Mass Effect: Ascension Mass Market Paperback – July 29, 2008
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Paul Grayson never used to dream. As a young man he had slept untroubled through the night. But those days of innocence were many years gone.
They were two hours into the flight; another four until they reached their destination. Grayson checked the status of the ship’s engines and mass drive, then confirmed their route on the navigation screens for the fourth time in the past hour. There wasn’t much else a pilot needed to do en route; everything was fully automated while a ship was in FTL flight.
He didn’t dream every night, but almost every other night. It might have been a sign of advancing age, or a by-product of the red sand he dosed himself with on occasion. Or maybe it was just a guilty conscience. The salarians had a saying: the mind with many secrets can never rest.
He was stalling; checking and rechecking the instruments and readouts to hold what was to come at bay. Recognizing his own fear and reluctance allowed him—forced him—to confront the situation. Deal with it. He took a deep breath to collect himself, his heart pounding in his chest as he rose slowly from his seat. No sense putting it off any longer. It was time.
On some level he always knew when he was dreaming. There was a strange haze over everything, a bleary film that left the false reality feeling washed out and muted. Yet through this obscuring filter, certain elements would register with exacting precision, minor details indelibly etched into his subconscious mind. The juxtaposition added to the surreal nature of his dreams, yet also made them somehow more vivid, more intense, than his waking world.
His feet padded softly over the carpeted aisle as he made his way aft from the cockpit toward the passenger cabin. There, Pel and Keo occupied two of the four seats, sitting kitty-corner across from each other. Pel was a big man with broad shoulders and olive skin. His hair was cropped in a tight afro, and he had a thin black beard extending along the length of his jaw. Seated in the chair facing Grayson as he came into the cabin, Pel was swaying gently back and forth in time to the song coming over his headphones. His fingers tapped lightly against his thigh, his perfectly manicured nails rustling softly against the dark material of his suit pants. His tie was still tight around his neck, but his jacket was unbuttoned and his mirrored sunglasses were tucked away inside the right breast pocket. His eyes were nearly closed; he’d lost himself in the rhythms of the music—a peaceful, easy image at odds with his reputation as one of Terra Firma’s top personal protection agents.
Keo wore the same suit as her partner minus the tie, but she lacked the imposing physical size one typically expected in a bodyguard. She was a full foot shorter than Pel and maybe half his weight, though there was a tautness to her wiry muscles that hinted at the violence she was capable of inflicting.
Her exact age was difficult to pin down, though Grayson knew she had to be at least forty. With advances in nutrition and gene therapy to reduce the effects of aging, it was common for people to look as young and healthy at fifty as they did at thirty, and Keo’s unusual appearance made it even harder to estimate how old or young she might be. Her pale skin was the color of chalk, giving her a ghostly appearance, and her silver hair was shaved short enough to glimpse the pasty-white flesh of her scalp beneath.
Intermarriage between the various ethnicities of Earth over the past two centuries had made alabaster skin a rarity, and Grayson suspected Keo’s stark complexion was the result of a minor pigment deficiency she had never bothered to reverse . . . although it was entirely possible she had undergone elective skin-lightening for cosmetic purposes. After all, visibility was a key aspect of her job: let people know you’re on duty, and they’ll think twice before doing anything stupid. Keo’s odd appearance definitely made her stand out in a crowd despite her stature.
She was facing away from Grayson, but she twisted around in her seat to watch him as he entered the cabin. She looked tense and coiled, ready for anything—a complete contrast to Pel’s easy calm. Unlike her partner, she seemed incapable of relaxing, even under the most mundane circumstances.
“What’s wrong?” she demanded at his approach, eyeing the pilot suspiciously.
Grayson froze and raised his hands in the air so they were level with his shoulders. “Just getting a drink,” he assured her.
His body was charged with nervous anticipation, the tips of his fingers were actually tingling. But he was careful to betray no hint of this in his voice.
