Perfect Dark was frankly one of the best games to ever hit the N64. I loved it, it was so playable and had a great storyline to it. The debut of Joanna Dark was a true success and one that I, along with millions, really embraced. Then after the successful comeback of Miss Dark on the Xbox 360 title Perfect Dark Zero, came Perfect Dark: Initial Vector, the first of a trilogy of novels to further expand the universe of Joanna Dark.
I really loved Initial Vector and feel acclaimed writer Greg Rucka did an excellent job of giving Joanna Dark, Daniel Carrington, Cassandra De Vries and Jonathan Steinberg such depth, making them all characters you could really care for. And also weaving a captivating plot that added to what was an exceptionally good novel. And the same high-level of writing is also used for Second Front.
The events here take place two months after Initial Vector and naturally take place in the gap between Perfect Dark: Zero and Perfect Dark. Cassandra De Vries is now the CEO of dataDyne, which remains the leader of Earth's hypercorporations and the sole reason for the world's survival. And the Carrington Institute is forever determined to stop their evil machinations, specifically their top agent, Joanna Dark, who holds a blood oath against them for the death of her father.
But things naturally get worse before they get better. The presidents of rival corporations Zentek and Beck-Yama have been murdered, resulting in the corporations' extinction. And the killer responsible...is Joanna Dark. As a result, the Carrington Institute is targeted by a paranoid dataDyne and every other hypercorp on the planet. Joanna seeks to clear her name and confront the real killer but having been seriously injured in a recent operation, and with everyone out to get her, her chances of accomplishing her mission...or even surviving, are very grim indeed.
For those who missed out on Initial Vector, or even Perfect Dark: Zero, you needn't worry. The important plot details are all recapped here throughout the course of the story. And Greg Rucka, being the great writer he is, does an excellent job in making the previous events easy to follow and writing them here in a way that doesn't bog down the flow of the current story.
As with Initial Vector, the writing style is very accessible, goes at the right pace, and features very good use of dialogue and description. It's just the right amount and as a result, makes the story very feasible.
Because this is set in the year 2021, Rucka presents a very good interpretation of what future life will be like on Earth in that time. Even though this is the science-fiction genre we're talking about here, a world where anything is possible, a sense of realism (in some cases) can add to the quality of the story. And the author succeeds in making the future setting and use of imaginative technology sound plausible, like it could actually happen.
Another great thing that Rucka achieves is the inspiration of gameplay elements from Perfect Dark and Perfect Dark: Zero that he uses to write the combat situations. The weapons from the games, use of their secondary modes, the strategy employed in the combat situations is all reflective of the games' high-quality. It makes the writing come across as really inventive, and it's made even more so when Rucka describes the chaos going on at the Carrington Institute, and the violence of the fights Joanna is involved in.
But it's not all action and gameplay-based. Second Front is full of character-depth and development as well. And it's here where Rucka truly shines.
Joanna was well-established in Initial Vector as being a multi-layered heroine. She was a perfectly, physically capable young woman, sharp-witted, funny and believable as a secret-agent. The legacy of her father, her initial mistrust of Carrington, her growing pains, being born paralysed and inner conflicts over who she was; everything Rucka wrote made her such a compelling character. And that's a trend he continues with finesse. Her desire to clear her name, her confronting her past demons, a chance to discover more about her father and her encountering of new allies and enemies develops Joanna's character even more. And I like how she starts the story as being seriously wounded. It really makes you feel for her even more, especially when it seems like she's going to die in battle. You end up rooting her on to triumph and survive. And Rucka portrays Joanna's dealing with her injuries throughout so realistically.
Also, Cassandra De Vries is such a tragic character and a villain you can really care for. She's forced to deal with so much throughout this novel; her actions in Initial Vector, her friendship with bodyguard Anita Velez put to the test, the pressures of running dataDyne, her love/hatred for Daniel Carrington, and her refusal to cave in make her such a strong-willed and remarkable character.
Other characters remain fascinating as well, such as enigmatic, questionable Daniel Carrington, the stern but compassionate Jonathan Steinberg, and the loyal Anita Velez among others. The villains here, the Continuity, lack the same depth of the richer characters, being basically a group of vicious psychos, but they, most notably their leader Chun Fan, are nonetheless a very entertaining interpretation of psychosis that gives Joanna a true test that adds to her believability and charisma even more.
The plot, like Initial Vector's, is one of conspiracy and high-stakes, and as such is very intriguing and thrilling, yet remains thankfully different at the same time. The seeds for Perfect Dark's plot are also sewn here, and the clever use of invoices, bulletins, messaging and communication further showcases Rucka's great writing talents.
I don't think I can praise Perfect Dark: Second Front enough. It's just as fab a read as Initial Vector. Perfect Dark fans will lap it up. For everyone else, I highly recommend you discover for yourselves what a high-quality read this is.