Category Archives: science-fiction

My review of Christopher Brookmyre’s ‘Places in the Darkness’…

I have been a fan of Christopher Brookmyre for a long time ever since I first picked up a second hand copy of ‘A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away’ all the way to present day and his latest, ‘Places in the Darkness’. I have read and enjoyed every book, hunting around to find a copy of ‘Boiling A Frog’ and then seeking out each that has come since, usually from my public library. He has actually become one of my favourite authors and I look forward to each new release.


Most recently I reread ‘Pandaemonium’, a tale where a class of Scottish school kids run into actual demons and carnage ensues. It’s a tremendous read and genuinely graphic as there are significant losses on both sides. But it is also very funny and quite touching, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. His latest is quite a step away from the usual, being as it is science-fiction, and not either a comedy book or a straighter edged detective novel.

“Places in the Darkness’ is set on a station in orbit that is supposed to be the breeding ground for humanity’s first venture out into the stars but of course things are not that simple. I won’t go into the specifics of the plot except to say that it combines Brookmyre’s trademark wit, his experience with writing detective stories featuring a hardboiled detective, in this case Nicki Fixx, and her straight-laced superior, Alice Blake, who fits more easily into the science-fiction part of the narrative.

As should be expected there has been a string of murders in the supposed utopia but ‘Places in the Darkness’ is not really a detective story. Its social commentary, as all good sci-fi is. Those on the station are trapped in a cycle of low-wages which forces everyone to have two jobs, usually one of which pays better than the other. The seedier one, of course, encouraging an underworld where anything can be obtained for the right price which is exactly how those in power like things. The sci-fi elements of the story concern the influence of technology on our lives as well as the control that those who develop said tech have over us, all of which is very ‘Black Mirror’, and I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Places in the Darkness’ and it was nice to see an author whose career I have followed doing something different, while bringing along all that he had learned from their career as a comedy writer. It appears that Brookmyre’s next novel will now return to the seedy world of Jack Parlabane, his signature character, and I will be looking forward to that too, but should Brookmyre choose to return to the world of Nicki Fixx and Alice Blake, I will enjoy whatever happens next. I heartily recommend that you give ‘Places in the Darkness’ a go, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cheers!



My self-published nove;, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!



My review of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars story’…

‘Rogue One’ is the ‘Star Wars (SW)’ movie that I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Seriously, it is. Back then my mother, brother and I had a routine of enjoying the original movies (yes, even the one with the Ewoks. Hey, I was a kid!) every Friday evening and so obviously we were fans. I saw and enjoyed ‘The Force Awakens’ (review here: when it was released last December but I felt that was a rehash of the classic 1977 movie redone for a modern audience and, though I have absolutely no problem with that, it wasn’t quite enough for me. That movie is fun and it zips along but, in the opinion of this reviewer, ‘Rogue One’ is easily the best SW movie since ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It might even be the best one altogether! It’s an absolutely brilliant, genuine SW movie that features pretty much everything I want this kind of film to contain. Before I go any further, as with my previous reviews, there will be spoilers so if you want to see it unspoiled go and do so before reading on…


As I said, this movie has everything I wanted: character arcs with actual growth, epic space battles, sacrifice in the name of a greater cause, all that good stuff! Sure, the plot is quite simple (we must get the plans for the Death Star at all costs!) but it works and we all know that they succeed, for the first Star Wars movie depends upon it, but what matters is the cost of succeeding (which one’s were the Bothans, by the way?). Jynn is a decent protagonist, the journey she goes on is completely appropriate for the subject matter, and the crew that she assembles are also enjoyable (especially the sarcastic droid, who’s jokes land well). The battle sequences are some of the best I can remember seeing in any movie of this kind, and the ending is suitably brutal (did anyone actually have a problem with it, cause I sure as hell didn’t). The only thing that even slightly bothered me was the inclusion of a digitally-resurrected Peter Cushing (could they not have just written him out and someone else in?) but that was a minor niggle in an otherwise impressive experience.


Unlike in the prequels or in ‘The Force Awakens’ where they seemed in such a rush to keep moving forward that they barely had time to breath, the actors have actually been given the space to act. Actually, I think the three principle actors in ‘The Force Awakens’ did a commendable job with the space that they had but those in ‘Rogue One’ have much more to do and more room in which to do it. And what a ride Gareth Edwards, the director, has been on! My wife and I have been fans of the Kermode and Mayo movie review show for many years and I remember his interview for his debut movie, ‘Monsters’, some time ago. That was a very enjoyable character piece that features very few actual monsters (but when they do appear they are stunning!) but it did showcase the directors talents and it was obviously seen by the right people. Then Kermode and Mayo had him back on for Godzilla, a movie that I very much enjoyed both times I watched it, and now he has directed what I consider to be the finest ‘Star Wars’ movie since Empire. Blimey, that’s some career trajectory!


