Mass Effect is one of the most popular role-playing games, set in an intergalactic universe where various alien and human species are at war with one another. One of the reasons the game became so popular is because of its format: depending on the choices the player makes, the game goes one way or another, giving a multi-dimensional gameplay experience.
Best Mass Effect Books
|Revelation||9.62/10||323 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Ascension||9.64/10||342 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Retribution||9.74/10||356 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Deception||9.06/10||336 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Nexus Uprising||9.24/10||475 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
Gamers are expected to navigate the enormously complex universe through the eyes of Commander Shephard, but he or she (the Commander can be personalized as either in the game) needs the help of many squad members and comes across multiple villains in his or her quest.
One of the bigger selling points of the game has been the enormously rich and versatile universe it has created. Several alien races populate a galaxy filled with areas and zones which their designated functions, and the home-base of everything from law-abiding galaxy citizens to outlaws and criminals.
It is no surprise then, that as a complement to the game, Bioware released several tie-in books to flesh out many of the appearing cast that gamers do not have a chance to play with. The Mass Effect novels serve to explain many backstories behind important events where the games of the Mass Effect trilogy kick-off.
Below you’ll find a short review on the best Mass Effect books to introduce you to the fascinating universe Bioware has created for its players – and its readers! Because even though the main target audience is, obviously, the Mass Effect gamers, any lover of sci-fi can pick up one of these best Mass Effect books and enjoy the experience.
And, for those that don’t just want to read about Mass Effect, but also want to enjoy some artwork in every story, there are several Mass Effect graphic novels to choose from!
Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn
Before the Game
Revelation was released six months before the game, and it’s the best Mass Effect book to start with. It is the prequel to the trilogy, and given how complex the Mass Effect universe it, it’s a highly recommendable read if you want to get your facts straight and also discover interesting backstories to some of the in-game mentions.
Several species – human and non-human – live together in an intergalactic universe where all of them rely on the technology of the Protheans. The Protheans are a race that vanished years ago, and no one knows where they went.
The year is 2148. Humans have discovered a cache of this Prothean technology on Mars, and they are off to conquer the stars. They are the newest race to arrive, and they will have to get up to speed on the lore of the land and learn the ways of the rest. In Mass Effect: Revelation, detailed descriptions of the Citadel, and the internal politics and power struggles within the Council are revealed.
Another big issue, the galaxy’s views and ethical codes surrounding artificial intelligence, is recounted vividly. Gamers will have a much deeper understanding of the gameplay surrounding this subject once they have read Revelation.
David and Kahlee
Aside from the Mass Effect universe and setting explanations, the novel introduces the stories of David Anderson and Kahlee Sanders. The plot revolves around the discovery made by Alliance war hero, David Anderson, when he discovers the ruins of what appears to be a top-secret military research station.
The place has been burnt down; bodies littered everywhere. Kahlee Sanders, one of the scientists, is nowhere to be found. She mysteriously vanished from her post before the rest of her colleagues were killed and no one knows where she is.
David Anderson will initiate an investigation to look for her because Sanders has become the main suspect in the case. He needs to find out why someone attacked the post, and what they were after. His quest for truth will drive him face to face with a number of challenges, with an untrustworthy alien as his sidekick.
As Anderson goes about finding out why the research lab what targeted, he will discover a sinister conspiracy… One of the best Mass Effect books to introduce gamers into this intricate world of alien alliances, biotic powers, and Contact wars in the galaxy. It’s the best place to start your Mass Effect adventure.
Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn
Unlike Revelation, Ascension does not have such a strong link to the game. Of course, familiar in-game characters are featured, and it is the Mass Effect universe after all, but Mass Effect 2 doesn’t pick up right where Ascension ends. Still, if you are not only an avid player, but also looking for one of the best Mass Effect novels, you’ll enjoy the fast-paced intrigue of this second book.
By now, readers are all too familiar with the Prothean technology that rules the galaxy. Everyone is reaping the benefits of the tech-seeds sown by them. However, not everyone is simply content with benefits – some want total control and domination.
Everyone’s favorite scientist – Kahlee Sanders – appears once again in the main storyline. She has decided to leave the Alliance and heads, instead, for the Ascension Project. This project focuses on especially gifted biotic humans to ensure that they harness and learn to use their powers well.
