Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #4: Beginner’s Guide to Video Games & Novelisations, Part 1

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to introduce some video game series, and their novelisations.

This post is mostly aimed at people who are new to video games, or those who are interested in playing but don’t know where to start. I’m listing some well-known series, as well as their novelisations, in case you want to try the books out too!

The Assassin’s Creed series

Assassin's Creed

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

The series follows a man named Desmond Miles, who using a machine called the Animus, delves into the memories of his ancestors to learn more about the rivalry between the Assassins and the Knights Templar. The games cover several time periods: the Third Crusade (Assassin’s Creed), the Renaissance (Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations), the Colonial era (Assassin’s Creed III, Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), as well as the French Revolution (the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity). Playing as his ancestors (the most famous of which is probably Ezio Auditore), you must uncover the secrets to becoming a master assassin, as well as the Templars’ plans.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Because you get to be an assassin? Also, meeting various historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, the Borgias and the Sforzas (Caterina Sforza even quotes her infamous line) and Niccolo Machiavelli is amazing. The digital versions of locations like 15th century Venice and 16th century Rome are also gorgeous. And did I mention you get to be a super stealthy assassin?

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

All of the following are by Oliver Bowden: Renaissance, Brotherhood, The Secret Crusade, Revelations, Forsaken and Black Flag.

The Bioshock series

Bioshock Infinite

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A series of games that explores the idea of a dystopia/utopia. In Bioshock and Bioshock 2 (which I have previously discussed), the player ends up in an underwater utopia known as Rapture. Unfortunately, the city isn’t quite what it once was, and is now filled with drug-addled mutants, psychopaths and terrifying hulking creatures known as Big Daddies. In Bioshock Infinite, the third game in the series but the first chronologically, the player finds themselves in a seemingly utopian city floating in the sky. Booker, the player character, has been instructed to rescue a young girl who is imprisoned there in order to pay off his debts. However, how it always is with these sorts of places, things are not quite what they seem…

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

In regards to the first two games: because they’re scary and so, so immersive, you may be terrified but you’ll keep ploughing on! As for Bioshock Infinite, it is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL game with a mesmerising (and heartbreaking) story.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

Rapture by John Shirley and Ken Levine, and Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt by Joe Fielder and Ken Levine.

The Mass Effect series

Mass Effect

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A trilogy set in the future, where the human race have discovered faster than light travel – and many, many alien races. The player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, a completely customisable character who can be either male or female. During the first game, Shepard must stop a rogue by the name of Saren from taking over the galaxy with an army of sentient mechanised beings, called the Geth. However, Shepard soon discovers that there is a much bigger threat on the horizon – an alien race known as the Reapers, who purge all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years, and their deadline is fast approaching. Through his or her journey, Shepard builds up a loveable squad to join them aboard the SSV Normandy, not all of whom may survive the mission…

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Mass Effect is my favourite game series for so many reasons. But the main reason is that you are in control of every choice Shepard makes – and whatever you choose may have a permanent effect on the world, the galaxy, the universe – forever. Let that planet die and it’s gone, its people wiped out, no more resources, nothing. Betray that squad mate and that’s it – they’ve left you, never to return. Every choice you make has a consequence, whether it be bad or good. Not to mention that every single character is fantastically created, and you feel a genuine connection with each and every one. This video game makes me cry, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There are both novelisations and graphic novels for Mass Effect: Revelation, Ascension and Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn, Deception by William C. Dietz, Redemption, Evolution, Invasion, Homeworlds and Foundation by Mac Walters (graphic novels).

I’ll be doing a couple of posts of this type, look out for Dragon Age, Deus Ex and Halo in the next post!

Are you new to video games, or have you played any of these? Have you read any of the novelisations?

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Review

Review: Mass Effect Foundation (Volume 2) by Mac Walters

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

You know the drill by now. I saw a Mass Effect book on Netgalley, so I requested it. I am an unashamed fangirl of the series, and will read everything and anything I can get my hands on, despite not being overly impressed with the books so far. However, I enjoyed the first volume of the Foundation series more than previous series, so was looking forward to reading the next volume.

