Monday, December 25, 2006

Fete Week, Life Day and Singing Droids

Well, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Well, we have just finished our traditional viewing of the Holiday Special (much to the unending chagrin and dismay of my loved ones). It's a gentle reminder to one and all just what Star Wars is all about....

Anything BUT holidays.

There are three holidays utilized by the Star Warriors, and the first of those was Life Day. A Wookiee holiday, which seems to involve horrid singing and holographic adult entertainment (apparently, the shortened term for this is a "disallowed" word). But, hey, it was the seventies.

The second was Fete Week. A popular holiday on Coruscant - which during the height of Imperial power involved public executions of those convicted of treason and other "crimes against the Empire."

Nothing says holiday like shooting purported criminals!

Of course, neither of those are the truly disturbing thought of holidays. Neither of those is the most horrid Star Wars holiday tie-in. That singular honor is held by Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album. This wonderful bit of Star Wars memorabilia includes these gems of auditory delight:

1. Christmas In The Stars Listen
2. Bells, Bells, Bells Listen
3. The Odds Against Christmas Listen
4. What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas.... Listen
5. R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas Listen
6. Sleigh Ride Listen
7. Merry, Merry Christmas Listen
8. A Christmas Sighting ('Twas The Night Before...) Listen
9. The Meaning Of Christmas Listen

Ah...the joys of the late seventies, early eighties. Of course the music isn't horrid, and features the debut of a then eighteen year old Jon Bon Jovi. What is truly disturbing is the storyline which could be described as thus:

This album's story line takes place in a droid factory where the robots make toys year-round for Santa Claus. But they don't quite know what to make of Christmas until the comedy duo of droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, helps explain it all.
Yes, you read that right, this particular tidbit of commercial tie-in brings Santa Claus and Christmas into the GFFA!

Hooray for all-inclusive canonicity! This is one of those times when I wish I wasn't an EU completist.

Oh well, hear the songs, sing along, and have a Merry Christmas. The regularly scheduled Fete Week executions will be carried out next tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Review: Legacy of the Force - Tempest

I always enjoy Denning's writing; it tends to be clean & concise with a wonderful pace - as long as he's not writing large fleet battles (which are usually chaotic things that lead to confusion on the reader's part). That weakness aside, Tempest is a much better offering than Bloodlines. I know it's not exactly fair of me to compare two such different authors, but they are supposed to be writing a cohesive story here.

And so far, that is where LotF is failing the most. I've enjoyed two of the three books so far, yet even those two don't really flow together as a cohesive storyline - maybe it will be better by the end, and I can only hope that it is, but I can't help but think that DR/LFL would have been better served by commissioning three trilogies rather than a nine-book series.

With that said, Tempest still works, both as a stand alone novel and as an entry in LotF. It clears up a few of the more glaring issues which Bloodlines introduced and introduces surprisingly few of its own. In fact outside of the Chu'unthor issue (which Denning didn't introduce) there were none that I could remember after reading.

Of course there are stumbling blocks in the narrative, mainly Nashtah. She's used effectively and is characterized nicely, but I just don't see the point. Why introduce another bounty hunter when Traviss spent so long on the most widely known bounty hunter in the GFFA?

We have characters reintroduced into the story as well - and at least one that could easily be viewed as a resurrection, despite the "issues" which DR/LFL and Denning himself supposedly have about bringing characters back to life. And of course there's still no Anakin Solo - but at least he's actually mentioned, unlike in Bloodlines. And for the most part these reintroduced characters work well within the story - and play vital (if contrived) functions in service to the plot.

Of course, there is one major problem with the book. I can't seem to remember it. I've read the thing three times so far, and I still have to go back and thumb through the thing while I'm writing this review. It's obscene. With Bloodlines the stunningly bad characters and horrid continuity glitches allowed me to easily see what was wrong - and literally dreading a second reading for the review. On the flip side, in Path of Destruction, the vibrant characters and training sequences left me happily able to write a review after only one reading - and wanting to read it again. That said, I know at least one person who would describe "book amnesia" as the epitome of good storytelling: You read the story, it works well for you, and there's nothing so offensive that it interrupts that sense of joy you've got from reading.

