Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Another Forgettable TOR Tie-In

Revenge of the Sith High School

Author: Ahsoka_snips_fangirl

Artist: Shaq

Medium: Fanfiction

Publication Date: January 2017 (ongoing)

Timeline Placement: 5 months BSWVIII

Series: Legal Gray Area

When we got to the class room a group of students were making a ring around someone. “What’s happening in there?” I asked Rey. I was a little to short to see over the ring of people. She went up on Her toes. “There beating someone up!” She gasped. “Who!?” I said. “He’s tall a skinny, he has gold blonde hair and is wearing gold and ye-” THREE-PEIO!” I gasped.

Oh god I can’t do it.

So the dramatis personae in Fatal Alliance lists eight main characters, one for each of the eight playable character classes in Star Wars: The MMOld Republic. They are: Dao Stryver, a Mandalorian mercenary representing the Bounty Hunter class; Darth Chratis, a human male representing the Sith Inquisitor class, although the term “Sith Inquisitor” is never used in the book; Eldon Ax, Chratis’s sixteen-year-old female apprentice and hot redhead, representing the Sith Warrior class; Jet Nebula, male human Smuggler; Larin Moxla, a female Kiffar for the Trooper class; our old friend Satele Shan, Jedi Consular; Shigar Konshi, male Kiffar representative of the Jedi Knight class even though he’s still Satele’s apprentice; and Ula Vii, male Epicanthix Imperial Agent.

Okay we’re not even on page one and already I have a few issues. First of all, while it’s kind of cute to make a TOR book with a character for each TOR class (even though it’s a dead giveaway that the book is soulless tie-in trash that only exists to promote the game), I think the author missed a trick somewhere by not also using the cast to show off the diversity of species available to players. When TOR debuted, you initially had the option of playing the game as one of eight different alien races: Chiss, human, Miraluka, Mirialan, Rattataki, Sith, Twi’lek, or Zabrak (there was also a ninth race called Cyborg, but it was basically just a human with metal bits glued on; Cathar and Togruta were added later). But instead of mapping eight species to eight characters, the author just made everyone human, Kiffar, or Epicanthix (with the exception of Mandalorian warrior Dao Stryver, who is revealed in the epilogue to be a giant talking lizard that doesn’t even appear in the game). If you look up the latter two species on Wookieepedia, you will find that they are both “near-human,” which for all intents and purposes basically means human.

Which brings me to my next point. According to Shadows of the Empire Sourcebook (West End Games, 1996), “The Epicanthix are a near-human people encountered relatively recently and known for their combination of warlike attitudes and high regard for art and culture. Physically they are quite close to genetic ‘baseline’ humans, suggesting that they evolved from a ‘forgotten’ colonization effort many millennia ago. They have lithe builds with powerful musculature. Through training, the Epicanthix prepare their bodies for war, yet tone them for beauty. They are generally human in appearance, although they tend to be willowy and graceful. Their faces are somewhat longer than usual, with narrow eyes. Their long black hair is often tied in ceremonial styles which are not only attractive but practical.” Also consider that it is likely they were named after the epicanthic fold, a feature of the eyes of many Asian peoples. Keeping all of this in mind, do you see anything horribly offensive here?

You got it: the Epicanthix weren’t supposed to be discovered until “relatively recently” at the time of the movies but there’s one working for the Sith Empire 3,600 years earlier!!! Where were you on that one, Lucasfilm Story Group?

With Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily

So Jet Nebula and his droid Clunker are smugglers-cum-privateers in the employment of Tassaa Bareesh, a Hutt crime matriarch who inexplicably has a given name and surname like a normal person instead of being called Something the Hutt. They intercept the starship Cinzia, bound for parts unknown. At the behest of his mutinous crew’s guns, Jet orders the ship to hand over its potentially valuable cargo, but the people aboard elect to blow themselves up instead. They do a poor job of it though and the only things to survive the explosion are the ship’s navigation logs and the very item they were trying to destroy.

Tassaa Bareesh sends word to both the Sith Empire and the Republic, still in the midst of their uneasy truce ten years after Darth Malgus burned down the Jedi Temple and urinated on its ashes, asking them to send representatives to bid on the Cinzia‘s navicomputer as well as the mystery item. The device is constructed of alien materials, promising that the world the navicomputer leads to is rich in resources desperately needed by both beleaguered factions.

