Thursday, February 22, 2007

NJO Hero: Anakin or Jacen?

Today's topic came about because of a discussion over at TF.N's Literature forum. One of the users over there pointed out that Jacen tends to be at the climax of the major hardcovers and often one of the more important POVs during the climax of the novels - which is important in the overall concept that Jacen is the NJO's hero and that the 'main' story is told in the hardcovers with the paperbacks being filler material.

Ultimately, he broke it down thus:

Klimt_Of_Tornesdal posted:

Vector Prime: Jacen is the one to go in and rescue Danni Quee
Balance Point: Jacen rescues Leia and defeats the war master of the Yuzzahn Vong.
Star By Star: Jacen is the one to hunt down and kill the voxyn queen.
Frankly, this is true. Jacen is the one to go in and rescue Danni. Jacen does rescue Leia and lays the smack down on Tsavong Lah. And Jacen is the one to ultimately kill the voxyn queen. The climaxes of all the hardcovers are told through Jacen's point of view. He is a very important character in that regard.

But above and beyond that, the hardcovers are a reflection on Anakin and his relationship with others.
Vector Prime: Anakin relating to his father and Jacen
Balance Point: Anakin relating to his Aunt/Uncle
Star by Star: Anakin relating to the YJK
Likewise, all the novels after SbS are reflections of the characters as they darken...which can be tied back to Anakin's "going."

So while Jacen may be a POV character of the climaxes - the story themselves all point towards Anakin. Then even above and beyond that, you do have Anakin doing things during the climax of each of the novels:
Vector Prime: Anakin comes up with the idea to stop the Praetorite Vong.
Balance Point: Anakin was the last NR Force to leave the Duros System, fighting until the last moment to keep the planet out of YV hands.
Star by Star: Anakin sacrifices himself to keep Jaina from getting killed, and then, grievously injured, runs out to destroy the voxyn tissue samples, connecting with the Yuuzhan Vong through the Force in the process.
While the powers that be at Del Rey/LFL, may have wanted Jacen to be the ultimate hero of the NJO - frankly, in the end he isn't. He can't be. Sure, he changes in the course of the overarching storyline, but it's not a change for the better - which the hero would have to go through (i.e. from farmboy to Jedi or smuggler to reluctant hero).

No, Anakin, even though they may have tried to NOT write him as the hero, is the hero of the NJO. He is the one who constantly stood up against the YV, saying time and time again, that just because they are not in the Force, and are neither light nor dark, that the Jedi are bound by their calling to protect people, to fight against the YV. A statement echoed by Luke only after his discussions with the Chicken.

He fought the Vong, not just for those he cared for, but for everyone. While Jacen, the only reason he stepped out of his self-imposed Force exile was to save his mother.

Also one cannot forget that good/evil, light/dark, hero/villain in the SW universe is tied intimately to the Force. That is why the YV were so alien (i.e. why they were a Star Trek race), it was because they were without the Force. They could not be felt and depending on the writer they could not be affected by the Force (which is an essay for another day).

At the end of the NJO, Jacen, with the help of Sekot, dealt with the problem of the Vong's Force presence with what was at best basically a metaphysical band-aid, and at worst a cheap parlor-trick (which is oddly appropriate in light of who Jacen's father is).

Most importantly, is that Anakin was able to reconcile the YV to the Force. Even above and beyond his thoughts and findings during the Edge of Victory duology, what he accomplishes at the end of SbS is finding the YV in the Force. Whether you read that as him reconciling himself to the YV or the YV to the Force is irrelevant. What is relevant is the simple fact that he found them in the Force. Not as a static-filled presence. Not by shutting down his own Force perceptions and using some Vong-sense.

But clearly, well-defined and full-blown, he felt them in the Force.

Which is kind of hard to reconcile with the whole "Sekot stripped them from the Force" thing.

Frankly, I don't think the NJO storyline was ever finished. After all, the main story wasn't the galactic invasion - it was the aliens which lacked the Force (as Star Wars is not sci-fi war fiction, but mystical fantasy set in space). And until that has been resolved, the major story, the point if you will, of the NJO is not finished. It's just bandaged, and bandaged poorly ignoring an interesting plot point from a previous major story.

So to recap, while DR/LFL may have wanted Jacen to be the hero, Jacen as represented is not a heroic character. This is brought to life the most poignantly by Keye's novels where we are given an incredibly heroic, albeit brash, naive and somewhat reckless, character to root for as the hero. Anakin throughout the first half of the NJO shows consistently the short comings of Jacen as a heroic character. And then after Traitor, it's even worse, as we're given an anti-hero that we are supposed to root for. While anti-heroes have their place, as the main star of a Star Wars series, that's not really it.

And IMO, that is why a lot of fans have issues with the NJO. Not the stories themselves or the Vong. But the fact that DR/LFL provided us a clear hero, one that we liked, one that we liked to root for, one that filled what the fans viewed as a Star Wars Hero, and then took that away and pointed towards Jacen - a character that is as far from the Star Wars Hero archetype as you can get - and demanded that he is the hero of the NJO.

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