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Dead Space: Martyr is the first novel set in the Dead Space universe, written by popular fiction writer B. K. Evenson. Martyr was released on July 20, 2010. The book notably features lore elements that were abandoned and retconned shortly after its release, rendering parts of its story non-canon (see this section for details on these discrepancies).

Plot Overview

The novel delves into the history of the Church of Unitology and the origin of the mysterious Black Marker.[1] The novel revolves around geophysicist Michael Altman as he investigates a mysterious signal and uncovers a mysterious alien artifact.[2]

Scrapped/Non-Canon Lore Elements

"Dead Space 2 was a huge challenge. All these elements from the original game that were poorly thought through, like the Marker Lore, Necro ecology, etc., had to move coherently forward into the next narrative. The first story we had was a wreck of unrelated events and broken structure, so we cut our teeth getting that into shape, and didn't fully make it. Plus, we got lost a bit in complicated lore and plot elements that didn't come through."
—Chuck Beaver, 2012 interview[3]
"The only lesson learned is: please don't let your lore stay... uncompletely figured out until the second - until the end of the development of the second [game], because it will be painful for everybody."
—Chuck Beaver, 2023[4]

Dead Space: Martyr presents several glaring lore and story inconsistencies with the rest of the Dead Space franchise, especially material released after it. While the broader sequence of events from the book's plot is understood to have still happened, most of the big lore elements and reveals from Martyr's story have been ignored and contradicted by newer Dead Space media, even by B. K. Evenson's second novel Dead Space: Catalyst.

Most notably, all throughout Martyr, the hallucinations experienced by the characters are openly opposed to the Marker and its plans, actively helping humans prevent Convergence and warning them about the dangers of studying the Marker. It is revealed near the end of the book that the hallucinations are "not a function of the Marker but of something else that stood in opposition to it, of something that was ingrained in [Altman's] own brain". According to franchise co-writer Chuck Beaver, this was the result of his desire to add some positivity to the franchise's narrative while Dead Space 2 was in production, as Martyr was written early on in the sequel's development. Since the original Dead Space had not fully developed its lore and never elaborated on what exactly the goals of the Nicole Brennan hallucination were and why she seemed to be helping Isaac Clarke, Chuck Beaver and Necromorph designer Ben Wanat were left in charge of the lore for Dead Space 2 and had to choose a definitive direction for the Markers and the hallucinations. Beaver wanted there to be a "force for good" fighting against a "force for evil" around the Markers, with the hallucinations being the result of "backlash" from human DNA or "the spirits of your loved ones" helping humanity, and personally inserted this aspect into Martyr. However, Ben Wanat was opposed to the idea and wanted everything about the Markers to be "all evil, all the way through". Following this disagreement, which Beaver described as "really rough", Ben Wanat's vision of the lore was decided upon for the franchise after Martyr, effectively retconning the story of the book.[5]

  • It should be noted, however, that the hallucinations as depicted in Martyr are not consistent with the Nicole vision from the original Dead Space either; Nicole's dialogue in the original game implies that she is the Marker itself, as she repeatedly tells Isaac to return "to me" and make "us" whole again, with Isaac even stating in his personal journal that Nicole was the Marker all along and that the artifact must be sentient. This is in stark contrast to the hallucinations in Martyr, which make a clear distinction between themselves and the Marker and, in fact, use "us" to refer to humanity. Within the context of Martyr, it is not clear what "Make us whole" would even mean and the phrase is used only once in the book, with its meaning being left entirely unknown.
  • Another perplexing aspect of this is that Dead Space: Extraction was released roughly ten months before Martyr, with Extraction portraying the hallucinations as clearly evil and originating from the Marker, to the point that the game's entire first chapter involves the hallucinations driving Sam Caldwell to become paranoid and murder his fellow miners, while another plot point revolves around Lexine Murdoch not experiencing any visions and thus being seen as a beacon of safety against the Marker. Though this can be explained by Chuck Beaver not being involved in the writing of Extraction as he was later with Martyr (Extraction was solely written by Antony Johnston), it suggests that other writers were not on board with Beaver's vision during this time.
  • Some elements of Chuck Beaver's original idea for the lore can be found in the game files of Dead Space 2, presumably having been cut following his disagreements with Ben Wanat. This cut content consists of a scrapped audio log describing how humanity was seemingly created by an alien force that was at war with the Markers and how the hallucinations were the result of a "genetic defense mechanism" implanted from this ancient race, and a number of scrapped lines of dialogue between Isaac and a benevolent Nicole guiding him to destroy the Marker.[3]

