Star Wars

Star Wars
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Darksaber, Underwhelming Superweapon of the Stars

Darksaber by K.J. Anderson
Esme's thoughts ...

Despite my pessimistic choice of subject heading, I want to spend at least part of our last Darksaber post discussing the merits of the book. I know, I surprised myself, too! But however irritating I find KJA, however frustrating I find his books, the fact remains that he really has contributed tremendously to the Star Wars EU: he brought us Admiral Daala (scary insane, but still a woman leading a military force), Kyp Durron and the concept of the Jedi Academy, adventures featuring the original trio, and an comprehensive examination of the growth of the New Republic and the slow dissolution of the Empire. He also brought back Pellaeon and managed to keep him more or less in-character.

I have to admit that I'm also very grateful to KJA for his treatment of Callista. I got very attached her during Children of the Jedi and Darksaber and was excited when she took off on her own odyssey. I appreciated that she wasn't willing to piggy-back off Luke's Jedi abilities, nor put herself or anyone else at risk by relying on her access to the Dark Side for her power. She's clearly a woman of tremendous personal character, independence, and courage. I'm surprised because I know back in the day, when people were devouring these books as they were published (as in, no one knew what was going to happen until the next EU book came out - SUSPENSE!), a lot of people really hate Callista. I can appreciate why - I know a lot of other fans thought she was a threat to Mara and, let's face it, even if you're not interested in a Mara/Luke relationship, when Callista arrives, Mara basically vanishes off the face of the galaxy. But, as I said after CotJ, I'm delighted to discover for myself that Callista is actually an awesome and worthy first love for Luke. And, ultimately, makes a decision for both their sakes that is right.

General Crix Madine
In addition to Callista, I enjoyed KJA's Crix Madine side story (although I got irritated very quickly with KJA insisting on calling him "Crix Madine" the whole time, as opposed to choosing either his first or last name and sticking with that. Madine appears once in the movies and barely appears in any of the other books. I liked KJA's development of his Empire-era persona as a devotee of Palpatine's military who deserts, leaving his entire life behind for the Rebel Alliance. General Bel Iblis has a similar story except that he doesn't really have a choice - Palpatine destroys his home and family, so of course he's going to defect. But Madine has everything going for him and makes the choice to give it up, which seems to me to be a lot more difficult, as choices go. I thought KJA's construction of Madine was really interesting and compelling.

I'll leave my positive response to Darksaber here because, honestly, I'm out now. If I see another giant superweapon that looks suspiciously like the Death Star or is, in fact, another Death Star, I may go crazy. Time to move on ... to BHambly, YES!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Dark Side ... of writing

This is the Dark Side, KJA!! Don't listen!
Ro and I recently agreed that we're actually more invested in "Darksaber" than we were in any of the other KJA books we've read so far. We're pretty sure it's because there's genuinely interesting plot happening here. KJA chose to do yet another superweapon novel but he also chose some very interesting villains. Good for him! It's neat that he's using Hutts (so random!) and giving Admiral Daala such an interesting and persuasive agenda. Also interesting how ruthless she remains - she goes around killing on a daily basis! The Emperor really missed out when he didn't recruit more jilted and maniacal women into his officer core. Imagine the might of an empire with Admiral Daala, Roganda Ismaren, and Mara Jade running things. RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

All that said, why can't KJA write a decent paragraph to save his life?? And/Or why couldn't LucasFilms/Bantam Spectra find a good editor to work with him??

I'm not a grammar freak - no, really! But when I read, I don't want to be reminded that I'm reading. There are all kinds of ways of accomplishing this immersion: solid character points-of-view that really get you inside a character's thoughts and perspective, effortless wording (in both description and dialogue) that feels as though it were easy to write, humorous and lively phrases and expressions and clever word play that makes me want to share it with everyone I know. I'm not saying it's easy - but when you're writing professionally, I think it's safe to set the readability bar high.

I'm still trying to get to the heart of what bothers me about KJA's writing (and "bothers" is not a strong enough word, clearly!) so I thought I'd find a paragraph that irritates me and try rewriting it. Maybe then I can get to the roots of my irritation and put specific explanations to them ... or not, we'll see ^_^

KJA's Paragraph

"Daala felt her nerves taut like high-tension wires running through her body. She kept her expression impassive, but adrenaline coursed through her as she strapped herself into her chair. Everything had gone remarkably well. The conquest had been devastating and bloody, but she had taken out selected targets 0 the appropriate victims - and the Empire's harvest grew stronger and richer with each weed she plucked. Se felt elated when she thought of the momentum of her triumph.

Pellaeon raised his eyebrow in question, but she didn't respond. The risk had paid off for her. She would always remain on guard, but for the moment the danger was over. Now she had to work on consolidating her power."
--Darksaber, p. 154

Esme's Issues

To begin with, get rid of descriptive verbs like "Daala felt" - right away I feel like the author's telling me something about Daala instead of Daala's perspective telling it for me. Same goes for the past-perfect ("had paid off," "had been devastating," etc). Not only is there a removal from Daala's point-of-view but sentences like "The conquest had been devastating and bloody" is a gross generalization that sort of takes the subtlety and cleverness of Daala's consolidation of power for granted. In fact, there's a really neat sentence in here that's getting buried under the poor craftsmanship of all the others: "...the Empire's harvest grew stronger and richer with each weed she plucked." How cool is that imagery! It sounds exactly like something that a grand tactician like Daala would think! And that's what this paragraph needs - more of Daala's fabulous and terrifying character.

With all this in mind, here's one way I think an editor could tackle this:

Even Imperial troopers have children who need PBS...
Esme's Edit

"Daala's nerves sang like high-tension wires. She strapped herself into her chair, schooling her expression into an impassive scowl as she considered the last few weeks of her campaign. Though devastating and bloody, she had eliminated selected targets - the appropriate victims - and the Empire's harvest grew stronger and richer with each weed she plucked. She smiled grimly at the momentum of her triumph - all went according to plan.

Out of the corner of her eye, Daala caught Pellaeon's raised eyebrow. She ignored it. The risks continued to pay off. Her guard remained up but, for the present, the danger was over. It was time to consolidate power. For the glory of her Empire."

