The Fate of the Jedi series has ostensibly been a trilogy drawn out over nine books. Lacking forward momentum, and somewhat unfocused it never managed to unite all of its cohesive parts into a unified whole. At least not until the final volume Apocalypse. This isn’t quite enough to save this series and doesn’t make up for the haphazard mess the series was but at least makes for an exciting tale in its own right.
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!
The 7th and latest volume of the Fate of the Jedi saga, Conviction, is here. This time it’s Aaron Allston at the helm and this time…it’s more of the same. First off let me start by saying that whoever wrote the back copy for this book should be summarily fired. I’ve never read a description that tries its hardest to spoil everything that happens in the novel and is, in many regards, patently misleading. Seriously, absolutely terrible job on that part. Furthermore, I’m sure I’ve said it before, that the publishing schedule is all sorts of bizarre for this series. When the final volume is published in April of 2012 this series will have been running for just under three years. For comparison sake Jim Butcher has been known to release a new book every 6 months, by himself. Apparently three authors writing a single series eight books long requires 3 years of writing. If I’m not mistaken I do believe that Allston has had some health issues over this time but I still found that the stop and start publishing schedule is a serious detriment to the series (books 1 to 3 were released every other month followed by a six-month break then two more books every other month then another 6 month break, from there things are a bit more irregular). While I’ve certainly enjoyed aspects of the series so far what is even more distressing is lack of much progress made in resolving any of these storylines. The broad focus on the different aspects of the series has stalled developments to a point where I suspect that this was initially multiple series that have been condensed into a single narrative. If you’ve read any of the other volumes in this series the structure and themes of this book might feel familiar.
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
Troy Denning, read by Marc Thompson
Random House Audio (Lucasbooks/Del Rey), 2010
So whoever it is at Lucasbooks/Del Rey that decided it would be a great idea to mingle a little bit of cosmic and Lovecraftian horror into the Star Wars Universe (or horror in general given Death Troopers and the forthcoming Red Harvest) deserves some sort of award. I for one think it is a brilliant combination. That adherents to the Force pale in comparison to entities too horrible to fully comprehend adds a wonderful new flavor to the tried and true space adventure that defines Star Wars. While there is a real strong reaction amongst fans to this series (most reactions fall either towards love or hate with rarely anything in between) I will say that it decidedly different from previous arcs of the Star Wars Expanded Universe but that is most definitely a good thing. Talking about Vortex will necessitate some spoilers from previous volumes and at least one rather large twist from this volume. So, fair warning….
So the latest Star War series, Fate of the Jedi, features the following: explorations into the mysteries of the force, courtroom drama, political drama, romance, teenage infatuation, horrible abomination from beyond space and time, an indictment of slavery, family drama, and internal Jedi squabbles. The largest problem of this series has been rationalizing all of those disparate thematic elements into any kind of cohesive whole and it a problem that Vortex moves towards fixing; though it doesn’t quite get there. Of course as in past volumes, perhaps more so than before, each of these elements are fascinating in their own right.
Backlash (Aaron Allston) and Allies (Christie Golden)
March 2010 and May 2010 respectively
Read by Marc Thompson
The Fate of the Jedi arc rolls onward with Backlash as Luke and Ben are sidetracked from from their quest to follow Jacen’s footsteps after their encounter with Vistara Kai at Sinkhole Station in the Maw. Luke, using some force technique that involves tracking his own blood, follows Vistara to Dathomir. A brief interlude in which Leia and Han appear allows for some entertainment as the “Old Crew” (minus the droids) is back together again. The missing droids are left guarding Han and Leia’s granddaughter Alanna who has been left on her own while grandparents jaunt off into the jungle to help Luke. Awesome parenting there. Alanna and the droids, as is typical of recent Star Wars, serve as a diversion from the main plot of the story offering very little in service to Backlash’s plot or, in this instance, to overall story arc of the Fate of the Jedi.
Backlash is a case where all the things I’ve liked about this series so far work against the novel. It isn’t a bad book by any means and it does keep up the pace and tone of the political tension between the Jedi and Galactic Alliance on par with the rest of the series but the diversionary feel of the novel is hard to ignore. While characterization and tone are as top notch as usual the fact that this feels more like a side-trek then a natural evolution the various plotlines examined so far makes this, for me at least, the weakest novel so far in the series.
I still enjoyed the hell out of it though. There are some neat character moments and some gripping set pieces and Allston is extraordinarily adept at making Vistara into a charismatic and likeable figure managing to sow doubts about her feelings and motives despite her adept use of the Dark Side. Allston introduces Dyon Stadd a failed Jedi who has parlayed his abilities with the Force into a career as a negotiator between Dathomiri Tribes and merchant traders. I’m always a fan of alternative Force users and Dyon’s inclusion is nice touch given the novel’s lack of an in depth examination of non-Jedi Force Techniques.
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….
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.
It’s been a while since I’ve read, let alone listened, to a Star Wars novel. I think I stopped somewhere back around Vector Prime when I was generally frustrated with the direction of the current story. Turns out I’ve missed quite a bit. Most importantly is the recently finished Legacy of the Force series that deal primarily Jacen Solo’s reign as Darth Caedus and the war to unseat him from power. As such Outcast might have been easily called Aftermath (both titles are, in my opinion, equally applicable). All the events here deal with the repruscussion of Jacen’s actions as Darth Caedus and Luke Skywalker’s actions in defeating him (namely his decision to break the Jedi Order away from the Gallactic Alliance midwar and turn them into a more independent and neutral force). Confused yet? It isn’t too hard to follow and I found it fairly easy to slip into the post-war almost Nuremberg like atmosphere of the novel. So easy in fact that I almost didn’t want to stop listening.