I heartily recommend that you see ‘Rogue One’ in the cinema, it’s a wonderful experience and it deserves to be seen this way. I look forward to revisiting it when it is out on home release but I am so glad I dragged myself to the pictures to see it. I loved ‘Rogue One’ much more than any of the other SW movies in the past few decades. Now, however, I do hope that we get to see something new in this universe, something different that isn’t a rehash or a prequel but instead moves the series forward from what it has always been towards the new stories it is now (hopefully) going to tell. And with directors as good as Gareth Edwards and J.J. Abrahms I have high hopes indeed! Can’t wait!


My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!


My review of Alastair Reynolds excellent sci-fi novel ‘Revenger’…

I have been a fan of Alastair Reynolds for a really long time and I would say that he is a strong influence on my science-fiction writing. I first picked up a copy of ‘Revelation Space’, which I absolutely loved, in a charity shop when I was a student at university, tore my way through it, and since then I have eagerly awaited each of his new books. I have my favourites (I’ve always really liked The Prefect) and I felt that one or two haven’t quite maintained the high standard of his best work but I still eagerly await each new release and dread the period immediately after I devour the latest for I know the wait for the next will be long indeed. And I am glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed  his latest, ‘Revenger’.


Revenger is, in the simplest possible terms, pirates in space. Think Firefly meets Ocean’s Eleven and you’re in the right ball park. These characters live on ships that travel through space using massive sails that allow the vessels to be pushed along by sunlight and visit the worlds where they seek their treasure. In my mind the ships resembled the lightship that Ben and Jake Sisko build in the ‘Explorers’ episode of Deep Space Nine. The crew then attempt to break into these worlds that contain vast, unseen treasures from an age gone by and each member has a different skill set and speciality including someone who can read the ‘augries’ (I hope I spelled that right) which is knowing when a ‘bauble’ will pop open, a crew member who can assess the worth of the treasure and a few others. But the most important is the ‘Bone Reader’ and that’s our protagonist, Fura Ness, someone who literally ‘reads’ a giant skull that she plugs into. All of this works to build the work that Reynolds is creating as does the language of the novel where a man is a ‘cove’ and money is ‘quoins’ all contributes to the world building that Reynolds is undertaking.

Now, I don’t want to say any more about the actual plot, for I would rather you go away and read the book for yourself, but it is safe to say that the title is a good one for this is a story about revenge, legacy and how the choices that the characters take shape the course of their lives. One of the aspects that I like most about this particular tale is how quickly it moves along, not lingering to settle the character’s into their lives, but quickly upending them and forcing them to deal with the events that occur. Oh and, at times, it’s brutal with a particularly gruelling segment about a third of the way through that I did not see coming at all! But this brutality seems fitting, given the life that they lead, and it forces our protagonist to take control of her life and her story and chose the path that she will take. For that is what a good protagonist should do in the opinion of this reviewer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Revenger and would recommend it to any and all fans of quality science-fiction writing. The book also ends well, closing out this origin story, and providing ample room for a sequel should Reynolds choose to write one. I really hope that he does for I would like to see the next adventure of Fura Ness and her sister. He also leaves a nice, juicy mystery hanging (and his reveals are usually very good!) and I hope we get to find out the secrets of this Universe and visit it again. And thus begins the long wait for the next Reynolds story sometime in the not-too distance future. Until then!


My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!


My review of ‘Arrival’…

I am a big fan of science-fiction in both movie and book forms. Alastair Reynolds is one of my favourite authors (my review of ‘Revenger’ is up next!)’ and my favourite movies of the last few years include Interstellar (which I think is an absolute masterpiece), Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max: Fury Road (sci-fi? apocalyptic fiction? hmm). So I was very glad to hear of the good reviews that ‘Arrival’ was getting and which were enough to persuade my wife and I to venture out to our local cinema to see if this movie lived up to the hype. This is something that we only do very infrequently for though we enjoy movies, we can’t often be bothered to trek out in the cold (it’s really not that far, but it is cold right now!) and we don’t often want to pay the associated costs (train fares, food and drink costs and so forth) when we have plenty of movies that we can enjoy at home. But Arrival was well worth the time and the money that we spent.


