Review of Mass Effect: Retribution

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Review of Mass Effect: Retribution

Postby Sayomara » Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:33 pm

Mass Effect: Retribution
Written by Drew Karpyshyn
Published on July 27, 2010
Review by Sayomara


Expanded media for a video game is a hard thing to get right. Normally, when reviewing a book I look at it on two levels: is it a good book for the universe it is in, and is it a good book in general that someone who has never been exposed to said universe might enjoy? I would say almost all of the Warcraft novels fall into the former camp so when I read Drew Karpyshy’s Mass Effect: Revelation I was impressed it wasn't just a good Mass Effect book, but it was good book in general. So with that in mind, I decided to give Mass Effect: Retribution a chance.

The book is set during the game Mass Effect 2. Shepard is alive and working for Cerberus, but the characters don't ever interact with him. The book is primarily from the view of four people. First, there is Admiral David Anderson, the man who was rejected from the specter program 20 years ago in the events of Mass Effect: Revelation, now a high ranking Human Alliance Admiral. Then there is Kahlee Sanders, a top Alliance scientist and also featured in Mass Effect: Revelation. Next, Kai Leng, one of Cerberus' top "wet-work" agents. Finally Paul Grayson, a former Cerberus operative who betrayed Cerberus to protect his daughter.

It should be noted that before I go on, there is another Mass Effect novel that I have not read, which is about Paul Grayson, his daughter, and Kahlee Sanders called Mass Effect: Ascension. To be honest, it did not sound that interesting to me, so I chose not to read it. However, if you want more back story about what is going on in this novel, it’s there.


The basic plot starts off two years after Paul Grayson left Cerberus. During that time, he has managed to get a job working on Omega. We spend a few chapters on his life there. His team does a job, he is dating an asari and he is making do. However, Cerberus catches wind of where Grayson is and decides they want him back. In a daring kidnapping that leaves Grayson's asari girlfriend dead, Kai Leng is able to recover Grayson. However, Grayson’s final act before getting kidnapped is to send all his files about Cerberus to Kahlee Sanders.

Sanders gets the files and a message saying Grayson has been captured or killed. With no one to turn to that she trusts, she goes back to her old friend David Anderson. Anderson is going stir crazy on the Citadel (the UN of the future) having to sit in on trade deals and other things he has no experience. So when Sanders shows up with a huge stack of files on Cerberus, it is a much needed break for the Admiral. However, Anderson quickly figures out he can't trust anyone in the Alliance with the data, so he goes to the turians, who put all the data on Cerberus to good use and take out many of Cerberus’s operatives and bases.

While all this is going on, Cerberus has begun experimenting on Grayson, injecting him with Reaper technology to see what he becomes. After much of the experiment is complete, the turians attack the Cerberus research station. This gives Grayson the chance he needs to escape.

The rest of the book is basely a hunt for Grayson that takes Anderson and Sanders to the Cerberus research station, to Omega, and finally the Grissom Academy. At the end of the day, Grayson is dead and all of our heroes who need to keep living into the next game are still alive, and all is well with the world.


My overall reaction to this book is a strong ambivalence. It is neither offensive or overly compelling, it simply is. That is not to say it's bad, in fact, I think it is a very well thought out book. The action scenes have a real weight to them. The author clearly expresses throughout the novel how the human body reacts to a shotgun blast and other trauma as well as each character’s individual motivation, so that the end result is that the book never makes people do things that feel unrealistic. Everyone has a healthy amount of enlightened interest which I like and is consistent with the Mass Effect universe. Yet, this story feels too boxed in. It does not really add to the overall mythology of the Mass Effect universe. It is not a bad chase, it is really not a bad story, but did it need to be its own novel? I would say no. It just feels like there is not that much story to be told.

Grade and recommendation

If you like David Anderson and want more stories about him, this might be an okay story for you. However, the novel itself has to hang a lantern on this fact since for large parts of the story he is basically sitting around doing nothing, which is better than him pretending to be a pimp in Mass Effect: Deception.

The craftsmanship in the writing of this book deserves a 3 out of 5 stars alone, but I can't give it any more than that because of how needless the book feels. That is not to say there aren't nice moments in the book, such as the Grayson mental battle with the Reaper, which gives an interesting insight into indoctrination. Another example is when the Illusive Man is fighting for his life as the turians attack the research station Grayson is on, this shows the Illusive Man's mettle and how he values his own life versus that of the humans around him. These are good moments, but they are not enough for me to recommend this book to anyone but the most hardcore Mass Effect fan.


Other Mass Effect Reviews
Mass Effect: Revelation
Mass Effect: Deception
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand-strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, and screaming WOW-What a RIDE!"
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