Eric Farr's Reviews > Fatal Alliance

Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams
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's review
Jul 14, 2011

really liked it
Read from June 18 to July 14, 2011

Fatal Alliance was a better Star Wars book than I would have expected. Not only is it a Star Wars book, but it is a novelization of an upcoming video game, and while I am rather excited about the promise of a focus on story in the game itself, I had found the comic tie-ins that I had read thus far to be disappointing on that front. Fatal Alliance definitely broke that trend, providing an exciting adventure full of political intrigue, epic battles on ground and space, decently developed characters, surprising twists in both relationships and events, and a threat that was genuinely big enough to force Empire and Republic, Jedi and Sith, free agent and Mandalorian mercenary, to all work together.

What I was must impressed by was how much gray Williams allowed to seep into the Star Wars universe, which tends to be defined by iconic clashes between Light and Dark. Here, especially through the intimate perspectives of a young Jedi and Sith apprentice, we see heroes wrestling with the complications of reality, and by the end of it, while they certainly remain bitter enemies, I felt as though they at least understood the other side, even while remaining devoted to their individual causes. The moral ambiguity is likely part of the game tie-in -- defections are not possible in the game, but a Jedi could be cruel, torturing enemies to help obtain information for the Republic, for instance, and the usage of gray areas really brings out the realism of this scenario. In fact, the book almost feels like more of a sampling of the game experience rather than simply being a tie-in. The various gameplay classes all get their representative character in the novel, each acting in a way that exemplifies the potential role of that archetype.

Heavy reliance on said archetypes produced an obvious weakness. While I was intrigued by the characters of the Sith and Jedi apprentices, their masters fell more into the traditional roles of Jedi and Sith, and while the development of the relationship between the spy and the trooper was certainly different than what I would have guessed, the characters themselves seemed a little flat, forced along as they are by the events of the novel and the Force-powered characters. One of the most fascinating characters, the smuggler Jet Nebula, is charming, intelligent, cunning, and quite the trickster, but his background and motivations are left too obscured to ever really get a good grasp of him, and the reveal of his "true" identity at the end of the novel only left more questions. A similar obscurity in motivations and surprise identity reveal for the Mandalorian mercenary left Dao Stryver similarly baffling.

However, I hope that their cryptic nature and certain loose plot threads indicate the jumping-off point for future adventures with these characters. I would definitely love to see what adventures the soon-to-be-Knighted Shigar and the re-indentured Ax get up to. If a series focusing on their exploits never manifests itself, however, this novel becomes wasted potential - though a nonetheless exciting read.

While an easy read, and excellently paced, some of the shifts between character perspectives are staggered a bit too jarringly, and the actual writing employed by Williams was often simply adequate, sometimes drifting to snappy and tightly woven, sometimes to vague, overly sparse, pedestrian, or even redundant. My biggest issue was his lack of attention to detail, especially when name-dropping obscure alien races. Knowing all Star Wars aliens or always keeping Wookieepedia tabbed is not really a desired requirement for a reading audience, no matter how dedicated the fandom may be. These issues with craft aside, the novel jumps from point to point with exhilarating speed, and it certainly ranks among my favorite Star Wars novels.

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