Uprising (Micky Neilson)
Uprising is the fourth and final story collected in the Starcraft Archive. Originally released as an e-book, this novella features the rise of Arcturus Mengsk's rebel organization, the Sons of Korhal, and the beginning of his relationship with former Ghost Sarah Kerrigan. Despite the short length leading to a few rushed moments, in addition to some rather tepid action sequences, Uprising is easily the most important of the four stories in the collection, and a solid background tale for both Mengsk and Kerrigan.
The book begins with the roots of Mengsk's hatred for the Confederacy: the annihilation of his home world of Korhal by a fleet of battle cruisers. This is where length really works against the book, as we are treated to a token paragraph detailing its destruction and very little about the fallout of the events. The pivotal moment in Mengsk's life functions more as a short prologue than an emotional forging of arguably the key villain in the StarCraft saga. Similarly, Kerrigan's torture and testing at the hands of the confederate scientists is relegated to two or three paragraphs, with the main story in that sequence being the efforts of Mengsk's men to liberate the facility she is being held at. Short changing the important moments while playing out the tedious ones is a major problem in the plot of this book, as it tends to wrongly focus on the cast of original characters and their missions for the betterment of the rebellion at the expense of giving Mengsk and Kerrigan interesting things to do. We do get a series of insightful conversations between the two that successfully sets the tone for their later relationship, but for the most part they feel underutilized.
The big conclusion, in which the original characters and Kerrigan attempt to infiltrate the Ghost Academy on Tarsonis, with orders to destroy it and capture a particular Ghost agent, but of course everything goes wrong and the team quickly finds the odds stacked against them. The finale produces some incredibly predictable results in terms of who survives and who doesn't, but it does manage a nice twist by revealing Mengsk's motivations for ordering the sabotage. This book really suffers from focusing too much on a new and boring group of characters and their exploits instead of doing more with the two important ones. Also, the length works against it more than once by sucking the emotional impact out of scenes in favor of duly advancing the plot. It is an incredibly quick read, and one of the few books I've ever managed in one sitting, but it isn't the fully engaging and in depth tale that a full length novel would have been.
Outside of the two central characters, the cast of Uprising is a bit thin. The only other character that we see a substantial amount of the story through is Somo Hung, a recent recruit to Mengsk's rebellion. The rest of the cast is a thin bunch of soldiers, pilots, and drunkards that do little to endear themselves to the reader and instead simply fill out the ranks of Mengsk's army. The opportunity to get inside Mengsk's head is a bit wasted because we spend so much time with Somo instead of Arcturus, but there is still enough info here to help fill out his early character. One thing that didn't seem to present itself throughout the story was his ruthless, win at all costs, devious persona. Here he seems more like a strong willed but generally righteous man fighting against an oppressive Confederate regime, instead of an unappetizing and brutal alternative to an unpopular central government. I'm not entirely sure if this is a flaw or simply a more natural character progression: it could be said that at this point his power has not yet corrupted or tempted him. Either way, the character isn't explored as much as I would have liked. Kerrigan is elaborated on more thoroughly, and fans of the series will certainly not want to miss this. We get important insights into her early years, her Ghost training, her connection to the Zerg, and her relationship with Mengsk that prompts her to see the good in him time and again in the opening campaign of the first Starcraft game. This element alone makes it an essential read for fans of the character, and even casual fans or science fiction readers in general should enjoy the insights into one of the most interesting characters ever to come out of an RTS game.
The prose in Uprising did very little to impress me. The action consists of what could be called a dogged and uninspired adaptation of the combat from the game, reading more like a play by play of the typical round of Starcraft than a legitimately engaging, clever twist on the combat mechanics of the Starcraft universe. Huge missile turrets can be destroyed by a few marines shooting at them, battle cruisers are utilized in swarms, and Ghosts are characterized mostly by their ability to use a cloaking device embedded in their suits. The action is bone dry and completely boring, failing to create interesting set pieces or intricate large scale battles despite the wonderful universe the story is set in. Most of the remaining issues have more to do with the breakneck sprint through the events of the story, offering no time to let events marinate or explore the effects of various actions, but the writing itself facilitates this by being incredibly bland and failing to breathe life into the most important moments.
Uprising is a strong character driven short story that suffers from its length and from shoehorning a bland original character into a cast driven by two of the stars of the immensely popular video game. Despite being surprisingly lifeless in terms of action, Uprising is a great read for fans of Starcraft entirely due to the insight into Mengsk and Kerrigan.