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Starcraft Ghost: Nova - Novel Review

Just finished reading StarCraft Ghost: Nova novel, by Keith R.A. DeCandido. I had purchased the book back on December, but had procrastinated on reading it. I regret that now. Once I started, I couldn’t stop reading.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is a Star Trek book writer, he is done detective and fantasy police procedural novels such as Dragon Precinct, Spider-Man: Venom’s Wrath and Spiderman: Down These Mean Streets, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer – The Xander Years, Rodenberry’s Andromeda, Farscape and others. Most recently author of World of Warcraft: Cycle of Hatred. A very experienced book writer leaving deep footprints in top sci-fi universes.

With StarCraft Ghost: Nova, I was expecting some Zerg fragging as in previous StarCraft novels. However, this read was far from that and unexpected. Instead, the novel starts with Nova being assigned to her first outdoor mission. It meant a lot to her. This was her test before graduation after two-years-and-a-half training in the Ghost Program.

And it was not just any mission. It was one she had pleasure doing. To kill Cliff Nadaner, leader of a rebel group who hated the Confederates, the Old Families and even the Sons of Korhal. Three years before this mission, Nadaner ordered the assassination of Nova’s family … the Terra. Now it was payback. This mission would not only be payback, it was important for her to get graduated. All Ghosts must agree to a memory-wipe as requirement to becoming a Ghost officially. That would silence the memories of all the hundreds of people she killed at the penthouse and at the Gutter district, and the thoughts of her family at the moment of their deaths.

The novel has very interesting turnpoints. It mentions, throughout the story, key moments of the StarCraft Universe, letting you know where and when in time the events progress. After the first pages, before Nova carries out her mission, we are transported back three years before this mission to witness what molded Nova. She was the youngest daughter of Constantino Terra … one of the Old Families aristocrats. The Old Families were descendants of the Commanders who came in the supercarrier ships that crashed in the Koprulu sector, coming from Earth. Constantino owned various industries and ventures. He owned the company that created robotics for the Confederates such as hovercars and hoverbikes. He was the only one who opposed the Confederates and the Old Families’ decision to nuke Korhal IV.

The novel has different tastes such as humor, suspense, detective/police procedural elements, some scenes reminded me of Blade the Vampire Hunter (Marvel Comics), and a few parts which reminded me of Goodfellas film, specially when Nova is forced by a crimelord to serve him as his personal telepath bully at the drugs and crime district known as the Gutter. I wasn’t really expecting the novel to have all these elements. Although this Gutter plot deviated the course of the novel from a StarCraft setting, it did make you feel empathic with Nova and motivates you to understand what led her to become a Ghost and why she doesn’t remember her past. The loss of her family right in front of her eyes and her six months captivity in the Gutter, killing over 75 people to please her boss, explains the tough personality and honed abilities of Nova as a Ghost in the game. She may not remember her past, but the events of her past led her to wish to be trained as a Ghost and to wish to lose her memories by free will.

When I was reading the part of the Gutter which covers over 100 pages out of the 304 pages, I personally wished the author had focused more on the StarCraft events surrounding the plot and maybe removing the entire Gutter district plot. However, once the plot finished and we are moved the next six months when Nova enrolls in the Ghost Program, I had to admit that period of the Gutter district gave a meaning to Nova’s reasons to join the Ghost Program. Hers was a very tough life, and really makes you at times feel portrayed. You get to see daily real life issues upclose such as drug addiction, sex, crime, psychological manipulation, , poverty, apathetic capitalism and wealthy, anarchy, social oppression and underwage. The novel covers it all in a real life spectrum, set in a futuristic stage. I recommend StarCraft fans to get ahold of StarCraft Ghost: Nova.

You won’t see Protoss or Zerg fraggapalooza, but you will get a glimpse to various aspects of the Confederates, the Old Families and the Ghost Program in Tarsonis. As well as to witness the tragic life of November Annabelle Terra, aka Nova.

The novel starts around the time of StarCraft: Liberty’s Crusade. Throughout the novel you will read a few mentions of events – via Tarsonis UNN Press Reporters – such as:

1. The destruction of Korhal IV and the background of how the Confederates managed to get support from the Old families to carry out that decision.