This particular dream was all too familiar. Over the past ten years he had relived his first kill hundreds, if not thousands, of times. There had been other assignments, of course; other deaths. In the service of the greater cause he had taken many, many lives. If humanity was to survive—to triumph over all the other species—sacrifices had to be made. But of all the sacrifices, of all the lives he had taken, of all the missions he had completed, this was the one he dreamed of more than any other.
Satisfied the pilot posed no immediate threat, Keo turned away from him and settled back down in her seat, though she still seemed ready to lash out at the slightest provocation. Grayson made his way behind her toward the small fridge in the corner of the passenger cabin. He swallowed hard, his throat so dry and tight it actually hurt. He half-imagined he saw her ears twitch at the sound.
From the corner of his eye he saw Pel remove his headphones, dropping them casually into the seat beside him as he stood up to stretch. “How long till we land?” he asked, his words partially stifled by a yawn.
“Four hours,” Grayson replied as he opened the fridge and ducked down to inspect the contents, struggling to keep his breathing calm and even.
“No complications?” Pel asked as the pilot rummaged around in the chilled contents of the fridge.
“Everything’s right on schedule,” Grayson replied, wrapping his left hand around a bottled water while his right grasped the handle of the long, thin serrated blade he had stashed inside the icebox before the journey began.
Even though he knew this was a dream, Grayson was powerless to change anything that was about to happen. The episode would continue without variance or alteration. He was trapped in the role of passive observer; a witness forced to watch through his own eyes as events unfolded along their original course, his subconscious refusing to allow him to alter his own personal history.
“Guess I’ll go check on sleeping beauty,” Pel said nonchalantly, giving Grayson the code phrase for the final go. There was no turning back now.
There was only one other passenger on board: Claude Menneau, one of the highest ranking members of the pro-human Terra Firma political party. A man of vast wealth and power, he was a charismatic, though not necessarily likable, public figure; the kind of man who could afford a private interstellar vessel, complete with his own pilot and a pair of full-time bodyguards to accompany him on his frequent trips.
In what had become a familiar routine, Menneau had locked himself away in the VIP room in the aft of the vessel just after takeoff. There he would rest and prepare for his upcoming public appearance. In a few hours they were scheduled to touch down at the civilian spaceport on Shanxi, where Menneau would address a fevered crowd of Terra Firma supporters.
In the wake of the Nashan Stellar Dynamics kickback scandal, Inez Simmons had been forced to step down from her role as party leader. It was clear either Menneau or a man named Charles Saracino would succeed her at the Terra Firma helm, and both were making frequent trips to the various human colonies to drum up support.
Menneau was currently ahead in the polls by a full three points. But things were about to change. The Illusive Man wanted Saracino to win, and the Illusive Man always got what he wanted.
Grayson stood up from the fridge, shielding the knife from view with the bottled water in case Keo happened to be looking his way. To his relief, she was still seated facing away from him, her attention focused on Pel’s back as he made his way with long, easy strides toward the VIP room in the tail of the vessel.
The chilled condensation on the water bottle made his left palm cold and damp. The right was damp, too—hot and sweaty from being clenched too tightly around the handle of his weapon. He took a silent step forward so that he was standing only inches behind Keo, her bare neck exposed and vulnerable.
Pel would never have been able to get this close to her; not without raising suspicion and putting her on guard. Despite nearly six months working together as bodyguards for Menneau, she still didn’t completely trust her partner. Pel was a former mercenary, a professional killer with a murky past. Keo always kept half an eye on him. That was why it had to be Grayson. She might not trust him—Keo didn’t trust anybody—but she didn’t watch his every move like she did with Pel.
He held the weapon poised to strike, took a deep breath, then stabbed forward with the blade, striking at an upward angle toward the soft spot in the skull just behind Keo’s ear. It should have been a quick, clean kill. But his momentary hesitation cost him; it gave Keo a chance to sense the attack before it came. Reacting with a survival instinct honed over countless missions, she leaped from her seat, spinning to face her attacker even as the blade plunged home. Her incredible reflexes saved her from instantaneous death; instead of sliding smoothly up into her brain the knife buried itself deep in the flesh of her neck, where it stuck fast.
