Tag Archives: Fate of the Jedi

Apocalypse

51pDeMCtI9LApocalypse? We’ve all been there. The same old trips. Why should you care?

Well. Probably you shouldn’t. There’s the timeline collapse in just over a month, but that’s not it. It’s that the galaxy, far away and long ago though it might be, has been on plenty of brinks before. Maybe the stakes have never been higher than a mad god bent on domination and accidental destruction of all she surveys, but the fact of the matter is, plenty of those lower stakes that have come before have felt more like they mattered.

And I don’t think it’s that none of this is even semi-canonical anymore, nor even that I’m feeling escalation fatigue. It’s that after eight books in a series that arguably took more time than was necessary to tell the story at hand (probably by fifty percent, at that), the final book was incredibly rushed and earned almost none of its outcomes.

But the part at the end where they started laying groundwork for the next big series due to start in a few more years? That part, yeah, annoyed me because of the timeline collapse. This does me no good, you guys. None. All it does is leave unnecessary loose ends. And it’s not like it’s your fault? But it’s hard to forgive when the rest of the book was so disappointing already.

Ascension

519RnNkaTkLThen I read the one other book that is between me and being caught up. Downside: Ascension is the next to last book in that Fate of the Jedi series I’ve been reading, and I started the final book since, which means the story bleeds together a little. Plus also, nevermind 43 years of in-universe spoilers, it’s also reaching the point where it’s hard to mention anything and not hit big-time in-series spoilers too. Once again, not a ton to say about this one, long story short.

A thing that is noteworthy, though, is the tone of the series. It’s never been exactly grimdark; I mean, it’s Star Wars, for crying out loud! But the first two thirds of the series were all very serious, with an Imperial ex-admiral as chief of state for the current governing body (Galactic Alliance), and the Jedi in disgrace, and all the slavery talk I’ve mentioned previously, and a new incursion of a planetful of Sith, and a weird dark god trying to take over everything. Not that the final third hasn’t been like that, but there was a note of hopefulness throughout that has been firmly quashed. Not to the extent that I have any serious concern for the wellbeing of the galaxy or really even of any of the main characters (well, maybe a little bit), but to the extent that it doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars movie.

Upshot: I’m still glad this timeline is due to collapse in a month and a half.

Conviction

51PsKh7O1yLYep, still on pace to clear out my current pile of books, or at least most of the series I’ve already started but which are possible to finish. Conviction is the seventh in a nine book series, which means things should start coming towards a head. And I cannot dispute that exactly this has happened. The Jedi have meddled in politics to the extent that they seem poised for the same downfall orchestrated by Palpatine decades ago, Luke Skywalker seems poised to pull a Whiskeyjack at any moment, the fragile truce with the Sith has ended in a spectacularly bad way, and the slave thing from the last couple of books is… well, okay, that’s about the only thing that is going well. Long story short: while it’s hard to credit a Lucasbooks storyline ending in disaster, this one feels a lot more likely than the time extra-galactic entities invaded or the time yet another Jedi-turned-Sith started yet another galactic civil war.

Anyway, though, none of that is particularly important. I’m focused on the title of the book, instead. See, conviction has a couple of meanings right off the top of my head. There’s the one about a guilty judgment being rendered in court, and there’s the one about having a strong principled reaction to a topic. Both of these could plausibly apply to the book. On the one hand, a leftover plotline from the previous Sith civil war series is the trial of the Sithlord’s apprentice, who was manipulated into murdering a very old, very popular Imperial admiral. As you might imagine, this is the book wherein the trial wraps up and a verdict is handed down. But then also, you’ve got the slavery thing and the foolish Jedi political gambits thing and also you’ve got Vestara Khai, who I’ve previously mentioned is a present day Sith apprentice who is gradually being turned toward the Light, or at least it seems so. Plenty of space for the principled stand kind of conviction in any or all of these situations.

And seek it though I tried, I could not really find any obvious example of the latter in any of those slots. Which means that the entire book is named after an event that was maybe 5% of the current book and which has been maybe 10% of the series as a whole, and seems to have no real bearing whatsoever on anything that’s actually going on out in the galaxy meanwhile. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised to report that what I’ve considered a dangling thread from a previous series is actually pivotal to this one instead? But man, there’s no clue that it will be, except for the literary one that it’s in the books at all. It may be a bad sign, that not being enough to satisfy me.

Vortex

51OaY2ueMYLOkay, I got fed up. It’s time to actually catch up with all my old partial serieses. At least this time I’m only a little over a year between books, instead of three? Anyway, right. Star Wars. Luke and his son Ben versus ancient evil older than 25,000 years of civilization, plus also uneasy Sith alliance, plus also Jedi Order in political quagmire, plus also slavery.

