EVE: The Empyrean Age Review

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Read Templar One, i think that one ist also not extremely good but it is still a nice SciFi-Book in the EVE Universe.
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I liked the book. That being said, I cannot disagree with your assessment of the book overall. However, The Burning Life is infinitely WORSE.
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Ok, won't read it. Thank you for saving me the time and money invested.
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I can count on one hand the number of times I started reading a book and never finished it, due to the book being completely awful. "The Empyrean Age" was one of these books.I've read some pretty bad books before, but at least some of them keep me engaged at points. You're completely right here that I didn't care about any of the characters, and all of their names were quickly forgotten almost as soon as I read them. I managed to get about 1/3 of the way in, and I found myself flipping back and forth, looking for some clue as to who was whom. The narrative was choppy at best, and there was absolutely no flow to the book. It was like reading the eve-o forums, except with slightly better grammar.I'm by no means a literary snob. I've read just about every Star Wars book that takes place after the Battle of Yavin, as well as quite a few Star Trek books, and I've enjoyed almost all of them. It doesn't take much to please me. Based on what I read in "The Empyrean Age", I'm forced to conclude Gonzales is either a horrible writer, or he threw some words on a page just to get a paycheck.What happened to him anyway? CCP talked him up to no end before the book was released, and then suddenly there was no mention of him.
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I basically agree with the author. The broker is by far an easy cop out. I understand why though, yet a disappointment none the less. I am the sort of nerd that loves cheesy science fiction. ( ok I love good sci-fi more, but I'm easy to please sort to say ( hell ffs first sci-fi book I ever read was warhammer so I haven't got standards to begin with)) and I was amused when reading the book. It is interesting in terms of background to Eve, but only really if you are interested in either RP or story line development to begin with. It is by far the best book of the bunch though (imho) So for the average reader, I'd suggest skip it. If you want decent sci-fi go read Peter F Hamilton, Ian Banks, Charles Stross Alistair Reynolds or a whole bunch of other ones.If you are an RP buff like me, give it a shot. Otherwise definitely skip it
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I read through this over the course of a year because it wasn't super engaging and the chapters were all pretty well self contained but towards the end when all the numerous plots sort of meandered together it became a lot more interesting. The ending left me kinda cold though.I'm working my way through Templar One and it's kind of the same thing. I'm going to stick with it only because I picked up the hard cover when it was released.
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I always thought The Broker was supposed to be meta-commentary directed at us players and our tendency to cultivate a gallery of alts for different roles.
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got it for xmas from my partner and read over the next few days but i agree with the author i think i enjoyed it for the history of new eden thats in it, the little backstorys more than the main story but i can see how itd get the roleplayers in the game fired up ;)
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i did enjoy reading the book, mostly because i'm kind of a backstory/canon-nerd (i used to spend hours and hours reading every single codex entry in the mass effect series, and even reading up on some thigns i've missed on the wiki).what annoyed me the most (aside from the mentioned leaps in writing style) was the german translation, which was incredibly dumb and obviously made by someone who hadn't spent a single hour actually in the game. but i guess you can't blame tony gonzales for that...
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The characters are a cast of victims, assholes, and shallow narrative devices.ITT EVE Players in one.
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I made it about a third of the way in. It now rests forgotten on a shelf.
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"Nerds read video game books, and I was not that sort of nerd."And yet you write pieces for a videogame blog.~EliteNerd~
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Aside from the issues you brought up in this review, if a reader happens to be a long-time RP buff as this anon is, Empyrean Age is even more painful for how it runs roughshod over the existing fiction in the EVE universe. ("The Minmatar Republic is a consortium of five distinct tribes who banded together after the Amarr invasion driven by a mutual desire to not be overrun? Haha, not now! Now they've had plot de- er, "Elders" secretly running the show since forever!") often for the of simplifying things politically ("The Federation is a nominally free and enlightened society in fact crippled by dark undercurrents of drug use, infighting, and hedonism run rampant? Nah, let's have them be described by the 'objective' world building sections as a literal utopia!" ). On top of that, there were the sex scenes. Dear god, the sex scenes...@DaiTengu - he went on to write news articles for the ingame news for a bit, and eventually a second EVE novel ("Templar One") that was somewhat better than TEA. As Templar One was published, he fell victim to the infamous :20%:.
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I found Templar One to be an improvement far as prose and characters go. However, the narrative jumps all over the place and is very difficult to follow.
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I recently finished all 3 eve books; a Christmas present from my wife. In my opinion they weren't bad. Not great, but not bad either. I liked seeing the characters in systems I've visited and I liked the story to some degree. Some of the disjointed-ness is cleaned up in Templar One, but I agree with the author; they aren't clean stories.
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I really agree about Heth. He had something interesting going for him, and I'd have liked to have seen some conflict between being handed the power to restore the State while disdaining the Gallente and the realisation that he's becoming a racist tyrant at the broker's command. Instead he jumps right down the slope and by Templar one he's Literally Hitler.
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There was one bit in the Empyrean age which got a laugh out of me: The two dumb Gallente interceptor pilots getting podded in Empire space by the Minmatar Elders Fleet, and one of them having a nervous breakdown because she forgot to update her clone and so couldn't fly interceptors anymore.I just had to laugh at the sheer level of incompetence of supposedly "elite millitary" pilots. A three day old newbie could have done better in the same situation.
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For all my problems with what Gonzales did to the setting in those novels, I will give him a pass for Templar One for finally resolving the Broker arc by the end of that book. Kind of a strange ending come to think of it, since he's hardly even mentioned in the rest of Templar One.
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I never liked the broker, but looked at that way, the character is less offensive.
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You share a very similar viewpoint to many of us who take a particular interest in the backstory of Eve. TEA is generally regarded by the roleplaying community as a sort of bomb, that set the Amarr/Caldari up as the 'bad guys' of New Eden, while promoting the Gallente to 'space-America' (Land of the free right? :l ) and relegating the Minmatar to a sort of backwater, only held up by the good will of the Gallente.Also, the Elders. Wtf Tony G /o\
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good book imo, so is templar one
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love this one and the other by Tony. I wish he would write more.