My ramblings aside, I really did enjoy this book. The characters tended to stay in character, though Ben did come across as a bit more of an idiot here than he has in previous books - but that's okay because he's a thirteen year old idiot. The fight scenes are well wrought with the exception of the large fleet battle - and in Denning's defense it is insanely hard to write clear fleet battles on paper. They are best suited to visual mediums. Yet the battle itself isn't that bad; I knew what was going on, I just had a hard time visualizing it. Regardless, by now, you probably already know if you like Denning's writing or not and this is more of the same - my thoughts are that his writing would probably best be described as "cinematic."

All in all, I recommend this book and give it a 9 out of 10.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Jacen! Jacen! Jacen!

hen DelRey took over the franchise, Jacen shifted from his persona in YJK to hippie in the NJO. Of course, since I started reading late, and read the YJK after the NJO, I never realized just how startling that change was. In fact, I did not see that big of a difference between how he was portrayed in earlier books like the Corellian Trilogy and the NJO. Maybe because I read YJK after earlier Bantam novels and the NJO, but it was the humorless jokes, puns and the fact that he HAD friends which seemed out of place to me when I did read the YJK.

After all, we have Han's musings on Jacen in BFC(BTS):

In some ways Jacen Solo was like any seven-year-old boy. He liked building houses from a deck of sabacc cards, driving toy speeders through mud puddles, and playing with model spacecraft. The only problem, as Han saw it, was that Jacen wanted to do all of those things with his mind rather than his hands.So far, the ability to levitate even small objects had eluded Jacen. The E-wing and TIE fighter that dueled in the air above his bed were suspended by threads, not by thoughts. But knowing that it was possible was motivation enough for Han's elder son.
Still harder to accept was seeing Jacen always playing alone, with no friends outside the family and less interest all the time in playing with Jaina or Anakin. Han blamed the lack of friends on himself and Leia. The children had been whisked from one place to another, sent away with bodyguards and hidden away with nannies, all in the name of protecting them. In the process, they had been "protected" from having anything remotely like a normal childhood. And for all that, they had still been kidnapped by Hethrir, and nearly lost.
Jacen grew up, for all intents and purposes alone and frustrated in the Force. He knows it's possible to move things, but even at seven is unable to do this to Anakin who
Han would never forget the afternoon Anakin had an hourlong, Force-assisted tantrum. Every object in the playroom was shoved or thrown against the wall, leaving the youngster alone in the middle of a bare floor, kicking his heels and pounding his fists.
So not only is he frustrated at his inability to move things, he's shown up by his little brother who did it as a temper-tantrum. Then he and Jaina get to go to the Academy while Anakin is forced to wait behind "so their parents won't be lonely" and suddenly he has a number of friends there for him.

Of course one has to wonder if they were not really Jaina's friends and Jacen was just brought along for the ride, but that's another issue...

But back on topic, he suddenly has these friends surrounding him, one of which is a beautiful Dathomari girl with a penchant for wearing form-fitting, yet revealing, leather outfits as described in:
Tenel Ka dressed like other women from Dathomir, in a brief athletic outfit made from scarlet and emerald skins of native reptiles. The flexible, lightly armored tunic and shorts left her arms and legs bare. Despite her exposed skin
So not only is one of the new people around them, giving Jacen a chance at friends for effectively the first time, one is a warrior girl, who dresses in these outfits, which show off her legs. And of course Jacen being a red-blooded teenaged male cannot help but notice such things.

But his upbringing, as well as his earlier characterization of not wanting to socialize with others, leaves him floundering for HOW to act and react around her. He literally doesn't know what he's supposed to do, so he resorts to the jokes and puns as a way to cover this lack in his social skills and knowledge.

Of course, now we need to compare/contrast this to Anakin, especially since he is described as a loner-child as well. The key difference is the fact that Anakin is not so much a loner, as he is autistic (Leia's comment about Anakin dancing to a drum that no one else knows is playing or something similar). Yet he finds himself in the same situation when he goes to the academy. His first day there, the loner who doesn't talk finds himself paired up with the girl who won't shut up. Yet in keeping with his characterization, Anakin doesn't flounder around in his attempts to relate to her, but he instinctively behaves appropriately.

