By no means am I’m a stranger of the StarCraft franchise. After all, I’ve been spotlighting the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm short stories that been coming out for the past couple of months and it’s been so far yet it’s been a fairly a strong series. However, even short stories can take their toll on me so I’ve decided to return my attention back to a StarCraft novel I was lucky to obtain courtesy of BlizzPlanet and Blizzard Entertainment: Flashpoint.
The Queen of Blades has fallen.
The sinister zerg leader no longer commands her legions of bloodthirsty aliens against the humans of the Koprulu sector, all thanks to the combined courage and tenacity of Jim Raynor, General Horace Warfield, and a mismatched team of Dominion soldiers and outlaw rebels.
Although the queen is no more, Sarah Kerrigan is very much alive. The women who once controlled countless alien minds in a rampage across the stars has been spirited away by the man who dethroned her. Now Arcturus Mengsk’s Dominion armada is on her heels, roaring for blood. Jim Raynor will need to test his strength, his wit, and his loyalties against impossible odds to protect the women he loves.
StarCraft II: Flashpoint brides the events that take place in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the upcoming StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Featuring never-before-seen glimpses into Jim Raynor’s and Sarah Kerrigan’s past, this novel opens a window into a world of passion, action, and adventure.
Picking straight right up from the very ending of Wings of Liberty Christie Golden continues the story of Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan, Valerian Mengsk and the Raynor’s Raiders. We start part way into the Showdown cinematic as Jim Raynor shot his old friend Tychus Findlay dead and carries out Sarah Kerrigan out from primary hive cluster as Dominion battlecruisers fight far above in the heavens. After that point the road the story turns into a rather fascinating ride as we push onwards which will eventual set up the starting area of Heart of the Swarm. Throughout the course of Flashpoint we see some more of the Raiders aboard the Hyperion seen during of Wings of Liberty storymode that offers us a wider perspective into the motley company outside from Raynor’s own narrow minded POV and the troubles he’s confronted with after saving Kerrigan.
For what’s it worth, despite Flashpoint’s story set within a tight timespan of 10 days it was a delightful read and quite informational page by page. Even if you haven’t dabbled with StarCraft fiction beforehand Flashpoint is packed with enough background material both old and new that any newcomer can appreciate it as a gateway novel which they can jump into without worrying about previous titles yet still see progression in the franchise’s ongoing storyline.
One thing that I found most interesting Christie addressed in the flashback aspects of Flashpoint that it greatly fleshed out the relationship between Sarah Kerrigan and Jim Raynor into something much more concrete. In Wings of Liberty we see Raynor has been lamenting over the loss of Kerrigan, a women he loved until betrayed by Arcturus Mengsk and transformed into the unrelenting Queen of Blades. Except that notion was something new brought into the StarCraft II trilogy. Where did Raynor and Kerrigan having a romantic relationship ever come from? Jeff Grubb’s Liberty’s Crusade and Queen of Blades by Aaron Rosenburg had seeded that Raynor and Kerrigan had developed a relationship on good terms behind-the-scenes after their first impressions of meeting each other, yet even there it felt something that eventually became a bygone friendship. For the majority of old school StarCraft gamers who played the campaign thought that relationship had died, or perhaps even considered a nonexistent romance that never happened after 12 years of knowing StarCraft and Brood War. It was out of the blue and there was nothing clarified to how and why this happened until Flashpoint nearly came around.
For myself I’m not entirely settled on the idea the Queen of Blades was an overriding persona that took control and repressed Sarah Kerrigan, who was unable to direct her own actions as a monstrous creature slaughter billions. It was an understandable reinterpretation of the events but it still robbed much meaning to the atrocities the Queen of Blades committed and her sadistic nature. In turn, that diminished her character as one the top favorite villainess in gaming history. (i.e. “Omega”)
Alongside that series of flashbacks Christie had also interweaved Mike Liberty from Liberty’s Crusade partially as a sideline character which I found quite interesting. Let’s say “You Pig!” been given a whole new meaning and waffles make a comeback. Too add with that, readers of StarCraft tie-in media can discovery nods to other works such as Cameron Dayton’s Kerrigan – Hope and Vengeance which some was collaboration done with Christie Golden, Homecoming by Chris Metzen (Frontlines Vol. 4), and Christie’s own The Dark Templar Saga. Finding those little in-universes references as minor layers of consistency were a pleasure to see uphold.
However, having played Heart of the Swarm before getting my hands on Flashpoint I did notice likewise the discontinuity between the two StarCraft II games and that in turn affected part of my immersion in a lesser extent. As a lore enthusiast I do keep out my eye for those background details that may reinforce previously written source material, see different interpretations, push forward my understanding of any fictional universe etc.
Without a doubt I found Christie’s storytelling in Flashpoint kept me thoroughly entertained from start to finish in whichever area – dialogue, humor, action, pacing – it was mostly all in the green and I cannot give her fault from her end. Even authors licensed by Blizzard are not entirely in the loop of things as a game is being developed.
One matter I’ll nitpick is General Horace Warfield. Whilst I understand Warfield wasn’t somebody who was deemed who wouldn’t have an important role in the overall big picture for Flashpoint’s storyline it did feel rather irksome without him holding a presence in some way. After all, he was the Dominion general who been supervising Dominion military operations as soon Second Great War begun and help lead Valerian Mengsk’s invasion against Char together with Raynor’s Raiders. Now in Flashpoint set in the aftermath of Wings of Liberty and their victory disinfesting Kerrigan as the Queen of Blades – crippling the leadership of the Zerg Swarm – and our general been left in the dust and everyone stays silent as though they all forgotten about him. Trailers showed he would make a comeback in the expansion and pre-release press coverage noted him having established a Dominion base on Char but nothing that said was definitively explained to why Warfield remained on Char and continue to serve under Arcturus Mengsk’s reign. And this same train of thought can also be applied to an unexpected plot twist which I won’t spoil here. (And also a trivial area, a character who became somewhat aware of the “complicated” matter surrounding Matt Horner’s relationship with the charming crime lord Mira Han.) We as readers and players can speculate theories to why things happened as they did, yet then again, we don’t have yet anything to support them since nothing in Flashpoint was able to help explain or suggested through seeded breadcrumb plots being as valid enough reasons.
Other than that, Flashpoint is by no means a perfect StarCraft book as I found it to be but it was entry that I would regard as perhaps one the top five favorite novels.
At any rate, I sorely do hope Christie Golden will return to write the second novel that’ll bridge together Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void to uphold that storytelling continuity that Christie offers to readers. Besides, Heart of the Swarm ended on a point which can be thought as a cliffhanger in one aspect which I can see she would no doubt like to pick right up and explore further much to our delight.
Overall Verdict: 9/10