This particular chapter of the Mass Effect story is set between the events of the Mass Effect 2 prologue and the main story, when Commander Shepard is presumed dead after the attack on the Normandy. It brings in plenty of familiar characters: Miranda, Jacob, Thane, Jack, Kai Leng and the Illusive Man. The reader learns how Jacob came to be a part of Cerberus, and how Shepard’s body was found. It also introduces a couple of new characters, but to be honest I was more interested in learning more about my beloved squad mates from the games – and it didn’t disappoint.

I’ve always seen Jacob as a truly nice guy, although he’s never been a favourite character of mine he was always someone I felt my Shepard could rely on, someone who was utterly loyal. In Mass Effect Foundation he is shown as the soldier out to protect civilians and friends, at any cost – fitting my view of him. And as ever, Miranda is loyal to the job, despite the consequences. Oh, and it’s not just cameras that linger on a view of her rather full derriere, apparently…

With some truly gorgeous full pages of art, this is definitely a lovely collector’s item for Mass Effect fans – particularly one of Jack and Jacob fighting a group of Batarians. The colour scheme is also definitely very fitting, including subtle shades of greys, oranges and reds, with the added neon colours of the various bars and establishments of the Citadel, Omega and Illium.

However, some of the panels just felt really lazy, as if they were almost just the original sketchy ideas, rather than the finalised drawing. One section of the story featured a lot of ‘faceless’ panels – I could understand this if the characters were far off in the distance, but this was even when they were the main focus of a panel. In one chapter, the features of Jacob’s and Miranda’s faces varied wildly, and in Jack’s chapter some of the art was just so unpolished to the extent of looking unfinished.

I have to say though, my absolute favourite part of this new addition to the Mass Effect universe was the bonus story at the end. It’s a 40’s style crime noir, featuring a brave Hanar (yes, you read that correctly) and his attractive Asari companion. It’s everything you could ever want in such a story: a Hanar solving crimes, mowing down hordes of Krogans effortlessly with eight pistols at once, and of course our hero gets the girl. Plus this quote:

‘”This one thinks the Krogan scum must ask the question – does it feel fortunate? Do you, scum?”

Overall, an interesting addition to the Mass Effect universe, but sadly let down by some of the artwork. However, it’s work it just for the bonus short story at the end.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of twenty books, which sounds like a lot but many of them were graphic novels: After Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #13.5) by Charlaine Harris, Mass Effect Foundation: Volume 2 by Mac Walters, Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor, X-Men Forever 2, Back in Action (X-Men Forever 2 #1) by Chris Claremont, Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 2 by Stan Lee, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Civil War: Marvel Universe by Ed Brubaker, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Wolverine Noir by Stuart Moore, Wolverine First Class: Ninjas, Gods and Divas by Peter David, Wolverine First Class: Wolverine-By-Night by Fred Van Lente, X-Men Legacy: Emplate by Mike Carey, The Avengers: Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis, X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost, The Kill Order (Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner.

I was so happy to finally finish the Leviathan series, and it’s now one of my favourite Young Adult series out there. I read some other great books this month: Days of Blood and Starlight was just as gripping as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Falling Kingdoms was a wonderful fantasy read. I also went crazy on the graphic novel front, ordering as many Marvel comics as I could through my county library service. And there are still plenty more to read! I also read most of Dragon Age Library Edition: Volume One, but unfortunately my ARC stopped about three quarters of the way through. I did email Netgalley, who contacted the publisher but sadly I haven’t heard anything and the title has now been archived. I will just rate and review it based on what I did managed to read.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, so unfortunately I didn’t do as well as last month, and I also didn’t quite manage to defeat April’s villain, Kingpin. Better luck next month! May’s villain is Bullseye, and he looks to be quite a challenge.
  • I’ve already beaten my goal of fifty books for this year on Goodreads. I’ve raised the goal to seventy-five, which I think will still be manageable – I may even reach that before August, and I can raise it again!

 

Currently reading:

>The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black The Quick by Lauren Owen

Off the blog:

The majority of April was fairly quiet, but this past week has been pretty busy. I’ve been off work since last Tuesday, although I’m back today. On Wednesday night I went to the Glamour Book Club to see Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen, and I also met up with some fellow book bloggers! I will cover the event in detail in a future post. My friend joined me in London, and she stayed until Tuesday. On Thursday night, we went to see Jace Everett in Bristol. It was a TINY event, with about one hundred people – but the venue put out chairs, so no-one was dancing and I felt like we gave off a bad impression. But despite that, I loved the music and got to meet the man himself afterwards, and get a CD signed. Then on Friday we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which I really enjoyed, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day which meant a trip to Forbidden Planet in Bristol, as well as Bristol Zoo because it was a lovely, sunny day. Oh, and a few weeks ago my Dragon Age: The World of Thedas book arrived, which my fellow Queen of Ferelden, Paola, convinced me to buy. I was just a *little* bit excited by its arrival, as you can see…

Some highlights from April 2014.
Some highlights from April 2014.