There are any number of ways to improve this paragraph (and many others like it in the novel) - I just wish someone (read: THE EDITOR) had because this novel has so much potential for awesome!!

Winter the friend... Winter the spy... Winter the scoundrel... Winter the babysitter?

Winter Celchu has quickly become my favorite non-movie character during this rereading/blogging project.As a kid I didn't really pay her a lot of attention. She was Leia's childhood friend who later went on to become a babysitter for the princess. This was how I understood it as a kid. If I hadn't read Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn last year, I would have probably continued in thinking that Winter was nothing more than a glorified child-wrangler.

She is not, however, and I find myself majorly disliking Leia for turning Winter into a maid and babysitter. Who does that to a childhood friend that one considers a sister? I suppose when the twins and Anakin were being protected from the Empire on their secret asteroid, Winter was the right person to have there guarding them. But since that point, all we ever see of her (and the Solo children...) is a quick "Oh, hi Winter. There are the twins. And Anakin. Knock yourself out while we go save the galaxy."

In fact, Winter played a key role in the Rebellion before the New Republic was ever formed. She has a photographic memory and remembers everything she sees and hears. With these abilities, she was a formidable spy working for the Rebels. You wouldn't know it though unless you'd read Scoundrels, in which TZahn introduces a lot of her back story. She was actually adopted by Bail Organa when her father, an aide to Senator Organa, died. She went to work for the Rebellion about the same time Leia did. But because of her unique talent she went almost immediately into subterfuge and information gathering. And then graduates, later in life, to babysitting the twins and Anakin. I wonder why she decided to agree to that. Winter is the sort of character that does only what she wants. I wish authors had devoted a little more page space to developing Winter further because she's one of the most interesting, intriguing characters in the canon.

One last wondering to leave you with: what if Winter's ability to remember everything she sees and hears is based in the Force? Wouldn't that be interesting?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Darksaber... are we ready for Kevin J. Anderson again?

Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson
Ro reporting for blogposting duty! Moving directly on from Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly, we zoom straight into Kevin J. Anderson's Darksaber. After the rousing success that was CotJ, I think Es and I are both slightly concerned that Darksaber won't hold much bantha milk. KJAnderson has disappointed us in the past with his almost-but-not-quite-there antics in the Jedi Academy trilogy. Maybe Darksaber will be different. I really  hope so, but I'm not holding my breath.

I know I have not read Darksaber before. I purchased a copy from the bookstore I work at ages ago in preparation for reading it. I looked it up on Wookiepedia, as I don't have the book with me right now. Apparently, the Hutts are making an appearance. Durga the Hutt and his buddies want to make another super weapon. Luke and Han find out when they travel back to Tatooine so Luke can try to make contact with Obi-Wan Kenobi. The weapon would involved the Death Star superlaser and the Hutts are calling it Darksaber. Hence the title of the book one supposes. At this point, Luke and Callista are continuing work on rebuilding the Jedi Order, and I assume Luke wants to contact Obi-Wan to talk with him about training future Jedi. And, sadly, Admiral Daala does show her Imperial face again.
It's funny because the Obi-Wan gets dead.

I was actually looking forward to Darksaber until I read the following on Wookiepedia: "Although it was not as successful as the Jedi Academy trilogy, Darksaber peaked at number three on the New York Times Bestseller list. Nevertheless, fans in consider it it to be one of the worst Star Wars novels ever, giving it a 5.97 average rating."

We-ell, I suppose that tells me all I need to know. Here's hoping the Star Wars fans got it wrong...

Esme's Two Cents

It could be a trap ...
I obviously love Star Wars fans - and am one myself. However, they can be a biased and unreasonable
bunch, for reasons ranging from "ship" (as in, character relationship) disagreements to irrational claims that if you love Star Wars, you can't love Star Trek (I'm sorry, what?). So, like Ro, I'm holding out hope.

Interestingly enough, gave CotJ 3.5/4 stars (not too shabby) but actually gave Darksaber 4/4 - so either these guys have a real bias or this book is decent. I hope very much for the latter. After struggling through the Jedi Academy trilogy, I have, shall we say, a few concerns.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see ....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And We (Finally) Have a Winner: Barbara Hambly! Girl power!

Child of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly
Esme's Take
Yes, folks, it's true! After a number of disappointing reads (though, admittedly, the disappointments gives us loads to discuss), we've finally found a winner. And, just to make it extra special, the author's a woman. Obviously, there are loads of incredible sci-fi/fantasy writers who are women: Andre Norton, Ursula LeGuin, and ... okay, so maybe there aren't as many as I thought. But I think, even among her incredible, though not perhaps numerous, contemporaries, BHambly stands out.

Also, am I alone in thinking Han looks completely insane and sketchy in this otherwise beautiful cover art?

Ginger Spice - couldn't resist, she's
the queen of Girl Power ^_^
Where to start? Well, to begin with, I actually quite like Callista. I know, it was a shock to me, too! Not only did I like her, but I discovered I have a lot of respect for BHambly's handling of female characters in general, which is no easy thing in sci-fi. From Leia to Cray to Roganda, BHambly is clearly a pro at characterization - these are well-rounded, powerful women! Roganda Ismaren has taken a battered and humiliating background and twisted it into advantage and power. Sure, she's evil, but unlike the negligible Admiral Daala, Roganda is believable, even sympathetic. I'm not keen on her harsh use of her son in her schemes, but then, he's a man, too, and Roganda has clearly been used and abused too much to care who she uses and how. Actually, I think she makes a nice foil for Mara - both were Emperor's Hands and both turned their ill-usage to their advantage. They did so in very different ways, but still. Looking at Cray and Callista, there's a very similar feeling I have about their character development. Everything about Callista's character paints her as a successful and powerful Jedi, someone who sacrifices who she is and who she loves in order to do her duty. In that way, she's a lot like Luke, although unlike Luke, she's able to continue to sacrifice herself in favor of saving the world.

