Monday, January 2, 2012

3956 BBY - 3951 BBY: The Old Republic: Revan

Christmas break has been good to me as I was able to get through Drew Karpyshyn’s newest novel, Revan.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get in one last post for 2011, but perhaps this post will turn things around for me and hopefully be a harbinger of productivity for 2012.

I’m really not quite sure what happened this semester.  I was busy – much busier than usual.  I was staying back up to three hours every night marking and prepping.  For some reason, it was the busiest semester in my entire career, and I wasn’t even running any extracurricular.  I’m not sure if I was doing something right or wrong, but I really do hope things will settle down for me in the second semester.  I’ve been given three classes I’ve taught and prepped before, so hopefully it’ll mean and increase in my ability to work my way through the Star Wars Chronology Project.

Add to a busy work schedule the release of Bioware’s new MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I have a time management crisis on my hands.  I’ll talk more about this later on, but it quickly became apparent to me that I don’t have the time to do both.  Through at this point in time I’m a level 13 Imperial Agent, I’ve decided I can’t spend what precious moments I have to myself ignoring the SWCP and playing a Star Wars MMO, as fun as it is.  I’ve had bad experiences with MMO’s, and by bad I mean I become addicted to them.

But enough of my personal life, let’s get to my reactions to Revan.

I’ve organized my reactions to Revan in four categories that I found particularly interesting: the presentation of Sith and Jedi libraries, Sith and Nazi comparisons, the Emperor, and finally the explanation of Revan and Malak’s return from the Unknown Regions.

Firstly, I find there is an interesting disparity between how Sith and Jedi libraries are presented in Star Wars lore.  In Revan we are presented with Darth Nyriss’ library at the start of the novel:

“Yet here dozens – if not hundreds – of volumes filled the shelves on the left wall.  Most of the books were large and thick, their bound pages protected by covers of leather or some similarly cured hide… though Scourged guessed that not all of them were made from skin cured from mindless beasts.  They had an antiquated look about them, though most appeared to be preserved in good condition, if somewhat worn from use” (25). 

It seems that in 2000 years, fast-forwarding to the time of Darth Bane, nothing had changed for the Sith.  Like the books contained in Nyriss’ library, Bane leafed through the antiquated pages of the Sith library on Korriban, doing his best to unlock the ancient secrets of the darkside.  This description of Nyriss’ library reminds me of the books from Giles’ collection in the Buffy the Vampire series.  Giles always had an ancient tome of arcane knowledge that the “Scooby Gang” was always studying before they fought the next big evil.  Sith libraries or collections of written text seem to be always like that – knowledge contained in yellowed pages with leather bound hard covers, most likely inlaid with some sort of evil art.

That’s not to say that Lords of the Sith shunned technology to organize their knowledge, as we are told Nyriss also had holodisks, datacards, and a computer work station.  It just that in Sith culture knowledge of the darkside is not to be shared, copied, or given freely like in Jedi culture.  Knowledge is to be horded, protected, or otherwise carried to the grave.  I’m sure Nyriss’ holodisks contained knowledge of the darkside, but most likely common knowledge, or knowledge not worth protecting. 

In all my dealings with Sith culture thus far, this seems to be the most prevalent manner of how the Sith collect their teachings – ancient and arcane tomes of lost knowledge.  With that being said however, there are also Sith holocrons, but they are a rare commodity, something in stark contrast to the Jedi, which brings me to my next point.

If Sith libraries are arcane, dark, brooding, and the property of a sole owner, the Jedi’s libraries are the complete opposite.  Though nothing of the Jedi libraries are mentioned in Revan, I’m calling upon the presentation of Jedi libraries from the wider lore of the Star Wars saga, specifically the presentation of the Jedi archives from the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars CGI series, but more contemporary to the time of Revan, the presentation of the Jedi library on Tython.  During the Thanksgiving beta test I rolled a Jedi consular character in the SWTOR MMO.  In the SWTOR MMO the consular character received his training from the consular character in the Jedi archives.  The archives present in the academy on Tython are very similar to the Jedi archives in the prequel trilogy: bright, clean, open, and not owned by a sole individual, but shared among the collective.  Everything is collected electronically, with holocrons and computer stations being the most common form of archived knowledge.  Like I said before, the acquisition and distribution of knowledge in these two cultures are very different, and this difference manifests itself in the manner in which Sith and Jedi collect and share their knowledge with each other.

Moving on in my observations, my second point is only a small one – and obvious.  I found Karpyshyn’s characterization of Sith culture similar to Nazi Germany.  The Sith war machined rolled over other cultures and planets the same way Germany rolled over much of Europe.  Plus, in the SWTOR MMO the Sith are all dressed in snappy uniforms. The Sith, like the Nazi’s, have a sophisticated sense of uniformed style.

