued!” louder to me than the ending of Knights of the Old Republic, and I never believed for a second they were going to leave this doozy alone. BioWare’s simply been biding their sweet time and waiting…waiting for something like SWTOR for the perfect chance to finally explore the mystery of Revan.

Drew Karpyshyn says in the Q&A that fans want to know what happened to Revan after KOTOR, and that he’s “ecstatic” that he’s the one who gets to tell the story. You’re not the only one, Mr. Karpyshyn. If anyone is going to continue the story of Revan, I’m so glad it’s you.

Like, sure, I want to find out what happens, but then I don’t want to know just for the sake of knowing, if you know what I mean? For example, I think so many movie sequels these days suck so hard because their creators simply string any old plotline together and rush it out the door so it could coat-tail ride on the success of the original. I really didn’t want to see the same sort of thing happen to Revan’s story.

Knowing that it’s in Karpyshyn’s very capable hands helps a lot, even if Revan’s story has become a canonical quagmire where geeks fear to tread.

For one thing, the man knows his stuff — both the character and the Old Republic era. In his words, “KOTOR was my first creative foray into the Star Wars universe, so writing Revan felt a little bit like I was returning to my roots.” Come to think of it, the subject of the novel should have occurred to me the moment I saw Drew Karpyshyn’s name attached to a new SWTOR book project. He’s probably the best choice (if not the only right choice) of author for a book about Revan, being the one who wrote much of the scenario and dialogue for KOTOR in the first place.

In any case, I’ve been a fan of not only his writing in games like KOTOR and Mass Effect, but I’ve also come to really enjoy his novels as well. His Darth Bane books rank among some of the better Star Wars books I’ve ever read. And in fact, earlier this year, it was reading Mass Effect: Revelation that made me wonder if there’s hope for the video game tie-in genre yet.

Revan will take place about 300 years earlier than the other SWTOR novels, but we are told the events of this book will have a major impact on shaping the game’s universe. However, there is nothing to indicate whether or not Revan will actually make an appearance in the game (personally, I hope not…it’s one thing to provide closure, it’s another to needlessly resurrect a character). But we do know from the Q&A that along with Revan, several of his companions including Canderous, T3-M4, Bastila Shan (yes, might we please put the matter of whether or not they have children to rest once and for all?) and even the Jedi Exile will have major roles to play in the novel.

I can understand how for some a SWTOR Friday update about an upcoming novel can be a disappointment when information about the actual game would be more exciting (actually, “disappointment” is an understatement judging from some of the rage-filled and betimes puerile commentary in the forum thread in which 20 pages had to be unceremoniously deleted). But those who know me know that I love reading, and that I enjoy sitting back with a video game tie-in novel every once in a while. Personally, I’m really looking forward to reading Revan “later this year”.


Read Lately – Star Wars: The Old Republic – Deceived

March 29, 2011

We first met him in a Star Wars: The Old Republic game trailer — the mysterious masked Sith that brought down the Jedi Temple during the sacking of Coruscant. Darth Malgus, dark lord of the Sith, was the one who led this brutal assault and cut down countless Jedi on their own sacred ground. Now he is one of the main characters in Deceived, the second book in the SWTOR series by Paul S. Kemp, which tells the story of the attack as well as the calamitous events which came afterward.

On the surface, Deceived might just be another novel based on a video game, but after reading it, I admit the quality of the storytelling took me by surprise. Even as Star Wars novels go, I have to say it is better than most. Granted, it is still your standard Star Wars fare — you have your archtypal tale about a Jedi and her comrade pitted against a Sith Warrior and the dark side and such. But still, it was refreshing to read a game book for once and get the sense that the author is actually more interested in telling a good story rather than trying to write a blatant MMO marketing piece that attempts to showcase every single player class and their abilities (which, incidentally, was my main complaint about the first SWTOR book).

That is not to say Deceived is completely devoid of references to the upcoming MMO, just that I feel they are much less pronounced. In fact, in true BioWare fashion, what I think the book attempts to do is to set the stage for the type of light-side/dark-side interactions we can expect to see in TOR. Deceived does this by delving deeper into character motivations and ambitions, and treading the line of morality.

Instead of hobbling the story, the addition of this interplay actually made things better. Subsequently, I felt the characters of Deceived were more fleshed out than I would have expected from a video game tie-in or Star Wars novel, because of the personal reasons and internal conflicts that drive them. The angry and hate-filled Darth Malgus, for example, may surprise you with his tenderness towards the woman he loves. Similarly, the Jedi protagonist Aryn Leneer has her own reasons for turning her back on the Order and going rogue. The reader will also find the smuggler Zeerid struggle to make some difficult decisions, in the name of keeping his family safe.

