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Literature / Mass Effect Annihilation

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"By the homeworld I hope to find one day"

Mass Effect: Andromeda Annihilation is the third prequel novel to the game Mass Effect: Andromeda, concerning the Quarian Ark, the Keelah Si'yah and the Sleepwalkers; a group of specialists responsible for maintaining the ships systems during the long journey to Andromeda.

Thirty years and hundreds of lightyears before the Nexus and the ark Hyperion would arrive in the Heleus Cluster, disaster had already struck the Initiative.

Aboard the Keelah Si'yah 20,000 souls from across six different species lay asleep in their cryopods, dreaming of a new galaxy and a new life. But the dream is about become a nightmare for the members of the ship's "Sleepwalker" team and potentially all those aboard.

Senna'Nir and the rest of the remaining members of Sleepwalker Team Blue-7 are prematurely awaken by the ship's VI "K". Having detected an abnormity, the VI has pulled them out of stasis to investigate and what the team discovers horrifies them. A deadly pathogen has been set loose aboard the Keelah Si'yah taking the lives of several of the passengers. And worst, the virus has the ability to infect multiple species.


As the Sleepwalkers try to solve the mystery behind the plague, the ship's systems begin to malfunction and it becomes increasingly clear that this was no accident. If any of them hopes to see the new galaxy and find a new home, the members of Blue-7 must hurry to find a cure and save the ship while facing panicked colonists, mad infected, and the possibility the ones responsible for it all may still be on board...


Mass Effect Andromeda: Annihilation provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: During her crime lord days, one of Borbala's nieces tried to poison her with a particularly nasty batarian poison. Borbala was immune thanks to a long line of similar attempts on her life.
  • Action Survivor: Senna was on the Citadel when Sovereign attacked. His parents were also there, but didn't make it.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The VI that runs the Keelah Si’yah seemed to suffer from this. Then it’s revealed that this was actually a computer worm, and later a computer worm that was improperly programmed by Malak.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: The elcor Yorrik is a huge Shakespeare fan, and specifically of Hamlet, which he liked so much, he took the name Yorrik over his real name, Naumm. Interestingly, he theorized that Shakespeare either wasn’t human or may have had elcor influence. He even has Senna send him off with Horatio's 'flights of angels' line from Hamlet's death scene.
  • Bad Black Barf: Just one of the many delightful symptoms of the plague.
  • Big Bad: Captain Qetsi'Olam vas Keelah Si'yah, the quarian commanding officer of the Keelah Si'yah.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Captain Qetsi. Though when her plan went awry and killed many unintended victims, Qetsi agreed to give her life to make up for her horrific crimes.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Borbala was once a ruthless crime-lord, who was overthrown by her own children, who drilled out one of her eyes and sold her. That's not what pisses her off, it's the fact they let her live. She raised them better than that! Ultimately, subverted, however, in that this isn't why they turned on her.
  • Body Horror: The effect of the virus. Pustules are an eventual effect, but we get a description of what it does to batarians. Aside from vomiting up pretty much everything, it also causes peeling, blindness, and weeping pus.
  • Broken Pedestal: Quetsi to Senna, first when she shows the same anti-AI prejudices as the rest of the Fleet in reaction to Liat, and then when she turns out to be responsible for the Fortinbras plague in the first place.
  • Call-Back: There are many to the original trilogy.
    • Oliver Barnes owes money to Aria T’Loak, and lived on Eden Prime with his parents until the events of the original Mass Effect occurred and forced them off.
    • The attacks on Eden Prime, Noveria, and Virmire are referenced.
    • A character speculates on the appearance of quarians, and people sexually interested in a female quarian want to seduce her into stripping off.
    • An elcor is a fan of Shakespeare’s works, particularly Hamlet.
    • The perception of batarians as Always Chaotic Evil comes into play multiple times (it doesn’t help that the main batarian character is a former leader of organized crime and another looks down on non-batarians). The second even lost an ex-wife to an attack on Camala, though this time the attackers were the Reapers.
    • The drell investigator Anax hangs one on the large amount of daddy issues in the original trilogy.
    "When in doubt, it’s always daddy issues."
    • Qetsi says “I should go.” At one point.