Anyways back on topic again, once Jacen becomes the apprentice to Master Skywalker then he no longer has to strive to impress the girl or hide his lack of social skills. At least until VP when he is shoved literally face-to-face with the equally beautiful Danni Quee
Leaving him feeling quite naked, and leaving him, as Danni likewise released her mask and cloaker, conscious of the fact that she was in a similar state, wearing no more than a tiny loose-fitting shift. Above that level of tension, Jacen noted that his companion's shoulders bobbed with quiet sobs.
But again his lack of social abilities rears its head, while this poor girl is in trauma over Miko and the ordeal she had just suffered, he's thinking about how cute she is and the fact that they're barely dressed in the close confines of the stylus ship.

but of great importance is that the boy is learning. After all a few weeks later on Dantooine he has this conversation with Danni:
"know, it's a step on the path to the dark side." She exhaled slowly, then moved up beside him on the rampart and stared out into the darkness. The firelight flashed gold from her hair. "They had me once, and I don't want to be their prisoner again. I couldn't stand it, I just couldn't."

"They don't make a good impression on their guests, do they?"

"No." She turned to look at him, half her face hidden in shadow. "I wish I could be brave like you. You joke about being a guest."

Still joking, but he's gotten better at it. He understands the necessary social skills better, and knows how to use the jokes which his lack of understanding and fears force upon him.

Of course Traitor shattered him, and I still don't think we have seen the full repercussions of that transformation. But I'm hopeful that LotF will delve into it some.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Review: Bloodlines

This is my first novel by Karen Traviss.

And the first thing I want to say is that she's a great writer. At least as far as characters go. She has a gift for different voices, and keeping each character that is in the book in the same 'voice' for the length of the novel.

Yet, in the same vein I think she's a horrid Star Wars writer. Or at least post-RotJ Star Wars. I've not read the Republic Commando books (as I viewed them as video game tie-ins and automatically ranked them alongside Ruins of Dantooine), so I can't honestly comment on her prequel work.

And while I loved the characters (even if they weren't IN-CHARACTER) I still was left with a sense of incompletion when reading this book. I then went and read it two more times, and each time that sense of nothing happening grew.

The first time I read through it, I thought it might have had something to do with scenery. While we visited a half-dozen planets they all felt the same to me. Coruscant is once again a teeming city-planet (forgetting the whole Vongforming thing), Corellia is a city, the other planets visited, all we get are streets and cantinas. Where's the differences? Where's the noting of a purple plant or maybe some giant lizard walking the street?

Yet upon later readings, I realized that the scenery wasn't what was disturbing me.

That's when I stumbled onto the plot. The plot itself trundles along happily, but I was left with the distinct impression that nothing happened here, and this is what fed my sense of incompletion. The story pushed forward the over arching needs to the entire series fine. Characters are advancing towards their fates with a sense of inevitability, and that's fine. But I still don't see what the exact purpose of this book was.

Sure we get a pseudo-dogfight, and a couple of commando missions. But I was still left with the feeling of nothing happening.

On my third read through, I wondered if it had to do with the utter stupidity (and out-of-characterness) of the characters, and the rather startling continuity flubs.

I mean, we have Luke, Mara, Corran and Kyle as Jedi who have quite often been involved in anti-terrorist activities, and are some of the best people in the galaxy at being where they're not wanted. Yet they balk at the idea of leading an anti-terrorism task force? Uhm, did they all forget that before they became high-an-mighty Jedi Masters that they were insurgents and assassins?

Then we have Ben at the end of the book, begging Jacen to teach him how to be invisible in the Force, yet the fact that Ben could become invisible in the Force was a rather large plot point of Mr. Denning's Dark Nest novels.

Sure, ultimately, I liked Ben and I hated Jacen. I sympathized with Boba and Han and wanted to smack Luke and Mara for how they're dealing with Jacen and Ben.

I liked the characters in terms of this single book.

But they weren't the characters I had read about in earlier books. This wasn't the same Jacen and Ben that were in Betrayal for example.

And then there were the issues with continuity itself. Ms. Traviss moved Centerpoint. She made X-Wings slower than Sputnik.

And what exactly happened to the rest of the planets in the Corellian system? I mean I know Boba Fett visited Drall, yet the storyline seems to forget that the entire system is reacting against the GFFA and not just Corellia itself.

And did they forget to formalize the political structure between the two novels?

Ultimately though, I think my discontent with this novel is a mixture of all three. While the book itself is a great book, it just isn't what I view as post-RotJ Star Wars EU.

