Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jacen Journeys Through the Underworld in Traitor

The New Jedi Order was my first passion in Star Wars literature. Soon after seeing the movies for the first time, I got caught up in this ongoing story about Jedi fighting aliens. About ten years later, I’m re-reading the series with a fresh perspective.

I was afraid when I started Traitor. I tend to be wary of my own hype regarding Matthew Stover - can he be as good as I remember?

When he wrote Traitor, Stover was a first-time Star Wars author. Shatterpoint would come out two years later, the stellar Revenge of the Sith novel one year after that. It's hard to tell that Traitor came first. Stover's words bring a beauty and flourish to familiar sights like the acrobatic combat of the Jedi: "A world-whirl of airborne somersault over the heads of two warriors lunging side by side, and their boneless collapse as a single lightsaber slash opens the napes of two necks and unstrings their limbs--" 

The metaphor of pain as a spectrum runs through the book, and color is always vividly described and very important. The beginning and the end parallel each other, giving the book satisfying symmetry and making the creation of that kind of structure look easy. The whole novel is also Jacen's descent to the underworld, in which he returns with greater knowledge. Vergere even tells him that he's dead.

It isn't just the prose that elevates Traitor above its siblings in the series. Stover makes Vergere a morally ambiguous character similar to Kriea from Knights of the Old Republic 2, which also had not yet been released. She manipulates both Jacen and Vergere, and everything she says is true. And everything that she says is a lie. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Luke Takes Command In Rebel Stand New Jedi Order was my first passion in Star Wars literature. Soon after seeing the movies for the first time, I got caught up in this ongoing story about Jedi fighting aliens. About ten years later, I’m re-reading the series with a fresh perspective.

I'm very glad that I refreshed my memories of the Enemy Lines duology, because these two books have become some of my favorites in the NJO. Allston's duology simply works, because the characters are allowed to have quiet moments together in interesting situations. It's why Luke and Mara's conversations were a highlight of the story for me, and it's why, in one of the funniest and most important characterization moments, Jaina, Kyp, and Jag have a picnic. Things blurred together in Rebel Stand a little bit, with Leia and Han's plotline fading a bit into the background. But like Rebel Dream, Rebel Stand has excellent energy and dialogue. The apocalyptic view of Coruscant makes for some cool action scenes, although the villain is, like Rocky has said, straight out of the corny Bantam era.

Rebel Stand's Luke felt a little more genuine than the one in Rebel Dream. Instead of eye-rolling at young pilots, he feels tremendously guilty about sending young people like the Myrkyr strike team into battle. He hopes for the day in which he'll "be allowed to quit sending the young off to suffer pain and death." He feels that his enemies force him to take action. While it does remove some of his agency, at least this stance forces him to be more active than he has been for the last few books.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Heir to the Jedi Review

After reading the first few pages of Heir to the Jedi, I flipped to the back. There had to be more here, had to be some kind of twist to explain why Luke was using epistolary, didactic language. Maybe he was speaking to a class of Jedi younglings who didn't know that their great Master had once been a student. Maybe Luke was holding back in advance of a big reveal. Maybe he was under the debilitating influence of a dark force user. If Heir had Shadows of Mindor-style bookends, it might have been okay.

But it was none of those. The book is simply disjointed. It reads as if written for younger readers, and in that, it succeeds. It has received mixed reviews, with plenty of readers finding it fun and entertaining, or feeling that the awkwardness perfectly captured a young Luke. If you want to try it for yourself, the 50-page excerpt is a good place to start. If you want more expressions of confusion and disappointment, try my review.

At least it was better than Crucible.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Penultimate Resolve

As I wrote in my review this week, it is difficult to judge Rebel Resolve separately from Vision of Hope or the upcoming Fire Across the Galaxy. The episode shows all of Rebels' usual quality, but exists very much as an interstitial story.

My full review is over at Den of Geek, and talks about some of my theories about Fulcrum and Mustafar. I'm almost certain that Ahsoka is Fulcrum, but what does Fulcrum's message to Hera mean about the mysterious agent? Letting Kanan go certainly seems like an Old Republic Jedi sort of thing to do.

Next week's review may be a bit late, as the episode will not be available on the app before going on air. An ominous trailer was released on Good Morning America this week, suggesting that some changes might be ahead for our rebel heroes. Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks also comes out next week. Jason Fry is currently working on the fourth book in the series. I wonder if there's any significance to the timing of #2 so soon after the Rebels finale? Maybe we'll see Zare's reaction to whatever transpires next week.