Starcraft: Liberty's Crusade (Jeff Grubb)
Liberty's Crusade was originally published as a 272 page novel. It has since been re printed along with three other early Starcraft stories in the Starcraft Archive.
Starcraft: Liberty's Crusade is a fairly standard re-telling of the events from the Terran campaign of Starcraft I. The novel puts us in the shoes of Michael Liberty, an ace reporter assigned to cover the Confederate Forces under General Edmund Duke. He eventually is separated from the Confederates, and ends up playing an important role in many of the "missions" from act I of the original game. The book has a pretty good writing style, and the characterization of the game's most prominent characters was excellent, but the extremely predictable plot, complete lack of side characters, and dull action scenes make it yet another forgettable video game adaptation, though the writer does show quite a bit of promise in some areas.
The story starts out fairly promising, with Liberty being assigned to cover Duke's command for his own protection. We get some interesting insights into the character, the world of Starcraft, and at this point it isn't quite known that the story will be a somewhat pointless re telling of the events from the game. Here we are also introduced to what amounts to the only original character of note in the entire novel: Lieutenant Emily Swallow. Her persona is not all that interesting, but she does serve as an excuse for some background on the conditioning and origins of many of the marines serving for the Confederacy. It turns out that many of the soldiers fighting for the Confederacy are hardened criminals who have been neurologically re-socialized to obey every command from a higher ranking officer. This is enough of a twist and purpose so that the character feels at least somewhat interesting. The only other original character in the entire work (besides our hero) is Handy Anderson, Liberty's editor at the Universe News Network. Handy only shows up in a few scenes and is a rather bland character. As for Liberty, interesting profession aside, he is far from a complex or compelling protagonist, mostly serving as nothing more than a new perspective to view the events of the campaign. Everyone likes and respects him, and he seems to have no real back story, character flaws, or intriguing character strengths.
On the other hand, we get fantastic views into the characters of Kerrigan, Mengsk, Raynor, and Duke. These characters were heavily featured in the games, and they are expanded upon quite nicely here. Kerrigan sheds some sobering insight on the mind of a telepath and experiences more internal struggles and conflicts then what was seen in the entirety of the first act of the game. Her character was probably the most surprising, but Mengsk's was the most resonant. Mengsk is described as being brilliant, yet evil and completely manipulative. The character, through his backstabbing, treachery, and casual abandonment of his own troops, establishes himself as a threat more evil than even the monstrous Zerg or ethereal Protoss. Most disappointing in terms of characters from the game was the omission of the player character, known only as the Adjutant. Though it is easy to understand why the character was omitted, giving him (or her) a definitive persona, back story, and role would have been much more effective than essentially cutting his (or her) role from the story. It isn't like the book suffers from a lack of characters- with only four characters in it for the duration, plus our protagonist, there is definitely plenty of room for one more character.
As for the story, it closely follows that of the game with a handful of interludes on board whatever vessel Liberty is currently occupying. Outside of the beginning-up until his introduction to Raynor about fifty pages into the story- the book is an extremely predictable re telling of the game. We move from world to world as the Protoss, Zerg, and Terran continue their cycle of destruction while our protagonist is caught in the middle. One interesting re-working is the near complete lack of base building/resource gathering elements included in the novel. The book has plenty of references to the ships, soldiers, and technology that makes up each of the three factions, but precious little on the most important element of Starcraft. While it would have been difficult to pull off, especially given the point of view character's role in the scheme of things, it would have been very rewarding to see a more RTS-friendly adaptation of the game. As it is, non-Starcraft fans may actually get more out of the story as it will be a completely new experience to them, while anyone who has played the games will know precisely what to expect after a fairly early juncture.
The author's writing style is surprisingly solid considering the nature of the work. He makes excellent use of metaphors, word play, references (a ship known as the Jackson V being my favorite) and imagery. His descriptions of the Zerg creep (a type of corruption that spreads across a planet, ruining everything it comes in contact with) are spot on, and Kerrigan and Liberty's encounter with a Zerg hive is pretty disgusting. Also of interest are the sparse but effective visuals concerning the Protoss destruction of the Zerg-infested worlds. The only real lackluster area are the action scenes, of which there are many, though most fail to convey any sense of urgency or suspense. This may be more the fault of the plot than the author's writing style, but it is disappointing nevertheless.
Liberty's Crusade is a very mediocre re-telling of the game. If it wasn't for the fact that the plot was so predictable, the novel would have actually been quite good, but knowing what was going to happen, not to mention the complete lack of deviation from said main plot, prevents this novel from ever reaching its full potential. The game characters are expanded upon quite nicely, though don't expect to fall in love with any of the new faces. Starcraft fans will find little besides the excellent characterization to enjoy here. It does little to re-create the feel of the game, and the new characters are pretty much complete duds (when they are present at all, which is almost never.) The writer gives it his all, but this project was pretty much doomed from conception.