The Sith and the Republic are both inclined to write off the Hutts’ offer as a prank until Mandalorian warrior Dao Stryver shows up and starts asking questions. On Coruscant, Stryver tangles with Larin Moxla, whistleblower and disgraced former Republic commando, and Shigar Konshi, a disgraced Jedi Padawan who just flunked his Knighthood trial, and burns down a slum while looking for information on the Cinzia. On [Sith planet], Stryver ties up Sith apprentice Eldon Ax and questions her about someone named Lema Xandret. Ax’s apprentice, Darth Chratis, who is so evil he sits around naked entombed inside a sarcophagus all day, reveals that Lema Xandret was her mother, a master droid-builder and citizen of the Sith Empire who went on the run with a band of deserters when the Sith took her Force-sensitive baby away. ELdon AX‘s name is just based on her mother’s initials for some reason; her birth name was Cinzia. What a twist, and we’re only thirty pages in! I hope this rollercoaster pace continues.

Chratis, despite supposedly being one of the eight main characters and taking up the whole goddamn cover, barely appears in the novel, sending Ax to the Hutts’ auction in his place while he stays at home and jerks off in his coffin. Satele Shan sends her apprentice, Shigar Konshi, in the hope that he will earn his Knighthood and redeem himself for embarrassing her in front of the Jedi Council. Shigar invites Larin Moxla to go with him because they’ve bonded over their homeworld of Kiffu being annexed by the Sith or something. Shigar will be undercover, however; the true representative of the Republic will be Ula Vii, aide to Supreme Commander Statorrs, who happened to be in the room when Shigar was making his report and so gets stuck with the assignment. Little does anyone suspect that Ula is actually a deep-cover Sith agent making frequent reports to his masters on the dealings of the Republic military command. He is also a huge pussy with an overpowering anxiety disorder that seems like it might impair his ability to function as a reliable informer. I don’t know too much about spies, though; I just seen the James Bond movies.

Espionage.

This whole section of the novel, introducing the characters and establishing their goals and interrelationships, seems like it’s the setup for a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World-type situation with various rival teams racing against time and one another to obtain some valuable prize. And for a little while it does play out sort of like that. Everyone arriving at the auction, eyeing one another up, trying to make sense of the strange device they’re bidding on, and exploring Tassaa Bareesh’s castle is the most interesting part of the book.

[Continuity Note: The auction takes place on the Hutt homeworld, which ever since its introduction in Dark Empire in 1991 or ’92 has been called Nal Hutta, which translates in the Hutt language to “Glorious Jewel.” {Continuity Note2: Hypernote: The 1992 children’s book Zorba the Hutt’s Revenge, part of the infamous Glove of Darth Vader or Jedi Prince series, identifies the Hutt homeworld as Varl. This was later explained with the retcon that Varl was the original planet on which the Hutts evolved, but it was destroyed many thousands of years ago by either cosmic cataclysm or global warming. The Hutts then moved their empire to the planet Evocar, where they enslaved the native Evocii and renamed the world Nal Hutta, which remained the capital of Hutt Space for the rest of EU history.} The Old Republic, however, inexplicably chose to just refer to the planet as Hutta, which is what it’s consistently called in Fatal Alliance.

[According to the in-game codex, “the planet more commonly called Nal Hutta is considered a paradise to the gluttonous tastes of the Hutts. To anyone else, though, the planet is a living nightmare—a disgusting and dangerous place to visit, and an unthinkable place to live. Current Underworld slang has shortened the name to a simple ‘Hutta’—a place where more civilized people threaten to send their children if they misbehave.” So they even directly reference the established name within the game, but don’t use it for whatever reason. This is more of a curiosity than an annoyance or complaint, though; it’s certainly no Mon Calamari naming disaster, but we’ll get to that eventually if God wills it.]

Jet Nebula and his poorly described droid are already at the castle, hanging out and watching everyone arrive. Nebula sees Ula Vii and immediately identifies him as a Sith spy. He invites him to get drinks in the cantina, where Dao Stryver gases the entire room and abducts them. Stryver interrogates them for the location of the Hutt vault containing the artifact. Ula spills his guts and Stryver escapes through the ceiling just as Ula’s bodyguards come through the door. With them is Larin Moxla, who Ula Vii immediately falls in love with. Of course, unbeknownst to him, Larin is already crushing on Shigar, who has no interest in her but will shortly develop a semi-flirtation with Eldon Ax, even though those two characters will never interact again after the second act.

