Mass Effect: Ascension

Mass Effect: Ascension

by Drew Karpyshyn

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn.

I think the debate over who gets to call themselves a writer is entering its second, possibly third round. We’re clear that bloggers can be writers, as some of the most interesting essays I’ve read recently have been on my laptop — Dooce, for instance — Heather Armstrong’s writing about her young daughter and her ambivalence and joy about her current pregnancy are second to none. Of course there’s a lot of garbage, no one would dispute that. But that’s true of everything — from hair care products to restaurants to book reviewers. A great big chunk is going to be utter dreck. Sometimes you’re going to find something good where you least expect it. Where did I least expect to find something good? Videogame. I freely confess my prejudice against a world of what I imagined to be unsocialized young men, an overwhelmingly exclusionary world of boys were the only girls invited were gun-wielding Barbie amazons, maids and mothers — and if the gamers were unsavory, what must the people who actually make this stuff be like?

I got a chance to talk to one of the great big stars of the industry, and while I probably won’t spend my weekend first talking to and then shooting space aliens, you never know. Drew Karpyshyn was the head writer on Mass Effect, the video game and now the book and audio book, and he was one of the lead writers on Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic. If you’ve never picked up a console, trust me, he’s a big deal. ÊMy concerns about the place of women in video games did not evaporate like the morning mist but I did gain a new respect for the passion Drew and his team put onto the screen, and the page. It is art, a new kind of art where you take away the intentions you bring with you. Not having played Mass Effect myself (I know, shocker) I found the book a little mystifying at first, but I got into the rhythm of the thing and enjoyed the sequences set in the requisite School for Kids Who Are Special and Different. He’s got a nice touch with his most fragile and vulnerable characters.

So Mass Effect: Ascension may not be choice #1 for your mom’s book club, but for your game-lovin’ teen? (Or game lovin’ person of any age, duh.) Absolutely. I’m enough of a fogey to want everyone to get behind a book.


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