In the late eighties and nineties, I was real big into comic books. During that time frame they would often switch creative teams on a book. Occasionally during these switches there would be a month or two between the incoming and outgoing creative teams. What the publisher would do is have fill-ins for those month or twos. While these stories were all right they didn't do anything. You could miss them and never even know.

That's what I felt with this book. That it's a fill-in to up the novel count for Legacy. That I could have missed it and never really have noticed that I missed it in terms of the over all story.

It was a good read, and I would probably have loved this book if it was standalone with Ms. Traviss' own characters. Yet, personally, I believe that it fails as a SW novel. I just hope that her next entry in the Legacy series comes off better.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Secret of Vergere!

"You each have the tools inside you to master yourselves, and to master the Force," the tranquil, confident voice said. "And to draw on the strength of the Force, you must learn to draw on what is strongest in you: strong emotions, deep desires, fear, aggression, hate, anger."
Do you know who said that? Do you know which book it came from?

How many of you thought Vergere and Traitor respectively?

How many of you know that that's wrong?

Vergere said very similar things. In Traitor it was:
"Light and dark are no more than nomenclature: words that describe how little we understand." She seemed to draw strength from his weakness, slowly managing to sit up. "What you call the dark side is the raw, unrestrained Force itself: you call the dark side what you find when you give yourself over wholly to the Force. To be a Jedi is to control your passion...but Jedi control limits your power. Greatness--true greatness of any kind--requires the surrender of control. Passion that is guided, not walled away. Leave your limits behind."
And Lumiya herself says that Vergere was a pseudo-Sith. Within fandom, it has become a relatively accepted concept that Vergere was a Sith. That her teachings were a stepping stone to the Dark Side for Jacen.

Personally, I think this is only half-right.

I don't think that Vergere was ever Sith. I don't think that she was anything BUT a regular, run-of-the-mill Jedi of the Old Republic.

What proof do I offer? Basically her actions and words in later NJO, most specifically Destiny's Way:
"A rage rose in me, an anger so complete that I almost attacked them then and there in the hope that I could obliterate them all from the face of the universe. Never had I been so close to surrendering to darkness."
While that does not make her not-dark, we also have to consider the simple fact that nothing she does is explicitly dark. Cruel? Painful? Most definitely. Misguided? Somewhat. But go read why she did it. Her reasons for pushing Jacen the way she did.

She wanted to bring Jacen to the same point that Luke reached while being electrocuted by the Emperor. To the point where he had to act not as a Jedi, not as the son of a former chief of state and most definitely not as the grandson of the Chosen One. She took him to the point where he had to act empathically as himself.

Of course, what Vergere did not, could not know, has to deal with the quote at the start of the blog entry, and why her teachings DID lead Jacen to the Sith and the Dark Side.

Just so everyone knows, the quote at top came from Brakiss in The Shadow Academy. You know, when Jacen, Jaina and Lowie were captured and taught to be Dark Jedi.

While I don't think what Vergere believed is truly Jedi teachings, I don't think she's that far off. Rather she's slightly misguided, after all she elevated herself to Mastery while being stuck in Yuuzhan Vong society. So of course she's going to be a bit misguided.

Yet nothing that she says, directly contradicts anything Luke was taught.

The same cannot be said about the lessons Jacen learned though. He and his actions in Dark Nest are definitely dark and getting darker. Topped with the story which Lumiya spinned for him about our favorite Jedi-fried Chicken, it's no wonder he went Sith.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Centering Centerpoint

There are a lot of problems in the last installment to the Star Wars EU. Bloodlines was my first novel from Karen Traviss, and while she does have a decent grasp of writing, it doesn't read like Star Wars.

But all that aside, this is about Centerpoint. A spacestation which is described as having a circumference of 350 kilometers and a length of 1000 kilometers. And even more interesting is the fact that it is described in Showdown at Centerpoint as:

The enemy could have hidden a whole fleet of Star Destroyer-type warships in there, and a whole army of stormtroopers.
I just want to put into perspective just how freaking big Centerpoint is. This is a construct that makes the first Death Star look like a small stone.

Now, everyone knows that Centerpoint plays a big role in Legacy of the Force, and I have two distinct questions involving it. One involves Anakin and the other involves just its status in general.

