Dead Space: Martyr is a novel written by American author Brian Evenson that chronicles the finding of the Black Marker and the "rise" of Michael Altman culminating in his founding of the Unitology religion. The book takes place in the early 2200's, roughly 300 years before the events in the first Dead Space game.
I really enjoyed this book, despite the obvious stigma of a book being written that was based from a video game. Keep in mind that I don't really have a problem with this media even though I don't have a real history with fiction based from a pre-existing movie or video game. I never read any of the Star Wars books. I had no interest in any of the Star Trek fictions and I'm not a real fan of fan-fiction. I understand their appeal, it's just not for me. On the other hand, I do read the comics that continue the twice cancelled show Jericho and I am two thirds of the way through the Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy that takes place after the film Willow.
With all of that in mind, when I found out that there were novels that took place in the Dead Space universe, I was mildly intrigued. I loved the universe and the lore that I was introduced to in the first Dead Space game so the desire to find out more about this storyline was very tempting. I was, however, a little trepidatious about the quality of the books. I will admit that I was skeptical about how well the books would be written. If the story would be just a wordier rehash of the games (having only played the first game mind you). That was when I resorted to a resource that I rarely ever use.
I looked at reviews of the books, specifically Martyr on Amazon's page. I don't often look at book reviews and I can't really say why. (Is it hypocritical then that I'm writing one now?) I feel like there are people who will love a book, people who like it, and people who don't. And reading about someone not liking a book won't mean that it's a bad book, just that that one person didn't like it. What other books don't they like. What other books do they like? I feel like I want to know their background as a person before knowing if their review of a book will be relevant to my own tastes in books. Obviously I'm not going to actually do all of that background research on a single person before seriously considering their review, that's just too much work and I'm just too damn lazy.
So the reviews that I had looked up for Martyr were very favorable, and having now finished the book myself, I can agree on a number of points. First and foremost being that it is a very well written book. I was a little concerned during the first sentence when I was questioning if the author should have used "dove" instead of "dived." Once I got beyond that, I was able to fully enjoy both the story and the complexity of the overall story.
Dead Space: Martyr is basically the origin-messiah story of Unitologist founder Michael Altman. If you think of it as an author being told to write a Jesus Christ story in 374 pages and keep it interesting for the target audience who have most likely already played any one of the existing games, that's quite a feat. The story that B.K. Everson wrote was a good one. I was entertained throughout and once the book began to turn into an almost play-by-play of Dead Space footage, I could forgive this quick turn of events. Having already gone through Dead Space, I knew immediately which of the necromorphs were being described, the way they moved/attacked so I had a pretty good image of incidences in the book. I don't know what those passages would be like for someone who has never played any of the games.
I will say that the end of the book came up on me rather abruptly. I wish that there was an additional 50 pages that took place before Altman's martyrdom took place. There were a number of times that I thought I could see the direction Evenson wanted to take with Altman's supposed founding of Unitology that just didn't pay off in the end. Even interactions with some of the necromorphs I thought were playing a larger role than just a monster in the way. In the later chapters of the book, various characters are found to be using plasma-based tools/weapons that may not seem out of place in the 2200, but the fact that in 300 years, nearly the same tools are being used. You'd think that some advancements would be made by 2500 or maybe they should not have existed yet in 2200. One character does use a chainsaw (a nod to Doom maybe?), but it makes sense where it was introduced and it's application.
In the end, how successful was the book? Successful enough for me to have purchased the next book in the Dead Space chronology which was also written by B.K. Evenson, Catalyst. Additionally, I am now interested in reading other works that Mr. Evenson. Success.