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Mass Effect: Ascension [Mass Market Paperback]

Drew Karpyshyn
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2008 Mass Effect
When they vanished fifty thousand years ago, the Protheans left their advanced technology scattered throughout the galaxy. The chance discovery of a Prothean cache on Mars allows humanity to join those already reaping the rewards of the ancients’ high-tech wizardry. But for one rogue militia, the goal is not participation but domination.

Scientist Kahlee Sanders has left the Systems Alliance for the Ascension Project, a program that helps gifted “biotic” children harness their extraordinary powers. The program’s most promising student is twelve-year-old Gillian Grayson, who is borderline autistic. What Kahlee doesn’t know is that Gillian is an unwitting pawn of the outlawed black ops group Cerberus, which is sabotaging the program by conducting illegal experiments on the students.

When the Cerberus plot is exposed, Gillian’s father takes her away from the Ascension Project and flees into the lawless Terminus Systems. Determined to protect Gillian, Kahlee goes with them… unaware that the elder Grayson is, in fact, a Cerberus operative. To rescue the young girl Kahlee must travel to the farthest ends of the galaxy, battling fierce enemies and impossible odds. But how will she be able to save a daughter from her own father?

This novel is based on a Mature-rated video game.

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About the Author

Drew Karpyshyn is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and its sequel Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two, as well as several other fantasy and science fiction novels, including Mass Effect: Revelation. He is also an award-winning writer/designer for the computer game company BioWare, where he was lead writer on Mass Effect and the popular Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game. He can be contacted through his website at–it’s all Drew, all the time!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Paul Grayson never used to dream. As a young man he had slept untroubled through the night. But those days of innocence were many years gone.

They were two hours into the flight; another four until they reached their destination. Grayson checked the status of the ship’s engines and mass drive, then confirmed their route on the navigation screens for the fourth time in the past hour. There wasn’t much else a pilot needed to do en route; everything was fully automated while a ship was in FTL flight.

He didn’t dream every night, but almost every other night. It might have been a sign of advancing age, or a by-product of the red sand he dosed himself with on occasion. Or maybe it was just a guilty conscience. The salarians had a saying: the mind with many secrets can never rest.

He was stalling; checking and rechecking the instruments and readouts to hold what was to come at bay. Recognizing his own fear and reluctance allowed him—forced him—to confront the situation. Deal with it. He took a deep breath to collect himself, his heart pounding in his chest as he rose slowly from his seat. No sense putting it off any longer. It was time.

On some level he always knew when he was dreaming. There was a strange haze over everything, a bleary film that left the false reality feeling washed out and muted. Yet through this obscuring filter, certain elements would register with exacting precision, minor details indelibly etched into his subconscious mind. The juxtaposition added to the surreal nature of his dreams, yet also made them somehow more vivid, more intense, than his waking world.

His feet padded softly over the carpeted aisle as he made his way aft from the cockpit toward the passenger cabin. There, Pel and Keo occupied two of the four seats, sitting kitty-corner across from each other. Pel was a big man with broad shoulders and olive skin. His hair was cropped in a tight afro, and he had a thin black beard extending along the length of his jaw. Seated in the chair facing Grayson as he came into the cabin, Pel was swaying gently back and forth in time to the song coming over his headphones. His fingers tapped lightly against his thigh, his perfectly manicured nails rustling softly against the dark material of his suit pants. His tie was still tight around his neck, but his jacket was unbuttoned and his mirrored sunglasses were tucked away inside the right breast pocket. His eyes were nearly closed; he’d lost himself in the rhythms of the music—a peaceful, easy image at odds with his reputation as one of Terra Firma’s top personal protection agents.

Keo wore the same suit as her partner minus the tie, but she lacked the imposing physical size one typically expected in a bodyguard. She was a full foot shorter than Pel and maybe half his weight, though there was a tautness to her wiry muscles that hinted at the violence she was capable of inflicting.

Her exact age was difficult to pin down, though Grayson knew she had to be at least forty. With advances in nutrition and gene therapy to reduce the effects of aging, it was common for people to look as young and healthy at fifty as they did at thirty, and Keo’s unusual appearance made it even harder to estimate how old or young she might be. Her pale skin was the color of chalk, giving her a ghostly appearance, and her silver hair was shaved short enough to glimpse the pasty-white flesh of her scalp beneath.