2. The Protoss destroying Chau Sara and Mar Sara.

3. The attacks on Antiga Prime by the Sons of Korhal.

4. The rise to power by Mengsk claiming Antiga Prime as its ruler.

5. General Duke siding with Mengsk, betraying Tarsonis.

6. The invasion of the Zerg on Tarsonis

7. The establishment of the Dominion government with Arcturus Mengsk as Emperor.

Mengsk will do a cameo by the end of the novel talking to Nova and to Agent Malcolm Kelerchian the Wrangler (A Ghost Porgram telepath hunter). I would really like to have Nova and Malcolm as heroe units in StarCraft 2. Both are very strong characters with appealing personalities such as Jim Raynor.

Elements I wish the novel could have mentioned was the Confederates Squadrons such as the Alpha Squadron, rather than inventing a new one. The invasion of Tarsonis was mostly skipped entirely moving forward many weeks after. It would have been nice to have seen Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan, and Tassadar in cameos. Specially since someone such powerful a telepath as Nova, could have drawn Tassadar’s attention when they were on Tarsonis’ orbit before the Zerg overrun Kerrigan’s basecamp on the orbital platform. It is known Tassadar had briefly contacted Sarah with his mind long before they met in one of the game campaigns, although never explained.

Or gone more deep into Constantino’s involvement with the Zerg experiments. We get to briefly read Constantino regrets helping the Confederates with experiments with Zerg. In StarCraft game, Arcturus tells Jim Raynor he witnessed Zerg held by the Confederates when he was a prisoner. This was a year before Chau Sara was destroyed. Now we know Constantino Terra, Nova’s father, had something to do with those Zerg experiments since he was owner of the main robotics industry in Tarsonis. The novel also features the eldest of the Old Families … a woman age 150. The Duke Family, mentioning two relatives of General Duke, one of which was married to Esmerelda Ndoci—Major of the Annihilators Squad, who later work as Mengsk Elite team with Nova for the Dominion.

I particularly got intrigued with the revelation that Nova’s father was involved in the first sighting of Zerg and experimentation in Confederate Military bases and the Ghost Program. Prior to the RTS Game events. It would be interesting if Keith ever wrote a new novel to dig into those plots. No doubt he got the writing skill to describe such time-frame. If you read Chris Metzen’s message below, you will notice there “may” be plans for new Starcraft Ghost novels.

Chris Metzen wrote a two pages introduction at the beginning of StarCraft Ghost: Nova novel:


Buy Starcraft Ghost: Nova

“I’m very proud of this book. I’m especially proud of what it represents. Sometimes, amidst the general insanity of the video game business, you just have to latch on to a good idea and follow it wherever it leads.

The game StarCraft: Ghost, on hiatus as of the time of this writing, has been in development for almost as long as the PS2 and other console platforms have been on store shelves. Designing and building this game was a pretty crazy process. While there were many reasons for the game’s development taking as long as it did, one key design element always stood out and gave us inspiration to keep pushing onward: Ghosts are very, very cool.

These nearly superhuman agents who stalk unseen across raging battlefields were a major component of the StarCraft mythos. Not only were these units fun to play with, but they seemed to have a certain mystique that made them stand out amidst all the other (bigger and more colorful) units in the game—I personally think it was the stunning voice-work. While we knew that a Ghost would make the perfect focal point for a console game, we were faced with a lot of options about how to bring our new Ghost character to life.

A lot of folks thought it would have been cool to see Sarah Kerrigan, arguably StarCraft‘s most famous Ghost, and have the game focus on her origins. While that could have been a killer direction (pardon the pun), we decided to create a new character whose origins—and more importantly, whose destiny—wasn’t yet set in stone.

Thus, young Nova was born. Her personality and visual design were the result of a lot of hard work by a talented group of people. The spunky, lethal Nova was one of the first characters we had ever created that would take center stage in her own game and really anchor StarCraft: Ghost as a new part of the StarCraft setting. Needless to say, we were immensely proud of how she turned out.

I’m very pleased that we’re finally able to tell her story and show the world just who this enigmatic young character is—and what events molded her into one of the most dangerous assassins in the universe.

Of course, this take would not have been possible without the amazing talents of Keith R.A. DeCandido. Keith seemed to have a deep affinity for this character, and he not only brought out all the dark, disturbing nuances of Nova’s past—but provided a fresh new look at the gritty underbelly of the StarCraft setting as well. I can’t imagine this story in anyone elses’ hands.

So, while we might not be seeing StarCraft: Ghost as a video game anytime soon, we will definitely be following Nova’s continued adventures through novels just like this one.

Enjoy! I hope y’all dig it!”