Notions of Sith style aside, what really excited me about this book was not its protagonist, but rather, what information would be given up regarding the enigmatic Sith Emperor.  In my opinion, this was the best part of the book.  Karpyshyn did not disappoint.  Early on in the book, Scourge makes reference to his Lord and Master, calling him the “Immortal, all powerful Emperor” (87). The best part about the emperor was his birth and childhood narrative.  But before I dive into that though, I thought it really neat that Tenebrae, and later Lord Vitiate, (meaning to corrupt, pervert, or weaken) the original names of the Sith Emperor, was from the planet Nathema, a reference to the word Anathema, meaning a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction. 

The tale of the Sith Emperor’s birth and childhood follow in direct antithesis to the birth and childhood narrative of Jesus and Buddha.  We are told that the Sith Emperor was born to a simple woman, like Jesus, and his mother’s husband was not his father – like Jesus.  In the case of the Sith Emperor, his father was the Sith Lord of his world, whom his mother had an affair with.  Upon learning of this, Tenebrae’s father attempted to kill his mother, but was instead killed by the son.  Tenebrae then turned on his mother eventually killing her as well.  Twisted or what?  In one of the greatest moments of the book, we are told

“He was born with eyes as black as the void of space, and that he never cried, even as an infant.  No animal would come near him, and when he began to talk, his voice carried a weight and power that should not come from a child” (153). 

In the birth narrative of Buddha, his mother Maya gave birth to him in the forest.  The trees, recognizing the great event, bent down to assist her, and she held to the branches of a tree while the Buddha (Siddhartha) was born without crying.  Upon exiting the womb, The Buddha could immediately walk and talk, and told everyone present he had arrived to end suffering.  Wherever he walked, lotus flowers bloomed in his footsteps.  In the Koranic birth narrative of Jesus, we are offered a story similar to Buddha’s but different from the Gospel accounts.  In the Koran, Mary gave birth to Jesus alone, in the dessert, no Joseph, no wise men, no manger, no guiding star, no Shepard’s – nothing. Holding on to a palm tree, alone, she delivered Jesus.  Muslims believe in the virgin birth like the Christians, and also believe Jesus was the son of God, a great prophet, and a great man, but not divine.  When Mary re-entered town with the child, she was nearly stoned to death for being an unmarried mother.  The baby Jesus then spoke in her defense, his voice loud and authoritative, telling all present that she was without sin, and that her child was delivered from the God most high.  All present dropped their stones, and left Mary to her child.  Karpyshyn’s back story to the Emperor did well setting up him up as some sort of anti-Christ, or evil incarnate – a nihilist of destruction.

My last point of conversation regarding Revan has to do with the explanation Karpyshyn gave for Revan and Malak’s return to the Republic from the Unknown Regions.  On the SWTOR website we are told by Master Gnost-Dural that Revan and Malak, after defeating the Mandalorians, had somehow traversed into Sith space, came upon the Emperor, and from that point on transferred their allegiances to the darkside.  They then re-entered Republic space as conquerors instead of heroes, and were the vanguard of the Sith Emperor’s invasion. These events were stopped as described in KOTOR 1, but this new information raised many questions, most notably why was there never any mention of a Sith empire and a Sith emperor in these original source texts.  The answer is simple: because Karpyshyn and the Bioware writing crew never really anticipated that there was going to be a need to fill in these blanks a decade later.  It was enough for the purposes of the story of KOTOR 1 that Revan and Malak returned to Republic space as conquerors and that was all anyone need to know.  I’m not sure anyone could have foretold the creation of a KOTOR MMO and the story which grew from its creation.  So here in Revan we have Karpyshyn trying to fill in some blanks, but unfortunately, not really well.  I’ll allow the story to speak for itself:

“But though we had underestimated the Emperor’s power, he underestimated us, as well.  Our wills were stronger than he thought; our minds twisted and perverted his instructions until we thought we were acting of our own accord.  Malak and I were turned to the darkside, but in doing so we found the strength to block out all memory of the Sith and the Emperor, partially freeing us from his control.” (256)

The literary term for this is Deus ex Machina, which means (as taken from Wikipedia) a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.  The contrivance here is an ability, in that Revan and Malak had the ability to block out all memory of the Sith and the Emperor. 

Is this sloppy writing?  I don’t know.  I’m not sure I could have come up with anything better, but I wonder if Karpyshyn wrote this on his own, or collaborated with the writing team at Bioware.  Still, I find the explanation weak.

Placing this explanation under the microscope, my first question is where did Revan and Malak think they got the armada they returned in? That was my first question upon reading the source Iridonian Darkness from the KOTOR sourcebook published by Wizards of the Coast.  How could they forget about the Sith Empire when evidence of its existence was all around them in their newfound ships, soldiers, and weaponry?

