Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Allegiance

Star Wars: Allegiance (Timothy Zahn)

Allegiance tries, and is more than somewhat unsuccessful, at merging four completely separate sub plots into one novel. None of the plots really take center stage, as we are constantly moved from Mara Jade's investigation of a corrupt governor, to Han and Luke's attempt to curtail pirate raids on Alliance shipments, to Leia's diplomatic rendezvous with an Alliance dignitary considering defection. Also featured is the Hand of Judgement, five stormtroopers that defected from the Empire, and now act as independent freedom fighters, fighting piracy and corruption wherever they go.

The first problem with the plot is that it is simply too much crammed into only an average sized book, things happen very quickly, with characters being introduced and killed in the same chapter in places. This also leads to confusion regarding names, there are so many new minor characters packed into this novel that it is very hard to remember who is who, especially since most of them are never more than "generic stormtrooper/pirate/informant". It doesn't help that none of the plots ever become central to the story, I suppose Mara's could be considered the most important plot, simply because it is featured the most.

The second problem is the sheer amount of ridiculous stuff that happens throughout the novel. At one point, Darth Vader attempts to kill Mara simply because he thinks Mara may be trying to capture Leia Organa for herself, she isn't, and if Vader would have taken three seconds to ask the simple question, this awful, inexcusably out of character moment would've never occurred. When Leia becomes a fugitive, she decides to hide in plain sight by accepting a job as a waitress in a restaurant, something so baffling that I still cannot believe it actually happened. Why would you even include something like this? It does nothing but throw in a considerable plot hole, and cheapen Leia's character. Luke also receives aid from Obi-Wan throughout this novel, and often times, especially when the freighter Luke is on comes under attack, it feels like he is holding Luke's hand, something that cheapens the appearance of Obi-Wan's ghost at key moments in Episode IV and V.

As far as the villain is concerned, a slimy Moff named Disra, whom has a confusing, ever changing role throughout the novel, is probably the central villain. There is a whole swarm of miscellaneous pirates and other scum that pop up to threaten our main characters, but none of them really develop as characters, existing more or less in name only. Vader is reduced to a highly ineffective cameo role, and the lack of effective villains is another serious flaw in the plotting of this book. There are a handful of good action scenes, but even some of them are bogged down by repetition and lack of tension.

Characterization is an even more dire flaw in this book. The main characters just don't feel right; Luke comes across as extremely indecisive, almost clueless, as Obi-Wan, Han, or the Hand of Judgement order him around. Han and Chewie have a decent rapport, but taken on his own, Han doesn't have the charm and wit as seen in the movies. Mara is perhaps overcharacterized, being made into Vader's equal or better, and having, at 18 years old, all the skills, equipment, powers, and confidence she will have in her later years. The Hand of Judgement is completely devoid of personality in this novel, all that is really shown about them is their specialty within the unit, and as such it is nearly impossible to tell them apart in dialogue.

Leia is probably given the most generous characterization, but she also has the smallest part in the story, and her decision to wait tables in order to hide from the Empire pretty much ruined her role in this book for me. As mentioned previously, Vader is badly mischaracterized, not only coming across as bullish and ignorant, but also as incompetent and whiny. The villains never really develop, they are given no point of view sequences, and their limited interaction with the main characters (mostly Mara Jade) never really endear them to the reader, overall very weak characterization, especially coming from Timothy Zahn, an author notorious for nailing the tone and thought process of Star Wars characters.

There aren't any real issues with the prose here, descriptions are fine and action sequences are some of the best portions of the novel. There is a tendancy to repeat the same action for each character, but it isn't too obnoxious. Dialogue is a bit off, but only for the reasons mentioned above; bad characterization. Not much to say about the writing style here, mostly functional and certainly at the expected standards for a Star Wars novel.

Plagued with bad characterization, an overcomplicated, uninteresting plot, and boring original characters, Allegiance is a disappointing effort by Timothy Zahn, and an underwhelming Star Wars novel.


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