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Dead Space: Catalyst is the second novel set in the Dead Space universe, written by popular fiction writer B. K. Evenson, who had previously written Dead Space: Martyr. Catalyst was released on October 2, 2012, in North America and the UK.

Notably in contrast to Martyr,[1] Catalyst utilizes and elaborates on the lore of the Markers established in Dead Space 2 and 3, having been written after Ben Wanat assumed the role of Creative Director of the franchise in 2011, and being one of the last pieces of Dead Space media to release under Visceral Games.

Book Description[]

Two hundred and fifty years in the future, extinction threatens mankind. Tampering with dangerous technology from the Black Marker—an ancient alien artifact discovered on Earth eighty years earlier—EarthGov[note 1] hopes to save humanity. But the Marker's influence reanimates corpses into grotesque rampaging nightmares. Steeped in desperation, deceit, and hubris, the history of the Markers reveals our ominous future...

Brothers Istvan and Jensi grew up under the poorest dome on Vindauga. Jensi has always looked after Istvan, who sometimes lashes out in sudden episodes of violent paranoia. When Istvan is sent off-world to a high-security prison, Jensi is determined to follow and find a way to keep his brother safe. But the prison guards a horrible secret, one that will push both brothers to the cusp of something much greater and darker than they ever imagined.[2]

Plot Overview[]

Set during the Sovereign Colonies' experiments with the Red Markers in the late 23rd century, the novel follows Istvan Sato as he struggles with a mysterious mental illness that leads him to become obsessed with patterns, hear voices that no one else hears, and repeatedly see shapes "calling" to him to "make them whole". While his brother Jensi does his best to keep him out of trouble, Istvan is eventually lured by the Markers' influence to one of the SCAF's test sites, where he begins to succumb to the Red Markers' plans of using him as a "catalyst" for their spread - leaving Jensi desperate to save his brother from the madness.

Plot Summary[]

Istvan and Jensi Sato had always lived in the Mariner Valley compound, the poorest dome of the poor planet of Vindauga. Living in the slums every day with only their mother to support them, they never had the proper food or the shelter or the education. Jensi had always been the glue of the family, keeping his mother and his brother from teetering over the edge of extreme poverty. He always supported his family in all their endeavors, becoming the man of the house. Istvan, on the other hand, had always been a bit freakish, a little bit off, obsessed with numbers and patterns, prone to sudden episodes of rage and paranoia. His mannerisms were strange and his thinking was even stranger. He noticed the shapes that nobody else saw, he figured out the patterns that nobody else recognized. It was because of this that, when they were older, the two brothers became estranged from their mother and people began noticing Istvan for the freakshow that he really was.

One day, when Jensi and Istvan returned home from wandering around the compound, they found their mother having a seizure on the floor after picking up groceries. Jensi immediately ran to her aid and tried to revive her, but Istvan noticed the "shadow man" choking their mother to death, intentionally showing Istvan how to kill his mother. He also slowly became entranced by the groceries she dropped. How each package revealed a secret and how the packages were each interconnected in a web, in a series, in a pattern. Jensi started to yell at him to snap out of it and contact emergency services at the vidscreen, and eventually, Istvan did. Afterward, their mother was revived and committed to a mental institution. Jensi and Istvan were left to governmental foster care, where they would most likely be separated. Istvan, seeing his chance for freedom, started packing his belongings and asked Jensi to join him to continue their lives together. Jensi, torn between loyalty and reality, abandons his brother and joins a new family on Vindauga, leaving his brother in the slums.

Jensi had started anew and lived with a nice, quiet family in a middle-class dome on Vindauga. He enters the education system and becomes an academic success. At school, he becomes good friends with Henry Wandrei, who becomes Jensi's first true friend in his life, free from the constraints of his odd brother. After Istvan left his brother, he became a drifter throughout the domes, scavenging the bare necessities to survive and listening to the "shadow man" in his mind. In what he believes is his fate, he intrudes on his old apartment and lives there for weeks, waiting for whoever is coming for him.

