Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When they vanished fifty thousand years ago, the Protheans left their advanced technology scattered throughout the galaxy. The chance discovery of a Prothean cache on Mars allows humanity to join those already reaping the rewards of the ancients’ high-tech wizardry. But for one rogue militia, the goal is not participation but domination.
Scientist Kahlee Sanders has left the Systems Alliance for the Ascension Project, a program that helps gifted “biotic” children harness their extraordinary powers. The program’s most promising student is twelve-year-old Gillian Grayson, who is borderline autistic. What Kahlee doesn’t know is that Gillian is an unwitting pawn of the outlawed black ops group Cerberus, which is sabotaging the program by conducting illegal experiments on the students.
When the Cerberus plot is exposed, Gillian’s father takes her away from the Ascension Project and flees into the lawless Terminus Systems. Determined to protect Gillian, Kahlee goes with them… unaware that the elder Grayson is, in fact, a Cerberus operative. To rescue the young girl Kahlee must travel to the farthest ends of the galaxy, battling fierce enemies and impossible odds. But how will she be able to save a daughter from her own father?
The second Mass Effect novel continues on from the first in a similar manner; fast-paced and massively intriguing. While it's not until quite late in the book that the story line realigns with the first book, you can see how the Mass Effect plot as a whole is building, and building well. There are some major events that have happened between the two books, but these are covered in good enough detail for us to fill in the gap and the books fit together well enough.
The story follows Kahlee Sanders from book one (Mass Effect: Revelation) but takes place a few years after the events of that book. We learn more about some of the species that inhabit the galaxy and their history, particularly the Quarians and the Migrant Fleet, who play a major role in this book. You really start to get a sense of the wider story, of a menace lurking out there in the darkness of space (Reapers?) ready to pounce upon the mostly unsuspecting galactic community. However, it seems that there are some factions of various races who seem to know or suspect more, and are secretly trying to prepare a defense, or at least for a way to ensure their species' survival. The only reason I didn't five-star this one was because mid-way through the story felt like it dragged a bit, lost it's pace. This said, it comes back and redeems itself with a great ending that, again, is very satisfactory yet leaves the way clear for the next installment in the series.
I absolutely love Drew Karpyshyn's writing style and, once again, he delivers a story with great world-building, characterization and action scenes. A superb sci-fi action series, and I disagree with some other reviewers in that I don't think it's necessary to be familiar with the Mass Effect games to appreciate the story, not at all. I have really enjoyed this series so far with nil exposure to the games. Books are way better anyway;-)
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