Dead Space: Martyr
is a tie-in novel set in the Dead Space
universe, written by B.K. Evenson. It is a Prequel
taking place long before the rest of the series, and reveals the history of Michael Altman, the head figure of the Church of Unitology
, and his discovery of the Black Marker, the first evidence of alien life.
The story is divided into three sections. The first section is about Altman and several other scientists discovering the Marker in the Gulf of Mexico, and their attempts to retrieve it as people start to hallucinate and lose their minds. In the second part the military comes in, kidnaps the scientists, including Altman, and threatens to kill them if they do not experiment on the Marker. In the final part, Necromorphs
appear and invade the secret lab everyone is in, and Altman has to escape while dealing with the Necromorphs and the military.
Tropes Dead Space: Martyr has:
- Badass Bookworm: For an anthropologist Michael Altman is a very capable fighter, not unlike Isaac Clarke.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Markoff and Stevens kill Michael Altman and use his earlier press conferences to make him look like a prophet spreading the "divine message" of the Marker, which leads to the founding of Unitology.
- Chainsaw Good: Inverted. Altman tries to use an old chainsaw to kill a necromorph, he experiences the usual kickback effect and almost dislocates his shoulder.
- Downer Ending: From the last two pages of the final chapter and all through the epilogue, things just get worse and worse. Altman escapes the sinking, necromorph-infested research facility only to be betrayed and nearly killed by another survivor. Then he's saved by the people he fought against, mentally broken by hallucinations he experiences in solitary confinement, finds out his girlfriend was murdered by his captors, finds out he will be used as a martyr to advance their goals, and finally fed to a necromorph made of the man who killed his girlfriend.
- Karma Houdini: Markoff and Stevens kill Michael Altman in a nightmare-inducingly cruel manner, and unless they appear in a future story, the bastards get away with it, presumably living the high life of having millions of deceived humans believing their every word.
- Playing Both Sides: Unitology was founded by a splinter faction in the Earth Government. Due to two hundred years of infiltration, most high-ranking members of the government are Unitologists. However, this is not known to lower-ranking members of either faction, and the two frequently clash.
- Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: Sorta. The Black Marker landed on Earth along with the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.
- Psychic Link: The novel pretty much confirms that the Marker actively and intelligently tries to contain Necromorph outbreaks, and usually do this by creating hallucinations of dead loved ones. Although it is also proposed that the hallucinations are our brains' way of telling us that the Marker is bad news.
- Start of Darkness: It turns out Michael wasn't nearly as "dark" a man as you'd be led to think. The Church, on the other hand...
- Written by the Winners: Michael Altman gets this treatment in supplemental materials. In-universe he's portrayed as a visionary leader who believes that the Marker is the key to convergence, can end all conflict, and is capable of enlightening humanity. In truth, he wanted little to do with Unitology and simply wanted to let the scientific community study the Marker. His death also utilizes this trope, he is stated to have been assassinated by the Government to suppress the truth. This is a half-truth. He was indeed assassinated by Government agents, but only so they could use Unitology to jumpstart what they believed to be the next stage of human evolution which involves turning everyone into Necromorphs.