 

How was April for you?

 

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month (Tuesday this month, due to the Book of Apex tour!) , I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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This month I read fifteen books, which as far as I’m aware is a personal record! Admittedly there were a couple of novellas and graphic novels, but I’m happy with my progress. The Death Pit by A.L. Kennedy, Into the Nowhere by Jenny Colgan, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, Archaeology: the Basics by Clive Gamble (refreshing my memory!), Supernatural: Origins by Peter Johnson, The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon, The Creature in the Case (The Old Kingdom #3.5) by Garth Nix, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni, Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters, The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and The QI Book of the Dead by John Lloyd.

Standout books include Brideshead Revisited, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Screaming Staircase. I’ve now read fifteen books towards my goal of fifty for this year – so I may have to raise it, but I also have to remember that my reading will greatly decrease from mid-August.

 

Challenge progress:

 

Currently reading:

Mistborn (The Final Empire #1) by Brandon Sanderson The Trojan War by Barry Strauss

 

Reviews on the blog on this month:

 

Other posts:

 

Upcoming:

  • I’m taking part in the Book of Apex tour, organised by Andrea @ Little Red Reviewer. Yay, speculative fiction!
  • I’m also taking part in Insta-love 101, hosted by the lovely ladies at A Novel Idea. Boo, insta-love!
  • And finally: the Review Copy Cleanup hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea! and Nyx Book Reviews – time to tame that Netgalley ratio!

 

And that’s been my month! Pretty busy I think! How was January for you?

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #35

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought (ebook)

Partials by Dan Wells

Netgalley

I seriously, seriously suck at this not requesting everything from Netgalley thing…

Sheltered Volume 1 by Ed Brisson & John Christmas Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters The Troop by Nick Cutter After the Silence by Jake Woodhouse The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

  • Sheltered Volume One by Ed Brisson & John Christmas – I like dystopia. I like graphic novels. Ergo, I will probably like this.
  • Red Sonja Volume One: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni – apparently a reimagining/reboot of the original character, which I know nothing about. But graphic novels! Swords and sorcery! Yay!
  • Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters – if you know me, you know I’m a little bit obsessed with Mass Effect, and read all the books based on the series that I can get my hands on, despite them not often being very good. Well I’ve actually already read this one and it’s possibly the best so far – review to come shortly.
  • The Troop by Nick Cutter – this sounds like a super creepy version of Lord of the Flies, which I had to read in school and really enjoyed. When I got approved for this book I went to download it and found out it had been archived, which puzzled me – but then it appeared back on the site so luckily my ratio shouldn’t get messed up (or… any more messed up…)
  • After the Silence by Jake Woodhouse – I wanted to read more books set in the Netherlands, so here we are! This might not be the best book to read though, as it’s about murders…
  • The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe – this has a very strange mix of DNFs and five star reviews on Goodreads… I’ll just have to read it myself and find out!

What new reads do you have this week?

Misc.

A Year in Books 2012

This is my own wrap-up post of the past year, pointing out particular favourites, new authors and series, etc. To see all the books I have read this year, click here, or look at the graphic below (good ol’ Goodreads!)

 

I started off the year with reading all but the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, as I had read A Game of Thrones at the end of 2011. Definitely one of my new favourite series and authors! I don’t think I really need to explain what they’re about as I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of the series by now.
 
 
I started the Millennium series, by Stieg Larsson. My parents are fans, and were going to see the English language version of the film in the cinema, and I decided to go with them. I hadn’t read the books, so on the day we were going to watch it I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and got about halfway through the book before seeing the film. But Blomkvist and Salander hadn’t even met by that point! I still haven’t read the third book of the series – I started it, but honestly found it rather dull, and from watching the film I know not much happens.
 
 
I won my first Goodreads giveaway – Antauge by Sarah Parker Morris, which I ended up giving a three star rating. You can read my review here. I won many other books after, some of which I still need to review!

