Star Wars

Star Wars
Property of George Lucas, LucasFilms Ltd.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The evolution of Star Wars

While reading "The Courtship of Princess Leia," (I'm not even 100 pages in yet, and enjoying the heck out it!), I've started wondering about the evolution of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Not of the books, or the movies (more like devolution with the new movies, I'd say...) but the actual universe itself. If normal science, physics, and laws of our own world apply - which they seem to, roughly - I feel like evolution would work the same way as well. So when Dave Wolverton wrote how a bar/casino in the underparts of Coruscant was built "90 thousand years ago," I started wondering if humans even existed as humans (the way we think of them) on Coruscant 90 thousand years before "Courtship" takes place. I'm sure it was an exaggeration, a way to illustrate how long it took to build the city-world into a city-world. But 90,000 years is a really long time, and I feel like some evolution of humanity and alien life would have taken place not just on this world, but on all the others as well. I'm pretty sure Cro-Magnon Man would not have been building bars, or anything more difficult than some sort of rough dwelling.

This all got me thinking about the timeline of the universe, the evolution of the alien and human worlds, and ultimately, how humans came to this universe. Is it really our own universe hundred of thousands of years from now (my secret, favorite theory)? Is this some far off galaxy - as George Lucas tells us - that humans were taken to and left to thrive? Or, the most likely idea of all, it's just a fictional universe where the main race is human and they don't evolve because that would ruin the story. These are deep and philosophical questions to Star Wars nerds such as myself.

I do think Coruscant was built over a very long period of time, however 90,000 years seems like a bit TOO long. Maybe there's a hard and fast timeline for this sort of thing now, but back in the day Wolverton must have had to make up his own numbers. I wish he would have given it a bit more thought than just plucking 90 thousand out of the air. Maybe have done some research to see where in the evolution chain humans were at on our planet 90,000 years ago and adjusted as needed. Just a quick google search turned up that 90,000 years ago, a homo sapien scientists call Y-chromosomal Adam existed. Basically, the first version of the modern day human. It's incredibly interesting, here is the wikipedia website: I doubt this version of human would have been able to build a bar on some distant world, but that's just me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Courtship of Princess Leia

I'm so torn about this book. I know Rose is super excited about it so I hope it lives up to her dreams. As she pointed out to me, there is a planet-full of bad-ass women so Dave Wolverton gets mad props for that. I'm a list-maker, so I'm going to make a couple to help me cope with my conflicting feelings and memories of this book ...

Things I Am Looking Forward To

1) "I am Dathomir, hear me ROAR!" In other words, I seem to remember this planet being amazing. Not only is it run by women but the planet itself is described in exquisite detail, if I remember correctly. The colors, landscapes, and animals (I remember one having blue hide, never mind the rancors!) stand out vividly in my memory.

2) "Strong am I with the Force" In other words, Wolverton really goes to town building the Jedi from what we'd seen so far as readers by the time the book was published (Luke, vague hints about Obi-wan and Yoda, and the shape the new Jedi order takes) into something that basically became a teaser for the huge body of expanded universe that makes up what we now know in grade detail about the Old Republic's Jedi. There are references to Jedi lore, a flying Jedi academy, and data about the history of the Jedi that extends "a thousand generations" or more before Luke's own training even began. It's great that Wolverton took the time to develop that, when he didn't necessarily need to.

Teneniel Djo
3) "All the single ladies!" In other words, planet full of women who are allowed to be good, evil, and everything in between. I don't remember Wolverton trying to make Teneniel Djo or any of the clan sisters especially good or noble or even especially ladylike. I do remember him giving them spirit and ambiguity and a strong sense of culture. I also remember them getting to be the truly scary of the bad guys - the Nightsisters are really terrifying ...

Things I am NOT Looking Forward To

1) "I am Luke Skywalker and I know it all!" I absolutely loathe the novels in which Luke is written like wise old hermit. He's twenty-five, only been a Jedi a few years ... dude doesn't have a clue! Wolverton has him a bit more on the holier-than-thou side in this, as I remember (although I may be remembering wrong ... we'll see) - I remember lectures to Isolder and Tenenial about morality, etc. It rubs me the wrong way because I'm a fan of Luke as the farmboy-turned-pilot-turned-reluctant-Jedi who is doing his best under very adverse conditions but doesn't really know what the hell he's doing.

2) "I am Han Solo and I drank the crazy juice this morning." My biggest headache with this book was the premise that Han would go crazy and kidnap Leia. Props to Wolverton for using this as a plot device to precipitate an adventure that is pretty cool but it also is absolutely not the Han Solo I know and love. In Return of the Jedi, Han is fully prepared to give Leia up because he thinks it will make her happy - he says of Luke, "When he gets back, I won't get in the way." While I realize that this probably also to do with the fact that he cares about Luke and wants to see both of them happy, it's also just who I think Han is. Desperation to keep Leia should lead him to investigate the Hapans - Prince Isolder, specifically - but not go insane and kidnap Leia. It's just - I don't know, it's beneath him.

