So, Uh, Who Wants An XCOM 2 Prequel Novel?

I… Uh. Erm. Must be polite. As much as I love it, I don’t know if I’m into XCOM/X-COM for the fiction? Like, at all? It certainly didn’t work for me when they wrote a tie-in book for the original 90s game. But, here we go. XCOM 2: Resurrection is a whole damned novel which explains what happened between XCOM 1 and XCOM 2 – i.e. how the aliens ended up in charge of the Earth and besties with humanity. I feel like an introductory cutscene might have been enough to explain that, but then again I’m pleased that XCOM is clearly enough of a success that it’s getting spin-offs.

Here’s the blurb:

“XCCOM: Resurrection tells the story of Amar Tan, a promising recruit in the barely-hanging-on guerrilla resistance network that still dares to combat ADVENT outside of Gulf City. Amar and his squad find their lives irrevocably changed one day when they stumble upon an SOS signal from an enigmatic man who claims to know a secret that could change everything. Can Amar and his squad survive encounters with Sectoids, Chryssalids and scores of ADVENT troopers hell-bent on stomping out all resistance?”

You can find out on November 10th, a date which I suspect means a whole lot of people at Insight Publishing were shouting “you basts!” at 2K when they announced that XCOM 2 was delayed until February.

Resurrection’s author is one Greg Keyes, who’s previously written licensed Elder Scrolls, Star Wars and Babylon 5 novels in addition to his own fiction. History really is repeating itself. Anyone ever read any of his stuff? Any good?

You can pre-order the novel here, but you know the rule by now, don’t you?

57 Comments

  1. fuggles says:

    Can the premise of a prequel really be a cliffhanger? I mean it would be amusing if the resistance died out in the novel as a really laboured way of announcing xcom2 was cancelled, but I reckon it will turn out okay.

  2. kud13 says:

    I enjoyed the hell out of the Russian (probably unlicensed) retelling of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown by Vladimir Vasilyev (it was called “Enemy Unknown”).

    I read Keyes’ 4-book series “Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone”, a much darker take on “A Song of Ice and Fire”, and I absolutely loved the first 3. One of the characters’ plotline remains probably the most original and well-written fantasy plotline I ever read.

    That being said, Book 4 showed all kinds of signs of publisher meddling, it was rushed, and did a good job of running a potentially spectacular series down into a mediocre one.

    Yeah, I really dunno what to expect from this, but seeing how I haven’t played XCOM 1 yet, don’t see myself reading the tie-in anytime soon.

    On the topic of lit. Tie-ins: I DID purchase “icarus effect” which was like a DXHR quasi-prequel, and it was a nice little cyberpunk romp, with plenty of nods to the series’ fans.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      I really enjoyed the Thorn and Bone series too but you’re right about the forth book. Made me sad when he started writing tie in stuff as I never read it and its a waste of his world building talents.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      > a much darker take on “A Song of Ice and Fire”

      How in God’s name is that possible?

  3. RegisteredUser says:

    I really and truly loved the comic book style original intro of the real game. Thats in my opinion how one could have gone about it. No need to make it CGI render magic or whatever. I actually felt the strips were much more entertaining and powerful.

  4. Hunchback says:

    Wait, isn’t the XCOM2 prequel… XCOM1? So that makes the “prequel” novel actually an “XCOM1 NOVEL” ? Hmmmm

    • fuggles says:

      That’s like saying Prometheus 2 is alien!

    • int says:

      Interquel.

    • internisus says:

      No, it’s not, because everybody uses the word “prequel” wrong, which is one of my bigger pet peeves. It does not mean “thing that has story which occurs before other thing.” It means “thing that has story which occurs before other thing but was published later.”

      XCOM is the predecessor of XCOM 2, not the prequel, just like A New Hope is not Empire Strikes Back’s prequel.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Huh, I’d never heard that definition of prequel before. You learn something new every day.

        • Werthead says:

          It’s particularly amusing as it means that the book of The Hobbit (1937) is not a prequel to The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), but the film of The Hobbit (2012-14) is very much a prequel to the film of The Lord of the Rings (2001-03).

          An easier definition of a prequel is that it is written with foreknowledge of what happens later on because the later work already exists and the prequel uses that information in some fashion in its own story.

      • Retne says:

        And over in dictionary corner, we have: internisus.

        :)

        (appreciate the info though)

    • dethtoll says:

      Not really. XCOM2 operates on the premise that you got a game over very early in XCOM1.

      • Kunovega says:

        If you look at steam achievements you can see more than half the people who own xcom enemy unknown have never actually completed it. and less than half the people who have completed it were able to do it on anything but easy

        So for the average idiot who failed at xcom, xcom 2 will be a valid sequel where the aliens have taken over

        Beyond that, the book should still be labeled a prelude to xcom2, not a prequel as prequel implies that its being releaed after xcom2 and it isnt

  5. Ufofighter says:

    “Amar Tan” must be the dumbest name I’ve ever read for a protagonist.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      “Hiro Protagonist” is much, much worse.

