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Deus Ex: Icarus Effect is a science fiction novel written by James Swallow. Set in the Deus Ex universe, it serves as an introduction to the Deus Ex: Human Revolution game. The book was published in the United States by the Del Rey division of Random House Inc and was released on February 22, 2011. This is Swallow's first Deus Ex novel.

Deus Ex: Icarus Effect follows two protagonists: US Secret Service agent Anna Kelso and former British SAS officer Ben Saxon. Through the events of the novel, they both take on the forces behind a massive conspiracy bent on influencing the evolution of the human race.

The term "Icarus Effect" refers to a sociological phenomenon in which members of society whose ability greatly exceed average are seen as a threat, and are therefore eliminated by society. Thus, the "Icarus Effect" regulates the pace of evolution.

The game Deus Ex: The Fall serves as a direct sequel to Deus Ex: Icarus Effect.


Anna Kelso is a recovering stim addict, working for the United States Secret Service. She credits fellow Secret Service Agent Matt Ryan for saving her from her addiction and keeping her career. At the opening of the novel, she is on a VIP protection mission to guard a meeting between Senator Jane Skyler and Garrett Dansky, CEO of Caidin Global (a major augmentation manufacturer). The two are meeting to discuss US policy towards augmentations, but before the meeting can begin, the group is attacked by a black-clad special ops team. Matt Ryan is killed, and the assailants make sure to shoot Dansky in the head and kill him, though they let Senator Skyler live. Anna manages to kill a single assassin, shortly before being shot in the gut and nearly dying. The assailants do not execute her for an unknown reason, and she faints.

Ben Saxon is a former member of the United Kingdom's Special Air Service, retired from the military and working for Belltower Associates Incorporated, a private military contractor corporation. At the opening of the novel, Saxon is team leader for Strike Six, an elite commando force within Belltower. Strike Six is taking part in "Operation Rainbird," supposedly a quick strike against rival forces in Australia's civil war. Even though Belltower has assured them that the mission will be entirely safe, the transport plane is suddenly attacked by a drone aircraft. Saxon's team is wiped out in the crash, save for Sam Duarte, who is killed by the drone as it doubles back over the site. Saxon manages to down the craft with a G-87 shortly before stumbling off a cliff into a shallow river.

Kelso recovers from her injuries, and rejects the official explanation from her medical examiner Hank Bradley that the Senator's meeting was attacked by Red Arrow gangsters, and tries to tell her superiors that the true target was Dansky. Her investigation is shut down by her boss, Ron Temple. Kelso decides that she must find the information herself.

Meanwhile, Saxon is recovering from his injuries in a SAF hospital when he is approached by Jaron Namir to join The Tyrants, an independent special operations team without the rigidity of more "official" groups. After he promises to help find the people responsible for Team Six's deaths, Saxon agrees to join.

Kelso ventures to the decaying USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier now used for drug and information trade in New York to find information about the assassins. Undercover, she meets Widow, an information trafficker, to learn more. Widow is not able to find much, but does confirm that they were named the Tyrants. NYPD has followed Kelso to the carrier, and lay siege to the occupants before she can learn more. She is knocked out by a SWAT team and awakens in an interrogation cell. Ron Temple arrives to discharge her from prison, though he also suspends her on "medical leave" to keep the government (namely Florida governor Philip Riley Mead) out of the Secret Service's affairs.

Saxon works for the Tyrants for a few months, getting to know each member: Jaron Namir, Lawrence Barrett, Yelena Fedorova, Gunther Hermann, and Scott Hardesty, a former CIA operative who somewhat clashes with Saxon. He believes Ben and Gunther are both too inexperienced to be trusted. In their first major operation, they are asked to kill Mikhail Kontarsky, an administrator of the Russian committee on Human Augmentation, in the Hotel Novoe Rostov in Moscow. Namir tells Saxon that Kontarsky associates with the Juggernaut Collective, a cyberterrorism cell, and also has done business with the people responsible for Operation Rainbird's failure. After fighting through several guards, the Tyrants finally find Kontarsky in a secret room, speaking to a mysterious figure, "Janus" through audio/video communication. Janus mentions something of a "Killing Floor", then asks Saxon if he is sure who he is working for or of his loyalty. Before he can interrogate either of them, Hardesty kills Kontarsky from a sniper perch across the street. Saxon becomes increasingly skeptical about the Tyrants, and on board their private plane, Hermann and Saxon are both tazed and knocked out.