Intermarriage between the various ethnicities of Earth over the past two centuries had made alabaster skin a rarity, and Grayson suspected Keo’s stark complexion was the result of a minor pigment deficiency she had never bothered to reverse . . . although it was entirely possible she had undergone elective skin-lightening for cosmetic purposes. After all, visibility was a key aspect of her job: let people know you’re on duty, and they’ll think twice before doing anything stupid. Keo’s odd appearance definitely made her stand out in a crowd despite her stature.

She was facing away from Grayson, but she twisted around in her seat to watch him as he entered the cabin. She looked tense and coiled, ready for anything—a complete contrast to Pel’s easy calm. Unlike her partner, she seemed incapable of relaxing, even under the most mundane circumstances.

“What’s wrong?” she demanded at his approach, eyeing the pilot suspiciously.

Grayson froze and raised his hands in the air so they were level with his shoulders. “Just getting a drink,” he assured her.

His body was charged with nervous anticipation, the tips of his fingers were actually tingling. But he was careful to betray no hint of this in his voice.

This particular dream was all too familiar. Over the past ten years he had relived his first kill hundreds, if not thousands, of times. There had been other assignments, of course; other deaths. In the service of the greater cause he had taken many, many lives. If humanity was to survive—to triumph over all the other species—sacrifices had to be made. But of all the sacrifices, of all the lives he had taken, of all the missions he had completed, this was the one he dreamed of more than any other.

Satisfied the pilot posed no immediate threat, Keo turned away from him and settled back down in her seat, though she still seemed ready to lash out at the slightest provocation. Grayson made his way behind her toward the small fridge in the corner of the passenger cabin. He swallowed hard, his throat so dry and tight it actually hurt. He half-imagined he saw her ears twitch at the sound.

From the corner of his eye he saw Pel remove his headphones, dropping them casually into the seat beside him as he stood up to stretch. “How long till we land?” he asked, his words partially stifled by a yawn.

“Four hours,” Grayson replied as he opened the fridge and ducked down to inspect the contents, struggling to keep his breathing calm and even.

“No complications?” Pel asked as the pilot rummaged around in the chilled contents of the fridge.

“Everything’s right on schedule,” Grayson replied, wrapping his left hand around a bottled water while his right grasped the handle of the long, thin serrated blade he had stashed inside the icebox before the journey began.

Even though he knew this was a dream, Grayson was powerless to change anything that was about to happen. The episode would continue without variance or alteration. He was trapped in the role of passive observer; a witness forced to watch through his own eyes as events unfolded along their original course, his subconscious refusing to allow him to alter his own personal history.

“Guess I’ll go check on sleeping beauty,” Pel said nonchalantly, giving Grayson the code phrase for the final go. There was no turning back now.

There was only one other passenger on board: Claude Menneau, one of the highest ranking members of the pro-human Terra Firma political party. A man of vast wealth and power, he was a charismatic, though not necessarily likable, public figure; the kind of man who could afford a private interstellar vessel, complete with his own pilot and a pair of full-time bodyguards to accompany him on his frequent trips.

In what had become a familiar routine, Menneau had locked himself away in the VIP room in the aft of the vessel just after takeoff. There he would rest and prepare for his upcoming public appearance. In a few hours they were scheduled to touch down at the civilian spaceport on Shanxi, where Menneau would address a fevered crowd of Terra Firma supporters.

In the wake of the Nashan Stellar Dynamics kickback scandal, Inez Simmons had been forced to step down from her role as party leader. It was clear either Menneau or a man named Charles Saracino would succeed her at the Terra Firma helm, and both were making frequent trips to the various human colonies to drum up support.

Menneau was currently ahead in the polls by a full three points. But things were about to change. The Illusive Man wanted Saracino to win, and the Illusive Man always got what he wanted.

Grayson stood up from the fridge, shielding the knife from view with the bottled water in case Keo happened to be looking his way. To his relief, she was still seated facing away from him, her attention focused on Pel’s back as he made his way with long, easy strides toward the VIP room in the tail of the vessel.

The chilled condensation on the water bottle made his left palm cold and damp. The right was damp, too—hot and sweaty from being clenched too tightly around the handle of his weapon. He took a silent step forward so that he was standing only inches behind Keo, her bare neck exposed and vulnerable.

Pel would never have been able to get this close to her; not without raising suspicion and putting her on guard. Despite nearly six months working together as bodyguards for Menneau, she still didn’t completely trust her partner. Pel was a former mercenary, a professional killer with a murky past. Keo always kept half an eye on him. That was why it had to be Grayson. She might not trust him—Keo didn’t trust anybody—but she didn’t watch his every move like she did with Pel.

