Lit The JC Lit Reviews Special: THE OLD REPUBLIC: ANNIHILATION (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Feb 4, 2013.

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  1. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    A book!

    Some rules: rate Annihilation on a scale of 1 to 10, supplementing your rating with a review, if you want to (It's not necessary but is highly encouraged). However, please do not rate or review the book until after you've read the whole thing. Thanks. :)

    Go for it.;)
    RC-1991 likes this.
  2. MistrX Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 20, 2006
    star 4
    Ah HA! Here we go...

    I must make a confession. When I started reading this book, my expectations weren’t all that high. In my opinion, Drew Karpyshyn had a history of writing mostly competent, but ultimately forgettable books. I remember being entertained by the first two Bane novels, but then surprised when I found Dynasty of Evil to be amazing in comparison. Still, it was long enough ago that even that effort hadn’t left all that much of an impression on me.

    I read Revan in a couple of sittings and found that to be a good book, but ultimately kind of thin thanks to its short length and somewhat disappointing in the presentation of its familiar characters. Still it was solid, but I imagined that in a year I would find it ultimately forgettable as well.

    So imagine my surprise when I finished this book and realized I had had a total blast reading it. In many ways, this story covers an era and characters I’m still learning a lot about. I haven’t played the game yet, though someday I hope to, so my exposure to it has been through the books, the three comic series, and any of the background and supplementary material from places like the game’s website. I was looking forward to learning more about the timeline’s narrator, the man we see going mano y mano with Malgus in the second trailer, and the Jedi Grand Master of whom I’d been getting bits and pieces from various sources. Though they had been at the center of a comic arc, I evenstill hadn’t felt I’d gotten to know Theron and Teff’ith all that well (it can be tough to flesh out brand new characters in a single arc, unless perhaps you’re at Ostrander or JJM levels). Because of that, I found it both fun and interesting to see these characters fleshed out, to get that internal perspective you can really only get in novel form in our post-thought bubble world. The characters and story were both larger than life and yet human at the same time. Some might have been put off by the family drama we get when we start learning about Theron’s parentage, but as soon as I learned who his father was and we started to get flashbacks, I wanted to know more. I was pulled in to learning the story of these characters I’d seen on screen so briefly and having a grand old time as our secret agent and Jedi Master went on their special ops missions to execute this grand plan they had. In some ways, it was like getting to see a Bond film in Star Wars form, similar to what we’re getting in Agent of the Empire, though with a character not quite as old school secret agent as Jahan Cross is. Theron seems to have a hint more Indy in his way of doing things.

    If the book has any faults, it’s that its short length, while making the plot itself tight and well-paced ended up shortchanging some of the supporting characters. Teff’ith was actually well done, overcoming the reluctant rogue cliché with her witty one liners and actually somewhat moving point of view scenes, but it still seemed like she could have been elevated to the territory of greatness with a little more fleshing out. Thinking over it, though, it’s hard to imagine where that could have happened.

    I think the character that comes across as the most one-dimensional is our main villain, Darth Karrid. The idea of her being linked up with this Bismark (or Malevolence) dreadnought and having it as part of her very essence is a cool idea and I think could have been delved into a little more. Her machinations to get onto the Dark Council as well seemed to be shallow and over the top brute force rather than any real sense of cunning. Granted, this is Star Wars where "over the top" is the name of the game, but by the time Karrid reaches her violent end, she seemed almost a caricature rather than a complex character. I would have liked to see her connection with her ship and perhaps her former master explored a bit more.

    That said, though, I’d say it’s my favorite Old Republic era novel aside from Deceived, a book which also explored one of the trailer characters in more detail. I would love to see what the future holds for these characters, so hopefully Drew Karpyshyn has a few more ideas in mind for them in the days ahead.

    8.25/10
    Iron_lord and Charlemagne19 like this.
  3. Charlemagne19 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2000
    star 8
    Star Wars: The Old Republic: Annihilation review

    Star Wars: The Old Republic: Annihilation chronicles the adventures of Theron Shan, spy and son of Jedi Grandmaster Satele Shan. Born without sensitivity to the Force, Theron Shan was still trainedin Jedi techniques and uses them as an Republic spy. I didn't read the comic book mini-series which introduced him but was eager to get acquainted with the character in the novels. I'm a huge fan of Drew Karpyshyn's work and was interested in his take on the character.