First the general stuff. My biggest question regarding Centerpoint and Bloodlines is just how big does Ms. Traviss think Centerpoint is? After all, this is a construct used as a self-sustaining settlement at one point in time, yet she believes that a blockade would have an affect upon it. What is even more amazing is that this is the same blockade used against Corellia and its shipyards/orbital factories. So how exactly did it move from the lagrangian point between Talus and Tralus?

Of course this sudden movement on the part of Centerpoint is just a minor symptom of the entire ignoring the other four life sustaining planets which are part of the Corellian System in Bloodlines. It was as if the author decided that she didn't need the other four planets, so she moved Centerpoint to an orbit around Corellia (also ignoring the effects such a move would cause to Corellia itself due to a new construct in orbit which is larger than a moon) and just dropped Selonia, Drall and the twin worlds.

My other question about Centerpoint, is just how did they get it activated?

My thoughts come into play based on discussion found in Jedi Eclipse:
And this is where you and you alone figure in the scheme, Anakin, because many of the scientists are con vinced that the system still bears the imprint you imparted to the repulsor here on Drall, and that such a network can be brought into synchronization only by you." Ebrihim reinforced it. "Eight years ago you were responsible for disabling Centerpoint. Now you may be the only person who can successfully rehabilitate it."
We have canon material stating (and backed up by the action found in the text) that only Anakin Solo can bring Centerpoint online for a defensive/offensive capability.

That begs the question: "Just where does the Ani-bot come from?"

I mean, how was it created? The medical data needed to produce it should not be available any more after the conquering of the world where the son of the Chief of State would have received all medical checkups. And while, a copy of Anakin's medical records may have been on Yavin, they didn't have time to retrieve those records either.

And even then, would more esoteric biometeric data such as Anakin's aura be recorded?

No, there are definite issues on just how the Ani-bot was created.

Why Ani-bot was used rather than Anakin Solo himself? That is easily answered, in the animosity between Thrackan and Anakin.

I still don't believe that Anakin is dead, as his 'death' scene has enough holes in it to drive a truck through (much the way that Alema's did and look how that turned out Mr. No Resurrections).

So the big question here would be how would Thrackan have gotten his hands on Anakin? Well, we know that the Vong used the Peace Brigade to transports slaves and prisoners. And we know just who was the leader of the Peace Brigade when Ylesia fell.

As you can see, I have some definite issues with Centerpoint's role in Legacy of the Force. Yet we're not provided any clear answers just yet. I just hope that whatever happens to our cast of Star Warriors in Tempest which means that they can't produce the DP for Exile ultimately involves Anakin Solo.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Anakin Solo and the Hero's Journey

A discussion about Anakin Solo and heroes in the SW EU has things going on in me head, things about hero's, villains and how they apply to Jacen and Anakin specifically in the context of post-SBS SW fiction.

Consider, DR has dumped Jaina into obscurity, and Ben is not developed enough to carry the franchise on his own. So that leaves us with Jacen, but he has become the villain.

Which leaves SW a fantasy series without a leading hero. Of course we have the Big 3 and all those other supporting characters, but they've aged so. They're getting on in the years, to the point where it has become something which Han contemplates a lot in DN3.

And thinking of heroes led me to consider the Hero's Journey. And let's really look at it. (Summary of Steps)

The journey is built into 3 stages

  1. Departure
  2. Initiation
  3. Return

Now the first stage, The Departure, is split into the following sections:
  1. The call: Anakin going to Yavin and meeting Tahiri
  2. Refusal of the Call: His issues with his power, due to his heritage
  3. Supernatural Aid: The finding of Ikrit
  4. First Threshold: Lyric's World
  5. Belly of the Whale: End of JJK/YJK
The second stage, The Initiation, has these steps:
  • Road of Trials: Early NJO.
  • Temptress: Mara?
  • Meeting with the Goddess: Conquest/Tahiri
  • Atonement with the Father: That whole Han hates me subplot...
  • Apotheosis And now the fun one. Apotheosis, death, deification. Anakin was the FORCE in SbS. He pulled so much to him that he was able to reconnect with beings who had been stripped of it. and then he 'died'
  • The boon He understands the Force, he has connected to it in such a way that he can FEEL the Vong. While it may not be the 'ultimate' boon, it is the boon he had been searching for since his actions on Yavin during Conquest...
So where does the Hero go from here? He has the Goddess and the Temptress, he has the boon (knowledge of the Force) and he has died.

The Hero now has to return.

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