Chris Metzen
Vice President, Creative Development
Blizzard Entertainment
May 2006

SPOILERS

Nova Terra – Her full name is November Annabella Terra. Daughter of Constantino Terra and Annabella Terra. Her parents noticed her psionic abilities at age 7. Constantino kept it secret so the Confederacy military wouldn’t take her to the Ghost program. Being from the Old Families, Constantino could decide not to tell anyone nor to send her off for training where Terra would be used against the sons of Korhal. In a way to protect his youngest daughter. Nova’s designation as a Ghost is X41822N.


Cliff Nadaner – Murderer of Nova’s family. Nadaner was once a Marine. And he had been once at Antiga Prime. Like Arcturus Mengsk, Nadaner was an agitator back in the final days of the Confederacy. Nadaner was against the Old Families, the Council and the Confederates, and against the Sons of Korhal. Later against the Dominion. Nadaner did not achieve much political change. He caused trouble and murdered many. Nadaner did not kill Nova’s family himself. He contracted Gustavo McBain to do the job.


Gustavo McBain – He was a welder, working a construction contract in Mar Sara when the Confederates ordered the destruction of Korhal IV. The Confederates killed his entire family, his pregnant wife Daniella and his young daughter Natasha. McBain swore to take down the Confederacy, and shortly after joined Cliff Nadaner’s rebels. Nova learned all this info by reading McBain’s mind. Nova killed McBain at her 18th birthday. McBain had killed her family, three years ago … three days after her 15th birthday.


Planet Tyrador VIII has 10 continents. Nova’s space-pod landed upon the smallest of its continents. The small continent was a humid jungle.


Planet Tyrador has 9 planets in its orbit. Tyrador VIII is one of those smaller planets orbiting around Tyrador. Tyrador VIII orbits around Tyrador IX, like a moon would a planet.


Director Kevin Bick -Nova’s instructor and Director of the Ghost Program Academy once Dominion was established after the Confederates’ defeat. Dominion took over the Ghost Program and many ex-Confederates joined the Dominion Director. Bick replaced Director Ilsa Killiany.


Constantino Terra – Father of Nova Terra. The Terra were one of the Old Families, descended from the commanders of the supercarrier ships that transported them from Earth. Constantino discovered his daughter was a telepath when she turned 15. In her birthday, she knew her family was coming to celebrate her birthday. Usually, families would turn their sons to the military upon discovering their telepathic abilities, but the Old Families didn’t do so unless they wished to. Constantino was owner of the biggest Robotics company in Confederate territory: Servo Servants. The company lived mostly off repairs and spare parts for the robotics. Though, everyone would think his business revenue was simply from selling robotics. Constantino’s industry had captured Zerg in the Sara System and experimented with the Zerg a year before Chau Sara was destroyed.

Constantino was the only member of the Old Families who requested the Tarsonis Council to revert the decision to bomb Korhal IV. The Old Families sided with the Council and the military on the decision. Constantino thought it too radical a solution. Constantino blamed the Confederate Council for the rebel attacks … Korhal IV had backfired. It rose propaganda against the Confederacy, and the uprising of different rebellious groups and terrorists.


Annabella Terra – Nova’s mother. Annabella and Constantino were owners of separate fortunes inherited from their Old Families. Both married to unite both fortunes. However, their offspring was born by implanting his seed into Annabella using technology. Both of them had their own lovers among the servants. Eleftheria was Constantino’s lover (mistress), and Edward Peters was Annabella’s lover (jig).


Mara Greskin – Universal News Network (UNN) Reporter assigned to cover news of the fifteenth birthday of Nova Terra, where the elite members of Old Families from Tarsonis and offworld came to celebrate her party.


Handy Anderson – UNN Editor-in-Chief


Clara Terra – Nova’s older sister and girlfriend of Milo Kusinis.


Milo Kusinis – Clara Terra’s boyfriend.  The Kursinis are one of the wealthiest among the Old Families.  The Kursini Skycrapper is the highest one in Tarsonis, even higher than the Terra Skyscrapper. Milo married Clara Terra months after the penthouse massacre where the Terra family was murdered. Uniting both families’ fortunes.


Rebeka – Nova’s hairdresser


Old Garth Duke – Brother of General Duke, one of Tarsonis’ elite Old Families members invited to Nova Terra’s fifteenth birthday party.


Boris – One of Constantino Nova’s servants.


Zebediah Terra – Nova’s oldest brother.


