Monday, July 11, 2011
3645 BBY: Red Harvest
Following the typical formula of American created horror, the virginal maiden survives while all other less virtuous players are killed by the walking dead. Even though the reader has a fairly good indication of who is going to survive the zombie onslaught, all other characters remain in Schreiber’s cross-hairs as no one is safe from Darth Scaberous’ zombie creation.
There are a bunch of very cool elements going off in this story, the first being the way zombies enter Star Wars lore in the first place. Knowing what we know of the darkside of the Force, it makes perfect sense that a dark lord of the Sith is looking for immortality, and turns to Sith alchemy, sorcery, and magic to do so. I find the magical element of the darkside of the Force fascinating: "He'd once overheard talk in some spaceport about the Sith, how they'd learned to manipulate spatial geometry itself, creating buildings that were, in themselves, detached from physical reality" (24). Very cool stuff indeed.
Darth Scabrous follows in a long line of Sith alchemists, beginning with Ajunta Pall who was one of the dark Jedi banned at the start of the 100 year darkness. He was known to be a practitioner of Sith Alchemy and was probably one of the exiles who transformed creatures into “mutant warriors, mounts, and spirit-devouring leviathans”. As far as I can remember, Ajunta Pall and his ilk were not interested in seeking immortality the way Scabrous was, but that’s not to say their alchemical experiments weren’t heading in that direction anyway. Also, I think as far as chronology goes, Darth Scabrous is the first Dark Lord of the Sith we meet who is explicitly looking for immortality through the use of Sith magics. I believe during this time that the Sith emperor (not referenced in this text) has already found immortality through the essence transfer techniques referenced many millennia later by Darth Bane, but I would also assume that the Sith emperor has not shared his secret with anyone.
As it is, many Sith seem to have immortality as their final objective; however, the means by which they go about achieving it differs. Like I said, the Sith emperor (again, if my assumptions are correct) has already achieved this through essence transfer. Here, in Red Harvest, we have Darth Scabrous looking for immortality through alchemy and potion creation, using force sensitive plants as his x-factor final ingredient. Darth Bane sought immortality through the essence transfer ability and cloning (albeit unsuccessfully), while Darth Sidious was successful with Bane’s failed techniques (I think – I have yet to get there).
The second element of this story I found very cool, which ties in to the first, is the Force sensitive Black Orchid sought by Scabrous for his evil concoction. I thought it very neat that we are introduced to a self-aware Force sensitive plant with a high midichlorian count. Like the Dark Lord’s quest for immortality, the inclusion of this particular element is not foreign to Star Wars lore. Remembering back to the text The Jedi Path, there is reference in that book to force-wielding animals (pg. 90). Some are referenced as either being able to handle the force, commune through the Force, or nullify the force. The logic then follows, if not animal life then why not plant life? The answer is simple: of course plant life is part of the Force, and yes, the Force could affect planet-life to self-awareness. What is more, there is an increasing amount of research being done in the field of emotions and plants in our world. Some scientists are arguing that plants have feelings, and can communicate simple emotional states. See an article here for what I’m talking about. The Black Orchid is a new and exciting element of the Star Wars story, one which can take the narrative of a Jedi in the Agricultural Corps in exciting new directions.
Following this train of thought, the third element of this story I enjoyed was the inclusion of a Jedi from the Agri-Corps as the hero of the tale. Hestizo Trace, a simple Jedi botanist and the virtuous virgin I made reference to in my opening paragraph is not your typical chivalrous Jedi bounding into action. That role is reserved for her brother, Rojo Trace. Her expertise is in the field of botany which she uses to her great advantage. I wonder if we’ll see her again. But like I said, with Red Harvest, Schreiber has given others a way to write about Agri-Corps Jedi. Maybe the story of other Jedi will be told, those in the Explorer-Corps for example?
Besides these three elements, I found others aspects of the story interesting as well. One of the things I love about going through the story of Star Wars in such a dogmatic fashion is coming across rarely used alien species. In this case it was the Neti librarian. The Neti remind me of the Ents from Lord of the Rings: ancient and giant trees that carry with them the wisdom of the universe. I think so far in Star Wars chronology we’ve only come across two Neti so far, Ood Bnar from Tales of the Jedi, and Dail’Liss, whose name means ‘lover of knowledge’ in his native tongue.
In that Lord of the Rings vein, Darth Scabrous’s tower and lair reminded me of Saruman’s tower and lair: dark, foreboding, and filled with all kinds of ancient and evil arcane just waiting to be unleashed. A few years ago there was a Lord of the Rings exhibition that came through town, and I enjoyed it so much I went twice. The aspect of the exhibit which stuck with me most was Saruman’s lair. It was awesome – black walls, unknown creatures in jars, candles everywhere. Saurman’s lab was one of the most vibrant memories I have of the LOTR exhibit. Reading about Scaberous lair brought to mind my walk through of Middle Earth those many years ago.
The last element I was to address before I talk about two of my problems with the text was the mention of a cloaking device: “‘Our sensors recorded the arrival and departure of an unlicensed ship early this morning.’ Emmert glanced away, abashed. ‘It must have come in under some kind of cloaking device and managed to evade our detection…’” (67). I think this is the second time I’ve come across a cloaking device on a smaller private ship. The first was in the Jedi Apprentice series, The Dark Rival, when the cloaking device on a freighter was sabotaged by Xanatos. In Red Harvest, the Whipid bounty hunter Tulkh has also managed to acquire one for his vessel. Interesting. I’m defiantly going to integrate this knowledge into my own Star Wars RPG campaign for next year.
Coming to the end of my reactions, I only really had one small problem with the story, and it was the inclusion of the word “newbie”: “‘You look good lying there on the floor, newbie,” T’sank leered at him.” (14). What grates me about this particular world is that ‘newbie’ is an American colloquialism brought into common usage with the arrival of the internet. I don’t like it when a contemporary colloquialism or turn of phrase makes its way into the Star Wars universe. I feel an author writing Star Wars should rise above such usages, and separate themselves from their contemporary culture when creating language in a different universe. But I think I’m being overly nit-picky here.
Lastly, I have a question about the events of the book which I’m not sure I understand. Throughout the story, the characters were “killing” the Sith zombies by cutting off their heads or destroying their brains, which is how one kills a zombie. But in one particular scene, when Scopique encountered zombie Jura, he beheaded the creature, yet it still came at him: “Thumping noises from below: the headless monstrosity was still moving. In fact, it was leaning forward, groping around the floor until it found its severed head…Scopique saw the decapitated corpse of Jura Ostrogoth haul back and fling its own head straight at him, its mouth still wide open.” (103-104). Have I mis-read events here, or weren’t the zombies killed once their heads were detached? Please clarify my understanding here.
Before I sign off I have a couple of requests. Does anyone here have a copy of Challenge #58: The Battle for Mandalore, which is at 35-33 BBY in Joe’s timeline, or a copy of The Starfighter Trap, parts 1, 2, and 3 from Star Wars Gamer #1? I’ll need these soon. If you do, drop me a line at the forums at www.swtor.com my handle there is Iscariot. Or post a link in the comments below.
For my next post I’m going to jump ahead a few thousand years in Star Wars history to 1032 BBY and engage with Knight Errant: Aflame. Until them my friends, may the Force be with you.