Scourge By Jeff Grubb

June 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Books, Guild Wars 2 | 2 Comments
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The cover is actually a bit different from the usual Star Wars novel.

I’ve read a lot of Star Wars novels in my time. You might call me a bit of a fan. So when I heard Guild Wars 2 writer and designer Jeff Grubb was authoring a Star Wars novel I immediately looked forward to it. He’s a well known fantasy author in his own right with a long history in the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms universes, so I was interested to see what he could do with Scourge.

I wasn’t disappointed. Scourge is a solid novel well written with likable characters. There’s a fair amount of humour and mystery. It delves into areas of the Star Wars universe that are often mentioned but rarely visited.

Mander Zuma’s former apprentice is murdered and while searching for a reason why, he’s pulled into the depths of the seedy underworld crossroads between Hutt space and the corporate sector.

Star Wars novels are typically very adventure based. There may be some element of mystery but the emphasis is on swashbuckling and battles. Duels can take the form of dogfighting starfighters and epic battles are complicated naval exercises. You’ll see a lot of novels that are fantasy adventures, spy thrillers, and military action and little else.

That’s where this novel comes in. I think it’s more of a crime noir. Certainly Grubb gets across that Mander isn’t much of the swashbuckling type. He’s not the best swordsman, and he spends most of his time as an archivist. He’s wracked with guilt about the death of his student, driven to know where his student failed and by proxy where he himself failed.

Any nerd can identify with a protagonist who is less an action hero and more a librarian and that makes Mander unique. It leaves me wondering why there aren’t more characters like him.

The mystery is well enough plotted out but there are a few places where I think Grubb telegraphs the eventual villain to the reader. People are presented as suspects but Grubb spends either too little time with them or doesn’t build up their possible motives. In one case in particular he downplays their possible motives and I think he virtually eliminates them as a suspect, which is a mistake.

And a couple of loopholes are left after the book closes out. The very basis for the book, the apprentice’s death, is never really explained to my satisfaction. Why he was set up is easy to understand, but how he let himself be lulled into such a position in the first place, not easy to understand at all.

Overall it’s a fun read. I thought it was superior in style to the Corscandti Nights series of Star Wars books, the other attempt at crime noir in the Star Wars universe. I may have figured out mystery long before the end but I was still compelled to continue reading and see how it all turned out. That’s definitely a good sign in my opinion.

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Master Blaster

January 27, 2012 at 2:49 am | Posted in mmorpg, Star Wars: The Old Republic | 6 Comments
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Now that I’ve finally finished Skyrim ending up with all but one achievement, I’ve finally started up SWTOR. What’s funny is my already good impression from the beta has improved considerably.

Part of that is the fact that my graphics card died and was replaced with a card that has more video ram and I installed 2 more gigs of ram as well.

Everything looks effing gorgeous now. Which is funny because I just plain don’t go in for cartoony looking games like World of Warcraft. Perhaps the Clone Wars cartoon has had more of an effect on what I expect out of Star Wars aesthetics than I thought.

Anyway with the hardware upgrades I’m definitely having a much smoother ride, shorter load times, nicer graphics, fewer bugs, and those were some of my major gripes during the beta.

One thing I’m a little disappointed in is my smuggler storyline. I guess I feel like it’s a little predictable. Where playing my imperial agent felt like I was a smooth and suave badass, playing smuggler feels more like I’m way too helpful. I’m a smuggler and yet I am constantly dragged away from the one thing that should make any difference to me. My ship.

I shouldn’t be such an angel, but they cover it up by pretending I do it for the money, which on the other hand just makes me feel like a sociopath. At least when I was an agent I had an excuse, I was sith.

Overall I’m not impressed with the story so far but there has been a few moments and surprises. I guess I just wish it was a little more crime noir and a little less naive adventure story.

Ord Mantell wasn’t particularly impressive either. While I did think it moved away from typical Star Wars settings, a hybrid between wilderness and city rather than the far extremes of both, there were few moments where I slowed down because of something impressive to look at.

