The month is July, and the year is 2003. I’m seated on the faux-leather sofa in the cool basement of the house I grew up in, sipping a tangerine Gatorade on ice. In my hands is an original Xbox controller worthy of any starship’s control yoke; large and heavy enough to take down a Krayt dragon, if necessary.
Rain is coming down hard outside, so I’m not playing golf today. To the thunderous riffs of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” with my stereo set on one-track repeat, I’m staying home to conquer Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Over the course of ten, maybe fourteen hours, I walk the path of the Jedi: escape the orbital bombardment of Taris, learn the ways of the Force at a small enclave on Dantooine, and seek out the fragmented star maps that will lead me to the fearsome Star Forge, a colossal war factory located deep in the galaxy’s Unknown Regions.
As Revan, the Prodigal Knight — fallen Jedi, redeemed Sith — I uncover the forgotten truths of my past.
Well, some of the forgotten truths. Amid all the celebration and redemption, Bastila and Master Vandar forget to fill me in on the rest of Revan’s lost history…
The year is 2011, and I hear that Drew Karpyshyn, author of the Bane trilogy (Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, and Dynasty of Evil) has written a novel titled Revan, which is intended to tie up the handful of loose ends left at the end of the original Knights of the Republic game. In the intervening years, there was a sequel — fun, but lacking the rich story that made the original so enthralling — in which I learned that while Revan may still be alive, even his wife, Bastila, doesn’t know where he is.
Here we are in 2012, and I find myself in a place of mixed emotions, sad to have finally arrived at a kind of closure about the Prodigal Knight’s story. As a fan of Karpyshyn’s work, not only on the original Knights of the Republic and Mass Effect games, but also on the Bane novels — which are among the best in the Expanded Universe, particularly for their intimate portrayal of Sith sorcery and well-drawn characters — I’m ecstatic that Lucas Books continues to entrust Karpyshyn with his own contributions to the Star Wars universe.
I devour the novel; the first half over a couple shifts at work, the second in a single Saturday evening.
An ambitious Sith named Scourge reveals himself to me, as does the rest of the hidden Empire — Darth Nyriss, the weakening Darth Xedrix, and the millennia-old Emperor himself, Lord Vitiate.
These folks, I quickly realize, are Karpyshyn’s bridge between the first two Knights games and the brand-new MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I probably won’t bother playing since my laptop isn’t optimized for gaming.
But the novel isn’t populated entirely by unfamiliar names. In fact, old favorites from that rainy July afternoon make noteworthy appearances, or even play vital roles in the story: Bastila Shan, the astromech droid T3-M4, Canderous Ordo… The one called the Exile, Meetra, the protagonist from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords plays an intriguing and important role in Revan’s ultimate fate. A Jedi archivist, named Atris, shows up in one tense confrontation. Countless others are mentioned, but never make an appearance.
My greatest disappointment with the novel has everything to do, however, with the glaring absence of one very beloved character — one who lovingly refers to organic beings as “meatbags,” to the constant amusement of his master. The assassin droid HK-47 is mentioned at multiple points throughout the story, and one late chapter seems entirely devoted to foreshadowing his eventual arrival at Revan’s side, but by the end of the novel his dark humor and murderous tendencies are nowhere to be found.
If the novel suffers for anything tangible other than its seemingly rushed copy edit — there are a lot of places where needless expositional passages are more or less repeated, and I found a lot of typographical errors as well — it is HK-47′s absence.
But perhaps Karpyshyn didn’t think comic relief was befitting of a novel this…well, dark.
Whereas the Star Wars films are recognizable for their endearing campiness, the many novels in the Expanded Universe tend to venture into more mature, at times even somber or disturbing, territory. Take the Matthew Stover novels, for instance; his Revenge of the Sith novelization far surpasses the depth of the Episode III film precisely because it doesn’t shy away from the sheer darkness of its subject matter.
Throughout Revan, Karpyshyn unflinchingly confronts very human, very this-worldly problems, such as slavery, prisoners of war, torture as a means of interrogation, and the age-old mythic quest for immortality. His worlds are stormy, devoid of life and its Force-essence, and rife with political corruption.
For this reason, as much as the ending feels at turns dissatisfying and even potentially offensive, I have to grant the author my utmost respect as an honest, competent, and admirably bold storyteller. His fourth addition to the Star Wars mythos reminds us that heroes are the stuff of legend, of utter embellishment; that, in truth, men and women at war are simply mortal creatures, seeking goodness in a universe filled with suffering and evil. The tale of Revan, whether concluded or forever left shrouded in mystery, strikes at the heart of many harsh truths about the horrors of warfare, whether among the stars of a distant past, or in our own troubling times.