The second novel set in the Old Republic era and based on the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars®: The Old Republic™ ramps up the action and brings readers face-to-face for the first time with a Sith warrior to rival the most sinister of the Order’s Dark Lords—Darth Malgus, the mysterious, masked Sith of the wildly popular “Deceived” and “Hope” game trailers.
Malgus brought down the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in a brutal assault that shocked the galaxy. But if war crowned him the darkest of Sith heroes, peace would transform him into something far more heinous—something Malgus would never want to be, but cannot stop, any more than he can stop the rogue Jedi fast approaching.
Her name is Aryn Leneer—and the lone Knight that Malgus cut down in the fierce battle for the Jedi Temple was her Master. And now she’s going to find out what happened to him, even if it means breaking every rule in the book.
I like that even in product descriptions you still get the copyright sign by “Star Wars” and the trademark sign by “The Old Republic.” I’m tempted to say that this is, really, all you need to know about this book.
See, from my FR-reading days, I used to confuse Paul S. Kemp with Richard Lee Byers for some reason. I’m not sure why exactly this is but this means that, upon looking up some novel titles, I discovered that my mildly fond memories of Kemp were in fact of Byers who wrote about this amazing kickass mom. As in, she’s like in her forties or fifties with something like four grown children and she still goes out and does fun swashbuckling.
Kemp, instead, wrote a bald Gary Stu. Whose concept is mildly entertaining, but was ruined with Kemp’s writing which–well, I can’t dig up excerpts now but suffice to say that Kemp is fond of the words “black” and “dark” and “darkness,” all the better to emphasize the deep, black darkness of his Gary Stu’s inner turmoil. There were entire paragraphs where some variant of these turn up every other sentence. And then the bald dude goes on to become superhuman and a god’s chosen, and it turns into something very like Drizzt but with more DARK, MAN, DARK.
As for Deceived, it’s based on the cinematic trailer of the MMO The Old Republic.
It’s plenty cinematic. It features a guy narrating it… very… slowly (perhaps this is menacing to people who have a deathly fear of William Shatner), a bounty hunter with the glossiest hair this side of a shampoo ad, and some lightsaber fights in slooooooooow-mo. Apparently, this trailer was so riotously popular–despite not showing anything relevant to the game–that they decided they needed a novel to go with it and, presumably, thus was born Kemp’s contract to write Deceived.
This is a good time to note that, according to a disgruntled former employee and whistle-blower EA Louse, a lot of money was thrown at the MMO project.
According to Louse, more than $300 million has been spent on the game so far.
“And you know what they’re most proud of? This is the kicker,” the blog reads. “They are most proud of the sound. No seriously. Something like a 20Gig installation, and most of it is voiceover work. That’s the best they have. The rest of the game is a joke. EA knows it and so does George Lucas, they’re panicking, and so most of Mythic has already been cannibalized to work in Austin on it because they can’t keep pushing back launch.”
Louse then predicts, “Old Republic will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA. Probably at the level of the Sims Online. We all know it too.”
For comparison, James Cameron’s shitheap Avatar cost $237 million to make. TOR needs to have the kind of launch subscriptions that’ll make Blizzard piss in fear and sustain at least a million subscriptions for a year to break even.
So what we are looking at is a failtastic, mediocre book written to accompany a mediocre trailer of a mediocre MMO–itself based on another game which is in turn based on the Expanded Universe, which is itself made to milk the cash cow that is the movies–that’ll probably fail within two years. Poetic. So many layers of “milk that cash cow, oh god milk it NOW” desperation, so little anything else.
Let’s cut straight to the money shot: the scene that’s based on the above trailer. Setting aside that I can’t take this Darth Malgus person seriously because he… talks… slowly… in a faux-menacing way in the trailer, Kemp has this unfortunate habit of making all villains come across as–well, you know. RAR RAR YOUR COMPLACENCY, I WILL SHOW YOU HOW WEAK YOU ARE. That kind of thing. Compare to Darth Malak’s “BWAHAHAHA I WILL WIPE THIS PLANET FROM THE FACE OF THE GALAXY”; you get the picture. People who speak, and think, in nothing but cliches. How insufferable is that?
He walked among his prey, cowled, armored under his cloak, unnoticed and unknown, but heavy with purpose.
I’m sorry, but if the Jedi and the Republic haven’t caught on by this point that people wearing cowled robes are bad news–especially if they can’t show their Jedi ID or something–then they all deserve to get sucked into a black hole. And I’m not sure it’s healthy to be “heavy with purpose.” It makes him sound pregnant. Darth Mpreg, perhaps. There follows a stilted argument on pseudo-ethics between Darth Malgus and his mail-order Twi’lek Eleena.
“No. I fight because that is what I was made to do and the Empire is the instrument through which I realize my purpose. The Empire is war made manifest. That is why it is perfect.”
