The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance, written by Sean Williams. A novel in The Star Wars series, the story is set 3650 years before A New Hope. It is a novelisation based on the new Bioware and LucasArts massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
I must confess that I am a big fan of Star Wars, and have been ever since I was a small child. One of the first films I saw at the cinema was Empire Strikes Back (undoubtedly the finest of the 6 films) and ever since that moment I have been hooked by George Lucas's epic. I collected most of the original figures (including the ewok village) and my brothers and I nearly drove my poor mother insane by watching the original films continuously, so much so that any one of us could have probably recited the whole script from beginning to end, complete with sound effects.
I am well aware that the films are not really science fiction, they are actually speculative fiction combining elements of Fantasy in a Science fiction setting. Rather than detract, this approach is one of the series greatest and most redeeming qualities and in my opinion one of the reason's for it's long lasting legacy.
As a teenager I collected all the books as they were printed (all of which I still have) and these have expanded the Star Wars universe far past the original stories. Written by authors including Timothy Zahn, Roger McBride Allen and the prolific Kevin J Anderson, these novels have helped to define the characters after the events of the Return of the Jedi. Since that time we have seen a number of games and books written about events before the films, including books by Sean Williams.
Sean Williams is a veteran of Star Wars, having co-written three books in the Star Wars: New Jedi Order series and the novelisation of the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which became the very first novelisation of a video game to debut #1 on the "New York Times" bestseller list.
It has been a number of years since I last read a Star Wars book and so I have been very much looking forward to The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance.
The first thing that strikes me about the book (apart from the cover showing someone who looks a bit like Darth Maul) is that it has a timeline right at the front, fantastic!. This timeline shows where all the books and the films fit together, from the novella series of "Lost Tribe of the Sith" 5000 years before "A New Hope" to the "Fate of the Jedi", 43 years after the original film.
The story follows the Leader of the Hutt cartel's having acquired a very valuable artefact, and even more valuable information within and they naturally contact both the Republic and the Empire in an effort to gain the highest price. Both sides are trying to outbid each other while also attempting to pretend that they aren't really interested and send out "envoys" to find out as much as they can and try to get the artefact first, by force if needed. To complicate matters further there is also a mysterious agent of the Mandalorian who keeps getting in the way and seems to have his own agenda that is somehow linked to the Hutt's discovery.
Both the Republic and the Empire seem to think it's an undiscovered planet that's rich in minerals that the Hutt have found however the truth is far bigger and more deadly and if the galaxy is to survive the most unlikely alliance of Sith, Jedi, special forces and double agent must be formed.
The Star Wars universe of 3500 years before A New Hope isn't a massively different one, you still have the Republic and the Empire which naturally has an Emperor (although not the same one obviously) and there are Jedi's and Sith. It's the Sith that do make the difference though, this universe has a different balance of power and the Sith appear to be strong in number, with their own council and even a sort of recruitment drive (or at least recruitment kidnap at any rate).
The characters of the novel are very well fleshed out, Sean Williams spends time with each characters back story, and although this does slow down the plot in places it's worth it as it draws you further into the story and helps you emphasis with the characters plight. The action scenes are handled superbly and the descriptive narrative means you can almost hear the swish of lighsaber and the crackle of Sith lightening.
There will be many that tell you that this book isn't original, that all that's played out here has been seen elsewhere in the Star Wars Universe, and to a certain extent they are right. There are many elements that are not unique or original, like the doubting Jedi apprentice - tempted by the Dark Side.
They are also missing the point though, Star Wars works so well in part due to it's ability to redefine a concept, a story or a premise and then tell it in a new way. This is exactly what Fatal Alliance does, and does very very well, you will have seen some of the plot devices before but Sean Williams elevates the book in such a way that avoids thoughts of plagiarism and just let's you sit back and enjoy a rewarding story, told well. There is also a harder edge to the book than most Star Wars novel's I've read - to the point that Sean Williams isn't afraid to kill off major characters when needed.
Sean Williams has managed to really capture the essence of the best of Star Wars - this is an R2D2 and not a Jar Jar Binks. The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance is Star Wars at it's very best.
Written on Friday 3rd September 2010 by Antony.
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