    • The drell tendency to secrete hallucinogenic fluids, as Mordin mentions to Fem!Shep if she dates Thane, comes up in a big way for Anax.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: Eventually, Qetsi starts broadcasting instructions over the ship's tannoy. Borbala doesn't find them remotely useful.
  • Cassandra Truth: Yorrik suspected sabotage as soon as they encounter the first corpse and everyone else disagrees. Even Yorrik denied it, attributing his sudden theory to the medicine he’s taking. Later events prove him correct.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The prologue sets up two: the perfume filters, which is how Quetsi infected the drell with her virus, and the copy of "My Suit and Me", which is how Malak's worm got into the Keelah Si'yah.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Yorrick tried to get into Francis Kitt's elcor production of Hamlet. He was rejected.
    • At one point, a quarian drinks turian brandy through an emergency induction port.
    • The drell biotics are noted to use Singularity to keep any of their infected in one place.
  • Continuity Snarl: It is mentioned that the events of the original Mass Effect resulted in an influx of refugees from Noveria and Virmire. The events of those respective in-game missions take Shepard through a corporate and military setting, respectively, and in both areas there are few, if any, living civilians, certainly not enough for an "influx". Indeed, the whole point of Virmire was it wasn't settled by any major population, which was how Saren was able to hide his giant lab-fortress on it without anyone noticing.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Senna, who like Tali is a quarian with dead parents and an aptitude for mechanics. That's where the similarities really end. Senna is pretty much the exact opposite of Tali. He's not driven by parental issues, he's not particularly devoted to the Migrant Fleet or taking back Rannoch, and he's got nothing against geth or AI in general even when he has far more reason than most quarians to genuinely dislike them.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Anax, who lost her parents to Kepral’s Syndrome at age six and worked as an agent for the Shadow Broker doing dirty jobs. Qetsi as well which motivates her actions.
  • Death of Personality: Liat is uploaded onto the Keelah Si'yah's mainframe to flush out the worm, which works, but at the cost of Liat.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The virus is revealed to be this. It was made by Qetsi, who engineered it to kill a large amount of humans, asari, turians and salarians to alter the power structure in Andromeda so the races on her Ark, including her race the quarians, could dominate the new society. However, things went awry as the virus was supposed to be harmless to those races but mutated to be deadly to all but Qetsi because it was released early, and the worm meant to incubate it went wrong.
  • Death of a Child: The first quarian victim of the virus is a little girl, who drops dead right in front of her mother.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Many of the characters in the story die before the end. Of the major characters, only Senna, Anax and Borbala are confirmed to survive.
  • Did Not Think This Through:
    • Qetsi wanted to use her bioweapon to reduce the numbers of the Council races so the other races could rule instead, but she didn’t have a plan to resolve the issues of these races, such as the krogan’s warlike nature or the batarians' strict caste system.
    • Furthermore, she didn’t plan for any potential inhabitants of the Andromeda galaxy. If Qetsi's plan had succeeded, the virus would’ve left the most numerous and powerful Milky Way races depleted, making everyone much easier prey for the kett in Mass Effect: Andromeda.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Once, a bunch of salarians played a prank on Qetsi that nearly got her killed, so on joining the Initiative, she decided to engineer a virus to kill off the salarians there. And the humans, turians and asari for good measure. Slightly justified by the fact she is insane.
  • Distaff Counterpart: A crusty, foul-mouthed old former criminal who was betrayed by trusted associates and lost an eye. Borbala is a female batarian Zaead.
  • Distant Sequel: The story takes place thirty years before the Keelah reaches Andromeda.
  • Ditto Aliens: Used for racism, when the sleepwalker team finds a panicked batarian running free, and Irrit automatically assumes that as a batarian he must be responsible, even as he's vomitting up a flood. Borbala snarls if she thinks all batarians look alike. Irrit's immediate response? "Yes."
  • The Dragon: Malak’Rafa is revealed to be this for Qetsi towards the end of the book.
  • Dramatic Irony: Adding to the characters and their plight is the assumption that everyone in Andromeda is just hunky-dory and will be able to help them once they get there.
  • Driven to Suicide: It's implied that Malak’Rafa threw himself out of the airlock in guilt over his and Qetsi’s actions. Either that, or he was executed for his crimes.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Averted. There is a doll involved, but its held in the death grip of a quarian child’s corpse, and the corpse is shown for all to see in the arms of the child’s grieving mother.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The salarians, well-known as a species for never thinking through the potential consequences of their actions, thought the artificial virus alayon-B was too dangerous and destroyed every piece of information about it they could.
