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Review | Dead Space Martyr

Setting the story

Format: Reading | Genre: Horror | Publisher: Titan Books | Author: B.K. Evenson | Release date: 28/01/2011 | Price: £7.99

Steve K Peacock steps away from the glare of the screen and settles into a nice horror book by the name of DEAD SPACE: MARTYR.

DEAD SPACE: Martyr is one of those books that annoy me so very much. It is, as best I can tell, the sort of novel that manages to get published precisely because EA are rich enough to basically buy whatever industry they need at any particular time. Film studios, publishing houses, diamond mines, cloning vats, if EA think that one of these will help them exploit a premier franchise then they’ll deem it worth the investment. But taking this route means that they bypass a lot of the checks imposed by the publishing industry proper, and this shows in Martyr.

Let me be clear from the get go, however, and say that Martyr is not a bad book. This is not one of those wrinkled and weather-worn paperbacks that you first hear about on a late night Wikipedia binge, EA have actually gone to some lengths to try to make this a worthy addition to the Dead Space canon.

As a prequel, Martyr is concerned primarily with the big historical event that the Dead Space games like to hammer down your throat whenever they get the chance: Altman and the inspiring of Unitology. I won’t go into too great a deal for fear of spoilers, but it manages to do this reasonably well. Sections of the plot are somewhat bland, true, but if you’re invested in the Dead Space universe then this won’t really be an issue for you. You get a glimpse of the sort of world that requires the construction of planet-cracker ships, the frantic scrabbling of a race that’s only just realised quite how much damage they’ve done to their world.

And yet, in contrast to what so many writers do in this situation, the world doesn’t descend into an imposing Aesop. Yes, we’re running out of fuel, but that’s no reason for the normal people to stop going about their business. In fact, Martyr has quite a few refreshing breaks from stereotypes. I think my favourite, perhaps, is the shady organisation that wants to study a newly discovered marker at the bottom of the sea. Typical horror conventions dictate that these men be ice cold and completely unscrupulous, and they are, but once things start getting spooky there is actually a moment where they step back. These little breaks from tradition are, rather interestingly, somewhat humanising for the characters. You can tell that it’s a world where horror films exist and have seeped into po culture just as they have here, unlike in so many other horror genre tales.

Conversely, however, this goodwill can be hard to maintain once you remember that a few chapters near the start of the book detail a community of poverty stricken Brazilians performing a tribal folk dance to exorcise a necromorph. I’m pretty sure I felt that stereotype reach out and slap me across the face when I read it.

Still, you can get past that if you want to. The biggest hurdle when it comes to wanting to, however, is the author’s voice. Again, it’s not bad, but it is decidedly dry. There are some jarring repetitions at times, and certain dialogues and descriptions that just don’t quite engage correctly. The prose is very functional, I suppose, but not particularly joyous to read.

This would be the best way to describe the book as a whole. It’s not particularly memorable, but it does do its job well. I think it could have done with some more editing, but it would be hypocritical of me to judge it too hardly on that front. If, however, you enjoyed your time in the Dead Space universe when it was on a screen, you may want to avail yourself of a bit of the backstory.

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