Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Lost Tribe of the Sith – The Collected Stories

Originally published as eight separate free ebook novellas to accompany the Hardback releases in the Fate of the Jedi series, these stories have now been collected into a single printed volume with the additional (new for this version) 150-page story Pandemonium. You may still be able to get a taste of this book by checking out the individual ebooks, which I’d certainly recommend as this is a very different Star Wars story than you might normally expect from something set in this universe.

I didn’t read any of these stories prior to this printed edition, despite their connection to the Fate of the Jedi series. The stories are broken up into distinct sections and eras though, depicting how the Lost Tribe of the Sith came to be – and how they remained in isolation until the time of Fate of the Jedi (some 40+ years after Return of the Jedi). Thousands of years in the past, during the first great war between the Sith and the Jedi, a Sith warship crashed on an isolated planet called Kesh. It was outside of any known shipping lanes, not on any charts – reached through a freak hyperspace accident whereby two ships collided and one was bounced out and into an unknown part of the galaxy.

Kesh is both a world that is not very technically advanced, but also lacking in the raw metal materials needed to rebuild the Sith warship – thereby stranding the crew (numbering in the hundreds) on the planet with no way to escape and no hope of being rescued. The first four stories are all about that original crew, how they set up a new Sith civilization on the world of Kesh, how they go about subjugating the people (by playing off on the indigenous people’s beliefs and claiming that they are the Gods whom those people worship) and the challenges they must face when dealing with a group of people who are constantly trying to backstab each other – and yet must learn to work together if they are to survive. There is also a rebellion of some of the Keshiri people, which will lead to them taking some of their skybeasts and fleeing the Sith – a moment which will pay off later on in the book.

A thousand years later, during the time of the Knights of the Old Republic videogame, a Jedi named Jelph has wound up crash-landing on this same world – and is horrified by what he’s found, a civilization of Sith (when he thought the Sith were extinct). Meanwhile, the reader gets a good view into Sith society at this point, through the viewpoint of Ori, a female Sith Saber (like a Knight) whose mother is an influential Sith – though things like that never last long and Ori soon finds herself on the run from Sith who want to see her dead – and when she flees to her friend Jelph’s house, she learns his secret. Can she use that secret to regain her standing in Sith society – or will she choose another path?

In the final sections of the book the story skips ahead a few more centuries to the time of The Old Republic videogame – Kesh is still isolated, and the Sith civilization is in decline. They are on the brink of civil war, long since having lost their way and their ambition, their focus. But one more secret has yet to be revealed – one dating back to their original crash landing, the revelation that they crashed only on the smallest continent on the planet – and that there is a whole other landmass to turn all of their attention and resolve and resources into finding, and subjugating. But what they will discover on that continent a world away is a people who have been prepared for a war against the Sith for thousands of years – warned by the rebels who long ago fled the Sith oppression and found sanctuary among their people across the ocean.

As I find to be common when reading John Jackson Miller, I love how he takes ideas and turns them on their head. The solution he comes up with when the Sith infighting continues even as they attempt to invade a whole new continent was unique – use that infighting to pit the Keshiri against one of the Sith sides – thereby allowing one Sith side to present themselves as saviors and ridding themselves of annoying rivals. There are hints of greater stories at work, as hundreds of years after the time of Ori and Jelph, as the force-talented Keshiri named Quarra has a vision of them and uses that to begin her own resistance against their new Sith benefactors.

That said, I didn’t always love every story. A lot of time is spent wandering the new continent in Pandemonium – I’m sure the intention was to introduce the reader to this new world, but honestly it mostly struck me as unnecessary – but then I don’t actually need a lot of world-building (there’s maps in this book as well, which I know appeals to many people). In some ways this is very much a Star Wars without the technology story – making it far more Fantasy than science fiction. Because the story moves around so much, there isn’t a lot of time to really become attached to any characters – and many of the characters are Sith anyway, who are not often people you’re going to have a lot of sympathy for. Of course, people can’t all be bad, and the Lost Tribe is full of shades of grey, with some being more evil and some far less so – almost heroic even.

Lost Tribe of the Sith - The Collected Stories is a very different Star Wars book then, an introduction to an enemy featured in later novels (though you need not read those to understand this book), and also a deep exploration into an entire Sith society. I certainly enjoyed reading the book, and I’m looking forward to checking out Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral comic series, which takes place after the stories in this book. It’s a very unique book, providing insight into a culture that still hasn’t been explored that much in the Star Wars universe, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the Sith.

1 comment:

Budd said...

*Gasp* I have never read a star wars book. I know, right. But now I think I would be lost picking up any book as there are like 30 years worth out there being built upon. Now it ties in with the tv series (haven't watched) and the video games too, it is just too much.

Hope to see you guys participating in the Scare Me Blogfest on halloween.