Monthly Archives: May 2015

Review: “A Clash Of Kings” by George R.R. Martin

Title: A Clash Of Kings
Author: George R.R. Martin
Series: A Song Of Ice And Fire, Volume II
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Bantam, 2002

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m absolutely sold on this series. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I hit the end of what’s been published so far…join the poor souls clamoring for The Winds Of Winter, I suppose. Obviously, this is going to contain MAJOR spoilers for A Game Of Thronesthe first book in the series. You’ve been warned!

Westeros is in chaos! King Robert Baratheon is dead, slain by a boar in a tragic case of “hunting while intoxicated.” Robert’s young son Joffrey now sits upon the Iron Throne, advised by his mother Cersei Lannister. What few know is that Joffrey is actually the illegitimate offspring of Cersei’s incestuous liaisons with her twin brother Jaime. Robert’s Hand, Eddard “Ned” Stark, discovered this deadly secret, thus sealing his own fate as well as that of his king. Cersei made sure her hated husband was well-supplied with his favorite wine before heading out to hunt the boar that would kill him, and Joffrey ordered Stark’s head struck off in punishment for his failed attempt to place Robert’s brother (and legitimate heir, given Joffrey’s true parentage) on the throne. Tyrion Lannister has been sent to serve as Joffrey’s Hand, much to Cersei’s annoyance, and he’ll have his work cut out for him. Both of Robert’s brothers have taken the opportunity to declare themselves the true king, Stannis by right of birth and Renly by right of arms. Sadly, they stand a much thinner chance of success opposed to one another than if they teamed up…. In the North, Robb Stark’s bannermen have declared themselves free of the Iron Throne and placed a crown on their lord’s head. A string of brilliant victories has left them with a strong bargaining position and a valuable hostage: Jaime Lannister. Sansa Stark is stuck in King’s Landing, at the mercy of the cruelty of Cersei and Joffrey. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) her naivete was stolen when her father’s head left his shoulders. Now she plays the meek and obedient prisoner, all the while praying for an opening to escape the hell she’s stuck in. Arya Stark has successfully avoided her sister’s fate, posing as a boy and falling in with a train of recruits heading north to the Wall–a road that leads right past Winterfell…after wending its way through the thickest of the fighting that’s engulfed the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, Jon Snow joins a massive force ranging beyond the Wall to search for news of his missing uncle…as well as insight into the return of the Others, ghastly frozen wights thought to be the stuff of legend. Across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen has assumed leadership of her dead husband’s Khal, her followers awed by the three dragons birthed from Drogo’s pyre. But despite their devotion, the fact remains that they are weak. They are in no condition to face any of the rival Khals that roam the Dothraki Sea, let alone reclaim Westeros….

Martin’s prose continues to be top-notch, keeping you enthralled with the world he’s weaving even as you’re disgusted at the horrific events that are unfolding before your eyes. Various characters continue to prove just as unreliable in their assumptions as in the first book, and Martin seems to delight in working the narrative equivalent of “negative space”–the important information is often what’s NOT being said. It’s refreshing to see an author who respects his audience’s ability to work things out on their own. Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow remain hands-down favorites, while Daenerys and Bran continue to grow on me. As winter approaches and Danaerys’s dragons grow, magic slowly flows back into the world in subtle ways, but this remains primarily a historical fantasy at this point. If you can stomach the brutal world Martin is creating here, I can’t urge you strongly enough to join me. Apparently it only gets better from here….

CONTENT: R-rated profanity, not gratuitous, but not rare either. Rampant, disturbing violence, from hangings and decapitations to occasionally more grotesque fates–flaying comes up occasionally, though we don’t actually “see” that happen. There’s not-infrequent reference to torture though. Again, a fair amount of sexual content, including topics such as incest, rape, underage sex, and prostitution. Not really rendered in gratuitous detail, but often frankly and/or crudely discussed. Also, occultic elements begin to creep in here. Beyond the fantasy-based magic of wights and dragons, we get a guild of pyromancers whose power is waxing again for reasons they can’t seem to figure out (“Our spells haven’t worked this well since the time of the dragons!”) and a priestess of a foreign god with the power to strike men down with shadows.

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Review: “The Silent Deal” by Levi Stack

Title: The Silent Deal
Author: Levi Stack
Series: The Card Game #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Amazon, 2013

I’ve mentioned before the thrill of finding a gem when sifting through the sludge of most self-published work. Once again, I present an excellent debut novel! This time we have The Silent Deal, a nominally (but not restrictively) YA adventure set in the back-country of 1840s Russia. In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital copy from the author after failing to win a FirstReads giveaway. If you’re interested, this first book in the series is currently available for free on your Kindle from Amazon here.