Vortex is totally a middle of the series book. Plots advance in retrospectively inevitable ways (at least, if you want the series to ever end, and at the two-thirds mark, turning a corner was something that had to happen), Sith apprentice Vestara Khai continues to be the best thing about the book, and… you know what, something just occurred to me. I think the series may be trying to finally take a hard look at the difference between the light and dark sides of the Force.

Because, look. It’s easy to say Sith are evil and Jedi are good, and that’s the Lucasian end of the debate. And that kind of works if you also say that there are only ever two Sith, because of how they hoard their power and their trust. What would be the point of a non-evil apprentice if you yourself are evil? But when you expand it to a society (the Sith used to be a species, even if that is no longer particularly the case), well, everyone isn’t evil. Not possible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fuel your power with anger instead of peace, and of course not all anger is evil. Righteous anger is a concept that exists for a reason. So on the one hand the series is showing multiple Sith, all of whom are shaped by their society, some of whom are evil, but some of whom are looking for revenge for probably real slights at most, understandably mistrustful of their longtime enemies at least. And on the other hand, the series is also showing Jedi who have reached different but clearly ethical conclusions about an intractable debate, and then being forced to proceed.

If Jedi can disagree unto death without either of them going “dark side” and Sith can assist in preventing the ascension of an insane god out of enlightened self-interest instead of going “light side”, then the Force is as complex as it ought to be. I’m amused that a fundamental change in how the Force is understood by Jedi and Sith alike might be on the verge of occurring in a timeline that will collapse this December.

Allies

On the one hand, I knew intellectually that the second half of the Fate of the Jedi series had been sitting on a shelf collecting dust[1] for a while. But it’s quite another hand indeed to go back through my previous four reviews in preparation for this one to discover that I read them between 2009-2011. And yet, I want to reread the Malazan series before tackling the last two books, or Sanderson’s series before opening its book 2, or Rothfuss before the finale comes out. I wouldn’t have time for this if I wasn’t working 50 hours a week! (Although, to be fair, a good portion of my reading does occur within those hours, so I don’t have it as hard as it sounds.)

Another uncomfortable realization I had while scanning these reviews to catch myself up is that the series is deeply flawed. Or possibly the Extended Universe itself is deeply flawed? Well, at least the future half of it, by which I mean the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker and his Extended Family. Which, when you get right down to it, is the flaw. But I said plenty enough about that last time; all I mean to convey here is that 2011 me was pretty persuasive and is still right.[2]

The funny thing is, even though I was aware of flaws in Allies just as I had been in the previous members of the series, that did not stop me from enjoying myself. This time, the weird outlying thing was slavery. Don’t get me wrong, the various people in the various far-flung reaches of the galaxy should ought to be free. And maybe the fact that it hasn’t come up until now, right in the middle of a story that is very much about other things is exactly the point? It’s not like you’re going to catch me saying “too soon”; if anything, it’s millennia overdue and I can’t help wondering why the Jedi have never done anything about it before, even though I know the answer.[3] But structurally, even if it is the point from a “the world/galaxy/whatever sure is messy about its timing” perspective, it’s weird to bring it up as a third of a book’s topic at the midpoint of a nine book series, when other than acknowledging its existence in the galaxy, Star Wars has literally never[4] talked about this topic before.

So, okay. Structurally odd, like I said. But the treatment was handled well and clearly tied into the future of the series even if not its past. And everything else? I’ve probably mentioned that the Jedi are under a dark cloud because of their failure to prevent the latest previous Sith incursion, right? Well, not only is that political stew getting worse all the time, but in the meantime Luke has allied[6] himself with a whole armada of newly discovered Sith, because of… well, it’s honestly not that important why, in the scheme of things. Jedi going insane, massively overwhelming evil in the middle of a nest of black holes, you know the drill. “Dawn’s in trouble? Must be Tuesday.” Like that.

But it’s Star Wars, and even bad Star Wars…. no, you know what? There’s some craptacular Star Wars out there. But even structurally unsound, problematically repetitive Star Wars is still fun. That’s all I’m really trying to say.

[1] Oh, how I wish I meant this less literally than I do.
[2] On the bright side, the announcement of an Episode 7 has halted all production in that direction, such that three years later, I’m only the rest of this series plus one more book behind. Probably because they can see all their carefully crafted continuity about to come crashing down around their ears. ….which is probably the best news the Extended Universe has had in a long time. Or maybe I’m just cynical. But seriously, 2011 me was pretty smart about this.
[3] Wildly insufficient numbers is the answer. I mean, spectacularly insufficient. Though probably not insufficient to have been the shining beacon leading the way for everyone else.
[4] Well, that I’ve seen. And okay, I have not consumed all the Star Wars out there that is to be consumed. But I’m way over half, which is more than probably anyone else you know.[5]
[5] For values of “you” whose initials are not ZD.
[6] Oh, hey, maybe that’s where they got the title! Nah, I kid, there were a number of unlikely alliances throughout the story.

