Thursday, July 7, 2011
3653 BBY: Deceived
I’ll begin with the end: “Seeing him there, hanging, near death, Malgus thought of Eleena, of Adraas’s description of her. He released Adraas from the clutch of his Force choke. Adraas hit the ground on his back, gasping. Malgus had a knee on his chest and both his hands on his throat before Adraas could recover. He would kill Adraas with his bare hands…Adraas’s trachea collapsed in Malgus’s grip. There was no final cough or gag. Adraas died in silence. Malgus rose and stood over Adraas’s body. He pulled on his gloves, adjusted his armor, his cloak, and walked out of the manse” (248-249).
This penultimate scene is monstrously brilliant. Forgoing the use of his Force abilities, Malgus chose to do his murdering with his own hands, and like the killer he is, made sure the flesh of his hands touched the flesh of his rival’s throat, and squeezed the life out of Adraas’s body himself.
In The Third Lesson, Malgus’s father (we learn from Deceived that it was an adoptive father) revealed for the young Force sensitive neophyte an empty cage among his collection of caged animals. This was the father’s thirds lesson to the boy. He will be caged, of that there was no doubt: caged by the Emperor and used by him to meet his own needs. The challenge posed by his father, and the lesson to the young boy contained in the empty cage, was a question: will Malgus have the strength to break out from the Empire’s cage and forge his own path? It seems that he did, and his murder of Adraas, his rival in the Sith political system, and the favorite of Lord Angral, was Malgus’s breaking of the lock. Malgus has one Master now, and it is no longer the Empire, but the Force.
Paul S. Kemp’s novel, Deceived, was a great read. However, it took me two days to get through it as I listened to the audio book as I read along with its print counterpart. I borrowed both from the library (God bless the library system) and copied the audiobook to my hard-drive and saved it to my iPod. I thought that doing it this way would help me get through the book a little quicker, but it didn’t. It seems I’m a faster reader than I thought. As my old Star Wars GM used to say I have 10D to my reading skill. With that being said though I’m glad I listened to the audiobook because the sounds effects were awesome, and the voice acting by Marc Thompson was mostly well done, my only criticism being his portrayal of Master Dar’nala who sounded like an old man and not a vibrant Togruta female. The sounds effects of the first chapter, Zeerid’s encounter with the pirates, is what I remember most. The wind whipping in the background, the sound of the ships engines, and the blaster shots being fired all gave a cinematic quality to my reading.
I have Red Harvest saved on my iPod as well, and I’m debating on doing it this way again. I think I might for the first few chapters to get a sense of the voice acting, and then simply finish the book on my own.
For my reactions to Deceived I’m going to center my thoughts on two of its main characters: Darth Malgus, and Aryn Leener.
Firstly, Darth Malgus is one of the most sympathetic evil characters I’ve come across in the story of Star Wars so far. Why do I find myself admiring this killer of women and children? I like Darth Malgus because he has a singular purpose in his life: to burn Coruscant to the ground. Though I don’t like his goal, I do admire is single-minded determination.
One of the opening scenes of the book, which narrates in print form the events of the cinematic Deceived, provide for Star Wars fans a more layered understanding of the historic events of that day. What I thought particularly amusing was the conversation between Maglus and Eleena as they approached the temple, planning death and destruction. Walking their way towards the Republic guards in order to kill them, Eleena wants Malgus to define their relationship more clearly: “’Constant war will be your life? Our life? Nothing more?’” (16). Malgus clarifies his relationship with the woman: that of master and slave, but Eleena knows there is more there. I could almost imagine Malgus thinking ‘Now woman!?!, Now you want to have this conversation!?! When I’m just about to realize my dream of destroying the center of the Republic you want me to tell you I love you!?! What the hell!?! Watching the cinematic, as the Dark Lord and his companion walk into the heart of Jedi culture, I wouldn’t have imagined that they would be trying to work out their relationship problems. Not even a Dark Lord of the Sith can keep his women from asking an inappropriate question at an inappropriate time. Very amusing.
What wasn’t amusing was the eerie similarities the Sith’s attack on the Republic had with the attack on America on September 11th 2001. Right before the jump ship slammed into the Jedi Temple, Malgus’s thoughts mirrored what I think the terrorist of 9/11 may have been thinking that day: “No alarm had sounded. Military and security ships were not racing through the sky. The civilian and military authorities were oblivious to the fact that Coruscant’s security net had been compromised” (17). There is a sense here that Malgus almost can’t believe he is about to get away with his assault, a feeling that I imagine was probably shared by the terrorists that fateful day in American history.