The definitive end to the [Amarr] Empire’s expansion was the infamous ‘Battle of Vak’Atioth,’ named after the system where Jovian forces decimated the Imperial Navy, thus opening the floodgates for a mass rebellion among Amarr’s vast slave population, and ultimately leading to the creation of the Minmatar Republic

A BOOK ABOUT A SPACE MMO

The above is taken from a book titled EVE: The Empyrean Age. Written by Tony Gonzales, it is a work of science fiction that spans the EVE galaxy from the four reaches of empire space to nullsec and back again. Ambitious and grand in scope, the novel weaves a litany of characters into several narrative arcs in a grand total of 672 pages.

Yes, The Empyrean Age just happens to be a book based on a massively multiplayer video game. I feel it is worth stating the obvious; books about video games carry a good deal of baggage, and I should note that I went into reading this work with all that baggage in mind. Up until reading The Empyrean Age I had never touched a book based on a video game property, I was content to point and laugh at all the Halo and Warcraft books taking up space on the shelf at my local bookstore. Nerds read video game books, and I was not that sort of nerd.

My expectations were thus set extraordinarily low. The tale of this review is not that I encountered  a book that dazzled me beyond all expectations, but it is also not a hate-filled screed against the author and his inability to write. My feelings about the book are decidedly mixed. I am inclined to give Tony Gonzales a little credit for tackling something with the sheer scope of The Empyrean Age. By that same token, I also think the book suffers dearly for being overly ambitious. Overall, I have serious misgivings about The Empyrean Age and feel it necessary to take my time in sharing my thoughts about the book as a whole.

UPSIDES OF A GARGANTUAN NARRATIVE

By being set in the EVE universe, The Empyrean Age has the advantage of an enormous galaxy with a decent backstory already developed by CCP. I imagine this is a wonderful blessing and terrible curse for any author and do not envy the task of trying to channel the mindset of eccentric Icelandic game developers into a coherent narrative. Worse still, capturing the feel and tone of a video game into book form is something I would never want to attempt. To Gonzales’s credit, I think this is the strongest point of The Empyrean Age. The work is dark, violent, and occasionally downright depressing. The characters are largely morally ambiguous people with human motivations for the actions they take, and this is clearly not a book where the forces of good must marshal together and defeat some terrible army of darkness.

