Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Jul 20, 2010.
My review here.
Average score: 206.6/29 = 7.12
Sean Williams has never before written a really good Star Wars novel, so I was coming in with pretty low expectations for what looked to be a generic tie-in throwing every TOR class into a McGuffin-chasing muddle. For a long time, Fatal Alliance proved to be a very pleasant surprise. It's absolutely terrible at constructing a setting, as no one who hasn't read extensively of the pre-release game info is going to have any clue what the hell's going on, but I've read enough to know what was going on and so I could roll with it. With that out of the way, Williams had a pretty engaging little adventure going. The cast is of course stuck with the fact that it's a collection basically of class avatars from the game, but Williams manages to bring some sense of life and personality and arc to them. They're still somewhat generic, but Williams somehow makes it work by making them just distinctive enough. Some of the character work actually gets interesting, with Ula Vii being put in a very interesting position and slowly developing and making realizations about himself, before ending in a pleasantly unexpected, but complex and real, place. Eldon Ax also comes off pretty nicely, as a young but vicious and hateful Sith apprentice negotiating a relationship with a Master she resents and remaining interesting as a sort-of-protagonist without ceasing to be a pretty loathsome person even after being affected by the events of the climax.
The plot also has a pretty good setup, with multiple factions being drawn onto neutral ground for an auction where a lot of agendas are intersecting. That's a great setup, one rife with potential and tension and interest without relying on the typical battle or big-threat plotlines. Unfortunately, Williams isn't really the man to handle that kind of complex politicking plotline, and he neither sets up the situation very well, nor does he exploit it sufficiently, instead diving almost instantly into battles over the McGuffin. He still draws a fun enough sense of adventure out of it, but the full potential of the plotline isn't anywhere near realized. After it moves past that setup, the plot runs into a lengthy climax centered on defeating the hexes, which is a fairly engaging bit of battling, but what ultimately undoes the novel is the ending. After building up to a big revelation, we get a silly and muddled conclusion that ends everything abruptly and fails to resolve the character arcs of at least half the characters, skips a lot of the actual action so that it can expositionize its way over it later, and then retroactively plunges the entire novel into absolute incoherence in a remarkably terrible epilogue.
Ultimately, Williams sets himself up a good plotline, but can't maintain it with any coherence (frequently raising questions like why certain people are being sent on missions; why troopers are being sent to destroy the incredibly dangerous hex factories on the ground when orbital bombardment is being used effectively by the ships in orbit; why four hexes are almost impossible for a Jedi, Sith, Mandalorian, and a handful of soldiers to defeat the first time we meet them, but in the climax, near-infinite hordes of hexes, which are implied to be even more advanced, are relatively minor obstacles for assault teams, etc). A handful of logic blips would be easy to forgive with the goodwill Williams builds up with a fun, pulpy-adventurish feel and the intriguing character and plot potential through the start, but as they build up and the plot and characters peter out, the issues loom larger, and the horrendous ending absolutely destroys that goodwill and lays the problems of the novel in stark relief. Had it managed to find a solid resolution after the Nal Hutta section, I would have given it an 8 or 8.5 -- a not-great-but-good, refreshingly fun little adventure. As it stands, it's a fun enough little diversion but it fails to live up to its potential in either character or plot, and completely self-destructs at the end. I kind of want to give it a 7, just because it really was a fun ride up until the
Average score: 213.5/30 = 7.12
Just finished this one late last night. It was the first Old Republic novel that I read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
--It would have helped me if I knew more of the history between the Republic 3000 years BBY and the Empire that existed then. But that's not Williams' fault.
--Good to see the Hutts again, on Nal Hutta, and doing what they do best, scavenging parts of a ship and selling them off to the highest bidder.
--This book seems to include all Star Wars character prototypes: a Jedi, a Sith, a Hutt, a disenfranchised Republic Trooper, a Mandalorian, a double-agent politician. And all of them working together--this is a type of alliance I have never seen in Star Wars and am not expecting to see again, and I enjoyed it. A Sith apprentice paired with a Jedi Grand Master, a Jedi Padawan paired with a Sith Master, all of them essentially at the mercy of a Mandalorian...it was almost a weird alternate Star Wars universe but in a good way. And of course the ending was creepy with the statement that that was the only time that such an alliance could happen, that the Republic and the Empire, the Jedi and the Sith, had to be kept at war with each other.
--Eldon Ax was definitely my favorite character here. I liked seeing a red-haired female Sith and she was badass. And upon realizing that she alone could control the bat**** crazy droids and turning them on her Master...very typical Sith; the Rule of Two a couple of thousand years early it seems.
--Lema Xandret was just sad; creating the droids to protect her daughter from the Sith, losing her daughter to the Sith anyway and then being killed by her own droids. That said, while her story was sad, she still was not exactly a good or saintly character. See: the droids.
--Those. Droids. Holy. ****. The magnaguards in TCW suddenly look really tame. Multiplying enough to take over an entire planet, and quickly, and killing everyone in their way because "We do not recognize your authority!" It's almost ironic that the only person who could ever be capable of destroying them was a Sith.
--I also enjoyed Ula Vii. The double agent angle was good, especially with his being forced to choose a side eventually. And he was sadly self-deprecating, hating himself for being only "partially human;" there was some show here of speciesism in the Old Republic, seemingly on both sides.
--Shigar: We meet him when he's wandering around pissed off about not being accepted for his trials, and he meets Moxla and Stryver. I was afraid he was going to be a disgruntled Jedi who would go dark, but he turned out to be just afraid and unsure of himself, and he ends up coming through. And his master Satele Shan was what a Jedi Master should be.
Up until the what, Hav? The what??
Up until the post truncation!
Average score: 222.5/31 = 7.18