Archive for expanded universe

The Star Wars Heretic

Posted in Fun, Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 1 January 2018 by Megan

“Heresy” has a very strong meme life but I’d best start with a categorical definition so we all start on the right page: “Any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs.”

My favorite Christmas story ever is by J. Edgar Park and it’s called “The Christmas Heretic.” It’s about a man who believes human beings should be kind, generous, and good 363 days a year and self-centered and mean only two days a year. This makes him a “Christmas heretic” because the rest of humanity of course lives the opposite way–self-centered and mean all year except for on two or so holidays a year. The ironic twist is that he is, of course, correct.

In this vein, I discover myself more and more to be a Star Wars heretic. Quite simply, I believe things no other Star Wars fan does. And, like Mr. Jones in Mr. Park’s story, I am . . . correct (ironic smirk face).

These aren’t the same as my conspiracy theories, which are things I think are possible, however unlikely, based on circumstantial evidence within the films. I don’t actually believe they happened, but this post is about things I truly believe, that I take for granted as basic facts in the Star Wars universe.

Because I take Star Wars as actual events, a history of things that truly happened in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, I apply a methodology to the story that’s consistent with how I take Earth’s history. The foundation of this is my belief that Star Wars canon will necessarily grow out of itself and affirm itself; if something has the Star Wars logo but is inconsistent with what I know Star Wars is, I find it obviously isn’t canonical. I have no problem accepting that the humans who tell these stories about another galaxy will make mistakes. After all, our own historical texts have mistakes; it’s just a matter of gathering as much information as possible and then deciding what is the most logical version of events.

The most obvious point where I’m at variance with Star Wars fans is how I treat the timeline. Yet I’m only going to briefly mention these two points here because they deserve their own detailed posts: one, that I created my own dating system that especially impacts the films (they cover a period of 42 years from E1 to E6). Two, the timeline of known events ends at Timothy Zahn’s Vision of the Future. Infinite events may have taken place up to that point, but after that point, we on Earth can know nothing of what happened.

Now! Done with telling you what I’m not going to talk about. On to the juicy stuff–eight things I believe about Star Wars that most fans would never have even thought to question.

  • The Rule of Two does not exist

Think about it. The first time we heard of the “Rule of Two,” it was a from an 860-year-old Jedi Master speaking “a millennia” after the Sith were supposedly wiped out. Even in the Bane Trilogy, where the Sith who conceived of the Rule of Two was shown putting it into effect, the whole point of the plan was that the Jedi would never know the Sith weren’t extinct. For a Jedi to learn about the Rule of Two is the Rule’s most ultimate failure. It’s also unlikely that this very tight master-apprentice-master-apprentice-master-apprentice chain could have survived for 1,000 years unbroken. Again, in the very first duel of the Rule of Two, both Sith nearly wipe each other out, and it’s a fact of life that no one remains as dedicated to a concept as the first person on that concept. It’s also illogical for Sidious to have spent twenty-odd years training Maul only to lose him and replace him within three years with the quite elderly Dooku. It makes more sense that Tyranus and Maul were simultaneously Sidious’ apprentices–and for Tyranus to have planted the abandoned “Rule of Two” concept among the Jedi as a diversionary tidbit.

  • Palpatine killed his master decades before Episode III

Speaking of supposed proponents of the Rule of Two, Darth Plagueis is clearly described by the films as having been dead for a very long time when Sidious first tells Anakin the “Sith legend.” Luceno, late to the party with his 2012 book on the subject, makes a mess of the film continuity and contradicts the “Rule of Two” that everyone but me believes in. Maul is about 25 in Episode I; Sidious trained him from very early childhood; if Sidious and Plagueis are supposed to canonically adhere to the “Rule of Two,” then Plagueis must’ve been dead before Sidious started in on Maul., twenty-odd years before Episode I. “But Rebel,” you might say, “That only helps your point about the Rule of Two being a red herring. Why deny Plagueis was still alive until the morning Sidious became Supreme Chancellor?” Because the structure of the films takes for granted that Sidious has been the Master Sith from before Episode I. Obviously Sidious takes dramatic license when he tells Anakin the story of Plagueis is “a Sith legend,” but it’s just as obvious his master has been dead for decades by that point. If Plagueis was responsible for Anakin’s conception, as the films hint, the very latest date for his death is 10 years before Episode I, which still helps prove that the Rule of Two doesn’t exist, since Sidious was training Maul 20 years before Episode I.