Gillian Grayson is the star of the project. An autistic twelve-year-old with issues to communicate, she is by far the most promising student. The poor girl is, however, being used by the outlawed Cerberus group, who are using her to conduct experiments that are illegal. When the machinations of Cerberus are exposed, her father decides to take her out of the program and flees with her to the lawless lands known as the Terminus Systems. Supposedly to protect her.
What Kahlee Sanders will discover is that Gillian’s father is actually working undercover for the Cerberus group. So, determined to protect the girl, she follows the Graysons into the more remote areas of the galaxy, where she will have to battle all kinds of perils to stop the black ops group from realizing their evil mission.
Ascension is the best Mass Effect novel for all of the gamers with a special interest in the more outlandish parts of the galaxy, and who want to know more about all things Quarian. Reading Ascension definitely gives playing the Mass Effect 2 game whole new layers and a much more in-depth perspective.
Mass Effect: Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn
The third best Mass Effect novel starts a few years after the end events of Mass Effect: Ascension. Paul Grayson is a fugitive in the galaxy, having taking his daughter Gillian out of the Ascension Project where she was being subject to illegal experiments to enhance her biotic powers. At the start of the book, he is captured.
The Illusive Man
The Illusive Man, leader of the humanity first black ops Cerberus group, is eager to get his hands on him. By protecting his daughter, Grayson betrayed him. Now, the Illusive Man wants payback, and he knows just the way to get it. The Cerberus leader is the only one that knows a thing or two about the mythical Reapers, a race of synthetic organic spaceships with highly advanced technology and a thirst for intelligent minds.
They “reap” any sentient beings in the galaxy, which means trouble for the human race. The Illusive Man has a plan to save the human race, but it’s not pretty. He has decided to implant Reaper technology into another being and study the specimen to have a better understanding of his enemies. Paul Grayson is the unfortunate ‘Chosen One’.
Anderson is Back
Kahlee Sanders, the scientist who helped Grayson free Gillian from the grip of Cerberus, realizes he has gone missing and quickly turns to the only person she knows can help her, the Alliance war hero David Anderson. The two set about uncovering the hiding place where the black ops group is keeping Grayson. And, as it turns out, they aren’t the only ones after him, because Grayson has made more than one enemy.
Meanwhile, captured and alone, Grayson’s mind is slowly being taken over by the Reaper technology. His head is progressively filled with insidious whispers that have the destructive potential of unleashing the blood-sucking machines onto an unsuspecting and unprepared galaxy that doesn’t even quite believe in their existence. Definitely one of the best Mass Effect books for those that have an interest in knowing more about the Illusive Man and all things Reaper.
Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz
A terrifying urban legend has long been making its rounds through the galaxy – the Reapers. It has been said and whispered that they are deadly machine-like creatures that come and prey on any sentient beings in the galaxy, harvesting all life once every fifty thousand years.
However, no one has actually seen a Reaper; proof of their existence is hard to come by. So, how dangerous can an elusive threat that no one can prove exists really be?
Not everyone is as relaxed and unbothered about the possibility of monsters creeping through the galaxy, though. Alliance war hero David Anderson and his scientist partner-in-crime Kahlee Sanders have very real reasons to believe that the Reapers are actually very real themselves. Their inter-galactic adventures have convinced them that the galaxy will soon be under siege, and they need to do whatever is in their power to stop the Reapers.
Of course, nothing is ever as easy as pie in the Mass Effect book series (or in the game), and Sanders and Anderson have exposed and uncovered the machinations of the black ops group Cerberus. Their lives are in danger because the leader of the paramilitary force -the Illusive Man- has put a price on both their heads. Given the deadly and unscrupulous modus operandi of Cerberus, David and Kahlee know that they must recruit help because the infamous leader will stop at nothing to get them.
Help comes from an unexpected place to balance out the scales of good and evil. Gillian Grayson, once a brilliantly gifted student in the Ascension Project, has a bone to pick with the Illusive Man, and wants to settle past debts with him. Her biotic powers will be a great aid to the rogue pair in their fight against the mythical danger that is looming over the galaxy.