Backlash

star_wars_fate_of_the_jedi_backlash_frontcover_large_uz9CMVYuUc5x3R7While trying to remember the name of this book so I could find a link on Amazon, I determined that the series is almost completed, despite my not even having reached the halfway point. Does this mean I’ll suddenly start reading a lot more Star Wars books? Y’know, probably not, it’s not like anyone talks about them such that I have to avoid spoilers; if anything, I’m the one who’s guilty of them. It’s hard to avoid spoilers in my own reviews, because the continuity is so massive now. When I talk about Ben Skywalker’s brief period as potential apprentice to a Sithlord who happened to be his cousin, you’d be all like, “Wait, what? What Sithlord? What cousin? Since when is there a Skywalker named Ben?” Kind of enormous spoilers for events like 10 books ago, and yet necessary backstory to understand some of his motivations in Backlash, as he and his exiled father[1] try to prevent the Sith apprentice they are following from both returning to her leadership with news of a very powerful Dark Side creature they all encountered in the last book while simultaneously helping to end a long-standing wrong on the planet of Dathomir. Oh, and while laying the groundwork for future romance, I predict!

It’s funny how much this series reminds me of an episodic TV show like Burn Notice, or episodic book series like the Deathlands. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the connective tissue in which we are apparently to learn the Fate of the Jedi, politically as well as spiritually[2], is certainly interesting. And the non-Jedi politics are also a thing about which I… well, okay, I mostly don’t care who’s in charge, and the maneuvering is a little infantile after having just re-read the entire Song of Ice and Fire series to date over the summer, but I still rarely get tired of that kind of fiction. And you can always count on Han and Leia to get up to interesting things, regardless of what the story is notionally going to be about. But after two long series in a row, one with twenty books about extra-galactic invaders and one with nine books about that Sithlord, an episodic series with connective tissue feels a little bit like stepping backwards into the mid ’90s when none of the authors had a plan or any kind of interaction with each other as they stumbled from one event to the next to another one two years in between the first two, in the days after the fall of the Empire.

And don’t get me wrong, they only let pretty good authors write these books now, and they all collaborate extensively, so it’s not like I’ve read an actually bad Star Wars book anytime this decade. It just still feels weird to have so much looser of a plot arc than usual, is all. I find myself hoping for some kind of societal collapse, which I know is not okay, because billions of sentient beings would die or fall upon dire straits. Nevertheless, the wild and woolly days of the Empire, with scattered, ineffective Jedi and a struggle against overwhelming odds were a lot more fun than these struggles to maintain the status quo. Whatever the Jedi used to be in the Old Republic, they aren’t that anymore. Too many people remember too many failures, and as long as books keep being written in this time period, there’s never going to be a generation of peace during which they come to represent the old days, so forcing them to weather scandal after emergency just makes them look more and more small and sad, and I’d rather see roaming Jedi deciding what’s best for each situation on an individual basis than an Order that is as decayed today as the Senate was during the last days of Chancellor Valorum’s reign.

Huh. This is not the review I expected to write.

[1] Oh, you know. Don’t pretend.
[2] You may recall that a) they are on the outs with the current government after the big Sith thing I mentioned earlier and that b) some of them are going crazy, with virtually no rhyme or reason and certainly with no cure.

Abyss

abyss_bgAs with previous ongoing Star Wars series, Abyss marks a point in the storyline where it gets a lot harder to say anything much useful while also avoiding large spoilers for previous books. But I’m interested enough in seeing where they’re going with it to lay out at least a bare-bones sketch, all the same. First, things I’ve probably already told you anyway: the Fate of the Jedi series takes place some forty years after Luke and Leia and Han saved the galaxy from the Emperor. They have since saved it from the rest of the Empire that wasn’t really done yet despite their boss’s demise, from extra-galactic invaders, and most recently from a newly risen Sith Lord with uncomfortable family ties. Now, the Jedi are trying to save it from themselves, since many of them are suffering psychotic delusions, while navigating a political minefield that has already resulted in Luke Skywalker stepping down as Grand Master of the Jedi Order to go on a pilgrimage and figure out why good people do bad things, more or less.