  • Dooku did not train Qui-Gon Jinn

Speaking of people getting trained by people and the very elderly Count Dooku . . . from the day I first saw Attack of the Clones on May 16, 2002, at the 4:30 PM showing (first showing of the day) at Bellefontaine’s Chaker’s 8 Cinema . . . I never once believed that this was Qui-Gon’s master. Qui-Gon has always fascinated me, been my favorite character in the prequels and 2nd favorite character in the saga, so I would naturally be ecstatic to learn who trained him and who he shared his youth and adolescence with. But it never occurred to me that he was being truthful when he said, “I was once Qui-Gon’s master.” I may have scoffed out loud in the theater the first time; I don’t remember. I do remember that I came home and did the math on whether that was even physically possible. One of the main factors preventing it? There was simply no opportunity where Qui-Gon would have been hanging around with Dooku, after apprenticing Obi-Wan, where Obi-Wan would not have had a chance to meet the man. It never made sense; Obi-Wan seems to treat the assertion with some skepticism; and I always took for granted that Tyranus was telling the first of many lies.

  • Qui-Gon did not return from “the netherworld of the Force” or teach anybody to do anything with being a blue ghost

Lucas, bless his heart, is not good at pacing. A New Hope even suffers from uneven pacing, and Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith would be better if events were smoothed out between them. I’ve even advocated that it should have been a prequel trilogy with The Phantom Menace as a standalone–I think E1 is an essential film and I love it, but Lucas wanted E3 to do more than it could reasonably do, even if given 4 hours. And one of the most painful bits is the ridiculous tacked-on “an old friend has returned from the netherworld of the Force” comment, which Yoda doesn’t even say in his own messed up dialect. Let me stop you right there. The Force does not have a netherworld. Blue ghosts are standard issue for powerful Force-users who have unfinished business. The idea that Qui-Gon is responsible for Obi-Wan’s “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” comment is so hastily crammed in there, I remember facepalming the first time I heard it. Yes, Qui-Gon may apparite from time to time. No, he did not communicate with Yoda. Yoda did not have training for Obi-Wan on Tatooine. The body-vanishing trick was new among Jedi, but it did not come from Qui-Gon. Move along.

  • Anakin didn’t kill younglings in the temple

I had no idea how emotionally attached people were to this “bit of evil” until I started casually saying, “I don’t think that happened.” On three separate occasions, more than three people at a time came down on me like a bag of hammers for daring to think that. To be honest, I’m more shocked at how desperate people are to believe Anakin killed the annoying younglings than I am that people do believe it. I understand that’s what the film wants to depict and I understand a PG-13 American film by George Lucas is not going to show a child getting lightsabered in half. But the fact is, there are more overt ways to get it across if that’s what happened. All we see is Anakin showing his lightsaber to some kids. Obi-Wan lies about seeing that on a security holo; there’s no holo-camera in the freaking council chamber. Some young Padawans are shown dead, but Padawans aren’t younglings. I have no spiritual problem with the newly-minted Lord Vader chopping down some seven-year-olds–I just see no evidence for it happening and find a more logical alternative is available. The child with the irritating voice says, “Master Skywalker, what do we do?” And Anakin ignites his saber. After the scene fades to black, he says, “Come with me. I’ll save you from the Jedi.” And he takes them to Palpatine where they are trained to be Dark Side Inquisitors. We know the Force-sensitive Dark Side Inquisitors exist. Where did they come from, and for what reason would Anakin destroy a dozen malleable Force-sensitives when the new regime would need their skills? In fact I believe Inquisitor Loam Redge in the book The Ruins of Dantooine was one of those kids, if not the kid.

  • Mara was Palpatine’s only Hand

This from Episode VII, the Thrawn Trilogy. Mara Jade, of course, was a Force-sensitive child Palpatine picked up and trained, not as an apprentice but as a Force-sensitive errand girl. He gave her the title “Emperor’s Hand,” reminiscent of the “Emperor’s Wrath” designation of millennia before. Vader is his right hand, the obvious agent of his will, but she is the left–the one in secret and silence. At least this is what she believes until Thrawn tells her she was merely “one of the hands.” To be honest, I never once took this seriously. I think people should be cautious what they take for granted as truth in a bad guy’s speeches, and Thrawn had every reason to want her off balance–which is exactly what telling her she was “one of many” accomplishes. So I automatically dismiss any suggestion that Palpatine had other agents in a Mara-like role. She was the only one.

