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.

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