Which brings me to the very interesting situation we're left with at the end of the book. Up until Cray chooses to sacrifice her body to Callista, Callista has been by-the-book Jedi. It was so interesting to me that she chose to inhabit Cray's body to be with Luke and interesting the sacrifice she paid for that choice. It's also pretty clear that she's not sure how she feels about the decision not to simply join the Force and have the peace of death after a short lifetime's unwavering loyalty to her service. I like that her decision, though at first blush uncharacteristic, does actually make some sense to me. The choice is a hard one and, given that it's clear she wasn't expecting it until the last minute when Cray offered, it was a big risk to take. In short, I find her to be an incredibly easy character to understand and sympathize with.
Just because ... teehee

It's interesting, actually, because my own bias against her was always based dually on my love of the idea
that Mara was destined to be the love of Luke's life and the fandom's hatred of her (seriously? So much fan fiction lays the hate on her). I was never brave enough to actually read about her and give her a chance. I'm so glad I have now read about her and given her - indeed, given BHambly - a chance. BHambly was worth it, Callista was worth it, and I can't wait to continue reading about the little corner of the Star Wars EU BHambly created. I know how it ends, I know what happens, but I feel like I'm reading all this with open eyes and that I can finally, at least, truly enjoy and appreciate the Callista trilogy.

Ro's input: I spent the better part of a Saturday about a week and a half ago dedicated completely to this book. I think I hardly stopped to make tea or toast (my favorite reading munchies, I'm very hobbity that way...). This book had all the compelling agents in it that most phenomenal books have: plot, characters, and good writing. The fact that it starred some of my favorite Star Wars characters just made it that much sweeter.

I did not have the same anxieties as Es going into this book. I went into it the way I've gone into almost every one of our books, with as open a mind as I could (Michael Stackpole notwithstanding). As a child I never formed any ideas either way about characters, Callista vs. Mara, etc. I just cared that the EU books removed me from my own frustrating and sometimes painful reality of terrifying surgery after scary test after frustrating doctor's appointment. I was attached to the Star Wars universe in an entirely different way than Es, but it meant a lot to both of us regardless.

The entire time I read Children of the Jedi, I kept getting glimpses of nostalgia. I know I read this book as a kid, but I remembered only small snapshots of it. It was an incredible feeling, being able to read a book for the second time, but really having it seem like the first. I wish I could do this with other books like Harry Potter and the Divergent trilogy and the Abhorsen trilogy. But I can't leave those books alone for more than a few years, let alone a decade - which is apparently at least how long the forgetting process takes. I can't wait to continue with BHambly, but I suppose we must go through a Kevin J. Anderson book to get there first. So...

...bring on Darksaber!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back on track with BHambly!

Callista Ming nee. Malasa
As I, Esme, mentioned previously, I had serious reservations about "Children of the Jedi" when I was a kid - reservations which, I hoped, to put aside during my rereading. Ro and I are about halfway through the book (okay, I admit, I'm actually about three-quarters of the way now) and I don't think either of us could have anticipated our reactions.

Which is that it is AWESOME!

One of the great things about this novel is how it truly unfolds. There's real mystery and real sense of each character traveling all over the place and collecting evidence of what's unfolding around them. I like that Han, Leia, and Luke all seem to have their own arch in "Children," their own journey. They begin in one place and end up running all over the place, pushing themselves to their physical and emotional limits in true odyssey fashion.

I also appreciate that, in allowing each of our favorite trio to undertake their own journey, BHambly also fully immerses herself in each of their points of view in a very convincing way. I get a true sense of Leia as a struggling mother, a trainee Jedi frustrated by the limits of her power, a Chief of State burdened by the duty she feel compelled to undertake. Han's character once again feels like he's towing a fine line between the respectable and the roguish as he undergoes his journey and looks into his past as he encounters his old friend, Drub McKumb, and talks to Mara Jade, who moves (as a smuggler) in similar circles. And I've never been so physically exhausted reading about Jedi! Wowza - just when Luke can't damage himself any further, his already-broken leg is set on fire! I exaggerate but the extent to which he undergoes physical and emotional suffering in this book is pretty astounding - and very compelling.

The Eye of Palpatine
There's a whole lot to say on the subject of Callista as well and how differently I feel about her now than I did when I was a kid. I'll save that for the final "Children" post.

I'm feeling back on track with this project in a way I haven't felt since we first ventured in TZahn's trilogy. Not only am I reading a raging, insatiable pace, but I'm also excited about our project again. Who knew the book I was dreading reading would be the one I'd get most involved in. This has been, so far, my favorite outside of TZahn's series. So weird.

Ro here. I never had any reservations about "Children," whether as a child or an adult. I love Mara Jade, sure, but I never worshiped her the way Es did and does. So I was sort of ambivalent about Callista. I was happy when Luke and Mara got married, but as many of us know, one has to have a first love and it's rare when that first love becomes the ONLY love.

Anyway, I am also enjoying the HECK out of "Children!" I was a bit confused and put off by not knowing who Nicos and Cray were at first, but after a chapter or two, I was able to look past my confusion and fall into the story. Es is right. This book is SO GOOD. I absolutely love BHambly's world building ability. I'm actually understanding and seeing landscapes and aliens. Not just rough ideas of them either, but full blown details. It doesn't feel heavy with details, but perfectly balanced with narrative and character building. I'm still around the halfway mark, so that's kind of what I've got to add right now. I'm sure I'll have more once I've finished. I can't wait to get back to my book and it's nearly a physical effort to pull myself out of it!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Children of the Jedi (or, We're Awake, We're Awake!)

Sorry, Master, we're sorry!
This long hiatus is entirely on Esme (who is writing now). Her cross-country move, job, dance, etc. all piled up into a big bundle of excuses that interfered with our awesome project. RoRo has been the queen of patience and good humor about this and now, at long last, we're back!

Reading "Children of the Jedi" is going to be an interesting and likely humorous experience for me, Esme, for several reasons. When I first discovered Star Wars, and then Star Wars novels and the EU, I fell completely in love with Mara Jade (which I may have mentioned before ^_^). I loved her power, her struggle, her open-book character. And I knew, the moment I'd finished "The Last Command," that she was going to be with Luke Skywalker. I'm convinced that there's no one with a more romantic spirit than a ten-year-old girl and I was positive Mara and Luke were destined.

