Author: Drew Karpyshyn
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: November 13, 2012
Pages: 314 (286 actual length)
Era: Old Republic
This review contains minor spoilers.
The fourth book based on BioWare’s The Old Republic MMO, Annihilation tells the tale of Theron Shan, one of the best field operatives in the Republic Strategic Information Service (SIS). Sharp readers will remember Theron from a reference in The Old Republic, as well as his introduction in The Lost Sons spin-off comic. Thankfully, you don’t need to know anything about these works in order to have an enjoyable experience.
Annihilation is set shortly after the events of the game – ten years after the Treaty of Coruscant – and it isn’t shy about spoilers. As a result, those who have yet to finish their class stories and are concerned about spoilers should probably be wary. The upside, however, is that Drew Karpyshyn – who wrote both the novel and the game – is able to make more overt connections between the two (or nine, technically) stories. The added bonus is that you’re never quite sure whether someone will survive.
A number of characters from the comics make an appearance in Annihilation, including Master Ngani Zho, Teff’ith, Darth Mekhis, and SIS Director Marcus Trant, who was previously unnamed. But I was particularly happy to see Grand Master Satele Shan, Supreme Commander Jace Malcom, and Master Gnost-Dural play a large role in the plot. Satele and Jace were featured in the epic cinematic trailer “Hope,” and Gnost-Dural was the voice of the game’s galactic history holorecords. While these characters can also be found in the MMO, Annihilation gives you a much better feel for their personalities and provides some interesting backstory.
A field officer with a bit of an impulsive streak, Theron Shan isn’t afraid to do the right thing, even if that means disobeying orders. Much of the book deals with Theron’s personal issues, from his brotherly attachment to Teff’ith to the hydrospanner thrown into his life midway through the story. A loner, he eventually comes to enjoy working with – and relying on – his Jedi partner Gnost-Dural.
If you thought that Gnost-Dural is just a simple historian, think again. He has some fantastic fight scenes, making him one of the book’s cooler characters. In fact, he almost seems like the Liam Neeson of The Old Republic – older, but still extremely capable. At one point, he even faces down three Sith Lords, one of which is carrying a purple double-bladed lightsaber.
Karpyshyn spends a lot of time describing the various lightsaber forms being used in combat, but he does an excellent job of explaining them for the average reader without slowing down the pace. As a computer scientist, I also enjoyed the occasional mild technical reference like overclocking and subroutines. Many stories which try to insert technical jargon run the risk of being either too confusing or wildly inaccurate. But with this being Star Wars, the references are just enough to make it feel legitimate without pulling you out of the story.
Most of Annihilation‘s plot focuses on the Republic’s plan to eliminate the Ascendant Spear, an Imperial vessel under the command of Darth Karrid capable of decimating Republic warships. The battle at the end of the novel was exciting and had me on the edge of my seat, although there was one element that detracted from the tension somewhat. I won’t spoil it since it was good for a laugh, but it’s so crazy that I initially thought it had to have been a mistake. I just hope this scene isn’t illustrated in a future Essential Guide.
Overall, Annihilation is an extremely fun adventure filled with some humor (like a certain character’s landing on Coruscant) and nods to the films (“I owe you one.” “The Jedi don’t keep track of such things.”). I highly recommend checking it out, even if you’re not familiar with the era. Just watch out for those video game spoilers.
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