    Honestly, I can't say it was all that impressive.

    If I could summarize Annihilation, I suppose I'd choose the word generic. It is very recognizably Star Wars, unfortunately it's lacking in anything which really distinguishes it from the hundreds of other works based on the franchise. There's a Big-Bad Evil Sith (double points for being a fallen Jedi and cyborg) who has a Big-Bad Evil Starship the heroes want to blow up. Theron is a scoundrel who doesn't pay much heed to the Force, he's got a Jedi Master mentor who does (double points for being the Big-Bad Evil Sith's mentor), and an even more scoundrel-like alien girl who can't speak English (or "Basic" if we're to be accurate to the setting) very well.

    There's also the fact we meet Theron's father during this book. Is he a nameless trooper that Satele Shan once loved? Some guy she shared a moment with? A fellow Jedi? An almost-as-generic Sith Lord? No, actually, he's another hero every bit as big as Satele Shan. Theron Shan is the Jacen Solo of the Old Republic era, the child of two legendary heroes. I love Star Wars to death but the 'bloodlines of awesome' thing needs to go die in a fire. I hated it in Star Wars: Legacy and I'm not too big of a fan here.

    I think part of my disappointment stems from the fact the Old Republic era promised something new to the Star Wars era. Not moral ambiguity, we got enough of that in the NJO, but nuance to the character. The Sith are fully three-dimensional characters in the Old Republic Era and the Jedi Knights are at their most flawed. The conflict is a great deal more touch and go because, as stated during the Clone Wars, there's heroes on both sides. This is a book about plucky heroes and mindlessly evil Sith which feels distinctly paint-by-the-numbers.

    Part of my problem is Theron's character irritated me. I don't mind heroes who break the rules but the easy way he coasts over his superior's orders and does whatever he wants makes him somewhat boring. There's also his stalker-like relationship with Teff'ith the Twilek. Teff'ith repeatedly makes it clear she doesn't want anything to do with Theron, only for him to ignore her wishes and stalk her around the galaxy. It's not romantic or paternal, it's just plain creepy.

    I think a big mistake of the writers and developers was to begin the Sith Empire and Old Republic war again. The Cold War was an interesting promise, forcing both Jedi and Sith to treat each other as friends or rivals rather than enemies. Breaking it out into a war again give us any new stories and just continues the cycle of murder between the two sides we've seen literally dozens of times before. A curse on Darth Baras (and the writers) for destroying an interesting premise.

    My irritation is doubled because the book hints at nuance while not really bearing it out. There's a Sith Lord on the Dark Council (whose membership now resembles a game of musical chairs) who wants to stop the in-fighting and focus on fighting the Republic. There's questions of sacrificing thousands of lives to save billions. Theron is forced into a desk job at one point, lightly punished for nearly getting a bunch of his fellow soldiers enslaved. All of this is swept under the rug for the "destroy the superweapon" plot people were tired of by the time Kevin J. Anderson created the Sun Crusher.

    Despite all this, I can't say Star Wars: Annihilation is bad. It's just disappointing. Perhaps I've read one too many books with sympathetic Imperial protagonists and was hoping for something better from the author of the Darth Bane trilogy. Darth Bane was pure evil and his Sith philosophy was too, yet you got into the head of the Dark Lord. You understood his rationale, insane as it was. Here, the Sith are just mustache-twirling bad guys who I half-expected Captain America to show up and punch. That would have made the book better. Star Wars: Fatal Alliance wasn't perfect but gave a much more interesting look into the Sith and Imperial mindset.

    I recommend fans of the Old Republic MMORPG give it a once over but everyone else should give it a pass.

    5/10
    AusStig likes this.
  4. AusStig Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 3, 2010
    star 4
    I read this a while ago in an ebook format, so I hope I didn't miss anything.