  • Eye Scream: Borbala is missing an eye, which had badly healed. This is especially grievous for batarians, as per batarian culture/religious belief the soul leaves the body through the eyes so having them damaged is both a frightening and insulting thing for them.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The batarian system is explored a little. The aristos are at the top, everyone and everything is beneath them. There's intellectual, merchants, military and finally slaves at the absolute bottom. Calling a batarian a member of a lower caste than they have is a grievous insult. Calling someone a member of the intellectual caste is not a compliment. One batarian mentions it is possible, if difficult, to advance upwards.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Nearly every major character has some level of prejudice. The most bigoted characters, Borbala and Qetsi, are on the giving end and the receiving end.
    • The quarians hate AI so much, after what happened with the geth, that their Pathfinder's SAM is noted to be shackled, unlike everyone else's, so it will never become a true AI (and the fact their Pathfinder is an anti-AI hardliner won't help this).
  • Fantastic Slur: As always with the hanar, the term "jelly" is used as an insult. Borbala also calls Anax an iguana.
  • Foreshadowing: That the virus is artificial is revealed early into the investigation, but Yorrik notes a lot of the diseases are for species not on the Keelah. It's a hint as to who the virus was meant to be unleashed on.
  • Freudian Excuse: Qetsi invokes this as an attempt to justify her actions, being pranked by salarians as an exchange student where she was exposed to an algae that infected her lungs, then learned how to make her own bioweapons and planned to use one on the Council races to reduce their numbers so the other races could rule.
  • From Bad to Worse: The virus, then the systems are malfunctioning, then the force field protecting the ship from space debris malfunctions, then some of the citizens awake and start rioting as things go wrong...
  • Future Imperfect: At one point, Anax (a drell) thinks about the Schrödinger's Cat concept, but thinks it's an old human legend about a hero, not a thought experiment.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Qetsi's explicit goal. The point of her virus is to dethrone the Council races — you know, the ones who each got their own Ark, while the drell, hanar, quarians, batarians, volus and elcor are all packed on this one — and give everyone else a chance to take over.
  • The Ghost: The ship has more than one Pathfinder in stasis (due to the low numbers, some species have to double-up), but with the situation as it is, none of them are woken up both to protect them from viral infection and from the SAMs from potentially being affected by the ship's malfunctions. We at least get some details about the quarian Pathfinder, but nothing about the others.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Anax and Borbala start doing this. Anax hates it, regarding bad cops as loose cannons, but Borbala never proves to be one.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs "No need to reinvent the submarine", the hanar equivalent of "no need to reinvent the wheel".
  • Hypocrite:
    • Anax complains about a lack of sympathy for Kepral’s Syndrome from the quarian, but shows no regard for the quarians' weak immune systems that are unique to them.
    • Qetsi states that no one should bring old grudges to Andromeda, but her motivation is purely about settling old grudges.
  • Insistent Terminology: Senna refers to Liat as "grandmother", but unless his parents waited a hell of a long time to have him, it's an utter implausibility (she's noted to have been old when the quarians lost Rannoch, which was three hundred years ago).
  • Jerkass: Borbala, as would be expected from a former batarian crime lord. Also, Irrit Non, who contributes little to the problem by being short-tempered, thin-skinned, flat-out racist and just generally rude and unhelpful.
  • Just Before the End: None of the characters know it, but they got out literally just as the Reapers were kicking down Khar'shan's door.
  • Kick the Dog: The murder of Oliver Barnes. He doesn't even know what he's set in motion, and even if he did, he'd have had no means of warning the Keelah Si'yah in time.
  • Lady Swears-a-Lot: Every major female character swears more than the male characters, who are no strangers to profanity themselves. Especially Borbala, to the point that she rivals Jack for the position of most foul-mouthed character in the entire franchise.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Qetsi's Freudian Excuse for her actions was a vicious prank by a group salarian students who stripped her of her suit and left her outside for a few minutes. Not only was she naturally immune which is used to create the retrovirus, but to distribute it, she is forced to walk naked through the entire ship and make physical contact with them.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: When the virus starts really going rampant, Borbala and Anax run into people trying to sell false cures.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The end result of the virus mixing with a volus, since it messes with their body temperature and pressure. So they explode inside their suits.