So, Arrival, for those of you not in the know, is a move in the vein of ‘Independence Day’ (ID) and Jodie Foster’s excellent ‘Contact’ in that it is one where a number of alien ships arrive on Earth and proceed to position themselves all over the globe. But unlike ID, this film takes the route of intelligence and subtlety (and not so many shots of famous landmarks being destroyed) and focuses instead on the efforts of Amy Adams (who surely should win the Oscar for her superb performance) and Jeremy Renner as they struggle to communicate with these visitors. The movie then follows their story as they begin to piece together the aliens ‘language’ and as the rival factions all over the globe do the same. I won’t say any more about the story as I don’t wish to spoil it but I do love that it gets a bit twisted at times involving the use of glimpses of the future (including a lovely bit of head-fuckery involving the Chinese leader) and it again reminds me of the brilliance of Interstellar in how it deals with all of this.


There were some very minor things that I found silly about the movie. The idea that these aliens would in any way be troubled by the presence of the weapons that we possess and turn towards their ships is one of these. If they have the technology to suspend their ships in the strange way that they do above the Earth and to communicate without us being able to understand how, then our puny technology would surely be of no concern. It’d be like tanks worrying about cave men throwing rocks! But despite these small niggles, my wife and I both  had a great time and fully intending to watch it again before too long. We probably won’t be venturing back to the cinema again but we might purchase the DVD when it comes out.


Arrival is a truly excellent movie that will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys intelligent, complex science-fiction stories (though it is easily understandable and well told) but I did wonder what the three teenage boys a few rows ahead of us made of it and whether they had been anticipating a more ID style story with all of the action that movie displays. Funnily enough, my wife enjoyed ‘Arrival’ even more than I did, declaring it her pick of the year so far and one of the best films she has ever seen. Let’s see if ‘Rogue One’ can pinch that spot before the year is out, personally I doubt it. Not because I don’t think Rogue One won’t be a great movie, it just has to go some way to best ‘Arrival’. It really is that good, go see it!


My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!


My review of ‘Star Trek Beyond’…

This time I’m reviewing Star Trek Beyond, the latest in the rebooted franchise and, as with my other movie reviews, I will be talking about the events in this movie (such that they are) so this review comes with a SPOILER warning. If you don’t want the movie spoiled then please read no further. Otherwise, onto the review…Oh, one more thing. There are quite a few acronyms in this review, sorry about that, but it’s necessary, I think. Right, the review!


I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a teenager. Watching The Next Generation (TNG) at 6pm on BBC2 was something I loved and ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ (BoBW) remains two hours of the finest TV I’ve ever seen and the only part of TNG that I think still holds up really well today. Watching Picard become assimilated by the Borg was a seminal moment in my TV education and the seventh movie, First Contact, is not only my favourite Star Trek movie (yes, I know ‘Wrath of Khan’ is the better movie but I still enjoy First Contact more) but one of my all-time favourite movies. It helps that I saw it for the first time with my best friend and my brother and that we were the only people, besides a cinema staff member, in the screening. That was a fun experience!


My wife and I are also big fans of Deep Space Nine, I’ve seen it several times through, and actually we recently finished watching the series from the beginning again. DS9 has an impressive story arc, along with wonderful characters and, like BoBW, ‘The Way of the Warrior’ is also incredible TV. I never got on with Voyager and Enterprise is bloody awful, slow and pointless in my opinion. As for the movies, well The Motion Picture is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, as are the Search for Spock and the Final Frontier, but Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country and the aforementioned First Contact are all superb. The entire run is something of a mixed bag and the movies that I haven’t mentioned are not really worth worrying about.


As for the rebooted franchise, well I have enjoyed it so far. I have seen each in the series in the cinema and I found the first to be an enjoyable romp of a movie that successfully brought Star Trek back to the mainstream, something that I thought would be quite difficult to do. Into Darkness continued that trend of pleasing both mainstream viewers and fans of Star Trek like myself, though I have seen reviews that have said that it divided fans. I liked that movie (especially as I hadn’t realised that Cumberbatch was Khan beforehand) although I did have a few little niggles (Tribbles, I’m looking at you!) and  a friend of mine gave an impressively thought out dissection of the movie some time ago that did make me question whether it was as good as I had previously thought. I could find no flaws with his arguments either.