Mass Effect: Deception is the last in the Mass Effect book list, bringing the fiction saga to an end.
Mass Effect: Andromeda Series
After the success of the Mass Effect games, Bioware decided to keep riding that wave and launched the Mass Effect: Andromeda franchise. The good news is, it’s set in the same universe – humans, asaris, turians, salarians and the krogans are taking a centuries-long trip to discover new stomping grounds.
The bad news is, since it takes place in the future, none of the Mass Effect characters are present. This may also be seen as good news though, if you’re the kind of player that is looking for a fresh new start.
As with the first game, Bioware announced Mass Effect Andromeda novels! This spin-off also comes with its own saga of book fiction to complement the in-game action and provide some much-needed backstory.
But, the Mass Effect Andromeda books don’t exactly follow the same scheme as the books we covered in our best Mass Effect books review – instead of adding information on secondary characters or plot events leading up to the next game, these novels, although game tie-ins, are very solid stand-alone novels in their own right, and they all relate to events that happen prior to the Mass Effect Andromeda games.
Andromeda: Nexus Uprising by Jason M. Hough & K.C. Alexander
Just like Revelation, Nexus Uprising is the prequel whose job it is to set the Andromeda mood. The main game characters in this one of the best Mass Effect books, the Ryder twins.
They were actually put on ice after the events of Mass Effect 2, and wake up to a whole new world filled with problems, obstacles, challenges, and all the fun things we expect from any inter-galactic battle game worth its salt. Nexus Uprising will explain the events leading up to the first Andromeda game, so you know what your characters are opening their defrosted eyes to.
Far Away Galaxy
Andromeda is a galaxy at 2.5 million light-years from the Milky Way, and the different races that populate the galaxy have a keen interest in turning it into their new home. The Andromeda Initiative is a multi-species experiment launched so the on-board passengers could arrive at Andromeda first and scout the premises.
Aboard the spaceship are scientists, explorers, and colonists that need to determine whether the galaxy is a good place to plant their flag in and start the preparations. Representatives of several races have been shipped off, too.
Not What Was Expected
When they arrive though, Andromeda is not the heaven in the skies they were promised and believed it to be. Things turn pear shaped not too long after they arrive on the Cluster, and an enclosed space with different races that at times butt heads is the perfect setting for disaster. So, disaster arrives.
As the passengers start creating alliances with one another, and tension spikes, they must somehow keep the mission going because, as it turns out, colonizing new grounds wasn’t the only motivation behind the Andromeda Initiative…
Nexus Uprising will introduce you to the challenge-plagued world of the Andromeda confines, giving you the information, you need to dive into the first Mass Effect: Andromeda game head first. Or, give you a good story about inter-galactic, human vs. alien species adventures.
In either case, although the Mass Effect book order is entirely up to you, it is recommendable to either have read the first Mass Effect saga or have at least played the games before delving into the Mass Effect Andromeda books. Since the universes are the same, and both are highly-complex, it’s a good idea to have a notion of who’s who.
Mass Effect Andromeda: Initiation by N. K. Jemisin & Mac Walters
Mass Effect: Initiation breaks the Mass Effect series mold. Chronologically, the events that make up the plot of the second Mass Effect Andromeda books take place before those of Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising.
In an interesting take, authors Mac Walters and Hugo-winner N. K. Jemisin decide to narrate the twists and turns Lieutenant Cora Harper faces before boarding the Andromeda Initiative. We covered Walters’ work in more depth in our article about the Mass Effect comics. Make sure to check it out!
In 2185, around six months before the Andromeda Project launches, Cora Harper has returned to Earth. She has just spent the last four years among the asaris, in the elite asari commando squad known as Talein’s Daughters.
During that time, she has honed her biotic skills and is now one of the most powerful biotic humans around. The former Systems Alliance Lieutenant is recommended to the Andromeda Project, where Alec Ryder is calling the shots. Ryder doesn’t quite trust Cora, but has no reason to turn her away. Instead, he gives her a task – to retrieve some stolen data.
More Than Meets the Eye
There is more than meets the eye to the seemingly simple task. Cora fails, and walks away from the mission without the data, only managing to keep her life – and barely. Something doesn’t add up, and Lieutenant Cora Harper wants answers.
