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[ Star Wars Books & Comics ]
Staff Review.

[The Old Republic: Annihilation]

The Old Republic: Annihilation
Author: Drew Karpyshyn
Published: 2012

Reviewer: Ewan, Star Wars Books & Comics
Reviewed: 2013
Review rating: 4.5 / 5

Spoilers are kept to minimum however cannot guarantee spoiler-free.

Publisher supplied copy for review purposes. All opinions are those of reviewer.

Publisher's Summary:
The Sith Empire is in flux. The Emperor is missing, presumed dead, and an ambitious Sith lord’s attempt to seize the throne has ended fatally. Still, Darth Karrid, commander of the fearsome Imperial battle cruiserAscendant Spear, continues her relentless efforts to achieve total Sith domination of the galaxy.
But Karrid’s ruthless determination is more than matched in the steely resolve of Theron Shan, whose unfinished business with the Empire could change the course of the war for good. Though the son of a Jedi master, Theron does not wield the Force—but like his renowned mother, the spirit of rebellion is in his blood. As a top covert agent for the Republic, he struck a crucial blow against the Empire by exposing and destroying a Sith superweapon arsenal—which makes him the ideal operative for a daring and dangerous mission to end Ascendant Spear’s reign of terror.
Joined by hot-headed smuggler Teff’ith, with whom he has an inexplicable bond, and wise Jedi warrior Gnost-Dural, Darth Karrid’s former master, Theron must match wits and weapons with a battle-tested crew of the most cold-blooded dark side disciples. But time is brutally short. And if they don’t seize their one chance to succeed, they will surely have countless opportunities to die.

Annihilation is an interesting twist for author Karpyshyn - known better for writing stories featuring Force sensitives - as the main protagonist in this story is neither Sith nor Jedi. Basically Theron Shan is a 'normal' person: certainly he grew up under the tutelage of a Jedi Master (his mother is Grand Master of the Jedi Order, but Theron himself isn't Force sensitive) and he is an special operative for Republic Intelligence Services. But he has no Force powers so when he sustains injury’s he cannot use the Force to heal himself and he must rely on either his own abilities or his gadgets to complete his missions - when Shan hurts his arm early in the story the injury plagues him and it affects his operating performance for the rest of the book. This makes for a more believable story in a universe where our heroes tend to be super-human Force sensitives.
In many ways this is Star Wars meets Mission Impossible and this makes for a very interesting and exciting story. Theron is essentially Ethan Hunt - an extremely well-trained secret operative who is tasked with performing difficult, if not sometimes near impossible, covert missions behind enemy lines. In order to complete this particular mission, to recover the Sith Empire's code machine and then to destroy its latest weapon of terror, Theron has his own specialist team: a Jedi Master (who has a personal interest in the Sith Lord now threatening the Republic) and a pair of smugglers (professional friends of Theron).
However, beneath this tale of espionage lies a deeper story of personal conflicts and Karpyshyn weaves these throughout the story. It turns out that our Jedi Master was the Jedi who trained the Sith Lord before their fall to the darkside and the story continually questions whether the Jedi will succumb just like his former student. For Theron there lies the question of his lineage: he is aware of who his mother is but when his real father is revealed to him, Karpyshyn creates an almost sublime "I am your father" moment. Theron's response to this is in stark contrast to Luke's response in Empire. Karpyshyn's story cleverly examines the morals of duty during war.
The mission to capture the enemy's code machine mirrors the Allies attempts to capture Nazi Enigma machines during the Second World War. Once successful and the enemy's codes are broken, there lies the question of how intercepted transmissions should be handled without the enemy realising that their codes have been broken. Karpyshyn's answer clearly illustrates the diametrically opposing sense of duty and of right and wrong Theron and his superiors have in their respective roles.
It should come as no surprise that the story's antagonists are the Sith, but Karpyshyn's experience with his Darth Bane trilogy allows the reader to empathise better with these characters. The reader is given a good understanding of their motivations and desires and since the lead Sith Lord was a former student of Theron's Jedi ally, it makes for an interesting interpersonal conflict between the pair.

This is more than just an espionage story, this is a full-on action-adventure: complete with Sith Lords, space battles, lightsaber duels and death-defying leaps. The story is well-paced and has the right mix of action, pathos and comedy. Annihilation is Karpyshyn at his best.

The Old Republic: Annihilation by Drew Karpyshyn is available now in paperback from Arrow in the UK and Del Rey in the US.


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