When I first heard that they had given the next movie to Justin Lin, the director of one of the Fast and Furious movies, I was concerned (and the trailers did little to assuage my concerns) but the reviews (including that of my go-to movie critic, Mark Kermode) were pretty decent and it seemed to be going down well with the reviewers. How wrong they were. Star Trek Beyond is bloody awful. It is a garbled mess of a movie with almost no discernible storyline and pretty much nothing of note or value. Yes, seeing the Enterprise destroyed is entertaining, but the trailer had completely spoiled that and we’ve seen it done before anyway. The villain (ably played by Idris Elba) is even less developed than those in the past two movies (why are ST villains always so one-dimensional, except Khan of course) and the plot is completely nonsensical. As for the plot-holes, well you’d need some sort of plot to worry about the holes in it and what little there is, isn’t worth mentioning.


But to give you an example of how awful this movie is, I offer this. There is a climactic scene where Kirk and his crew face the fleet that destroyed the Enterprise. And they do so in an ancient, wreck of a ship. This insurmountable foe is overcome by the application of the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ track. Now, I have no problem with this, it’s silly goofy fun. What I have a problem with is that these ships, which are connected via radio waves, seem to spontaneously explode once their connection is cut. No explanation is offered and I think we are meant to assume that the ships that explode are crashing together. Yet, when this effect is shown again, the ships genuinely seem to be spontaneously combusting. This is awful storytelling that neatly fits with how ramshackle the rest of the plot is. Things like character development are ignored or placed into the category of ‘is that even what that character wanted’ an example being when a prominent female character is offered a place at the academy. Did she even want to go, was that mentioned, because I never heard it?

My biggest problem with Beyond is that it is just incredibly boring and though there seems to have a lot going on onscreen, it failed to engage with either me, my wife or my family, and I wonder how that is possible. The one moment that I enjoyed, when Spock looks at a picture of the Original Series crew, relied entirely on your affection towards said crew to get an emotional reaction. It worked for me but it did so because of my connection to those movies, and not because of Beyond, and also that I was aware that most of the actors in the picture have now passed away including, most recently, Leonard Nimoy. And when a movie has to rely on your feelings about characters in previous entries, then it is certainly failing.


The last time I was this disappointed by a movie that I paid to see in the cinema was Jurassic World, another turgid, mess of a movie, and that time, as with this one, I saw the movie with friends and family on a group outing. I wish I hadn’t paid to see this terrible movie and I certainly will not be ever watching it again. I have better things to do with my time and better movies to see and I would recommend that you do the same. To paraphrase Spock in Beyond, this movie is ‘horseshit’. Well put, sir, well put!


My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!


My ‘rambling’ review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers!)

Seeing as the new Star Wars film has finally arrived and I saw the movie last weekend with my wife and family I thought I would offer my thoughts on it for my next blog post. Before I do so, I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with this universe and what it means to me. I should also say that I will be talking in graphic detail about the events in this movie so everything will be spoiled. And I do mean EVERYTHING! If you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further, go and see the movie and then come back to see what I thought. You should experience it as unspoiled as you can, I did and I was glad! If you’ve seen The Force Awakens then please continue…


So, I am a fan of Star Wars. Not a huge fan, but a fan nevertheless. When I was quite young my mother, my brother and I would watch one of the original trilogy movies every Friday night while my dad was out playing squash with his friends. Consequently I saw them a great many times while I was growing up and I know them quite well. When the Special Editions were released I then saw SW in the cinema for the first time. And recently I revisited them in their original versions when I discovered that a friend had the versions of the DVD’s that came with the original prints. Having done that, I have to say that those versions of the movies remain the best ones, in my opinion. Nothing added to the movies since have improved them in any significant way, and some of the additions detract from the pacing of the movies. So, despite some shaky effects, I definitely think the originals are easily the best versions of the films.

Also, seeing the movies recently I revised my opinions of them significantly. I realised what a great piece of cinema the original Star Wars is, how quickly it zips along and how it expects the audience, despite being dropped into a new universe, to keep up. It treats them with respect and that pays off. The second film is quite brilliant and that movie was superbly directed by Ivan Kershner. Since then none of the subsequent movies has quite captured that excellence. Return of the Jedi is a car crash of a movie, especially given the information available as to what it could’ve been had George Lucas not fired the director and taken the reigns himself. Nothing in it works like the first two and most of the plot can be dismissed as silliness. Until my recent viewings I quite liked Return but having seen it as an adult with something of a film education, I now cannot see it as anything other than the disaster that it so clearly is. It sucks. I’m also not going to discuss the terrible prequel trilogy as the less said about those the better.

