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Mass Effect: Deception Mass Market Paperback – January 31, 2012
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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About the Author
William C. Dietz is the bestselling author of Resistance: The Gathering Storm, HALO: The Flood, and Hitman: Enemy Within, plus thirty other science fiction novels, some of which have been translated into German, Russian, and Japanese. He grew up in the Seattle area, served as a medic with the navy and the Marine Corps, and graduated from the University of Washington. Dietz worked as a surgical technician, news writer, college instructor, television producer, and director of public relations for an international telephone company prior to embarking on a full-time writing career.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
one The Citadel “I don’t want to go,” Nick said stubbornly. “Why can’t I stay here?”
David Anderson didn’t have any children of his own, and had the matter been left to him, the ex-navy officer would have ordered the teenager out of the apartment with possibly unpleasant results. Fortunately, the woman he loved knew how to deal with such situations. Kahlee was in good shape for a woman in her forties, or thirties for that matter. As she smiled tiny creases appeared around her eyes. “You can’t stay here because David and I may want you to tell the Council what happened on the day Grayson invaded the Grissom Academy. It’s important to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.”
Nick had been shot in the stomach during the attack and sent to the Citadel for advanced medical treatment. So he knew about Grayson firsthand. Nick, with shoulder-length black hair and a relatively small frame for a boy his age, looked hopeful. “Can I go to The Cube on the way back?”
“Sure,” Kahlee replied. “But only for an hour. Come on—let’s go.”
A crisis had been averted, and Anderson was grateful. As they left the apartment the door locked behind them. An elevator took them down to the first floor and out into the hectic crush of the lower wards. A monorail loomed overhead, the pedways were crowded with individuals of every species, and the streets were jammed with ground vehicles. All of which was normal for the huge star-shaped space station that served as the cultural, financial, and political hub of the galaxy.
Anderson had been an admiral, and the Alliance’s representative to the Citadel Council, so he had spent a lot of time aboard the habitat. Everything was organized around a central ring. It was ten kilometers across, and the Citadel’s forty-kilometer-long “fingers” pointed from it to the stars beyond. The total population of the station was said to be in excess of thirteen million sentients, none of whom had played a role in creating the complex structure.
The asari had discovered the station 2,700 years earlier while exploring the vast network of mass relays put in place by a space-faring species known as the protheans. Having established a base on the Citadel, the asari learned how to create mass effect fields, and made use of them to explore the galaxy.
When the salarians found the space station a few decades later the two races agreed to form the Citadel Council for the purpose of settling disputes. And as more species began to travel the stars, they had little choice but to follow the dictates of the technologically advanced Council races. Humans were relative newcomers and had only recently been granted a seat on the Citadel Council.
For many years it had been assumed that the protheans were responsible for creating the Citadel. But more recently it had been learned that the real architects were a mysterious race of sentient star- ships called the Reapers who conceived of the space station as a trap, and were responsible for annihilating all organic sentients every fifty thousand years or so. And, even though Reapers were trapped in dark space, there was evidence that they could reach out and control their servants from light-years away. And that, Anderson believed, was a continuing threat. One the Council should deal with immediately.
The problem being that day-to-day interspecies rivalries often got in the way of the big picture. That was just one of the reasons why it had been so difficult for Anderson and Kahlee to get the Council to look beyond historical grievances to the greater threat represented by the Reapers. Anderson and Kahlee were certain that the Reapers had been in at least partial control of Grayson when he invaded the Grissom Academy, but they were still struggling to convince certain members of the Council. And that had everything to do with the presentation they planned to give. Hopefully, if they were successful, the Council would agree to unify behind an effort to counter the danger that threatened them all. Otherwise the Reapers would do what they had done before—wipe the galaxy clean of sentient life.
As Anderson led the others aboard a public shuttle he was reminded of the fact that the Reapers had created the Citadel as bait for a high-tech trap. One that had been sprung so successfully that now, two years later, some of the damage the sentient machines had caused was still being repaired.
The vehicle came to life as Anderson settled himself behind the controls. The contragravity speeder was powered by a mass effect field and would carry them from the lower wards to the vicinity of the Presidium where the Council’s offices were located. Kahlee was sitting next to him and Nick was in the back, fiddling with his omni-tool. The device consisted of an orange hologram that was superimposed over the teenager’s right arm. It could be used for hacking computers, repairing electronic devices, and playing games. And that’s what Nick was doing as Anderson guided the shuttle through a maze of streets, under graceful pedways, and into the flow of traffic that ran like a river between a pair of high-rise cliffs.