All of this love quadrangle nonsense is irrelevant to the plot, however, as things soon kick into high gear when Eldon Ax, Shigar Konshi, and Dao Stryver independently try to infiltrate the Hutt vault to steal the navicomputer and mystery item. Ax and Shigar have the book’s prerequisite lightsaber battle but everything goes to hell when bizarre combat droids start shooting their way out of the vault. All the characters start referring to the droids as “hexes” because the author describes them as having hexagonal bodies, but that’s pretty much the extent of their description and it’s not a very good one. I had difficulty picturing them throughout the book, especially once they start shapeshifting and linking up with one another like the Indian Terminator. Also according to the cover illustration they look like this:

Not really like a hexagon at all.

All the characters convene on the vault and there’s a huge shootout with the droids as the palace starts collapsing around them from all the explosions. There’s some really weird usage of the Force during this battle, with characters basically using it to create shields around themselves that can withstand blaster bolts with no real difficulty. It feels like how the Force is portrayed in video games, which I guess makes sense given the nature of the tie-in. Too bad none of the Jedi who got Order 66ed in Episode III thought to do that.

Eldon Ax cuts off part of Larin Moxla’s hand with her lightsaber and escapes with one of the disabled droids, hoping its memory banks will contain the location of its planet of origin. Meanwhile Dao Stryver absconds with the navicomp. Eldon Ax blows up the Republic shuttle on her way offworld, which is clearly an act of open war during peacetime but nobody seems to care. Shigar, Larin, Ula, and Jet are stuck on [Nal] Hutta with a very unhappy Tassaa Bareesh, but Shigar makes a deal with her to not kill them in exchange for finding the planet and helping her recoup her losses.

The Hutt matriarch strong-arms Jet Nebula into ferrying everyone else about in his ship, the Auriga Fire. Also going with them is a random Republic trooper named Hetchkee, the sole survivor of Ula Vii’s bodyguard contingent. Despite never getting any character development or point-of-view sections he continues to hang out with the heroes for the rest of the book, pretending to be a main character.

Someone figures out that the weird contraption they recovered from the Cinzia was a portable droid factory, and at the rate it was able to manufacture the number of droids they encountered, whoever created them could mass produce enough to take over the galaxy. Also the droids have some kind of biological component inside them, a blood-like red fluid that the Jedi can use to temporarily manipulate the droids’ minds.

This development brought to mind another oft-forgotten EU book, Steven Barnes’s The Cestus Deception, a Clone Wars novel that came out six years before Fatal Alliance. The plot of that book dealt with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Kit Fisto investigating the new “Jedi Killers,” combat droids containing psychic dashta eels that help them fight Force-users. Did the author of Fatal Alliance rip off this plot device for his own dull-as-dishwater book? No one remembers The Cestus Deception or anything that happened in it, so probably not. The unoriginal concept of the hex droids is just Fatal Alliance bringing nothing new or interesting to the table. The writing is . . . fine; the ideas, not so much.

Also not a hexagon.

Just writing this recap is putting me to sleep so let’s try to speed through the rest of this slog. After the firefight at the palace, Shigar tries to use psychometry, his people’s unique Force ability to see the history of objects by touching them, on a piece of hex, but it doesn’t work because he doesn’t believe in himself. He calls Satele Shan, who tells him to believe in himself, and then he’s able to do it. Meanwhile Ula and Larin bond over her severed fingers.

The planet the droids came from is located in the galaxy’s halo, which is a really cool part of spiral galaxies in real life. Rather than just being a flat disc like we see in illustrations, spiral galaxies are actually round; above and below the disc of spiral arms, which contain the majority of the galaxy’s stars, the seemingly empty space is full of dark matter and old stars. It’s here that Shigar and Ax find the world of Sebaddon, where Lema Xandret and her followers fled after escaping from the Sith Empire, orbiting a black hole. It’s remarked upon multiple times how characters can see the whole galaxy and its spiral arms from where they are, but I’m pretty sure you’d have to be much, much farther away to see that. I could be wrong, I ain’t no astronomer, but Star Wars has an established history of bad science like this.