I am mostly enjoying my skills as a dual wielding gunslinger however. I think it’s better than the rifle of the agent and I didn’t enjoy the lightsabers beyond marveling at how awesome they look.

I’m also impressed with Coruscant. Something about the way the fast travel speeders give a grand idea of scale makes me love the place. Sometimes the hubs, like on Ord Mantell feel too spread out. That’s about the only negative thing I can say about them. I really need to get a mount.

Anyway I rolled on Sanctum of the Exalted since aside from that server I only know one person playing on a PVP server. So if you’re on that server, I’m playing as Huntt, look me up.

Knight Errant

June 8, 2011 at 3:54 am | Posted in Books | 6 Comments
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I really liked the cover too.

I’ve got a long history with Star Wars novels. Everything from their premier line of books that feature the Skywalker extended family, to less reliable fare like Coruscant Nights. All in all, their more famous protagonists are usually kept to a minimum standard while other books tend to hit or miss.

Which is why I was a little apprehensive when I picked up Knight Errant. It’s a book set about 1000 years before A New Hope. Similar to the era of the Darth Bane trilogy (Darth Bane is 30 years later) where Sith forces control large parts of the galaxy. Not to be confused with the era in which Sith forces control large parts of the galaxy in the Great Galactic War, the setting of SWTOR.

It’s based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, and in fact, has the same writer. You get a preview of the comic within the pages of the novel, art and all, but in all honesty comic books rarely move me anymore. Their depth can be shallow, dialogue stilted, details truncated, leaving little but the art to admire and I’ve always been more of a words person.

I haven’t read the comic series and normally that would annoy the hell out of me before reading a novel that follows up on a previous story.

There was something different about reading Knight Errant though. It is a well written, tightly plotted, adventure that reminds me of the feeling of watching those first Star Wars movies. Encountering countless problems that need to be overcome. Lead characters who find themselves thrown together but don’t necessarily get along. That desperate clinging to doing the right thing even though the odds are stacked against Kerra.

Kerra Holt, a Jedi Knight trapped in Sith space. With no way home she wages a one woman war, taking no prisoners. At first I was a little put off by her character. I thought her treatment of the bothan spy Narsk in the very first pages to be overly cruel.

Past that stumbling block you grow to like, if not love, many of the characters. They have their own moral codes and driving forces behind them. It’s always disappointing to read a book where all the characters are on the exact same page morally in a situation, where there are few arguments about a course of action, and where everyone gets along swimmingly.

One of the main things I liked about the book though were the strange politics. Sith Lords have divided up their territory into dozens of kingdoms. Information has become controlled and even travel is nearly impossible. People barely know who controls neighbouring planets, let alone know how to get there.

Beyond that there is a strong orwellian theme. The Sith dominate their citizenry in the extreme, often with a draconian police state. Work, sleep, conversation and sometimes their very thoughts are not of their own will.

There is the usual fantasy meets sci-fi tone as well, with lightsaber duels, the force, epic battles and mysterious cultures. Everything you might expect from a Star Wars novel.

I think the best part is probably that the novel introduces a setting that will no doubt be useful for the books to come. It is intriguing, complex, suggests depth and an extensive world beyond the immediate setting we find ourselves in. Knight Errant was a pleasant surprise in quality. I haven’t been as satisfied with a non-Skywalker related novel since, I think, the second Republic Commando novel Triple Zero.

Star Wars Art

December 17, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Posted in Concept Art, mmorpg, Star Wars: The Old Republic | 2 Comments
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By Olly Moss

I love me some Star Wars. When I happened across a Wired article that said Star Wars, without even reading the rest of the title, I instantly clicked on it. I was treated to some seriously good art.

I think I’ve only seen maybe 3 of these before.

They were apparently commissioned by Mondo who uses a business model I dislike immensely ($50 for one or all 3 for $150! What a deal!) but the art is fantastic.

By Ken Taylor

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