  • Wedge Antilles ends up with Qwi Xux

I didn’t know this was a heresy until recently, because of course, I don’t read past Vision of the Future and the last book I read with Qwi Xux in it had her solidly set up with Wedge. So I spent close to 20 years rereading those books and getting warm fuzzies about their relationship. Wedge, of course, is the hot hotshot pilot and good friend of Luke Skywalker’s, the eventual commander of Rogue Squadron and the only man with two Death Stars tallied on his X-wing. Qwi Xux first appears in The Jedi Academy Trilogy (Episode VIII); she was kidnapped into Imperial service as a child and put to work on the Death Star project due to her technological brilliance. As an isolated but extremely intelligent individual, she is very naive when first freed from her cage. Wedge becomes her protector and the two form a deep bond over the course of several books. However, Qwi is not human, and apparently that was too much for Aaron Allston, who wrote a shabby one-off breakup scene in the first chapter of The Starfighters of Adummar to get the scummy nonhuman out of the way so he could pair Wedge up with a human who was already freakin’ married. (Yes, Iella was a widow at that point, but she obviously wasn’t over her husband by I, Jedi and she and Wedge had no chemistry apart from matching human genetics.) The relationship with Iella is so pointless, so abrupt, and so human-centric that I don’t consider those chapters canon. Wedge and Qwi forever. End of story.

  • There are only 3 lightsaber colors

Finally, briefly . . . this isn’t that important, but I was arguing with someone about it the other day so I’ll throw it in. In 2002, George Lucas stated that there are only 3 lightsaber colors because there are only 2 kinds of crystals: natural and synthetic. Natural crystals give off blue or green light; synthetic crystals are red. Because Samuel L. Jackson is a special needs pile of specialness, Lucas let him have a stupid purple lightsaber, but that’s due to circuitry modifications in the hilt and not the crystals. Corran Horn is able to make a white saber using diamonds. But you will never get me to believe that traditional Jedi sabers exist in any other colors because George Lucas said it. It is his universe and he should know. You could say George Lucas said other things in my list that I object to, but no–those are outcomes based on interpretations of the films. This was something the Maker said himself about the films. There’s no arguing with that. Yeah, I have a rainbow of lightsabers in video games, but video games aren’t canon, honey. There are only three colors. Accept it. (Oh, and I don’t believe lightsabers are plasma weapons, either. Yeah, go have a panic attack about that. Whatever.)

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Review: Dynasty of Evil

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on 19 November 2017 by Megan

by Drew Karpyshyn

If the fact that it’s taken two months for me to drag myself back to this trilogy isn’t enough of an indication, the only positive thing I can say about this book is that I enjoy the cover art.

This trilogy went from 4 stars to 2 stars in an out-of-control fireball of suck.

Right, say something nice about it, Librarian. Something nice. I can do this. I can think of something nice to say. Um . . . I like the cover. I really like the cover. The colors are nice, the tattoos are cool, it just looks good.

Nothing inside the cover makes me that happy, I can promise you that. For a brief time this summer, I really thought I had misjudged Karpyshyn, that Revan was a bad anomaly, that this writer deserved his reputation. But then I was so bored by Rule of Two, it took everything in me to force myself to finish the trilogy. Remember how I said I took 50 minutes for my half hour lunch breaks during Path of Destruction because it was so interesting? And how Rule of Two had me wrapping up in 15 minutes instead? Well, I kid you not, but Dynasty of Evil actually had me skip lunch several days because I did not want to read and preferred to stay at my desk working.

Karpyshyn started off with a bizarre premise, that human beings are nearing death when they reach mid-40s. Bane broods on his impending mortality with more illogical intensity than Raymond on that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. And it’s not because of what happened with his orbalisk armor, because Karpyshyn never mentions the armor in connection with Bane’s sense of coming old age. A weird hang up for a guy obsessed with achieving immortality.

The Sith obsession with immortality could have been developed in several very interesting ways, especially connecting it with Palpatine and the inherent fragility of the Rule of Two, but Karpyshyn was too busy describing the minutiae of everyone’s wardrobe to bother with inner monologue. Perhaps he exhausted his entire supply of “complex character juice” on the first novel. This book was 90% padding–like most Del Rey novels, we could’ve had a much higher quality duology, but how could they charge $23.97 for that? Eh?

