Before Jim Raynor was the leader of his own paramilitary organization, blazing across the galaxy righting wrongs and fighting the good fight, he was the son of dirt farmers on a Confederate fringe world.
This is where William C. Dietz's StarCraft II: Heaven's Devils begins. 18-year-old Raynor is plucked from his world by a recruiter and thrust into the middle of the Guild Wars, with only his uncanny grasp of military strategy and a group of the most highly-skilled soldiers the Confederacy has ever seen keeping him alive. As you can imagine, there isn't much in the way of tension here. We know Jim survives. We know his newfound friend Tychus Findlay makes it as well.
This is a story about getting there, and I've read through it to see if it's worth the trip.
Reliving History: Fans of the StarCraft games are the key audience here, and they'll get their fair share of fan service over the course of the book's 307 pages. You've got Jim and Tychus, the introduction of some of the specialized powered armor you get to play with in the game, the birth of Raynor's special skull-face suit, and our hero's first disastrous attempt at riding a Vulture, which would later become his signature vehicle. Everything is wrapped up at the end with a multi-page history of the StarCraft universe, with listings of the books and games that cover each entry.
Combat Ready: William Dietz is at his strongest when describing battle scenes, and there are plenty of battle scenes in Heaven's Devils. The author manages to inject realism and a strong sense of tension in these moments, even though we know that Jim and his squad mates are so adept at their various jobs it borders on the supernatural.
Character Interaction: The characters in Heaven's Devils are pretty one-dimensional. Perhaps that's why they mesh together so well. Jim, Tychus, Ryk, Zander, Harnack, and Ward banter with the easy familiarity of brothers bonded by combat, exchanging jibes and insults as easily as they exchange shots with the enemy.
Same Old Song: There is nothing original about this story. If you've ever seen a movie or read a novel about a rag-tag group of soldiers who happen to be the best at what they do facing overwhelming odds to prove themselves, then you've already read most of Heaven's Devils. Aside from a few side capers and a sub-plot about reconditioning unruly soldiers that is never resolved, the book is formulaic through and through.
Cardboard Cutouts: If you're looking for a deeper understanding of Jim Raynor or Tychus Findlay you won't find it here. For the most part, the characters in Heaven's Devils are presented as-is. You don't get much insight into why they are the way they are or why they do the things they do, they simply are, and do. Why is Jim Raynor such an amazing strategist? He was just born that way. Why is Tychus Findlay such a scoundrel? Maybe his parents were scoundrels. Who knows? With few exceptions, the little glimpses we're given into the personal lives of the characters are trite, only serving to make them more generic.
Tychus Having Sex: This is not something I should have to picture in my head. I will never be clean.
From humble beginnings comes a man who would one day be one of the most important beings in the universe. Before he can ascend to such lofty heights, he must first makes his way through a collage of every military buddy story ever written. This is that story. StarCraft II: Heaven's Devil's has its moments, and it's certainly an easy read, but if you're looking for depth, play StarCraft II instead.
StarCraft II: Heaven's Devils was written by William C. Dietz and published by Pocket on April 6. Retails for $25.00. A copy of the book was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Read through entire book on easy mode.
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