Posts Tagged ‘Authors’

h1

Read Lately: SWTOR: Annihilation

January 4, 2013

SWTOR AnnihilationI have to say Annihilation 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 not being rushed. Now that he is no longer at BioWare, I’m glad he left us with this before moving on to his future endeavors.

For a while we’ve known that Satele Shan, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order during this time in the Old Republic, has a “secret son.” We met Theron Shan when he first appeared in The Lost Suns comic. Now he stars in his own novel, which further explores his activities as an undercover agent and operative for the Republic, but the book also reveals a lot more about his parents’ history and his own mysterious past.

I could tell Karpyshyn had a lot of fun writing Theron’s story. It is my experience that characters in books based on movies/TV shows/video games, etc. very often read like caricatures and hardly ever feel like real people. However, I thought Theron had a clear personality right away, and even found myself taken in by his confidence and dry wit. I also enjoyed acquainting myself the supporting characters like Teff’ith the Twi’lek, whose weak grasp of Galactic Basic was a nice humorous touch, as well as finding out more about Master Gnost-Dural, whom fans of SWTOR will no doubt recognize as the keeper of the Jedi archives.

The story is pretty much your run-of-the-mill fare, but very entertaining nonetheless. There were of course the obligatory space combat and lightsaber battle scenes, but I was surprised at how well done they were. Drew Karpyshyn is extremely adept at writing good action, but I was even more surprised to see how skillfully he tackled some of the emotional issues in this book without making them sound overly contrived or sappy. Like I said, he can be very good when given enough time to develop his characters.

One last thing I should note: I listened to the audiobook of this, courtesy of my library’s digital collection. Though I’m confident to claim Annihilation as a solid entry to the world of Star Wars novels, in the interest of full disclosure I must also mention the possibility that the quality of the audio version may have influenced my opinion. For one thing, it was my first experience with a Star Wars audiobook, so I’ve only just discovered the talent of Marc Thompson, who is probably one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever come across. His voices are simply phenomenal, and together with the sound effects and music I was just blown away.

h1

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.

h1

Books Versus Games

May 19, 2011

Drew Karpyshyn (author of the the Mass Effect books, the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy, as well as the upcoming Star Wars: The Old RepublicRevan) is one of the authors I “favorited” on my Goodreads page, so that was how I saw the notification for a new entry on his blog yesterday, in which he contrasts Revan as a game character versus a book character:

“To put it bluntly, Revan in the book will not be the uber-powered death machine you controlled at the end of the video game. You might have min-maxed your character to smack Darth Malak down in seconds without breaking a sweat, but in a book that battle would have been a brutal, hard fought affair spread over multiple pages. In a video game it’s fun to kill hundreds of Sith Masters, but in a book that would just be boring. It would suck out any drama or conflict or tension, and as an author I have no interest in writing that.

Now, I suspect some of you are already getting worked up about how I’m ruining SW canon by nerfing the Revan from the game. Well, tough.”

You tell ’em, Drew. Sometimes I think what FUN! it must be to be a Bioware writer and be able to write cool books, but in the end I see stuff like this and I can’t say I envy him his job. There’s already been resentment from some Knights of the Old Republic fans over the establishment of the male, “redeemed by the light side” canon Revan, and it’s hard to believe now that even his power levels are under contention.

I respect canon as much as the next gamer, but there’s gotta be a line drawn somewhere separating game mechanics and the elements that makes a story good. I played a female Revan in KOTOR and I’m not pissed off…heck, I’m happy I even had the choice to begin with! Like Mr. Karpyshyn points out, games and books are not the same thing. You do one thing to make a game fun for gamers; by the same token, you must do another to make a book fun for readers. Good to see him sticking to his guns.

