Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Doubly Deceived

Deceived, the Book

sw40.1Author: Paul S. Kemp

Medium: Novel

Publication Date: March 2011

Timeline Placement: 3,653 BBY

Series: The Old Republic

The author wishes to thank Ann Przewozny for help obtaining the subject of this review.

Deceived tells the story of smuggler Zeerid “Z-Man” Korr and Jedi Knight Aryn Leneer, and how they learn to overcome their own internal demons and find redemption for all their bad decision-making. Also Darth Malgus is in there somewhere.

We begin with a retelling of the events of the Deceived trailer. Well, actually we begin with an introduction to the Z-Man as a former Republic soldier and single father in debt up to his eyeballs to the galactic crime syndicate The Exchange, and the unsavory things he must do to repay his debts and support his double-amputee daughter. But elsewhere, in the part of the story you bought the book for, Darth Malgus leads the Sith attack on the Jedi Temple. As in the trailer, he’s accompanied by a gun-slinging female Twi’lek, but here we learn that her name is Eleena Daru and she is Malgus’s girlfriend. Malgus meets the temple’s head Jedi Master, Ven Zallow, in single combat. For some reason the book’s dramatis personae says that Zallow’s species is unknown even though he’s clearly human. This doesn’t help him, however, as Malgus runs him through and then blows up the Jedi Temple with several bombs.

Meanwhile, peace negotiations have begun on Alderaan, called by the Sith to lull the Republic into a false sense of security while the Empire strikes at Coruscant. Aryn Leneer, a Jedi Knight from the Republic delegation and the former Padawan of Master Zallow, is gifted with the talent of unusually strong Force empathy; that is, she is highly attuned to the intentions and emotional states of others. She and her friend, fellow Jedi Syo Bakarn (who according to Wookieepedia is apparently one of the Children of the Emperor, the Sith sleeper agents we learned about back in Blood of the Empire, which would probably be a cool cameo for anyone who’s played the game this book is based on), speculate on the Sith’s motives for suing for peace, when Aryn suddenly feels Ven Zallow’s death through the Force.

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“Leneer was gifted in the use of Force empathy, which earned her the title of ‘Force Empath.'” — Wookieepedia

Realizing that the Republic has been betrayed, Aryn attacks two of the Sith present at the peace talks, but is reined in by Master Dar’Nala, the Jedi’s representative at the conference. Also Satele Shan is there too. Hey remember Satele Shan from those two trailers we watched before? And then nothing else? Darth Baras, the Sith representative, comes out and is all like “Yeah we took over Coruscant, now you jerks have to do whatever we say or else we’ll genocide the Republic capital! Now let’s go back inside and continue discussing the terms of our peace treaty.” All the Jedi are like “Huuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?”

Due to her heightened psychic empathy, Arn Leneer experienced first hand Master Zallow’s sense of shame and failure, as well as the pain of having a lightsaber blade stuck through his chest. Unable to accept the Jedi’s decision to continue negotiating with the Sith, she vows to avenge her Master’s death and abandons her Jedi robes on the floor outside her starfighter. The problem she faces is getting to Coruscant through the Sith blockade. Fortunately for her (and for us, because who doesn’t want to spend more time reading about Z-Man’s gambling addiction and legless daughter?), she has an old friend who might be able to help her.

It turns out that Zeerid Korr and Aryn Leneer fought the Sith together back when Zeerid was in the Republic military,  which he left when his wife was killed and his daughter lost her legs in a car accident. The Great Galactic War’s been going strong for 28 years at this point, making it the longest single galactic conflict in Star Wars EU history, so I guess that checks out. Zeerid feels like his life is on a treadmill. No matter how many smuggling jobs he does for The Exchange, he’s so deep in debt due to his daughter’s medical bills, his gambling, and the cost of his ship, Fatman, he’ll never be able to pay it off and buy his daughter, Arra, prosthetic legs or even a hoverchair.

So when his handler offers him the opportunity to wipe away all of his debt with one final job, Zeerid jumps at the chance. All he has to do is deliver a shipment of engspice, an addictive drug that alters the user’s brain chemistry so they become dependent on only that one specific brand of spice, to Imperial-occupied Coruscant without getting blown up by the Sith blockade. Zeerid objects because smuggling illegal weapons never hurt anyone but drug-running is just plain wrong. But The Exchange is like “Do it or we’ll kill you” and Zeerid goes “Okay.”

Zeerid returns home to the planet Vulta to visit his daughter and sister-in-law, taking care to ensure he’s not being followed because The Exchange doesn’t know he has a family. However, he’s being followed. Vrath Xizor, a human formerly employed as a sniper in the Sith military  and no relation to that other Xizor you may have heard of, squeezes out a tube of toothpaste containing microscopic tracker droids on the ground in front of Zeerid, and once Zeerid walks through it Vrath can follow him anywhere, and also somehow differentiate between the trackers adhered to Zeerid and those adhered to the millions of other people who stepped in the same spot. You’d think there’d be a simpler way of doing this.