Anyway, onto The Force Awakens. Before seeing this movie I’d heard pretty good things. The critic whose opinion I value most, Mark Kermode of the BBC Radio 5 live show and Wittertainment, very much enjoyed The Force Awakens and so I went in with my interest piqued. My impression of the film wasn’t helped by the projector breaking fifteen minutes into our showing and my wife, my family and I then having to reschedule for a showing later in the day. Despite that I really did enjoy it. It was fun, it zipped along like the original and I had a really good time. The new characters were excellently played by the young cast and the original cast members all did their jobs well, helping to please returning fans. The effects were stunning, as they should be, and the joy of returning to this universe was tangible.

Focusing the plot on the new characters and only using the original cast members sparingly also worked really well and I’m glad this is the approach they took. Clearly, they want these new characters to be the next generations SW and for them to be integrated into the existing cast without the reboot that Star Trek required. And I can also see that Abrams and his team have achieved what they did with Star Trek by reinventing this universe for a new audience who’ve grown up with the prequels and cartoons available to the current generation. There’s no doubt that this movie has been handled well by a smart director with a good team putting together a modern version of Star Wars and that’s exactly what it is.

So, the plot twists, (and, as I said, SPOILER!) for some reason I managed to see them all coming and I am usually terrible at seeing things like that. My wife often figures out the twists before they happen but in this instance it was me who realised that Kylo Ren was either Luke or Leia’s son, that Han was going to be killed, and that Rey was also the offspring of another original cast member, most likely Luke. Despite seeing all of this coming, every twist still worked really well and impacted as it should. Killing Han echoes information available online for events that were in the original Return of the Jedi plot and making this movie about the offspring of the original characters gives the film a lovely legacy approach that I like. Actually, my other primary experience of the SW universe is in the SW Legacy comics, of which I own the entire run in nice hardcover volumes, and I can see the influence of this run in the movie. Besides focusing on a descendent of Luke Skywalker, the comics also include tales told from the perspective of Stormtroopers and that part of the movie feels directly influenced by Legacy.

But, despite all that I like the movie does feel like a very well done, modern Star Wars greatest hits with original cast members thrown in because to do otherwise would be silly. You have, among others, an attack on a new Death Star (which they even joke about), the goofball scene where Han and Chewy grapple with a monster (a la the trash compactor scene) and Rey running around inside an imperial base, avoiding stormtroopers in a manner similar to Episode IV. There’s little that I feel is new and that detracts from the experience somewhat. Of course, the scenes where Leia and Han interact are just superb and I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two during them. I was also moved by Han’s death, as anyone who loves the original movies must surely be (where was his funeral?!?) and I look forward to seeing the impact of these events in upcoming films.

I guess that my overall impression of the movie is that I enjoyed it, it was tremendous fun and I came away thinking that it is definitely a Star Wars movie and that is a huge compliment. Not since the end of Empire has that been the case. But I was also a little underwhelmed, certainly more so than I had been during parts of the film when I had been immensely enjoying myself. Now that The Force Awakens has been released and Abrams and his team have established where things are and the new status-quo I would really like to see the next film exploring new territory and doing something more interesting than simply attacking yet another Death Star (even if they say that’s not what it was). It was still a lot of fun and a pleasure to see all of the characters that I grew up watching back on the big screen. I just hope that the next movie does something more with all that it has established. Here’s hoping!


Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!



My ‘ramblings’ about my love of Mass Effect and why you should play these games…

For this week’s blog post I am going to ‘ramble’ about a new topic, a video game that I love called Mass Effect (ME) and its sequels. Now, for those of you not familiar, ME is a science-fiction, role-playing video game where you play as Commander Shepherd and you fight to save the galaxy from the return of the Reapers, mechanical monstrosities determined to wipe out organic life in the Universe. Clearly nice, light-hearted fare. ME spans three games and a huge amount of extra content and will eat a considerable amount of your time, if you love it like I do, and with ME the creators have produced an expansive Universe with a impressively in-depth experience and a focus on world creation and character. It’s wonderful!


Now, I am not a particularly big video gamer. Having said that, I have owned gaming machines all my life, from a Sega Mega Drive when I was much younger, through a PC as a teenager and an Xbox and then an Xbox 360 in my twenties and thirties. My gaming history has included such classics as Sonic the Hedgehog, Command and Conquer and Halo. I now have a PS3 and will likely upgrade to either a PS4 or an Xbox One when ME4 finally arrives. I bought my current console second-hand with a ton of older, but still great, games that I have been waiting to play until after I am done with ME but it has taken a really long time to get there for there is a lot of ME to enjoy!

