Sunday, September 12, 2010

1006 BBY - 1000 BBY: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

This is it. This is the book that started it all.

It was late July, 2009, and I was standing at the sci-fi section of my local Chapters handling the book Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. My wife and I were heading to her friend’s cottage for the August long weekend and I was looking for some reading material. It had been over a decade since I had read a Star Wars book and I was looking to read a bit of fluff and thought it would be neat to see what the Star Wars literary world had to offer and old fan like me. I remembered reading the Thrawn trilogy back in high school and really enjoying it. As I was looking at the plethora of Star wars titles before me, my hand reached for the red Darth Bane book. The name and the colour caught my eye.

I opened the front cover of the book and examined the timeline of Star Wars novels. This wasn’t an unfamiliar timeline to me, nor was this the first time I had done such an activity. Anytime I enter a Chapters, I immediately go to the Star Wars section, not really with the intent to buy anything to read, but just to see what’s out there. I had other, more important books to read, I had always told myself.

As I looked at the timeline, something came over me. I decided – right then and there – to read all the novels contained on that Star Wars chronological marker. As soon as I had thought it, I knew I was going to do it. A feeling of assured purpose overwhelmed me. I was going to set myself on a path to read every Star Wars novel.

I bought the book and headed home. That night, the full idea of the Star Wars Chronology Project came to me. I was lying in bed and couldn’t really sleep. I had just finished a few chapters in Path of Destruction, and was daydreaming about Star Wars. Then the full idea hit me. Start a blog, and record my musings - not simply on the Star Wars novels themselves – but *everything* Star Wars. The rest is, as they say, history.

I continued reading Path of Destruction during the first few days I started this project, but put it down somewhere around chapter 22. My other material had come in, and I began to engage with Star Wars from the beginning.

This time around was basically my second reading of Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and I enjoyed it. At the back of the book jacket, someone from Publisher’s Weekly wrote of Karpyshyn’s novel “A solid space adventure that charts the evolution of an anti-hero almost as chilling as Darth Vader”. This short sentence basically surmises the book quite well.

I’m not sure Karpyshyn is going to win any writing awards, as I found his prose and ability to tell a story fairly average, and he’s by no means a horrible writer. But I did have a few problems here or there with the novel, but nothing so terrible as to make me decry him as a writer. Path of Destruction was a solid story that followed a predictable path – a path that I enjoyed.

I usually like to set up what my topics of discussion will be with regards to a particular piece, but for this post I might just free flow my ideas.

We’ve moved ahead approximately 500 years since our last source, so I’ll begin my musing with the character of Bane, or Dessel, as he was otherwise known – the reason we are where we are in history.

Bane is an interesting character, and I enjoyed how Karpyshyn guided his evolution through the novel. Though I do have one complaint regarding some dialogue from the beginning of the book. At the start of the novel, when Bane attempted to address the pilot, he used the word “Hey” to get his attention. As Karpyshyn writes: “’Hey” Des said, trying to sound nonchalant” (pg. 15). From some reason this really ground-my-gears. I was irritated by it because, in my mind, a future Dark Lord of the Sith, regardless of whether he or she knows it, must carry with them a certain air of authority. That’s how I would characterize a Dark-Lord-of-the-Sith-in-the-rough if I were to write one. Dessel doesn’t need to sound nonchalant, and it’s not even like he’s suffering from poor self-esteem or anything. When a future Dark Lord of the Sith begins speaking, people listen. The use of “hey” seems tremendously weak to me, and it presented Bane a weak character, which he wasn’t. I guess one could argue that though Bane wasn’t weak, perhaps he thought he was. Anyway, I think this scene could have been re-written as Bane speaking to the pilot and asking him about possible sabacc games and the pilot responding – it didn’t need to be coy. Ultimately though, this is a small and petty complaint.

I did enjoy how Karpyshyn gave Bane an innate knowledge of the Sith code: “Des knew how to turn that fear to his own advantage…Transform the fear into anger and hate: hatred of the enemy, hatred of the Republic and the Jedi. The hate gave him strength, and the strength brought him victory” (pgs.73-74). Even though at this point in the story Bane has yet to receive formal training from the Sith academy, he demonstrated his closeness with the darkside of the Force as a simple foot soldier in the Sith army.

I also enjoyed the scenes of Bane in the library. Anytime I come across a fellow bookworm in the Star Wars pantheon, I feel a little connection to that character. Bane’s approach to the library of Sith teachings is not unlike my own approach to Star Wars. He was looking to consume everything he could surrounding the mysteries of the Sith, like how I myself am trying to uncover all there is to know about the history of Star Wars: “Bane spent several hours each day studying the ancient records…By itself the information had little practical use, but he could see each individual work for what it actually represented: a tiny piece to a much larger puzzle, a clue to a much greater understanding” (pg. 100). I identified with this scene, as I feel sometimes that this is what I’m doing with Star Wars. With that being said however, I don’t think that when I have gone through all Star Wars has to offer some magical understanding of the universe will unlock for me, but maybe I’ll have a “greater understanding” of something.