Children of the Jedi
Then I met Callista. If there's no truer romantic than a ten-year-old girl, there's certainly none more fatalistic. Before even reading "Children of the Jedi," I was heartbroken. I couldn't figure out whose stupid idea it was that Mara be Luke's "friend" and Callista be his one true love. Powerless to stop it, I seethed and moped and refused to read any of the novels except to check for scenes featuring Mara. I didn't know it at the time, but part of my general dissatisfaction with those other novels was that Mara wasn't being written all that well. TZahn created the perfect character; I don't mean Mara herself was perfect by any means. I mean that Mara's perfect in terms of her dimension: she perfectly balanced, with flaws and strengths constantly tipping and causing growth. She goes from abused child assassin to independent woman in TZahn's first trilogy but does so in such a natural way. On top of that, she refuses to follow conventional expectation and become a Jedi. Most authors who aren't TZahn have been hopeless at capturing this in any way. The only one I can remember coming even close is Roger McBride Allen of Corellian Trilogy fame and I'll have to decide upon reread whether or not I still think so.

Enough about my beloved Mara. The point in even bringing her up is that I'm a bit older now and I think it's about time I apologized to poor Callista and gave her a chance to play her part in a galaxy far, far away. The next three books are her shining debut and story arc.

So, Callista, I'm sorry I was a jerk to you. I no longer find you threatening (and not just because I know you're only temporary in Luke's life) and I wish you all the best. Thanks for helping to people the Star Wars universe.

Off we go!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I, Jedi

Are we ready for more MAStackpole?

Ro here, and we're moving right along from the fun disaster that is the Jedi Academy trilogy to I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole. This is not one that I read as a child. Mostly because it didn't actually feature any of the main characters from the movies. I did pick this book up fairly early on, right after it came out in paperback I think. But I bought it without reading the description. It had a picture of Luke and Artoo on the cover for goshdarnsakes!! After I figured out it wasn't actually about either of them (or any of the other main characters I knew and loved) I put it back among my other, very well loved Star Wars novels and didn't give it another thought. After the frustration with the Rogue Squadron series, I can't say I'm stupendously excited to read more of Michael A. Stackpole. But I'm giving it a go. Because it's Star Wars. And Es and I promised to do this together. And maybe it'll be good. Even without the main characters I know and love...

Esme's Two Cents: I remember my friend Kate loving Stackpole as a kid. She was a huge fan of Mirax Horn (nee Terrik) for a lot of the same reasons I'm a huge fan of Mara Jade: sassy, independent business woman. My hope with I, Jedi was that I would be won over by the Mirax/Corran romance. I don't remember making it that far into this one as a kid but I do remember that Mara's in it, and that's always a huge selling point with me.

The kind of iJedi I much prefer...
Ro's Predictions for I, Jedi

1.) Someone major dies, but the main character moves on quickly.
2.) There's lots of action.
3.) Lots of women squabble over Corran Horn.
4.) That's all I got, so let's do this thing!

Esme's Predictions for I, Jedi

1) Mara will turn up and be awesome! Possibly alongside Mirax as a kind of spy/businesswomen badass duet.
2) The writing will be hard to read but the interesting plotline will make it bearable.
3) A lot of women squabble over The Horn (total copycat move - sorry, Ro ^_^).
4) The mystery will not, as such, baffle me til the very end. I kind of expect to have it solved by then

UPDATE 4/28/13: Well, this book was short lived for both Es and I. We've decided to put it down and replace it with the Dark Empire trilogy instead. This will be an interesting experience I think, the Dark Empire books being the first Star Wars graphic novels we've read for our blog project. In it, a clone of the Emperor threatens the galaxy with terrible weapons called World Devastators, and Luke finally gives into hate and anger and goes to the Dark Side.

Luke Skywalker giving in to the Dark Side.
We'll be putting up a post dedicated specifically to Dark Empire very soon, so let's get back to why I, Jedi just didn't work out. As I wrote above a week ago, I already had reservations about Stackpole's ability to write anything resembling a good book after our experience with the Rogue Squadron series. Of which, granted, we did only read the first book. But one was enough, and clearly that goes for all Stackpole books. I was only able to get through 65 pages of I, Jedi. I'm not sure how far Es got, but I'm pretty sure it was farther than that, for which I applaud her. This was not an easy book to stay with, even for just 65 pages. After that amount of time, all I knew was that Corran Horn's wife was missing, she couldn't be located using the Force (Luke Skywalker makes a cameo to inform us of this, and of Corran's impressive, latent Jedi power), and Corran is worried. After 65 pages. Oh, and that Corran has startling green eyes. This part really irked me. So far, I, Jedi is the only Star Wars book we've read that's in the first person. A bit unusual, but it could be done if the book was written really well. However, this was not. And that point was proven in the first 20 pages when Corran describes his own "startling green eyes" in the narrative twice. As silly and ridiculous as it sounds getting angry over something as insignificant as eye color, this really bothered me. A good writer would figure out how to show or describe eye color in the first person some other way. And other than his "startling green eyes," we don't actually know what the rest of Corran looks like, except at one point he's encouraged to grow a beard and change his hair color. From what to what, I don't know.

The above rant over a character's description is only one part of the frustration of Stackpole's writing, but I think it's pretty descriptive of this writer's inability to focus on the bigger picture of what's going on outside of Corran Horn and his green eyes. Stackpole seems so focused on Corran, he can't give us any more plot than the very basic "Corran decides he wants to have kids (a major stresser between Corran and Mirax before the book starts), finds out his wife is missing, and agonizes about it" plot line. In 65 pages (out of a more than 500 page book), I was sort of hoping for more. But as usual, Stackpole did not deliver, and Es and I have decided to move on to much more interesting EU stories. Sorry Mr. Stackpole, we didn't mean to slam you so hard. But really, after two very frustrating tries, I think I'm personally done with you.

Esme's Two Cents: My issues with Stackpole kind of dovetail with my issues with KJA. I need a narration that isn't overshadowed by the author's voice. I need characters who talk like actual people, not like flowery, over-dramatic caricatures.

