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.

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