Ten minutes later the shuttle pulled into a rapid-transit platform where they disembarked. A short, tubby volus pushed his way forward to claim the speedster for himself. He was dressed in an environment suit and most of his face was hidden by a breathing mask. “Make way Earth people—I don’t have all day.”
They were accustomed to the often rude manner in which the Citadel’s citizens interacted with each other and weren’t surprised by the stranger’s contentious tone. The volus were closely allied with the raptorlike turians—many of whom still felt a degree of animosity toward humans resulting from the First Contact War. And that was just one of the problems which prevented the races from trusting each other.
As Anderson, Kahlee, and Nick walked toward a bank of elevators they passed a pair of beautiful asari. The species were asexual, but to Anderson’s eye they looked like human females, even if their skin had a bluish tint. Rather than hair, waves of sculpted skin could be seen on the backs of their heads and they were very shapely. “You can put your eyeballs back in your head now,” Kahlee commented as they entered the elevator. “No wonder the asari get along without men. Maybe I could too.”
Anderson grinned. “Just looking, that’s all. I’m partial to blondes.”
Kahlee made a face as the elevator started upward and the salarian standing in front of them lost his briefcase. It had been tucked under his arm but suddenly slipped out and landed on the floor. Like all of his kind the salarian’s head was narrow and crowned with two hornlike appendages. As he bent to retrieve the object it scooted away from him.
“Nick!” Kahlee said crossly. “Stop that . . . Give him the case and apologize.”
The teen looked as if he might object, saw the expression on Kahlee’s face, and apparently thought better of it. Having removed the folder from the floor, he gave it back to its owner and mumbled, “Sorry.”
The salarian had seen biotic pranks before and wasn’t amused. “You have a talent,” he snapped. “Use it wisely.”
Nick was one of the rare individuals who could manipulate the gravity-like force found in all of the otherwise empty spaces in the universe. The boy had been working to refine his biotic skills of late and the subtle combination of energies required to dislodge the briefcase and then move it around was quite impressive. It was also annoying and made Anderson frown. Fortunately for Nick, Kahlee was more patient. Maybe too patient.
The elevator doors opened smoothly and the passengers spilled out into a lobby that opened onto the Presidium. In marked contrast to the densely packed wards it was almost entirely open. There were artificial clouds in the blue sky, sunlight streamed down from above, and, as Anderson accompanied the others out onto a curving walkway, he could feel a light breeze touch his neck. The parklike area was home to a lake, clusters of trees, and a large expanse of well-manicured grass. People representing various races were constantly coming and going. Some appeared to be in a hurry while others strolled along or sat on benches.
Anderson’s pace was more purposeful as he led the others toward the Citadel Tower, located at the very center of the massive space station. It was difficult to appreciate the structure by looking straight up at it, but Anderson knew it could be seen from many kilometers away, and was the most important landmark on the Citadel.
The Council Chambers were positioned toward the top of the spire and it wouldn’t pay to be late, so Anderson set a brisk pace. The Council’s agenda typically remained in flux right up until the beginning of each meeting. So Anderson had no way to know if their presentation would be first, last, or somewhere in between.
But before the threesome could enter the tower it was necessary to check in with the Citadel Security Services (C-Sec) kiosk located outside the main entrance. The person in charge was turian. Bright eyes stared at Anderson from bony sockets that were surrounded by a tracery of scarlet tattoos. A flat, thin-slitted nose was flanked by hard facial plates. The officer’s mouth formed an inverted V and wasn’t designed to smile. “Yes, sir . . . What can I do for you?”
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Boy, was I mistaken. As soon as I opened the book, I could tell something was wrong. I like quality writing, but I'm usually able to enjoy pretty much anything. Unfortunately the writing in this book is of extremely poor quality. In places it makes it very hard to get through. The language is sloppy, the narrative is very confused, and it's full of poor grammar.
Now if this was all that was wrong with the book, I supposed I would dock it a few points and leave it at that. But this is tie-in fiction. That's where it's biggest weakness comes into play. As I read through the book, I became more and more confused. The problem is simple: the book appears to have been written by someone who had no knowledge of the previous three books, or the subject matter in general. The timeline is impossible to reconcile with the other books. Numerous terms are misused. Characters lose important traits, and act out of character at seemingly every point. The book is full of these issues. It's very hard to understand how they made their way through quality control.
Even setting these problems aside, the book has little to offer. The characters, both returning and new, are flat and uninteresting. The audience is asked to accept as fact various things that seems to make little sense.
