Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived (Paul S. Kemp)

Plot Summary
Deceived takes place three thousand years before the Battle of Yavin, during this time, peace negotiations between Jedi and Sith are taking place on Alderaan to bring an end to the war. Seeking more favorable terms, the Sith send Darth Malgus and a fleet of Imperial ships on a sneak attack to Coruscant. Malgus and his Sith knights go to the Jedi temple and wipe out all of the Jedi there, including Master Zarrow, the former Master of the story's obligatory Jedi lead-Aryn Leneer. Meanwhile on Ord Mantell, a shipment of weapons under the custody of Zeerid Korr is nearly hijacked, setting off quickly, Zeerid loses a crate of grenades as they fall out of the ship due to a failure with their restraints. This failure places Zeerid in much deeper trouble than he already was in doing business with the Exchange criminal syndicate in order to earn enough money to buy his daughter prosthetic legs after she was in an accident that killed her mother. The Exchange mandates that he is to deliver engspice to the now blockaded world of Coruscant. If he succeeds, his debts will be paid and he will receive two hundred thousand credits as a bonus. Aryn, distraught about her master's death and eager for revenge, sets off to find Zeerid (whom she worked with earlier in the war, when Zeerid fought for the Republic) so that she can convince him to take her to Coruscant in order to find who killed her master. Zeerid agrees to take her since he was headed to Coruscant anyways, and could definitely use the help of a Jedi. Malgus gets caught up in Sith politicking and his banished to maintaining the blockade around the planet, something that disgusts him as he wishes Coruscant to be completely leveled, seeing peace as a lie and contrary to the wishes of the force. He also realizes that his lover, Eleena, is a liability in that the other Sith will use her to control him in the future, as evidenced by their orders to deny her medical treatment following the battle at the Temple.

Zeerid and Aryn arrive on Coruscant by latching onto the bottom of a large mining ship in a nearby system, then unlatching and making a break for the planet's surface once they get close enough to Coruscant. The plan nearly fails when their ship is blown apart by turbolasers from Malgus's flagship, but Aryn is able to cushion their landing by using the force. On Coruscant, they make their way to the Jedi temple only to find that it is a bombed out mess. All hope is not lost however as Aryn remembers a way to get to the lower levels of the Temple via the industrial sector of Coruscant known as the Works. Arriving in the underbelly of the Jedi Temple, Aryn finds an old droid named T7, and a video that shows Malgus as the Sith responsible for slaying her master. While Zeerid rests, Aryn goes back to the ruins and confronts Malgus, they fight to a stalemate until Zeerid arrives, and Aryn flees when she realizes that, if she killed him now, he wouldnt have to suffer the way she did, instead she resolves to go after the one he loves-Eleena. Eleena is located at a spaceport where she is gathering various people and artifacts for transportation offworld, a fact that would have gone unnoticed had the duo not been in need of another way off the planet. They attack the mostly derelict spaceport and fight their way into the hangar bay where Eleena is located, hot wiring a ship, Zeerid leaves on Aryn's command, leaving her to deal with Eleena and Malgus, whom is quickly approaching the spaceport because he senses the danger to his love. Aryn realizes she cannot kill Eleena, and Zeerid fights with a spy that was hidden on board his new ship. Incapacitating him, Zeerid decides to send him out the airlock and to his death when he realizes the spy has been following him all along and may know the identity of his family. Aryn again fights with Malgus, losing decisively after he blasts her with force lightning. He spares her life, however, because he has taught her a very important lesson. Free to go, both Zeerid and Aryn leave the system, albeit without knowing the fate of the other. Malgus realizes that he must kill Eleena to prevent himself from being further manipulated, and does so grudgingly. An epilogue reveals that Zeerid takes his daughter to Dantooine, buys her prosthetic legs, and runs a farm that he plans to turn into a winery. Aryn tracks him to this farm, and announces that she has left the Jedi Order and wishes to live with them, which Zeerid agrees to. Malgus, meanwhile, begins to assert power over the Sith, ending the novel by slaying one of his rivals, Darth Adraas.