Anyway, it stitches up the plot more or less, but does so in the least engaging way possible. The final duel between Zannah and Bane is the only interesting moment of the book and actually lasts 3 or 4 pages longer than it should, so it doesn’t stay interesting long.

I hated it and it poisoned all my good memories of the first book. I will never read or reread any book by this guy again.

20 Year Anniversary

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , on 13 November 2017 by Megan

Star Wars has always been one unified galaxy to me, one single saga told over a variety of mediums, all equal parts of the same body, all the undeniable history of a single place. The main reason for this is that I originally encountered all three branches of the saga–the Original Trilogy, the Expanded Universe, the Prequel Trilogy–within one year of each other–and that year, by and large, was 1997. So as I’m guessing you’ve heard me say once or twice over the last few months, this year is absolutely full of significant anniversaries for me.

Storytime!

November 12, 1997. I was twelve and, after seeing Star Wars for the first time ten months ago, I’d begun to consider “Star Wars fan” a foundation of my identity. Also foundational to my identity, “horsewoman.” I’d been taking riding lessons at a local horse farm over the summer and my mind was full of daydreams where I get my own horse, achieve horsemanship certification level 4, and eventually teach students how to ride like my idol, the woman who taught our class.

Anyway, in November, the horse camp offered an opportunity to local homeschooling families, an opportunity to come out during a week and spend a couple days during the off-season learning horse-care chores and, I guess, helping them get the place closed up for winter.

This time of year, Ohio becomes a blanket of gray. The sky is like a field of slate. Bare trees with gray trunks stab black branches into the heavy clouds. Even the earth in the empty farmland has a grayish cast. Snow isn’t uncommon, and I used to make jokes about “White Thanksgiving” when I was about this age. That week, temperatures were between 20-30 °F (average of -2 °C). It was dark long before dinner, and for some reason, I had gone upstairs to the bunk room before it was time to eat. I don’t know if I was just looking to get away from people or after something I’d left in my bag, but I found someone else sitting in the room.

“The House” at Marmon was an old, creaky building, and the girls’ bunk room was at the top of the stairs and to the right. There were bunk beds along both walls and a window at the far end. Sitting under this window was a girl named Megan who looked just like me only she didn’t have bangs. She was sitting on the edge of the lower bunk, hunched over, reading something. I caught sight of the raised foil lettering and before I could think, I exclaimed, rather than asked, “Is that a Star Wars book!”

It was Assault at Selonia. She let me hold it for a minute, but I could tell she was more focused on reading than anything else, so I handed it back and left. We sat together at dinner, though, and were inseparable for the rest of the trip. That night, I switched bunks with someone else so both Megan and I had top bunks with our heads together and I read my first EU book–her book, her flashlight, which we shared by reading one chapter before passing it back to the other.

I couldn’t have slept that night for anything. My brain was more fireworks than it had been after finishing Return of the Jedi back in February. I had known for some time there were books; I have no idea when or how I found this out, but I knew they were out there and I took it absolutely for granted they were equal status with the films. A novel set 14 years after Return of the Jedi may seem like an awkward starting place, but after all, A New Hope starts with a 20-year-old empire and plenty of unspoken backstory. I was ecstatic that Han and Leia had three kids. And one was (almost certainly) a hot, intelligent, awesome boy my own age! And hysterical that Han was being held prisoner and tortured by an evil cousin. Selonians were instantly fascinating. The galaxy had suddenly grown that much vaster and my brain could barely keep up with all the expanding territory.

Eventually, one of the chaperones scolded the Other Megan and I into keeping the light off, but I still doubt any sleeping actually took place. We were glued together through the next day, taking work assignments together and polishing dozens of saddles in a semi-heated room that would eventually become the camp gift store. We talked nonstop, mostly about Star Wars, but a few personal details crept in. We also played a game dubbed “Star Wars railroad,” which consisted of giving a Star Wars word that started with the same letter that the previous word ended with. i.e., Star Wars – Selonia – Anakin – Nien Nunb – Bakura. I described the day in my diary when I got home:

Elisa went home and I went to camp today. There were 3 Megans in our room. One Megan looks like me, dark hair and Eyes, and she’s my age, loves Star wars, has a dog named Abby, and rode Toby! She’s letting me borrow ‘Assault at Selona’. We soaped saddles then we oiled them. Toby wasn’t there. Rode Vandi.

