20th Mar2011

Book Review: Deus Ex – Icarus Effect

by Phil Wheat

Written by James Swallow | Published by Titan Books | Format: Paperback, 354 pages

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“In the near future, with physical augmentation gaining ground and nano-cybernetics only years away, the dawn of limitless human evolution is just beyond the horizon, and a secret corporate cabal of ruthless men intends to make sure that humankind stays under its control. But two people on opposite sides of the world are starting to ask questions that could get them killed.

Secret Service agent Anna Kelso has been suspended for investigating the shooting that claimed her partner’s life. Anna suspects that the head of a bio-augmentation firm was the real target, and against orders she’s turned up a few leads concerning a covert paramilitary force and a cadre of underground hackers. But the cover-up runs deep, and now there’s a target on her back. Meanwhile, Ben Saxon, former SAS officer turned mercenary, joins a shadowy special ops outfit. They say they’re a force for good, but Saxon quickly learns that the truth is not so clear-cut. So begins a dangerous quest to uncover a deadly secret that will take him from Moscow to London, D.C. to Geneva, and to the dark truth if he lives that long.

The year is 2027; in a world consumed by chaos and conspiracy, two people are set on a collision course with the most powerful and dangerous organization in history and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.”

Back in the day I played the first Deus Ex game, and wasn’t that impressed, but after reading the back cover blurb and spotting words like “cybernetics”, “bio-augmentation” and “2027” I decided that I had to give Deus Ex: Icarus Effect a read, and I’m glad I did.

When I was at college I was introduced to the Cyberpunk 2013 & 2020 RPGs and quickly became obsessed with them and the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson, Deus Ex: Icarus Effect reminds me of both of these. Like Gibson, author James Swallow tells the story from the view points of two very different characters, who as the story progresses get drawn deeper and deeper into a conspiracy. Judging from his descriptions I have a sneaking suspicion that Swallow has also read his share of Cyberpunk RPGs as this novel is full of reflex boosts, subdermal armour, aerodynes, cyberoptics and cargo blimps.

After reading Deus Ex: Icarus Effect I’m tempted to pick up the 3rd Deus Ex game – Human Revolution which takes place in the same time frame as the novel. In fact, characters from the novel also show up in the game as adversaries, and Adam Jensen, the character you play in the game, gets a mention early on in the novel. Links are also made to the other Deus Ex games, you get to see the beginnings of the NSF, and Gunther Hermann (a cyborg from Deus Ex) is a supporting character. The interweaving is one advantage of the book having been written by James Swallow, one of the lead writers on Deus Ex 3.

If you miss quality cyberpunk tales then this book is for you, if you enjoy the Deus Ex games then this book is for you, if you enjoy fast paced thrillers… yep you guessed it, this book is for you. I just hope Swallow writes more Deus Ex novels so that we can see a continuation of this story.

Deus Ex: Icarus Effect is available now from Titan Books.

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