  • Magical Guide: Liat is a technological version, being a quarian ancestor VI – the knowledge and personality of the quarian Senna's ancestor Liat, who was killed during the geth uprising on Rannoch centuries ago.
  • Mask of Sanity: Captain Qetsi. Good enough to fool the Initiative's screening process, and Senna.
  • Meaningful Name: Yorrik names the virus Forntibras, after (surprise surprise) the Hamlet character, because he feels that both "rush in and ruin everything."
  • Minor Major Character: Oliver Barnes, the technician who is murdered in the prologue.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: The volus are an alien race whose hats are being a Proud Merchant Race and capitalism. Irit’s father is a volus communist. The batarian characters also explain how there is more to them than the popular negative stereotypes. Borbala even quit being a crime lord because of this, wanting to try and shake off her species' extremely negative reputation and make art, or music. Senna is about the only quarian who doesn't despise any and all AI, and even hides one in secret because he knows if he told any of his people they'd smash her with a hammer, and then smash him for good measure.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Among the Keelah Si'yah's cargo manifest is a collection of rare and expensive fish. And, as happened all too often to fish in Mass Effect 2, they die.
    • Borbala sings a modified version of Pirates of Penzance's "Pirate King", modified for batarians. No word on her feelings for patter songs.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Actually pointed out. The various species on the Keelah have such different biologies it should by all rights be impossible for the disease to be spreading across all of them.
  • The Nose Knows: Yorrik, being an elcor, has a very strong sense of smell. Even when disoriented from coming out of cryosleep and a cocktail of medicine, he is still able to smell the decomposition of the dead drell on another deck.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Yorrik has childhood memories of a bunch of quarians trying to raid his home planet after getting kicked off the flotilla.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: While Yorrik, Anax and Borbala are going through potential plans, Ysses tries interjecting, but being a hanar, its politeness and long-windedness mean no one's listening until it gets really tetchy and tells them to shut up and listen.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Yorrik complains that he is a GP (even citing being an ear, nose and throat) rather than a coroner or a virologist. However he goes above and beyond and proves an extremely capable doctor, curing the bioweapon with improvised medical gear and a barely-functioning medical lab.
  • No True Scotsman: Senna's opinion is that No True Quarian would like an AI, and he must be a freak.
  • Parental Neglect: Part of the reason for Senna's devotion to AI is because his parents tended not to pay much attention to him.
  • Photographic Memory: Like all drell, Anax has didatic memory, which she uses to remember seeing Malak'Rafa murdering Oliver Barthes after the latter installed the worm on the Keelah Si'yah.
  • The Plague: A dangerous virus has gotten loose on board the Keelah Si'yah that can infect multiple species.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: This ark consists of various races who are either lower in the Council Hierarchy or not Council races at all (such as the batarians). The ark is led by the quarians, who are ostracised by much of galaxy society for making the geth centuries ago and being stereotyped as interstellar panhandlers and thieves.
  • Relationship Upgrade: At the end of the novel, Anax and Borbala.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: One character briefly recounts the "alien" attack on the Camala, blissfully unaware that it was the Reapers doing the killing.
  • Sanity Slippage: The final part of the disease is the victim goes into pure rage.
  • Saved by Canon: A line toward the very end at least confirms that whatever's going to happen to the Keelah Si'yah and its crew in Andromeda, Senna at least will live for some years. And there's the Keelah itself, since anyone who got to the end of Andromeda knows it got there in the end... though what happens to it after is still a mystery.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Subverted. Ysses violated the quarantine protocol, infected Yorrik and helped spread the virus. The hanar cult following Kholai who exalt the Day of Extinguishment – a heretical branch of the hanar state religion - relish the multi-species plague and failure of the Keelah Si’yah as the will of the Enkindlers. The ultimate subversion is that they – especially Ysses - were unwitting pawns in Captain Qetsi’s master plan, and Qetsi was a non-religious individual motivated by political gains and a personal grudge.
  • The Scapegoat: Apothecary Ysses. Qetsi even planned to have him killed before the heroes expose her.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Liat Nir, or at least the VI upload of her brain. She's old, grumpy and cantankerous, frequently doling out insults to her descendant.