Darth Chratis and Satele Shan each show up with a fleet. One of the Republic’s ships flies too close to the black hole and is immediately sucked in and destroyed, but no one cares. They try hailing the planet but Sebaddon launches a missile at them that explodes into thousands of hexes. Every ship that they latch onto they are able to take over and turn against the rest of the two fleets. Dao Stryver, who has beaten both sides there and is hiding on the planet’s moon, contacts the Sith and Republic forces and proposes that they all team up to defeat this menace before the hexes take over the galaxy, finally bringing us to the fatal alliance of the title. Satele Shan and Darth Chratis agree to swap apprentices and infiltrate the planet separately, while Larin Moxla leads a squad of troopers who will drop from orbit. Everyone agrees to put Ula Vii in charge of the combined fleet, where he plans to betray the Republic as soon as he gets the opportunity (spoilers he never does). Before everyone goes their own way, Larin kisses Shigar and gets shot down hard.

Darth Chratis and Shigar Konshi’s ship is attacked by hexes and crashes on the planet. Chratis tries to turn Shigar to the dark side, and Shigar gets really angry and tries to shoot Force lightning at him but only succeeds in burning his glove off, then he gets distracted by something and that’s the end of this plot thread.

Meanwhile, Satele Shan and Eldon Ax land on the planet and find a spaceship buried in the lava or something, I don’t know. Anyway they get inside and find a young clone of Ax living in a tank of the red fluid that’s inside all of the hexes. The girl, Cinzia, explains that their mother created her after the original Cinzia was taken by the Sith, and built the hexes, which are really called “fastbreeders,” to protect her. When her mother and the other rebels sent the ship that Jet Nebula found to discuss an alliance with the Mandalorians, the droids interpreted this as a potential threat to Cinzia’s safety and killed Lema Xandret and everyone else on the planet. Cinzia explains that her mother is still alive, though, because her consciousness lives on in the red liquid or something? The liquid tells Cinzia not to trust her evil Sith self and somehow, like, pulls her away from the wall of the tank. Satele Shan thinks that she’s being killed so she smashes the tank. Cinzia comes spilling out in a flood of red liquid. She makes Ax promise to save their mother, by which I guess she means the ketchup spilled all over the floor, then dies of shock in the arms of her “sister.” Way to go, Satele.

Eldon Ax realizes that since she has the same DNA as her clone, she should be able to control the hexes. Satele’s like, “What about your promise to wetvac up all this momjuice?” Ax is like:

Oh snap!

Out on the planet’s surface, Shigar and Ax reunite with their respective masters. While Shigar and Satele watch from a distance, Eldon Ax has a wave of hexes converge on Darth Chratis, apparently killing him, and then they leave. What an unsatisfying conclusion.

Also while all of this is going on Larin Moxla has some zany misadventure while falling from orbit where her parachute doesn’t open and it’s super uninteresting.

Sebaddon starts falling into the black hole, preventing either side from controlling its rare minerals and destroying all of the droids. The Republic recovers Ula Vii from an escape pod where Jet Nebula abandoned him before taking the Auriga Fire and escaping. Larin Moxla gets a robot hand and gets reinstated as a Republic Blackstar commando and Ula asks her out. Eldon Ax reports to Darth Howl, a member of the Sith Emperor’s Dark Council, and he takes her as his new apprentice while he forces his previous apprentice to watch them shoot her pets (I guess? They’re shooting animals and it’s vaguely implied that this is the context). Shigar Konshi finally gets promoted to Knighthood now that he can control his psychometric ability, but he’s like a dick now and urges the Jedi Council to launch a preemptive strike against the Sith before open war breaks out again. With so much setup for these characters’ futures, I’m very excited to never read about any of them ever again in any future stories.

In the epilogue, Dao Stryver tracks Jet Nebula and Clunker to a cantina on Tatooine, where we learn startling revelations about all three of them that for some reason were saved for the last eight pages of the book instead of at a point where they could have maybe made the bland cast a little more interesting. It turns out that Dao Stryver, rather than being a man like the book’s dramatis personae stated and all the other characters assumed, is actually a female Gektl, a species of giant lizards that previously only appeared in a comic strip from 1980. This has such a negligible effect on the book I’m not sure why it was even included, except to inspire little girls with the message that they too can be badass space warriors, as long as they are a talking gecko.