She shook her head. “Perfect? Millions die in its wars. Billions.”
“Beings die in war. That is the price that must be paid.”
She stared at a group of children following an adult, perhaps a teacher. “The price for what? Why constant war? Why constant expansion? What is it the Empire wants? What is it youwant?”
Behind his respirator, he smiled as he might when entertaining the questions of a precocious child.
“Want is not the point. I serve the Force. The Force is conflict. The Empire is conflict. The two are congruent.”
“You speak as if it were mathematics.”
“The Jedi do not think so.”
I’m quoting this in its entirety because this is what passes for profundity in Kemp’s work: a lot of words, no substance, and plenty of pretension. It also reads as highly unnatural, almost as though Eleena and Malgus were not people but thinly drawn sketches from the pen of someone who can’t really write all that well. But all that, really, doesn’t compare to the horror that is to come–the trailer scene proper, which begins auspiciously with this deathless line:
He walked toward it and fate walked beside him.
Closely followed by this:
As one, the seven Jedi moved toward Malgus and Eleena, and Malgus and Eleena moved toward them.
More and more Padawans gathered on the balconies and walkways above, sparks of light-side blasphemy flickering in Malgus’s perception.
There’s something deeply abhorrent about the first sentence, isn’t there? Sort of a blinking neon billboard screaming THIS AUTHOR CAN’T WRITE FOR SHIT.
I know what he’s trying to say, but neither “light-side” nor “dark-side” used seriously is ever an adjective I can take seriously. And, because this follows the trailer–whose one purpose is simply to be flashy, not making sense–Malgus is surrounded by a bunch of Jedi who politely wait for his Sith ship to crash through and unleash a small army of Sith on the temple. Because, while evil is stupid in Star Wars, good must always one-up it in that department.
While there’s nothing offensively bad about Deceived, like most works of its ilk–Star Wars and D&D tie-ins–it’s just flatly… boring, and written in such a way as would best appeal to a certain type of readers, which is to say the type that make a lot of “STAR WARS VS WH40K WHO WILL WIN AND WHY LIST ALL SHIPS AND TROOP TYPES TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENTS” or “GOKU VS DARTH VADER WHO WINS????” threads in forums that are, themselves, full of that kind of threads. While I dismiss the majority of YA as being worthless tat, some of it still has something to say that needs saying. Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely or Malinda Lo’s Huntress are atrociously written by atrocious writers, but at least they reach out with positive Feminism 101 and the former has Asian lesbian girls.
Paul S. Kemp and his like, on the other hand, have no such redeeming points. All they are able to do, and are interested in doing, is getting cash from the grubby (and usually pasty and cheetos-stained) hands of a certain type of people by appealing to their Star Wars nostalgia. They churn out write-by-the-dot trash for properties whose names must always be mentioned with (R) or (TM), because that’s the beginning and end of their ability. It’s not like Dan Abnett either, because there’s no hint of insight or talent or compelling anything to the rambling, wooden debates Kemp makes his characters have. The highlight of the piece is itself fairly backward: where the trailer is flashy and cinematic, if patently ridiculous, the text reduces the flashiness to tepid prose, a series of ponderous attempts to make the action kinetic and blockbuster-esque, and amusingly bland dialogue. I’m not sure Kemp has ever produced a piece of writing that isn’t dreadfully portentous and just plain unfun to read, but as far as I can tell Deceived outdoes all his previous pieces of dreadfully portentous, unfun things. Reading it could kill you with sheer tedium.
A prolonged, irregular hum sounded as the fifty Sith warriors within the drop ship’s compartment activated their lightsabers. The sound heralded the fall of the Temple, the fall of Coruscant, the fall of the Republic.
I’m not even sure what “a prolonged, irregular hum” might sound like, seeing that “irregular” and “prolonged” don’t precisely go hand in hand. This is a case of someone not being entirely sure what words mean, but will use them regardless, possibly after flipping through a thesaurus.
It also heralds the point where I stopped reading. That’s page 58 out of 516, though admittedly the epub viewer inflates the page count by a lot as the paper copy has only 304. So I’m guessing that’s about twenty five or thirty pages.
EDIT: aaaaand we have butthurt fans/author circle-jerk!
This is quite a lot of result for a half-assed thing I wrote based on skimming very little text quickly. Not coincidentally, all the circle-jerk members seem to be nerdy man-children whose acquaintance with writing of any sort seems to be spring mostly from WoW quest text, seeing as they believe lines like “he walked toward it and fate walked beside him” totally work. (For the record, dear Mr. Kemp: I bought my copy of Deceived from isohunt, if you know what I mean. I’d leave it to seed, but that’s just not a kind thing to do to complete strangers.)
These people are so easy.