In short, I need Zahn!

In other news, cannot wait for this book!!!!
No, but seriously, after having the same experience with two authors in a row, I'm wondering how many more of these books we'll have to wade through before we find the quality of writing that will bring our beloved characters back to life. Will Barbara Hambly, Vonda McIntire, or Kristine Katherine Rusch (huh, lots of WOMEN coming up all of a sudden) be the answer to our desperate pleas? We did both enjoy
Kathy Tyers ...

Well, here's hopin'! Now on to Dark Empire!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oh ... come on, really?

I'm pretty sure Ro and I are on the same page at this point when it comes to the Jedi Academy Trilogy so
"I've Sithed my pants. My diaper's gone over to the
Dark Side. I've got pages of these, I could go on..."
I'm gonna go ahead and explore the "oh, dear" that is Kevin J. Anderson's series.

As Ro put it when she texted me last week, this series is compulsively readable. It's terrible but you just have to know how it ends. For me, it's like really bad chocolate. I know it's bad, I know I'll get a tummy ache, but I can't stop eating it!

To begin with, there's the totally ambiguous narrator. Throughout the series, Anderson's own voice is all over the narration, divulging information that the character whose POV it's supposed to be has no way of knowing. The fluidity of POV makes the author's voice that much more jarring. The easiest place to see this bleed is any time we're supposedly getting Jacen and Jaina's POV. The kids are two - they're not going to know that an evil Sith spirit has hurt their uncle; they're not going to know that they're in the city's lower levels; and they'r certainly not going to know that a ragged bunch of lower-city dwellers are actually Old Republic political exiles. But during the narration, all these facts are shared with the reader. I find this completely shakes me out of the story because I'm so busy thinking, "There's a mysterious god-like voice telling me things. It doesn't fit into the story anywhere. Why can't I get some POV from an actual character?" I never got to be deeply involved with a character because there was so much authorial voice interfering with my immersion in the story.

Another problem I had with the series was that I never really bought into the scenarios so they lacked impact. I mean, Admiral Daala goes nuts and destroys things. I get that she's emotionally scarred but she was also clever enough to get the attention of Grand Moff Tarkin. Someone that clever should have a much better idea of the importance of strategy. And she's been sitting around the Maw tirelessly maintaining her forces for eleven years - someone that patient should, logically, be more cautious with her forces. She's just ... kind of pointless.

Also ... Ro, did you notice how Admiral Daala bears a striking resemblance to Mara Jade? Red hair, green eyes, fiery traumatized-by-the-Empire spirit ... could we have been a bit more creative with physical features? This time around, I also noticed that Tionne, with her "silver-white hair," "willowy form," and memory for historical events seems an awful like like, oh, I don't know, Winter? Now I realize that TZahn is a tough act to follow but it's not that hard to come up with dramatic physical features that don't mimic his characters. Couldn't Daala have had - oh, to pick some features at random - raven-black hair and violet eyes? Tionne could have been non-human.

I want to say something - anything! - positive about this series. To be honest, though, I ended up skim-reading a lot of it. Given that I was still able to follow the plot without a problem, I clearly didn't miss much in doing so.

Very ready to move on. Give me hope, "I, Jedi" ....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jedi Academy Trilogy: Do I still love KJA??

In Japanese! Admiral Daala is a cheerleader?
I belonged to the Kevin J. Anderson fan club when I was a kid. No, I mean literally. There was a fan club. I got special postcards sent to "Tessa Elizabeth Williams" (these were the days before I loved my first name as-is and had no proper middle name so I made up my own).

To be honest, I was a fan because of the Young Jedi Knights. Having reread them as an adult, I can say with certainty that they feel very, very different. On the one hand, I'm like, "Yikes!" On the other, I gave them to a very challenging student of mine last year who gobbled them up (up to the point where there was romance - then he got upset and demanded to know why I would give him a kissing book).

From "Darth Vader and Son" - everyone should own this book!

My hope is that I won't have the same adult reaction the the Jedi Academy Trilogy that I did last year to Young Jedi Knights. I hope that Luke doesn't seem like a moralizing and pedantic moron (my favorite Luke is the Farmboy, not the Jedi Master). I hope that I love Kyp Durron as much as I did then (mmm, there's trouble!). I hope that Mara's spontaneous arrivals and departures are as exciting to me now as they were when I was younger ("Look, look, it's Mara! Look, there she is!").

Fingers crossed! Let's get this party started, Yavin IV!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tatooine's Ghost: or What Episode 1 Should Have Been

Who doesn't want a bantha plushie?!
 Having finished "Tatooine's Ghost" about two weeks ago, I've had time to process it. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It was fun, fast paced, quirky, and romantic, all the things that make up a good Star Wars novel for me. But the part I loved most was that we see more of Anakin Skywalker's mother, Shmi. Through an audio diary, we hear her story after Anakin leaves, that of a mother torn between relief that her son is no longer a slave and worry that he's all right in the big, wide universe. I LOVE details like this! I wanted these journal entries to be Episode 1, instead of the horrific disaster that Lucas put forth. These parts of the story were my favorite, and I drank them up as slowly as I could to savor them.

Shmi Skywalker, definitely a devoted mother.
I also loved how Troy Denning helps Leia come to terms, at least a little, with the fact that Darth Vader, or actually Anakin Skywalker, was her father. And was once an innocent child who loved his mother, his friends, and working with machines. Not to mention the fastest human podracer ever! (I love Han's reaction to this information - total disbelief. Clearly keeping with Han's if-I-didn't-see-it-it-must-not-have-existed/happened personality.) It's hard to think of evil people as innocent children once. To learn that they had parents who loved them and cared for them (not always, sometimes it's the lack of parents that leads the child down the path to evil...). But in this case I really enjoyed reading about Leia's confused feelings as she discovers more about her grandmother and her father. Who wouldn't be confused, trying to tally Darth Vader with the beloved Anakin Skywalker? More than anything, this is what I wanted out of Episode 1. Which of course we fans didn't get. But Denning does an incredible job of writing his own version.