There’s something wrong with the village of Aryk. Everyone knows it, but no one will talk about it. Strangers exchange knowing glances in the street. Adults clam up as soon as youth enter the room, awkwardly changing the subject and pretending that there’s not an air of impenetrable mystery hanging over the small Russian hamlet. Then there’s the Brass Art, cryptic graffiti plastered over the walls of abandoned alleyways in clear violation of the law yet never cleaned up. Viktor is haunted by the mystery, ever since he saw a man hanged for the capital offense of carrying a playing card. Allying himself with Romulus, a mysterious lad who knows the surrounding forest like the back of his hand and who harbors countless mysteries of his own, Viktor is determined to find out just what happened in Aryk before they were born. What could be so dangerous about a playing card? Viktor and Romulus are about to find out….

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this one. The pace was perhaps a bit leisurely at the outset, but that changed quickly. While I had no trouble putting the book down and hitting the hay at a reasonable hour when I started, by the end I was staying up way past when I had planned in an effort to find out what happened next. The resolution wrapped up enough of the mysteries to be satisfying, yet also managed to leave a number of loose threads still hanging to bug you until you get your hands on the sequel. There are still a few elements that might annoy some of my pickier brethren, but on the whole I managed to forgive these scattered potential issues. Classifying this by genre is a bit hard, as after a heavily fantastical opening the book helms hard back into straight historical fiction (or, more accurately, straight fiction in a historical setting)….but the fantastic creeps back in, almost without your noticing it. Surely Gypsy fortune telling is all rubbish….but what if it’s not? And what on Earth is going on inside the walls of the imposing Staryi Castle? Had Mr. Stack not otherwise proven to be a master of his craft, I would suspect the opening to be an artifact from a previous draft, but his otherwise-excellent writing and the knowledge that all is not as it seems with the character in question leads me to believe instead that this is seeding plot elements for the sequel. Throughout the book characters look at evidence and draw conclusions in their attempt to solve the mystery of Aryk’s past. All well and good, except that a number of these conclusions are wrong…and at the time left me scratching my head wondering what they saw that I didn’t, because their assumptions were not at all what I was getting from the evidence. This leads to a sequence that can only be described as a villainous monologue as one of the “big bads” sets straight all their misconceptions about what went on in their town all those years ago. In Mr. Stack’s defense, this was far from your usual “Bond villain explains the plan instead of just finishing off the hero” moment, and the villain in question was far more intent on taunting our heroes in order to break their concentration and resolve their current standoff in his favor, but I can see where some of my fellows are (rightfully, in most cases) annoyed with such a device. In most cases, it’s a storytelling crutch. Here? It may still be a crutch, but Mr. Stack’s storytelling proves pretty nimble regardless.

CONTENT: Mild profanity. Mild sexual innuendo, mostly just flirting. Some violence, ranging from schoolyard scuffles to more lethal and terrifying encounters. Gypsy magic such as fortune telling could be considered occultic, depending on one’s views.

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Review: “Star Wars: Lords Of The Sith” by Paul S. Kemp

Title: Lords Of The Sith
Author: Paul S. Kemp
Series: Star Wars (Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2015

New Star Wars! Always a pleasure. As you can probably tell from the title and cover art, this particular entry into the canon is focused on the most powerful duo in the Galaxy Far, Far Away: Emperor Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) and his apprentice Darth Vader. Or at least it’s supposed to be, according to the marketing people. But since it’s really hard to write a book focused entirely on the villains, they share the spotlight with the rebellious Free Ryloth Movement. Also, the particular scene on the cover doesn’t actually happen therein–no AT-ATs appear, for example, and the Emperor doesn’t use the Force openly unless he’s assured there will be no survivors to let slip his secret. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive visual, and does accurately depict more or less what you’re in for. The details are wrong, but the impression is accurate. Clear as mud? Good.

