I, Mengsk by Graham McNeill – Book Review [Eroldren]

I, Mengsk Cover - MG

Eroldren reviews I, Mengsk by Graham McNeill, set within the universe of Blizzard Entertainment’s bestselling computer RTS series, StarCraft.

“A delightful SF masterpiece laden with memorable characters and vivid storytelling that’s bound to leave anyone satisfied whose mildly interested should they pick it up.” – The Founding Fields

For StarCraft newcomers beware there’s a spoiling topic elaborated upon, otherwise, those already familiar with the background story of Arcturus, the review nothing of being spoiling.

Sixty-thousand light-years from Earth, the corrupt Terran Confederacy holds the Koprulu sector tightly in its tyrannical grip, controlling every aspects of its citizens’ lives. One man dares to stand up to this faceless empire and vows to bring it to its knees: Arcturus Mengsk–genius, propagandist, tactician, and freedom fighter.

A monstrous act of bloody violence sows the seeds of rebellion in Arcturus, but he is not the first Mengsk to rail against such oppression. Before Arcturus grew to manhood, his father, Angus Mengsk, also defied the Confederacy and sought to end its brutal reign.

The destiny of the Mengsk family has long been tied to that of the Confederacy and the Koprulu sector, but as anew empire rises from the ashes of the past and alien invaders threaten the very existence of humanity, what will the future hold for the next generation…?

I, Mengsk without a doubt the one title which that I most thoroughly enjoyed and standby as the top dog out of StarCraft’s entire collection of fiction. If I were the part of UNN, I would’ve ran instead Dominion propaganda with the post headline claiming it was “An incredible firsthand account of the Mengsk Dynasty’s development throughout their many endeavors, hardships and sacrifices all done for the good of humanity!” I genuinely love it. And in some degree, maybe even over Graham’s work for Black Library.

The fictional universe of StarCraft holds an assorted range of characters, lore, engaging singleplayer campaigns and gameplay it’s no wonder why StarCraft been the one game franchise I’ve been following steadfast for the past 12 years or so. Furthermore, it defined my love for the lore of games. As both a video game player and reader lore always has been since then been my bread-and-butter, no matter what sort of medium or scale it’s presented as.

In regards of characters, everybody in the original games, StarCraft and Brood War, has some sort of distinctive appeal about them whether they be the enigmatic alien Protoss or their ravenous kindred, the Zerg Swarm or those Terran castaways caught-up meddling in between.  In Arcturus Mengsk’s case he was the stern yet charismatic leader to those all seeking out vengeance against the oppressive Terran Confederacy… that is before he showed himself having a treacherous side to him: manipulative, ruthless, power-hungry. Surely such a person is a dead man walking? Well that was the type of person Arcturus was and I liked him for it. Essentially, he was my favorite Terran character. So when word came spreading about that Graham McNeill, one of Black Library’s prolific authors was writing the life story of Arcturus Mengsk (not a novelization the events of the games retold), no questions were asked on my part; all I knew that it was most definitely a must-buy for me. Besides, it was something to help me ease out the long years of waiting for the release date of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.

I, Mengsk divided into three segments, each showing us the troublesome events that which surround the most notable members of the family – Angus, Arcturus and Valerian – that would shape and define their characters and the Koprulu Sector. Korhal IV is the jewel world of the Core Worlds, an achievement in Terran history for all others to following in its example, however, Angus Mengsk’s vocal opposition against the corruption of the Terran Confederacy’s over Korhal drawing in unwelcome danger into the Mengsk household off the book on entertaining note.

Arcturus’ perspective takes up the majority of the book as our lead character and everything about his unraveling past told throughout the greater part of I, Mengsk derives from his old profile and segments of Terran background material from the original manual. Seeing trough Mengsk’s eyes firsthand as a rebellious teenager seeking to forge his own way proves to be a reward onto itself to behold as the events sparked by his father later come into fruition and intertwines into his life and overtake his former ideals. At time you can’t help but not hate the man; share and understand his side of things in which the world shaped him into, despite his vented arrogance and knowing full well that passing sympathy for him overshadowed by the future atrocities he would later commit.

