Mass Effect: Andromeda – Annihilation by Catherynne Valente

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished my first play through of Mass Effect: Andromeda and heard the distress call from the Quarian ark. What happened to the Quarians? And my precious Drell? The Batarians? The Hanar? The Elcor? The Volus? Where they lost in space? Adrift among the stars forever? Had they been attacked by some vengeful alien species? Sabotaged before they left The Milky Way? As an invested and inquiring mind, I wanted to know, but with Bioware tossing Andromeda to the back burner indefinitely, no DLCs forthcoming, and no idea when they were going to turn that back burner on and start cooking again, I patiently twiddled my thumbs and whispered to myself repeatedly, “They won’t let me down. They won’t let me down. They won’t let me down.”

And, though, it took far longer than it should have, I am pleased to say that through their continued exploration of the universe via the three novels they released in conjunction with the game, they have not let me down (well… not entirely, anyway. I mean, I’m still over here waiting for some kind of confirmation that my Sara Ryder is going to get to live out the rest of her life in similar fashion to Shepard, heroing it up, dating roguish smuggler types, saving a whole new galaxy, but that’s another blog post entirely.)

I gobbled up the previous two Andromeda companion books eagerly, and I enjoyed them quite a bit, but this book… This book brought something I shamefully did not even realize was missing from the Andromeda setting. I mean… I realized it, but I was able to suspend my longing for it rather effectively for a while. Catherynne Valente’s Annihilation brought it all to the surface and reinforced that it was missing, that in order for the Mass Effect universe to feel complete, it needed this thing. What was it? THE OTHER RACES! Those Quarians, Batarians, Hanar, Elcor, Volus, and… of course, my precious Drell. Andromeda felt like a well-rounded game to me personally. Story-wise, it offered a new adventure in a new galaxy with new enemies and new potential, but without the other important races, the non-Council races, it was only half-formed. ENTER: ANNIHILATION!

The Keelah-Si’yah, carrying thousands of non-Council peoples forward six-hundred years into the future, to a new life, a new galaxy, has almost reached its destination. Just fifty more years, and they’ll be docking with the Nexus, sending their pathfinders out to find new worlds where they can thrive and grow and live the lives they never got the chance to live back in the Milky Way. When the Si’yah’s VI system begins waking Sleepwalkers due to a problem it can’t identify, the team of six quickly discover the reason the VI can’t identify the precise issue is because whatever it is has also affected the VI itself. It can’t see the dead bodies in the cryopods, reporting them as perfectly healthy and still alive. It doesn’t recognize increases in temperature. The ship sees absolutely nothing wrong, though that can’t be entirely true because it woke the Sleepwalkers.

Hundreds of Drell, dead in their pods. Hanar, too, and though diseases should not be able to cross between species, this one seems to have exactly the right tools built into its sequence to do exactly that. Which likely means it isn’t natural. With the acrid stench of death and sabotage permeating the ship, it’s up to the three main characters to find out what’s going on and how to stop it before it kills them all.

I loved this book so much, and I realized that if Bioware just kept having people write Mass Effect novels for the rest of eternity, I would be okay with that, too. Whether they coincide with game releases, or just keep building this glorious universe they’ve created, I’m happy either way. Give me more, Bioware. GIVE ME MORE!

Five out of five stars!

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