Book Review: Doom 3–Worlds On Fire, by Matthew Costello

This is the fist book I’ve read based on a video game. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The author already had a world, and in this case creatures, to play with. How could he take what is in essence backstory and turn it into something interesting? Make no mistake about it, Mr. Costello pulled it off by staying faithful to the Doom universe and blending Science Fiction and Horror into a solid book.

FWorlds On Firerom the publisher:

The year is 2144…and the battle over Earth’s precious resources has raged for a century. With global economies in ruins and all-out world war more than a possibility, the U.S government turned to the Union Aerospace Corporation, giving it carte blanche on the legendary red planet of Mars in a desperate bid to construct an off-world outpost that might provide resources, a military advantage…as well as something so secret that even members of government don’t have a clue about it….

Special Ops Marine Lieutenant John Kane was once a careerist simply glad to have a job, and couldn’t care less about politics just as long as Uncle Sam’s check cleared. But that was before he listened to his conscience and disobeyed a direct order. Busted down to private, Kane has been reassigned to the “U.S. Space Marines” — the private army of the UAC — with the prospect of becoming little more than a glorified security guard on Mars….

Now Lt. Kane’s fate leads him to Mars City — part environmental community, part lab center, and all owned and protected by the UAC. It’s a strange world with a fatal environment, and the thousands who live and work within the city have already begun to think of themselves as Martians. And away from Mars City, at the strange ancient sites uncovered on the planet, a small squad of marines stand guard while scientists uncover wall glyphs and search for artifacts, having already found something that is so far amazing and inexplicable — including the relic called “U1,” nicknamed “the Soul Cube” — and unknown to all, the bringer of destructive chaos and unspeakable horror….

We’re going on a little trip…

Worlds on Fire tells two stories: the first being Lieutenant John Kane’s downfall as a Special Ops Commanding Officer and eventual resurrection as a private in the UAC assigned to Mars City. The second story is the birth of Mars City and the secrets buried beneath the surface. It isn’t until both storylines intersect that things really get going. Once that happens, there’s no looking back. And that’s one of my complaints with this story, the slow pacing. Like a train chugging and struggling up a mountain, Worlds on Fire sputters along at first. The Kane storyline is interesting enough to keep readers engaged until what I’m dubbing “The Event,” when all the storylines intersect and the shit hits the fan in the last quarter of the book.

I enjoyed my time with Lt. Kane, even his botched mission on Earth. Mr. Costello does an excellent job writing tight paced action scenes. Kane also felt like a real soldier with his mannerisms and thought processes. It was fun seeing him react to being a private after leading combat missions back home on Earth. All he wanted to do was go with the flow and do his two years on Mars but there’s always that one guy who gets in your face. Needless to say, Kane didn’t make too many friends on Mars.

Many of the secondary characters were also well written adding to the payoff at the end of the book.

I wasn’t fascinated by all of the science presented in this book but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. To be honest, I already knew much of what happened from playing the game. I think that’s one of the drawbacks of actually having played the game, I knew too much. To be fair to the author, that’s not his fault. It did, none-the-less, affect my reading experience. However, the last quarter of the book more than makes up for it.

What I liked:

  • The characters. Most of the characters, even secondary characters, were engaging and three dimensional. Kane is easily the star of this book and a guy you can’t help but root for. I also enjoyed my time with Private Maria Moraetes too.
  • The world. Let’s face it, Doom 3 was a great game set in a fully realized world. Mr. Costello does a good job staying faithful to that world while adding a few new layers with the science behind “The Event.” He even mentions the BFG (Big Fucking Gun, in case you haven’t played the game)!
  • The action. When readers hit the action, there’s no looking back. All you can do is buckle your seatbelt and hold on until the purple goo and blood stained ride is over. Oh, and keep your mouth closed. You wouldn’t want to swallow any Martian purple goo.
  • The creatures. C’mon, it’s Doom 3! All the badass creatures you know and love from the game are here in this book and they want to rip your face off.

What I didn’t like:

  • The pacing. The first half of the book moves a bit slow (other than the Kane battle scenes). If you can get through it, however, you’ll be rewarded with some quality action scenes.
  • People who played the game will already know most of what’s going on. I think that’s part of the reason behind the slow pacing, because much of the Mars parts didn’t feel new to me.

Overall: I’m giving Worlds on Fire three and a half stars out of five. It’s definitely a solid read that stays faithful to the awesome world of Doom 3. I could easily see this being a successful film and the book leaves you wanting more. Great characters like Kane are what keeps this train chugging along until all the storylines intersect and the action grabs you by the pants and propels you through to the end of the book. While I think people who have played the game will be a bit bored, Worlds on Fire still delivers the goods. If you like futuristic Sci-Fi with a dash of Horror, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. I know I did. So grab your BFG’s, shotguns, and whatever other weapons you can scrounge up and prepare for those “Pinkies” as they crawl toward you, hungry for your flesh. This book is going to take you to Mars…and the Hell unleashed there. Lock and load, people!


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