Sci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Rinn Reads and Over The Effing Rainbow this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.
Series: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Publisher: LucasBooks (July 2010 )
Narrator: Marc Thompson | Length: 13 hrs and 48 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Random House Audio (July 20, 2010) | Whispersync Ready: No
Fatal Alliance is a tie-in/lore novel based mainly on Bioware’s MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). This is also the first Star Wars novel that I have read. I consider myself more of a casual fan who mainly enjoys the movies, comics, and games, but I wanted to give the novels a try. As I said on my review of Patrick Weekes’ The Masked Empire, I refuse to let books based on video games off the hook simply for the fact that they’re based on a such a visual medium. There’s an idea that I shouldn’t expect much out of them, but I don’t accept that. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect tie-ins to be more than just a thinly written book meant to make a cash grab, especially considering how thoughtful many games. Why shouldn’t they have book counterparts on equal footing?
This book follows a group of characters from both the Republic and the Empire as they seek to gain control of the remains of a mysterious ship that has the coordinates to resources that could greatly aid either side, or at least, they assume that’s what’s in store for them. They’re unable to verify this before purchase due to the Hutts having control of the remains. However, neither side actually intends to purchase the prize, which results in a mini-heist of sorts. Unlikely alliances are formed as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the destroyed ship.
Williams went out of his way to make sure you knew this was a gaming novel. This book is written with slant toward people familiar with the games or Star Wars in general as most tie-in media is. There’s not much description of the characters or surroundings because the book assumes most readers have played the game and can picture the setting and characters based on what they know about the settings and how the various races typically look, which can be a turn off for someone who may be only slightly familiar with the Star Wars universe. Williams also managed to fit in a shout out to all the classes you can play in SWTOR in this book in the most obvious of ways. There’s not anything wrong with that, but the execution felt cheesy. If you’ve ever played SWTOR, you could easily pick up on the classes these characters represented, but Williams took it a step further by stating outright what classes these characters represent. Example: Moxla was a trooper, and that was easy enough to understand from what we learned about her. There wasn’t really any need to spell it out to the readers, even those who may only be familiar with the movies and/or other Star Wars media. However, we had to have a Captain Obvious moment where another character makes sure to point out that she’s a trooper. We understand she’s a trooper, really. That happened with many characters. I found myself thinking, “I understand he’s a smuggler. I understand he’s a Jedi knight. Why are you stating such obvious facts?”
First, I’d like to talk about a narration well done. Marc Thompson does an exceptional job narrating this story, giving all the characters such distinct voices. And trust me, this book has many characters who speak, so to be able to nail different voices for all of them takes talent. I might have enjoyed his narration more than I enjoyed the story. A few caveats on this audiobook. It is full production, which means there is music and sound effects. From time to time, and this is a complaint I have for most full production audiobooks, the din in the background can drown out the narrator’s voice. Ifound it particularly distracting when Thompson was speaking over a character that was speaking Huttese to simulate translating. That was distracting. Another thing is that the quality was inconsistent. I don’t know if this was an issue with my player or if it’s an issue with the audiobook, but there were parts that were just weak quality.
This book asked me to suspend much of my beliefs as far as the plot was concerned. I never really felt the basis of the plot was a strong one. Plots like these stand up in video games because players have to infer much of the details or what’s going on in the background. Often the players are much more imaginative than the writers in this respect. It gets trickier ro explain this plot “on paper” because then the writers are tasked with fleshing out the story with more detail, and sometimes, that can leave readers thinking that maybe they didn’t think through this plot enough, which is partly the case here. There were many ways that a plot like this could’ve gone that would’ve made it more believable, but it wasn’t so bad that I gave up on it. As far as stories go, this one did keep me engaged. It actually turned out better than I was expecting. And admittedly, I did get a kick out of characters from the game being introduced into the story, such as Satele Shan and Watcher Three. The new characters Williams’ introduced weren’t terribly rounded, but they were likable enough that I cared about what happened to them… well, most of them. Also, I enjoyed most of the action sequences and could see them playing out epically in my head.
This was an interesting trek through the Star Wars universe, and despite some complaints mainly with the weak (very weak and also partially stupid) plot, I’m actually looking forward to reading more novels to fill in the gaps of this universe because it’s all in good fun. Also, Jet Nebula and Clunker are the MVPs of this novel.