Anna Kelso is recovering at her home when she receives a call from a mysterious figure who wishes to meet her. He arranges a meeting at a nearby Humanity Front rally, and warns her that he is her only chances of finding more about the Tyrants. She arrives at a skybox overlooking the rally, and gets to know D-Bar, a teenage Juggernaut hacker. He explains that the Tyrants are only an arm of an ancient, powerful organization with near limitless authority.

Saxon wakes up on the ground of a cramped room with the other Tyrants watching. Jaron explains that one of the new recruits, either Ben or Gunther, is not loyal to the group and the two must fight to the death to determine which. He throws a handgun with a single round and the two fight over it. Ben eventually gets the pistol, but he refuses to kill Gunther. Jaron says that the fight was just a test between the two, and that the round was a blank. They exit the small room into Jaron's home, and he learns that Jaron leads a double life, both as a ruthless killer abroad and a family man at home. Ben grows increasingly unhappy with the Tyrants.

D-Bar explains the "Icarus Effect" to Anna, a social phenomenon where society subliminally pulls down individuals who exhibit excellence to maintain stability. The Tyrants are little more than a more rapid form of Icarus Effect, a weapon that prevents change by cutting down those who "fly too high". Dansky, CEO of a major augmentation firm, was one of those people who risked radical social change. He also tells Anna that the Secret Service has a bug for this group itself, most likely how her team was compromised. She begrudgingly agrees to help him, and the two head for her old office.

Ben is enjoying the benefits of being a Tyrant, living in a luxurious resort in London. as he watches the sky, an automated advertisement blimp begins showing messages on its screens from Janus, asking him again if he is sure where his loyalties are. Yelena Federova enters his apartment, seduces him, and the two have sex.

Kelso sneaks into the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, hoping to find information related to the bug who exposed her team to the Tyrants. She manages to download the information from a terminal onto a flash drive, learning that Temple was the bug all along, though not before she is caught by her former coworkers Tyler and Drake.

The Tyrants return to their base of operations, Romeo Airport in Michigan. The Tyrants are planning an attack on the Sarif Industries headquarters in Detroit, to stop them from developing the Typhoon Explosive System, an experimental augmentation, and also to kill the leaders before they can meet with the National Science Board. They express slight worry about a security expert guarding the facility, Adam Jensen.

Anna is taken to the prison cells under the Secret Service HQ, and is interrogated by Ron Temple. Ron explains that he had to do what he did, as his superiors threatened to kill his ex-wife and children. He explains that he tried to keep her from getting involved, but now she needs to face the consequences of her investigation, and she will be taken to a remote holding facility for the rest of her life. As she is being driven to this facility by van, an automated transport semi crashes into the van, wrecking it and stunning Tyler. D-Bar manages to break her out of the van, but she still does not trust him after abandoning him at the Secret Service building. She steals his car and drives off to an unknown location.

Although he wishes to participate, Saxon is informed at the last moment that he, Hardesty, and Hermann have been given a different assignment. They will be flown to Virginia for an as of yet unknown job. As they arrive, Hardesty explains that they have been sent to kill Ron Temple and anyone currently in his house. As they prepare to leave, Hardesty makes Saxon stay behind, as he thinks Saxon is too weak to handle the operation.

Anna arrives at a suburb and exits her car. As she jumps the fence, she sees two people leaving Temple's house, and are shot in his front yard. After the scene clears, she sneaks into his house. Ron was holding some sort party at his home before the attack occurred, and it appears that all of his guests have been killed by the Tyrants. As she investigates, she learns that the Tyrants are still in the home, searching for any survivors. She ducks into the basement to hide and finds Ron, who is also hiding out. They hear the Tyrants leave, and sneak back onto the first floor. An incendiary grenade rolls into the room, and Anna narrowly escapes the blast. Ron is caught in the explosion, and she makes a run for the fence.