However, novel not only told predominantly through Arcturus’ POV. We do have instances of overlapping insight from Angus Mengsk, patriarch of the Mengsks and a popular senator of Korhal, in his goal to overthrow the tyranny reign that the Confederacy represents to the masses. Secondly, Valerian Mengsk has his big moment under the sun, taking over Arcturus’ role as the lead while here Graham fleshes out his origins as the unheard son of Emperor Mengsk alluded to in The Dark Templar Saga trilogy by Christie Golden.

Over the course of rereading this novel I’ve found myself falling back into an immersive mindset that tugs at your attention with every turned page you spend time reading more. From dialogue to action; everything just about balanced, especially all of the expressed character relationships and motivations can be understood, making themselves sound believable folk of our distant future.

As for faults to pick over I, Mengsk itself there’s honestly nothing that I can frown upon on. Part of the combat engagements had felt weary here-and-there, but only for a few paragraphs which don’t ruin the pacing or immersion. However, there is something  bothering me somewhat which I thought the novel could had dug deeper into something particular if having the benefit of a beefier page count. Although I can appreciate on how Arcturus’ story ended at, there was something else however just missing in his development as a character: why did he become megalomaniacal? What malign virtues overtook the man’s which would define him into the dislikeful yet charming villain that we all know him largely still today. Sure the path of revenge can play all sorts of things with people’s minds and anybody can guess why on the matter, but for myself, I cannot figure out something else credible enough that could have been the root cause. Can revenge backed with the momentum of wide-spread uprisings be that simple enough deed to get vain and declare oneself Emperor? I’m uncertain what answer I want out of that issue, but more on Arcturus Mengsk’s character would be a pleasure. Whatever the reasoning, a couple chapters more dedicated to the Arcturus story arc to show us part of that character transition Mengsk underwent through as a freedom fighter in wake of his losses would’ve been insightful. Apart from that unsettled idea Graham’s overall job in detailing the story of the Mengsks still brilliant regardless.

Out there I know that there’s extra material surrounding Arcturus in Uprising, an e-book done by Micky Neilson, the Publishing Lead at Blizzard, however getting ahold the archive edition not my top priority. From what little I know of Uprising, a couple of characters in I, Mengsk of interest apparently originated from this novella and might touch upon Arcturus’ lust for power during as leader of the Sons of Korhal. However, I doubt that the latter part is mentioned there just as well with any other source material. Maybe it will take an up-to-date Sons of Korhal novel elaborating on that certain subject that’ll satisfy the fanboy inside me.

Anyway, the bottom line I’m saying is Graham McNeill did a splendid job writing together I, Mengsk and getting your money’s worth out of it should be no matter. To partly quote Arcturus, the book is rather “…appropriately grand” another way one could say. Any fellow avid book collector of the StarCraft universe I, Mengsk one of the top-notch novels yet published and is should definitely not to be missed by anyone still yet considering otherwise. If you’re the type who discounts tie-in fiction as “bad fiction, bad writing” or you just looking out for something new to read, this book alone might be a worthwhile pursuit as a standalone sci-fi title.

Every time I’ve read I, Mengsk again after again throughout the years, I’m continuously ever so left with a gratifying mood each time around. For what it’s worth, not too many books quite leave me so in positive attitude that I’ll actively aim to reread them.

With us being barely three months away from the release date of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the Zerg-centric expansion due 3-12-13, hopefully the agonizing payoff of Arcturus Mengsk’s destiny should be answered. And when Graham plans his next StarCraft foray in the future, I’ll be most definitely standing by ready to see what he has in stores for us and the war-torn Koprulu Sector.

Overall Verdict: 9.5

Eroldren

Eroldren, a SFF follower of both tie-in media and original works, enjoys rereading books frequently. So be warned, he might bring out sometimes his share of older and heavy duty titles alongside the newcomers.

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