I was recently given a chance to review the audio book for Annihilation Star Wars: the Old Republic, something to which I could not refuse. There are a couple things I feel is important for anyone to disclose when reviewing anything Star Wars (or any beloved franchise). One is your personal knowledge of the Star War’s universe, and two your level of fanboy-dom for said universe. Like most males my age, I grew up loving Star Wars. I spent countless hours recounting every adventure from the original trilogy on the school playground. I was also at every midnight release of each of the new trilogies, and (thanks to Disney) I hopefully will be at the midnight release of the new-new trilogies. My knowledge of the universe, unfortunately, is limited to the six movies and a few console game storyline. With that said, I had the perfect opportunity to review the most recent audio book. I had a long twelve hour road trip from Nashville, TN to Oklahoma in which I had to drive all night. We were going home to see my family. This meant my 11 year old son (who is enthusiastic about all things Star Wars) and my wife (who patiently lets me and my son watch every episode of Clone Wars on Cartoon Network before flipping over to E-News) were also in the car. They had the chance to listen to the book as well.
Star Wars: Annihilation
by Drew Karpyshyn
LucasBooks / Random House Audio
The story was a refreshing change of pace for me. Generally most Star War’s stories follow the adventures of a Jedi Master, but this is the story of Theron Shan. Theron is non-force wielding son of a Master Jedi Satele Shan (not spoiler alert since within the first ten minutes of the book) and another character that weaves his way into the plot. Because of her rank in the Jedi Counsel (and because being a Jedi forbids one to marry/love/kids/etc), she gives her son to Jedi Master Zho to raise.
Theron despite a lack of any force abilities still decides to serve the Republic. He becomes somewhat of a cross between super spy, intelligence officer, hacker, and rogue agent at times. The plot follows Theron as attempts take down the Ascendant Spear. The Ascendant Spear is a new super weapon ship that is turning the tides of war against the Republic. I personally really like the change of pace, and having the opportunity to see how a regular person can handle a situation without having fantastical force powers to magically resolve major issues.
The pacing of the book felt slow at first. After disc one my wife complained she was getting nerdier by the minute. She had to be out voted two to one to continue listening to book instead of just listening to radio. Although there was a lots of action and battle scenes, mainly what was going on was character development. Once we had finished the second CD, I felt bad for my wife. I told her we can listen to radio. She replied by putting in the 3rd CD to continue listening. She was hooked, and she quickly swapped out each of the remaining six disc as soon as they ended to hear the remaining chapters. Now to those of you more familiar with the Old Republic quite possibly could be more into those first couple disc. I am sure that the excitement of familiar characters and locations will draw more meaning for you.
For the production and audio of the book, I have mixed emotions. The score for the book was always impressive as any Star Wars fan will feel giddy at the initial scene. With every rifle fired and every ship that made the jump to hyper space the sounds painted a picture of the exact images I had heard and seen as a child. As for the voice acting, there was a nice variety between characters and species. My wife comment about how may Sean Connery accents are they going to try and squeeze in the book. The only thing that really bothered us was some of scenes we found the background noise a bit distracting. During one specific scene, my wife keep telling me to check my phone because it was beeping. After numerous phone checkings she realized it was some background computers on the soundtrack.
Of all the things I really liked about this book, my favorite was the characters. I love how you get to understand the decision Salete Shan makes when giving up Theron. It is a unique insight into the thoughts of a Jedi Master. You get to see Sith Politics and the Sith Empire inner workings. You get to see the cost of the war on ordinary people, and the weight and toll it brings to those in the highest command. You get a look at how the Hutts really do business. There is action straight to the end. Some of the writing is predictable and can be cliché. It is however a Star Wars adventure and not meant to be the next Tolstoy.
Some Star Wars has a chance to over use the “dues ex machina” force vision to tell the main character where to go next. I like the fact story is driven by a non-force wielder. Theron has to use logic and intel to drive where the story goes next. Once you understand his motives the story flows nicely.
We started the book somewhere around 10:30 PM and around 9:30 AM we found ourselves pulling into the drive at my parent’s house. There was still about fifteen minutes left on disc eight, so we sat there in the drive and finished out the epilogue. My son, who had been asleep since Memphis finally awoke in time to declare it a 10 out of 10. To be fair he decided it was a 10 after seeing the box artwork. My wife, who at the beginning of the trip couldn’t tell you the difference between a Wookie and a rancor, gave it a solid 5 out of 10. But she then proceeded to ask me to download another Old Republic book, preferably from same author, to listen to on the way home. I myself wished I had a better knowledge of the Old Republic, because it seems infinitely more intriguing then the Star Wars world I grew up watching.
To this book, I give it 7 out of 10. Had a deeper knowledge of TOR, I could see scoring higher. There was always this feeling with every character of wanting to know more. It was like observing the an iceberg just from the surface. For basic Star Wars fan this is a fun adventure, but in the end you probably need to start with other TOR books to set the stage for this book. But kudos to Drew Karpyshyn for taking on the task of making a book that will hit on some degree to all level of fanboy.
Brian Kindred lives in the country near Nashville, TN with his wife and son. He is a lover of music, movies, books, and Christ.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.