Megan ultimately ended up being the source of my first dozen EU books, as we were both in a play that December (pictured), and then we went on to be in the same electricity class in the new year. We were both in chess and horseback riding, though not the same sessions, so we began trading letters. For a few years, we wrote letters regularly and called on weekends when cell phone minutes were free. The last time I really remember talking to her was the end of May 1999, when she was exuberant over having seen Episode I and I was wallowing in disappointment that I wouldn’t get to see it for a few more weeks.

Still, I have a box of letters in the closet, all signed “Megan ‘Han Solo'” and with the opening greeting, “Red Leader to Gold Leader.” (All mine to her began “Echo Five to Echo Seven.”) She made trivia cards and sent them to her; I made bookmarks. She also sent me clippings, stickers, and a Luke Skywalker poster I kept in my closet for years so no one would know I had it.

Ooh! Fun story about that Luke Skywalker poster. I had two closets in my room and one I considered “my office.” I used to shut myself up in it especially if my nieces were over and I wanted privacy. I actually slept in there one night my oldest niece was being a particular pain in my neck; I “locked” the door by tying a bathrobe sash to the knob and tying the other end to the shelf so she couldn’t get in. I had the mini-poster of Luke on the wall, not to mention a bunch of cozy blankets, and a plastic cart with three baskets in it where I could keep things. I can’t find a good picture of that bedroom, but it wasn’t big, not like a walk-in closet or anything. Just a regular clothes closet. I can’t believe there’s no pictures. Anyway…

The point of all that is, 20 years ago this very week, I read these words for the very first time:

And I knew, knew that being a Star Wars fan was inseparable from being a fan of the EU. The EU is Star Wars. Star Wars is the EU. To pretend otherwise would be like cutting one of the six movies from existence–like pretending to make movies without George Lucas–both incomplete and also a little obscene.

Review: The Ruins of Dantooine

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on 14 October 2017 by Megan

by Voronica Whitney-Robinson

Not gonna lie, I’ve been avoiding this book for years. I didn’t like the cheesy cover, I was ambivalent about SWG being a legitimate source of canon, and seriously, what kind of name is “Voronica”? But if a book that disappoints me can fill me with more passionate hatred than one I simply didn’t like, a book that takes me by surprise and impresses me deserves all the love I can throw its way!

I think I am seriously living in the second-most stressful series of months in my entire life right now. Having Scribe out to visit in September was the highlight of the last 3 years, no doubts there, but it was immediately followed by me stupidly getting my truck laid up in the truck hospital. My sister and I had been planning this trip to Portland for a few months now, but there was a lot of disappointment there. Wildfires kept us out of a lot of what we’d counted on doing, and on our last night there, our brother called to say Mom was in the hospital. (She’s home now and recovering quickly.) I’m still not stress-free because next weekend I’m delivering a paper I haven’t finished at a conference I somehow have to get to (I hate driving!). Aiiii.

Anyway, my point with unloading all that is that The Ruins of Dantooine did something Star Wars has been doing for me for 20 years: salving my stressed out soul.

I was initially skeptical of a protagonist named Dusque Mistflier, but the book is absolutely worth four stars. Dusque is an Imperial scientist who travels the galaxy capturing and studying creatures the Empire might find of interest. When she finds herself wrapped up in a rebel plot, including the handsome agent Finn Darktrin and a holocron hidden away on Dantooine, all her quiet anti-Imperial doubts begin to explode.

Naturally the Empire is out to get this holocron as well, which is why the rebellion’s got agents trying to get there first. It’s a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style race for the artifact where there can only be one winner. Loam Redge is an Imperial Inquisitor whose job is to track down Force-sensitives; he’s also after the artifact and I enjoyed his character very much–not least of all because I suspect he’s the little blond kid from Revenge of the Sith whom Anakin rounds up in the Council Chamber with other young Force-sensitives to be trained as Inquisitors for the New Order.

I never got a chance to play SWG, but I gather the whole premise was very much how this book feels: Who is the Star Wars Everyman? The laypeople? The Joes and Jainas? This book gives rather regular people at regular jobs: concerts, paychecks, gas stations. Family drama. And all worked in with the bigger theme of galactic intrigue and spy games.

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As a fun additional note, I picked it up here, in the Star Wars section of the largest bookstore in North America! Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, has a fantastic selection of realcanon, including some beauties I’ve never seen in a shop before! I could’ve spent $300 if I had it (and room in the suitcase going home).

