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Read Lately – Star Wars: The Old Repubic: Revan

November 28, 2011

I wanted to like this book, I really did. A month ago when I was so eagerly anticipating the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, I didn’t expect I would be starting a review for it this way, and I really don’t like having to be negative, but what can you do.

Granted, it is possible that my high expectations may have clouded my judgment. For one thing, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn — he wrote the Star Wars Darth Bane trilogy and also the Mass Effect novels that I found I really enjoyed. But more importantly, I’m also a big fan of the character Revan, having been obsessed with and emotionally invested in his story from the Knights of the Old Republic games. Still, I have a feeling that even the most  casual of readers picking this up will find many problems with the writing and execution of this novel.

To be fair, I’ve been following Drew K’s blog for a while now, and on it he occasionally talks about the pressures of looming deadlines and the challenges of meeting them. His writing in Revan appears to be the latest victim of this restrictive time crunch, as it’s definitely not his best work. This is a shame for two reasons: 1) He’s usually capable of much better writing, and 2) I would have pegged him as the perfect author to tell Revan’s story, as he was intimately involved with the development and writing of the first KOTOR game.

Another reason why I think the book was a rush job is how well it started out in the first handful of chapters, versus how everything started unraveling and falling apart in the second half. I’d glimpsed some of the not-so-positive starred reviews prior to finishing the novel, and thought to myself, “Nah, this isn’t that bad.” But then I hit part II. And I began to understand.

First of all, in retrospect so much of the book felt like filler, lengthy exposition sequences and drawn-out descriptions. While I understand the need to bring readers up to speed with the events of KOTOR (for those who have never played the RPG or need a refresher — it’s been about 8 years since the game’s release, after all) I lamented the fact it came at the expense of scenes that actually required details and a more in-depth look. Instead, important action sequences and scenes that actually drove the plot forward or called for more emotion were completely glossed over.

Second, the book was so short. It’s not like there wasn’t enough to write about. Like I said, so much of the novel could have been fleshed out and made better. It just felt like the author needed it to be over and done with, fast.

Third, there was a very noticeable shift in focus by the end of the book. I thought I began by reading about Revan, but little by little, he started taking more of a background role, and by the final chapters it was clear the emphasis was more on the Sith character of the novel, Lord Scourge. I just found this odd, and I still don’t really understand the purpose.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty of Revan, which is one of the reasons why I couldn’t just toss this book aside. There will be answers to some big questions left behind by the ending of KOTOR and KOTOR II, and for this reason I don’t regret reading it at all. The Jedi Exile also plays a huge role, and it is in this book that she is finally identified and given a name — Meetra Surik.

However, speaking of characters, don’t expect many of the companions from the games to make an appearance. The three that get the honor are Canderous Ordo, T3-M4 and Bastila Shan. The rest like Mission Vao, Zaalbar or HK-47 are only mentioned in passing, or given some weak excuses why they couldn’t show up. Carth Onasi doesn’t even get a mention, and while admittedly he was one of my more whiny and annoying BioWare boyfriends, I couldn’t help but notice the snub. Ouch.

I don’t want to make it sound like Revan was all bad. I personally liked a lot of the dialogue, though I think I’m probably in the minority with regards to this. I definitely think dialogue-writing is Drew Karpyshyn’s forte, but while some lines might work well in a video game, I admit they don’t always translate well onto a page in a novel. Some plot points were predictable, but in general I enjoyed the story. And finally, like I said before, the book does manage to bring some form of closure. Sort of.

This does beg the question: Is closure — that is, a truly satisfying conclusion that emotionally invested KOTOR fans have been waiting almost a decade for — even possible for an epic story like Revan’s? Honestly, I believed the answer is yes. And I still do. Which is why I had such high hopes for Revan. Despite my biases, I still think it could have been the book to bring ultimate closure to the KOTOR series. If only Drew K had been given enough time.

So, to wrap this review up, you may find Revan interesting if you’re into Star Wars novels or game tie-ins in general. I say read this book if you’re fan of the character and the KOTOR games. You might end up disappointed, but you’ve come this far, so might as well finish up. Also read this book if you’re really into the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. There will be quite a few mentions of Revan and his adventures in the game, so knowing the character’s background might enhance the story behind those quests for you, but it’s definitely not required knowledge.

But if you don’t know much about the lore behind SWTOR and the Old Republic era and are thinking of picking Revan up to get pumped for it, I would rethink that decision. For that, you’d probably be better off playing KOTOR instead of reading this.

14 comments

  1. Ahh that’s too bad. It would be really nice to know what happened to Reven and the Exile after the events of KoTOR II. However, I’m not sure sitting through a poorly written novel is quite worth it to find out. The shift in focus to a third character towards the end also sounds more than a bit odd. I wonder if they will ever let him finish out the book and release a “definitive edition.”


    • It’s a nice thought, but I doubt it will happen. No spoilers here, but you do get to know a lot of what happened to Revan and the Exile. I just wish the book didn’t read so obviously like a rush job.

      Ah well, if one still wants to know but doesn’t want to read the book, there’s always wookieepedia :P


    • I was thinking as I read GeeCee’s review that it’s a shame there won’t be a “director’s cut” of the novel. lol


      • You know what would be really cool to see too? A novelization of Revan’s story from KOTOR, you know, the “canon” version.


  2. Heyo.

    Given your write-up above, would you recommend buying Deceived or Fatal Alliance prior to SWTOR’s launch?


    • Wait… Damnit… Did they change the order of the godsbedamned commenting system?

      Ack. This is @iamstillwater from twitter.


    • Deceived is probably the best one — both in terms of writing and story — out of the three now published SWTOR books. I would go with that one if you want to get pumped for the game!


    • I am pretty cynical about these novels – I didn’t care for Revan and threw the Darth Bane novel in the trash before even finishing it – but I liked Deceived. Worth the read.


      • I actually didn’t mind the Darth Bane books. Yes, it was all over-the-top angsty seething Sith lord, but he has a way of writing evil characters that make me want to root for them


  3. Argh, I was afraid of this. And I’m still going to read it. Sigh.


    • Yeah, it’s one of those books…even if I had seen the negative reviews beforehand I would have read it. It would have prepared me more though.


  4. It’s rare i pick up a book *at all* but even I was pumped for this book…..you make it sound like a pocket guilty pleasure to read, right before i start SWTOR and realize a certain dungeon/quest/tidbit will bring me and my O.G. Gangsta Ex-Sith Lord Pal Revan together…..even in passing, as my Jedi/Sith cross paths with it/him/maybe….will make me just as happy if i never read the book.


    • Pocket guilty pleasure, I like that! That definitely describes this book. I’m still glad I read it, if only for the story, just wish it had been better in its execution and maybe it would have left me a bit more pumped.


  5. [...] is probably one of the better Star Wars books by Drew Karpyshyn, which is quite a relief after the train wreck that I thought was Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan. It’s amazing what a good writer he can be when he’s [...]



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