The chessboard is limited to an eight-by-eight grid. There is nothing beyond this little universe. No ninth rank. No green pieces that suddenly sweep onto the board to attack both black and white. No pawns that suddenly become bishops. –Arcturus Mengsk.
No time for a clever introduction line, let’s get right down to the matter at hand: Starcraft: Liberty’s Crusade, written by Jeff Grubb, which I picked up from the local Goodwill for about $1.
Liberty’s Crusade follows the adventures of Michael Daniel Liberty, a news reporter for the Universe News Network, which is basically the CNN (or perhaps the Fox News) of Starcraft. As a result of upsetting the powers that be, Michael is put on a “cush posting” in order to lay low for a time. The “cush posting” is an embedding with the Confederate Marines on the Battlecruiser, Norad II.
Needless to say, Liberty ends up getting caught up in the events of the Terran campaign from the original Starcraft, Rebel Yell. These events begin with the invasion of the Sara system by the Zerg, continue on to the arrival of Protoss and their subsequent purification of the the Sara worlds, the war between the Confederacy of Man and the terrorist Sons of Korhal.
Of course, Liberty ends up running into the likes of major Starcraft characters, including James Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan, and Arcturus Mengsk. The relationship between Kerrigan and Raynor is only briefly explored, though there are several great scenes with Liberty and Mengsk. Mengsk comes off as the persuasive, but absolutely cold-hearted politician he is while he spars with Liberty on ideological grounds. In addition to learning more about the characters, the scenes with major characters are also fun because sometimes they will use direct quotes from the game, which always made me giggle a little and allows the reader to directly connect where that part of the book is with a part in the original campaign.
But sadly, those giggles did not continue through most of the book. Because the chapters follow so closely the missions in the game, there are virtually no surprises in the plot. The lack of surprises I can deal with, but the lack of characters I can’t. There are virtually no noteworthy characters that aren’t in the game’s campaign; no fun pilots or other ghosts or terrorists even crazier than Arcturus. Liberty himself doesn’t have much of a personality. Because there are no new characters which are strong, the book is weak.
In addition to there being a distinct lack of new characters, there are a few other holes in the plot that are quite glaring, and I’m not usually one to notice. For instance, at one point, Kerrigan is charged with sneaking into a Confederate camp and placing a Transplanar Psionic Waveform Emitter (read: Zerg attraction device). She asks Michael Liberty, a news reporter, to go with her on the top-secret stealth mission so that he can carry it. I mean, really? Granted, the scene is a good read and could not happen if Liberty did not come along, but plot-wise, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Overall, Starcraft: Liberty’s Crusade is a quick read that offers a bit of back story, but ultimately I feel that it stayed too close to the Rebel Yell campaign, and failed to cover enough new ground to make it enthralling. There are a few great scenes with Mengsk, a good first-contact scene with the Zerg, and good exposition into why the Confederacy of Man fell, but overall it didn’t do it for me. It’s an okay read, but anyone not familiar with the Starcraft universe would find it too shallow to be intriguing, and the Starcraft nerds out there will already know everything that happens.
I totally need a shirt that says “Transplanar Psionic Waveform Emitter.”