By the end of the novel Bane’s transformation to the darkside was most defiantly complete. The most chilling scene in the novel was one taken from the pages of the Jedi vs. Sith comic: Bane’s murder of the three young boys and their father. This scene was a counterbalance to all the other scenes preceding it where Bane was filled with existential self-doubt and apologizing to his girlfriend. It seems that in post-modern writing we can never be privy to a hero that is 100% sure of themselves – a Beowulf or Achilles for example. I guess modern readers don’t find this interesting, so every hero, or in this case anti-hero, of every story has to be filled with self-doubt before they reach their epiphany and realize their “true potential”.

Even Lord Kaan, the leader of the Brotherhood of Darkness, was filled with this self-doubt – but his was of a different kind: the result of an unhinged mind.

We meet Lord Kann at the very beginning of the novel, after the Sith have over-run the Jedi on Korriban and recaptured the Sith’s ancestral home. This then implies that Korriban fell back in to Republic hands after the Great Galactic War when the true Sith Empire recaptured it during its invasion of the galaxy in 3681BBY. Which makes me wonder – did the Republic win that conflict after all, or did it lose to the Sith Empire, only to rebuild slowly as a rebellion and comeback after a thousand years of oppression? On page 216 Qordis says to Bane: “The Jedi pillaged the tombs when Korriban fell to them three thousand years ago. Nothing of value remains”. Was Qordis being literal, placing the recapture of Korriban at precisely 3000BBY, or was he simply providing a general date in the heat of an argument with an upstart apprentice? My own suspicions fall to the latter.

Many questions arise with the character of Lord Kaan, and how he went about living out his Sith philosophies. Who taught him the ways of the darkside? What are his opinions of the Sith emperor (I understand that this source was written pre-TOR, so Karpyshyn couldn’t really address this, but I think it’s an interesting questions none-the-less). What were his opinions of Revan? What made him think that organizing the Sith in a manner that promoted equality and co-operation was going to work with the nature of the darkside? (I know hindsight is 20/20 but it’s not the first time I’ve asked this question, Yaru Korsin from the Lost Tribe of the Sith series for example).

One of the more interesting aspect of Lord Kaan was that he’s the only Sith in Star Wars history at this point to be able to use the very rare gift of battle meditation. It’s clear that he’s not a master of it, but still, it’s a dangerous and powerful ability to have. The scene in the book which shows Kaan using his battle meditation provided the scene I most enjoyed in the entire novel. As Kopecz bordered the Jedi cruiser looking for the source of the Republic’s battle meditation, he found the Jedi Master calmly reposing in a meditation chamber: “Kopecz couldn’t help but admire her courage even as he methodically cut her down. Her calm acceptance robbed his victory of any joy. ‘Peace is a lie” he muttered to himself…” (pg. 108). I can imagine that as Kopecz is quoting the Sith code, and reciting aloud that “peace is a lie”, that the Jedi Master is calmly reciting to herself, inwardly, that “There is no death, there is only the Force”. It’s a great scene that expresses the dichotomy of these two faiths.

At the end of the novel, Bane finally defeats all of his opponents in a truly Sith manner – through deception and secrecy: “Secrecy and deception were the weapons to bring them down. Victory could only come through subtly and cunning” (pg. 296). It was this realization that Kaan lacked. And Bane’s insight couldn’t be truer, as it was secrecy, deception, subtlety, and cunning which almost destroyed the Jedi Order in 3963 BBY, when Haazen used these tools against Lucien Draay and Zayne Carrick.

It’s my hope to get through all three Bane novels in the month of September. This month is fairly slow at work, as I don’t really start assigning projects until mid-month, and start marking by the end of the month. The start of a new semester is always a great time for me to focus on my own things before the insanity of the new school year begins to slip into high gear. For my next post I’ll be examining the short story Darkness Shared originally printed in Gamer #5, but now found on Hyperspace. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I have to say this. The whole nonchalant thing. He was planning something in his head, and was attempting to mask the nature of his intentions. Something he does many other times in his later risen to power. Concealing emotion and sometimes even seeming uncaring about the subject in order to hide his true intentions. It's a calculated tone, not a shy one. At least to me. Otherwise I liked this review.

  2. Thanks James. I think my complaint all comes down to word choice (and it is still a small complaint). All of what you just said could have been conveyed, but I don't think "hey" was the right word to use. Thanks for stopping by and reading.