Sunday, August 23, 2009

5000 BBY - 4999 BBY: The Lost Tribe of the Sith - Precipice


Precipice is the first of three parts in the Lost Tribe of the Sith series. It takes place after the Golden Age of the Sith, and within the years 5000-4999 BBY.

Before I get into a quick plot synopsis, I have to say that this particular piece was very hard to read. In fact, I had to read over it a second time to understand what was going on. You can read it for yourself here. I found Miller’s writing very hard to follow. He prose was unclear and his style too choppy. What is more, I came across some continuity errors. I’ll address the errors a little later, first, allow me to briefly outline the plot, and how this particular story situates itself in Star Wars Chronology.

It seems that the Sith Empire is now at war with the Republic. Naga Sadow, preparing for a battle with the Republic and the Jedi, is awaiting the arrival of a shipment of lightsaber crystals. Two ships are delivering the crystals: the Omen, and the Harbinger. However, before these two ships depart with their cargo, they are engaged by a Jedi starfighter that opens fire. The Harbinger is hit, and careens towards the Omen. In an attempt to avoid the collision, the navigator of the Omen sets random hyperspace coordinates, and engages the ship's engines without checking the safety of his jump. When the ship re-enters space, it is pulled into the gravity-well of a planet and begins to crash-land all-the-while being torn apart by gravity. It is here the story begins.

The protagonists of this tale are Yaru Korsin, the commander of this Sith ship, his half-brother Devore Korsin, Devore’s wife Seelah and their newborn child, and Gloyd, the ship’s gunner.

Needless to say, the ship crash lands on the planet’s surface, and much of the crew perishes. About 355 people survive (which to me means this was quite a large ship). Part of the crew were the Massassi, who are the warrior caste in the Sith system of society. When they begin to breathe the air on this planet they die almost instantly. Yaru, Devore, and Sheelah are human, while Gloyd is a Houk, and all four are immune to whatever is killing the Massassi.

When the crew sets up camp things go from bad to worse, and in-fighting quickly erupts. Lightsabers are brought out to settle disputes, and many more crew members are killed at the hands of their shipmates. (It’s here, with the introduction of lightsabers I think continuity is breeched, but more on that later). Yaru and Devore are no exception, and in fanatic Sith style, the two half brothers duel to the death to see who will really command what is left of the crew. Yaru wins the duel, and pushes his exhausted half brother over the edge of a cliff (in his defense though, Devore started it, and what is more, Devore was hopped-up on spice).

The duel took place outside the purview of the rest of the crew, so when Yaru returned to the camp, Sheelah, Devore’s wife, buried her anger deep, and promised herself to never under estimate Yaru again. The story ends here.

I’d like to address some continuity issues here, but I’d like to first state that I’m not a continuity nut. I find continuity errors irksome, and they sometimes take away from my enjoyment of a particular piece, but I don’t rely on Star Wars continuity to be the keystone to my delight of Star Wars. None-the-less, they are somewhat bothersome when one comes across them.

Joe Bongiomo’s website has a few paragraphs on continuity and how it’s viewed by Lucasfilm. I suggest if you want to explore this idea a little further, and if you intend to continue reading my blog, this is a must read. Go here, and read the articles titled “Continuity in the Star Wars Expanded Universe”, and “Fiction within Fiction: The Star Wars Saga as History”. Both of these articles are very enlightening.

The continuity errors that jumped to my attention in this piece were the prevalence of lightsabers used by the Sith, and the mention of Jedi. Firstly, it was my understanding that the Sith in this time frame did not use lightsabers, but metallic swords that could still compete with lightsabers. I believe that this was made clear in Jedi vs. Sith, the Essential guide to the Force. Secondly, when giving background to the character of Gloyd, Miller states, when providing a physical description of the character: “The half smirk was a memento from a Jedi lightsaber swipe years earlier that just missed taking the Houk’s head off”. Again, it was my understanding that those in the Sith Empire had no contact with the Republic or the Jedi for over 1900 years, that the Sith had lost their way back to Republic space. These are minor errors, if errors at all – I accept I could have my head up my ass with regards to my understanding here.

For my next post I’ll move on to part two of the Lost tribe of the Sith series. The story is interesting so far, but Miller’s prose is un-enjoyable and too hard to decipher.