So in many different ways, The Ruins of Dantooine is a great book that I found in the perfect location and which got me through a tough week. Good job, Voronica! Too bad there weren’t more in this series.

Review: Rule of Two

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on 30 September 2017 by Megan

by Drew Karpyshyn

Well, that didn’t last.

I had very high hopes for this one on the basis of the last one. I’ve also been waiting to read this one for about 6 years. See, this was the one I bought at the Friends of the Library bookstore in Bloomington during my, “I really need to get back into Star Wars” phase. I went ahead and bought it because I knew all Old Republic materials would have to fit into my timeline, since it’s an open-beginning timeline.

Path of Destruction ended on a pulse-racing finale with the Valley of the Jedi, the thought bomb, the miner Des totally transformed into the dark heart of the Sith, Bane. Departing the scene of the explosion, he comes across a lost little girl who used the Force to explode Republic troops. He adopts her as his apprentice Zannah.

I was very much looking forward to exploring the master-apprentice dynamic between the two of them, with Bane such an Imperial scholar with a revolutionary idea. However, Karpyshyn discards most of this potential without a second thought by jerking the action forward ten years and then proceeding to sprinkle the rest of the book with liberal flashbacks–pages and pages of italics (not that easy to read) inspired by things as simple as, oh, Zannah opening a door. This completely disrupts the action, since by the time the flashback wraps up 5 pages later, you don’t remember why she was opening the door in the first place. And the flashbacks are so frequent and so close together that there was no reason not to simply continue telling the story chronologically without the ten year skip.

The orbalisk armor and quest for immortality are extremely interesting, as are the machinations of two Sith who know the other will attempt to kill them when they aren’t useful any longer, yet who must decide when that usefulness has actually expired so they can make their move. But the padding in this book was heavy, with a lot of preoccupation on what people are wearing in addition to the endless flashbacks.

I kept trying to be curious about what was coming next, but in a far cry from my stretched lunch breaks of Path of Destruction, this book had me wrapping up as soon as I was finished eating and heading back to my desk only 15 minutes later because I was too bored to read another chapter. Toward the end, I found myself muttering, “Blah blah blah get on with it” under my breath a lot. Very disappointing.

Review: Path of Destruction

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on 29 August 2017 by Megan

by Drew Karpyshyn

Had this book for awhile, and with The Alliance book group choosing it to read for August, I figured now was as good a time as any to finally pick it up.

I buckled in for this one because I did not enjoy Revan much and figured it’d be much of the same shallow and incomplete writing that bugged me in the other Karpyshyn I dragged myself through. Plus, the Old Republic era just doesn’t interest me much, so it two major handicaps right up front.

I was pleasantly surprised! Des is an interesting, compelling character with actual complexity, quite unlike Revan. He’s a simple miner on a hellish planet, getting through day after day and brooding on the death of his father. He plays sabacc, has few friends, and also has a secret–he’s aware of a dark power within himself that he knows nothing about.

I appreciated how the book highlighted Republic hypocrisy and indifference to the galaxy’s wellbeing as a whole. I liked the portrayal of the warmongering Jedi (there’s a reason Bib Fortuna says, “Bargain rather than fight? He’s no Jedi”). And my pulse kicked into overdrive when I saw “Ruusan” and realized that this was the prequel to Dark Forces 2 and the Valley of the Jedi adventure, long one of my favorite things in the entire EU.

I chewed through this book pretty fast. I remember stretching a few half-hour lunch breaks into 45 or 50 minutes just so I could get to a good stopping place. It made fun connections with SWTOR–first Des is a nobody, then he’s a trooper, then he gets picked up to go to the Sith Academy. It was fun tracing his journey against roles familiar to me from playing TOR.I also loved the character of the Sith instructors at the Academy, and how Bane moves forward and backward on his journey. Recoiling from the power of the Dark Side, he renders himself unable to use the Force at all. He educates himself in the Sith ways in the library, a plot point which is hard for me to resist. Some of the best lightsaber combat I’ve read in a novel, too.

While some parts felt needlessly swift and brittle, it is overall an engaging and fun read that I’m happy to finally have picked up. Looking forward to the next one. Has Karpyshyn redeemed himself??

