Halfway through Fatal Alliance, I found myself in the odd situation of being more interested in sussing out what exactly I didn’t like about the book than in what actually happened at the end. I was reading it for the same reason I read half ofTwilight; because I was alone in someone else’s house and that was what I had.
I partially blame the Amazon.com reviewers, most of whom said Deceived was better than Fatal Alliance. Their main gripe was the characters, and this was my first point of confusion, because I didn’t think they were worse than the ones in the other TOR novel, anyway...until I got down to trying to describe them to myself.
Larin Moxla is an ex-Republic soldier who, we are occasionally reminded, is also a Kiffar. She betrayed her company sometime in the past, in a situation not revealed to the reader until late in the book. This poses the first problem; we’re given an unclear backstory on a point-of-view character, which makes her feel baseless instead of us feel curious. Her personality is all over the place, as if it can't decide what soldier cliche to pull out: she’s snarky one moment, laconic the next.
Shigar Konshi is a Jedi Padawan, and at first I thought his youth and inexperience would make him a good point-of-view character. But he is neither full of wonderment like Luke, wisdom like Obi-Wan, or arrogance like Anakin (or hero-worship like Mical, or precociousness like Whie, or...). Take these away, and you have a character who looks unique on the surface but doesn’t actually bring anything new to the table. He is in fact rather like diet soda: different from the original, sure, but slimming it down took all the flavor away.
I flat-out disliked the nervous Imperial spy Ula Vii, and the book’s insistence on keeping him sympathetic simply confused me. His “social awkwardness” (yes, those exact words are used) comes off as far more fawning than cute, and I feel like this type of character was done far more successfully with Kaird from MedStar II.
Perhaps the most amusing character was “Jet Nebla” (introduced like that, just in case the author thought we would be turned away by a campy name). As an attempt at a Han Solo figure he comes off a lot like a Mal Reynolds figure instead, and his slang-filled dialogue was at least unique to him.
There were also some Mandalorians.
So why do I feel very little desire to finish this book? I got stuck around the extended fight scene with...well, I hesitate to call them “the hexes” like they do in the book, so I’ll just call them “those droids like from Cestus Deception except not actually the same ones.” They have multiple legs, can rebuild themselves in funky patterns, and are particularly mysterious and deadly...see, they’re the same ones. Sean Williams’ writing style, which I at first liked better than Kemp’s in Deceived, falls apart during fight scenes. It is stilted, and doesn’t make up for it with detail like Kemp did. Halo novels are like this too, and I’m really not sure why the publishers give action stories to people who can’t write fights. (Who can write fights? Matthew Stover, that’s who, although even he sometimes tries too hard to be clever in a scene where the words should be as straight as punches and as pointed as knives.)
The overall impression I was left with was that this book was an attempt at showing what the RPG experience of TOR would be like, which of course is exactly the sort of thing the publisher probably told the author to do. But the result are these very short scenes with very vague characters. I felt like I was back in my text RP days, pounding out my few paragraphs before waiting for a couple hours or afternoons to see what the reply would be. But in that case there was real life between posts, and a pre-established emotional attachment to my and other’s characters.
As sad as I am to say it, I didn’t bother finishing Fatal Alliance before returning it to the library. The characters just didn’t drive it, despite the author’s occasionally charged writing style.
Just in case you think it’s all doom and gloom around here, my next post should be about my top ten favorite Star Wars books. I need to remember that I can be passionate about them.