But apparently not, because it works. After Zeerid, Aryn, and Malgus, who we’ll get back to in a moment, Vrath is our fourth major point-of-view character, which is weird because his role in the plot is so secondary to the other characters. Yet we keep coming back to him. There are multiple points when you expect him to die because his usefulness to the story is over, but he sticks around to the end of the book, popping up every so often to remind us that he’s still alive until Zeerid unceremoniously flushes him out an airlock at the end (spoiler alert). An employee of the Hutt cartels hired to disrupt The Exchange’s engspice shipment, Vrath immediately discovers Zeerid’s secret family very early in the book, but any tension this might have created is immediately deflated when Vrath’s internal monologue explains that he would never use a man’s family against him. Whoo boy, now I’m really on the edge of my seat.

Aryn shows up at Zeerid’s house and is like “Hey remember me from a long time ago? Can you help me get onto Coruscant? I didn’t even know you were alive until I showed up here so I had no idea that you’ve become the go-to smuggler for the largest criminal organization in the galaxy, but I thought you might be able to help anyway.” Zeerid is like, “What a coincidence, I’m headed there right now. Let’s go! Also I’m making it very clear that I want to fuck you.” He doesn’t really say that last part though. Vrath and his goons try to intercept them at the airport but after a brief firefight Zeerid and Aryn escape aboard Fatman. Cursing his luck, Vrath also takes off for Coruscant, hoping to beat them there so he can warn the Sith.

The Z-Man himself.

The Z-Man himself, Channing Tatum.

Back on Coruscant, what Darth Malgus thought was going to be a pretty good day has just been getting worse and worse. First his girlfriend was injured in the attack, so he had her sent to the Sith medical transport. Then, after several hours spent jerking off over the ruins of the Jedi Temple, he started wondering why the Sith hadn’t sent down any bombers to level the rest of the planet, only to turn his phone back on to discover several missed calls and a voicemail from his boss, Darth Angral, telling him that the peace talks are back on and Coruscant’s not going to be destroyed after all. Now he has to sit through an awkward performance review with Darth Angral and Darth Adraas, who he outranks but is clearly the boss’s favorite.

Darth Malgus is probably the reason most people bought this book, and though he’s not the central protagonist, he’s still in it enough and interesting enough to justify that purchase. Of all the Sith in the book, Malgus is most like what you’d expect the Sith to be. He’s angry, violent, destructive, full of hate, and hideously deformed. The rest of the Sith Empire seems to be full of bureaucrats ready to compromise the purity of their dark power to curry political favor. This creates an interesting contrast as we watch what we expect the Sith to be butt up against what the Sith have now become. Malgus is more than just a simple proto-Sith, however. His faith in the dark side is almost a religious conviction, a fundamentalist certainty that his knowledge of the Force is pure and the Jedi’s is adulterated. Malgus believes that the point of life is conflict, because conflict refines one’s understanding of the Force, and those who don’t survive clearly misunderstood it. This is why, although he respects the Jedi, he believes they must be eradicated. When he was very young, he had a vision of Coruscant and the Republic burning at his feet; since then, he has believed that it is his destiny to destroy them, and today was supposed to see that destiny realized.

Instead he’s been called to the Supreme Chancellor’s office in the Senate building, where Darth Angral has set up shop and is drinking wine with Darth Adraas. They make fun of him for having a girlfriend and tell him that they had her sent to a Republic hospital on the planet instead of getting treatment on the Sith medical ship. Despite how little sense it makes for a government founded by aliens and led by an alien, the Sith Empire of the TOR era is a blatant expy of Palpatine’s Galactic Empire, right down to the Star Destroyers, stormtroopers, brilliant reclusive Emperor on a quest for immortality, and humanocentric xenophobia. So because the Sith are all racist, they talk shit about Malgus for dating a Twi’lek and refuse to treat her at their own facility.

“What is this? What is happening here?” Malgus demands of Darth Angral, as out of his depth in state politics as Ned Stark. Angral feigns confusion and Adraas calls Eleena Malgus’s “mongrel harlot slave” and chides Malgus for his feelings for her. Malgus whips out his lightsaber and they exchange a few blows before Darth Angry tells them to knock it off. Malgus goes to find his girlfriend at the hospital, stewing in disappointment over how what was supposed to be the greatest day of his life has been turned into nothing but political currency for the Sith Emperor to wield during the peace negotiations.

Malgus arrives at the hospital only to find it surrounded by Black Lives Matter protesters rioting over the Sith invasion. For some reason they decide it’s a good idea to start throwing shit at a malignant sorcerer, so Malgus casts Force Wave and blasts everyone flying across the parking lot. He finds Eleena in the hospital and is horrified by the feeling of relief that washes over him upon seeing that she’s all right. “Veradun!” Eleena cries out in happiness, using Malgus’s real name in front of a bunch of peasants. He chokes her out for her transgression and promises that if she ever calls him that in public again he will murder her. I just love a good Star Wars romance.

