Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived - Paul S. Kemp "Be true to yourself"

In light of the quote I've chosen for this review, I will be brutally honest (though, that is really no different than I am any other time I write a review). This book was LIGHT-YEARS better than Fatal Alliance. Despite that, I had some issues. But first, a summary of sorts.

NOTE: I received this ARC through the Amazon Vine program.

Zeerid "Z-Man" is an ex-soldier now gun-runner. He does this to supply his paralyzed daughter (actually she doesn't even HAVE legs, so she really isn't paralyzed, is she?) with the basics, in the hopes that someday he can get her real legs. He has been given a dangerous assignment: evade the Sith blockade of Coruscant to deliver spice. On the way, he meets renegade (of course) Jedi, Aryn Leneer, who is out for...wait for it...REVENGE!!

Okay, so, let me say, after reading Fatal Alliance, I wanted to leave Star Wars books far behind. But I am an Admin of a Star Wars book club and the next book on the list was "Deceived", so I had to read it (well, I am sure I coulda found a way to cop out, but that would be a little Sithy of me, don't you think?). Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. Unfortunately, it could have been MUCH better.

My favorite character was, oddly enough, Zeerid. I was shocked when I figured this out, because Zeerid and his story has been told SO many times, I'll bet an 8 year-old would know the archetype. I don't know how Kemp did it, but he made me involved in Zeerid's story, interested in his outcome, and cheering for him to make it out in the end. Even if he was an ex-soldier with a crippled 7 year old girl who lives in a crappy apartment with her impoverished, overworked aunt. (By the way, the ex-soldier bit in this story works MUCH better than the ex-soldier in Fatal Alliance--instead of making his departure from the military another "The Man did me wrong, boo hoo", he leaves because of his *gasp* family!) I found myself reading his sections quickly, desperate to find out how he survives. As I read, I was also reminded of Lorn Pavan in Michael Reaves' Star Wars: Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter: both are competent men who don't have to resort to using the Force or wearing a bucket on their heads to be 100% awesome.

I wish I could say I was as fond of the other characters as I was of Zeerid, but I wasn't. Malgus had some interesting conflicts and on one hand, I liked his relationship with Eleea, but let's face it: Malgus is your typical Sith baddie. He spouts rhetoric about "Anger" and "getting rid of peace", like all good Sith. Eleena is a plot device, or what I've seen called in other places as a "Plot Moppet". She is wise, wonderful, caring, blind to Malgus' abuse, spouts all the right stuff at all the right times...and serves only to create conflict and results in others. There is no nuance in her character whatsoever. She has no desires, no ambitions, no likes, no dislikes. All she is is a sexy female Twi'Lek (because what female Twi'Lek isn't?) whose sole purpose is to make a reaction in the other characters or to be a weakness to other characters. This resulted in my not caring what happened to her, and hoping desperately that she would get a point of view scene that would show her completely different from what the Malgus' sections showed her to be (they didn't).

Representing the Jedi is the stereotypical hero-turned-Dark Sider (at least for 2.8 seconds before realizing that, d'oh, maybe revenge ISN'T what your master would have wanted), Aryn Leneer. While she is WAY more interesting than what's his face from--you guessed it!--Fatal Alliance, her character has been done to death. Kemp really does try to bring some conflict to her, tries to make it different (I liked the subtle romance between Aryn and Zeerid, I liked how Aryn was a woman--and not just a cliched female--and yet had a decent story arc), and I admire his attempt, but it didn't work for me. Aryn is just another Jedi who, when a loved one dies, immediately goes out for REVENGE. The results are lackluster, as always.

Rounding out the cast is Vrath Xizor, a mercenary on the tail of Zeerid. He certainly isn't bad--I really liked the fight scene between him and Zeerid, in which both are equally skilled--but other than that, nothing about him stands out hugely. I was surprised at his outcome, however.

The writing was so much better than that other book I keep mentioning in this review. I think I literally sighed with relief after reading the first page. It was descriptive, beautiful, without being too frilly. In places, sometimes Kemp's writing tended to slow the action to a halt, but other times, it gave a great idea of the destruction of the temple or an amazing fight scene in the cargo hold of a drop ship.

I did receive this as an ARC through the Amazon Vine program; I am desperately hoping that this goes through a final stage of editing, because, gorrammit, there are a ton of errors in here. From wrong word choices to incorrect grammar to using the wrong character, there were so many errors, I almost wanted to grab a red pen and give Kemp and his editor a hand.

And now, for my favorite section and yours...the newly debuted, Nerd Nitpicks!!

1. Zeerid spends 87 THOUSAND CREDITS on a hover-chair. This is MORE THAN A VEHICLEM (at least on earth). How much IS the average income of these people? Isn't this a hugely bloated figure? If HOVERCHAIRS cost this much, why is Yoda being such a scum bag and zipping along on one in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith? He's wasting good money that could have been freeing Anakin's mother from slavery!!!

2. I do not believe, in my wildest nightmares, that you can get from Ord Mantell to Vultar to Coruscant in ONE DAY. I just don't believe it. This whole book should have taken a WEEK or MORE, not a whopping TWO DAYS. RIDICULOUS! And, might I add, this is supposedly OLD technology...that means that during the days of the Death Star, Luke and Ben should have been at Alderaan before they left Tatooine!!

3. Speaking of the whole "days of old" thing...this doesn't feel, in the slightest, like a story 3000 years before Luke is born. Coruscant is built to the same extreme levels; space travel is the same (no, wait, faster...); technology is apparently the same (prosthetic legs).

4. With the exception of ONE character, the ENTIRE Character List is human. This is a pet peeve of mine about SW EU; in the movies, we see all these aliens in the cantina, have all these aliens encounters in the prequels, and then in the books, all the main characters are human. It gets so bad, that I wonder what the point of having them in a galaxy far, far away is. Just make it Earth in the year 3000, and the story might be the exact same.

5. Why the kriff put Ven Zallow in the Character List when he is going to be dead for 75% of the novel? Here is this character that is very interesting, and he dies within the first 50 pages. Hopefully, a book will come out about his exploits before being skewered.

And thank you for joining us for yet another...Nerd Nitpicks!

Honestly, when I started reading these Old Republic tie-in books, I wasn't very excited. I am not a big fan of this era, I don't really care for how everything is almost exactly like the classic trilogy with the inclusion of Sith and Mandalorians, and I just don't care for the video games that much (and to answer your question: No, I've never played KotOR, I can't get it to run on my stupid Vista system). After reading The Book That Shall Not Be Named, it seemed like my suspicions had been confirmed.

Kemp's "Deceived", however, busted those suspicions. I'm not saying this is perfect--it has flaws up the whazoo--but I found parts that I enjoyed and Kemp was a decent writer. If you are interested in this era or are playing the TOR MMORPG, check it out. All others, well, check out if it sounds interesting, but don't feel bad if you pass it over.