Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Star Wars: The Old Republic Annihilation



Drew Karpyshyn is back and this time his novel doesn't focus on Darth Bane or the Jedi formerly known as Darth Revan. In Annihilation, Republic spy Theron Shan takes center stage in an action packed, clothing optional adventure. 

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Annihilation is the fourth in the "The Old Republic" series of novels, following Fatal Alliance, Deceived, and Revan. These novels are written as tie-ins to BioWare's MMORPG video game, "Star Wars: The Old Republic."

Chronologically Annihilation is the fourth book in the series .  Using the BBY (Before Battle of Yavin) dating system, Revan is the earliest book set between 3,954-3,900 BBY, Deceived is next at 3,653 BBY, then Fatal Alliance at 3,643 BBY and finally Annihilation at 3,640 BBY.

Each novel in the series is written as a stand-alone, so it is easy to read them without having to know information from the others. There are however references to characters and events that you will need to know the earlier books to fully understand. If you read Annihilation and then want to know about the Sith Emperor then check out Revan, want to read about Darth Malgus then read Deceived, want to learn more about Satele Shan then check out Fatal Alliance. It is also worth noting that Star Wars Insider magazine will have a related short story in issue #137 released in late October, that story by Alexander Freed is entitled, "The Last Battle of Colonel Jace Malcom."

The Publisher's synopsis of Annihilation gives a nice encapsulation of the story:

"The Sith Empire is in flux. The Emperor is missing, presumed dead, and an ambitious Sith lord’s attempt to seize the throne has ended fatally. Still, Darth Karrid, commander of the fearsome Imperial battle cruiser Ascendant Spear, continues her relentless efforts to achieve total Sith domination of the galaxy.  
But Karrid’s ruthless determination is more than matched in the steely resolve of Theron Shan, whose unfinished business with the Empire could change the course of the war for good. Though the son of a Jedi master, Theron does not wield the Force—but like his renowned mother, the spirit of rebellion is in his blood. As a top covert agent for the Republic, he struck a crucial blow against the Empire by exposing and destroying a Sith superweapon arsenal—which makes him the ideal operative for a daring and dangerous mission to end Ascendant Spear’s reign of terror.

Joined by hot-headed smuggler Teff’ith, with whom he has an inexplicable bond, and wise Jedi warrior Gnost-Dural, Darth Karrid’s former master, Theron must match wits and weapons with a battle-tested crew of the most cold-blooded dark side disciples. But time is brutally short. And if they don’t seize their one chance to succeed, they will surely have countless opportunities to die."

The main character of the story is Theron Shan, the son of Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan and agent for the Republic's spy agency Strategic Information Service (SIS). Theron also starred in the Dark Horse Comic story arc, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Lost Suns. History buffs will notice the SIS name is very similar to the United States' Office of Strategic Services that was formed in 1942 during WWII.  The OSS was the predecessor to the CIA. In thematically Annihilation is the sort of spy story that could fit in a WWII or Cold War setting.  I particularly liked this setting of the story it was a nice change of pace and gave an interesting flavor to the characters in the story.

What would happen if you combined James Bond, Sterling Archer and Lobot? You would probably get someone like Theron Shan. Shan is a reckless yet effective secret agent with a unique set of cybernetic implants on his head and some fashionable but deadly bracers (wrist mounted weapon platforms) on his arms.

Shan, the SIS, the Republic military and the Jedi are all on a mission to find and destroy the superweapon ship the Ascendant Spear and it's former Jedi turned Sith commander Darth Karrid. I like superweapon stories, they hearken back to the Bantam era novels and the early Expanded Universe. They are also evocative of the Original Trilogy of Star Wars films and it is easy to think of the Ascendant Spear like the Super Star Destroyer of it's day.

A number of characters from previous TOR novels, the video game and associated contact are included or mentioned in this novel.  We also get a bit of a bombshell about what happened to Darth Malgus after Deceived.  It is fitting that Karpyshyn wrote this novel because it allows him to play with some TOR era Sith world building, using ideas that he introduced in terms of Sith society in that novel to flesh out this story.

In the lead up to the release of the video game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, www.SWTOR.com released a series of in-universe videos narrated by actor Lance Henriksen as Kel Dor Jedi Master Gnost-Dural.  These videos are very cool and give you back ground on the TOR era. Dural plays an important role in the novel so it is cool to see them fit him into continuity in this way.



In addition to Theron and Gnost-Dural, we get an interesting mix of other species and characters from Sith, Hutts, Smugglers and Imperial Bureaucrats. My favorite character in addition to Theron is Republic Supreme  Commander Jace Malcom.  I won't go into details to avoid spoiling the story but Malcom is a man's man and  provides emotional weight to the story.

As the story develops it revolves around choices that the central characters make and made, choices between family and duty. The burdens our characters put upon themselves weigh heavily whether it is loyalty or leadership, we have a group of heroes here that are flawed but noble.

Annihilation is a tightly crafted story that moves quickly and presents new and interesting characters.  I highly recommend this novel to any Expanded Universe fan.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Annihilation goes on sale Tuesday, November 13th in hardcover, ebook and unabridged audio book formats. For more information on Annihilation visit RandomHouse.com

One last thing before you read Annihilation, take a second and watch again the Star Wars: The Old Republic "Hope" Trailer. You will thank me later.



Author's Note: A copy of Annihiliation was provided by the publisher for this review. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a must read for any fan of TOR! Theron Shan is a great character who mostly deviates from the usual Jedi protagonist, since he is a man who must trust his wits and skills, and not just rely on the Force. This is a great tie in with the MMORPG TOR. The cinematic trailer – Hope – is awesome too! SWTOR is a game that is worth trying. I also love the trailer Deceived. You should also check that out. ; )

    Fredric Falconer

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