It’s been five years since the end of the Clone Wars,* since the Old Republic transitioned to the Galactic Empire, and the turmoil across the galaxy is still settling slowly. On Ryloth, the Republic’s benevolent military occupation has transitioned into a much more authoritarian and exploitative arrangement, much as partisan Cham Syndulla feared. His dream of a free Ryloth is once more a long way from reality, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop fighting for it. So when word comes that the Emperor himself is planning to visit Ryloth along with his chief enforcer and mysterious right hand Darth Vader, it is an opportunity far too tempting for Cham and his Free Ryloth Movement to pass up. Without the Emperor and Vader, the Empire would be in turmoil, and Ryloth would have a chance to throw off the Imperial shackles it’s been forced into. Of course, to pull this off they’ll have to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer, something that has never been done before, and even then there’s no guarantee that Vader and the Emperor would be taken out in the destruction. This is going to take all the resources the movement has managed to gather over the years, and even that may not be enough. Can they afford to take the shot? More importantly, can they afford not to?

As you can probably expect, I loved the book. It does have a few difficulties, though. From the title and cover, you’d expect more Vader/Palpatine focus than there actually is. Instead, while they are heavily featured, most of the novel is devoted to the heroes of the Free Ryloth Movement. You might remember them from one of the arcs of the Clone Wars television series, or because Cham Syndulla is the father of Hera Syndulla from the show Star Wars: Rebels and the novel A New Dawn. Newcomers won’t have that connection, but I think matters are adequately explained so they won’t feel lost. The book does an excellent job of getting inside Vader’s head and showing his damaged psyche, exploring how he has rationalized his past to justify his betrayal of all he held dear, every friend he ever knew. Unfortunately, we don’t get that same insight into the Emperor like I was hoping. Oh well. The other difficulty is that the ending is pretty proscribed. This is set before the original films, so Vader and the Emperor are going to emerge pretty much unscathed. There’s nothing anyone can do about that. Which means that the book really has to get you invested in the secondary characters to keep you engaged. For my money, Mr. Kemp succeeded in that, but I’ve seen some other reviewers who felt differently.

As for how this fits in with other works in the Star Wars universe, as part of the newly-rebooted official canon it’s undergone strenuous continuity checks to make sure it aligns with the rest of the works sharing that status. It ties in explicitly to The Clone Wars series, and I’m assuming the yet-unwatched Rebels series as well.** It does, however, depart significantly from previously-established Legends material. The Legends depiction of Ryloth was thrown out a couple years ago, with the planet’s appearance on The Clone Wars, and this is consistent with that, unsurprisingly. More notable is the change to the Empire’s attitude towards women. In the Legends canon, the Empire was fiercely sexist. Admiral Daala, despite her fierce ambition and competency, only got her position because she was Tarkin’s mistress. In contrast, Lords of the Sith gives us Delian Mors, a female Moff who isn’t even particularly competent. Maybe the Empire gets more sexist later, or maybe they’re discarding that element of the previous continuity. We’ll see. Mors also has the distinction of being the first homosexual character in the Star Wars universe, though that fact has almost no significance to the story.

CONTENT: Mild profanity. This is Star Wars, so they keep it tame. Strong violence, occasionally gory or disturbing. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing too explicit. There’s the implication that a character was a sex slave before escaping to the resistance, and we meet another character still in that situation.

*The opening crawl states that it’s set “Eight years after the Clone Wars ravaged the galaxy,” which would imply eight years after Revenge of the Sith, but an interview with the publisher made clear that this was referring to the start of the war, or Attack of the Clones. This makes little sense, either grammatically or thematically, so I’m racking it up to aftereffects of a change made late in the production of the novel. Maybe I’m wrong though, who knows….

**Since I don’t have cable, I’m waiting for the home release to catch up on that.

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Review: “The Rose Of The West ” by Mark Bondurant

Title: The Rose Of The West
Author: Mark Bondurant
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Bongo Books, 2014

You’ve gotta love a good steampunk western, and Mark Bondurant’s debut novel certainly delivers. The pace is a bit leisurely in the first half, and a couple artifacts from previous versions of the story occasionally pop up, but on the whole I really enjoyed this one. I received my copy in exchange for an honest review through the Goodreads FirstReads program.

Deke Hayden is product of the American West, raised among the Paiutes and fighting by their side against Mexico and their allies after his parents were killed. Now he’s seventeen and on a mission to see the big cities of the East. Kay Mapleton is a girl alone in the world, her family having died off one by one. She’s not hurting for money, as her grandmother’s estate proved quite substantial, but a seventeen-year-old girl cannot live alone and living with her aunt’s family holds no appeal. Instead, she sets out west to find her father, disappeared ten years previous. It would of course be smarter for both of our young protagonists to wait for the Great War between the North and the South to end before setting out, but youth should be allowed some measure of foolishness….

