Sunday, July 24, 2011

1032 BBY: Knight Errant

Sith space is absolute anarchy. It is the wild west of the Star Wars universe during the last century of the Draggulch period, a place not safe for anyone, especially a lone Jedi.

Knight Errant, JJM’s first Star Wars novel, continues the story of Kerra Holt, a newly minted Jedi Knight trapped behind enemy lines in Sith space. In this novel JJM explores the history of the Grumani sector and the countless Sith Lords who all vie for control of it. The conflict between Daiman and Odian is but a taste of what goes on in Lord Chagras’s former territories, as there are countless Sith Lords involved in all manner of conflict.

For my post today I want to comment on JJM’s exploration of Sith culture and how he has given Star Wars fans multiple interpretations of what it means to be a Sith, how JJM explores this culture by referencing his own previous material, along with other artists’ contribution to the Star Wars universe, Kerra Holt’s growing understanding what it means to be a Jedi, and finally the character of Brigadier Rusher and his comedic side-kicks Ryland Dackett and Beadle Lubbon.

Firstly, though I started with the comment that Sith space is anarchy, after reading Knight Errant one realizes that it’s really not. It’s simply one giant family feud. However, with that being said, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this novel was the constant feeling that there was nowhere safe in Sith space. As Kerra Holt fled the Dyarchy, the constant movement of action finally catching up with her, I felt as she did: “That day in the Dyarchy had simply been too much. The fight had gone out of everyone – herself, included” (261). Fleeing one Sith Lord, a conspiring Krevaaki, into the hands of another, a tall Amazonian named Arkadia, Keera comes to the realization , as does the reader, Sith space is a place to be avoided at all costs. Out of the pan and into the fire, as the old saying goes.

However, the anarchy that is Sith space begins to clear in Arkadia’s lands. It is revealed that the Chagras Hegemony in the Grumani sector, a “cancerous nest of evil” to use the words of the late Master Vannar Treece, is nothing more than a giant feud between 30 or more Sith cousins, all descendants from the same evil grandmother, a powerful Sith named Vilia Calimondra, also known as ‘the dowager’. As Arkadia says to Kerra in their final lightsaber confrontation: “There can only be one Sith Lord” (360), Vilia, Arkadia’s grandmother, knows this all too well, and has pitied her many grandchildren (Odion, Daiman, and Arkadia to name a few) against each other to keep the heat off herself. The Grumani sector is nothing more than feudal lords all competing for land, territory, and resources.

What I enjoyed most about JJM’s exploration of this anarchy is how each Sith Lord’s territory was different. In Daimanate we have a totalitarian government run by a solipsist dictator, its people oppressed into slavery and believing they don’t actually exist – that their reality is entirely dependent on their leader’s interpretation of reality. In the Odionate we have a leader who is the head of a death cult, all of his citizens biting on the chomp to strap on a suicide vest and give their lives in the name of nothingness. In the Dyarchy we are presented with two teenaged children oppressively mind-controlling its entire populace, its citizenry devoid of conscious thought. And finally in the Arkadianate, arguably the best of them all, we have a Sith society devoid of joy and full of confusion and fear, though the people do seem to live better lives than the other Sith citizens from the other sectors. To paraphrase Kerra Holt, there is no place in Sith space that is better than another, just less worse, and ‘less worse’ is not good enough for the seventeen-hundred refugees she carrying with her.

JJM’s exploration of Sith culture also included many references to its own history, all of which add depth and complexity to the mythology of Star Wars. From the mention of Admiral Morivs and Darth Revan, to Darth Ruin-the original Sith Solipsist, to Exar-Kun’s military failure at Toprowa, each of these historical references give the reader the sense of a lived in reality.  What I enjoyed most here was JJM's inclusion of lore he himself established in his KOTOR comic series, and using the creative works of his Star Wars contemporaries' own original contributions (Karpyshyn to name but one). My favorite historical reference was to one of the items located in Arkadia’s museum: “a translator device used by an aid to Chancellor Fillorean during negotiations with the Duinuogwuin” (296). This particular sentence alone made mention to two of my favorite things in Star Wars history: Chancellors and Duinuogwuin. I find the history of Chancellors in Star Wars fascinating, as I have an interest in the lineage and history of large institution’s leaders, namely in the Papacy and American Presidents. I talked a little bit about Chancellor’s in my reactions to Darth Bane: Rule of Two. Even more fascinating than Chancellors however, are Duinuogwins, also known as Star Dragons – a mysterious race with an exceptionally long and mythological past. One of my favorite stories thus far in the Star Wars Chronology Project was The Most Dangerous Foe, which featured a Jedi Duinuogwin. If I ever do get to write my own Star Wars fiction one day Duinuogwin’s will defiantly be a part of it.

Moving on, what I also enjoyed about Knight Errant was Kerra’s growing maturity into her Jedihood, and her realization that the galaxy is a very complicated and dangerous place. One of my co-workers teaches a course on social justice (he also actually enacts social justice as well, he lives what he teaches), and one of the questions he gets all the time is where does one begin to right the wrongs of the world, when there are so many who need help. Poverty is the one that many people, myself included, feel so hopeless in confronting. His response is simple and un-unique – start where you are: volunteer at a local soup kitchen and take it from there. Some people do, but when they do they wonder if their efforts on making things right for only a few is good enough. Kerra Holt arrives at the answer to this at the end of the story: “There were seventeen hundred refugees aboard Diligence relying on her. But that wasn’t a seventeen-millionth of the number who would remain in jeopardy. Was it right for her to focus her efforts on making things perfect for a select few when there was so much more to do? YES.” (323). Kerra comes to the understanding that killing a Sith Lord won’t help the people living subject under him, but that trusting in herself to help those in front of her, and trusting the Force to help those outside her purview until she can get there, is what it means to be a Jedi. Gorlan Palladane knew this, and now so does Kerra.

On a lighter note, the comedic interaction between Jarrow Rusher (who reminds me a lot of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly) Ryland Dackett, and Beadle Lubbon was well written. Also the dialogue between Rusher and Holt was well done too. Their dialogue was funny, combative, and did a good job developing and flushing out their characters. Beadle Lubbon was by far the most lovable character. My favorite scene with him was his final interaction with the Sith Lord Arkadia: “Arkadia eyed its courier. ‘Why did you walk here? Rusher could have sent you across on the back of one of those trundle cars’. ‘He did ma’am. I fell off’. ‘They move four kilometers an hour!’. ‘Really? The one that hit me felt like it was going faster,’ he said. ‘I think I broke my arm’” (328). I love that he referred to a Sith Lord as “ma’am”, as if he’s about to bag her groceries. Beadle Lubbon is the most heroic bumbler I’ve yet met in the Star Wars universe, and I look forward to coming across him again in the next set of issues.

On that note, I’d love to see the Knight Errant series follow the formula it’s currently set up: a five issue comic arc, then a novel, followed by another five issue comic arc, then another novel. I know it won’t happen like that because such a formula may very well kill JJM, but it’s very good to see a story played out over various mediums. I think comic-books are very limited in how they tell a story so having a full length novel flush out the characters and add depth to the comic pages makes the narrative that much better. Here’s to hoping.

For my next post I’m going to back-track yet again, as part seven of JJM’s Lost Tribe of the Sith series, Pantheon, has recently been released. Also, on a side note I’m very excited to see that Star Wars:The Old Republic is available for pre-order. Anyone reading this blog going to play?

Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

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