Friday, December 16, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived review

    Enter the mind of a psychopath.

    Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived, which is a mouthful, is a story expanding on the first of the Old Republic trailers. If you think that's perhaps a little much, that they should have waited for the actual game to come out before trying to do a novel set in the period, you might have a point.

    Bluntly, Deceived is a very short novel and a substantial portion of it is expanding on the events of the Deceived trailer. The rest of the novel primarily deals with the characters of Darth Malgus, Zeerid Korr, and Aryn Leneer.

    The character of Darth Malgus was described, when he first appeared, as an exceptional Sith. He wasn't depicted as nice, per se, but it was a chief part of his characterization that he showed mercy as well as possessed a "slave" he treated as a wife. I was looking forward to seeing what sort of relationship Eleena and Darth Malgus had, expecting a pair of psychos in love.

    Sadly, the character of Eleena is a complete cipher. Despite the fact we see her help in the assault of the Jedi Temple, which requires an iron will right there, she is given almost no characterization whatsoever. Where did she develop her fighting skill? Why did she fall in love with Darth Malgus? What does she in him? Is she envisioning herself as an Empress?

    I had a huge number of questions regarding the character of Eleena and none of them were answered. The sum total of her characterization amounted to, "I really like Darth Malgus! He's the greatest!" If you really want me to damn the relationship, I'm going to say it reminds me of the AOTC relationship between Padme and Anakin. The characters have fallen in love because the plot demands them too.

    Still, don't think this ruined my enjoyment completely. The story isn't about what I wanted to read, but that doesn't mean that the character portrayed in the book is a poor one. Contrary to the depiction of Darth Malgus as a "lighter shade of black" he's probably the biggest psychopath in the Star Wars universe. How big of a psycho is he? His Sith philosophy amounts to, "War feeds the Dark Side. Ergo, if I wage war then I am serving the Force."

The other characters in the story are a mixed bag as well. They have their upsides, being both engaging and easy to read about. However, the characters also have some qualities that I didn't enjoy as well. For one, they are the biggest collection of whiners and hypocrites I've found in the Star Wars universe. I'm not kidding, these guys hate their lives and let us know it.

    For example, on the side of the heroes, is Aryn Leneer. She is a Jedi Knight out to avenge her master. This, by itself, is already problematic. A Jedi seeks not revenge and all that. Which, unfortunately, is the problem of her story arc. It depends on us realizing that she's going against the Jedi Path by attempting to kill the man who killed her master.

    The problem is the man who killed her master is an absolute monster and justice would be served by bringing him down. The only difference is she should be doing it for the "right reasons" as opposed to petty revenge. Unfortunately, like Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, the conclusion of the book is preordained. Darth Malgus will appear in the video game, The Old Republic, so there's no sense over whether she'll succeed in her quest or not.

    Frankly, I think her character development in the story was unbelievable anyway. I can believe a Jedi would abandon their commitment to the Jedi code and galactic peace for personal reasons, the Star Wars sexology is filled with members of the order having inappropriate relationships. What I find unbelievable is that she thinks that if she abandons her quest for revenge, she has to abandon her quest for justice. Darth Malgus is a threat to the entire galaxy and so are the Sith, yet she considers fighting them to be something she has to do solely because of a venedetta.

    That's just silly.

    Also problematic is the other major hero, Zeerid Korr, who is a smuggler because of his crippled daughter. I confess, this caused me to roll my eyes since "only a criminal because of a sick relative" thing was cliche in the 1930s. Zeerid really can't keep his disgust at his profession from his thoughts and he lets us know how much he loathes smuggling.

    Given Han Solo was noticeably angst free about running guns, spice, and other materials - I can't say I'm particularly happy about Zeerid's hypocrisy. It's a different take on smuggling in the Star Wars universe but it became cringe-worthy after several pages. Seriously, I have a low tolerance for mental gymnastics and if Zeerid really does think his profession is that loathsome he should find something else. I'm sure there's other professions out there more to his taste, legal or otherwise.

    Despite their flaws, both are entertaining to read about. Aryn's motivations are nicely unambiguous in their simplicity while Zeerid's actions as a soldier are infinitely more interesting than his angst over being a smuggler. The interactions between the two are also entertaining and surprisingly nuanced. Both are capable of recognizing the other is on a path they shouldn't be yet are aware how stupid it would be to try and lecture them.

    When the two began displaying signs of attraction, I was actually happy for them since they were obviously made for one another. It's also nice to see someone realize the Jedi Code is flat out not working for them. Too often, the EU treats a person as able to bend the Jedi Code into a pretzel shape before admitting their heroes aren't following it (I'm looking at you, Jaina Solo).

    Overall, I enjoyed Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived. It's not a great book but it was an entertaining one with excellent action and characters who are interesting if not particularly to my tastes. Darth Malgus is certainly an impressive villain and a nice way of demonstrating that you don't have to be in the slightest bit redeemable to be an interesting character.


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