Like I said, I really enjoyed the book. Steampunk is a genre I’ve not explored nearly as much as I’d like, but I’ve been a fan so far. The characters were likeable enough, and I found myself caught up in their adventures despite there being very little mystery as to how things would turn out after the spoiler-ridden introduction. The plot is leisurely, definitely more focused on the journey than the destination, but that’s okay sometimes–I certainly think the book would suffer from any attempt to shorten it or make it conform to the traditional “three act” structure. I will admit that there a few flaws, though, despite my enjoyment.

Now, I love a good alternate history–it’s one of my favorite genres, in fact–but it involves walking a tightrope between changing things enough to warrant the effort and keeping things recognizable. Additionally, you have to identify the inciting incident for the change and tell us what happened to set history onto a different path. This is one of the few places the author suffers a misstep. In the world that’s presented here, the Civil War was somehow delayed until the late 1880s/early 1890s. We aren’t told why, but its easy to rationalize that it had something to do with the increase in steam-driven technology. What’s more difficult to rationalize away is the fact that despite this delay the Presidents of the warring factions are still Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Delaying the Civil War by almost thirty years should make both men too old to fill their historical roles when it finally goes down, or at least force some sort of change, but when he appears in the book Lincoln acts like his normal self (inasmuch as a dead historical character I’ve only read about can “act like his normal self). In my humble opinion, it would have been better to adjust the birth of steam technology backwards than to adjust the war forwards–had there been no mention of the date, that’s the assumption I would have made. The only other quibble I have is that there are a few artifacts from a previous version of the story–namely, references to the characters’ future exploits that then have no place in the future described by the coda. Details below, involving mild spoilers.* Again, a minor quibble and easy to ignore if you aren’t paying close attention, but it bugged me a bit.

CONTENT: Mild profanity, not widespread. Some strong violence and the implication of torture. No explicit sexual content, but plenty of low-detail implied sexual material including the rape and attempted murder of a character along with numerous references to prostitution and related activities.

*Specifically, there are numerous references to the “Hayden Gang,” and at one point it is stated that “It was the first flight of the Hayden Gang from the law, a foreshadow of their trials in the long years to come.” Except that the coda describes their future as legal and aboveboard mine owners, growing rich and having kids.

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Review: “The Circuit: Executor Rising” by Rhett C. Bruno

Title: Executor Rising
Author: Rhett C. Bruno
Series: The Circuit #1
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Diversion Books, 2015

(EDIT: The book has been given another proof-reading and re-released by a different publisher, so the author asked me to update the information found here. I’ve not seen the new version, but I’m told that the only difference is that it’s been proofread once again to catch those pesky typographical errors that seem to always slip past even the best of us.)

Reading works from debut authors can be a game of Russian Roulette, especially if the book has been self-published (This book is not, in fact, self-published, but I thought it was for some reason.) You sometimes find a gem, and other times you wind up beating your head against the wall wishing you’d never won that giveaway. This time, I’m pleased to say, I found something quite enjoyable. Unlike most of the relatively-unknown books and authors I’ve featured in these reviews, I didn’t actually seek this one out. Mr. Bruno was apparently trolling Goodreads reviews, found the one I did of Ancillary Justice, and figured I’d be a good candidate to review his own book. He was incredibly courteous, and of course I cannot speak highly enough of anyone who gives me free books, but beyond that the book was actually very enjoyable. Not perfect, there are some minor quibbles to be hashed out, but very enjoyable nevertheless.