As he is sitting in the helicopter, Saxon notices a woman (Kelso) running for the fence. Seeing this as his only shot at redemption, he aims at her, only to let her go, as he still lacks the willingness to shoot helpless civilians. Hardesty and Hermann return from Ron Temple's House, and Hardesty chides Saxon for letting the woman get away. Nevertheless, he says that the media will spin the events to their benefit, and the group return to Romeo Airport. At the base, Ben meets up with Barrett and Namir, who strangely seems uneasy about the events at Sarif. Namir says that they are planning another major operation in Europe, and that Yelena is currently handing a job of her own.

Arriving at her home, Anna is uneasy about what to do next. She turns on her television, only to find out that she has been blamed for the killings at Ron Temple's house, and is now a wanted criminal. She receives a package from Juggernaut, containing only a flash drive, an EMP grenade, and directions to a clandestine location in Canada. Shortly after opening the package, she notices that her back window is open. She is attacked by Yelena, and the two briefly fight. Kelso manages to get the upper hand, and throws the grenade, crippling both her visual augs and Yelena's leg and cloaking augs. She runs until she reaches a distant highway.

Ben Saxon is resting near the Tyrant Jet when he overhears Hardesty and Namir speaking. Hardesty warns him that Ben is a liability, too sympathetic to be useful in their operations. Namir reminds him that Saxon is experienced enough to be useful regardless, and that everyone on the team is expendable if necessary. With his doubts confirmed, Ben finally calls Janus, who explains that Jaron keeps a private terminal (and access point to the Killing Floor) aboard the Tyrant Jet, and that Jaron's deceased sister is his most likely password. The Tyrants, sans Yelena, leave for their target in Europe.

Anna Kelso rides several trains by coach to avoid being caught. At one irregular stop, she suspects a possible police raid, and breaks out of a window in the rear car rather than take chances. After fumbling through the darkness, she is found by D-Bar and a small group of thugs.

Aboard the Tyrant plane, Ben waits for the others to go to sleep before leaving for Namir's terminal. After logging on, he learns that the Tyrants superiors kill close contacts before recruiting new members, mostly to prevent distraction, and usually stage it as an accident.

Kelso and D-Bar return to the Juggernaut HQ, an electromagnetically shielded hangar in a port. Anna gets to meet Juan Lebedev, a major investor in the New Sons of Freedom, itself a group of freedom fighters that closely resemble the National Secessionist Forces 25 years later, and Powell, leader of a small NSF platoon. They explain to Anna that the Tyrants actually work for the Illuminati, an ancient society that vies for indirect world control and is often featured in conspiracy theories. She is skeptical of this explanation, and returns to her own cabin out of frustration.

While Ben is reading the Killing Floor, Jaron enters the office and admits that he was responsible for Strike Team Six's failure. Saxon, armed only with a stun gun, shoots the terminal, causing a power failure and starting several fire alarms. He manages to escape, and heads to the weapons storage area, where he finds Gunther Hermann. The two fight briefly, but Saxon manages to break several of Gunther's ribs and sternum, then shoots him in the eye with his stun gun. Hermann appears dead, and Saxon heads for the cockpit, where he finds Hardesty, armed with a Widowmaker TX shotgun loaded with nonlethal "crowd buster" rounds. He blinds the man with a fire extinguisher and heads to the cargo bay, where a VTOL is located. In the bay, he is attacked by Barrett, who nearly kills Saxon, although he manages to detonate a belt of grenades, scarring him badly. With no other choice, Ben opens the cargo bay doors and jumps out into the sky above the Atlantic Ocean. At the last moment he triggers his Icarus Landing System, an aug that negates high falls, and manages to land in the water and only fracture his cybernetic legs. Some form of machine emerges from the depths and consumes him.

