I didn't really get excited about the Empyrean Age expansion initially. I was still very new to the game and was still trying to assimilate. It drew interest only when the video teasers were made public. Now, I'm a big RP fan, and any game calling itself an RPG - online or otherwise - needed to have a solidly-built universe for me to learn about. I knew EVE had that, so the teasers really grabbed me.
The downtime events were gripping to me in a ZOMGWTF sort of way, and the promise of a novel adding detail and layers to these events was an easy sell. I waited only as long as it took to get to Amazon.ca.
After readily devouring the book, I can say that it's not only worthwhile for any EVE fan, but it's actually readable by any science fiction fan. This struck me as the most interesting feature of the work. One would expect many references to aspects of EVE that would require some time in-game or at least on the web, but whatever isn't explained elegantly can be digested as entry-level sci-fi elements. I can hand this off to my wife, mother and friends and not really have to worry about them calling me up with questions.
The book contains many interweaving stories revolving around many major and minor characters. Amarr Empresses with supernatural powers, seemingly-mystical Elders, perverted Chamberlains, honest Presidents and criminal salvagers. This may be seen as overly complex but it's done expertly and never strains one's understanding. The characters come from all 4 races of New Eden. The main story is that of Tibus Heth. Without spoiling too much, Heth's racial fanaticism is used by a shadowy character known only as "The Broker" to promote discord and personal profit. Heth rises from mid-level armour Forge worker to head of the Caldari State. From the moment The Broker takes Heth under his wing, it's clear a collision course with the Gallente Federation is unavoidable.
The book evokes many different emotions. Hate, fear, grief. The gritty darkness of this universe is stark and very much on-display. One-night stands, excessive drug-use, depraved fetishes and nerve-wracking pain. Death is common and even the immortal capsuleers have issues with it.
Many Kudos to Tony Gonzales. It's his first novel and he did a superb job with it. Rarely could I find the strength to put it down for more than a few minutes, going through a hundred pages before I realized I had not blinking in quite a while. I could not read it fast enough, and the feeling of being done was an odd combination of sad and content. That's the sign of a good author who needs to continue upon this path.