Dead Space: Catalyst (Book) Review
- Bite-sized chapters and story breaks
- A good video game novel
- Fans will enjoy
- Amazon's digital download is DRM-free
Not so much?
- The cliches from the video game also exist here (evil government, religious fanatics, etc.)
With Dead Space: Catalyst, author B. K. Everson takes his time building up his characters and story before unleashing the chaos that we all come to love and expect from the Dead Space sci-fi/horror series.
Who would have thought that a book based on a horror/sci-fi video game would be any good? If you’re thoughts were like mine, maybe you should give Dead Space: Catalyst a try!
Let me begin this review by saying that I’m a huge Dead Space fan. The first Dead Space video game was a bit of a sleeper hit, and I certainly didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It reminded me of the days off Doom and Half-Life, where unexpected enemies and ambient noise took turns creating anxiety before scaring bejezzus out of you. You were constantly feeling on edge and unsafe, and even the solid walls behind you could not guarantee your safety when you were backed up against them.
When Dead Space 2 came out, I thought it was a bad idea to continue on a story that obviously wrapped up with a good, yet fright-filled conclusion. However, Dead Space 2 ended up being near the top of my favorite games from last year, despite it being one of the first games released that year, in January. The new environments brought about the new chills and scares. I’ll never forget the NoonTech Disgnostic Machine (aka the Eye Poke Machine) mini-game. Eeeh! Still gives me the chills. It’s probably no surprise but I feel the same exact way over the upcoming Dead Space 3, as I did about the second part, and I’m hoping that I’m wrong. (But I think I might be right this time – prove me wrong, EA!).
I even liked the Dead Space animated films Dead Space: Aftermath and Dead Space: Downfall, although I certainly didn’t expect much from them other than to be cheap, gory thrills. Because of this, I also (unfairly?) set my standards low when it came to the books, specifically Dead Space: Martyr. How could a book, based on a video game actually be good?
Of course, I knew that I was wrong to categories all video game fiction this way after reading Drew Karpyshyn’s novels based on the Mass Effect series. The first Mass Effect novel was such a good science fiction story that I shared it with my wife, and she loved it, too.
So, when Dead Space: Catalyst came across the proverbial Games Fiends review desk, I decided it was time to take the plunge and see how it stacked up against my love of the game.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this review in particular was that the review copy provided was an actual book. Typically, our review copies come in the digital flavor. I’m honestly fine with that. Digital books are easier and faster to distribute, and just about everybody has a device that can read them. I love technology the accessibility to have your entire book library at your fingertips, the same way your music library with an iPod, is a really nice convenience. At the same time, I like being able to dog-ear a page (yes, I dog-ear my books sometimes) to mark my “saved spot.”
But enough about books vs. e-books — on with the review!
Dead Space: Catalyst is the second of two Dead Space prequel novels, written by B. K. Evenson. The first being Dead Space: Martyr, published in 2010. Martyr takes place 200 years before the events of the first game, and Dead Space: Catalyst takes place nearly a decade after the discovery of the Black Marker — at least that’s the timeline I’ve been able to discern from the Internet. (So take that with a grain of salt.) The Black Marker is the dangerous alien artifact that corrupts minds and uses dead bodies to create horrific abominations called Necromorphs.
The story focuses primarily on Istvan and Jensi, two brothers who grew up living in poverty. Istvan, who is more than a bit of an eccentric, has seen numbers and patterns in practically everything throughout his life. Nobody else seems to understand him, and often times finds him to be aggressive or a bit of a lunatic. His younger brother Jensi, however, sticks up for him, and attempts to believe and understand his older sibling.
When the government (EarthGov) steps in and attempts to put the boys into foster care, Istvan rejects the idea and takes the opportunity to escape, while Jensi is wisked away and placed in a good home. Despite a better life, Jensi cannot stop worrying about his older brother, and returns back to the slums, to find Istvan alive, but certainly not well — mentally.
Istvan is tricked into committing a crime, and is taken to prison, and Jensi, vowing to find and help his brother, ends up in a penal colony where the government is, as most evil governments do, doing experiments on people with the Black Marker.
Just like the first Dead Space game’s location, the appropriately dark, empty, and claustrophobic space ship, the dank and dark prison colony is a pretty nasty location to mix of psychosis and an alien infestation.
As someone who doesn’t often read a lot of books, I found B. K. Evenson’s bite-sized chapters to be perfect. Whether I was reading for an hour before bed, or for just a few minutes, I was always able to find a good, purposeful break in the story, which was easy to pick up and resume at a later time.
Also for a story based on a space-horror game, I found the opening chapters to be nicely-paced, and filled with some good character development. I half-expected the opening chapter to be some sort of gory and action-packed Necromorph outbreak, but was glad that B.K. Evenson took his time building up to those moments.
While the story had its moments of cliches like evil governments, dark experimentation, and crazy cultists, Dead Space: Catalyst was a really enjoyable read! I still feel the same way about books based on video games, which is one of reluctance, but I think add B. K. Evenson along with Drew Karpyshyn, as authors who know how to faithfully adapt a world based on a video game, without turning it into a cheap and ridiculous, juvenile roller-coaster ride.
Well, done, B.K. Evenson. You’ve won me over.
One additional thing worth mentioning: if you purchase a digital version of Dead Space: Catalyst via Amazon, there is a notice as the bottom of the story synopsis that reads: “At the publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.”
Allow me this soapbox moment that has nothing to do with this review: DRM is used to curb software piracy, but has been a sore spot for gamers, particularly PC gamers. What often times happens, and this is my own opinion, is that DRM makes for miserable experiences for those who legitimate supporters and purchase these DRM-protected products. For example, in some PC gamers that use DRM, players must sign in with a managed account, and remain online at all times, even if the game isn’t being played online with others players. This somehow proves that this person in particular bought the game with their hard-earned money, yet they can’t play it without jumping through all of these hoops. With eBooks, it’s also become something of a headache when it comes to sharing or attempting to transfer a book from one device to another. At times, it can be ridiculous. But to be fair, not all DRM is like this and is sometimes easier to manage that us gamers tend to let on. As somebody who understands both sides of the DRM perspective, I thought it was really cool for the publisher to release the book without it! Kudos!