I finally finished listening to the penultimate volume in the Fate of the Jedi series, Ascension by Christie Golden. On the whole the story and pacing feels about even with the rest of the series. How you taken that statement is entirely dependent on how you’ve felt about the series to date. Ascension isn’t going to win people already against the series over and, in many aspect, it might drive some who were on the fence away. I think the larger problems with Ascension, and with the entire Fate of the Jedi series, rests squarely on the shoulders of the editorial team. From the start I have been baffled by the release schedule and the seeming lack of progress volume to volume on many of the plot points. There are moments over the series, and particularly in Ascension, where the whole narrative threatens to come apart at the seams.
Be warned, BIG spoilers abound!
Ascension features a rather strong opening. In fact, probably the strongest opening in the whole series. We get a fully Sith perspective with some fascinating insights and a detailed look at the culture of the Lost Tribe. Indeed, their interactions with Abeloth provide welcome non-Jedi perspective and Lord Vol (the big Sith muckity-muck) manages to strike as big a blow to the squamous dark side entity as any that Luke has. Unfortunately it is after this wonderful and exciting opening that the rest of the book loses focus and falls apart. Jedi bumble around the galaxy, Daala continues to be non-nonsensical, and the Galactic Alliance continues to prove itself a hopelessly ineffective and wonderfully stupid governing body.
If you plan on reading this novel you should stop reading now as I’m going to delve into major spoiler territory.
So the Sith have infiltrated Coruscant. So has Abeloth. Of course the former doesn’t recognize the latter. The telegraphing of this maneuver is fairly obvious as it happens and Abeloth, in her confrontation with the Sith in charge of the infiltration could not have been more obvious as to who she was. As her alter ego she professes a desperate need to be loved and worshiped by the people of the Galactic Alliance, given what Lord Vol learned at the start of the novel this should have set off major alarm bells. Sure one could argue that the blindness is indicative of Sith arrogance but it really comes off as rather stupid and somewhat unbelievable.
Furthermore the less said about the Jedi searching abandoned Sith strongholds looking for Abeloth the better. I mean why bother trying to convince Vistara to give up the location of Kesh; you know that completely not abandoned Sith stronghold. Meanwhile, as if Sith and ancient Dark Side entities weren’t enough, there is that whole plot to overthrow the Galactic Alliance thing that is totally transformed into a plot to take over the Imperial Remnant. Throw in a totally random and extraneous plot about Moff’ creating some kind of youth serum and the narrative really starts to struggle under the weight of its many appendages. The less said about Daala the better I don’t even understand how she can still find supporters is beyond me.
I won’t lie I really like the idea of Abeloth. I love her Lovecraftian overtones and her mysterious origins. I loved the early parts of the series where Luke and Ben were exploring the deeper mysteries of the Force. I loved Han and Leia’s encounter with Ancient technologies on Kessel. I have been less fond of the novel’s political sections. The dual threats of the Lost Tribe and Abeloth due little to help another and seem to do more damage to one another. I enjoyed the trippy scenes “Beyond Shadows” and miss the more fantastical elements of the series. Those things have all but disappeared. At this point I don’t even know if Ben and Luke succeeded on their initial quest (to determine how Jacen went bad) and that whole Alanna will be Queen of the Jedi angle has completely disappeared here.
At this point I think I’m mostly anxious to see this series end. I think the editorial staff needs to be shaken up and I think a more focused planned for future series needs to be enacted. In truth there are a lot more problems with this series than I’ve commented on and Fangirl does a heck of a better job in detailing the troublesome depiction of female characters in the series both in her review of Ascension and in this lengthy manifesto/open letter. Truth be told there are only two reasons I’m even remotely excited about Apocalypse (which comes out in April 2012….seriously WTF?) the promise (or vague hint of a promise) to answers regarding Abeloth and the dulcet tones of Marc Thompson (and the wonderful audio production of the team at Random House Audio). Seriously, whatever Marc Thompson asks for he should be given the men is a genius and I seriously cannot imagine anyone else reading these audiobooks.