Simon Furman has a solid reputation for turning out quality stories around other peoples’ franchises, having done far more to win over Transformers fans with his comics than Michael Bay managed with multi-million dollar budgets and the latest computer graphics.
Now he’s turned his hand to Starcraft, Blizzard Entertainment’s recently sequeled (and somewhat long-awaited) real-time sci-fi strategy game. While taking the setting of the game, Furman concentrates on the humans, following a somewhat rough-and-ready collection of mercenaries called the War Pigs.
The Pigs have a good collection of stereotypical characters: an ultra-experienced but troubled leader; a female pilot (devastatingly beautiful, of course); a shifty but resourceful drug addict; and a strong and principled soldier.
Around this team Furman weaves a complex political back-story, seemingly lifted from the computer game. If anything, this is a little too complex for the scope of this story, and it takes a while to work who is who, and who is on whose side, not least of all because there appear to be at least three human factions fighting amongst themselves.
Then there are the flashbacks. These add a lot to the backgrounds of the individual characters but they’re tricky to follow before you get into the swing of things – it’s well worth noting that the ‘present day’ of the story is the year 2500, and that anything dated before that is clearly flashback. It sounds obvious, but it’s left to the reader to notice the date changes, and when you’re dealing with 500 years in the future it’s easy to forget where you are.
Overall, however, it’s an entertaining romp into the future. While the characterisation is overly simplistic and the background plot overly complex, Furman manages to pull them together somewhere in the middle to create an entertaining whole. If you’re mad for the game or Furman’s earlier work, it’s probably a bit of a no-brainer. Otherwise, this is a good enough read but there are better sci-fi stories around if you’re willing to look beyond the franchising.