Stryver tells Nebula that she has come for his droid, who demonstrated his value during the space battle when Clunker took remote control of the Imperial and Republic fleets to ensure they followed Ula’s orders. Jet reveals that Clunker was a defective soldier droid he rescued from the junk pile. Every few days his memory completely resets and all he remembers is Jet and their ship. “I found him on a scrap heap two years ago,” Jet explains. “His vocoder was dead, and when I tried to fix it, he just broke it again. That proves how smart he is. He’s worked out that if you don’t respond to orders, no one can prove you heard them.” The robot that never talks is the most interesting character in this goddamn book.

Stryver reveals that Jet Nebula’s real name is Jeke Kerron, which means nothing. She goes to take Clunker and is suddenly stun-blasted by several people in the bar who Jet had paid off to defend him. When she regains her senses, Jet and Clunker are gone. She leaves to make a report to Mandalore and await further instructions, and wishes Jet good fortune in the coming battles. Then the book ends.

Not a great book, but up to the end of the Hutta sequence it’s fairly decent, and afterward it’s never terrible. Mostly it’s just dull and occasionally confusing. The climactic battle at Sebaddon goes on for way too long, and the pacing isn’t helped by the action constantly cutting back and forth between four different locations. It’s like the Ending Multiplication Effect from the end of The Phantom Menace: too many unnecessary stories running concurrently saps whatever tension or interest we might have in the events that actually matter.

For a book called Fatal Alliance, the eponymous alliance didn’t last very long and wasn’t a particularly memorable or significant part of the book. Even while the Republic and Empire (as is customary throughout TOR media, the Sith are constantly referred to as “Imperials” or just “the Empire,” which further reinforces the lack of creativity characterizing this era and how much it steals from more interesting time periods) were allied, they were each still mostly doing their own thing. Putting Shigar and Chratis together was a non-starter, and while Satele Shan and Eldon Ax’s partnership yielded a few more interesting character moments, it was ultimately irrelevant. Ax killed her master, which was her stated goal from the beginning of the book, and then went back to the Sith to continue being evil. No one learns anything and nothing changes, except Shigar goes a little bit dark side and Ula decides to stop trying to effect positive social change within the Sith Empire without completely giving up the double agent game.

It would have been more interesting if specific Jedi and Sith characters had to work side by side in close proximity for most of the novel. After the auction, for instance, instead of having the good guys and bad guys go their separate ways, I would have liked to see all of them stuck together at that point and forced to set aside their differences for the greater good. Because in the book, even when they do eventually team up, Ula and Darth Chratis are still planning to backstab the Republic and take the planet for themselves. The mutual respect set up between Shigar and Eldon Ax ends up going nowhere because the book never allows them to actually be on the same side, and they’re separated for the entire climax anyway.

Instead of Tassaa Bareesh’s palace devolving into an all-out clusterkriff before anyone can even make a single bid, it could have been more interesting to see the auction actually play out, or some kind of heist where they have to acquire the droid factory by stealth instead of fighting over it. Shigar and Larin investigating the palace in disguise is a fun little sequence; I wish it had been expanded on and made more central to their mission instead of being cut short so we could have a bunch of incoherent shooting. Why is there so much shooting in this book? Because it’s Star Wars, I guess, but it’s really uninteresting. Much of that time would have been better spent getting to know the  characters beyond a few basic personality traits. In that regard Ula Vii is perhaps the most interesting character in the book. He contributes the unique perspective of a non-Force-sensitive citizen of the Sith Empire who believes that the galaxy will be a better place under Imperial rule while still disliking the ruling class of the Sith elite. It’s still not quite clear why he’s so patriotic since the book doesn’t give any examples of the Empire not being pure evil but at least it’s something.

The red liquid thing that somehow contains Lema Xandret’s consciousness and is inside all of the droids but also is put in danger by some of it being spilled on the floor (?) is kind of weird but the whole Cinzia clone bit was a potentially interesting development. Sadly, it was undercut, like the Clunker explanation, by being introduced way too late and resolved in the very same scene. Satele Shan is basically responsible for the death of this innocent young girl and seems completely unfazed by it.

The deepest cut, however, is the fact that Eldon Ax has dreadlocks. That’s cultural appropriation, and that’s the worst crime of all.

Still 2.5/5. I think I remember saying in an earlier review that the Old Republic was my favorite Star Wars era. Dear god, what was I thinking?