To be honest, when a video game tie-in novel actually tries to work in too many of the game mechanics into the story, I get annoyed. I’m okay with a little bit — just enough for flavor — but I really don’t need it thrown in my face. It’s harder to get immersed when whatever I’m reading is making me think about stuff like class, levels, abilities, quests, etc. If an author needs to take a few “artistic liberties”, I say by all means — because I’m reading something, even a game book, I’m definitely in it for the reading experience.

h1

SWTOR: OMG I Love Drew Karpyshyn!

April 22, 2011

Why think of a proper title for this post when I can just go with my first reaction at seeing today’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update? I’m a huge fan of Drew Karpyshyn’s work.

Last month Darth Hater posted an article about the possibility of a third SWTOR tie-in novel coming to us later this year, penned by none other than Drew himself. I’m so glad that this has been confirmed today by BioWare — along with a title reveal: Revan.

A whiny and obnoxious hockey-haired pansy!

Yes, that Revan. You can’t imagine how full of squee I am right now.

I think some stories benefit from an open ending, while others suffer from a conspicuous lack of closure. Personally, I’ve always felt Revan’s story falls in the latter category. Whether you agree with me or not, it’s still sort of a moot point —  because I can’t imagine that even the most casual fans of BioWare and their games really didn’t see this one coming. Nothing screamed “To be continued!” louder to me than the ending of Knights of the Old Republic, and I never believed for a second they were going to leave this doozy alone. BioWare’s simply been biding their sweet time and waiting…waiting for something like SWTOR for the perfect chance to finally explore the mystery of Revan.

Drew Karpyshyn says in the Q&A that fans want to know what happened to Revan after KOTOR, and that he’s “ecstatic” that he’s the one who gets to tell the story. You’re not the only one, Mr. Karpyshyn. If anyone is going to continue the story of Revan, I’m so glad it’s you.

Like, sure, I want to find out what happens, but then I don’t want to know just for the sake of knowing, if you know what I mean? For example, I think so many movie sequels these days suck so hard because their creators simply string any old plotline together and rush it out the door so it could coat-tail ride on the success of the original. I really didn’t want to see the same sort of thing happen to Revan’s story.

Knowing that it’s in Karpyshyn’s very capable hands helps a lot, even if Revan’s story has become a canonical quagmire where geeks fear to tread.

For one thing, the man knows his stuff — both the character and the Old Republic era. In his words, “KOTOR was my first creative foray into the Star Wars universe, so writing Revan felt a little bit like I was returning to my roots.” Come to think of it, the subject of the novel should have occurred to me the moment I saw Drew Karpyshyn’s name attached to a new SWTOR book project. He’s probably the best choice (if not the only right choice) of author for a book about Revan, being the one who wrote much of the scenario and dialogue for KOTOR in the first place.

In any case, I’ve been a fan of not only his writing in games like KOTOR and Mass Effect, but I’ve also come to really enjoy his novels as well. His Darth Bane books rank among some of the better Star Wars books I’ve ever read. And in fact, earlier this year, it was reading Mass Effect: Revelation that made me wonder if there’s hope for the video game tie-in genre yet.

Revan will take place about 300 years earlier than the other SWTOR novels, but we are told the events of this book will have a major impact on shaping the game’s universe. However, there is nothing to indicate whether or not Revan will actually make an appearance in the game (personally, I hope not…it’s one thing to provide closure, it’s another to needlessly resurrect a character). But we do know from the Q&A that along with Revan, several of his companions including Canderous, T3-M4, Bastila Shan (yes, might we please put the matter of whether or not they have children to rest once and for all?) and even the Jedi Exile will have major roles to play in the novel.

I can understand how for some a SWTOR Friday update about an upcoming novel can be a disappointment when information about the actual game would be more exciting (actually, “disappointment” is an understatement judging from some of the rage-filled and betimes puerile commentary in the forum thread in which 20 pages had to be unceremoniously deleted). But those who know me know that I love reading, and that I enjoy sitting back with a video game tie-in novel every once in a while. Personally, I’m really looking forward to reading Revan “later this year”.