Other Inconsistencies

  • The limitless energy provided by the Black Marker signal is never mentioned or alluded to in Martyr, despite later lore repeatedly emphasizing that it was this apparent energy source that garnered scientific interest when the artifact was first discovered. The scientists in the novel remain at a loss as to what the Marker might be used for, while Markoff initially shows interest in it as he hopes the Marker might have use for weapons manufacturing.
  • Dead Space 2, Dead Space: Aftermath and Dead Space: Salvage establish that the Necromorphs require the Marker signal to be active; without the presence of the signal, they collapse into an "organic soup". However, in Martyr, after Altman causes the Marker to fall silent and stop broadcasting its signal, the Necromorphs in the floating compound are still active and attempt to kill him. Afterwards, the Marker and the facility are sunk by Altman, yet Markoff and Stevens are able to create a Brute and unleash it on Altman regardless.
    • Furthermore, the concept of the Marker deliberately stopping its signal broadcast altogether - as the Black Marker does several times in Martyr - is not featured in any other piece of lore, which instead deal with the signal varying in its intensity or frequency, rather than its presence or outright absence (the latter only appearing to be the case when a Marker is severely damaged/destroyed, as was the case with Marker 3A).
    • The Marker's actions of repeatedly stopping and restarting its signal broadcast throughout the book would also, of course, contradict newer lore's claims that the artifact appeared to be a source of limitless energy.
  • In Martyr, the characters commonly use holopods and holoscreens, while later lore established that hologram technology did not exist in the 23rd century.[6]

Plot Summary

Part One: Puerto Chicxulub

The book opens with a man being attacked by a large creature in a circular chamber. He manages to gain the upper hand briefly by diving between its arms as it charges and tearing open the creature's abdomen. However, the creature incapacitates him, then picks him up and tears him in half, killing him.

The book then shifts to a small town named Chicxulub where a young boy named Chava (nickname for Salvador)[1] who has difficulty getting sleep, walks along the beach to discover a humanoid creature. The creature was emitting a toxic gas and was growing bigger so the boy decided to head back to town and tell the inhabitants. He brings some people back including his mother and they all see with horrific shock the creature on the beach. His mother tells Chava to get the old bruja (Spanish for "witch"). He gets her and brings her back to the beach. The bruja sets a log on fire and tells Chava to burn the creature as it was getting bigger. She also tells him the meaning of the name to the town Chicxulub — "devil's tail." He burns the creature and it dies, leaving behind only its charred skeleton. Not long after, he walks the bruja home but loses track of her due to him hearing whispers and seeing imaginary things. He notices she's gone and heads to her house to see if she went back there by herself. Once there, he walks in and notices blood all over the walls with strange symbols, and finds her dead on her bed with a slit throat that was apparently self-inflicted. He realized she has been dead for quite some time and he runs out of her house after he starts hearing more whispers.

The book then shifts to Michael Altman, a geophysicist, who is working in a field laboratory located in Chicxulub. He along with his partner James Field, discover a gravitational anomaly coming from the center of the crater in Chicxulub. For days they try to figure out exactly what caused the anomaly but to no avail. Altman decides to find out more about the anomaly, unlike Field who already gave up. So he decides to contact fellow scientists around town about the crater. One day, he receives a call from a mysterious man and he tells Altman to meet him at a bar at 8pm that night. Altman thinks it's a prank and decides to go home instead. When he arrives home, he talks with his girlfriend, Ada Chavez, an anthropologist working in Chicxulub, and tells her about his day. She then tells him of all the weird things going on at her workplace. How people around town were talking about a folklore called "tail of the devil" that lies in the center of the crater and how reluctant people were when she questioned more about it. She also says that this town Chicxulub means "devil's tail." He realized there's something more in the crater than just an anomaly. He decides to meet the mysterious man at the bar to hopefully get some answers. Once there, a man named Charles Hammond introduces himself. He told Altman that he was a freelance worker in installations and was recently hired at DredgerCorp, a shady resource retrieval corporation. He says DredgerCorp recently got there to Chicxulub under the radar and while he was working there, he discovered a pulse exactly at the same location of Altman's anomaly. At the center of the crater. He thinks it may be a signal. He asked around to other corporations to see if they were receiving this strange "pulse signal" and they were. He told DredgerCorp and they asked Hammond if he told anyone. He realized that something bigger was going on with DredgerCorp and this "pulse signal." Hammond concludes that he doesn't think that whatever's at the center of the crater is man-made. Altman asks why Hammond came to him. He says because he was asking questions when no one else would. He thinks everyone has been bought except for Altman. After their conversation, Altman leaves and Hammond stays awhile longer drinking, then leaves the bar when he noticed how late it was. While walking the streets he gets a strong headache and keeps hearing whispers. He starts to lose it a little when he is suddenly approached by three men who want to take him in for questioning. He thinks they are going to kill him for talking so he runs. The three men catch up to him and surround him. Hammond pulls out a pocket knife and cuts one of them on the wrist. The whispers and headaches were getting worse and in a state of madness, Hammond slits his own throat. The three men, surprised by this, state that all they wanted to do was take him in for questioning.

Part Two: Confined Spaces

DredgerCorp arrives at the crater and sends a sub down to investigate the site of the anomaly. There, they dig down, and the two pilots, Hennessy and Dantec, become increasingly agitated with severe headaches. Hennessy hallucinates his dead brother, Shane. After digging through the rock to reach the source of the anomaly, "Shane" warns him to stay away from the artefact which "Shane" reveals to be the Black Marker. When Dantec cuts a piece of the Marker using the core extractor, "Shane" is severely hurt and explodes in a burst of blood. Hysterical to the point of insanity, Hennessy cracks, and easily beats Dantec to death (despite him being light built and the latter a seasoned veteran of the moon skirmishes, which was a small scale warfare on the moon over which of the world's countries would be able to harvest the moon's resources). He proceeds to write alien symbols correspondent with the Marker, in the latter's blood, all over the interior of the sub. Since he is insane, he doesn't realize he is running out of oxygen. He runs out of space, so he paints his own naked body with the symbols (see the cover art for a representation). Shane appears again and tells him to warn the world about the dangers of the Black Marker. He makes a vidlog in this state, and broadcasts it from Chicxulub on various different frequencies, such that many members of the public receive bits of it despite heavy static interference, including scientists. Hennessy realizes too late that the Marker was controlling his actions all the time and dies of oxygen starvation. The mission is a failure.

Part Three: The Noose Tightens

With the bits of the vidlog public, scientists piece them together. Since he is very curious and always blows the whistle on people, Altman publishes on the net a compiled version of the video under an alias so that DredgerCorp lackeys will not be able to get to him over it. Worse for DredgerCorp, Altman titles the compiled vidlog to expose the corporation, specifically saying that the vidlog came from a sub digging in the center of the crater. Feeling exposed, DredgerCorp decides the only way to cover up this problem is by doing a press conference that twists the official events to avoid too much damage to their interests, and not revealing the Marker, saying instead that Hennessy had just gone insane while taking the sub on a "test run". When he hears this, Altman at first believes the events, then decides it isn't good enough and suspects more was going on. Knowing it's too big for them now, DredgerCorp call in the military to take over the salvage operation and get the artifact out for examination. Just as he resigns from the extremely stressful affair, Tanner, who had largely managed DredgerCorp's activities and the press conference, slits his own throat while hallucinating that he is actually cutting an aperture to share oxygen, from his space suit, with the deceased Dantec, in a vacuum (despite that sounding like folly even if the circumstances were real) during the moon skirmishes. Markoff, a military colonel, tells DredgerCorp's president Lenny Small about the death of Tanner, and announces that an oceanic research facility is being towed towards the crater and he will direct the operations on board the facility.

The police question Altman over the death of Hammond (see Part Two). Later, Ada and Chava show him the remains of the dead creature seen at the start of the book on the beach, and he is very curious. Altman later crosses the line by requesting the North American Sector Science Foundation to do a full scientific investigation of the crater.

Part Four: The Descent

With the bold idea to request a grant for a full scientific study of the anomaly within the crater, Altman draws the unwanted attention of DredgerCorp and military personnel (these two were apparently in a coalition from the start), who come to find out how much he knows. Markoff and several other men enter Altman's home and questions him. It turns out that Altman knows a little too much for their liking, but they (narrowly) decide he will do as a member of their team. They escort Altman to a waiting helicopter and take him to the floating research complex over the crater. During the flight, he reunites with Ada and his fellow Chicxulub scientists. It turns out that a massive research team has been assembled with just about a scientist from every corner of the planet (he is the geophysicist and Ada the anthropologist in the team).

Altman befriends a submarine pilot called Hendricks who will be sent to recover the sub from DredgerCorp's failed recon mission. His copilot is a drunk called Moresby. Moresby is incompetent and turns out drunk for an inspection, somehow ending up breaking his neck shortly thereafter by falling in a shaft. Altman is ordered to accompany Hendricks as a copilot and gets used to piloting their sub. Markoff decides it's okay for Altman to be the pilot of the sub during recover efforts. Despite Altman clearing Hendricks as perfectly mentally stable, so they are quite confident the misfortune of the previous sub will not repeat, Hendricks cracks and tries to kill Altman. Altman manages to recover the sunken sub with the decomposing and broken bodies of Hennessy and Dantec within, back to the surface, but several even more interesting things happen. He witnesses and vidlogs a necromorphed fish, tearing apart an ordinary fish. He takes the piece of the Marker contained in the core sampler, for himself. He steals a piece of pinkish matter from the side of the sub. Altman's fellow scientists examine the pink matter he recovered and Altman privately examines the piece of the Marker, unable to identify the rock or understand what kind of technology could manipulate this sort of matter in this way. Hendricks wakes up, confined in the sickbay and kills a nurse before being shot dead, himself. This disturbs Altman, who had developed a friendship with him.

Part Five: Collapse

Altman works his way through several more copilots during runs with the sub, some of whom try to kill him, and others he has better luck with, such as the psychologist Stevens. The strength of the Marker's signal seems to directly correlate with the timing of the madness kicking in, and Altman believes this means the Marker has mind-control properties. Altman seems the most suitable pilot (much to Markoff's intrigue) because of his resistance to the effects of the Marker madness, probably brought on by his skeptical attitudes and very calm demeanor. Despite another close call in the sub, in which he has to kill a man who was trying to open the hatch to let his deceased father's ghost in, Altman manages to assist in getting the artifact itself up to the research facility, although Markoff's subs do the job, mainly.

A cult of religious momentum had already started to develop around the Marker, and many scientists in the complex either worship the Marker or become insane and commit suicide. Altman becomes very skeptical and quite fearful of this "religious" movement. He is even more freaked out when they describe him as their prophet because he has "seen it". When it has been brought up, the "believers" continue to regard him in this way. Although Altman is intrigued by the Marker, he certainly doesn't adore it in the way the believers (his girlfriend among them) do. People respond (even among the believers themselves) in various different ways to the Marker. Some think they need to study it to discover its secrets, seeing it as somehow made for the elevation of mankind. Others have a much less coherent attitude to it, simply saying it "loves" them and they love it, in truly fanatically religious illogic. His fellow researcher, Field, whom Altman had never liked anyway, seems an even more distasteful person to Altman, now that he regards Altman as his "reluctant prophet". Confrontation arises between the believers and the military personnel, leading to Field getting shot in the foot by Krax (one of Markoff's lackeys), and then Krax shooting their beloved Marker and threatening to continue doing so, to try and subdue the believers. His strategy works.

Using his prophetic authority over the believers to pull some strings, Altman gets a look at the Marker and vidlogs it, just before he becomes part of the 'non-essential personnel' and sent back to a mainland Chicxulub facility where Ada already is. He is sent away to the land facility to be confined so that they (the military) can shut him up. However, when the guards hallucinate and can't keep him getting away, he and Ada get away and head off for Washington D.C, where Altman makes a press conference declaring the military to be guilty of a cover-up of the genuine proof of alien life. With the media all around the world fascinated by his claims, many in awe, others skeptical, of the vidlog showing an immense alien artifact under study, Markoff is enraged and wants to "stamp out" the threat of Altman right away.

Part Six: Hell Unleashed

Markoff's team traces and captures Altman at the historic Watergate Hotel, bringing him back to the facility, where Altman is separated from Ada and tortured at the hands of Krax (who quite possibly kills Ada at this time but doesn't tell Altman, since the possibility she is alive is still a useful way of manipulating him). Altman's torture is interrupted by Stevens, who gets Altman to come and calm the believers down, but Altman just uses this time to investigate more about the Marker and get another look at it, trying to "fix" it by putting the piece back in. Showalter, a German scientist present, tells him that the Marker is like the nautilus in structure: although highly complex, it operates just fine as long as a "compartment" is still active. It turns out that Stevens is a believer and this is the reason he is sympathetic to Altman. The researchers begin to theorize that the Marker is supposed to bring eternal life. It seems inevitable that it is either the ultimate source of hope for humankind or will spell absolute doom and extinction, since it is so immensely powerful and significant.As the tireless research goes on at the facility, a scientist named Grote Guthe hallucinates his grandmother and, exasperated and delirious, injects himself with a genetically unique fluid (which he believed was a sedative to make him stop hallucinating his grandmother) he had just manufactured using the apparent DNA encoded in the structure of the Black Marker. His arm begins to swell and transform. His grandmother's apparition commands him to get into the "dead space" surrounding the Marker to prevent the "Convergence" going further and spelling doom for mankind. However, ignorant soldiers arrive and Krax shoots Guthe in the head. Guthe's dead body is taken away on a stretcher, out of the dead space, and the infection restarts. Under the sheet, it transforms the body an infector.

While making a vidlog to Field, three scientists (Hideki Ishimura among them) watch in horror as the new Infector emerges from the bed and attacks. Ishimura escapes while the two others are killed and transformed into slashers. The necromorphs make their way into the labs where they infect many scientists. The complex soon falls into anarchy. Krax and Markoff are no longer Altman's number one concern. The lower levels are infested with necromorphs. Although most of the complex's personnel are either dead or transformed, a fellow scientist called Harmon is okay as he remains in the dead space under the continued signal of the Marker. Markoff, Krax and a few other people succeed in evacuating, and Altman and his group of survivors get away by using refurbished plasma cutters to cut through the necromorphs, although every survivor in his team end up dead (including Field whose head is strangled off in an elevator shaft) during his trip to a boat.

Altman gets ashore and goes into the mainland facility (presumably to find Ada and alert the mainland facility of the necromorph outbreak on the floating research center, since he assumes the command structure has failed in the disaster and Markoff is probably dead). He is forced to use his plasma cutter to cut a security man's arm off when the facility's personnel turn out to be corrupt lackeys of Markoff who want to take him away. Altman is called by the Marker which creates a hallucination of Ada. He now knows she is dead because the Marker only creates illusions of the dead. With nothing else to live for, and at the behest of Chava who comes to his aid, Chava brings Altman to a hidden cache with various weapons and life-threatening tools. Of all the weapons in the cache, Altman takes a chainsaw (much to Chava's confusion), and goes back to the floating facility over the crater. There, he will try to figure out what the Marker wants and/or how to contain the infection that has broken out, before mankind is doomed.