The more she digs, the more terrifying secrets she starts to uncover. Alec Ryder refuses to let her in on the truth. So, it’s up to Cora to make sure that the Andromeda Initiative is safe from the chilling threats she is starting to realize the project is up against…
Masterfully written by an author with the chops of N. K. Jemisin, Mass Effect Andromeda: Initiation is one of the best Mass Effect books for non-player readers, because though it ties well into the Andromeda videogame, it is a very complete story in itself.
Mass Effect Andromeda: Annihilation by Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne Valente is the author behind this Mass Effect Andromeda novel. The author has done a brilliant job of setting the story amidst quarians, humans, drells, elcors, baratians and a host of alien races, and making it enjoyable for gamer and non-gamers alike.
As the readers may remember, the Andromeda Project was launched in 2185. Since the members were set to do a 600-year journey, the multi-species crew was frozen and remained alive thanks to cryosleep technology.
During a routine check of the ship, the crew realizes something has gone horribly wrong. The drells are lying dead in their pods. After an investigation, it is discovered that this alien species has fallen victim to a fatal pathogen.
The deadly virus isn’t just drell-specific though, and soon starts to affect the other species. More and more members are succumbing to the illness, revealing symptoms such as swelling in the brain, hallucinations, and madness.
In a confined space where many different alien species and human share close quarters – and where inter-species relationships aren’t exactly running smoothly – sudden bursts of insanity can have gruesome consequences. To top things off, the ship’s technology starts to fail all of a sudden, putting the entire colonization initiative in jeopardy.
What is going on aboard the Andromeda Project? Where has this pathogen come from? Why is the spaceship having technical issues all of a sudden? And most importantly, who is to blame for these damaging events?
Hope of Survival
If the crew needs to get to the bottom of this, otherwise all hope of survival is gone. Truly one of the best Mass Effect books! For more novels written by this talented author, take a look at our selection of the best decopunk books!
The Art of the Mass Effect Universe by Casey Hudson
The Art of the Mass Effect Universe is a fantastic, in-depth behind-the-scenes! It walks the readers through the creative process of building the Mass Effect Universe aesthetic.
It is definitely one of the best Mass Effect books for players obsessed with the graphics, or those that are into concept art and graphic design because it details them all, and includes some commentary by Bioware creators. This is not the only graphic publication by Bioware, you can find more info about another one in our article about the Dragon Age books.
Why, Why, Why?
As players, we only get to see the stunning final product version. It’s so intricate and masterfully created, it is only natural to be curious and interested in knowing how the entire thing came about.
How did each alien race end up looking the way it did? What about the inspiration behind the Citadel, or the galaxies? Some big names are dropped as muses for the Mass Effect universe, such as Syd Mead, John Harris, John Berkey, and Santiago Calatrava. If you’re a fan of any of them, you’ll surely love this Mass Effect graphic novel.
A Massive Task
Universe building is a difficult chore – it’s basically creating an entire world from scratch. Every project has its first rough drafts, and the versions that were eventually discarded in favor of the ones that made the cut into the finished game. It’s an epic experience to see what could have been, had the designers taken a different route – much like the schema for the game itself.
A Mass Effect art book is a must for creative and artsy Mass Effect players that feel they need to get their Mass Effect fix even after completing the trilogy. And, who knows? Perhaps be a source of inspiration to creations of their own.
The Art of Mass Effect: Andromeda by BioWare
If you just can’t get enough of the Mass Effect Andromeda universe, and want to know as much as possible about everything that went into creating it, pick up your Mass Effect Andromeda art book!
This art book contains more than 500 illustrations of the Andromeda universe, and the creators have also included interesting comments on the sides that explain the process and decision-making that went into creating the final version, as well as some fun anecdotes that Mass Effect Andromeda fans are sure to enjoy.
Sketches and Drafts
The best part about concept art is that it details the sketches and rough drafts, the true “making of” the Andromeda universe. It is divided into several chapters that give more in-depth peeks into various parts of the game. For example: the world, the equipment, the explorers, the creatures, etc. making it very easy to read through.