- Item Weight : 6.2 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0345498526
- ISBN-13 : 978-0345498526
- Dimensions : 4.16 x 0.87 x 6.85 inches
- Publisher : Del Rey; 6/29/08 edition (July 29, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #233,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Drew Karpyshyn, author of Baldur's Gate II: The Throne Of Bhaal, and contributing author to a number of Bioware games has given us his second 'prequil' novel with Mass Effect: Ascension. This book has definitely highlighted his growing strength as an author, and while it strongly supports fans of the Mass Effect games, it really stands alone well, even more so than Mass Effect: Revelation. This book is a fantastic sci-fi read with action, adventure, romance, and with a psychological twist or two to satisfy nearly every sci-fi need.
Well, come to think of it, I do have some sci-fi needs left unsatisfied... but this book was very good. Ascension derives its goodness in part from building on the universe created for the Bioware series of games, Mass Effect. Two things stand out developmentally wise: species and element development.
As far as species development is concerned, the Quarians receive a little fleshing out in this tale. Tali, a prime Quarian character in the first video game, has gained a rather substantial following, and the mysteries of her race leave a lot of intriguing questions. A few of those questions are answered in the telling of this tale, and this ads a lot to the flavor.
Secondly, biotics, an element introduced as a foundation of the Mass Effect universe, finds development in some unusual ways. We get a chance to ponder, what makes a biotic powerful? Can genetic tampering enhance the natural biotic ability? Can the true potential of biotics only be tapped through training? How does the psychology of the subject come into play?
Ad in some elements of autism and drug abuse for flavor and you get the story. Intriguing, poignant, and exciting.
This story continues the tale of characters from the first prequil, introduces some new characters, and introduces one of the major characters in Mass Effect 2. The story itself is really good, and I found the book hard to put down from beginning to end. Suffice it to say, anyone familiar with the mass effect universe will like this story, and those who are not will get great enjoyment from it too.
Twelve-year-old Gillian "Gigi" Grayson is borderline autistic. Her mental condition makes her emotionally distant, yet she is still the program's most promising student. She has also become the favorite of Hendel Mitra's, chief of security. But unknown to Sanders and Hendel is that Gigi's father is part of Cerberus, a radical pro-human terrorist group led by one known only as the Illusive Man. When Grayson visits Gigi, it is to help Cerberus perform illegal experiments on her.
When the Cerberus plot is revealed, Grayson takes Gigi away. Sanders and Hendel convinces Grayson to take them with Gigi. Cerberus is hot on their trail as the trio search for a way to save Gigi. Help comes from a totally unexpected source.
**** If you are playing the MASS EFFECT computer game, know that this story takes place AFTER the game ends. If you have not played the game as yet, but plan to, wait until you finish the game before you begin reading this story. This story reveals spoilers by mentioning things that happen in the game.
You do not have to read the first book, REVELATION, to fully enjoy this story. Both seem to be stand-alone tales. Even though the main character, Kahlee Sanders, was a big part of the first story, the events have little, if anything, to do with this story's plot. You will never feel lost or confused. The author only mentions things new readers need to know, so you will not be bogged down with a lot of catching up narratives. From the beginning until the ending, this entire story oozes with danger and intrigue. Drama, drama, drama! ****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
Overall, it was a good story, another opportunity to spend time in a world I enjoy a great deal, and at some point I will read the third Karpyshyn novel set in the ME universe. 3 out of 3 stars.
Top reviews from other countries
Other than that there isnt much point to the whole thing. The story is shallow and predictable and it starts so slow I had almost lost all hope for a while. Things do pick up after a third of the way but there are no memorable characters or villains like Saren in "Revelation" and it all seems quite dry. There's no Anderson either, so the book falls solely on Kahlee's shoulders. Unfortunately, for the sake of plot, Kahlee is... well not very bright for most of the story and actually turns quite annoying in a few parts. The author never seems to "pull the trigger" on the Gillian plot either, her importance, her true value and origin and her character is hardly developed past being a simple plot tool. Paul Grayson, her father and Cerberus agent had the potential to be a compelling character, in his struggle between remaining loyal to his beliefs in Cerberus and the love for his daughter, the victim of the Illusive Man's plans. Unfortunately he is just too bland and predictable for anyone to care.