It’s been five hundred years since the Earth was rendered uninhabitable, but humanity remains unbowed. We’ve spread throughout the solar system, scrounging and scraping a meager living wherever we can aided by the Kepler Circuit, a series of space stations set up by the Ancients of Earth before the planet burned. The stations of the Circuit are linked by the Solar Arks, traveling at nearly the speed of light from world to world distributing supplies and resources without bias. Most of the solar system is controlled by the New Earth Tribunal, a fanatically religious sect forged around the idea that the Ancients ruined the Earth with their technological and scientific hunger for knowledge that was not theirs to attain. They believe that all humans are linked together into a New-Agey collective spirit that remains tied to the Earth, and that someday the Earth will heal itself and we will be able to return home if we prove ourselves worthy. This has not, of course, stopped them from continuing to mine the Gravitum from the core of the Earth, allowing for humanity’s continued existence away from our home planet. Cassius Vale is an ex-Tribune, exiled to his home on the moon of Titan for heresy until the Tribunal is forced to ask for his help dealing with a string of attacks on their transports. Little do they realize that Vale himself is responsible for the attacks, or that these hijackings are only just the beginnings of his plan to bring down the Tribunal he has come to hate. ADIM is an android built in secret by Vale to further his plans. The Tribunal has outlawed all robotics research, declaring such artificial life to be abominations that have no place in helping us reclaim the Earth, even waging a genocidal war to wipe out as many of them as possible. ADIM is wholly devoted to his creator, and for his part Vale sees ADIM as a surrogate son. Together, they may very well bring down civilization as the Tribunal has shaped it for centuries. Sage Volus is an Executor for the Tribunal, operating behind the scenes to find and destroy their enemies wherever they hide. Her latest mission takes her to Ceres Prime, the asteroid colony that constitutes the largest threat to Tribunal domination of the entirety of the solar system. Talon Rayne is a Ceresian miner, formerly a general and bodyguard for one of the clan leaders who dominate the colony before a failed assassination attempt left him slowly dying and obsessed with providing  a better life for his daughter before he succumbs. These four characters are on a collision course with one another, and when the dust finally settles fate only knows who will be left standing.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this. It was really a great story, especially for a debut work. The prose was simple but cinematic, and you could “see” everything that happened very vividly. I understand the author is currently studying screenwriting, so the visual focus may have something to do with that. The characters were well-formed and complex, not the two-dimensional cardboard cutouts that populate the horde of mediocre fiction the age of internet publishing has unleashed upon us. There were minor issues of grammar, punctuation, and word choice, but much less than I’ve seen in other Indie works. (“He was a shadow of his formal self” vs. “former self,” things like that.)

I did have two character-related complaints; one a matter of taste and one I think is more a case of semi-universally accepted practice. I’ll start with this latter one: Cassius Vale is too perfect. He’s an interesting character, don’t get me wrong–I was fascinated by his character, sympathized with him, even occasionally found myself rooting for him despite my misgivings with his work (I’ll address that in a minute), but he really had little standing in his way. No, that’s not it exactly. He had all kinds of things standing in his way, a whole slew of obstacles to overcome before he can unleash his plan to bring down the tribune…and every single domino falls just the way he plans it. Every single thing that happens is according to his design, or at least easily dealt with. He’s got an incredibly complex scheme running here, and not a single wrench gets thrown into it. Maybe this isn’t as much a problem as I think it is; it certainly didn’t significantly detract from my enjoyment of the story, but I would have preferred to see him have to adapt on the fly to changing conditions in order to achieve his goals. A more minor complaint, more a matter of taste, is that while I enjoyed all of the POV characters found here, I found most of them very hard to root for. Cassius Vale is a snarky antihero with a tragedy in his past, and I think I’ve adequately demonstrated my weakness for those characters, but he’s ruthlessly pursuing a vendetta that cost countless innocent lives. ADIM is awesome, but working towards the same ends as Vale. Sage Volus is a kickass secret agent, again with a tragedy smouldering in her past, but she’s completely drank the Tribunal’s Kool-Aid and believes their crap wholeheartedly.* I like these characters, but I don’t necessarily want theirs goals to be achieved. The only character I can root for without reservation is Talon Rayne, and even there I have to wonder what use his bosses have for the Gravitum shipment they’re forcing him to hijack. But who knows, other readers may see this same issue as one of the strengths of the book–heaven knows that it can’t be easy to write a character you like even if you don’t want him to win.

The world Bruno has created here is incredibly complex, and I believe he at least is very familiar with its ins and outs. I could have used a little more information at times though. I had serious questions about a number of things as I read. Most of those were eventually answered, but having that happen sooner would have been nice. I would have been significantly more confused than I was if it weren’t for the book’s blurb that set the scene. That said, Bruno did manage to almost completely avoid that dreaded practice of “infodumping.” For some, that’s a cardinal sin. I don’t believe so myself, if it’s done well and manages to be engaging, but enough people have embraced that doctrine that a writer must think twice before employing it. Thankfully, he also managed to avoid the rookie mistake that many a writer has fallen prey to in their efforts to avoid this dreaded practice: characters telling each other things they should already know in an effort to inform the reader. “As you know, Bob, if Doctor Neffario manages to get his hands on the MacGuffin device he’ll end life on the planet Damsellus!” I would have liked to have been told what exactly happened to leave the Earth a barren cinder–it’s somewhat implied that it was a result of mining the core for Gravitum, but if that were the case I think the Tribunal would stop the mining as part of their efforts to make the Earth habitable again. Unless that’s just rhetoric to keep the unwashed masses in line, of course.