Lia Emmanuel – Constantino’s employee. She is vice president of all vice presidents of all Terra’s businesses and ventures. Constantino’s right hand. She interrupted the birthday party to inform Constantino that rebels had destroyed the Palombo Valley plant—where hovercars and hoverbikes were in production. Arcturus Mengsk had broadcasted on TV at the same time of the plant’s destruction propaganda against the Old Families and the desintegration of economies and labor exploitation. This plant was a key component to destroy Constantino’s monopoly. Lia explained they had two choices: To rebuild the plant to get back on business, or to pay the families of the deceased in the plant attack. By choosing the latter, Terra’s business would crumble. And by rebuilding, Mengsk would gain a point for his anti-Old Families propaganda as Terra would be accussed of not caring for the families of the workers.

Lia also informed Constantino things were worse. The Protoss wiped Chau Sara and Mar Sara.


Planet Halcyon – Source of Grape crops and Framberries. On ‘07 the grape crops were aweful. So that year’s wine was as aweful—according to Constantine Terra. His wife Annabelle, however liked that year’s wine. Constantine said she had bad taste of wine quality. Planet Halcyon is also where the hab drug is prepared and distributed by crime organizations.  According to Fagin, the Gutter district gets their Hab supplies from Halcyon.


Andrea Tygore – The oldest of the Tygore family, member of the Old Families. She is 150 years old, and moves around on a hover-chair. She knew about the plant destruction and arrived to Nova’s 15th Birthday to ask Constantino if he knew of it. Nova and Zebediah found out of what happened through Andrea. Andrea had been one of the Old Families who sided the Confederacy and the military to bombard Korhal IV. Now despises rebels, specially Mengsk. The old woman thinks servants are lesser, and shouldn’t be given preference or mercy.


Morgan Calabas – Eldest son of Arturro Calabas. A young man attracted to Nova. She knew he didn’t love her. Not much for telepathy, than for his eyes never leaving her chest. This was the first time Nova was able to read minds, subconciously and involuntary. Nova had been empathic since age 7 to this day at age 15th. For first time she could listen to someone’s mind … Morgan said in his mind he would be under her skirt in no time after escorting her to a ball event.


Arturro Calabas – Father of Morgan Calabas. Although his son Morgan thinks he will be able to take Nova to a ball event, Arturro had told Charlie Quinn he would send Morgan off to planet Tyrador IX for reeducation.


Charlie Quinn – The kind of guy that finds out the latest gossip, but usually ends up getting things wrong and messing people’s reputation.


Bryan – the daytime lobby guard at Terra Skyscrapper. Household of the Terra Family. He was killed when the rebels attacked the Terra Family.


Malcolm Kelerchian – The finest investigator in Tarsonis Police Force’s Detective Squad. He investigated a murder of two children of a semiprominent shop owner. After a careful investigation using technological means he discovered the murderer to be Emmett Tygore. Rather than prosecuted by Confederate laws, Emmett was sent to a rehab facility in Halcyon. Never heard of again. The UNN reporters never digged further and focused on other news. But Mal’s hawkeye-mind never kept from thinking about this murderer. Though, not able to do anything as his superiors won’t let him near Halcyon to stay updated on Emmett’s whereabouts.

The military of Tarsonis would usually find a detective such as Mal to be a waste for local police. The normal populace’s Psi Index was 2.0 whereas Psi-talented ghosts were Psi-Index (PI) 5. Tarsonis Military saw in Mal’s files a PI 3.5—making him sensitive to telepathy, although not a telepath himself. Mal was transfered to the Military to be trained as a Wrangler—a telepath hunter—to bring in telepaths to the Ghost program.

After months of training, Mal was prepared. However, a side-effect of his ability was to get a headache whenever he was near a telepath. The day Nova found her family dead, she unleashed a massive psionic and telekinetic outburst that killed the murderers of her family and destroyed the penthouse. Even at his office, Mal got his brain spiked by the power emited by Nova far away. Nova—he thought—would be a PI 8 or higher. Telekinetics are catalogued PS 8 or higher. Only one on that scale he met during his six-months training. Locked at a government facility.

Malcolm started his investigation of the crime scene at Nova’s penthouse. He thought to himself this was a telekinetic far above PI8. The dome was anti-nuclear strike. Yet it was shattered from within.


Detective Jack Pembleton – arrived to the scene ready to take over the Terra Skycrapper Penthouse massacre investigation. Agent Malcolm showed his holographic badge showing this was now Confederate Military jurisdiction. Jack told Mal there had been seven attacks to the Old Families.