Okay? So, the series at large has been Luke and his son hopping from one group of non-Jedi Force-sensitives to the next to gather this information, while everyone else plays at political shenanigans back home. The political shenanigans have been interesting, but in this book (as, I suspect, ultimately will be the case in the series as a whole) they’ve been largely irrelevant stage-dressing, since they don’t really touch on the Force, which is what we’re honestly here about, right? That part is where I’m getting to be interested, for two reasons. The first is one I’m likely to be let down by in the long run, but they seem to be making a close examination of Lucas'[1] underlying cosmology for the entirety of his creation, and I hope to see interesting conclusions drawn. The second, though, is a thing I haven’t mentioned previously (I don’t think), that there seems to be an old-fashioned Jedi-Sith confrontation on the way. Not the master-and-apprentice always-two Sith Lords of the last good long while, no, I mean the actual Force-sensitive species of them that wanted to take over the galaxy way back before there was an Old Republic. Which admittedly doesn’t sound that different on the surface, but old things coming back has always seemed pretty cool to me, and I do not expect to be disappointed as far as seeing where that goes. So, y’know, possible cool stuff in the outing, and interesting philosophical turns and the omnipresent swashbuckling and aforementioned political shenanigans in the mean time are more than tasty enough mind-candy to keep me coming back for more.

[1] I mean, obviously he has never given it even a tiny fraction of this much thought, but I guess at some degree of abstraction he still has veto power.

Omen

Omen_front_bgIf I had not read Outcast first, or[1] if it had been a different book, I would have liked Omen a lot better. Because, Omen was almost exactly the same book, it was just written a little more tightly. Two plot elements were identical, in fact. Luke Skywalker and his son are wandering the galaxy in search of non-Jedi Force-sensitives to learn from them and find a way to guarantee that he’ll know the next time one of the Jedi is slipping toward the Dark Side. And meanwhile, more and more Jedi are experiencing the Capgras delusion, wherein they are convinced that everyone they know has been replaced by perfect impostors. I’m saying, the prose was different but large swathes of the plot have literally not moved.

The only thing that is really new is that the extraneous third plot from the previous book has been replaced by dire rumblings of a new Sith ascendancy troubling the galaxy. Like, old school Sith from thousands of years ago, before even the Old Republic; a last remnant that has been cut off all this time, back from when they were a species more than a lifestyle. So that part was pretty cool, as was the prose I mentioned, really, and all in all it’s like I said at the start. I’d have liked this book a lot better if most of the events of it had not been duplicated from the inferior first book of the series.

Dear stable of Star Wars writers: it is okay to write fewer, more tightly plotted books to tell a story. Despite the fact that people will pay for nine books when only a three book series is needed, you should write three books anyway and consider the lost money a write-off on your soul. It will be worth it! …to your soul, I mean. Also, to me.

[1] More rationally, since this is a series.

Outcast

Outcast_coverThere’s a new Star Wars series again, set 40 years after the events of the movies, decades past the final fall of the Empire, well past the invasion of an extra-galactic alien armada not affected by the Force, just a few years past a second galactic civil war caused by another Sith lord from the Skywalker line. And this most recent event shows that people are basically the same all over; public sentiment has turned sharply against the Jedi Order in the wake of Jacen Solo’s fall, mostly because political figures are of the opinion that Luke Skywalker should have seen it coming and prevented it.

The truth of that statement, despite its simultaneous unfairness, points Luke and his son Ben on a quest through the galaxy in search of the various Force-sensitive but non-Jedi societies Jacen visited in the years before his fall, to see if they can find any clues. After establishing this premise and hinting at mental illnesses that may be starting to afflict some of the Jedi, Outcast proceeds to… well, to stall out. The first leg of Luke’s investigation is entertaining, as are Han and Leia’s adventures trying to keep a planet from being blown up. (By earthquakes, not Death Stars.) But the pacing back and forth between these stories and the Jedi illness plotline is awkward, and by the end of the book, I felt like it maybe should have been compressed into just a hundred pages with plenty of room for more. Worse, the Han and Leia plotline actually had no apparent bearing on anything else, even though I’m well aware that a seemingly minor event involving their granddaughter will be relevant later on. The knowing and the entertainment just weren’t quite enough to make up for the structural weirdness and the slowness of the pace.

Possibly as part of a straight through read of the nine book series, the pacing would not have struck me oddly, but in the book standing alone: no good. Luckily, I did enjoy the discrete events, so I have no worries about liking the next book, whenever I get around to reading it. (Probably not terribly long from now, as it would be nice to be caught up again.) I guess the majority of my disappointment comes from the fact that Aaron Allston is a known good quantity in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and to see plotting or pacing problems from him, much less both, confuses me more than just any randomly off-kilter Star Wars book would. It’s not like they don’t exist in the wild.