I’m sure everyone has played a game that they barely remember. Something that you might have played as a kid once or twice and only barely remember the game. Well, Star Crusader is one of those games for me.
I played the game at a friend’s house and promptly forgot about most of it. The game had a story, but I didn’t care about it at ten. I only saw a game that was like Tie Fighter and X-Wing. However, it wasn’t as good as those games.
I remembered bits and pieces of that game as I read this book. While it didn’t leave a big impression on me, since I haven’t felt a need to go back and play it, I do remember it. Star Crusader was one of the many PC games I played in the mid-90s.
The book is okay. It is about a fictional race going to war with an alliance of alien races. I’m guessing that the Gorene are humans, but I didn’t get that from the book. There is also a lot of debate about if the Empire is in the right. There is probably way more lore to this story than we are being given, and there is quite a bit of repetition in the characters’ conversations.
There is a whole lot of backstory that we don’t get here, and the lack of information on the game doesn’t help matters. Basically, our main character, Roman, is a fighter pilot for the Gorene Empire. The Empire is a totalitarian and militaristic space empire ruthlessly expanding across the galaxy. Roman has doubts about the approach the empire is taking but doesn’t do anything about it aside from whining.
The book has other characters, but they mostly don’t matter. His girlfriend Hela is there but doesn’t need to be. Blois is a superior officer who is Roman’s friend. Lawton wants Roman’s job, and it is built up that Lawton might kill Roman at any time, but he doesn’t. The alien characters are there, but they left little to no impression on me.
Quark is an interesting character. He is a shapeshifter native to the region that the main characters are invading. You learn more about him, but the author does an excellent job keeping him mysterious. Quark does feel like a deus ex machina at times.
Ferrand is the only big bad guy in the story. Lawton and Shylo are terrible people, but they don’t do as much as Ferrand. These are the worst of a collection of bad characters. They’re well-written, but I didn’t come away with someone I cared about.
Our cast of characters is fighting a collection of aliens. The aliens are initially divided by rivalries but band together to fight the Gorene Empire. After some lackluster battles, Ferrand is shot out of an airlock, and we have Shylo take command.
This change of command leads to two things. The first is a war crime that Roman takes part in. I’m not sure if it is a war crime in the book’s universe, but many pilots seem unhappy about it. They blow up some satellites and spread toxic material into a planet’s atmosphere. This kills everyone on the planet.
The second thing is Roman going on a diplomatic mission. However, this is a ruse to kill the leaders of the Alliance and arrest Roman. This caused Roman to defect to the Alliance.
Once he joins the alliance, Roman leads a mission to blow up the Gorene version of the Death Star. It is called something else, but basically the Death Star from The Return of the Jedi. This same scenario is in a lot of sci-fi movies.
They blow up the Gorene base, kill the bad guys, and the important characters survive. Then things just end. The Gorene give up, I guess, and Roman decides to become the god of some primitive planet. He doesn’t want to be seen like that, but come on. He is living in a technologically advanced castle on a primitive planet, and the inhabitants are still using basic tools.
There are no Good Guys
Everyone sucks in this book. I was looking for someone that I could like, but there wasn’t anyone there. Part of this concerns how stupid our main character is and how awful the Gorene are. The alliance aliens aren’t any better, but they are more sympathetic.
The Gorene Military is horrible. It is very cut-throat, and discipline isn’t a priority. You won’t have a problem if you stay in line. There will also be consistent drunken fighting.
It seems like you don’t have to be good at your job in the Gorene military. You have to make everyone around you look bad. Also, don’t get to know the aliens, don’t think about the horrible things you’re being asked to do, and make sure you can blame your failures on others.
The aliens aren’t any better. I feel weird calling them aliens when everyone in the book is an alien. They’re either fanatical religious zealots, fanatical warriors, or corrupt merchants. You also have the race that was “helped” by the Gorene, who have become nomads after their planet was destroyed. I guess the nomads are the only sympathetic group.
Some Gorene pilots aren’t okay with what is happening or, at the very least, question what they’re doing. However, they still go along with their orders. It makes it hard to get behind them. There isn’t enough character development for me.
Like other novels based on video games, the author is constrained by the video game’s story. In the case of Star Crusader, there is more backstory for this game, and the main story isn’t all that great. It has some good ideas, but this was made when the story wasn’t important to most developers.
Likes and Dislikes
This can be a fun story at times. It’s like a discount version of Wing Commander. Some of the characters are interesting, and the universe this takes place in sounds cool.
However, at times, things just happen. Plot points are also dropped quickly or get resolved in between the chapters. It can be confusing when a character is introduced and dies quickly for seemingly no reason.
Nishmar is a perfect example of this. He gets introduced before a mission, has a brief point of view where it is revealed that he doesn’t think he should be here, and is quickly captured and killed off. What was the point of this? I’m not really sure.
Debt is another character that doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose. He is built up a bit, but it is clear that he isn’t one of the main characters. When he defects, it doesn’t come out of nowhere but doesn’t mean much. I read that part and checked my notes to see if it mattered. I don’t think it did.
I was also getting a little tired of Roman’s struggle with the Gorenes approach to diplomacy. He brings up how the aliens have only seen the violent side of the Empire, but we don’t see any other side to the Gorene Empire. The aliens and the reader only see the military. From the parts of the military that we do see, don’t paint them in the best light.
By the end of the book, I was sick of Roman and Hela. It felt like the source material was holding back the author. The game could have these twists and turns, but there seems to be enough story here for more than one book. This could’ve been two books, and more things could’ve been explained better.
Overall, I didn’t like the book. It has some great stuff in it, and I’m glad some of these guys got what was coming to them, but it was ultimately disappointing. I think too much was jammed into this book, and it got a little annoying reading the same thing repeatedly.
I wouldn’t say I liked this book. There isn’t much wrong with it, and parts of the story are good, but overall, it is boring at times, and important plot points happen outside of the book. The constant internal struggle that the main character is having is annoying.
Roman is questioning the whole political system of the Empire when he remembers to do so. He complains a lot about the Empire. The other pilots also do this, and I wish it was either acted on or never brought up. I know this was part of the game, but I don’t think it needed to be in the book, or it could’ve been followed up on.
I wanted to see where this story was going, but I don’t think it was worth it. You know how this is going to end. It is one of the many science fiction tropes in quite a few books, games, and movies. The main character becomes disillusioned with his side of the war and decides to switch sides.
This one is in the middle of the video game novelizations I’ve read so far. It isn’t great like Hell, X-COM, or Shadowkeep. It feels constrained by the game’s story, and too many things happen between the chapters for me. There are also a few throwaway characters that didn’t need to be in the book.