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:
- Ambiguous Situation: While it seems likely the spirits are just employing Reverse Psychology like the vision of Nicole in Dead Space 2, there's some indication the Dead genuinely just want the Marker to be left alone in order to prevent Convergence. Michael dismisses this possibility as do the believers, treating the ghosts and Marker as one in the same.
- 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.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: A Downplayed Trope example as the Marker is causing people to go insane. Nevertheless, every believer of Unitology is shown to be completely impervious to reality.
- The Brute: Krax acts as this to Markoff. Ironically, he is killed and his corpse is fused with two others to form the necromorph later known as the Brute.
- 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.
- Faux Affably Evil: Markoff, Stevens and Krax, especially when they deliver a breaking speech to Altman in the end of the story.
- Fed to the Beast: Altman is killed by a Brute released into his cell at the end.
- God Is Evil: Michael speculates humanity was created by the Markers via genetic manipulation.
- 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. There's perhaps some satisfaction in the inner circle of Unitology being dead wrong about their beliefs but this doesn't come to roost until centuries later.
- Not Quite the Right Thing: Michael Altman is frequently told by the visions he receives to leave the Marker alone but decides the best way to sabotage his employers' plans for it is to hold a press conference which announces the object's presence to the world. After that, there's no way to cover it up.
- Path of Inspiration: Unitology is created by the Marker influencing the minds of worshipers via its role in creating mankind as well as use of the dead to speak to people. Michael speculates the Marker is using the memories of the dead to communicate but this is oddly contradictory to its goals.
- 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.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Michael sinks the Marker again but this does nothing to prevent the cult from digging it back up.
- 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...
- Stop Worshipping Me: Michael Altman is made the Prophet of Unitology by the Marker despite the fact he considers the idea of it being divine ridiculous.
- Trauma Conga Line: Michael goes through one of these which ends in his death.
- 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.