    This is a nothing book. Nothing changes and no one learns anything or grows. Mostly, I think Malcom is less ruthless at the end of it. Theon learns that he has a dad he never knew. This is made out to be a big thing, but (in my fav part of a scene) Theon says that this means nothing to him, as he was raised by some one else and Malcom's contribution is purely genetic. But then he does care and blah, blah. Sop opera stuff. As for the war, at the start of the book the Republic is winning, end of the book the Republic is winning. This does not change in the book, it does not come close to changing, the Empire is loosing and keeps loosing. The big ship that is such a threat (hint it's not) is the only thing giving the Empire a chance. so yeah.

    As for the plot, Drew goes very basic Star Wars, now cliches can work, but here they fall flat. He may have done research by looking up 'hunt for the Bismarck' with the totally not the enigma machine and the good guys letting an attack happen so as not to give away they now have their codes. Which the allies didn't do in real life, the Americans actually took a chance to assassinate a Japanese Admiral which did all but reveal they had the codes (the Japs changed the wrong one). so yeah

    Now the characters are the biggest flaw of the book. There are two people who this book should be about; their names are Gnost-Dural and Darth Karrid. They are the people who drive the book, these two have a history and a good conflict. They are criminally underused and Karrid is just another ragh, rugh I AM EVILZ, character. Which is how Drew writes all the Sith, even Darth Gravus, who was nothing like that in game, so unless they reveal he faked his death to go do something I will be massively disappointed. Darth Marr is ok as the sane one.

    Theon is an @$$ and he should have been fired or thrown in gaol after he not only screwed up a mission to rescue pows, he then altered a report for his own benefit so yeah, he's an @$$. Reminds me of Archer only less funny/AWESOME! His stalk victim I did not care about. His dad annoys me a lot, I hate how he is shoehorned into being important, how everyone respects him, blah, blah. He and Theon have great chemistry, by which I mean, they are both boring as bat. G-d is interesting and has a history with Karrid which made me feel bad for the guy. No one else other some Empire number cruncher who was just there to say how they couldn't win, and some generic evil Admiral, who likes killing things, or something.

    So no tension, nothing at stake, nothing changes and no interesting characters. So yeah, I would recommend this to some one who has never read a Star Wars book before, or who has just read LotF or FotJ, since the book is still better then those, though that is not saying much.

    4.5/10 ( not unread able, but unrememberable)
    Charlemagne19 likes this.
  5. JediMatteus Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    i just don't get your reviews?? Maybe my problem is i did not read the previous novels completely because i was bored of them. So i came to this almost as a standalone

    So as an almost standalone for me, i give it 8.5.
  6. AusStig Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 3, 2010
    star 4
    My problem is weak characters and that this story is really forgettable. Matteus, did you read the Bantaman superweapon of the week books? Cause it felt like a throw back to that.
  7. AlyxDinas Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2010
    star 4
    The book is certainly not Karypshan's best, although I'm not sure what that's worth in saying. DK's always be a conceptual writer, someone with interesting ideas but a lack of deftness for characterization and detail that prevent his books from truly being great. For instance, while the politics behind Karrid's assignment to the Dark Council are interesting, as is Darth Marr...it is fleeting and quickly replaced with things of less interest. The Ascendant Spear, too, is a very interesting ship but the technology only feels surface deep. I'm not asking for incredibly hard sci fi but some more depth would have been good.

    Indeed, that's always Karpyshan's main issue. For instance, Theron is, in practice, a very good protagonist with two interesting arcs to go through in regards to Malcom and Teff'ith. He's also an interesting type of character. Jedi mother, soldier father. Operative for the SIS. The opening chapters on Nar Shaddaa definitely show how this can be a benefit but DK can't quite follow up on the promise therein. The strongest thing we get, and this is a positive to his credit, is the relationship between Gnost Dural and Karrid. Dural's actually a pretty well written Jedi and makes me wonder what would happen if Karpyshan ever wrote a book with the scale of Kemp's Deceived (a book which remains, possibly, the TOR era's strongest). I think he could do well. But Karpyshan works, still, with the mind of a game writer so the scale need to be suitably big.