As Jensi and Henry grow closer together, Jensi decides to show Henry his old apartment in the Mariner Valley compound. When they arrive at the wrecked apartment, Jensi asks Henry to leave, the apartment bringing back too many bad memories and the significant police presence in the compound. Henry treats the situation as a game, smelling the scent of adventure around every corner. Jensi lags behind and Henry continues to explore his friend's apartment. As Henry is about to enter the bedroom door, a blotchy arm reaches out the door and grabs Henry inside. Jensi hears his muffled scream and runs for Henry. Jensi runs for the door and finds Istvan on top of Henry, beating him to death and interrogating him, asking him paranoid questions and nearly killing him. Jensi tackles him and starts to fight him, but since Istvan has the physical authority, Istvan lands on Jensi and starts choking him, unable to realize he is killing his own brother in his crazed insanity. Jensi, running out of options, immediately wraps his arms around his brother and tries to comfort him. Istvan recognizes his brother and smiles awkwardly. After Istvan calms down, Jensi washes the sweat and grime off him and feeds him supper. When Istvan returns to his delusional state, Jensi decides to leave him alone and he and Henry leave the compound to go back home. They both agree to return to the old apartment to help Istvan with food, clothing, and necessities.

Jensi arrives back home to his foster parents after walking Henry home. He finds Istvan raiding his fridge, hungry and desperate for food. Jensi warns Istvan to leave his house, with Jensi's mother threatening to call the police. Hysterical and paranoid, Istvan believes his brother to be his "enemy", calling the police on his unloved brother. He runs out the back door of Jensi's house, scared and worried. This would be the last time that the two brothers would see each other for the next four years. Jensi would attend a technical college on Vindauga, studying computer programming skills and hacking. He also studied piloting, which he discovers he loves to do. Henry, with his rich family ties, went to a university on Earth, but flunked out and joined the same technical college as Jensi on Vindauga. Jensi got a small apartment and a job as a picker on huge cargo ships, transferring the load from the ship to the surface of the planet. For four years, he lived his life as a man who escaped the slums and led a stable life, until he found Istvan, waiting for him in the middle of his apartment. Jensi, surprised and startled, wondered how Istvan found him. Istvan explains in his mental state that soon, Istvan will be on all the news vids and he will become "famous". Giggling like a madman, Istvan leaves the apartment and leaves Jensi with his demented premonition in his mind.

Jensi worries about his newfound brother and vidlogs Henry wondering about Istvan's plan. Henry notices that he said he was going to be in all the vids. Jensi check all the vid notices happening this week and picks out four major events happening; a school being opened by a colonial authority, a press conference by politician Tim Fischer, a political rally by David Vernaglia, and the arrival of ambassador Jedrow Berry from Earth. Jensi and Henry agree to try to find and stop Istvan by covering, at most, two of the events they predict he will be at.

When Jensi arrives at the port awaiting the ambassador, he doesn't find Istvan and rushes to the press conference within the city square. Councilman Tim Fischer is giving a press conference concerning the structural integrity of the domes on Vindauga. Jensi searches for Istvan in the crowd, squeezing past people and pushing through the crowd, until he finally sees his brother—who, in his demented state, rushes towards the stage and shoots the councilman in the head. The people panic and the security guards immediately take down Istvan who becomes confused and shocked as he did not mean to kill him. Jensi tries to pull Istvan away but is pushed away as S.C.A.F. forces arrive to subdue Istvan and take him away. Afterward, Jensi goes home and tries to find vids of the assassination done by Istvan, trying to piece together what had made his brother commit murder in open daylight. He later gave up and tried to locate his brother at every police station or holding station on Vindauga, but with no such luck. Jensi tries every level of power in the justice system until he meets a military general who claims that Istvan is alive and in custody, but will say no more. Jensi, who later slowly forgets about his brother, eventually stops looking for him and starts to continue living his life.

