Star Wars (FotJ): Abyss
Troy Denning, read by Marc Thompson
Random House Audio, 2009
I’m am really enjoying the entire Fate of the Jedi series perhaps even more then I enjoyed those first Star Wars I read way back in the 8th grade. I don’t know if 8th grade me would agree. He would likely balk at the idea of 70 year-old Han Solo raising his grand-daughter or a slightly younger Luke Skywalker on a state-enforced (i.e. exile) father/son road trip through the galaxy; I mean what kid wants to read about old people? Well, 26 year-old me is finding the more tangible weight of the Skywalker and Solo clans’ personal and political histories/legacies to provide a surprisingly enjoyable aspect of Star Wars fiction that I’m not certain was always present in the past.
Further more Fate of Jedi seems more willing to discuss the dichotomy and relationship between force sensitive individuals and the force blind; especially with how the latter perceive the former. The best part is that both sides manage to have valid points: the Jedi’s (especially the Solos/Skywalkers) constant and blatant subversion of law for their own needs is not necessarily congruent with the ideals they espouse while, at the same time, Daala’s opinions of the Sith-are-just-evil-Jedi-and-we-need-to-control-the-Jedi mentality is obviously wrong. Both sides are obstinate and seem unwilling to communicate in a meaningful way, a fact compounded by the Force-based psychosis that is plaguing the Jedi order and lending credence to Daala’s claims of the “Jedi Menace.” For the reader actions from both sides, with the growing threat slowly being uncovered by Luke and Ben Skywalker, casting the whole situation as an giant train wreck occurring in slow motion.
Of course Abyss expounds on that threat in two ways that further sold me on this series:
1.) It has tentacles.
2.) It is referred to as an Old One.
Lovecraft, welcome to a galaxy far far away….
The enigmatic creature, who appears to the Kesh based Sith, as a woman named Abeloth is found on a planet where everything seems to designed to kill things; a planet hidden on the opposite side of the maze of black holes known as the Maw. While at first appearing as a normal human of incredible beauty she is eventually revealed as tentacle fingered monstrosity with a over large mouth full of teeth whose goals remain shrouded in mystery but likely have something to do with her overpowering need for companionship and compounded by her near inviolable control of the Dark Side of the Force. There are further hints to her nature, and to the mystery of her sudden appearance, that can be divined over the course of the novel but are better left for discovery.
Abyss, like both Outcast and Omen, isn’t a fast-paced novel. It’s pace is slow and deliberate, and while one can argue that it could be called plodding, I for one am seriously enjoying the slow down in pace and the more stayed examination of thought and setting in place of outright action and adventure. Each novel has played out in a more episodic nature then past events and while answers have come in dribs and drabs over the course of three novels the series seems to be building a very slow crescendo and the conclusion leaves me wanting the next novel immediately, rather then being frustrated with a perceived lack of progress. I’ll say it: I love the slow reveal and think it is a bold move on the part of the Star Wars editorial staff. Three novels, by three authors have been more-or-less successfully woven into what feels like a cohesive whole and I can’t wait to get my hands on more.
I did say more or less though and Abyss, unlike Outcast and Omen, has some problems; mostly stemming from the Ben/Luke storyline. Outcast saw Luke and Ben pick up a new, electricity attracting force power, while Omen saw them use that newly acquired power to arrive at the next stop on sojourn and picked up another new, and totally awesome, Force techniques (two actually). However, none of these new Force techniques are ever used in Abyss. Perhaps the intent was to break a pattern that could easily have become rote but in the end it just resulted in a slight sense of disconnect from the previous two novels. It really is a small bit of quibbling as in both tone and pacing Abyss was right on par with either of the previous two novels.
Abyss might be slow but the novel’s final chapters are packed full of action as Luke and Ben desperately try to escape “Sinkhole Station.” For a few moments I even thought Luke might suffer from the old “Salvatore” treatment! Despite the gripping excitement towards the end I still prefer the more steady exploration of the mysteries of the Force, and growing threat to the Galaxy that have thus far been the hallmarks of the Fate of the Jedi series. Marc Thompson continues to impress with his performance in Abyss and fear the day he decides to put Star Wars behind him. I love his use of familiar real-world accents for some his alien species. As usual Random House has really nailed the audio production here with licensed music and the occasional ambient background noise that, when combined with Thompson’s stellar voice work, really brings the characters and settings to life. If you’re looking for a book to listen to on your daily commute, or during your workout routine I think Abyss will fit the bill quite nicely and leave you hungry for more Star Wars adventures.