The novel Mass Effect Andromeda: Nexus Uprising is quite good for what it is. It is, of course, a tie-in to the video game Mass Effect Andromeda. It’s a prequel to the story events of the game, providing some backstory to the arrival of the Nexus in Andromeda and the drama which immediately followed.
The uprising itself is mentioned during the course of the video game. The novel, co-written by Jason M. Hough and K.C. Alexander, brings the events to life. I’ve been playing the game itself since its release date—a couple of hours a week: nothing too fanatical—and I’ve put off writing a review of it yet. The game itself was heavily hyped in the media, and I hyped it quite a bit myself. I have some definite opinions on the game and will share them later. This is a review of the novel itself.
I enjoy the Mass Effect universe, even with it moving into another galaxy. Playing the original trilogy has given me a bank of visuals to draw upon for all of the various alien races represented in the book. Krogan, Turian, Asari, Salarian…and, of course, Humans are all represented here, and the book’s authors have an obvious familiarity with all of them. Because I’ve played the game, the Nexus is also a familiar setting to me, as are many of the characters who appear in both the game and the novel. Director Tann, Foster Addison, Kesh and William Spender, part of the Nexus leadership, were instantly recognizable. Later in the game, the characters Sloane Kelly, and the Krogans Nakmor Dratch and Nakmor Morda, were introduced in the storyline, after I had already been reading about them in the novel, so I had to adjust some of my preconceptions about the characters.
Especially Sloane Kelly. When she finally showed up in the game, she looked nothing like I had pictured her in my head while reading the novel. If Nexus Uprising is any one character’s story, it’s Sloane Kelly’s. It begins and ends in her viewpoint.
At the beginning of the novel, she is the Security Director of the Nexus, an optimistic member of the Andromeda Initiative completely enthralled by the vision of Jien Garson. They are making final preparations for their journey to Andromeda, and, at last, Kelly climbs into her stasis pod. She is rudely awakened hundreds of years later when the Nexus encounters the Scourge. Jien Garson is dead and the Nexus leadership is in disarray. Kelly immediately finds herself at odds with Director Tann, a salarian accountant who just happens to be the highest ranking surviving member of the leadership chain-of-command.
Much of the novel is concerned with how the remaining Initiative members try to survive their current dire circumstances. Things look pretty bleak. When situations are mishandled by leadership, things get even worse and a portion of the Nexus inhabitants mutiny. Sloane Kelly, almost by accident, becomes the leader of the mutineers, and she and her group choose exile over a return to cryonic stasis at the end of the story, as do Nakmor Morda and her krogan followers.
I know this sounds like major spoilers I’m giving away here, but they’re not. If you’ve played the game, you already know about this part of the Nexus’s backstory. That’s not the point of the novel. It’s about how the uprising developed. The huge second act stuff. I haven’t spoiled any of that. At least, I don’t think I have.
As a standalone novel, this one would probably not be very enjoyable for you. It’s well-written. Don’t misunderstand me. I like the writing so much that I plan to read more by both authors at some point. It’s just that Nexus Uprising is designed to be a part of a multi-media experience, an elaboration of the backstory of the game itself. I don’t think it feels complete as a work of fiction on its own. Its sequel is the game itself, in many ways.
So far I haven’t seen a release date for the next Mass Effect Andromeda novel. Originally, it was slated to release this summer. I’ve seen that an audiobook version of Mass Effect Andromeda: Initiation is forthcoming, but no print version so far. Since I will be playing the game for many more months to come, I was planning to read these as well. We’ll see what happens.
The bottom line? I recommend this novel, with a caveat. If you’re already a fan of the ME universe, and especially if you’ve been playing ME Andromeda, the novel adds some depth and texture to the gameplay.
Otherwise…you can safely skip this one.