    And yet, his action scenes in this are strong and not overstated like the Bane books and the book itself reads briskly, being the type of fun sci fi pulp you might expect. If anything else, DK understand how to make things flow at a suitable pace. And because of this, we have a book that is flawed but certain readable.

    I forget what I gave Revan, which was similarly a book with a lot of problems with a brisk, readable pace but I think that even with something like that and even my criticisms of Karpyshan's deftness as a writer, he's still not wrong for the IP. I think he just need to mature. The elements are there and this book definitely shows it. 6.5/10
    anguirus2003 and Iron_lord like this.
  8. JediMatteus Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    which books??
  9. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 32.75/5 = 6.55
  10. Todd the Jedi Mod and Inquisitor of SWTV

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Oct 16, 2008
    star 6
    JM, to answer your question- Dark Empire (Galaxy Gun, World Devestators, Eclipse), Jedi Academy trilogy (Death Star protoyype, Sun Crusher), Children of the Jedi (Eye of Palpatine), Darksaber (the Darksaber :p ), and The Corellian trilogy (Centerpoint).

    And lol, so few reviews. But here's mine:

    After focusing on the Sith for so long, Drew Karpyshyn makes a change of pace and writes a spy thriller novel, though Jedi and Sith still play integral roles. Annihilation builds off of the events of the game The Old Republic, as well as the earlier comic series The Lost Suns.

    I pretty much liked everything about Theron Shan. He had some James Bond elements, but this book didn't really homage any Bond material beyond some usual spy tropes. I thought it was funny when he was relegated to desk-work for a short period of time, but even there he was still the best in his department. I liked the use of Gnost-Dural, and thought he worked well with Theron. The mission to retrieve the black cipher was pretty good, and I liked their plan to use a fake assassination attempt as cover, and it ends up working. I also liked the use of Teff'ith, and how her contact proved very beneficial in Theron's mission.

    I thought the subplot surrounding Theron's family life was pretty interesting. Jace Malcom made quite a name for himself in the trailers for TOR, and it was cool to see that he holds such an important position within the Republic. The revelation that he's Theron's father certainly makes his role as planning leader for Operation End Game a bit precarious, since he's now got the extra burden of worrying about his son. Still, that worry never really gets in the way of things, even after Theron meets with Satele and discusses the reasons she gave him up. Fortunately for the mission, Gnost-Dural treats Theron like an equal and doesn't worry too much about him, allowing repeated success for their efforts to stop the Ascendant Spear. The two had a good working dynamic, and Teff'ith was also a nice inclusion into their mission to Reaver Station.

    Even though I liked this story overall and thought it worked well, it felt too rushed. Major events transpired too quickly, glossing over some important details. I liked the inclusion of the Dark Council, but they barely appeared, and even Darth Karrid herself got little development, a huge departure from Karpyshyn's previous works. Still, I did like all of the development for the good guys, and liked that the ending was unambiguously good. I liked the look into how the Empire was run, especially the stuff with Minister Davidge. The battle at the end was nice but again, rushed. The duels with Karrid and her apprentices were pretty good, and I kinda liked the gruesome nature of her death. The Ascendant Spear itself was a cool ship, and I liked how Karrid was able to control it by basically becoming one with it. Of course, Theron used this against her, which led to her downfall in the end.

    I give this an 8.75 out of 10 for a good spy story with fun and interesting characters, as well as keeping good continuity with TOR and The Lost Suns.
    Iron_lord likes this.
  11. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 41.5/6 = 6.92
  12. Odolwa Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2013
    star 3
    Enjoyed this book like all of Drew's. It was nice to see a spy as the lead instead of all about the jedi and the force. Really liked Tiff'ith and her sarcastic accent. The only problems i had were i was expecting a more angry/emotional Theron due to Satele Shan giving him up and not knowing who his father was, All the characters lacked a bit of emotion throughout the book. Also the last battle was predictable and Cliche. But despite that, the book was entertaining and i read through it pretty fast, I wouldn't mind a follow up with Theron. Good book for anyone Imo.
    8/10
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  13. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 49.5/7 = 7.07
  14. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    This is Drew Karpyshyn's best book. It's merely mediocre rather than terrible.