My ME journey started with the second game, I played it through several times and loved it. I was fortunate and did not then have to wait long for the third game to be released and I played that through as well. Then I moved back to the UK, sold my console and games, and was able to grab the three games cheap from the PS3 store, along with all of the DLC for a bargain price. So I then began the ME journey in its entirety and experienced all that these games have to offer. And it is a lot!

The first Mass Effect plays as a straight role-playing game with limited (and frankly not great) combat while the second focuses more on the combat and is a much better shooter. The third game combines all that has come before together into an incredible journey, with superb combat and an in-depth experience unlike any I have ever played. But as great as the combat in the second and third games is, you should really play ME for the characters in the universe. They are the series strength and the truly impressive thing about it. I am sure that other, more experienced gamers out there could tell me of other games that provide better combat experiences, or more immersive worlds, or could describe things that they may dislike about ME, but for me this is the one that I adored, the one who’s characters I love.


And, as I conclude my second full play-through of ME all the way from the beginning to the end, I can see that this is the way to experience it. A case could be made that the extra content should really be considered a part of the games and sold as part of the package but then I think they are so fantastic that I don’t mind paying a little more to get them. Also, I got them all on discount, so I can’t really complain ;). But even if you had to pay more, I think they are worth the time and money. And if you’ve never played the Citadel DLC for ME3 then you are missing out on some of the finest character work that this incredible series has to offer! It’s also worth playing the games back through simply to see what happens when you make other choices to the one’s that you have previously made. Even now, on my umpteenth play through, I am still discovering things that I have not found before and this is quite remarkable. I have never played a game with as much depth and this series and I don’t know if I shall again.

One of the best, and core components, of the ME universe is the focus on character. For every hour spent in combat, you spend more time than that talking and interacting with the people who inhabit this universe. So you get to know them, you can romance them and you come to love them. I adore many of these characters from Garrus to Joker, Jack to Kaidan, Tali to Ashley and all of the rest. And there are a lot of them. But for me, the real love story in this game is between Shepherd and Liara, your Asari comrade. I didn’t know Liara well the first time I played ME, starting as I did with the second game. She makes a brief appearance, which I didn’t understand the significance of, and so when she joins your team in the third game I was unfamiliar with her and Shepherds’ history. But playing the series from beginning to end it is Shepherds love for Liara that really strikes me as the heart of the series. And both times playing the game through that is who I have chosen to romance although there are also opportunities to form relationships with others even while doing so. The relationship between female Shepherd and Thane is also an incredibly beautiful piece of storytelling that I was glad that I found.


And there are character deaths, oh the character deaths. I think ME is the only video game where a character death has really hurt, where I can respect what the makers of the game have achieved by making me care so much for the character. A significant number of these characters can die, depending exactly how you play the game and I have cried many times when playing ME through. But I am glad that I did for I am too invested in this world and with these people to not care when they die. The game has such heart and depth and is written with such humour that I can’t help but love it. Also, if you never found the scenes in ME2 where Mordin Solus singing the songs of Gilbert and Sullivan then you need to go back and find them. They’re wonderful!

Now, I know that the ending of ME3 caused consternation among a large number of people but I never understood why. ME is a sci-fi odyssey that starts with a small scale story and builds to an all encompassing epic that ends with an invasion by a fleet of Reapers and the resulting battle. And I could see that there was only ever one way that this story would end. So when I reached the ending, and it was what I thought it would be, I merely felt a sense of closure and respect for the story-telling involved. I was also saddened that I would not be spending more time with these characters but Shepherd’s story should have an ending. We should not want to be playing this character forever, however much I would love to do so, nor should we spend every game interacting with this part of the universe. Every story should end at the best point to do so.


In case it’s not clear from my gushing praise, I adore Mass Effect and if you are at all interested, I would recommend that you start with the second game. You should be able to grab it pretty cheaply and if you play it and you enjoy it and you want more then think about playing the other two games. ME3 is a truly incredible game and ME is worth playing if you want the full play through. And then there is the DLC if you want even more. I think it is the best video game experience I have ever had and I doubt that it will ever be bested. I honestly do not see how another series could grip me and mean more than this one has and I’m heartbroken that I have now finished what will probably be the last time I play the series through from start to finish. I will doubtless play ME3 again, once I have completed a couple of other games, but I am unlikely to play the entire trilogy and all of the DLC again. It simply takes too long to do so and instead I will now await the arrival of ME4. For it has been a very long time between the third and fourth installment but now there is only one more year to go! And I can’t wait…


Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!