Looking at the events prior to the original Dead Space game, Martyr (written by Brian Evenson) is the latest game-based novel to be released onto the market, giving readers a unique insight into the events leading up to the first game and answering a few questions along the way. And from the very beginning you get a sign of things to come, soon realising you’re in for an eye-widening and hugely addictive read.
Following the movements of scientist Michael Altman the story is centred on the Chicxulub crater, where a range of scientific anomalies have been detected deep underground and many miles underwater. While trying to research the strange findings legally and independently he eventually gets unwillingly tangled up in DredgerCorp, a business who aren’t exactly whiter than white and are insistent on mining the bottom of the crater no matter what. This strange discovery causes problems for many people in the vicinity; most nearby have headaches, people begin to hallucinate and see dead people from their past, so the news that Altman doesn’t seem to be affected as much obviously interests DredgerCorp.
This anomaly turns out to be the Marker, the initial force behind all the Necromorph goings on in the Dead Space games. During a range of mining dives to uncover and bring the Marker to the surface all hell breaks loose in the vessels and as a direct result of people going a little mad a fair few people end up quite dead, literally tearing each other apart after suffering crippling bouts of insanity. Meanwhile the battle of wills between Altman and DredgerCorp intensifies, leading to some startling stand-offs and genuine shock moments, getting you quickly to the point of desperately wanting to see what happens next – indeed, reading a single chapter of Martyr is as near-impossible as eating a single Malteser out of a whole packet.
By the time the marker surfaces and the action levels hit the roof, we’ve already seen a huge number of twists and turns through the story, and that’s despite barely seeing anything in terms of Necromorphs at this stage. It’s hard to portray the excitement of the story without ruining a whole host of storylines, but there are moments you really won’t see what’s coming. The pace of the writing isn’t perfect, and there are times when the story drags itself out a little more than needed, but on the whole it’s snappy and punchy, and balanced nicely to leave you wanting more without overwhelming you. And with all of this mixing with the often graphic and slightly freaky events that unfold as the story develops, it’s not a book best read in bed. Not only will you be awake far later than you expect unable to put the book down, but when you do get to sleep there’s no guarantee your dreams will be full of fluffy clouds and cream cakes – they’re more likely to involve having an arm ripped off.
The beauty of Martyr is that you don’t need to be a huge fan of the Dead Space games to enjoy it. The ending is open enough to lead into the series, but with enough questions answered to make it a standalone book in its own right. You’ll have a few more “oh right” moments if you’ve played the games before reading this, but nothing that would ruin the story if you didn’t make the link. The book excites from the start, builds the tension sensibly and in the last few chapters explodes into a finale that leaves you with no idea what’ll happen next. I’ve been intentionally vague with storyline details, and as such may not have done the novel full justice, but if you have any interest in Dead Space or just fancy some well-written and enjoyable horror-fiction then Dead Space Martyr is well worth a look.
It’s enjoyable, exciting, and available for under £4 from Amazon. You can’t go wrong.