    Maybe it's because he doesn't have anything to ruin; Karpyshyn still hasn't graduated to creating his own characters yet, but the ones he's working with had no actual character to begin with. So their blandness just feels run-of-the-mill rather than wretchedly disappointing. Maybe because he's not writing amateurish crap about villains who are uber-KEWL superpowered edgy badasses, but is just writing an adventure that's mostly about a guy who's just a spy. Whatever the case, Karpyshyn has turned out a basically functional spy adventure, with a plot that works and characters who you can follow without wanting to jump off a bridge. At no point is it really good, but at its best it functions, which is more than you can say for most of Karpyshyn's output. But the book still can't escape his poor craftsmanship. The prose is mediocre -- and, incredibly obnoxiously, Karpyshyn is constantly breaking up lines from characters into multiple fairly short paragraphs, during dialogue, for no real reason other than to make it a giant pain in the ass to figure out who's actually talking during a dialogue. Total incompetence there. The characters are fairly thin and ultimately generic. Also, the book includes absolutely awful Twi'lek character from The Lost Suns, a young Twi'lek woman who acts, speaks, and appears to think like a brain-damaged child. Even toned down for the book, she just comes off stupid, obnoxious, and bland. The plot tends to just make a beeline from one point to the next without a lot of creativity, and Karpyshyn tends to just write over obstacles rather than make something really interesting out of them. There's no depth; Karpyshyn tries a little bit to have these themes of responsibility vs. family ties and such, but he doesn't really know what he's doing with them, and it just ends up with everybody parroting crappy Jedi claptrap about how loving your children is wrong, even as Theron constantly bitches about how awful and self-righteous Jedi are. It never quite goes anywhere, except Jace Malcom decides not to sacrifice planets because something something nice guy; I think we know who wrote the Coventry myth into KOTOR. The threat is a super-generic supership with a sort of surface concept of a Sith controlling it that doesn't go anywhere. The villain is paper-thin. Much as you might expect from Karpyshyn, the whole book just sort of goes through the motions of telling a bland story and then never really adds up to anything. It never gets quite as reprehensibly bad as Karpyshyn's other work, nor quite as utterly generic, but it's also just sort of a barely competent, pointless shelf-filler.

    5/10, and that's giving credit for the fact that, for no real reason, both the main heroes end up spending the entire climax of the book, including the big battle sequence, in their underwear. More of that sort of whimsical, silly creativity might have livened up Karpyshyn's utterly by-the-book, lowest-common-denominator mediocrity.
  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 54.5/8 = 6.81
  16. Revanfan1 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 6
    @Havac, have you played SWTOR? If not, I think I should note that Karpyshyn actually did have something in this novel to ruin: Darth Gravus. In-game, he was a cool-headed, logical, quiet, Sith Lord, menacing but more in the vein of Dooku than Vader. In this book, he comes off as yet another yelling, growling, teeth-gnashing maniac with "GAH SITH ONLY CARE ABOUT RAGE!" issues. Totally ruined him, IMO, and then he killed him off in one of the most boring space battles ever. The rest of the book does a better job with this, but Gravus...gah, it's almost as bad as what he did to Meetra.
  17. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Well, that makes more sense.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  18. aalagartassle Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2011
    star 4
    below average IMO, big ship, jedi saves the day. loss of pride - seen it all before. Dark council was the only highlight.

    2/10 sorry i bought it, hides at the bottom left handcorner of the bookshelf with a partiton covering it.
    AusStig likes this.
  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 56.5/9 = 6.28
  20. Stymi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 10, 2002
    star 4
    Gah! I never posted a review for this one. And it's been a while since I read it. I remember mostly impressions, which speaks for the forgettableness of the book. But I did like it better than Revan, which I didn't think was very good. But it wasn't awful. Just sort of middle of the road.

    6.33

    Sent from Tapatalk app
  21. Darkslayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2013
    star 5
    I don't have time for a long review, but I enjoyed this book. I liked how they talked about the destruction of Imperial Intelligence, and I enjoyed the Shan/Malcolm family dynamic. I also thought the raid on the ship was pretty cool.

    8/10
  22. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 70.83/11 = 6.44
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