As such, even though this book can be read as a standalone novel, if I have to relate it back to SWTOR, I want to say Deceived prepares us for the kind of moral dilemmas and questionable choices and we will no doubt face in-game. In the context of the novel, however, this also serves to provide in-depth characterizations for the heroes and villains, and helps readers connect to characters who are otherwise new to the Star Wars expanded universe and are thus relatively still unknown. It’s a win-win situation, really.

There were a few things that annoyed me about Deceived, and I feel I need to mention them. One of them pertains to Darth Malgus, who was the one I was most looking forward to reading about, but unfortunately he also turned out to be the weakest character for me. I felt that his evilness, anger, hate, and all that lust for destruction and melodrama was just a tad over-exaggerated, making him just another broody Sith Lord in the Star Wars line-up, overshadowing what depth he could have had. Aryn and Zeerid, on the other hand, were much more interesting to me.

The book also changes points-of-view very frequently, bouncing around, sometimes only after just a few paragraphs at a time. Word of warning, it can get taxing if you are unused to that. Thankfully, there are blessedly few subplots in this novel, which made the constant shifts bearable. I liked how the storyline in Deceived has a clear focus, and Kemp follows through with it very well.

I would recommend this book to fans of Star Wars, fans who are looking forward to the MMORPG, and even those who are just looking for a quick but fun video game-related read. If you enjoy scenes of lightsaber combat and space encounters, you will not be disappointed — in fact, you can even expect to read about the Sith attack on the Jedi Temple in all its glorious detail and appreciate it anew. However, there is also more to Deceived than just constant action; there is also a deeper poignancy and intensity behind the events that I honestly didn’t think I would find in a Star Wars game novel. Perhaps other readers will be pleasantly surprised as well.


Have Game Tie-In Novels Gotten Better?

January 25, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot recently. I take my Kindle everywhere — I read during lunch, I read before bed, and thanks to handy mobile apps I’m also reading on-the-go while walking the dog or waiting in line at the grocery store. I even read when I’m playing games at my PC during loading screens. This has led to a flurry of activity on my Goodreads page, so I’ve been talking books with my friends a little more than usual as of late.

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of reading Mass Effect: Revelation, and expressed my thoughts of it in an overall positive review. I was a little surprised at how much I liked it; after all, the book had been on my to-read list for many months and I’d been putting it off in favor of other stuff I wanted to read more. Revelation is a pretty short novel, and I was planning on saving it for when I needed a light and casual read. When it turned out being better than I thought, a discussion with Blue Kae resulted, and we both agreed that for some reason game tie-in novels seem to have gotten a lot better in the last couple of years.

That isn’t to say that I think all video game novels have become literary masterpieces overnight, because certainly things have still been pretty much hit or miss for me. Still, I too get the sense that the bar has been raised. I think part of it has to do with better authors penning these types of novels, but I also wonder if the nature of games coming out nowadays makes a difference. In the last few years, we’ve seen games — single-player and MMOs alike — put a lot more emphasis and importance on lore and storytelling, perhaps making the novels based on them simply that much more interesting and enjoyable to read?

I’ve been pondering this, especially since Revelation is such a good example. Not only are the Mass Effect games powerfully story-driven, in my opinion the awesomeness of their gameplay is only rivaled by the incredible feat of world building the Bioware team has managed to pull off. It probably helped that the author Drew Karpyshyn is the writer for the game too, and a great storyteller (his Star Wars: Darth Bane books can attest to that as well).

Still, even the best writing wouldn’t matter if you can’t make someone care enough to pick up the book. What amazes me is that so many people are drawn to Revelation and the other Mass Effect novels in the first place, and find that they enjoy them…even though Revelation makes no mention of Shepard — the ultimate badass who is THE face of Mass Effect — or even any of his companions from either game. Some games are so immersive now that lorehounds are finding just as much enjoyment out of a prequel or a background story about a secondary character. Revelation, for example, tells the story of Anderson and how he almost became a Spectre. If you ever wondered about that from the first Mass Effect game (I know I did), this book has all the details.

On the whole, I think game tie-in novels are getting better and better, but I still don’t know if I’d approach them the same way I would with other fiction, and admittedly there’s probably always going to be a part of me that will remind myself “I’m reading a book based on a video game.” Despite that, it’s uplifting to see the good reviews some of these novels have gotten, and how more books based on video games seem to be able to stand on their own as general sci-fi or fantasy, that even non-gamers can enjoy.