Kitster - so cute! He figures prominantly in "Tatooine's Ghost."
Es's Two-Cents
This novel didn't really get a fair read from me, I'll be honest and fair to it. About halfway through reading it, I had some serious stuff happen and it completely put me off reading of any sort for several weeks. By the time I got back to the book, I'd forgotten parts of it so I'm sure I don't have as clear an idea as I should about what happened (for example, did Leia and Han discover Leia was pregnant during the novels? The twins' conception during the Tatooine trip is implied - and hey, Han almost died, no judgment!- but I missed it completely if there was a big discover buried in there). Ro here: there was no implication. But lots of romance... Ooooo lala!

Having said that, I did enjoy it and look forward to more of Denning's good writing in the future. I liked that he put a bit of an adult spin on the characters that Zahn sometimes shies from (yes, Han and Leia are married, sexy business is happening) but I like how he doesn't turn their relationship into a soap opera-esque dramas-ville scenario either. It's incidental and helps the plot progress so it works.

I agree with you, Ro, the plot was quirky, fun, and fast-paced. My only real complaint was that this novel also didn't get as fair a reading from me because, having just finished "Scoundrels," which really is a heist novel, I couldn't help but compare the two.

Still, the mystery was well-derived and I liked that added weight that Shadowcast's network of spies added to the importance of the painting. In that vein, Denning also did a masterful job of implying the existence of Grand Admiral Thrawn without ever saying his name or, I believe, his rank. That was really clever.

Overall, good job, Mr. Denning!

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Ode to Wookiepedia

Smug Bothans...
Throughout this whole rereading/blogging experience, I've found myself logging on and looking Star Wars stuff up on Wookiepedia. Something I obviously didn't do as a kid (oh the joys and powers of imagination *cue Willy Wonka's Pure Imagination*). It's actually been extremely helpful as far as visualizing non-movie characters, places and objects. The wiki is helping to fill in gaps that my still limber, but not pure, imagination (go away Willy Wonka!) is struggling to concoct. I looked up the Bothans to see what they look like because, while mentioned in Return of the Jedi, we never actually see any Bothans. And they feature prominently in the Thrawn trilogy.

Sexy Squibs?
Not only does the wiki for Star Wars have drawings, pictures, and other visual aids for both movie and non-movie people, places, and things, they have details and histories that are super fascinating and add so much more depth to the books Es and I are currently reading. For example, in Tatooine's Ghost (which we're currently reading) there are aliens called Squibs (yeah, the Harry Potter Star Wars crossover is not lost on us...). They're described as small, furry, hyperactive, and very sketchy as far as loyalties lie. But what do they look like? The sketch here shows them as sort of ElfQuest (bonus points to people who know what I'm talking about!) catlike aliens. Funny story, I totally pictured them looking like one of our cats. Anyway, I was able to go to Wookiepedia and do a search to find out what they look like. And so, this is my non-rhyming, not-even-written-like-a-poem Ode to Wookiepedia. I look forward to looking up many more interesting creatures, aliens, tech, and planets on the nerdiest of wikis!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tatooine Ghost

This cover makes me want to visit Tatooine - that's a first!
Onward, upward! Or, as Han would say, "I have a bad feeling about this..."

Wait, what?

It's not that I don't think it will be interesting - everything I've read (all right, the flap copy, but still!) suggests that it's going to be an awesome new adventure. But I think part of what worries me is that it's new. This isn't a reread; it's a brand-new adventure by a brand-new author. Help!

When Ro and I started putting together our booklist, we negotiated and discussed which books we wanted to include. I had a couple of reasons for fighting for this one. First of all, it's a weird place in the series for a new book to be. A lot of the new stuff is post-Zahn trilogy, during the original trilogy, or pre-episode one. This one takes place right after the Thrawn trilogy and before ....

OMG. Ro!! I've screwed us up! This is what happens when I get cocky (right, Han? Right?).

So I've just had another look at the official Star Wars Novel Timeline (which apparently I didn't bother to read before). Turns out Tatooine Ghost comes right before the Thrawn trilogy.

The Official Star Wars novel chronological timeline - worth a read ^_^


Ro, I'm so sorry! But since this is a problem that begs to be discussed, please post your thoughts about whether or not to continue with this novel or not below....

Ro's Input: Eh, no worries! I say let's read it! Mostly because I've already started it. And it's a new Star Wars book for me also. So we just have to remember to backtrack every time we wonder why there are no twins present, and why Mara Jade isn't swinging out of nowhere trying to slice Luke's head off. (As if that ever actually happened... heehee.) Plus I'm curious about Troy Denning and what he has to bring to the mix. So I say, let's go for it! I have almost no expectations for this book, and only expect to be entertained. Do we think Mr. Denning will be another Timothy Zahn. Of course not. But it'll still be a fun read! (I feel sort of bad for all of the other Star Wars authors, being held up to Timothy Zahn's brilliance. It's really not fair... But he set the bar so high!!).

Es's Input:

In that case, onward and upward!

The Thrawn Trilogy: how it rocked our early development

I love mash ups! Especially sci-fi ones.
Ro's Input

Here we are, months after starting the Thrawn trilogy. Exhausted from the space battles. Overwhelmed by the machinations. Thrilled with the triumphs. And most of all, remembering what made this trilogy so special when we were kids. At least, that's how I'm feeling. As I reread this trilogy, which I've done several times before, I focused on all the reasons I loved it the first time I read it. Like sitting in Es's basement, smelling the wood burning in the wood stove, eating chocolate chips, and talking about Mara, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie. What the twins would be like when they grew up. The treachery of the Bothans, and what the heck were they hiding in Mount Tantiss and why were they so scared of the New Republic finding it anyway? Hours and hours and hours outside in my back woods or Es's, playing Star Wars like we were a part of the universe. More than anything, this is what these books mean to me. They mean forming a friendship. They mean playing games in a vibrant imaginary universe. They mean childhood at its best. They also mean so much more than that because these are the books that Es and I formed our friendship with. Once we were done reading them, it was clear (to me anyway) we would be life long friends. We lost touch a few times, but always seemed to find each other in the end. Maybe it's the real version of the Force. Maybe it's just Fate. Or coincidence. It doesn't matter, actually. All that matters is that Es and I are friends. And this trilogy was the catalyst that got us to this point.