All in all, I'm extremely disappointed. Anyone who enjoyed the previous three books is going to be sorely disappointed when they reach the end of this installment. It really is a shame, because the series once held such promise.
I hope this review is helpful in making an informed decision. There are also various excerpts available online, and I urge you to read them for yourself, so you can see the issues I've detailed, before committing your hard-earned cash to purchasing this book.
For someone unfamiliar with Mass Effect, many of the major canonical issues brought up by Deception to the series lore might fly over your head (like how the alien race of the quarians are suppose to be wearing environmentally-sealed suits or why a human wouldn't be allowed on the batarian home-world of Khar'Shan), but the sheer number of errors to the series on display in this novel is simply staggering and suggest a complete lack of research and/or understanding on the author's part for the universe that he was writing for. The errors to canon even extend to the previous three novels Revelation, Ascension, and Retribution: characters ages are rewritten for no reason (Gillian and Nick, who should be 15-16 by the correct ME timeline, are now 18), a character described as a hardened racist and xenophobe in the previous novel now openly flirts with alien women, and a character previously killed off in the novel Ascension has been magically brought back to life in Deception (only to get unceremoniously killed off shortly after he's reintroduced, I might add).
Two of the most egregious example of poor canon inconsistencies and downright offensive "retconing" displayed in Deception comes in the form of two of the novel's main characters, Gillian Grayson and Hendel Mitra (two character which we haven't even seen since the novel Ascension):
In Ascension, a crucial defining character trait of the character Gillian was that she suffered from a severe case of "high-functioning" autism, which made normal social interactions with most of the other characters next to impossible. Well, not so, according to Deception - in this novel, Gillian behaves and thinks like a perfectly normal girl, with the only explanations by the author for her complete lack of autism was that she previously was a very angry "unstable 12 year old" and that she simply "outgrew it"... to me, that is one of the worst recons I've seen in any media in ages and is completely offensive to those individuals who do suffer from autism in real life to state that a person could simply "outgrow it" like its a case of the Terrible Twos or something. Things aren't any better for the Hendel character, who up until this point was the Mass Effect series only established homosexual male character - thanks to Deception, though, the character has now been completely rewritten into a straight heterosexual man, even going so far as to "oogle" women and female aliens with the other main character (pretty sure that human sexuality doesn't work like that, Mr. Dietz...).
All of these problems with the plot, the characters, the lore inconsistencies, etc., all of those things would have been somewhat easier to swallow all down if the novel has actually been written reasonably well... which it isn't, not by a long shot. I have not read any of Mr. Dietz's previous works, but I honestly have no desire to do so after this novel, because the writing skill displayed by its author is so amateurish and poorly constructed, you would have thought it was written by a middle school student for his English Lit. class. The book's prose never goes any higher than an 8th grade comprehension level, exposition is constantly delivered in the simplest of terms to the reader, characters reactions and emotions are surprisingly muted and schizophrenic as the novel jumps from one scene to another, elements from other fictional works are slap-dashingly ripped off and inserted into the plot... it's all just a great big mess. Honestly, as someone who has been reading novels for nearly his entire life and who greatly values the art of writing, Deception is truly one of the worst written works of fiction that I've read in well over a decade.
And now I reach what I view as the principle, primary flaw of Deception - an issue that I truly can not overlook whatsoever:
How completely worthless is this novel when the entire plot contained within is MEANINGLESS? The only major outcome that occurs in Deception is that the three characters previously created in the novel Ascension - Gillian, Hendel, and Nick - are all randomly killed off at the very end for no other purpose other than to erase their existence from the Mass Effect universe. Other than that, nothing matters in this novel to the plot of the Mass Effect series, NOTHING - Anderson and Kahlee make no progress into investigating either Cerberus or the Reapers, the Council still actively dismisses the existence of the Reapers, there is no mention of the events of Arrival or the escalating tensions between the Alliance and the batarians over it, there is no active effort by Cerberus into any of their secret projects... none of the characters grow or evolve, none of the conflicts previously established in other Mass Effect media are resolved, nothing is any different for the Mass Effect universe or its characters from the beginning of this novel to its end, not a single darn thing...
This is no "lead-in" to the Mass Effect 3 video game, as some of the game developers previously claimed... there's nothing for it to lead to anywhere! It's utterly pointless, a waste of the trees used to make the paper to print this worthless book and a waste of the time and energy of anyone who bothers to read through it from start to finish.
If you're a fan of science fiction, there is literally an infinite selection of better novels out there that are worth your time.
If you're a fan of Mass Effect and its lore... just wipe this stain clean from your mind and pretend that it never existed.