Meanwhile Xizor makes contact with the Sith blockade and warns them about Fatman, so when Zeerid and Aryn come out of hyperspace they are barely able to make it into Coruscant’s atmosphere before being blown away. Apparently it’s not a big deal having your starship shot out from under you though because Aryn just casts Force Parachute and brings them both in for a safe landing on the ground hundreds of miles below using nothing but space magic. I guess Palpatine and Mace Windu just didn’t have enough time to recharge their Force meter.

Perfectly fine.

Everything is perfectly fine.

Xizor is like, “Where’s my money, honey?” Malgus agrees to pay him 100 bricks of gold-pressed latinum, but it will be temporarily useless to him because blockade protocol is to prevent any ships from leaving the area for the duration of the peace accords. Xizor realizes with a dawning dread that he will have to wait on the planet with everyone else. How evilly inconvenient!

With his cargo destroyed, Z-Man is unable to complete his mission, pay off his debts, and save his family, but he still wants to bone Aryn so he promises to help her get revenge for her dead master, a goal at least equally as virtuous as delivering mind-altering addictive drugs to an unsuspecting populace.

Zeerid and Aryn coincidentally run into Master Zallow’s orphaned astromech droid, T7-O1, a companion character for players of the Jedi Knight character class in The Old Republic. The droid leads them through a secret tunnel to the subterranean ruins of the Jedi Temple, where Aryn recovers a security recording of the Sith attack and learns the identity of her master’s killer. She also notices how protective Malgus is of the Twi’lek woman accompanying him, which sets the wheels in her head turning toward revenge.

Zeerid and Aryn track the Twi’lek to a Sith-controlled spaceport. Despite his promise to help her, Zeerid gets bored and decides to go home, leaving Aryn to murder Malgus’s girlfriend on her own. She punches Eleena in the face and is about to kill her when she realizes that her character build can’t afford the influx of dark side points, so she stays her hand.

Meanwhile, Zeerid is busy stealing the ship that Vrath Xizor happens to be napping in while waiting for the blockade to end. They have a really brutal fistfight that involves a graphic description of Xizor blowing snot out of his nose for some reason, but Zeerid wins because he’s the hero and Xizor is an inconsequential secondary antagonist. As the ship leaves the planet’s atmosphere, Zeerid has resolved to drop Xizor off somewhere rather than killing him because he isn’t a cold-blooded murderer. For some reason, Xizor says, “Cool deal, bro, us ex-military types have to stick together. Spying on you so I could use your secret family for leverage was nothing personal, and don’t worry, I totally won’t tell my employers about them or anything,” so Zeerid flushes him out an airlock. It’s the hardest decision he’s ever made and will haunt him for the rest of his life and blah blah blah.

While this is going on, Darth Malgus, having realized that the two blockade runners are likely to try to escape Coruscant from the spaceport where Eleena is stationed, shows up to rescue her. Aryn holds the Twi’lek hostage and threatens to kill her unless Malgus orders the blockade to allow Zeerid’s ship to escape. Malgus does so, then thrashes Aryn in a lightsaber duel but allows her to live out of gratitude for having spared Eleena’s life. Once the Jedi has left, Malgus is like, “Eleena, I love you so much,” then stabs her through the heart, because he can’t afford to have any weaknesses or something.

sw40.4

I think Scandal recently did an episode with this same dumb plot.

Later, after the Sith have withdrawn from Coruscant and the peace treaty between the Republic and the Empire has been signed, Malgus shows up at Darth Adraas’s house and murders him, while Zeerid buys robot legs for his daughter and takes her to live in hiding on a farm somewhere, where Aryn eventually tracks them down, telling the Z-Man that she’s left the Jedi Order to be with him. Happy endings all around.

This book is okay. Z-Man and Aryn are unremarkable and forgettable characters, but after multiple short videos and stories of build-up, Malgus finally comes to the fore as a legitimately interesting villain, which of course means that this is the last we’ll ever see from him unless we venture into the thousand-hour timesink of MMO Land. The religiosity of his devotion to the dark side and his inability to function within the Sith hierarchy despite his power and rank make him a unique character and one of the more compelling figures we’ll meet in this period of tie-in history.

I have to say, however, that this book makes a poor case for joining the Sith cause. If the prequels are anything to go by, the main recruitment benefit the Sith offer (don’t be swayed by their cool clothing options, as they usually come at the price of horrific physical disfigurement) is freedom to be yourself and indulge in your talents and desires without the overbearing restrictions of the Jedi Order. But the other Sith bully Malgus for having a girlfriend to the point that ultimately sacrifices the thing he loves most just so he can survive in their cutthroat society. Like, dude, what’s the point?

Otherwise, the writing is okay, the plot is bland but serviceable. It really doesn’t sound like Deceived has a lot to recommend it, but for a Star Wars book, you know, you could do a lot worse. 3.5/5 Death Stars.

swwhatever

Stabbed through the heart, and you’re to blame.