Plot Analysis
The plot was simple but entertaining. The idea of the Sith invading Coruscant and etc. was entertaining but kind of derivative of many other Star Wars works, the thing that made it unique was that it came during negotiations for a peace, and the tension between both sides at the meeting table post invasion was very entertaining, if somewhat brief. Zeerid's quest to help his daughter was also very compelling and his encounter with the thugs on Ord Mantell was very intense. The various lightsaber battles, especially the initial assault on Coruscant were very well done, with a good mix of force powers thrown in too. Overall, the biggest flaw of the novel is its incredibly short length (only around 250 pages), there simply isn't enough room for the novel to add more compelling scenes. Various other problems include time wasted detailing the Works that really didn't add to anything, the ridiculous way that Aryn and Zeerid avoided death when their ship exploded (they use the force as some kind of parachute and fall hundreds of feet to the ground, safely), and a fight scene involving Hutt mercenaries that never caught my interest, simply because the author wrote all of the force sensitive characters as being basically invulnerable to blasters.

Darth Malgus came off as highly derivative to me, with the physical appearance of Darth Malak from KoToR, forbidden love/hidden weakness of Anakin Skywalker, and disgust/dismay at the actions of his superiors of Darth Bane. The fact that it felt very much like we had seen this character before (many times in fact) ruined him a bit for me, and even sacrificing his lover at the end of the novel lost a bit of its edge when it was foreshadowed during the meeting with the other Sith lords. Vrath was a horrible cardboard cut-out of a character, the author goes into absolutely no detail trying to make this character interesting and as such he is a very ineffective foil for Zeerid. Aryn was fairly predictable too, a Jedi with a defiant streak with the need for revenge for her master. I liked her and she was certainly relate able, but it seemed fairly obvious that her story would conclude either with her "heroic" death, or in the manner in which it did, with her getting over her desire for revenge and getting together with Zeerid- I never really thought she would beat Malgus because she simply wasn't powerful enough (the fact that I expect him to be in the upcoming game upon which this novel is based also influenced this viewpoint).  Zeerid was certainly the best character, although he initially seemed to be just another cookie cutter "Han Solo" type, a pragmatic smuggler with a good heart, his reasons for getting entangled with the Exchange were very compelling and I definitely was pulling for him more so than any other character. I guess my biggest problem with the characters is that we have seen them so many times before, aside from his motivations, Zeerid could be any smuggler in the EU (Jet Nebula from Fatal Alliance and Lorn Pavan, which not a smuggler, are both extremely similar). Malgus, as detailed before, is a hybrid of several well known Sith. And Aryn felt like a more competent (and like able) version of that idiotic Jedi from Darth Bane: Rule of Two that wanted to avenge the death of General Hoth.

The best thing about the writing for this book was undoubtedly the action sequences, the author has a very good feel for making the various lightsaber battles and force powers (though there was a tendency for the author to use force push more than one would expect) come alive and this skill salvaged the book in my eyes. The dialogue was largely good and the interaction between Zeerid and his daughter felt genuine, although the romance between Zeerid and Aryn felt somewhat forced and baseless. Like the previous Old Republic novel, the author leaves most descriptions of vehicles, buildings, technology up to the reader's imagination, and it was very difficult to picture anything without thinking of a "contemporary" (that is to say in the "present" of Star Wars) counterpart. The length of the book is a much more serious flaw when considering the relatively brief descriptions, the flow of the novel would not have, in this instance, been impacted by ~10 pages of extra descriptions and the insights into technology of this (supposedly) vastly different time period would've been appreciated.

While short and suffering from somewhat dull characterization, the excellent action sequences and interesting (if poorly fleshed out) setting make this a decent paperback.

Final Score

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