Director Ilsa Killiany is the Ghost Program director who identified Detective Malcolm as a PI 3.5—getting him to be transfered to the Wranglers training facility. Mal hates her guts for that, but mainly for being an ass.


Fiorello – A Wrangler who replaced Malcolm when reporting to Director Ilsa the murderer was Nova. Ilsa couldn’t believe a telepath this powerful hadn’t been detected before. Fiorello was to take over the case so Mal won’t be in danger. He was too good to be lost.


Fagin – His true name is Julius Antoine Dale. He is the Crimelord of the Gutter District. He oversees all operations from sex, drugs, black market, weapons, etc. He has a contact inside the Confederate Army who provides top technology in exchange for Hab (drug) for his wife. Fagin is the version of Goodfellas film’ type of crimelord. He kills for no reason. Fagin captured Nova and made her a personal telepath assassin by using a Confederate device given to him by his militar contact. The device blocks Nova from reading his mind and sends a neural shock into Nova’s brain to keep her in check as a docile slave.


BRIEF SUMMARY

A brief round up of the first 100 pages … Nova ended her studies, and she was assigned this mission by Intelligence Section. A mission that would set her in the middle of a jungle at Tyrador VIII as her last step to officially become a Ghost. Her suit during the mission wasn’t an advanced one. It lacked stealth-mode gear. The internal circuitry of her suit modulates her internal temperature to compensate for the extreme humid and hot ambience near the equator of Tyrador VIII, amidst this jungle. – page 3.

Tarsonis has 27-hours a day cycle.

Emperor Mengsk ordered Intelligence Section to send Nova to seek and destroy the remnants of Nadaner’s rebels. The drop-pod was programmed to disintegrate. This to prevent Dominion tech from falling in wrong hands. Nova’s suit contained the same auto-destructive technology to leave no trace of her if the suit did not trace her lifesigns.

The day Nova found Nadaner in the jungles of Tyrador VIII, it was her birthday. 18 age. She remembered three years ago, at the age of 15, her father had told her she would be in this star system by now.

Nova was the youngest of the Terra Family, the elite, owners of a robotic industry in Tarsonis which supplied the Confederates with technology. A Rebel leader, Cliff Nadaner, destroyed the most important robotic plant killing the whole night shift personnel. This made Constantino pretty scared that his family would be targeted by terrorists.

Shortly after, The Old Families society were worried about the destruction of Chau Sara and Mar Sara by the Protoss. Fearing they would attack Tarsonis, they sent their youngest to a resort on Tyrador IX. Constantino was planning to send Nova to Tyrador IX to protect her in case the aliens destroyed Tarsonis. Though, Constantine was still unsure of sending her to Tyrador IX, days later, the Sons of Korhal attack on Antiga Prime settled the decision. He had to protect Nova by sending her offworld. Nova cried the day of her 15th birthday when reading his father’s mind. Three days after her 15th birthday party, Nova aboarded the puddle-jumper at the Giddings Station on Tarsonis taking them to orbit aboard the Osborne Port. There Nova and the thirty young passengers would aboard the Calabase’s yatch- the Padraig—to Tyrador IX.

Constantine thought that if Mengsk was able to infiltrate or bribe someone from within his Palombo Plant to destroy it, Mengsk could also infiltrate someone into his own household putting the life of his family, specially Nova’s in jeopardy.

Nova sensed his family in danger, and before the Padraig prepared its engines to fly off the orbital station, she forcefully requested the flight steward to let her off the ship. Nova had to find out what was happening to her family, leaving on a cab back to Tarsonis.

Nova found Bryan the lobby guard dead, and took the elevator to the penthouse. There she saw Constantine, Eleftheria and Annabelle dead on the floor. His mother’s jig, Edward, betrayed them. Gustavo McBain held a gun at Zeb, Nova’s brother, and shot him. This caused Nova’s presence to be sensed in the room as the sight of her brother’s murder caused her to scream. Edward pointed a gun at Nova shortly to kill her.

The entire Penthouse blew up … the dome, able to withhold a nuclear explosion was shattered …. over 300 people died, including some servants, the murderers of her family and bystanders.

Detective Malcolm Kelerchian was removed from the Tarsonis Police Force to be recruited into the Ghost Program as a Wrangler – a telepath hunter. He was sent to investigate the Penthouse massacre scene inch by inch using his detective skills. His veredict … the mass murderer is Nova.

Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003 posting news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Next-Gen MMO, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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