Istvan was quickly subdued and transported as a prisoner to an undisclosed location, where he is greeted by a small grey man. They ask Istvan questions about the politician he killed and who told him to kill him. Istvan keeps telling him that the voices in his head told him to shoot the politician, however, the men imprisoning him become annoyed with Istvan. Istvan, now uninterested with his captors, starts listening to the voices in his head and soon goes ballistic and jumps on one of the men and chokes him. Istvan has transported again to another room and the men start to use brutal methods to get the answer they want. Istvan remains silent, and the grey man banishes Istvan to an isolated planet far away from human rights or laws. Istvan is sent to an unknown planet, where the grey man starts to employ terrifying methods to interrogate Istvan. Istvan struggles to maintain strength, despite the precision and accuracy of the interrogation methods.

Still feeling guilty for the disappearance of Istvan and after the death of his mother, Jensi receives a vid from Henry, who is now a security guard somewhere in the galaxy. Worried and nervous, Henry tells Jensi that Istvan is alive and at a penal colony on a barren planet. Jensi's heart leaps and asks him where his brother is. Frightened and scared out of his mind, Henry quickly whispers the name "Aspera" and then cuts the vid. Jensi searches the name Aspera and finds an uninhabitable planet near the edge of the galaxy. Desperate to find his long-lost brother, Jensi decides to find Istvan out in the galaxy somewhere.

After days of pain and anguish, the grey man angrily gives up on Istvan and sends him to his cell on the penal colony on Aspera. Istvan awakes and eats his first lunch in months. He meets his fellow political prisoners, Waldron, Bill, and Michael at the lunch table in a large mess hall. They all welcome him to the worst place in the galaxy. Istvan asks about the prison and Waldron explains that the prison is just a ring within a huge complex on Aspera. Istvan then suddenly experiences pressing headaches and a deep sound droning everything else out. He sees quick shadows darting back and forth around him until everything suddenly disappears back to normal.

Through hacking into classified military intelligence, Jensi confirms his suspicions about Aspera and also discovers about a much bigger project happening, codenamed Operation Aspera. Jensi also discovers that there is a supply ship that makes monthly runs to Aspera to deliver supplies and resources. When he's at work, Jensi disguises himself and kidnaps the security manager at the dock he works at, threatening to reveal the name of the supply ship. Jensi finds out the name of the ship, the Eibon, and starts to search its port records. He finds two freight specialists currently on Vindauga, Talbot, and Swanson. Jensi meets Swanson at a bar, asking about his line work and eventually becoming friends. A week later, Jensi quits his job as a picker and breaks into the other specialist's apartment. Jensi prepares the apartment to sedate him before the Eibon leaves for Aspera. He hides and waits for Talbot to arrive, where he knocks him on the head, instantly killing him. Shocked at his murder, Jensi cleans the evidence and leaves the apartment. Afterward, the captain hires Jensi under the recommendation of Swanson to fill Talbot's former position. Jensi is hired to work for the Eibon, leaving on the exact day for Aspera, getting one step closer to find his long-lost brother.

Istvan notices that his fellow prisoners on Aspera begin to experience headaches and fear for unknown reasons. They were beginning to go insane from the Red Marker's signals. The other prisoners begin to feel these effects as well, becoming erratic in their ways and slowly going insane. Istvan's hallucinations and visions become more complex as the Marker evolves, seeing hallucinations of people he once knew, seeing his mother and the dead politician Fischer. They begin to teach him about the "marvelous Convergence" and inform him that he is special because he can "hear" them best, and thus he must "find" the Marker. Later that day, one of the other prisoners, Brian Conn loses his sanity and goes completely psychotic, grabbing his fork at lunch and starts to stab himself repeatedly, until he eventually rips out his throat and bleeds out. Moments later, the prison alarms sounds and the rest of the prisoners return to their cells. The guards come in, take Conn's bloody body and leave the cell block in a matter of minutes. When the body is carried out, Henry orders the body of Conn to be placed in one of the refrigerators as temporary cryo storage.

Dr. Enoch Briden, a devoted Unitologist and leader of the Red Marker science team, introduces Istvan to the unholy and strange Red Marker in the inner chamber, where both men are entranced by its unearthly glow. Briden insists that they start conducting tests on Istvan, but Istvan blocks everything out and continues to approach the Marker, adoring it and admiring it. The Red Marker starts to envelop him, the energy vibrating Istvan to his core. His mind fills with what feels like liquid fire. He starts to hallucinate the huge apparition of the dead convict Conn. He hears incessant screaming all around him before he eventually collapses in front of the Marker.

Jensi and the crew of the Eibon all shock out towards the distant stars. After their two weeks of travel, the captain tries to hail the military blockade to land on Aspera. A warning is issued over the distress channels, stating the Aspera sector has been quarantined and all ships must not enter. Jensi spots a S.C.A.F. gunship laying down orbital mines around Aspera. The captain and the pilots spark into action, taking evasive action to dodge the mines. Jensi manages to run towards the crew deck before the first mine detonates into the Eibon. He quickly opens a locker and starts to put on a Standard Astronaut RIG before the hull breaches, sucking the crew out into space and damaging the artificial gravity. Using his zero-grav boots, he walks along the underside of the ship and along the walls until he reaches the last remaining life pods. He climbs in, starts the ignition and flies away from the damaged Eibon towards Aspera.

Under the intoxicating influence of the Red Marker, Briden becomes a full-blown Unitologist zealot and claims the Red Marker as divine and Istvan as a chosen prophet. Dr. Callie Dexter, a fellow scientist working on the Red Marker, demands Briden to stop the Marker studies until they can sort out the mess. Briden believes Dexter to be an atheist and a test of his faith and condemns Dexter to a prison cell, leaving her to think about her sins to Unitology. However, Dexter convinces the guard to transport her scientific equipment and her notes to her cell. Her fellow scientists still loyal to her send her notes telling her of the deteriorating condition of the Marker project and Briden's Unitologist leadership. Dexter manages to get a hold of scans of Istvan's brain waves. Dexter notices that Istvan's waves were highly abnormal, the sequence irregular and the waveform variable. Even worse, the Red Marker's signals are starting to adapt to Istvan's brain waves and vice versa.

Another pulse comes from the Red Marker, this time much stronger and more intense than ever. Everyone near and on Aspera reel and collapse, their heads suffering intense and acute pain. In the interrogation room-turned-morgue, one of the bodies begin to morph itself, bones snapping and skin stretching, reattaching themselves and reconfiguring. The body soon turns into an Infector and starts infecting the corpses by jabbing its tendril into the heads of the corpses and injecting a fluid into their brains. Soon, each corpse comes to life in the morgue and the talons start to emerge from their palms. Henry notices on the security cams that a pale green moss starts to spread slowly, but steadily and he also starts to hear the cracking of wood in the huge pit on the floor. Then, shockingly, he starts to hear a damp, sticky sound emanating from the pit. Shortly afterward, Henry starts to hear screaming. Infectors start to fly up from the pit and infect more living bodies to be converted into Slashers and other forms of Necromorphs. Each prisoner is soon infected to become horrific monstrosities in the penal colony. Henry opens the door for the riot team to fight the monsters, but they are eventually overwhelmed. Henry views from his observation booth the whole process of dead corpses, infecting dead corpses, creating undead corpses killing to make more corpses. Henry locks himself in the booth to protect himself from the monsters in the penal colony.

Jensi struggles to control the spiraling life pod as it enters the atmosphere. The re-entry flares trigger an orbital mine, slightly hindering his navigation. He aims for what he guesses to be the penal colony and uses his thrusters at the right time to slow down and ease his approach. Jensi crashes hard into the penal colony, ending up in a large chamber. He exits the pod on his damaged Astronaut RIG and grabs a first-aid kit, two bottles of O2, and a flare pistol. He walks towards to a bulkhead door, but he is attacked by an Infector, desperately and furiously trying to infect Jensi. However, he retaliates and he throws it off him and shoots the base of the tendril, burning the flesh and instantly killing it. A voice on the intercom introduces him to the situation and tells him the path towards the security office, where the voice is. As Jensi follows the path, he accidentally reaches the mess hall where a horde of Necromorphs awaits him. Realizing he has only a flare pistol, Jensi runs as fast as he can down the inner ring, escaping the monsters at the end of the hall. He tries to get the voice back, but can't hear it. Regardless, Jensi tells him to close the escape door at the right time before the monsters reach him. He leaps for the doorway and the door is automatically closed, but not before crushing a Slasher in half.

Jensi gets up and finds the primary interrogation room. He finds a laser saw in the room and also finds a scared prisoner hiding in a cabinet. He introduces himself as James Waldron, a political prisoner and a friend of Istvan Sato. Jensi agrees to take Waldron with him as they make their way to the control room in the prison colony. However, Waldron starts to lose his sanity and hallucinates Jensi as his father. Now under the influence of the Red Marker, he randomly starts to beat Jensi to death with a dead guard's helmet. Jensi fumbles with his flare pistol and shoots Waldron in the stomach and the hip. He eventually burns to death and bleeds out. Jensi lays his body to rest and starts to leave, but an Infector arrives to infect Waldron's corpse. Jensi kills the Infector and dismembers the Slasher, cutting off its arms and legs. He eventually reaches the control room, where Jensi knocks on the window to find the mysterious voice. He is surprised to find his childhood friend Henry is the voice, but out of shock, Henry faints at the sight of Jensi beyond the door. When Henry comes to, Jensi enters the control room and learns that Istvan may be alive and is at the research station a few miles away from the prison colony. Henry and Jensi grab an ATV and traverse the surface of Aspera towards the research station. They both receive a pre-recorded warning message to turn around or be destroyed. They continue towards the station until the ATV is struck by a mine and both of them go flying in the air, the explosion rocking them to their cores. Jensi gets up, his visor cracked and blood splattered, but still alive. Henry is unconscious, and neither of them has enough air to reach the research facility.

Jensi grabs Henry and they both run for the facility, both of them running out of oxygen. They run, trying to conserve their energy and their oxygen until they reach the base. Jensi finds an open airlock and runs for it, but his oxygen is finally depleted, becoming lightheaded and hallucinating his dead mother, encouraging his death. Almost dead, Jensi tries to close the airlock to allow air to flow. The airlock refuses to close and Jensi passes out with Henry on the floor. After passing out, he experiences a hallucination in which the dead politician Fischer realizes that Jensi is like Istvan "on the inside", and must come to the Marker so that it can make him "right" like his brother. Jensi then awakes, oxygen now flowing through his RIG. Henry had managed to close the airlock and they now are both stuck in the airlock, banging on the door and hoping someone will hear and open it for them.

After what seemed like hours, the airlock finally opens and two female scientists, Doctors Callie Dexter and Anna Tilton, both armed with plasma rifles, ask them why they're here. Jensi explains that he is looking for his brother on Aspera. Anna goes ballistic and nearly shoots Jensi's head off, saying that Istvan is the reason why the facility is in chaos and infested with Necromorphs. Dexter calms Anna down and allows Jensi and Henry to join them to reach Istvan at the Red Marker chamber. They all continue down the corridor towards the control room until Anna steps on a pressure mine. She tells them to get back before she jumps off the mine, blowing off her legs and instantly killing her. Jensi starts to cut off her arms to prevent her from reanimating, but Briden contacts them via RIG and warns them to back off before they reach the Red Marker and Istvan. They do not heed the warning and continue forwards until they are trapped in a stasis field planted by Briden. Significantly slowed and immobilized, the crazed scientist aims his gun towards the group but is later shot by Dexter, who escaped the stasis field. The group is contacted by Briden again, who learns from Jensi that Istvan is his brother. Briden denies this and says Istvan is the prophet who will lead mankind into a new existence.