  • Sequel Hook: Just at the very end, as everyone who's left goes into stasis, the Keelah Si'yah receives an incoming message from Andromeda, but no one's awake to receive it. Which is all the more odd since the ship is thirty years out from Heleus, long before anyone on the Nexus or the Arks should be awake to send a message.
  • Serial Escalation: Remember the unforgettable fourteen hour all-elcor production of Hamlet? Well, Yorrick wrote an all-elcor version of Macbeth which is sixteen hours long.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • At one point the narration mentions the krogan being inflicted with the genophage as if it was a recent development, in the last few decades.
    • Ardat-Yakshi are mentioned, and treated like a disease, instead of being an error in asari melding.
    • An eighth Blasto movie is mentioned, but it uses a different title from the one given in Andromeda, where it was "The Biotic Awakens".
  • Shameful Strip: A fatal variant. Qetsi was made to walk nude through the ship to "infect" people with the cure of the virus she had made. This kills her because she’s only immune to her tailored virus, not regular infections, and she also had to walk through environments tailored for non-quarians and thus harmful to quarians.
  • Shout-Out: Since Yorrick is a big Shakespeare fanboy, he often quotes from it, with (naturally) Hamlet as a favorite.
  • Spanner in the Works: Malak's computer worm, which raised the temperature of the cryo pods higher than it should have, allowing the virus the chance to begin replicating.
  • Suddenly Shouting: An incredibly frustrated Yorrick yells at one point. For an elcor, that's the equivalent of a psychotic meltdown.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Early on, it's mentioned that the Keelah Si'yah didn't screen its intake too heavily, since they were willing to take anyone they could get. The end result is a lot of criminals, maniacs, religious fanatics, assholes, and the captain being a complete nutjob.
    • The quarians make absolutely sure their suits, ragtag and patched together from whatever they can find as they are, are utterly sealed. As it turns out, six hundred years with no opportunity for a patch-up means tiny micro-fractures start showing up.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Anax comes across as one for Feron from the original trilogy, both being religious drell forced to survive working as agents for the Shadow Broker.
  • Synthetic Plague: The virus on board is revealed to be this, and a very nasty one. The virus is an artificially engineered chimera made of various viruses that effect other species. It’s main strain is Yoqtan (volus chickenpox) with part of the genome of many other viruses bonded to it, including measles, Kepral’s Syndrome and at least one other artificially engineered virus – salarian-made – Ayalon B.
  • Tempting Fate: Early on, Irrit mentions that as a volus, her kind are safe from the virus thanks to their suits. This eventually turns out to be very wrong.
  • There Are No Coincidences: As Liat points out, a horrific plague and a severe computer bug hitting at the same time is too unlikely to be a coincidence. She's right.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Anax and Ysses both fill this role, though Ysses is a negative version of this and even then Ysses is misguided and a pawn of the non-religious antagonist.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: What happens to Malak after he's revealed as part of Quetsi's plan - he's spaced along with the corpses of the infected.
  • Tragic Dream:
    • Yorrick just wanted to perform Shakespeare. He never gets the chance.
    • Oliver Barnes has been working to save up money in order to buy his parents' freedom from Aria T'Loak. Then his latest employer kills him to keep him from talking.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The book ends with the origin of the virus noted in the ship's logs as "unknown" and its likely that almost no one knows about Qetsi and Malak's involvement due to the potential backlash if her actions and motives behind them are discovered. It's likely history will only remember Qetsi for her death in spreading the cure...the cure for the virus she had created and was naturally immune to.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Captain Qetsi and Malak.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Towards the middle of the book, Irrit just sort of disappears. Whether she survives the virus or not is unclear.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Qetsi is Punched Across the Room by Yorrik after he learns Qetsi made the virus they are all suffering from or being killed by. The male characters also don't hold back against female opponents.
  • Xenofiction: The first example in the Mass Effect franchise. Except for the prologue, every character is an alien and there are no human characters in the story save for memories and flashbacks and the POV human character in the prologue is murdered by the alien Big Bad.
  • You're Insane!: Anax, to Qetsi on learning they're behind everything. She points out it sounds like something from a bad vid, but with the additional fact that it's true.