The first part of the book is spent at Grissom Academy, although Grissom himself, a very interesting character from the first book never appears. At Grissom, Kahlee is in charge of the Ascension Project, a study about biotic children so we get many pages about teenagers, their problems, how weird Gillian is and... well not very exciting stuff. Throw in a silly romance of Kahlee with a young teacher and a few twists that are so predictable it hurts, and the book suffers greatly.
This is still a treat for ME fans, especially for the quarian part of the story but "Ascension" never achieves the quality of its predecessor or the level of fan service.
One child possesses especially strong biotic powers, but all is not as it seems as the shadowy pro-human group Cerberus are clearly having a hand in her development. Moving at a brisk pace, the story follows the child in question, Gillian, plus Kahlee and others as they attempt to escape from Cerberus and Paul Grayson, Gillian's adoptive father and a Cerberus agent.
There are plenty of books based on video games nowadays, but the Mass Effect series is a little cut above the rest. Well written by Drew Karpyshyn, a BioWare writer in the first place, they have a really good feel for the universe and tie in pretty well with the games. Whereas Revelation primarily focused on an event alluded to in the first Mass Effect game, Ascension has to strike out more on its own. There's plenty of action, lots of backstory to various components of the ME universe that you encounter in the games, and well-rounded characters.
If you enjoy the games then this is well worth a read, even if you haven't read any other Mass Effect books. Although the book wraps up nicely, I highly recommend you pick up the next in the series, Retribution, which continues the story to a large degree.
`Ascension' feels like one of side missions from within `Mass Effect 2', in that it's about a group of characters we do not care as much about, where is Commander Sheppard? Instead the book concentrates on Doctor Sanders, a troubled youth called Gillian and her father Grayson; who may be more than he seems. The book is at its best when delving into some of the `Mass Effect' lore, either the use of bionics, or the way in which the Quarion race survive in space. At these moments `Ascension' feels like a valid expansion to the franchise as it explores areas the game cannot reach.
However, the story itself is less consequential. There are a couple of action set pieces that are the highlights of the book, but the majority is a little slow and not as exciting as I wanted from a `Mass Effect' novel. I couldn't grow to care about the characters, although some of them are reoccurring. I was much more interested in the likes of the Illusive Man who appears in the core cannon as well as in the books. Having played the games and judged them as having excellent stories I hold the books up to the same standard. Unfortunately, `Mass Effect: Ascension' is not quite as good and remains a solid, if slightly uninspiring, science fiction novel that could have been set in any universe.
While it can't offer the thrill of the first book, as we're introduced to the ME universe and its inhabiting species for the first time, it is still entertaining to read and tells a great character-driven story.
This book paves the way for the third book and is a solid entry in the trilogy, introducing us to new characters, giving us a glimpse into the agenda of Cerberus and their operatives and also into a little about quarian society as we get to the last third of the story.
The only gripe I really have about the book is that the ending seemed a bit rushed and felt like a deus ex machina. Nothing major, but it stood out to me. It's not exactly an eye-roller, but it did feel kinda cheap.
This is a great read and shouldn't be missed by any fans of the Mass Effect series or anyone who's read Mass Effect: Revelation.
The characters were interesting and the action was really jam-packed all the way through.
If you've played the games then you'll know a bit more about the alien races and the way things work, but otherwise it's a fantastic read, whether you've played the games or not.
There is a bit of violence but this is common with modern videogames. The characters use language that matches their personalities and overall the characters have a lot of development.
The ending is interesting and the few plot twists really surprised me when I read them.
Overall, fantastic book, well worth reading.