Thursday, May 15, 2014

Empires Disguised: The Republic Suffers in Jedi Eclipse

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.
 The fifth book in the New Jedi Order series is an exercise in deception. Hutts are double-crossed, Jedi are lead astray, and sometimes droning political scenes gradually reveal themselves as layered conspiracies reminiscent of "Darth Plagueis" in complexity if not in scope. The Yuuzhan Vong take a chunk out of the galaxy, and meanwhile our heroes are spread far apart - Leia on Hapes, Han with his friend Droma, and the Solo boys on Centerpoint Station.

A lot of characters from previous series return here, and while it's hard not to think of some of the scenes as revisionist, they work together well. One of the returnees is Prince Isolder of Hapes. While Hapes is a matriarchal society, author James Luceno also notes that its origins aren't exactly politically correct - Hapan pirates abducted beautiful women to bring to their planets until the Jedi wiped them out, leaving the women to form a society on their own. Hapes therefore has primarily women in its power structure, as well as a thin veneer of chivalry.

On the other hand, Mara Jade Skywalker and Jaina Solo never even appear in the book. Senator Viqi Shesh, an arch, slimy politician, does become a major female role.

And Luke Skywalker fares only slightly better than his wife. His ineffectiveness as Jedi Grand Master in the post-NJO landscape has been on my mind lately, and so a line near the end of the book caught my attention. Luke had been on Yavin IV while the shipyards at Fodor were lost, and when Talon Karrde asked him for his opinion on the future, he remembered Yoda warning him not to try to rescue Han and Leia. Was this his first step toward believing inaction is the best action? I'm looking forward to Luke having his boots on the ground more later in the series. Now, he continues to let Kyp Durron command himself.

James Luceno does a fine job of introducing a lot of political characters, each with their own motives and their own attempts at out-thinking one another. If those characters sounded a little samey after a while? Well, I suppose the payoff was worth it.

I talked in my last retrospective piece about tiring of Han Solo's trial. He and Droma provided a pleasant diversion in "Jedi Eclipse," but the length of time Han has been away from Leia is beginning to seem unsustainable. Additionally, the relative brevity of the Solos' time on Centerpoint Station should probably have been a tip-off that their plot line was not as important as anticipated - but the description of a mysterious star system-building machine was so cool that I wished they'd spent more time there. A return to the Jedi Wurth Skidder, who had been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong, was gruesome and entertaining, and the many different plot lines converged like deftly interlocking puzzle pieces at the finale.

"Jedi Eclipse" is one of the more complex, dense NJO novels, but not without its emotional hooks. Viqi Shesh's betrayal and the Yuuzhan Vong's unexpected win at Fondor were just as arresting as I remembered. Sometimes the politicking felt like a slog, but I know it's just not my cup of tea, and the descriptive writing and array of characters kept me interested.

No comments:

Post a Comment