Back at the Juggernaut camp, Anna is contacted by Janus, who shows her a vision of the Illuminati's true plans. She sees augmented people rioting in the streets, burning buildings and killing people. This convinces her that the Illuminati are real, and she decides to help. Janus tells her that they have sent his own agent to assist Juggernaut, and a small automated trawler appears at the dock. Ben Saxon emerges from the trawler and, after meeting Powell and Kelso, he gives D-Bar the password for the Killing Floor. When they access the Killing Floor, they learn that the Tyrants are heading for Geneva, Switzerland, the same week that Bill Taggart of Humanity Front is in town. Even though he is sympathetic to their cause, the Tyrants plan to assassinate him on the steps of the Palais de Nations, making him a martyr for the anti-aug cause and push for a vote on UN regulation.

Powell, Kelso, Saxon, D-Bar and a four-man NSF platoon head for Geneva by VTOL. Over the Atlantic coast, they drop onto a mostly autonomous cargo blimp and set off. When they arrive, the group split into two forces. Saxon and Powell will lead the NSF troops to the Tyrant plane, in case any Tyrants are using it as a control center. Anna, D-Bar, and Croix, another Juggernaut initiate, will pursue a car bomb that is heading for Taggart's hotel. As they pull up beside the minivan, D-Bar informs Anna that Gunther Hermann is driving, and she recognizes him as Matt Ryan's killer. She jumps onto his van and struggles with him, nearly getting knocked off, though she gets the upper hand and grazes Gunther in the head with her handgun. He swerves the car, knocking Anna off, shortly before sliding into the Rhône river and detonating the car bomb.

While searching the plane, Saxon's team finds nothing of interest, or anyone inside. He does find a terminal, and notices that there is a third point for the Tyrants, a location dubbed "Icarus". Powell finds material for an improvised explosive, but is confused because the Tyrants have access to military-grade explosives. At the last minute Saxon notices that the Tyrants knew they were planning to attack the plane, and runs. The plane explodes, killing Powell and his people.

Back at the road, Anna gets up only to find D-Bar pointing a gun at her. He shoots Croix twice in the chest, and admits that the Illuminati convinced him to give up while on the cargo blimp. He explains that the Illuminati is too powerful to fight, and that he is better off surrendering and aiding their cause. Jaron Namir comes up behind him and takes Anna's radio, then orders Yelena to kill Croix by breaking his neck. Ben Saxon answers the radio, warning that the plane was trapped, and Jaron responds that Anna is in his custody and that he will kill her if Ben does not kill Taggart himself in plain public view. Knowing he can not let an innocent person die, he begins walking to the Palais de Nations.

As he approaches the courtyard, he notices large pro- and anti-aug crowds forming, and several Belltower guards to keep the two groups from rioting. A small van approaches, driven by Scott Hardesty, who gives Ben a Diamond Back .357 with one bullet in the cylinder, and reminds him that Barret will broadcast himself torturing Kelso to his Mastoid Comm if he fails. Saxon approaches Taggart and his secretary, fighting through several Belltower private guards, and points the gun at Taggart. At the last second, he chooses not to kill him, and pulls Taggart out of the open. Hardesty, perched at the nearby library, shoots with a Longsword Whisperhead rifle and misses, killing the secretary accidentally. Bill Taggart asks Saxon if "They" sent him, implying that he knows about the Illuminati, before Ben runs toward the Library to kill Hardesty. Inside the library, he uses his only bullet to sever a chandelier with his revolver, which leads to it crashing on the Tyrant, incapacitating him. Ben climbs up and fights with Hardesty, who manages to stab him in the gut with his augmented arm. Ben finally kills him by shoving his own arm blade through his jaw and skull. Being chased by the Geneva police, suffering from a knife wound, having no contacts, he calls Janus and asks for help. Janus tells him that the Icarus is actually a private yacht on the Rhône river where they are holding Anna. He explains that he is risking serious trouble for doing so, but he sets the Icarus as a target for the Geneva police and tells Saxon good luck before severing the comm link.

