Adam Jensen Returns In an All-New Deus Ex Adventure
You’ve played the Deus Ex games – now you can expand your gaming lore beyond them. While not the first Deus Ex novel to hit bookstore shelves, James Swallow returns for his third entry in the game’s cyberpunk universe’s fiction series, Deus Ex: Black Light.
*Warning – Some spoilers ahead for both Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided*
The book picks up one year after Human Revolution ends. Adam Jensen, former security chief for the megacorporation Sarif Industries, awakes in a government run facility in Alaska where cybernetically augmented citizens are being quarantined from the American population. After sacrificing himself in order to end the plot that caused millions of augmented humans on Earth to suffer violent psychotic breaks, he didn’t expect to survive at all. He’d put Panchaea, the Illuminati’s Hyron Project, and himself under the ocean waves after bringing a stop to the plans of Hugh Darrow, the embittered father of cybernetics. It was supposed to end there, but miraculously, his implants managed to keep him alive, but comatose, for an entire year in which he was presumed dead.
While inside the internment camp, he finds himself under the scrutiny of a woman who says she’s NSA and who has a lot of pointed questions. Smelling the involvement of the Illuminati on the behalf of the camp and the NSA, Jensen escapes, looking to find the roots of the Illuminati and find a way to dismantle their organization. In the process he finds himself back in league with old friends, old enemies, and old players he thought he might never see again. But he also find himself as a pawn between new forces as well. And above it all, the Illuminati continue to pull strings.
The book has a few things going for it if you’ve a mind to go digging for more background on the beginnings of Mankind Divided. It will definitely tell you more about how Adam becomes involved with the game’s two new factions: TF29 (an elite international counterterrorism squad) and the Juggernaut Collective (an Anonymous-like group bent on taking down untouchable one-percenters and the Illuminati). Also if you were a fan of the acerbic Frank Pritchard, former IT Security Chief for Sarif Industries, he also appears (no spoilers here – he’s right on the cover). The story will take you through familiar territory as well as they reminisce about Rifleman Station but spend most of the story in Alaska and Detroit.
Additionally, it’s awesome to read the book and have that moment where you realize you’re reading it in Adam Jensen’s voice. Definite plus. I always asked for this.
However, it is not without its flaws. It seems narrow in scope compared to the games, spending all relevant moments between two locales (the Illuminati occasionally cackle from their remote base of operations in Switzerland). Also, some characterizations can fall somewhat flat turning Illuminati members into mustache twirling villains and the Motor City Ballers into the crudest of stereotypical, gangsta body bag fillers.
Lastly, you may (as I did) find some disappointment in the portrayal of Jensen himself. The Jensen here is okay with mutilating and killing his way through the book. Which is okay – if you played the Deus Ex games like that. If you played the more thoughtful and merciful cybernetic heavy-hitter, you’ll give yourself pause when he does a couple of things that occur midway through the book. Without spoiling anything, I suppose his acts are loosely traditional ‘non-lethal’ takedowns. But some are kind of out of character for players who went for the ‘pacifist’ achievements in both games.
Looking at the book, it feels a bit limited, though it hangs some more meat off the bones of what happens between Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. The answers however aren’t vital – which is okay given the focus mostly on the games by the audience being reached. But, if you’re a hard core Adam Jensen fan it will certainly deliver plenty of takedowns (lethal and not), cybernetic badassery, Illuminati super-cyborgs, gang fights, and old allies and enemies. You can find all of that here. Given that, it’s a two for those not as invested, and a three for the die-hard, which puts it in a 2.5 out of 5.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Deus Ex: Black Light, written by James Swallow, is published by Titan Books. It is available now. RRP: $7.99. Materials for this review were graciously provided by Titan Books.