Es's Note: Ahhhhh!!!!!! Also, truuuuue!!!!!!!
Ahem, let the cheese flow. It must be the Valentine's vibes in the air... Right, let's get down to the hard core evaluation. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Timothy Zahn fan and practically worship everything he's ever written. It's hard to find fault with his work. As an author, he's able to draw his readers into the story with tendrils and promises and mystery. His well-formed characters (and of course, the most amazing non-movie character ever, Mara Jade!) guide us through the story, and all of the twists and turns that Zahn sets up for them to trip over. I'm not going to analyze the books too much because to me, they are a reminder of so much more (though being well-written does not hurt at all). I'll leave the analyzing up to Es, who is so much better at it than I am anyway. I leave you, dear reader, with all the warm-fuzzy feels of childhood and turn it over to Es...

Es's Input

What can I possibly add to that? I've spent the last two years burried up to my nose in literary criticism so that's been foremost on my mind during the reading process (as is, I think, evidenced by my need to actually cite my work - who does that in a blog????). But Ro has really brought up the most important thing: our friendship began with this particular series. We read, we talked, and after what was frankly the rockiest start to a friendship that any two friends could possibly have, we found common ground and, what's more, that we both needed the friendship. Like Ro said, maybe that's the real nature of the Force. We were always going to be life-long friends - it's our destiny ^_^

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: "Scoundrels" by Timothy Zahn


If you haven't read Scoundrels in its entirety, don't ruin it for yourself by reading any further into this post. You've been warned.


I know how it feels to have a novel spoiled for you (as does any reader who was grew up during the Harry Potter Era - it probably happened to you at least once). So, let the warning stand.

Having said that, what?? Boba Fett??? Or, as Han would say, "Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where?"

One of my favorite things about Zahn is that I never do figure out exactly what his scheme is until he's ready for me to. Part of it is that I'm clueless - I hate solving a plot before I'm supposed to so I'm very good at ignoring clues. Or rather, I don't work hard at it because I love the suspense and surprise. What I do love is that Zahn allows me to start suspecting people right out of the gate and so I can start cataloging them right away. I thought I'd do a few character profiles of character types I see often in his work (because characters are my favorite thing about Zahn!)...

Zahn's Team

The Suspect: Dozer
Literally the only thing Dozer has going for him is that you see his POV fairly early on. But it's clear that he's not super happy with either Lando's takeover as the Front Man or the fact that the rest of the group doesn't entirely seem to trust him. Although, after his botched attempt to spontaneously grab the cryodex (to be fair, he DID get to it before the whole thing was upended by the Imperials' shinanigans), who can blame the rest of the team for thinking, as Winter says, "You're INSANE!" No, he's not the mole in the group but Zahn sure sets him up as a likely candidate.

Bink and Tavia Kitik
The Wild Cards: Rachelle and Bink (aka Team Sassypants McTalented)
Until her conversation with Winter about Tavia, it's hard to tell if Bink's going to be the straw that brakes the heist's back. Tavia describes Bink as a thrill-seeker and it's pretty clear she's willing to get into plenty of trouble (as we see with her climbing trees hundreds of feet in the air to break into a Black Sun vigo's hotel suite just to peek inside their safe). But then we get Bink's side of the story and it's clear that, whatever her agenda, she's fully committed to someone else's health and safety: her sister's. Betraying the group makes absolutely no sense because that would put Tavia at risk; and it's clear that Tavia herself isn't great at reading people the way Bink is and would have no idea how to safely extricate herself if Bink went rogue.
Rachelle's a much more interesting story. We never get her POV and there's very little apparent reason for her to be involved with the heist. Han sort of explains it away by saying that she's in it to help her friends and use her influence on Wukkur to have fun but that's not really a very good set of reasons to put herself on the line. She clearly already has money and power. I was actually a little disappointed that she DIDN'T turn out to be the mole because I think it would have been a very interesting use of the vagueries of her character. Zahn's great at hiding his villains and plot twists in plain sight and I wish he'd done that with Rachelle.

The Sure Things: Winter, Han, and Chewie
Every Zahn novel has characters you can absolutely rely on to do the right thing and be good as gold til the very end. We already know we've got a sure thing in Han and Chewie because - well, it's HAN and CHEWIE. But with Winter, it was always obvious. For one thing, we have her story. We already knew from the Thrawn Trilogy that she's Leia's most trusted advisor and lifelong friend and that she worked in supply and procurement for the Alliance. There's no way someone like that is working for the Imperials and certainly not for Black Sun. Winter, in fact, has every reason to see her work through to the end because anything she achieves with the group will help the Alliance and deal blows to both Black Sun and the Empire.

The Mole: Eanjer
Ro read Scoundrels before I did and the text I got right after she'd finished it looked something like this: "!!!!!!!!!!!! OMGGGGGGGG!!!!!! Plot. Twist." In fact, she probably wanted to kick me in the head when we hung out in January and I STILL hadn't quite finished the book. I really couldn't figure out why she was so excited until those last couple of pages. Zahn did such a spectacular job of laying the clues through every step of the novel. Boba Fett knows exactly what he's doing but, even in his perfect act as the slightly clueless robbed smuggling mogul looking to get his money back, you can really see the cracks in his armor (no pun intended) when he's forced to trust the team to get him close enough to Qazadi to make the kill. It's great, too, that Han and Co. never do find out who "Eanjer" really is; it makes sense that they'd ultimately decide not to trust him (with their alternative rendezvous) but I love the twist that even though they know the real Eanjer is dead, they don't know who the faux-Eanjer is.

In short, Mr. Zahn, I am once again blown away by your genius and if J.J. Abrams doesn't make damned good use of you in some aspect of the Star Wars revamp, I will weep eternal bitter tears of woe and angst.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Voices in her Head: Mara Jade

Mara Jade
Second-in-Command to Talon Karrde
Former Emperor's Hand
(uh, what's with all the necklaces??)