Some of the science is wonky, or at least under-explained–you can break the rules of physics, but you should acknowledge doing it and offer some explanation. Some examples: the ease of communication between Vale and ADIM, even across vast distances. Elsewhere in the book it is implied that distance affects the ease and clarity of communication, but ADIM has a communicator with seemingly infinite range built into his head? Seems like that device should be pretty big, if it’s possible at all in this universe. Or maybe not, it just seemed a little inconsistent to me is all. Then there’s the Circuit itself. Everything is described as if it stays stationary relative to each other, but all of those planets are orbiting the sun at different speeds. I assumed the Circuit was a teleportation network like the Stargates in that universe, but it’s revealed towards the end that instead they are space stations that allow the Solar Arks to pick up and drop off people and cargo without ever slowing down from their near-light speed. The routes of those Solar Arks take must be convoluted as all get out and subject to some killer calculations. Again, not insurmountable, but some acknowledgement of the issue and a throwaway line about how it works would be nice.

CONTENT: R-rated language, pervasive but not gratuitous. Some brutal violence. Some fairly strong sexual innuendo, but I don’t recall it becoming very explicit.

*Do I detect the mold of Mara Jade in this character? Methinks I do! That’s okay, if you have to imitate somebody, Timothy Zahn is one of the greats. There are other loans from Star Wars, such as the name Talon (not-Karrde) or the Hands and Executors (though their roles are modified/flipped.)

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Mini-Review: “Star Wars–The Last Battle Of Colonel Jace Malcom” by Alexander Freed

Title: The Last Battle Of Colonel Jace Malcom
Author: Alexander Freed
Artist: David Rabbitte
Series: Star Wars (Legends canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Magazines, 2012

Once again, I offer up an exclusive short story from the pages of Star Wars Insider magazine! This time, Alexander Freed gives us a tale from the era of the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic featuring the seriously-badass Col. Jace Malcom. You don’t know Col. Malcom? You might have met him without realizing it, if you watched any of the cinematic trailers for the game. If not, that’s okay, I’ll introduce you. So far as I know, the only place to find this tale is in the pages of Star Wars Insider issue #137, so you may have some trouble finding it, but its worth the trouble if you have any interest.

Okay, background. Like the game it’s tied to, this story is set about three and a half millenia before the films we grew up on, in an age when the Old Republic is locked in an eternal struggle with the resurgent Sith Empire for dominance in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Interestingly, the design aesthetics of the Sith Empire are the same as those favored by Palpatine’s New Order, reinforcing once again his political mastery–he managed to turn the Old Republic into the Sith Empire, complete with their imagery. Now, either this is intentional and the citizens of the GFFA are complete dunces who are ignorant of their history (unlikely, since this is a millenia-long intermittent conflict that would be a gold mine as a setting for entertainment holos) or the designers on The Old Republic are really lazy. I could give you the whole historical basis for the conflict, but you don’t really need it to enjoy the story. Bottom line: the Old Republic is locked in battle with the Sith Empire across the galaxy, and ‘ a stalemate. Oh, and Col. Malcom? He’s a hardened soldier fighting for the Republic. Again, I could give you his history, but I think this gives you all the information you need….

That’s right, this is a guy badass enough to attack a full-blown Sith Lord with a knife. Not a lightsaber-based knife–a regular steel knife. Not somebody I want to mess with….

The mission is simple, yet vital–destroy an Imperial airfield in preparation for a renewed Republic offensive on the barren world of Kalandis VII. Col. Malcom and his Spec-Force troops have done it a hundred times on a hundred planets….but this time it’s different. This time, it’s the last battle of Col. Malcom’s personal war against the Empire. And he’d like to go out with a bang….

The story was fun, and stands on its own fairly well. The galactic political and strategic situation aren’t that important to understanding what’s going on, because this is war on the smallest scale possible–we go here, and blow this up. We do our job, everyone else does theirs, and the Sith Empire gets a bloody nose. I’d seen Malcom in action in the cinematic trailers, though I didn’t know his name at the time. (He also appears in the Return trailer, here) He’s a fascinating character, and I look forward to finding out more about him as I read and play more of the media set in this era.

The Old Republic is the sole remaining producer of Legends-grade canon material, with everything else switching over to the newer official canon. This tale falls squarely in the former category, set three thousand six hundred and forty-one years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope. That’s 3,641 BBY, for my fellow Star Wars geeks. For more Malcom, check out the trailers I linked, the novel The Old Republic: Annihilation, and of course, the game itself.

CONTENT: I don’t recall any profanity, but any that appears would be minor. Some violence. No sexual content.

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