Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Review: Inferno

Legacy of the Force is the currently running nine-book series, detailing the continuing adventures of our beloved Star Warriors 40 years A New Hope. The newest novel released in this series is Troy Denning's Inferno. It's a mass-market paperback which clocked in at 289 pages, and then it contained an additional 10 page round-robin interview of the series three authors, and finally a twelve page preview of Fury. Though I must question if the $8US I spent on those 289 pages of story were really worth it. Additionally, this review was posted over at TheForce.Net/Books/Reviews earlier last week.

Regardless, we've got this as the back-page blurb:

Luke Skywalker wanted to unify the Jedi Order and bring peace to the universe. Instead his wife, Mara, lies dead at the hands of an unknown assassin, his wayward nephew Jacen has seized control of the Galactic Alliance, and the galaxy has exploded in all-out civil war.

With Luke consumed by grief, Jacen Solo works quickly to consolidate his power and jumpstart his plan to take over the Jedi. Convinced he's the only one who can save the galaxy, Jacen will do whatever it takes, even ambush his own parents.

With the rebel confederacy driving deep into the Core to attack Coruscant and the Jedi under siege, Luke must reassert his position. Only he can lead the Jedi through the crisis, but it means solving the toughest problem Luke's ever faced. Does he fight alongside his nephew Jacen, a tyrant who's taken over the GA, or does he join the rebels to smash the Galactic Alliance he helped create?

What I felt after reading it was "meh."

There is a fairly standard action-adventure plot here, nothing spectacular, but not total drivel either. Frankly, it feels less like a comprehensive plotline than it does a series of short action adventure stories that make up the novel. It tended to be more like smaller set pieces or events rather than an overall story. There was the post-Sacrifice aftermath event. There was the first battle, then the second, and so on. Basically, I guess my problem is that it felt more like an anthology of Troy Denning short stories set in a common time frame rather than an actual novel.

Settings tended to be exact places: the Jedi Temple, the Anakin Solo the Wookiee council chambers. We did not get any huge vistas of planetary descriptions nor did we really receive any descriptions of space battles. That's not to say that they didn't happen, but the only time we were in a starfighter cockpit was with Jaina, and she spent more time navel gazing than actually flying. The rest of the time, the space battles were from Jacen's POV as he watched from the Anakin Solo.

In essence the only non-Skywalkers in play were Troy Denning's pet characters of Alema Rar, Saba Sebatyne, Tarfang and Jae Juun. Of course, he introduced a new character in Major Salle Serpa, a slightly mentally disturbed subordinate of Jacen's in the Guard, who I found myself actually liking somewhat. Additionally, I could easily buy into how both Luke and Ben were acting (reacting?) in the aftermath of the previous novel. Yet, I stumbled slightly with Han and Leia, especially in how they thought of their son. The two characters that weren't Skywalkers or Denning-pets were Tahiri Veila and Tenel Ka.

I liked Tenel Ka here. She was strong and aloof when necessary, but had a definite streak of basically herself in the midst of the story's events. We got to see the girl behind the crown so to speak, and it was a very welcome respite from the ice-princess which has been her standard characterization for the past decade.

Tahiri I'm less than thrilled over. I can understand the reasons that she's doing everything, but I don't think I like it. This girl has been through so much, especially during the NJO time frame, and while I can admit to preferring her ending up with Anakin Solo, at this point in time, I'd much rather have her with a happy ending than what they're doing to her here. Let's make this clear, it has been nearly 15 years in-universe since Anakin's death—the girl should be over it by now. Instead, she's effectively the same thing as a crack-whore.

Now, onto my pet rant for shared universes, continuity. Overall there was nothing horridly wrong continuity wise. Yet, as they say, the devil's in the details. There were a number of little things, such as giving Tahiri brown eyes, or Lumiya having a box filled with kaibur crystals (if there were that many of the things, why in the world would Luke have spent all of Splinter of the Mind's Eye hunting through swamps for it?).

Out of all the interesting things we learn in this book, the one that amused me the most is that it is possible to change the past via flow-walking (read more about my thoughts on Flow Walking in Inferno here). The first dozen or so pages, reveal that now, the infamous "almost" kiss between Anakin and Tahiri no longer exists, as she did kiss Anakin, due to her older self's interference in the past. As I read those words, I could hear a dozen anti-Anakin Returners groaning at this disruption of what they viewed Flow-walking as being capable of doing.

In the end, I wasn't as thrilled with this novel as I was with Denning's previous book, Tempest, and it was definitely a much weaker offering than either Tatooine Ghost or Star by Star. It had the "Star Wars" feel in the space battles and the lightsabers, and read fine as space opera, but somehow it just did not click. Maybe it was the sense of oppression and depression which is a recurrent theme since Del Rey won the contract.

One good point for this book is that it is the first novel in this series where the prequels are not slapped upside our heads, multiple times, in the most obvious way possible as if we were nothing more than dumb readers, who shared a single brain cell. In fact, as I was writing this review, I was amazed by the fact that I didn't think, "Oh look, here's the required Prequel tie-in" at least once while reading. Of course, thinking back now, probably an entire third of the book can be construed as being related to a 5 minute scene from the prequels.

I just hope that Denning's third and the final installment of LotF comes out better than this. While I can't find any single thing wrong with the book, the whole thing just did not work for me. As always, I enjoyed Denning's writing, I enjoyed the action scenes, and I enjoyed how he handled the characters themselves, yet despite that, I just felt very blasé about the novel as a whole.

In the end, I have to award it a 1.8 out of 4, just because of that melancholic feeling I was left with at the end.

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