Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: Dead Space: Catalyst

Dead Space: Catalyst is the second book written by American novelist Brian K. Evenson who had previously written Dead Space: Martyr, being the first in the chronological timeline for the Dead Space universe.  And since we are bringing up chronology, let us put the books into context with the first game.

2214 - 2215: Dead Space: Martyr
2285 - Events in Dead Space: Catalyst take place, although since the book spans roughly 25 years, it can be assumed (Yes? No? Maybe?) that the events at the end of the book take place in 2285.
2508 - Dead Space

So as you can see, if you are looking to read about Issac Clarke's back story, or about what happened on the USG Ishimura during its 60 years in service before it came to Aegis VII or anyone/thing else directly connected with the what you played in the first Dead Space game, then you might be a bit disappointed.

All of this aside, I thought Cataclysm was a well told story that was very well written.  As I stated at the end of my review of Martyr, I am now even more interested in reading other works by Mr. Evenson, although I am afraid that it would be like reading anything else that George R. R. Martin has written that was not A Song of Ice and Fire related.  I guess I would just like to read more of what Mr. Evenson has to say about the Dead Space universe.

What will follow from here may contain spoilers to both this book as well as the first game.  Y'all have been warned.

Dead Space: Cataclysm follows the lives of two brothers, Istvan and Jensi Sato from their early teenage years, up through, what I would assume to be their early thirties.  While reading the book, I cannot recall having any issues with Jensi Sato, the main protagonist and how the reader is introduced to the majority of events in the book.  Looking back now, while I still do not have any real issues, I think I feel that Jensi existed primarily to take characters to important events and to be witness to what happens to Istvan.  But that is the way some narratives work, that is how this narrative worked and it worked well to serve its purpose.

With Istvan Sato, I really felt that B. K. Evenson really excelled as an author.  At least in the first half of the book.  I am not one to diagnose anyone with any type of developmental disability, which is the extent to which Istvan's "mental problems" are described in the book.  In the story, Jensi never states if his brother was diagnosed with any type of disorder or developmental disability, but Istvan's rational for seeing patterns or wanting objects to be in a particular order struck me as exhibiting actions similar to those who find themselves on the autistic spectrum.  How Mr. Evenson justified Istvan's actions to himself was instrumental for allowing the reader to (hopefully) understand why Istvan was acting the way he was, that he was not the bad guy.  It was just that people did not understand the obvious reasons why he did the things he was doing and he personally could not understand why it was not at all obvious to them as well.

One thing that always strikes me with a series that involves really bad things that always seem to be happening, especially when events are instigated by people, is why they keep letting these events happen over and over.  This was a question that I had after finishing the first Dead Space game regarding the devotion of Unitologists.  When your religious icon/object only seems to reanimate corpses into horrible machines of whirling death, why keep worshiping it and how did/would the church maintain its status as a powerful growing religion?  Seriously, how/why do people keep seeing The Marker as a benevolent source of do-gooding?  I feel this is where Brian Evenson has really excelled both in Martyr and  in Catalyst.  A lot of characters, when the story is being told from their perspective have said that the appearance of loved ones creates a overwhelming feeling of contentment and that they may be doing something unrelated to the knife in their hands that ends up killing them.

The last act of the book is where Dead Space the game comes into the story telling; as in necromorphs.  Everything leading up to Act III is primarily character development with premonitions of all the bad things that I have come to expect from the video game franchise.  I imagine this is where some people who want to read a written down account of the game, but this is a different medium all together where you can do things you cannot do elsewhere.  Reading about someones inner thoughts and the reasons why they are jabbing a fork into their face while mumbling something about their grandmother whom they loved as a child is easier in book form than it is in any other format.

Going through the first Dead Space again after having read the first two books gives the characters in the game a lot more depth that I had not realized was not there.  When I come across someone banging their head against a wall or slitting their own neck with a surgical saw, I no longer wonder why they would do this.  Now I wonder who they were seeing that "convinced" them that doing this particular act was what The Marker wanted.  Having read both Martyr and Cataclysm only fleshes out the Dead Space universe and, I feel, has only made the games better.

If you are not into science fiction, then this book probably is not for you.  But, as a well written semi-psychological look at someone with a "mental disorder" who you might end up feeling for by the end all of which takes place in a science fiction setting, then you might find yourself reading a good book.

Deep In The Shadows You Won't Find Peace

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