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A novel by Drew Karpyshyn (2012, Del Rey)
The Old Republic, book 4
Set 3650 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

The Republic supreme commander attempts to destroy the Empire's last super-weapon by sending operatives to board it and infect it.




Read January 20th to 29th, 2015 in Hardcover  
    It was nice to actually see a different kind of mission, with a smaller scale, set in this time period. Although destroying the ship was the primary concern, the players were more minor, and the results a lot less galactic. There is no end to this series, as the title might imply, which means that authors could conceivably continue to tell stories here, as long as the time period hasn't been labeled as Legends.

Full spoiler review:

I understand the Jedi rule about keeping a distance from attachments, and that it could only really come into play when we learned about it, in Attack of the Clones, which we watched long after the concept of Jedi families were established. The only place where I’ve really seen this discrepancy addressed is in Order 66, where we meet a young Calista, a Force-user who broke with the Jedi and who leads a group of Force-user families.

Likewise, the Tales of the Jedi comics, which take place before this, also featured Jedi families. But by the time of these Old Republic novels, that has changed; there has been a fundamental shift in the Jedi philosophy. Back in Revan, that Jedi married and had a child, and the Jedi only forced him to leave the Order; I’m not sure what they would do in Yoda’s time. The start of this book shows us that keeping away from attachment is a very difficult thing to do, and even Grand Masters can have problems with it. Satele Shan gives birth to a son in the first pages. At this point, she was a Jedi Knight, but a hero of the Battle of Alderaan. She goes into seclusion with another Jedi to have the baby, then gives him away for that Master to raise. Wouldn’t that raise other questions? Especially when Theron’s last name was given? The implementation of this doesn’t make sense, but it is really only tangential to the story. I’m not even really sure why it is included, as it barely gives the character second thoughts, and doesn’t impact his personality except in a few pages.

Theron is a lot like Anakin, in that he likes to live on the edge, can’t stand a desk job, and really wants to be in on the action. He has no force-sensitivity, so he couldn’t go to the Jedi Temple. He serves in the Republic Intelligence Agency instead. When the story starts, he is trying to keep a friend, the Twi’lek Teff’ith, out of trouble, without her knowing about it. In doing so, he disrupts another Agency mission trying to learn more about the Hutt slave trade of captured Republic pilots. The action was fun, though I was less interested in the attitude the main character professes.

He is, of course, the preferred choice to go on a mission of ultimate importance by Jace Malcom, the Supreme Commander of the Republic military forces: to destroy the super-weapon the Empire has developed, a ship that a Sith can interface with, and as such move and fire weapons with incredible speed and accuracy, and at a much farther range than other ships. The problem of course is getting to the ship. For that, they need the Black Cipher, the Imperial code machine, which can’t be stolen or altered without the Empire recalibrating it. The process, while very Imperial, seemed incredibly inefficient and impractical. If a breach is found, all ships have to return to Imperial space for recalibration? That sounds like the perfect plan to implement when the Imperial ships are in the middle of a battle or invasion!

Regardless, Theron and Jedi Master Gnost-Dural, to whom Darth Karrid was once apprenticed, take a trip to Ziost in order to replace an Imperial Cipher with a damaged one, setting off explosives to make it look like the Cipher was damaged at that time. If the author gives detailed plans for the operation of a plan, it’s a pretty good bet that the plan will not go according to the description, otherwise it would be just plain boring. It’s too bad that the starting and ending points are exactly the same as expected, with no side-effects at all. Sure, the blueprints didn’t include the sealed vault, but Theron was able to get in there easily anyway, exchange the Ciphers, and get out, with Gnost-Dural’s help, before setting off the explosives. A group fighting for freedom from the Empire takes credit for the explosions, and nobody in the Empire is any wiser.

The fun continues as we are told Theron and Gnost-Dural will infiltrate the Ascendant Spear and plant a virus that will disable its systems, allowing a waiting Republic navy to destroy it. Since we are told this from the beginning, like the plot to get the Cipher, we know it’s going to change. But it doesn’t change all that much. The Black Cipher starts giving results right away, and Theron and Gnost-Dural are sent to an Imperial space station. They use Teff’ith’s smuggling contacts to get on board. When Theron discovers that Jace allowed an Imperial attack on a Republic world to go ahead unhindered in order to protect the Black Cipher information, he gets angry at his father and nearly breaks all the rules. He ends up resolving to disable the Spear with all his energy after that. He gets on board by feeding the sensors invalid information that a Republic fleet is attacking, so all the crew had to get on board without checking identities. Meanwhile, Gnost-Dural pretends to be a Sith Lord, and in a brief but funny scene, blusters his way onto the ship to confront his former Padawan.

Gnost-Dural allows himself to get captured in order to submit to Karrid’s torture and “break” at the right moment, so that the Spear goes to Duro. Duro was the next Republic location to be targeted by the Empire, according to the Black Cipher, so Gnost-Dural wanted to be sure Karrid went there, and Theron sent Teff’ith to convince Satele Shan and Jace to send a fleet –it was another attack Jace was going to allow to happen until they could use the Cipher to ambush the Spear. I have to say that Gnost-Dural was very convincing, and Karrid’s reaction was as expected.

Unfortunately, Theron can’t get a virus to stay in the Spear’s systems for long enough, and he knows that Karrid will be able to counter his viruses as fast as he can deploy them. So he decides to stay on the ship, hiding in the empty engine room, spying on Karrid and her ship. And so Theron and Gnost-Dural are on board the Spear planting viruses and misinformation as the Republic fleet attacks it. Not much different from what we were told would happen, except that their lives are more at stake than anticipated.

Things go well at first, until Karrid discovers Theron’s viruses and his presence. When a search party is sent to find him, he manages to release Gnost-Dural (who kills a Sith apprentice), then flees toward Karrid’s control chamber. There, he teams up again with the Jedi. Gnost-Dural fights the three Sith apprentices, as Theron tries to get inside the control chamber.

The Republic fleet damages the Spear for a while, but when Karrid regains control, she nearly destroys them, after destroying the Imperial fleet that is retreating (not the first time in this book she’s done that). But Theron manages to override her abort codes, and she is disconnected for a brief period. In that time, the Republic fleet takes the upper hand again, and the incompetent Moff orders everyone to abandon the ship! It’s too bad this had to happen, because it would be nice to have somebody else on board the ship who was actually smart enough to make decisions. But that’s the Imperial mentality. He was frozen in indecision because he didn’t know if Karrid stopped controlling the ship on purpose or not. He didn’t have the freedom to make his own choices, and was too afraid to make the wrong decision. In the end, abandoning the ship was the right thing to do, because his crew at least survived.

Theron managed to fry Karrid in her chamber as Gnost-Dural killed more apprentices and others fled to the escape pods, despite the wrath they would have faced if Karrid had lived. Theron and the Jedi get to Karrid’s personal escape pod and meet up with the fleet as the Spear explodes.

It's too bad this series has been labeled as Legends, as it takes place way before anything the movies will cover, and it could provide some backstory. I like the small, personal stories being told here, though it runs the risk of becoming more like the New Republic days of Imperial superweapons.


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