Hacking The Dark Side
A Review of Drew Karpyshyn’s “Star Wars The Old Republic: Annihilation” (Del Rey, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Drew Karypyshyn’s “Star Wars The Old Republic: Annihilation” is a Star Wars novel with a touch of cyberpunk. Karpyshyn explores the interaction between human and machine with a significant amount of The Force in between. The narrator, Theron Shan, is a black ops operative for the Republic. The child of a Jedi, Theron was rejected at birth by his mother, Satele Shan, because Jedi are not supposed to have children and aren’t permitted to create bonds with others. Theron, though he wasn’t raised a Jedi and didn’t have capabilities in the force, was trained to use some Jedi techniques by his adopted guardian, Ngani Zho. In addition to his training, Theron is equipped with a cybernetic implant in his eye and a spike, a device that allows him to hack into systems.
Karpyshyn plays with the notion of prostheses and cybernetics when he creates an enemy for Theron, the Sith Lord Darth Karrid. Karrid has inherited a ship from her Sith master called The Ascendent Spear, a ship that is feared by the Republic because of its might and its level of success in battle. The Ascendent Spear holds multiple secrets, the greatest of which being its infusion with Dark Side energy and the fact that Darth Karrid is able to integrate herself into its systems and control it with her mind. The Ascendent Spear becomes a prosthesis for Karrid, an extension of her mind as well as her abilities in the force. Karpyshyn explores the border between human and machine as he integrates consciousness and technology, wrapping the two of them together.
As much as this novel is an exploration of the relationship between human and technology, it is also a story about the personal interacting with the political. Satele is the Grand Master of the Jedi Order and, despite the demands to dissociate herself from her son, she still feels some connection to him and guilt at his abandonment. Her roles as mother and leader conflict with one another when she is forced to put Theron into battle.
Satele also fears for Jace Malcolm, former war hero and Supreme Commander of the Republic Military, who has to navigate the confusing murky territory between justice and revenge. Satele fears the potential of his war against the Sith Empire to turn him to the dark side of the force.
Karpyshyn invites the reader to question whether the personal can ever be separated from the political and how much the desire for revenge can motivate decisions in war.
To find out more about Drew Karpyshyn, visit his website at http://drewkarpyshyn.com