Book Report: The Starcraft Archive by Jeff Grubb, Gabriel Mesta, Tracy Hickman, and Micky Neilson (2007)

Book coverThis book collects four novels set in the mythos of the Star Craft video games and novelizes elements of it but also expands on it. Apparently, Blizzard has a whole series of books based on the WarCraft and StarCraft worlds (not to mention a WarCraft movie. So they’re sure there are stories to be told in the universe, I reckon, and cross-pollinated dollars to make.

Full disclosure: Although my beautiful wife loves the StarCraft series, I only played it for a couple minutes when invited to a LAN party at my wife’s employer in 2000. It was supposed to be a StarCraft party, and I was to pick the game up in the couple of minutes while everyone got set up. I started a couple of random missions in the different campaigns but didn’t really get into it–I was steeped in turn-based games like Deadlock and Civilization. Fortunately, everyone never got set up, so we all went to dinner instead. But as I read the book, I got the StarCraft Battle Chest set out and started looking at what it would take to install it on a machine sixteen years later. A lot more hackery than I want to expend on installing it only to run it for a couple of minutes and abandon it (which is my wont for video games for the last decade). Oh, there I go, cross-platform musing. Back to this book.

The novels within run from okay to pretty good. They include:

  • Liberty’s Crusade by Mike Morhaime, which tells the StarCraft (1) story from the perspective of a news man. A rebel leader uses the arrival of the alien races of the Protoss and the Zerg to consolidate his power and overthrow the Terran Confederacy. Pretty good.
     
  • Shadow of the Xel’Naga by Gabriel Mesta, which tells the story of an ancient artifact found on a backwater human colony where substinence farming is the order of the day. The artifact beams a powerful message into space which attracts the Zerg and the Protoss who arrive even as the military of the Terran Dominion who respond to a request for help from the colonists. This is the weakest of the books, as it is the most likely to drop video game terms and units in as fan service, and the behaviour of the Terran commander is reckless and foolish, with tactics beneath me and I’m no space naval officer.
     
  • Speed of Darkness by Tracy Hickman, which takes the point of view of a confused, reconditioned Terran marine who struggles with memories and fitting into the military who is part of a sacrificial mission on Mar Sara and organizes a last stand against the Zerg. It’s a very good book, but you’d expect that from Tracy Hickman. My goodness, he co-wrote one of the geeksetting trilogies in the 1980s (Dragonlance, anyone), but he’s not George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkien level famous in the 20th century. It must be the nature of the work-for-hire or a terminal lack of double R middle initials.
     
  • Uprising by Micky Neilson, which describes in detail some events in the uprising that would upend the Terran Confederacy and lead to the Terran Dominion.

Overall, the book was a pleasure to read. Although military in nature, it wasn’t so military as to exclude those of us who didn’t serve (which is the knock I have against some military sci-fi such as Drake or Frazetta–I just can’t get into them because they’re bogged in detail). It was fresh compared to all the Executioner books I’ve been reading lately, but I wonder if I read all the books in the line whether they’d all start to be formulaic, too.