He held the weapon poised to strike, took a deep breath, then stabbed forward with the blade, striking at an upward angle toward the soft spot in the skull just behind Keo’s ear. It should have been a quick, clean kill. But his momentary hesitation cost him; it gave Keo a chance to sense the attack before it came. Reacting with a survival instinct honed over countless missions, she leaped from her seat, spinning to face her attacker even as the blade plunged home. Her incredible reflexes saved her from instantaneous death; instead of sliding smoothly up into her brain the knife buried itself deep in the flesh of her neck, where it stuck fast.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for Mass Effect fans only Sept. 13 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
N.B. If you're looking at this book purely from a Mass Effect storyline perspective, and not from a general SF PoV, add another star to my rating.

Maybe I've been reading too many books by really great SF authors, but I found this book underwhelming. The story is decent, but if you read much SF none of the ideas here will seem all that original. Descriptions of the universe seemed a bit blah, too. It is a quick read, if you like that. Oh, and Kahlee Sanders returns from the first book. This time she's in the biotics business. She just can't seem to stay out of trouble.

Of course, you probably won't bother with this unless you've played Mass Effect and are wondering where it's going next. That's the interesting part. Given the connections between the first ME book and the game, I spent much of my time reading this one wondering how it will relate to the next game. I don't have an answer for that, but there certainly were a lot of quarians, biotics, and alien-hating humans in this book. Oh, and mysterious aliens who live behind an unexplored relay and collect sentient beings...

There are a number of interesting directions set up here for the second game to take. Too bad for me I won't be playing it unless EA/Bioware change their DRM policies. At least I can, and probably will, keep buying the novels.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Filler For Games Aug. 9 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Gotta say it took me much longer to read than the first one. Light on plot, great on descriptions and really passable on dialogue, this little video game novel is a gem in itself in the sense that it achieved its purpose wonderfully, that is fleshing out the Mass Effect universe. I played the game once, read Ascencion again and on a replay I must say that I see Tali the Quarian completely differently. The Quarian race has been excellently introduced in this novel and has me looking forward to more. This novel served to pique my interest in the Mass Effect universe and in the end I think that that was what it was intended to do. Though Drew has written dialogue for Bioware's Knights of The Old Republic and IMO it is better, I expect more from a third novel, if ever there would be one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unrelated to the game story, but still interesting. April 14 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read the book before Mass Effect 2 was out, so I enjoyed the fact that the book was kind of an introduction to many new element in the world of Mass Effect. Otherwise the story is unrelated to the main story of both game. It was still somewhat fun but nothing outstanding.

I would recommend this book only to the hardcore fan of the series.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book two begins after the game ends. Oct. 24 2008
By Detra Fitch TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It has been twelve years since scientist Kahlee Sanders survived the Sidon massacre. And it was thirteen years ago that a toxic disaster exposed thousands of pregnant human females and their unborn children to a deadly cloud of element zero on the Yandoa colony. Some of the human children were born with biotic abilities. All of them are now at the Jon Grissom Academy, orbiting the planet Elysium. Sanders works with these kids in the Ascension Project. She helps them adjust to and harness their extraordinary powers.

Twelve-year-old Gillian "Gigi" Grayson is borderline autistic. Her mental condition makes her emotionally distant, yet she is still the program's most promising student. She has also become the favorite of Hendel Mitra's, chief of security. But unknown to Sanders and Hendel is that Gigi's father is part of Cerberus, a radical pro-human terrorist group led by one known only as the Illusive Man. When Grayson visits Gigi, it is to help Cerberus perform illegal experiments on her.

When the Cerberus plot is revealed, Grayson takes Gigi away. Sanders and Hendel convinces Grayson to take them with Gigi. Cerberus is hot on their trail as the trio search for a way to save Gigi. Help comes from a totally unexpected source.

**** If you are playing the MASS EFFECT computer game, know that this story takes place AFTER the game ends. If you have not played the game as yet, but plan to, wait until you finish the game before you begin reading this story. This story reveals spoilers by mentioning things that happen in the game.

You do not have to read the first book, REVELATION, to fully enjoy this story. Both seem to be stand-alone tales.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  94 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good read! July 30 2008
By David D. - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
But for those wanting to continue where the game left off, you will not find it here. Any reference to the ending of the game is done in the first chapter and vague at that, not in detail as you see it since the game allows for multiple choices and events to occur depending how you played.

