Sep 21, 2010

[Books] StarCraft: Speed of Darkness

StarCraft: Speed of DarknessMy recent adventures into the world of StarCraft novels has been rather mixed. I love the first book and felt insulted by the second one. But I was committed to completing my reading of the StarCraft Anthology no matter what and so I kept moving forward.

I think the key to success in expanded media titles such as this is to be able to contribute meaningfully to the mythos. If you just try to recreate a battle or dictate actions like a sports commentator, it just won't work. You need to either feature new aspects of the back story in further detail or you can examine a part of the background material and sort of blow that up and wow us with insight and details.

The first book managed to slip between the cracks of the existing story, which was pretty cool. The second book was very meh and just felt like someone trying to narrate game stage with three players competing. This next book is a great example of looking at the different aspects of the StarCraft universe and trying to explain how it works by looking at the mechanisms behind things. And I'm not referring to machines.

Tracy Hickman at Dragon Con 2006.Image via WikipediaStarCraft: Speed of Darkness is the third published book based on the StarCraft video game franchise. It was written by Tracy Hickman, who is perhaps better known for his work with Dragonlance over at TSR.

The book follows the life of young Ardo Melnikov, who has the sad fate of watching his family along with his childhood sweetheart, Melani, get torn away from him by the Zerg as his home planet of Bountiful was being evacuated. Some time later, he find himself in the Confederate Marines, trying to bring the fight to the Zerg. His unit gets assigned to Mar Sara where they are tasked perform reconnaissance in the area.

The mission ends up becoming a life-or-death struggle to stay ahead of the Zerg after locating a mysterious box and one of the few humans still alive in the area. The unit them find themselves abandoned by their military in an increasingly dangerous situation as more and more Zerg appear. At the same time, Ardo is slowly made to realize that not everything is as it seems in terms of his past and that his memories may no longer be as accurate as they should be.

The book does a great job of putting us in the head of a Terran marine and better understand what they go through. And this goes a lot beyond just recreating the feel of the military and all but more importantly we're made to understand how marines are created through "resocialization", which in essence is highly complex brainwashing. It's not that easy to capture that feel in terms of writing but Hickman certainly did an excellent job of doing so. And you end up really feeling for Ardo since he's such a complex and real character. That's a rarity in such novels and you have to appreciate that for all its worth.

And this is not to say this is a book without fights. The story made sure to spend time a good amount of time in classic combat depictions. So we got all the fun of marines firing rounds upon rounds into various Zerg assault forces and a few firebats roasting the countryside with wanton abandon. And the best moment was with the bunkers - but I'll stop there since anything more than that would be spoilery!

This is definitely a great addition to the StarCraft series of books and one that I really enjoyed reading. Plus I think that it might even worth it for folks who have had little exposure to the StarCraft franchise itself. And that's saying a lot.

StarCraft: Speed of Darkness is a great example of how to write stories within a pre-established universe from a completely different medium. It gets 4.5 SCVs flying amidst a Zerg horde out of a possible 5.

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