A Review of the First EVE Online Novel
A dark, epic page-turner that sheds light on the game's latest expansion.
To paraphrase a quote from EVE Online Senior Technical Producer Torfi Olafsson's Ambulation presentation at last year's FanFest: every EVE player is a role-player. Whether you spend your EVE time in PvP, mining, mission grinding, factional warfare, piracy, plotting corporate hijinx, brokering deals, or just training, you’re filling a distinct role in the game. That being the case, its no surprise that CCPs future efforts with EVE are centered squarely on adding depth and personification to these roles. In the long term, we have the ambulation project, which will allow players to step out of their ships and into highly interactive stations for the first time. But in the short term, Tony Gonzales published a novel which serves double duty as a book rich in EVE flavor and backstory as well as a a tell-all segue into EVE’s latest Factional Warfare expansion, launched in June 2008.
A cover art candidate for the novel. Click here to download an excerpt from EVE: The Empyrean Age.
When I picked up Tony Gonzeles’ first novel, EVE The Empyrean Age, I was honestly expecting another forgettable and ultimately meaningless story grafted onto an increasingly successful game property - basically, something on-par with the Warcraft novels. But as I lugged the novel with me on a recent plane trip and began reading - I say “lugged” because at 520 hefty pages this book will dominate your airline approved carry-on - I felt like Gonzales was fleshing out my bare bones view of CCP’s far-flung universe and its storyline with humanity and personality for the first time.
To comprehend the scope of Gonzales’ endeavor, you first have to acknowledge a few of the unique challenges the game’s lore presents. First, EVE Online’s canvas occupies hundreds of star systems, thousands of stations, and four distinct races each of which has been 30,000 years in development. Each of those races has, to this point, been party to a tenuous peace orchestrated by CONCORD, a central body whose unique technology and organizational powers enforces peace in secured space, with the exception in limited instances of “sanctioned” warfare. Since this is a novel about the game’s descent into an all-out war between the races, someone will need to take on and score at least a temporary victory against this powerful intergalactic police force.
Next, clones. How do you gain the initiative in a war when killing the top brass only means that their clones will come back to life, this time more pissed off than ever? How can you start a war when its impossible (or very hard to kill) a principal actor.
And finally, up to this point, several of EVE’s races seem woefully unprepared for war. The Minmatar are a barely cohesive race recently (and only partially) freed from Amarr slavery with only a rusty, hodgepodge fleet to its name. The corporation-controlled Caldari have long been losing an economic showdown with the Gallente. Meanwhile the Amarr remain bold and powerful on the strength of their religious convictions and the Gallente are an socio-economic powerhouse distinguished by the relative freedom and liberty of their citizens.
Tony Gonzales, author of
After having read these last few paragraphs, you might think you need a serious grasp on EVE lore to enjoy EVE The Empyrean Age, but all of this will become apparent in the first hundred pages. Shifting focus between the perspectives of four characters - one for each race - and the mysterious Broker (who makes the Deal or No Deal broker look like the Good Humour man) , Gonzales masterfully connects the dots in a whirlwind of intrigue and plot twists of an epic scale, culminating in an hour of chaotic bloodshed on a massive scale. As you might expect, with a topic like the start of war on a scale our modern day world can’t produce, this is one of the darker sci-fi tales you’ll ever read. Many of the more likable characters will meet an untimely and (in many cases) absolutely vicious end. Still, the book is so well-architected and the subplots so compelling that even a plot resolution carebear like me finished the last third of the book in a marathon 3 AM reading session.
Without giving much away, some have criticized the book’s final chapter as a complete non-sequitur. I enjoyed it as something of a easter egg for EVE veterans, hinting at the penultimate fate of the game’s mysterious fifth race.
The only real negative is the book’s availability. Apparently using the launch marketing model of the game itself, the book’s British publishers elected to ship the book aboard the slow boat from the North Atlantic. It’ll take about 2-3 weeks for North Americans to receive the book from Amazon.com, and with that kind of delay you can bet that a copy won’t be gathering dust on the shelf at your local bookstore. On the bright side, the CCP booth has been well-stocked at every major fan event we’ve attended this year, and we’re sure to see a host of copies at CCP Fan Fest in November. Additionally, CCP made the first chapter available for download: click here to check it out.
Whether you’re a diehard EVE player looking for an interesting perspective on the places and races you interact with daily, a beginner looking for a hook to draw you into the cult of EVE, or someone just looking for a quality science-fiction page-turner, I highly recommend Tony Gonzales’ EVE The Empyrean Age.
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