Tuesday, September 11, 2012
"Just because there's no 'light side' doesn't mean there's no light"
I'm with Rose on this: Michael Stover's writing style is hard to sink into. I have a hard time with wordiness (using twenty words when five will do) and I don't like having things explained to me in a way that suggests I can't work them out for myself, using hefty and well-placed cues (for lessons on how to brilliantly weave these clues, refer to Timothy Zahn).
However, Stover did selectively win me in chapter 15 and an element of the epilogue.
One of Stover's strengths in this novel is his metaphysical exploration of the Force itself, through Luke's connection to the Melters. His training, up to this point, seems kind of like a abstract cluster of sayings about the Force: The Force surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together (Obi-wan Kenobi) and Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering (Yoda). These are beautiful and profound statements that resonate with Luke. However, they don't actually explain anything concrete. They're perspectives, not processes of practical understanding. What I love in chapter 15 is how Stover takes this fabulous baseline of broad ideas proposed by Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi (and Darth Vader, to an extent) and applies them to actual situations faced by beings with no connection to Jedi. The Melters don't conceptualize the way people do: "There had never been any malice in their attacks at all; they didn't even understand that their captives were dying - they were unclear on the whole concept of organic death" (Stover 291). Suddenly, both Yoda and Obi-wan's abstract statements carry weight and help Luke understand a whole other form of life, a form of life Stover describes as "a corporate entity that was also an array of individuals, nodes of consciousness in a larger network of mind ... [living] in fear of nothing" (Stover 290). The Force that Luke understands from one limited individual perspective suddenly carries massive weight as he understands how an entire race has access to it a completely different way. He can also understand how facets of the Dark Side (fear, anger, hatred, suffering) aren't always deliberate in their inception or application - the Melters are attacking humans "in self-defense ... struggling to survive" (Stover 291). Their "campaign against humans had been, to them, merely pest control" (Stover 292). Though violent and warlike in appearance, and very much Dark Side in nature, nothing about the purpose behind the actions is in any way linked to the deliberate cruelty, violence, or malice that a dark Jedi like Blackhole (a.k.a. Clonal) employs. Hence, Luke's awareness that there aren't "dark" sides and "light" sides - as he says, Yoda and Ben never called the Dark Side "the evil side or the death-and-destruction side" (Stover 294). As Luke realizes, the true darkness rests in never pushing beyond the fear, anger, aggression (the black hole) to what lies beyond it's power to destroy - endless light. To bring that back to the Melters, they behave like the bad guys but in failing to understand them (until chapter 15), Luke and, to a much greater extent, Han and Leia, exacerbate the Dark itself by not understanding its source. In seeking the light side, "[Luke] saw that the Force didn't shine on him. It shown through him. He was the light in the darkness" (Stover 294).
Stover's other strength is foreshadowing (and I quote): "And then there's Aeona Cantor [Luke says to Geptun]. She's not my love interest ... she's not my type. Too abrasive. And I don't like redheads" (366). Oh, this line (as Ro-ro knows so well) gave me so much happiness. I giggled. I admit it.
Ro here. Es did in fact hit the Rancor on the head in one way. I did not like this EU book at all. The writing rubbed me wrong, the representation of characters had me bristling, even the plot made me cringe. It definitely had redeeming qualities (thank god), but not enough for me to want to keep the book on my shelf. I did like the idea of holovids and holothrillers about our favorite Star Wars characters. Of course celebrities are going to have books and movies written and made about them! I think the fundamentals of human psyche don't change across galaxies: we want to know about our favorite heroes. And if that means fudging a story about them, we're more than willing to believe it as truth (otherwise, how would all those ragmags at the grocery store checkout stay in business...?) I'm glad I read this book, and I'm even more happy it's behind me. All I can do is giggle a little at the ridiculousness of it all and move on.