Part Seven: The End of the World

Altman reaches the floating facility which is now nearly dark, except for a few eerie emergency lights outside it. He manages to contact Harmon and has to swim through the submarine bay of the floating complex to get through underwater doors to avoid massive numbers of Necromorphs prowling the hallways, to reach the Marker safely. He encounters various Necromorphs along the way to the Marker, including something described like a Brute and others described like giant spiders with detachable heads (somewhat like the head that comes from a Divider), as well as something called the "Creeper" which he used a makeshift flamethrower to slow down during his prior escape from the facility.

Harman meets up with and follows behind Altman like a slave, repeatedly saying "Altman be praised" (much to the latter's distaste) while Altman tries to figure out what the Marker is all about. Altman touches the Marker and realizes that the hallucinations telling them to stay away from the Marker and to prevent Convergence were, in fact, not from the artifact but rather from an opposing force that had been ingrained in the human brain. Altman gathers as much research about the Marker as he can and, realizing that it wants to be replicated, transmits the replication codes back to the artifact, appeasing it and causing it to fall silent for a moment. Altman then attempts to sink it and destroy the facility. This distresses Harman, but he doesn't do anything to harm Altman. Altman lies to Harmon telling him that the Marker told him that it needed to rest and be left alone at the bottom of the ocean. Altman succeeds in sinking the artifact and the billion-dollar facility, drowning the infection and releasing the Marker away.

Whatever happened in these respects, it is clear that Harman then assaulted Altman with their boat's anchor and rendered him unconscious. He wakes up under Stevens and a gloating Markoff, who reveals that he is now a believer too, although Altman briefly wonders if this is genuine or if Markoff is simply pretending to believe as a way of bending others to his will. Markoff reveals that Krax killed Ada, that Krax is also dead due to being considered expendable and has been transformed into a creature, and that Altman must fight this creature armed only with a spoon. Furthermore, Stevens informs Altman of his dark plan to publicly found a formal religion in Altman's name, which will ready mankind for its ultimate evolution, when a "new" Marker has been made or another one found, which he speculates will not be "broken" (creating monsters rather than granting eternal life) like the previous one was. Stevens says that the Marker is divine because it brings dead flesh back to life, and that it just needs to be done properly because it didn't happen right the first time, completely convinced that the Marker started all evolution on Earth and is the key to conquering death. A devastated Altman, informed of his girlfriend's death and aware of all the infamy that will be done in his name after his death, suffers from the aforementioned humiliating execution, and Unitology is born of the fabricated larger-than-life accounts about Altman. Unitology's story of Altman as a saint, a martyr and the founder of their religion is merely the media spin birthed by Stevens, fueled by his misguided beliefs about the Marker's true purpose.

Trivia

  • Chicxulub does not mean tail of the devil, as stated in the novel, but rather flea of a devil. Some reference to a Necromorph as a flea of a devil is made in the novel.
  • In the book, Altman is labeled as a geophysicist, but in the original Dead Space, he's labeled as an anthropologist. A recording from a display inside the Unitologist church in Dead Space 2 reinforces this by referring to Michael Altman as a geophysicist at the end of the third chapter, while Dead Space (2023) alters the original text log to reflect this updated lore.
  • Though the book is based almost entirely on Michael Altman, the cover of the book is a picture of the first man to come into contact with the Black Marker, Hennesey. The picture is presumably after he kills and mutilates his co-pilot Dantec and paints the interior of the bathyscape with his blood.
  • It is unknown if Craig Markoff was, in fact, a believer in the Marker's divinity like Stevens, or if he was merely pretending as a way of bending those around him to his will as Altman speculated shortly before his death. Throughout the incident, Markoff only showed interest in harnessing the Marker's power for himself, viewing those on the floating compound who had started to worship the Marker as an obstacle and dispatching his security forces to quell their protests. Moreover, his interest in having Altman killed in order to become a martyr appeared to be fueled by his desire to exact revenge on Altman and by the personal satisfaction that such an outcome would bring him (Altman being seen as the founder of a movement he was vehemently opposed to), rather than being driven by religious devotion like Stevens.
  • Altman has a dream in the beginning of the section called The Descent where he dreams he is being chased by a Necromorph. After he removes its limbs, they begin to regenerate.

Sources

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