The group enters another room and Jensi gets to work on hacking a locked door. The lights suddenly go out and a tall, thin, yet large Necromorph falls from the ventilation shafts and grabs Henry and throws him around in the air before throwing him against the wall, snapping his neck. Jensi shoots the head off the huge Necromorph and is reduced to a harmless arm trying to find them. Dexter starts to hack the door and it eventually opens. Overwhelmed with Henry's death, Jensi leaves his body unaltered and sadly continues towards the Red Marker. They both enter the laboratory before the Marker chamber with guns aimed towards the few remaining scientists loyal to Briden. Dexter unlocks the door and they both enter the large chamber and find Istvan standing before the large Marker. Jensi rejoices at the sight of him and tried to snap Istvan out of his hypnotizing trance. Dexter gives up negotiating and aims to kill Istvan. Jensi tackles Dexter and they both fight for the plasma rifle, but Jensi manages to knock her out and take her gun. Jensi hits Istvan across the face again and again to try to snap him out of his trance. But before Jensi could hit him again, Istvan punches Jensi over and over again until he knocks him unconscious. Briden congratulates Istvan and praises him in the name of the Marker. Now seemingly self-aware, Istvan tackles Briden and snaps his neck, instantly killing him. Jensi comes to and Istvan becomes relieved to have his brother back to life. Istvan starts to envision himself being the communicator to the Marker, being able to control its power and create a world for himself and Jensi. He rambles on, until Jensi realizes that his brother is not free from the chains of the Red Marker. Deciding that he knows what has to be done for the safety of humanity, Jensi asks Istvan to grab his gun for him from the ground, before tearfully saying goodbye to his brother and telling him to close his eyes. Istvan closes his eyes and Jensi shoots the rifle into Istvan's chest. Istvan collapses on top of Jensi, falling to the ground until the last drops of life leave the dead body of Istvan Sato. Jensi walks away from his dead brother and leans against the door frame leaving the chamber. He finds a huge horde of Necromorphs blocking the exit, surrounding the dead space that surrounds the Red Marker, keeping him safe. Slowly dying from internal bleeding, Jensi Sato falls to the ground, tries to aim at them only to find out that the barrel of the rifle was in his mouth. After some desperate tries to aim at the Necromorphs again obtaining the same result, he closes his eyes, and pulls the trigger.


  • The premise of the book - Istvan Sato having an affinity for building structures in the shape of the Marker and hearing voices asking him to "make it whole" despite never having had contact with a Marker until his imprisonment on Aspera - implies that certain humans, most likely by design of the Black Marker's influence over humanity's evolution, have an inherent connection to the Markers in their DNA in order to be used as pawns to replicate them. This aspect of the lore was mentioned by co-writer Chuck Beaver in a 2021 interview, in which he described Isaac Clarke as a "herald of the Markers" for having "DNA that was compatible with the Marker signal", explaining: "[Isaac] was kind of what the Necromorph ecology looks like in its prey species; somebody to help them eat the rest of the inhabited planets".[3] It appears that Istvan in Catalyst had similarly compatible DNA as well, though the connection seems to be much stronger in his case than in Isaac's, as Istvan was feeling a compulsion to replicate the Markers long before coming into contact with one.
  • Aspera was mentioned in two text logs in Dead Space 3, as it was one of the Marker test labs alongside Aegis VII and the Proxima Centauri System (possibly Kreemar, the other site mentioned in the book).[4][5]


  1. The synopsis for the book mentions EarthGov, but the organization that is in control of human space and in charge of the Marker program in the book is the Sovereign Colonies.