      • icarussc says:

        You take that back, sir! Hiro Protagonist is a fantastic character name perfectly suited to the wildness that is Snow Crash.

        • acheron says:

          Y.T.: “Stupid name.”

          Hiro: “But you’ll never forget it.”

      • JFS says:

        I looked it up. I expected to find some kind of weird kidult cartoon show. Stephenson, what is wrong with you!

        • Premium User Badge

          Phasma Felis says:

          He’s crippled by possession of a sense of humor, apparently. Glad to see you avoided that trap.

      • jonahcutter says:

        Snow Crash has a level of post-modern self-awareness that “Hiro Protagonist” fits perfectly with. It was published over 20 years ago, in the early 90’s, when post-modern self-awareness was a big thing.

    • tikey says:

      Don’t forget about Miles Kilo

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        The protagonist in the game Outlast is called Miles Upshur. Miles is the worst and most overused (as in, more used than it should be) name in games it seems.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Amar Tan is clearly just a pun on “a martian”. ;)

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I dunno.

      The Baldur’s Gate books had a protagonist go by the game of Abdel Adrian. They were also shite.

  6. Freud says:

    I never really enjoyed lore in games, unless it’s important for the actual game/gameplay. I enjoy the world of the Witcher but I never read any quest text in WoW. Just tell me where to go and do whatever you insist I do.

    As for X-Com, does it really have a story that’s beyond a generic alien invasion?

  7. TheWhippetLord says:

    I’ve read the fellow’s Elder Scrolls books and they weren’t quite as bad as I expected. Not what you’d call good, but harmlessly readable fluff. Fair value if you get them from a pound shop.
    To put that into perspective I do pretty much dig the XCOM fiction and I thought the original tie-in novel was OK. So maybe I’m not the most discriminating reviewer.

    I do think that they’ve missed a perfect spin-off opportunity. They were planning to release XCOM 2 in mid-November. Why on Earth are they not flogging ADVENT calenders?

  8. Smashbox says:

    Chapter One:
    Commander You drummed his or her fingers on the heavy oak tabletop. The rain drummed on the roof two levels up, at the surface, and echoed through the subterranean ventilation system into You’s office, each drop like the blood of so many aliens killed by classes like Heavy, Support, or Sniper in various brief, colorfully named combat missions. He or she gritted his or her teeth. Who was that woman? You could still see her when he or she closed his or her eyes.

    The Council Meeting had gone well, better than expected. And the new satellite was almost online. The Chinese were making things difficult, but he or she was used to it by now. You worried there were cracks forming in the mortar that bound The Council together. Everyone wanted the satellite — You never seemed to be able to produce them quickly enough. The woman. Smiling. Dead.

    Commander You took another slug from his or her glass of spacewhiskey and closed his or her eyes.

    And not only the woman. The Memorial Wall had more faces on it as he or she passed out of the Council room than it did when You passed in. Five faces. Operation Bleeding Hawk, a Terror site mission in Cairo must have failed. But the woman was the worst. She was beautiful. She was gone.

    Commander You gritted his or her teeth again. The lack of sleep had painted dark circles under his or her eyes. The satellite would need to be deployed.

    Chinese panic was at an all time high. You knew he or she was in danger of losing their vast resources in the Council, but there was also West Africa to consider. You slugged his or her spacewhiskey once more. The rain drummed on the roof above. Africa. It must be Africa. You needed the monthly XCOM funding increase of 30 percent that Africa’s All In bonus would provide.

    • acheron says:

      Sounds like Penny Arcade’s Command and Conquer novel:

      Then the harvester returned to base with some tiberium. It deposited its load before returning to the tiberium field to get more. After harvesting some tiberium, it turned back toward…

    • Itdoesntgoaway says:

      Chapter 3:
      Your stomach lurches as you realise that three operations back you instigated a non-optimal build order with your next batch of power plants, satellite uplinks and satellites. The resulting terror chain reaction is all but inevitable now so you resignedly…

      Chapter 2:
      You somehow know that unless you hold off researching laser weapons for another month you won’t have the money to build the correct facilities needed in order to launch three more satellites and stave off failure in three operations time.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      I’d actually read a record of an entire playthrough in this style!

  9. Ejmir says:

    Prequel is not a word, especially in this case, when the sequel isn’t even out.
    More like an introduction to XCOM 2, or an origin. Or a flash back.

    • Llewyn says:

      Prelude.

      I was honda fence about making this comment as it’s bound to get some replies that are less than civic, but accord ing to the OED this is likely the word we’re seeking.

  10. jgf1123 says:

    I did refresh the Alpha Centauri home page quite often waiting for the next bit story. It might not have been good writing, but it did introduce the different personalities/factions and atmosphere of menace and intrigue that set the stage for the game. I tried reading the novels but I always run out of interest partway through book 1.

  11. Xan says:

    I usually don’t care about fan fiction, but I enjoyed the hell out of XCOM: The Unknown Menace by André Galvão (aka Hobbes).

