If there’s one question Andromeda left me wanting an answer for, it was the fate of the Quarian Ark. Oh, there are many more unanswered questions from the last Mass Effect game, but none of the others have such an immediacy. Questions about the Kett, Jaardan, and Benefactor can wait for the sequels — and yes, for all the doom-saying around Bioware in general and Mass Effect in particular these days, I do expect Andromeda sequels, though perhaps not for a while.
Thankfully, that burning question has at last been answered. In the new novel Annihilation, author Catherynne M. Valente uncovers the true fate of the Keelah Si’yah.
I will say off the bat: This is a delightful book. Initiation was fun, but not really essential reading, even for hardcore fans. Annihilation, on the other hand, is something I’ll recommend to any fan of any of the Mass Effect games. Not only because it answers a crucial mystery from Andromeda, but just because it’s so good.
In the truest Bioware tradition, the best feature of Annihilation is its characters. The Keelah Si’yah carries not just Quarians, but members of many other less influential Milky Way races, allowing for a cast as diverse and colourful as any of the Mass Effect games. Particularly memorable are the acerbic Volus fashion designer Irit Non, lovesick Quarian outcast Senna’Nir, and the Elcor wannabe thespian known as Yorrick.
What really surprised me is how funny Annihilation is. I was expecting a very dark, unhappy book, and in some ways it is, but the characters are such oddballs and the writing has such a wry, quirky style that I found myself laughing out loud on almost every other page.
Not to say that it can’t be serious when it needs to be. Actually I found the mystery of why so many things are going wrong aboard the Ark quite effective. The ultimate reveal is not at all what I was expecting, though it makes perfect sense in retrospect — everything a good mystery’s conclusion should be. It’s also far more interesting — at least in my opinion — than any of the popular fan theories for what wrong aboard the Keelah Si’yah.
It is not entirely perfect, of course. I really only have one complaint, but it does cut down on the enjoyment of the book a fair bit: It’s much too short, and much too rushed. These characters could have carried a book twice this long. They could have carried a trilogy, or a quartet. I wanted to spend more time with them. I wanted to see their relationships continue to grow and evolve.
Annihilation is like a delicious, inventive meal, but the portions are all too small, and it leaves you hungry for more.
Overall rating: 8.1/10