Back in a prison cell aboard the Icarus, Anna wakes from a drug-induced sleep when Barret enters the room. He explains that Ben has failed, and he plans to torture her until she tells him who Janus is. At the last minute, she punches him in the eye, using her sobriety coin as a makeshift brass knuckle, and escapes to the deck of the ship. While in the cargo hold, she finds D-Bar's body stuffed into a duffle bag with a broken neck. Disgusted by his dead body, she fails to notice Fedorova behind her. The two fight, and Anna is able to break a gas line and start a fire aboard the boat. She is dragged to the deck, where the 3 surviving Tyrants plan to take her to a remote base by VTOL.

Just as they are planning for takeoff, the cockpit opens and Saxon emerges, having killed the pilot. Jaron decides to challenge Saxon to a one-on-one fight, to settle his desire for revenge once and for all. With his advanced augmentations, Jaron easily defeats Saxon, though at the last moment Saxon pulls out a Zenith 10mm pistol he snagged from the pilot. He shoots Namir in the chest 3 times, which manage to subdue him even with his dermal augs. Ben trains the gun on Namir's head, but Barrett threatens to kill Anna if he kills the leader. Saxon lets them go again, and him and Anna jump into the burning wreckage of the Icarus to avoid gunfire. With the police coming, the Tyrants leave by VTOL, claiming that the media will turn the day's events in their favor, even with half of their team dead or missing. They fly off, leaving the two to die aboard the Icarus. Anna is able to breath underwater due to her rebreather augmentation, and the two manage to escape through a breach in the boats hull.

The book cuts to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where a young Morgan Everett and Lucius DeBeers are meeting in person. They discuss the operation in Geneva, and Morgan claims that, even with Bill Taggart alive, the assassination attempt has pushed the United Nations to hold a conference on regulating mechanical augmentation. They also speak of Bob Page, Morgan's apprentice, who has recovered Gunther Hermann from the Rhône river. They say that Gunther will live, but he will need extensive augmentation across his entire body, and his newfound respect for Majestic 12 will probably keep him from working for the Illuminati anymore. They speak of several of their plans for the near future, including the biochip initiative, the cure for AIDS, the "D Project" and an experiment with manipulating the California Fault line. They also briefly mention Stanton Dowd, who refuses to leave New York City.

The book picks back up at the Duarte Household in Costa Rica. Ben Saxon and Anna Kelso are recovering from their injuries, and Anna plans to stay there, where the Illuminati have minimal influence. Ben plans to leave for an unknown location. Before he leaves, Anna stresses that she remembers something from Janus' vision, that a serious change is coming soon, and that none of them can change it.


Game adaptation[]

Two events depicted in the novel are adapted as flashback missions in the prologue of Deus Ex: The Fall, which serves as a direct sequel to the novel. These missions, Kill Mikhail Kontarsky and The Killing Floor, are portrayed as Ben Saxon's recounting of the Tyrants' raid of Hotel Novoe Rostov and his escape from the Tyrant Jetliner, respectively. Dialogue in these missions generally follow the dialogue in the novel. Discrepancies from the novel include the absence of Gunther Hermann in both missions and a significant simplification of Saxon's escape from the Jetliner. Such discrepancies do not necessarily constitute an error, however, since the missions only portray a retelling of the events.

Additionally, in Deus Ex: The Fall, auto-secretaries found on the Tyrant Jetliner contain voice-acted parts of the conversation between Ben Saxon and Jaron Namir in chapter 2 of the novel.


  • A scene in the book shows Ben Saxon and the Tyrants discussing the attack on Sarif Industries; the same attack featured at the start of the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Saxon is worried about one of the security cops, Adam Jensen, and advises precaution.
  • Later in the book, Lebedev mentions a small coalition of independent militia groups called the New Sons of Freedom, hinting at the start of the NSF (National Secessionist Forces) that make an appearance in Deus Ex.
  • In the visions that Janus shows to Anna, he predicts events from other Deus Ex games set after the novel, such as the original Deus Ex.