Article: Review of Dean Wesley Smith's "Prophet's Power" by Delacroix
Posted: 04 May 2013, 17:11
When I first started reading Prophet's Power, I didn't really know what to expect. Some of the reviews present on the internet were mildly positive, others - strongly negative, comparing the quality of both Unreal novels to the Doom ones. I haven't had the chance to read the latter so I cannot say how Prophet's Power or Hard Crash stand in comparison against them and maybe it's for the best, I'll be able to judge them without the resulting bias.
The novels aren't particularly long, each of them took me 4-6 hours to read and again, I see it as a positive factor. Prophet's Power starts out a bit slow - it takes 4 chapters for the author to introduce Haute and Ablee as characters, with the fifth finally showing the first prophetic visions. However once those visions are shown, the action speeds up significantly. Some of the twists may seem repetitive for die-hard science fiction readers but are well warranted by the story that follows. And what follows is a series of battles that resemble scenes from high-octane action movies. Nothing unique in this intrigue but it is a decent read.
Prophet's Power's main focus is Haute and Ablee's rallying cry which leads to the founding of Nali Mountain Fighters, a guerrilla movement opposing the Skaarj invaders. There are however certain bits of information that bring something new and fresh into the Unreal universe, like the artificial intelligence "guide" crafted by the Dranoel. It adds to the mystery which is a prudent move on the author's part given that the multiple visions the main character sees reveal multiple events from the near future, the novel's ending included. Such is the problem with all novels that feature prophets and seers as main characters however and the author has managed to sneak in a few surprises here and there, e.g. to what extent will the visions fulfill.
Unreal beta owners will recognize at least one location from the book, namely Rostivelt Lake which is obviously FHub4.unr. Given that the novels themselves were written in 1997, it's possible that older builds have more maps that match the areas featured in Prophet's Power but that is for the moment to be seen. Many locations are nonetheless most likely completely unique to the novel - but the obvious drawback of them is that they are pretty much alike. Enakops or Dnarltop, a castle remains a castle and they don't differ at all. The novel's setting changes between the lake, a cave system, a forest, one of the castles, yet another cave system and that's pretty much it.
Another novum is the idea of the Mountain Fighters -- in the retail game Nali are completely defenseless so the image of these people with guns in hand may require time getting used to unless you are an avid mod player. Creations like Operation Na Pali or SkyTown Redux feature the Fighters prominently and the recently recovered PlayStation version of Unreal introduces another Dranoel AI so both novels' impact on the fanbase is pretty recognizable.
All in all, the Prophet's Power novel is a worthy addition to the franchise and it's a pity it is so unknown to most fans. However, given the sorry state both Unreal novels were published in, it's no wonder that few expressed the wish to have them in their collections. By "sorry state" I mean the way the books were spliced by the publisher. It's been revealed to me via e-mail conversation with one of the authors that an employee of the publishing house, angry for having been fired, did quite some damage during his last two weeks there: not only had he changed the order of both novels, labeling Prophet's Power as #2 but went as far as to split them by chapters, putting the first 12 chapters of both books into this "volume #2" and the remaining ones into the "volume #1", intertwining them as well -- and to top it off, switching the order of two of the chapters. Given that situation, I don't find it strange that people refuse to read it since the only way to read them properly is currently possible only via downloading a pirate eBook. Sad.
- a mixture of recognizable and new characters and locations,
- for the most part, fast-paced action,
- visible influence on the extended fanbase-crafted canon.
- horrible publisher misdoings resulting in a tragic quality of the printed version,
- little to no variety of locations,
- slow-paced beginning,
- having a prophet as the main character reveals many events that should come across as surprises.
Final grade: 60%