Thursday, December 20, 2007

Review: Fury

Well, we're here with Book 7 of Legacy of the Force, and Allston's last entry into this particular saga. It's entitled Fury (ISBN: 9780345477569) a mass-market paperback clocking in at 356 pages. It's a book that starts shortly after the events of Denning's Inferno and as is usual with LotF novels takes place over the span of a few weeks. Its cover proudly displays a photoshopped version of Anakin Skywalker... oh wait... that's supposed to be Ben isn't it. I guess it's just another instance of Del Rey's unending reliance upon the prequels for their inspiration.

But that's enough of my pessimism concerning the state of the GFFA, let's look instead at the blurb for this book:

Fighting alongside the Corellian rebels, Han and Leia are locked in a war against their son Jacen, who grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. Nothing can stop Jacen's determination to bring peace with a glorious Galactic Alliance victory--whatever the price.

While Luke grieves the loss of his beloved wife and deals with his guilt over killing the wrong person in retaliation, Jaina, Jag, and Zekk hunt for the real assassin, unaware that the culprit commands Sith powers that can cloud their minds and misdirect their attacks--and even turn them back on themselves.

As Luke and Ben Skywalker struggle to find their places among the chaos, Jacen, shunned by friends and family, launches an invasion to rescue the only person still loyal to him. But with the battle raging on, and the galaxy growing more turbulent and riotous, there's no question that it is Jacen who is most wanted: dead or alive.
Now, we can look at my pessimism concerning this back cover blurb. First and foremost, this particular blurb does pique my interest. It worked well for the purpose of getting my interest, and also attracting it in such a way that I would be willing to purchase the book. What ails me about it is that post-reading, I'm trying to figure out what this blurb has to do with the book I had read. Odds an ends of the blurb look familiar to the story, yet the way that they're put together just doesn't read like the book.

The plot itself is the the standard fare for Star Wars novels in LotF. Basically, the plot is a number of loosely (if at all) connected story threads, all in service of the over-arching plot line. Which in some senses is a sad state of affairs for this novel. After all, it means that it just doesn't hold up as a stand alone book. Read in a vacuum, this book lacks an overarching plot to hold the characters to some grand task. To some extent this is something that has afflicted all the LotF novels, but none have been quite as bad as this one.

You have the usual mix of Star Wars characters here: Ben, Luke, Han, Leia, Jagged, Alema, Jaina, and Jacen. Then you also get a whole host of secondary characters, many of whom we've seen before. Yet, the joy here is that a lot of these secondaries, though we've seen before, are getting real, honest-to-goodness page time here. Seha, Wedge, Syal, and of course Kyle Katarn. In all truthfulness, it is these secondary characters who shine the most in Allston's novels. While he has a firm hand on the primary characters, I find myself most interested in the lesser knowns who he brings into play. After all, it's always great to see Kyle Katarn and Valin Horn--or any other Jedi that's not named Solo or Skywalker--swinging lightsabers. Even greater to see are characters like Syal in fighters or just interacting with the older characters.

All that aside, the character I liked the most here was Seha. You see her desire to do the right thing, to be a good Jedi, despite her past, and especially despite what she did in regards to Ben in a previous novel. Also, we get a decent amount of back story for her, explaining WHY she did the things she did. Out of all the younger Jedi introduced I think I like her the most. Oh wait, we've only seen her and Ben; the next youngest character is Valin, who happens to be nearly thirty. Poor Ben. He has no hopes of having a significant other unless someone gets on the ball and starts creating characters his age.

Anyhow, we also have Alema in this novel. Truthfully, I've long felt bad for Alema. She's never been given the time or attention from Luke that she should have gotten. In fact, she's been written off as Dark Side fodder since the death of her sister back during the NJO. An odd stance from Luke, when he never wrote off the twins when their brother died, and has no questions about Jaina's fealty to the Light even with Jacen's decent into the Dark. Maybe it's just Luke's attachment to his family, but personally, I think it was a bad characterization decision on Luke's part to not help her heal. Yet, that's standard behavior where Luke and the Jedi are concerned: if you can't overcome your own mental problems without specialized, psychiatric help, then you get what you deserve when you inevitably snap. Something of a self-fulfilling prophecy I fear.

Moving past the predestined Dark Jedi, we have the settings. Which I can admit to loving in this novel. The descriptions of the various settings (especially the abandoned Imperial facility and Kashyyk) are wonderful, filled both with mood and details. I wish I could paint pictures with words as easily as Mr. Allston makes it appear here.

Beyond the pretty pictures in my head, the book itself is physically well done. I don't remember any typos or grammatical errors. Even more important, I don't remember any continuity flubs being generated by this particular book. Which is increasingly rare within the context of Star Wars EU. Outside the obvious dependence upon AOTC Anakin, it is a perfectly decent cover, though I wonder how much could have been trimmed from the costs of the book if they hadn't used the foil and embossing for the Star Wars logo. Not that such savings would have been passed on to us consumers, of course.

As implied above, this book lacks a theme as much as a plot. That is due, in my opinion, upon the reliance upon the overarching LotF plot/theme. This is a pity, as Star Wars, at its most fundamental, is myth and morality play rolled into one. The various plots of Star Wars are firmly rooted in the concept of the Hero's Journey--with all the mythological and moral implications that implies. Yet, that is lacking here, and in the other LotF novels. While that lack of the fantastical, of the mythological, is not as pronounced as it was in the NJO it is still sorely missed; at least by this reviewer.

Ultimately though, I enjoyed the novel. I enjoyed reading it. That said, it was not a good book. It lacked an overall plot, and there was not a true journey which any of the protagonists went on. Sure two of them were different at the end of the novel than they were at the beginning. Yet those changes were from discussions rather than the events of the missing plot. Despite this being a good read, as I said, this was a bad novel; probably the worse that I have ever read from Allston's pen (or keyboard as the case may be). As a small portion of Legacy of the Force it worked fine, and once the whole story is laid bare, and is available to read from one Betrayal to Invincible, this book will be an integral part of the plot, and sorely missed if not there. The problem is that we are so close to the final conflicts of that overarching plot that its demands are getting pushed harder against the various authors. Which means we should probably expect a similar lack of plot in the novel over the next two LotF novels, because I definitely am.

The pessimist in me wants to take this time to point out that had each author not re-tread the same ground over and over again (read how many times Han disowned Jacen), then maybe the rush wouldn't be so pronounced as it is now.

The optimist in me wanted to take this moment to point out that we get a hint of Mandalorian activity here, amazingly enough, outside of a Traviss novel (while the pessimist pipes in that it's even less than a cameo, it's a box).

My dual natures aside, I enjoyed the read, but found the book lacking as a stand alone novel. As much as I like Allston's writing, as much as I had fun reading this book, the lack of a plot means that I have to give this novel a 1.9 out of 4.


Anonymous said...

I really need to start reading Fury, dangit.

Daph said...

The blurb really did have absolutely nothing to do with the book. Not unless you equate 'rescue' with 'kidnap'.

I love Allston's writing, but the plot was really quite jumbled- if you're going to have a million story threads, jumping from Syal to Dician to Luke to Caedus to Leia to Valin, you might expect a wee bit of confusion from the reader.

Another fangirl moment when Jaden Korr was mentioned. Many happy hours spent running around swinging twin lightsabers in that game :)

Stephen Wrighton said...

daph - aye, that blurb was highly inaccurate. As for Allston, while I too love his writing, and the fact that he includes this tertiary characters (such as Jaden & Syal), IMO this was not his best offering to the Star Wars mythos.

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