I don’t know.  Could a better explanation have been conceived?  Perhaps.  As it is, this is the explanation we Star Wars fans are going to have to live with.

I hate to end my reactions on a sour note.  I did enjoy Revan, as it was a great book that filled in many gaps from KOTOR 1 to KOTOR 2.

So with that, I want to focus my attention on filling in some of my own gaps in the SWCP.  Lots of sources have come to light since September, and I want your input into the correct order of my engagement with them.  Here’s what I have: Revan (check), The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural, The Old Republic: Lost Suns, Knight Errant: Deluge, Qui-Gon and Xanatos series, and Darth Plaguies.  Let me know if that order is chronologically correct.  Also, what would you all say the in-universe date of the Journal of Master Gnost –Dural would be?  I’m having some difficulty with it.

Until next time my friends, hopefully sooner rather than later, may the Force be with you.


  1. Good to have you back, though I didn't read this post since I haven't yet read Revan myself. But some answers to your questions:

    Your order is chronologically correct, but what I have heard about Darth Plagueis (it's coming in mail at the moment) is that it's going to feature lots of pre-TPM references, especially to Luceno's other pre-TPM novel, Cloak of Deception. So perhaps you should delay reading it until you are nearer The Phantom Menace.

    I have no idea about The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural, but most likely it's Unless Plaristes or Wookieepedia will have any more information, I suggest you put a general "Circa"-heading.

  2. Glad to see you back! Since I haven't read Revan yet (waiting for the paperback), I didn't read most of your post, either. I'll confirm that you've got the chronological order correct. I haven't seen Gnost-Dural's journal yet, but I know it's during the TOR era, but probably before Lost Sons. Regarding Darth Plagueis, it's my understanding that it's broken into three chunks. The first two take place several decades before TPM. The third takes place in the year leading up to TPM and then is concurrent to the film, so I'd probably hold off on reading the third part until after doing the TPM material.
    I should add that there are two items that should be added to your list. Insider recently had a short story titled "The Tenebrous Way," and I'm told it takes place during the second chapter of Darth Plagueis. Second, the recent rerelease of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter includes a new short story by James Luceno about Maul that takes place when he's a teenager. I'm not sure exactly when, since I haven't seen it yet, but I'd suggest reading it after the first two parts of Darth Plagueis.

  3. Sweet! I just won an ebay auction for The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural. When it arrives, I can give you more details about when it's placed.

  4. That’s too funny. I did the same thing. I received mine yesterday and the dating in it is very interesting.

    With regards to chronological path: I stopped at 33 BBY: Prelude to Rebellion and was about to move on to Tales #3: Deal with a Demon. Taking into account the Darth Plagueis material, I’ll most likely do as you suggest and engage with it at a later date. If it’s broken up into three chronological chunks I’d prefer to deal with the entire source at its end date, like what I’m going to do with the Obi-Wan / Vader / and Chewbacca storylines.

    The Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter stuff has totally thrown me off. That source is right before TPM, so should I just deal with it then, new material and all? Suggestions?
    So, to catch up to my timeline journey to Tales #3, do I go Lost Sun, Gnost-Dural’s journal, then Knight Errant, Qui-Gon/Xanatos, and I’m back on track?

    Thanks for the input thus far everyone.

  5. That order is correct (if you're right that the Gnost-Dural material is after Lost Suns). I would add the new short story in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, though. The novel should be read in it's place shortly before TPM, but the new short story takes place when he's 15 (so I'm told), so it should be read on it's own after you do the Qui-Gon/Xanatos comics.

  6. Ok, that makes a little more sense. I was in Chapters today and took a look at it. It has some interesting cameo appearances. I'm not sure what I'm going to post on next. I'm going to read Gnost-Dural's journal (I'm about half way through it), rough draft my post, then read Lost Suns and do the same, and try to determine which goes before the other.

  7. To Anwser the question about how Revan and Malak had an armada we they came back to republic space I think it was said that after The Mando Wars revan already had control of 1/3 of the republic fleet. Revan and Malak's soldiers were very loyal to them and trusted what they were told combine that with teh star forge and there is there Armada.

  8. Thanks for commenting!

    However, the problem still remains, in that Revan and Malak did not return with a Republic armada; rather, they returned with a Sith armada. In the source "The Betrayal of Darth Revan", a WOTC RPG adventure it's made clear that as part of Bastila's strike force to extract Revan from his ship, the heroes of this particular adventure come into contact with Sith ships and Sith soldiers. There is no mention of Republic and Jedi forces (Bastila's strike team) coming into conflict with other Republic troops loyal to Revan.