Review: Deceived

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on 28 July 2017 by Megan

by Paul S. Kemp

I could title this review “how to slash a rating in half in the last 20 pages and make a reader go from ‘I see why people like Kemp’ to profanity-laced ‘Kemp is garbage and I will never read this again or anything else he ever wrote.'” Because up until page 239, this was solidly at 4 stars, better than Revan, and certainly delivering on everything anyone could want from a TOR novel.

I remember in Jude Watson’s Defenders of the Dead how I threw the book across the room when a main character did something totally out of character in the last ten pages. I wasn’t angry when I read this one, though. Just deflated.

Let’s start with the plot description and the other decent stuff first, though.

Deceived is based on a video game, even more directly on a trailer for the videogame, so it was really exciting to get some depth behind the trailer, to put names with the faces and know who those characters were, what was going on, how it relates to the game I play.

It was also amusing to pick out the obvious archetypes from the game imported into the book: Malgus the Warrior with his Vette-companion Eleena, the Knight Aryn with companion T7, the Smuggler Zeeveld — even more fun to have the book identify Aryn and Z as former troopers, as my knight Vish’wecor’annik is a former trooper herself and it confirms my lore. The Agent (Sniper) Vrath was easily my favorite character, but I’ll return to that.

The book has some standard flaws. I found the character development limited, though nowhere near as shallow as in Revan; psychology and memory were provided for the characters, but everything in the book was told and not shown, making for a rather flat experience. There were too many paragraph breaks to ever really settle into a single string of action. It’s interesting, I notice people complaining all the time about how many cuts are made in action movies, and how praiseworthy single-shot scenes are, but nobody ever takes me seriously when I observe that paragraph breaks in novels shatter the flow of action. But it’s a great way to pad pages when you have no idea what to do.

Still, as I said, up until page 239, I was willing to round up my 3.5 rating to 4 stars for Goodreads. I wished there was more depth of character and less telling me how characters feel rather than showing me — but that tell-don’t-show goes back to Lucas himself and therefore is a core thing in Star Wars. The action centers on Malgus, betrayed in his attempt to flatten the Republic, and TOR players will see the seeds of his rebellion and New Empire planted here. Aryn is a Jedi Knight who breaks through the Imperial blockade on Coruscant to hunt Malgus and avenge her master’s death. She uses her old comrade-in-arms Z-man to do so, as he’s been hired by the Exchange to get a load of spice through that blockade.

Star Wars’ classic philosophical themes try to grow here as the marine-turned-smuggler wrestles with his conscience and the Jedi Knight comes to terms with her passion and anger. For whatever reason, though, Kemp can’t follow through with them and the book feels like a cup of tea that smells amazing but wasn’t allowed to steep and therefore tastes like nothing more than hot water. As always, books that disappoint me earn my sharpest criticism, because I was expecting something more and the end left me deflated and angry that I’d been drawn in.

The following paragraph contains explicit spoilers, as I intend to outburst fully on what infuriated me about this book, which requires a pretty detailed summary of those last 20 pages. If you don’t want to know, then consider this the end of the review: a decent book that started well-told but fizzled out like a wet sparkler.

It’s one of my beliefs that death in a book has to be meaningful. Unfortunately, I never wrote the post I meant to about “beautiful book-death,” what it takes for death in a novel to be acceptable, even praiseworthy, cathartic, reassuring even in pain. I can tell you, though, that this book failed, and that the alternative to “beautiful book-death” is “obscene, offensive book-killing,” and that in under 20 pages, Kemp went from 4-stars to “I wish you hadn’t done that” to “massive overkill and eff you too, author guy who apparently hates readers.”

First, as I said earlier, the sniper Vrath was easily my favorite character. I like snipers. I play snipers. I’m sure that has more than a little to do with how relatable I found him. I was also amused that his surname was Xizor, an obvious nod. I understood he was Z’s foil as Malgus was Aryn’s, and admired the clever way he went about doing his job to keep the Exchange’s spice from getting to Coruscant. Two former soldiers from opposite sides, working toward opposite goals, with more than they suspect in common — Vrath was demonstrably honorable, probably wrestling with the same things Z was. I was excited and curious when Vrath ended up Z’s prisoner — but with all the buildup, Z just throws him out an airlock. This was followed two pages later by Malgus stabbing his lover Eleena through the heart because his love for her is a liability.

One blindside could have been acceptable, but two deaths with no buildup, no potential for catharsis, and no emotional payoff was too much. I find it disgusting when death is used for a cheap thrill, so my final word on this book is disgust.