  1. I disagree with this post on a few levels, but let me break them down into helpful and not-so-helpful categories.

    To be helpful: While the Sith were not known for their lightsabers prior to the Great Hyperspace War, every depiction of the Second Great Schism (AKA The Hundred Year Darkness) demonstrates that the Dark Jedi that became the Lords of the Sith used lightsabers. The problem was that these were not very advanced, and where the Jedi continued to advance their lightsabers, the Sith species already used alchemically treated Sith swords. The fact that the OmenI was carrying a cargo full of lightsaber crystals and miners in the middle of a war indicates that Naga Sadow saw the potential in the Jedi's lightsabers and was in some way appropriating the technology for his own uses.

    As a roleplayer, I can mention that while I always loved having a Sith sword, it was never the equal of a lightsaber wielded by a Sith or Jedi of the same level. I believe this imbalance was fixed a bit in the Saga Edition, though, as a high-level Jedi no longer gets 7 or 8 dice of damage with a lightsaber versus the 2 that a novice lightsaber user or Sith sword user deals.

    This appropriation also indicates that we are well into the Great Hyperspace War, and this I can write off as John Jackson Miller using artistic license to take a ridiculously compressed war (that being my greatest criticism of Fall of the Sith Empire and stretching it out longer than the days or months that it seems. Stretching the war out to two years exactly, for instance, would indicate that the Houk was injured in the earliest battles in the Koros system and that the battle the Omen was rushing to was the final routing of the Sith fleets. This I can buy, despite being a stickler for continuity myself (indeed, it was my interest in continuity of a certain story to come that led me to start reading this blog. You probably can guess which story I'm referring to).

    Somewhat less helpful: I completely disagree with you about John Jackson Miller's writing style. It's a shame here that your articles are not a bit longer, as I actually have no idea what it is about his writing irks you. Everybody that I have ever discussed these stories with has found JJM's manner of description to be excellent, and in fact I find his writing to be particularly inspired in the next story. So while I would never try to say that your opinion is flat-out wrong on such a matter, I don't see enough common ground yet to begin to understand it.

  2. I’ve since come around on my opinion of JJM’s work, and as of now he’s one of my favorite EU authors. This particular series got better as it went on, and his work on Knight Errant was fantastic. In my post on Paragon I explained in a little more detail why I wasn’t too keen on JJM’s writing at this point, basically saying that I thought it too vague – for example, when I read his stuff I always felt like I was missing something or out of the loop on some important detail.

    Anyway, JJM’s is one of my favorite EU writers now.

    In regards to the question of whether or not the Sith used lightsabers at this time, the reference book Jedi vs Sith makes this comment:

    “ Although most records indicate that lightsaber technology had, by approximately 7000 BBY, progressed to weapons that required plug-in power packs attached to the user’s belts, there are contradictory records about whether Jedi and Dark Jedi used lightsabers or ordinary swords during the Hundred-Year Darkness. After their defeat at Corbos, the Exiles were stripped of all their weapons before being banished to a then unexplored region in the Outer Rim Territories; because their descendants did not employ lightsabers during the Great Hyperspace War, we can surmise that the Exiles were either unable or unwilling to create or re-create lightsaber technology in Sith Space” (pg 12-13).

    So when I read Precipice, I thought I saw a contradiction on the use of lightsabers by the Sith. However, your point about the Omen making a lightsaber crystal run does point to the fact that the Sith were obviously on to this technology.

    I also liked your explanation of the Houk being injured in one of the earlier battles of the conflict.

    I’ve always wondered from an RPG perspective what the Sith swords were really like in comparison to lightsabers. I never played the D20 system (which I think you are talking about) and in my time in the D6 system the use of Sith swords never came up, mostly because I don’t think we had any sourcebooks which made reference to them – or maybe they did and they just never came up as a game mechanic. Anyway, as a fellow RPG’er I appreciate your anecdotal information on this.

    Ultimately, I want to see these minor discrepancies saved and squared with one another than not. I know the Star Wars mythos will never have equal margins all the time (and it’s not something I expect either – as a matter of fact I’m beginning to see it as one of its strengths, see my post on the novelization of The Phantom Menace).

    I hope you enjoy my other insights. Please, keep the commentary coming.