Alejandro Mujica's Reviews > Dead Space: Martyr

Dead Space by B.K. Evenson
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's review
Jun 30, 2012

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bookshelves: thesis-reading-list
Read from June 03 to 30, 2012

Game-to-film and game-to-novel adaptations miss more than hit. A lot of times, what makes a good story gets less importance than recreating the setting and mythos. Evenson doesn't just dodge this adaptation problem, he blends the Dead Space universe into a cohesive and decently written novel, while exercising his creative liberties.

If you are not familiar with the Dead Space franchise, it revolves around two major elements: an otherwordly artifact and the religion that sprouted from its discovery. Dead Space: Martyr takes you to its origin, ground zero, to the Dead Space world. At the heart of the Chicxulub crater, a crater said to have been made by the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, scientists come across anomalous readings: a gravity flux and an electromagnetic transmission. As protagonist Dr. Altman gathers data, a corporation with a reputation for disregarding all laws in the way of its goals descends on the town of Chicxulub and interferes with the scientific research, claiming all data, and whatever spoils, as its own. What Altman and the corporation uncover brings humanity's existence into question--an artifact which they dub the Marker.As details are uncovered from the dig site, the research staff begin to hallucinate, commit suicide, and tear each other apart. The Marker is doing something to the crew, but why and to what end?

The way Evenson builds suspense in this novel is smooth, even while bouncing between several characters in third-person limited, until settling on Altman. He takes advantage of this jumping, not as a narrative shortcut, but to give an intimate picture of how the Marker affects the characters. There are unfiltered streams of consciousness and heavy doses of "perhapsing" to build conflict in each of the characters, and their survival doesn't come into question until the last words of their final paragraphs. This is where Evenson is strongest: portraying the madness that consumes his characters from the inside out.

Towards the end of the book, though, when the insanity has taken its toll and the conflict is consistently physical, the narration goes a bit dull, almost procedural. Action scenes get pushed along in a race to the conclusion, and the mystery almost disappears. There's even a sloppy quality to its masculine play-by-play, with its mine fields of adverbs and overused descriptions. That last quarter of the novel then serves a casual reader less and the rest of its weight falls onto the die-hard Dead Space fans. At times it almost feels as if Evenson procrastinated.

Don't let this review dissuade you from buying the book, though. If you enjoy sci-fi horror and want an introduction to a new and morbid world, full of sinewy creatures and flying body parts, then there is lots for you to enjoy. Personally, it feels like an unholy partnership between Ridley Scott and Clive Barker, where alien terror meets the occult. It feels rushed at times, mostly towards the end, but this is a worthy piece of the Dead Space narrative, one that answers a lot of questions for the game's fans, and will pique the curiosity of many sci-fi horror readers.

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Reading Progress

14.0% "It's a tight, quick read with a lot of jumps between a mess of characters, yet they're identified well enough so as not to lose the reader. The close-to-the-chest, third-person-limited perspective is used to great effect when describing the madness that takes some of the characters, and the fine line between that madness and logical fear is often a wonderfully blurry mess."
35.0% "It's as hard to pull away from as the waking nightmares in the characters' heads. I've never been this scared reading a novel."
59.0% "This book is not for the faint of heart. "He turned his head as far as he could, trying to look at Altman, and Altman saw his collapsed cheekbone and orbit, the blood that was washing over his eye. He slammed his head down again, and then a second time, until the bar slipped from [his] fingers and his body went slack.""
91.0% ""Trapped in the muck and beneath its stinking, rotting flesh, he had the impression that he was already dead, that he was wandering the afterlife, living out a peculiar hell for all he had done wrong in his life.""
96.0% "This author relies on adverbs so much, it's distracting: "This time it grew slowly larger. It was moving slowly toward him. Suddenly, it became excruciatingly bright.""
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