Further credit where credit is due, The Empyrean Age serves as a wonderful crash course on the politics and history of New Eden. My favorite parts of the book often involved historical and cultural explanations of the state of the EVE universe, the quote at the start of this review being the beginning of one such explanation of the current state of affairs in New Eden. My favorite character exchange involved a capsuleer explaining to a ten-year old Minmatar boy the general principles of capsuleer technology. The exchange obviously existed to provide such an explanation to the reader, but it was executed well enough that the video game nerd in me ate it all up.

Finally, Gonzales does a competent job demonstrating the sheer scope of the EVE universe. He uses a large ensemble cast of characters with a dizzying array of motivations. Several different and completely unrelated narrative arcs are playing out at the same time in this novel and Gonzales does a good job at keeping the events distinct from one another and only connected in modest and largely tangential ways. 

STILL A VIDEO GAME BOOK

All the praise I just gave this book cannot make up for its glaring and terrible faults, which are many and legion. Fundamentally, the book downright irritated me. Most damningly I frequently struggled to be interested in what was actually happening on the page.

The characters are a cast of victims, assholes, and shallow narrative devices. The entire crew of the Retford are unsympathetic miscreants with the single exception of a 10 year old Minmatar boy, and he’s only sympathetic because he’s a former slave with a smashed-in larynx.

Tibus Heth, one of the main interests of the Caldari narrative, starts out strong. His motivations are complex and multifaceted. He could have played the part of an underdog resorting to shady methods to accomplish morally ambiguous goals. Instead, by the second half of the book he’s delegated to the role of a hateful demagogue of the Caldari people. So much more could have been done with him and his story. Instead, just as his story was about to turn really interesting, Tony Gonzales uses a personified plot device called The Broker just to make everything easier and all fixed up.

Don’t get me started on The Broker. The Broker robbed honest characters like Tibus Heth of so much potential and I was not at all impressed by a mysterious super powered plot device with spooky and unknown motivations. By this time The Broker’s motivations were made clear at the end of the book, I was downright angry that Tony Gonzales let him steal so much page time for something so profoundly dumb and pedestrian.

The rest of the characters are one sided and limp cardboard cutouts of proper human beings. The entire Minmatar cast is largely unbelievable and trite, and the portrayal of Jamyl Sarum and her lackeys play the part of blindly religious fanatics to caricature.

All the talk of characters aside, the actual writing was inconsistent. Writing styles themselves jumped from chapter to chapter, leaving the actual prose a muddled mess of disjointed narrative vision. One moment I swore I was reading a first person or limited third person perspective from one character, and the next moment I was reading some supremely distant third person omniscient perspective giving rough overviews of events as they happened. It was terribly disjointed, and made for an ultimately unpleasant read.

FINAL VERDICT

A couple days after reading The Empyrean Age I was out to dinner with a group of non EVE-playing friends. One of those friends brought the existence of this book to my attention shortly after I started playing EVE Online, and we can credit him as the reason I read the book in the first place. I made mention during the course of our dinner conversation that I had finished reading the book. He asked me an important question: was the book any good? The off-the-cuff answer that I gave him without any thought serves to seal my final verdict on the novel.

No. The book isn’t good.

I can only recommend this book to a certain subset of people. EVE players who want to learn more about the EVE universe could probably do worse than reading The Empyrean Age. People looking for an amazing piece of literature should look elsewhere, and readers looking for something entertaining might be hard pressed to find something here. EVE fans may find the book worthwhile, and the author does do a good job properly documenting where in the EVE universe events of the novel take place. Interested parties could probably retrace most the steps taken in the book.

It's available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle for those of you who are interested. Different people have given much more favorable reviews than me, but set expectations accordingly.

 

[name_1]
Drewson Houten, known by friends and corpmates alike as "Hoots," is a member of TEST alliance through a little corporation called Alea Iacta Est Universal (AIEU).