3) "I am Leia Organa and I, too, partook of the crazy juice this morning." Leia spends most of this novel being pretty bad-ass herself but in the beginning when she gets all swoony over Isolder ... let's just say I throw up a little inside my mouth. She straightens herself out nicely when she hits Dathomir's atmosphere and suddenly remembers that she's not a simpering pawn of the New Republic. Again, it's a great plot device to get Han and Leia out the door and on their Dathomirian adventures but it's also frustrating to watch her swan around like a twit selling herself to the Hapans for their battle dragons (not sexy talk).

Anyway, welcome to my expectations and apprehensions. We'll see what Wolverton has in store for me.

Rose's Expectations
Let me preface this with a little something about me: I am a hopeless, HOPELESS, romantic. I see a chick flick (and I do watch a lot of them, sans Husband who is always grateful I don't force the gooey cheeze on him...) and sigh my way through it. I read books with romance (and some romance books), and enjoy every last minute of sappy, mindsucking, disgustingly vomitous romantic interactions. So this book, for me at 13 years old, was the ideal. It was Star Wars and romance TOGETHER IN ONE BOOK! With badass warrior women who ruled their planet and had the Force. What could be better?! Nothing, it turned out to my 13 year old self, nothing at all.

And so, my expectations for this book are that I will go into delights of joy while at the same time gagging on the corniness of the entirety of it all. And I also agree with Es that lots and lots and LOTS of crazy juice was ingested by ALL parties before embarking on this particular Star Wars adventure.

And with that, start up the hyperdrive and punch it Chewie!

Rogue Squabbling

It's over. Finally over. For the last two weeks or so, I've been slogging through X-Wing: Rogue Squadron and grousing all the way. I don't think it would have been so bad except the last book we read, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, was also not my favorite. Coming off two Star Wars letdowns, I'm definitely ready for one that I know I'll like. But more of that in our next post...

 This book infuriated me, as I have already posted. Its pacing had more stop and go than a Seattle traffic jam, and the characters, while interesting at points, popped in and out of the woodwork and seemed to change to fit the author's whims. For example, Corran Horn's wing-mate, Ooryl Qrygg, is prominent in the first half of the book, but then disappears after he's injured during one of the space battles Rogue Squadron participates in. What happened to him? I asked myself. He lost a limb, was given a non-functional prosthetic, participated in one pre-op meeting, and then was gone. Stackpole's set up seemed to be leading toward Ooryl becoming Corran's version of Chewbacca, at least that's what I got, but Corran hardly thought about him after Ooryl was pronounced recovered (though without a limb? Was he traumatized? Did he drop out of Rogue Squadron? Or did he fight to stay in? I suppose these questions will be answered in the second book. Maybe.)Ooryl had a lot of set up in the beginning of this book, and then just disappeared without a peep.

Stackpole also set up a love triangle between Corran, Erisi Dlarit, and Mirax Terrik. While I think love triangles can be a good plot device when used the right way, I felt this one was just tossed in to illustrate how "desirable" Corran was supposed to be. Not that Stackpole gave us any indication at all of this at first. And I kept forgetting who both of these characters were because they appeared so infrequently throughout the story. Until the end, when Mirax comes into more prominence. There's a brief (verbal) scuffle between Erisi and Mirax over who "gets" Corran which I found totally disgusting. Almost like the daydream of an author who imagined two women arguing over him. If Stackpole is going to create a threesome that involves two women fighting over a man (which I have never liked, personally, because no woman I have EVER known would actually do this...), he had best do it well. And this set up did not instill confidence in me.

The rest of the book has faded from my memory, with only fits and snatches standing out on my mind.  Most of it was boring interludes followed up by intense space battles followed by more boring interludes. I know this series is beloved by many Star Wars fans, and I can sort of see why, but I just wish it was more well written...

Esme's Input

Well, I was all prepared to defend X-wing: Rogue Squadron but unfortunately, now I can't. I was really prepared to defend it on the grounds that I just didn't think it was that bad - except that, as Rose so astutely pointed out above, it is. The comparison to Seattle traffic (the stop/go) really resonated with me, as did the disappearing/reappearing characters like Ooryl. If you're going to have an ensemble cast, you've got to make every character unique, consistent, and interesting. Perfect example: Bror Jace is set up as a rival to Corran but we only see them actually go head-to-head once. And Jace and Erisi are supposed to be rival Tyfferan bacta mogals (or, at least, their families are) except that we never see them actual behave contentiously. And, come on, if you're going to create a character as potentially awesome as Mirax Terrik, don't give her two pages of screen time and a rivalry with another woman over a man. There aren't enough women in the Star Wars universe to waste them this way!

What it boils down to for me is a total lack of the critical SHOW-DON'T-TELL component of wrting. There are plenty of allusions to rivalries, group dynamic, friendship, and romance but no actual substance to support them. I won't rehash what Rose laid out so effectively above - I'll only say that we're actually in complete agreement.

To that end, I'm changing my mind about a reading choice I made when we first outlined this reading project. I'm not going to continue to read the X-wing series. I have a feeling that my hopes for improvement probably won't lead to anything and I don't want to waste the time when I have so many other reading projects I want to get to.

Ro, any ideas about how I should fill my time while you're reading the Thrawn Trilogy? I'm open to suggestions ....