    If you can look past the need for some copyediting, it’s a great (and long) read.

    Also, there’s a hilarious (Russian-language) parody of X-Com in the short stories cycle about future VR game beta-testers. I doubt many here would make use of it, but here’s a link.

  12. Turkey says:

    It usually turns out pretty crap, but doing additional media for AAA video games is kinda like hitting paydirt for writers and artist in other nerd entertainment where there isn’t a lot of money. So I support it, even if I would never read any of it.

  13. thetruegentleman says:

    Funny, I wrote my own novel: “I quit” Said the commander. Bradford quickly responded: “You can’t quit! We need you to stop the aliens”! “Then maybe the council should have spent more time working on the GUI! I can handle an impossible difficulty level, but this shit just doesn’t work without saves” came the response as the commander disappeared from the monitor.

    Humanity was doomed.

  14. Idealist says:

    Two of my favorite bits of of X-Com fanfiction, which are based on the first two games, are the X-Com Saga by Russ Brown and the Elemental Saga by Larry Mann.

  15. cog says:

    Re: The delay to February

    I’m curious, what’s the consensus here- Game needed more work or 2K marketing was worried November would be too saturated with Fallout and Star Wars?

    My money would have gone to XCOM, but I can understand it if 2K was worried and want them to make a ton of money. They need to keep riding the XCOM gravy train at least until they do the 1930s FBI Occult Squad vs. Lovecraftian horrors version.

    • Booker says:

      “They need to keep riding the XCOM gravy train at least until they do the 1930s FBI Occult Squad vs. Lovecraftian horrors version.”

      OMG that sounds AMAZING!!! When can I buy that?!? I want it!

      • jontaro says:

        X-Com styled Delta Green game, now that’s what i want.

        Maybe without sanity rules or with tweaked ones, it would suck to have your whole squad end up in asylum after two missions.

  16. Booker says:

    “As much as I love it, I don’t know if I’m into XCOM/X-COM for the fiction? Like, at all?”

    Honestly, if there was one major letdown in XCOM 1, it was the lack of a better story. So how can it be bad, if they want to do this better this time around? GOOD NEWS EVERYONE is the first thing that came into my mind when I read this.

    • JFS says:

      I think the nice thing about X-COM is that you don’t need a story because you create your own. The XCOM story felt very shallow and tacked-on to me.

      • Itdoesntgoaway says:

        After you have completed your first play through the story is just a hindrance – in fact, it feels like the story is just a game length tutorial to be dispensed with as soon as possible.

        • Kunovega says:

          Which is why it lets you minimize the story. You can minimize voice over comments and disable the intro missions when you start new games

  17. dethtoll says:

    I’ll probably read this. I mean, I’ve read the Doom novels (schlocky), the Metal Gear Solid novelization (awful), and Stalker: Southern Comfort (unedited fanfic. Bad fanfic.)

  18. Retne says:

    Anyway, am I the only one who thinks this is a novel approach to a game / book release?

    #SoObvisousItHurts

    • Retne says:

      In fact, maybe the book publisher should take a page out of Fireaxis’ M.O. and release the book late?

  19. Werthead says:

    Greg Keyes is a pretty good fantasy writer with his own series, particularly The Age of Unreason and the Waterborn series. Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone – aka A Song of Ice and Fire Lite – started off okay and went down the pan after the second volume. Some nice ideas but it never really did anything too interesting.

    He’s definitely one of the stronger tie-in authors around, his B5 and Star Wars books were pretty decent, but it seems a shame that his solo stuff doesn’t sell better so he can focus on that. Similar problem with Matt Stover, although that’s worse as Stover is so much better.

  20. Isometric says:

    Shame this kind of thing isn’t in the game but oh well. I’ve never played XCOM games for the story anyway.
    Also this reminded me of Spaced so it’s not all bad
    link to youtu.be

  21. Kloreep says:

    I’ve read Keyes’ Babylon 5 books and they were very good. Though even with that said, I’m skeptical of the idea of good XCOM novels.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I wanted to write the same thing. I’ve read all of the B5 novels (a long time ago, when I still read tie-in novels) and I remember that the later ones (the Psi Corps, Centauri and Technomage trilogies) were all pretty good, with Centauri probably being the best and Technomage the weakest. Psi Corps was the one by Gregory Keyes.

  22. AyeBraine says:

    Actually I found that XCOM (the new one, with Long War) was one of the best emergent fiction narratives I’ve ever played. It never supplied me with plot points or twists – besides the tired and bland ones that were already in the vanilla game – but it constantly created something that was very akin to the “lieutenants prose”, the war novels by actual Soviet veterans that was brutal, concise and realistic. Bondarev, Vasil’ Bykov and others. The small tales about people who charged trenches and went to sleep there to then charge the next trench. The brilliant animations (that are somewhat lacking in the pre-vis for XCOM2) helped very much.

  23. kosch says:

    Ebook/Kindle version?