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.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin