Aug 17, 2010

[Books] StarCraft: Liberty's Crusade

StarCraft: Liberty's CrusadeNovelizations of movies and television shows have become old hat these days. For almost any major entertainment event, you can expect a book to follow shortly thereafter (or sometimes even before). It's just how the world works and sometimes the novelizations are great while other times, well, they sort of pass but just barely.

More recently we've seen other media adapted into full novels, starting with comic books and now even video games. And we're not talking about Choose Your Own Adventure style books like what happened with the Mario titles many years ago. These are original stories set in the game universe that try to further expand on the character's back story or provide new insights into the lore around the game. It's a formula that doesn't always work since it's largely dependent on the quality of the core story that defines the game environment.

And you have to admit, most games tend to avoid major storylines altogether. With the rise of first-person shooter games and subsequently MMORPGs, the gaming world is more and more about randomly generated maps with token quests. This is not to say all games are without stories - just that not all of their stories are quite as good as they could be. However there are still those few games that go all out in the story department and certainly make for some very rich source material.

One such franchise remains to be the still-alive-and-kicking StarCraft series created by Blizzard Entertainment.

The first series of the collectable statues.Image via WikipediaStarCraft: Liberty's Crusade is the first book based on the game that was released in print given previous stories had been distributed as eBooks. It was written by Jeff Grubb, whom I first encountered given his books based on Magic: the Gathering.

The book closely follows the events of the original Terran campaign in the first StarCraft game, but from the perspective of Mike Liberty of the Universe News Network (UNN). In order to escape the heat from a recent expose he wrote, Mike gets assigned to the Norad II to follow Alpha Squadron during their missions as a field reporter. The post is expected to be a dull one given the lack of active conflict, but of course all this changes when an alien fleet destroys the frontier world of Chau Sara.

As the Norad II investigates the destruction of the planet, they venture to the sister planet of Mar Sara after the alien fleet mysteriously warps away. There Mike soon meets Marshal Jim Raynor and eventually Lieutenant Sarah Kerrigan. There's a lot more to things that how they initially appear and Mike is determined to find out the truth behind things despite General Duke's efforts to control his movements and limit his reports back to his UNN bosses. Thus it isn't long before the humans realize there's more than one alien species active in the Sara system.

Opting to go with the report-on-the-scene perspective was an interesting angle to select in terms of telling this story and one that the author used quite effectively. Mike was naturally designed to be a likable character given (1) he's a good guy at heart and (2) he just seems to roll with the punches life throws his way. And when those punches include encountering the Zerg for the first time, learning how to wear marine-style combat armor and being at the beck and call of Arcturus Mengsk, well, then you know he's made of pretty stern stuff. He's your classic idealistic reporter who won't give up when he knows there's a story to be told and he'll always hold on to his integrity and the power of the truth to change the world.

Plus the story is one that is already familiar to fans of the game series while still remaining to be a somewhat different story. It almost feels like a behind-the-scenes look at the Terran campaign, allowing you to learn what happened between the story elements of each of the missions and how the characters got from point A to point Zerg. There's a lot more to all of the characters than any of us could have imagined given the little video clips and snippets in the game alone. This book does a stellar job of giving all of us a deeper insight into the various character's motivations and principles, thus enriching the original game experience for those who are interested.

Don't expect a lot of combat scenes though. Despite this being a StraCraft book, you have to acknowledge that this is still being told from the perspective of a reporter. He manages to stay just behind the front lines most of the time but more of the tale is focused on his interactions with the key players as he unravels more and more of the mystery surrounding the introduction of the Zerg into Terran space.

StarCraft: Liberty's Crusade is certainly a great first book for this line of titles and a good example of how to handle a novelization of a video game in a more creative manner. It gets 4 pseudo urine-flavored cigarettes out of a possible 5.
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