Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen
by Christie Goldman
Read by Marc Thompson
2009, Random House Audio
The first volume in the Fate of the Jedi series, Outcast, marked my first foray to the Star Wars Expanded Universe since the death of Chewbacca in R. A. Salvatores’ Vector Prime. Outcast, and now Omen, are taking a slower more subtle approach to storytelling that one would expect from a Star Wars novel. Like Outcast before it, Omen has no large scale space battles, no real swashbuckling adventures but focuses instead on creating an air of tension, mystery, and suspense. Though perhaps one might say that the real focus of this story, and perhaps the entire Fate of the Jedi series is that of the Solo and Skywalker families.
For all the dire import of Luke’s exile and quest to follow Jacen Solo’s trail the presence of Ben Skywalker, Luke’s son, and the close quarters of their ship, The Jade Shadow, give the entire thing the feel of a space-age father/son road trip. Meanwhile, the rest of the narrative focuses on the growing tension between the Galactic Alliance and the Jedi Order however the narrative their focuses on Leia and Han, who are secretly fostering their grandchild (daughter of Jacen) while Jedi Knight Jaina Solo courts (or is courted, seems about even there) Imperial Head of State Jagad Fell while trying to avoid the paparazzi. Omen is a grand family saga more than any Star Wars novel I’ve ever read and, for myself, what makes it such a joy to experience.
That isn’t to minimize the dire events that provoke this somewhat introspective look at family relationships. Indeed, the “psychotic breaks” afflicting the Jedi and the public fallout that results create a genuinely frustrating and believable level of tension. Luke and Ben’s quest is equally fascinating allowing us to explore and learn about non-Jedi force users and examine alternative theories about the nature of the Force. In Omen we meet (for the first time face-to-face, as far as I know) the mysterious Ang-Tii monks and really get into some fascinating new force techniques that should really spice things up in the future. Adding into the tension is the introduction of a new group of Sith. While this might cause some to groan, Golden spends a significant amount of time fleshing out the culture of these new Sith and attempting to create people rather the just mustache-twirling villains. At attempt that is quite successful. Golden manages to create a compelling and fascinating Sith character that, at first, seems both likable and similar to many of the Jedi we seen. However, as her training progresses the reader gets to experience, to witness first hand, the gradual shift in character and action prompted by the Dark Side. It makes for some fascinating reading and I almost wish Golden had spent more time fleshing out this lost Sith colony.
Unfortunately that same sentiment could be expressed about almost all aspects of the novel. The audio version clocks in at just over 8 hours and the book version at brisk 272 pages. 272 pages divided amongst three plots (or 8 hours divided amongst three plots) makes for some quick reading/listening. Given that hardcovers are hovering real close to the $30 mark these days (and audiobooks even higher amazon has the audiobook on sale for just shy of $27) this might be a bit hard to swallow for some readers. Though I’m not unbiased don’t forget that you can always check your local library for one or both versions.
Last, but certainly not least, let me once again laud the audio production and, perhaps more importantly, the vocal skills of narrator Marc Thompson. Male, female, jedi, sith, human, non-human this man makes every character large and small into a unique and believable individual. There are a couple of standouts namely his Luke voice is dead-on perfect, while it isn’t quite Mark Hamil, it is as close as one could ever get and his Aang-Tii monk voice (they use a voice synthesizer) has a delightful 1950s sci-fi feel to it that reminded me vaguely of the robot from Lost In Space and called to mine the pulp roots of the Star Wars series. Marc Thompson is so good in fact that I’m not even going to contemplate reading any of these books as long as he is on board for the voice work. Stellar (or should I say astral) stuff!