Most illustrations are computer graphics, but the book does contain some hand-sketched images for readers who have an old-school soul and wish to see more traditional footage. Thus, Bioware has tried to make everyone happy by adding a little bit of everything in this art book mix.
How It Came to Be
Mass Effect Andromeda art book is 100% recommendable for all fans, because there is nothing like being able to see how your favorite videogame was created, envisioned, and finally brought to life. Graphics are a big part of any videogame – gameplay is important, for sure, but if the producers can’t bring out-of-this-world graphics to your screen it’s truly hard to be swept away by it.
With Mass Effect, Bioware has done more than its fair share of delivering. As you browse through the Mass Effect Andromeda art book, your respect levels for the developers of the game are sure to rise once you see the amount of work put into the game. These art books are definitely the best Mass Effect books to show you how complex and rewarding the creative process can really be!
Mass Effect Adult Coloring Book by BioWare
Who said coloring books were only for children? Probably the same person that thinks videogames are for kids, too. These people know nothing, and Bioware has proven them wrong with the best Mass Effect books yet for people of all ages that love art and retain a child-like spirit.
Anything You Want
This adult coloring book is populated with many intricate black-and-white outlined images of all of your favorite Mass Effect humans, aliens, equipment, locations… you name it! By not adding color, it allows you to become the creator of your own universe.
Ever thought that perhaps Kahlee Sanders would actually look better as a brunette? Now’s your chance to make it so! Wave your coloring wand and transform your favorite inter-galactic universe into your perfect intergalactic universe, with nothing standing in your way.
In What Order to Read Mass Effect Books?
If you want to read Mass Effect books in order,itvaries depending on whether you are thinking about reading the initial Mass Effect four-book series or the Andromeda saga. In the case of the Mass Effect series, it is recommendable to read them in the order they were published. So: Revelation, Ascension, Retribution, and Deception. That is because they more or less follow the timeline of events of the Mass Effect games 1, 2, and 3.
Andromeda is a different case. Here, the authors decided to write about Andromeda related events, but the book order does not adhere to any specific timeline in the games. So, you can pick and choose with more freedom whether you would like to read the first, second or third books first. It would be wise to read Nexus Uprising before starting the game, but after that, it’s really up to you if you would rather read about Cora Harper or about the lethal pathogen aboard the Andromeda Initiative.
What Came First Mass Effect Books or Games?
The first Mass Effect book was published six months before the Mass Effect game was released. So, technically, the books. However, the books are game tie-ins, meaning that they are based on the games and not the other way around, even though the game itself was released at a later date.
This has something to do with the fact that the first novel is actually a prequel to the trilogy, and thus sets the background for the story. It is intended to be read by gamers, so they have a better understanding of the universe they are getting themselves into.
How Many Mass Effect Books Are There?
The first four books of the series are connected to the trilogy set in the Mass Effect universe. As mentioned, the first is a prequel, and the remaining three center on characters and events that are also mentioned in the games.
Mass Effect Andromeda is a three-book series, although the Andromeda novels work better as stand-alone fiction. They are tie-ins to the game, but also manage to work great as a sci-fi read for people who have never played the games.They also don’t follow the chronological order the first Mass Effect book list does.
That means that, in total, there would be seven Mass Effect books.
Who Wrote the First Two Mass Effect Books?
The first two Mass Effect books were written by Drew Karpyshyn. In fact, Karpyshyn also wrote the third book. It wasn’t util Deception that the series author changed. William C. Dietz wrote the fourth and last book.
Are the Mass Effect Games Based on Book Series?
It’s actually the other way around. The novels were released based on the game, and the idea is that both media complement each other. Since Mass Effect is a role-playing game, the characters of Commander Shepard or Pathfinder Ryder barely make an appearance, because those are the characters you play with. Instead, the books explore other characters, as well as the backstory to many of the game’s features.
They are tie-in novels for the widely popular game, and some gamers may or may not decide to read them. Those that do get a much richer and rewarding experience when playing the game, because the depth of the in-game characters expands considerably.
Robert is a science fiction and fantasy geek. (He is also the best looking Ereads writer!) Besides reading and writing, he enjoys sports, cosplay, and good food (don't we all?). Currently works as an accountant (would you believe that?)