This book tells another story, but there is a returning character from the first book, which you end up wondering what ever happened to her after Revelation. The book revolves around the extremist band of Cerberus and their recent project. Readers who played the game and completed most of the side missions might have tangled with this group and may know of and what they are capable of.

I don't like to spoil stuff in reviews and like to keep them short. Ascension is a great read, and even though you might want to continue where the game dropped off with Shepard, it is worth you picking up and reading. I read it in 2 days because it really hooks you in with the plot and you can't help but wanting to devour it asap. If you liked Revelation, you will like Ascension, and if you only played the game and never read the novels, I recommend you do so.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middling Mass Effect Misadventure March 20 2012
By Xavier - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Kahlee Sanders is back from the first book, and now she's working on the Ascension Project at Jon Grissom Academy, a project for training human biotics. Gillian Grayson is one of the most promising students at the academy. Her father, Paul, works for Cerberus and has an interest in Gillian's success. Hendel Mitra is the Security Chief at the Academy and cares deeply for Gillian. Cerberus's interest in Gillian's biotic potential will take these characters and others across some of the Mass Effect universe's most interesting locations.

When reading a tie-in novel, I expect a few things. I want to better understand the IP's universe; I want interesting characters, both new and familiar; I want a fun adventure; and I wouldn't mind if the author threw in a little fan service. I don't expect literary masterpieces. I don't think my expectations are unreasonable. That said, unlike the first Mass Effect book, Mass Effect: Ascension doesn't deliver like a tie-in novel should.

By far the most interesting parts of Mass Effect: Ascension are the locales. Omega was and still is one of the most interesting places in the game, and Mass Effect: Ascension helps add more contours to its dark and seedy shape. I'll keep the other major location in the book a secret, but I will say that it'll be a pleasant surprise for fans of the game. It adds some needed life to one of Mass Effect's most mysterious locations. Unfortunately, that's about it for the locations. There's Grissom Academy which is your everyday biotics training academy, but Mass Effect: Ascension doesn't planet-hop as much as the first novel did. This wouldn't be a problem if Mass Effect's world wasn't interesting, but it is, and I wanted more from Mass Effect: Ascension.

The characters are the book's weakness. While reading Mass Effect: Revelation, even though I knew the fate of Saren from the first Mass Effect game, I held my breath every time he was in a scene because he was a great, unpredictable character. There wasn't a single character in Mass Effect: Ascension that made me smile or perk up whenever he or she would appear. The novel's characters are bland and uninspiring.

While Mass Effect: Ascension's adventure wasn't a complete bust, this is one of those stories that's merely going through the motions.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just as Good as the first? You Bet! July 5 2009
By ~KG~ - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mass Effect: Ascension takes place directly after the Mass Effect Video-game. As this novel first starts out, things are slow, gradually pulling you into the story surrounding our previous novel main character, Kaylee Sanders; who is a teacher/advisor in a school for Biotic youngsters newly exposed to Element Zero. After a few chapters of environment, a background story to places, people and objects the story begins to pick up the pace. You will be introduced to new villains and allies to this already massive universe, in turn creating a very interesting setting for Mass Effect 2 to continue off where this book ends. During the climatic chapters, you may find yourself hard-pressed to putting the book down and taking a break as it tends to keep you on the edge of your seat. The ending was good, the only bad part being that it ended at all. As good as the first Drew Karpyshyn Mass Effect novel, in my opinion; maybe a little better. Having played the game, and reading the first novel is probably a great perquisite to checking this out, as without both, you may not be as attached or familiar to some characters or places.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK, the first one was better, doesn't add much... Aug. 13 2008
By Boston007 - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was looking for a nice filler between Mass Effect the game and Mass Effect 2. In the first book, you are introduced to the villain and a mystery. The action was non stop and you couldn't wait for the game to come.
This second book fails to deliver on many scales. I really couldn't feel for the characters. I felt this book was made only to fill in details about the Quarians, because in game 1 we knew so little about them. I just thought more could have been done, and the story wasn't that enjoyable. I will definitely buy the second game because I am a huge ME fan, which is why I was disappointed with this book.

If you are ME fan, you may want to read this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good. Much better than the first novel. Oct. 5 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is excellent and in my opinion significantly better than the first Mass Effect novel. You can tell that Karphyshyn has really grown comfortable with authoring novels as he continues to write them. I'm hoping he writes another one following the story of the second game.
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