Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Dead Space: Catalyst Review

The second novel to be published in the Dead Space franchise, Dead Space: Catalyst focuses on the relationship between Istvan and Jensi Sato and how they ultimately end up involved with a Marker.

Growing up the brothers are inseparable, always getting into trouble, trouble usually started by Istvan.  While Jensi is the younger of the duo, Istvan has always had psychological issues and hears voices in his head, leaving him socially awkward amongst other children.  Obsessed with patterns and numbers, Istvan literally sees the world differently than most and acts out in strange ways, leaving Jensi to constantly shepherd him and pick up the pieces.

This all changes in their teens when the government has to put them in foster care and the two are separated, Jensi being placed in a good home and Istvan rejecting foster care completely and fleeing to be on his own.  With no one to watch over him and guide him, Istvan's isolation causes him to disconnect further with reality, allowing unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of him over time.

Istvan is tricked into doing a serious crime which sees him arrested and spirited away by the government.  Jensi spends years trying to find and help his brother, ultimately taking him on a journey to a penal colony on an isolated planet where the government just so happens to be experimenting with a Marker.  Fans of the Dead Space games will certainly be able to guess what ensues.

While it's not made perfectly clear when in the Dead Space timeline the novel is set, my guess would be leading up to and during the beginning of the first game, as Aegis VII is mentioned, as are other Marker sites.  While taking place in new locations, Dead Space: Catalyst certainly captures the feel of the games with dark, claustrophobic and remote locations, religious extremists, and science gone wrong; fans of the franchise will feel right at home with the book.

I personally really enjoyed how B. K. Evenson fleshed out the relationship between the two brothers, and it was quite captivating experiencing the world as Istvan does, with such a disconnect and innocence that seems like a mix of both dementia and autism, and how this condition gets even more twisted once the Marker enters the mix.

There are, of course, Unitologists, Earthgov officials, military personal, and other Dead Space staples and archetypes, and they all fit into the narrative in pretty established ways.  Evenson takes a solid amount of time fleshing out all of these supporting characters and weaving them nicely into the story, which makes for a very detailed and entertaining read that fans of the series are sure to enjoy.  Paced slowly at first during this character development, the novel picks up when the expected Necromorph outbreak occurs.  Another plus for fans of the series is we actually get to learn how Infectors are created, something the games themselves never truly explained.

Considering the amount of time and detail Evenson took to build everything up, I was actually rather surprised how quickly the novel wraps up.  There's definitely an opening for a continuation, which is always a good thing, but the last several chapters actual feel extremely rushed and to a point, even anti-climactic, which is rather a shame.  Many key supporting characters either meet their end quickly or are simply never touched upon again, which actually feels odd for the novel's detailed and meticulous character building earlier on.

Despite this, however, Dead Space: Catalyst is a very enjoyable read and one Dead Space fans will find quite entertaining.  The book is due to be published in October 2012, so keep your eyes peeled at your local retailer!

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