Novel Review: Catalyst Game Labs – Fire & Frost (Shadowrun)

Fire & Frost
Fire & Frost is a fantasy cyberpunk novel set in the Shadowrun universe, written by Kai O’Connal and published by Catalyst Game Labs.
By Cape Rust

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Shadowrun is one of my all time favorite RPG settings. For any of you that have read my reviews, this won’t come as a big surprise. One of the biggest drawbacks about Shadowrun has always been a less than ideal rules set. Some of the five editions have made vast improvements while others have set the franchise back a few steps. The one thing that has always been done right is the fiction that has accompanied the game. It hasn’t always been done well, but it has always been done right.

There are so many stories to tell in a future world where magic has reawakened and must co-exist with technology.  The multiple companies that have had the rights to shadowrun have always provided the fiction that fans like me crave. Fire & Frost is an example of a good story that could easily be adapted into a very interesting globe-trotting campaign. This story, like many others, has everything one should expect from Shadowrun; mages, riggers, technomancers, street samurai, adepts and metahumans.

Each of the characters in this story is just interesting enough to not feel flat. Elijah, the leader of the runners, has the disadvantage of being extremely curious when it comes to magic artifacts. Curious enough to disregard the people around him to learn more about said artifacts. This curiosity manifested itself later in this novel; although there was a scene where it really should have come even more into play early in the book and it didn’t. A minor point, but it stuck out. Pineapple (named for the grenade, not the fruit) was everything you would expect a troll street samurai to be. I did find it interesting that the author chose not to describe or really mention many of his enhancements. This and other instances in the book lead me to believe that the author was much better versed in the magic, rigging and decking rather than cyberware.

As far as the rigging, decking and magic go, O’Connal seemed to be the most comfortable.  The sequences in this book were of the most value to me as a gamer and a person who runs games. The Shadowrun rules books are good about telling the Shadowrun story, but books like this really give people who want to play in the Shadowrun sandbox a feel for how things work. I would have loved to have seen  more rigging in this story, however magic and decking got good treatment. There is one decking  sequence that took place in a creepy toy store that will somehow make it into one of my future games. Decking really does give authors a chance to try some interesting and surreal situations if they are willing to take a few risks, O’Connal wasn’t scared.

There are no real big surprises in this story; it’s about a run, a run that does not go as planned. A run that consists of more than it appears, so far a typical run. This run does deviate slightly from other runs as it quickly takes on an international flavor. The third location that our runners visit was the most unexpected and helps account for part of the title. Shadowrun is based out of Seattle; sure other places get coverage, but Seattle is the focus. In this novel we see our runners travel to the near feral city of Chicago, south of the border, then as far south as you can possibly go. Travel between these exotic locations is made much easier by the extensive resources of the mysterious entity that hired the team. I would have loved to have seen a bit more travel trouble, but often I have seen authors get so bogged down in travel that the story suffers.

There were a few parts in this story where O’Connal seemed to be hand waving incidents to move the overall story along. This hand waving at some points helped maintain a reasonable pace, but for a guy like me who likes the fight scenes, it led to some disappointment. This isn’t the best Shadowrun novel I have ever read, but it is far from the worst. Actually, even with the hand waving there is much goodness in this novel. The magic, decking and rigging were real highlights. The intrigue that the runners encountered, while typical, was done well and should keep people guessing until the end.

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