 
Mass Effect 3 was released, and I played and finished it – and started reading the books because I just can’t get enough of it. Unfortunately, the books are pretty bad… but that doesn’t stop me from reading them. I have reviewed Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn and Mass Effect: Homeworlds by Mac Walters; and read but not reviewed Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz and Mass Effect: Evolution by Mac Walters.
 
I also decided to read some more classic sci-fi, so read books such as I Am Legend by Robert Matheson and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I made sure to read it before I watched Blade Runner – which is one of my dad’s favourite films, and he’d been telling me to watch it for ages. I have to say, I definitely preferred the book! I also read some newer sci-fi, such as House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (amazing) and Gradisil by Adam Roberts (had so much potential).

  

I read The Hunger Games series, all three books before seeing the film. I absolutely loved them, and this led to me reading more YA books that weren’t quite so good… 

But I also discovered some new favourite series – the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. I discovered some really enjoyable, underrated books such as The Silver Linings Playbook (which I’m sure is now more popular due to the film). I re-read some older favourites – Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses trilogy, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, some Bill Bryson.


I finally got round to reading (and really enjoying!) some of the more popular books that I’d been meaning to read – The Passage by Justin Cronin, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.


But I also read a couple of books that I really didn’t enjoy. Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Admitting to not enjoying either of those almost makes me feel blasphemous… but I just didn’t get along with them at all. I think The Scarlet Letter is the only book I’ve ever wanted to throw across the room. I really looked forward to reading Let The Right One In but spent the majority of it feeling rather queasy… I also read the infamously Goodreads-wide hated Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden, which made me feel rather sick for a completely different reason.


I founded this blog at the end of August, which is when I started reading ebooks – I’m still not sure what I think of them. I can see their uses, definitely, but I much, much prefer the feel of a real book in my hands. Since I started this blog, I have made 95 posts (not including this one), 29 of which are book reviews. I’ve gained 220 followers on Google Friend Connect, and over 500 on Twitter, as well as discovered some fantastic fellow book bloggers!


I’m actually finding it really hard to write this post, because there are so many books and aspects of blogging that  I want to write about, but I don’t want to turn this into an essay, and it would also take forever! Overall, I would say that I think it’s been a great year, reading wise. I read a wide range of genres, found some amazing new books/series/authors, and also found ones I know to steer clear of.


I think I’ll also just take the time to send a small shout out to some of my favourite book bloggers – Kelly, Kat, Ara, Aloi and Deneé – I visit your blogs regularly, and try to comment frequently. But there are so many others I love to visit, I would list my whole blogroll on here if I could…

Review

Review: Mass Effect Homeworlds (Mass Effect Graphic Novels #4) by Mac Walters

I’m a little bit of a Mass Effect fangirl. Which is something, since I never even finish most games that I buy, but I’ve completed and replayed all three games and I never get bored of them. I’m trying to read all the novels and graphic novels, since the trilogy is now over, so I grabbed this one from Netgalley when it appeared.

It covers the back stories of James, Tali, Garrus and Liara, which should potentially be fascinating for any fan. And whilst James’ story captured his character slightly, and Garrus’ covered his relationship with his father, I felt Tali and Liara’s stories were a bit flat. Tali’s ends very abruptly, and overall they don’t explain much. 

The images in between each story were beautiful though. The art of the comics wasn’t quite as pretty, but caught certain scenes well – although I felt there were some issues. For example, James really doesn’t look like himself. Quarians look pretty out of proportion, even for them. There is also one scene with a turian, where he looks really chunky – I know they are big creatures, but they have broad shoulders and narrow waists, and this guy was just built like a barrel. Of course, these sort of things don’t necessarily detract from the enjoyment of the story for everyone.


At one point during his story, James is being pursued and stops to help out an old lady – which I thought really captured his character well. He may be a bit of a beef head, but he’s got a good heart. It was also really great to see Garrus as a young turian, and learn a little about his father and relationship with him.


If Garrus, Tali, Liara or James are one of your favourites, then I would read this. I wouldn’t say it was a great read for all fans, unless it covers the background of a particular character you like. I feel that it doesn’t go into enough detail for the majority and leaves a few things unanswered. Personally, I enjoyed the story of Garrus’ background the most – not only because he’s my favourite character, but because it is also the one that felt the most linked to the games, as it is set around the time of Archangel.