Continuing with my reactions, like Malgus, I too was at a loss as to why the Emperor didn’t simply destroy Coruscant when he had the chance: “He did not understand the Emperor’s thinking, for it must have been the Emperor who had decided to spare Coruscant. Nothing was as it should be. Malgus had intended, had expected, to turn Coruscant into a cinder” (70). Even though such a maneuver did give the Empire the upper hand in negotiations, we know from our history by professor Gnost-Dural that the emperor had expected his domination of the galaxy to come quickly, and the fact that the war had dragged out over decades was testimony to the fighting prowess of the Republic. It wasn’t the paper-tiger the emperor thought it to be. Though I see Malgus’s perspective as a Sith juggernaut, it was painfully obvious through the course of the text that Malgus dismissed politics as a tool of war. Much to his disadvantage it seems.
My last thought concerning Malgus has to do with his own musings about his past at the Sith Academy on Drummond Kaas. Malgus came to realize through his attack on Coruscant that he and the emperor had divergent philosophies on the role of the Empire in existence. It is Malgus’s contention that the Empire is a tool of the Force, its purpose to bring destruction and conflict because it is only through destruction and conflict that real growth can be made. Like a wild fire taking out an old forest, Malgus believed that the Empire, at the behest of the darkside of the Force, was a tool for renewal: “It was said that the ancient Sith of Korriban purged their bodies with fire, learned strength through pain, encouraged growth through destruction. There was wisdom in that, Malgus thought. Sometimes a thing could not be fixed. Instead, it had to be destroyed and remade” (177). Like Anakin Skywalker was destroyed and remade into Darth Vader, the wild fire that was Palpatine cleansed Anakin of his weaker parts and made him stronger. Destroyed and remade.
Paul S. Kemp brought a new perspective to the darkside of the Force through the character of Darth Malgus, which is not an easy thing to do in such an established world. Fortunately, he did the same with his character of Aryn Leener, a Jedi nearly lost to pain and vengeance.
Though I don ‘t think Aryn Leener is nearly as interesting as Darth Malgus, she did participate in some of my favorite scenes throughout the story. One of her scenes reminded me of a bit of scripture I love from Psalms: “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Whenever I feel too burdened by negativity or anxiety I offer it up to God. I simply say ‘I cannot carry this anymore, so I give it to you, so you may carry it for me’. It’s a realization of my own weakness, and realization that my strength can only be found in God. Aryn Leener has a similar relationship with the Force: “Focusing inward, she picked a point in her mind, made it a hole, and let her unease drain into it. Calm settled on her” (22). She gave her unease to the Force, as I give my unease to God.
Yet with all that being said, I still find it remarkable at how many Jedi have trouble actually practicing this calm-centeredness, as more often than not when a Jedi has experienced loss, they almost never fall to a compassionate non-attached disposition, but cling to notions of revenge. I get why this is. A character that takes on a compassionate non-attached disposition to their best friend’s death is regarded by most readers as a callous jerk, when in fact we should be thinking, ‘ahh that dude gets it!’. The problem is most people in the world either don’t want to be compassionately non-attached, or don’t get it, so when a Jedi’s Master dies, we expect that Jedi to seek revenge (Aryn Leener, Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin Skywalker) because it’s something we can identify with. Even though Jedi have had it drilled into their head at the temple from day one that they must reflect and ponder and come to an very deep understanding of what it truly means to be non-attached to the material of the world, many, remarkably, still don’t get it. (I think I’m ranting so I’m going to stop now). Aryn Leener’s immediate jump to revenge bothered me, evidently.
Moving along, my third favorite scene in the book was the stand-off between Aryn and the Sith outside of the negotiation room on Alderaan (the first being the scene I addressed at the start of this post): “Using the Force, she jerked the male’s hilt from his hand and brought it flying into her own grasp. Then she tossed it aside, and his sneer melted in the heat of his surprise” (39). What would have made this scene better, is if Aryn, after ripping the lightsaber from the Sith’s hand with the force, did not simply toss the saber away, only to have it retrieved again in a few moments, but instead ignited her own lightsaber, and chopped the Sith’s lightsaber in half the way one would slice a cucumber with a Ginsu. That would have been epic.
Since I’m talking about favorite scenes, and I’ve already addressed my first and third favorite scenes, I may as well talk about my second favorite scene in the book, which was Aryn and Zeerid’s escape from Fatman as it tumbled through Coruscant’s atmosphere: “She used her blade to cut a door out of the canopy. The thin air whipped by, whistling…She did not hesitate, She sank into the Force, cocooned them both in a protective sheath, and leapt out of the ship into the open air” (159-160). Now that’s an escape! The two plummeted fifty kilometers to the planet’s surface, while Aryn used the Force to slow their decent and land relatively safely. The way Kemp described Aryn cocooning them like a balloon about to pop was excellent. Kemp’s description here brought the scene to life.
All-in-all I thoroughly enjoyed Deceived. I’m glad it wasn’t simply a re-write of Threat of Peace, but after reading the scenes in this book which overlapped the graphic novel by Rob Chestney, I stand by my original claims that the story of Threat of Peace was too large to be contained within the pages of a comic book. That particular story needed its own telling in novelization form. The comic medium did not do Threat of Peace justice.
For my next post I’ll be moving ahead eight years in Old Republic history to my next source of examination: Red Harvest. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.