When I write about Mara Jade, I want to write about how she changed my life; how I'd never read a character like her (though, granted, I was ten the first time I read Heir), who was powerful and strong and self-reliant and self-made. I want to write about how, at an uneasy time of transition in my own life, Mara Jade inspired me and helped stabilize me when the real world felt shaky and unsure.

But it's not time for that post yet. Mara's story is just beginning in the Thrawn Trilogy and I don't want to get ahead of myself. Instead, I want to write about something that occurred to me during this upteenth rereading of The Last Command.

Mara hears voices in her head. She's not the only one.

One of the scariest things about insane clone Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth is the way he talks about bending another person's mind to his will; in The Last Command he shows how thoroughly he can do this and the limitations of breaking in the mind to the point that it can't sustain itself. General Covell succumbs to C'Baoth's manipulation on their jounrey to Wayland together and when C'Baoth loses his mental contact with Covell when they hit the Force-empty ysalamari bubble around Mount Tantiss, Covell's mind is so totally dependent on C'Baoth's control of it that it breaks (as Thrawn theorizes shortly thereafter).

C'Baoth criticizes the late Emperor for not having the skill in the Force to bend another's mind to his will as completely as C'Baoth does but what if the Emperor did have that power but was much wiser in his application of it? What if he used his wiser application of the ability on Mara Jade, his Hand, who could "hear his voice from anywhere in the Empire?" What if he left her free will intact but became a part of her mind over a long period of time, insinuating himself into her consciousness without breaking or changing the essence of who she is?

Mara Jade, Emperor's Hand
Forgive me if these speculations seem obvious. I'll try to clarify. It's clear that Mara has been manipulated by the Emperor - how else would he have convinced her to serve him when she so clearly has a strong internal sense of ethics and morality that's counter to what the Emperor would have asked her to do? But then, consider her directive, "You will kill Luke Skywalker," and the powerful emotions that accompany it. It does make sense that she'd be angry at Luke's part in the Emperor's death, which did "destroy her life." It doesn't make sense that she's so totally devistated and single-minded in her goal of killing him, even after it becomes clear that she doesn't really know the whole story, nor Luke himself.

I know an obvious counter-argument here is that Mara was raised by the Emperor from girlhood. During formative years, the Empire was her life and her home, and the Emperor, her parent. Without the Force, the Emperor would still have had a great deal of influence over the formation of her beliefs and understanding of the universe. Having said that, to take a child away from her parents and convince her to work as hard as Mara would have had to to become the Emperor's Hand in the first place implies an intensive and long-term application of Force manipulation on Mara, simply to convince her to leave her parents and then to train in a gruelling and possibly cruel way throughout her child and teeage-hood.

Mara Jade, Smuggler
It's pretty clear that Mara is never really in danger of succumbing to C'Baoth's Dark Side overtures - in an ironic twist of fate, she even begs Luke to kill her, rather than let her join C'Baoth. Luke himself nearly falls to the Dark Side on Jomark because he has no way of recognizing the subtlety of C'Baoth's manipulation. Mara recognizes it and revolts against it from her first meeting with him, also on Jomark. Part of it is, of course, that she knows whose side C'Baoth is on. But I speculate that part of it is also that she understands, somewhere inside herself, what it means to be manipulated and to lose control of herself. From her first meeting with C'Baoth onward, she fights the Emperor's last command and, too, his hold on her. By the time she faces her battle with Luke's clone in Mount Tantiss, Mara is almost free of its influence. In fact, when she finally gives in to the voice and kills the Luuke clone, she's actually subverting the Emperor's obvious intent by saving the real Luke's life.

More on Mara and her fabulous storyline to come. In the meantime, I need to start working on a post for "Scoundrels," which I just finished this afternoon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cough, cough... use the ACHOO Force... wheeze... Luke

Cough, hack, can't lead the Empire today, Master...
Going on my fourth day of being sick, I'm nursing my coughing and hacking with my copy of "Dark Force Rising." While I do believe I'm going to have to go back and reread everything I've read during this time (I keep getting it mixed up with Law & Order SVU, which is my trashy TV choice for this particular cold), I'm still enjoying the heck out of this trilogy.

Es challenged me to write about some of the strong women Zahn uses in his books, and I've decided, as germy as I am, to write a little about Mon Mothma.

As a child, watching the original movies, I always wondered who the "Lady in White" was. She was the only other woman in the universe besides Aunt Beru, Leia and Jabba's dancers. But the movie didn't focus on her, so I only thought about her when I watched Return of the Jedi, and she has her brief speech scene, then I would focus back on Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie. It wasn't until I read Zahn's trilogy for the first time that I realized that Mon Mothma was an actual, real character in the Star Wars universe, not just someone who gave grand speeches about defeating the Empire. Through Zahn's words, she becomes a strong leader, though divided by loyalties and promises she made while the Rebellion was fighting the Emperor and Darth Vader. Promises made during wartime are a whole new thing when the war is "won." Which, as we read in the Heir trilogy, it's not quite over, not while Thrawn is still breathing anyway. Zahn throws curveball after Bothan at Mon Mothma as she struggles to hold her fragile New Republic together. Toss in a grand admiral hell bent on causing organized chaos, and I was totally hooked on this new series that actually had more than two women in it. In fact, it had many powerhouse leaders and survivors who, I think, should have been lauded more in the movies. Why, George Lucas, why would you give us a glimpse of this amazing "Lady in White" who gives amazing speeches, and not create a whole back story for her? That we can watch on screen?
Mon Mothma in Revenge of the Sith

Thankfully, Zahn was there to fill in the gaps for a young girl who, while not at a loss for strong female role models, could still always use one more. I immediately hooked onto Mon Mothma, because she was the leader of the New Republic. Not some man (Mon Calamarian? Side note: for the longest time I though Admiral Ackbar was in charge, since, you know, he led the charge against the second Death Star...). George Lucas was tricky about that, he threw a lot of unexplained older looking characters into the three classic movies without any real explanation, so the audience disregards them and focuses on Han, Leia, and Luke, but also sees there is a hierarchy to the Rebellion. The uppity ups are so important for this trilogy. But I was so thrilled, and am again, to read Zahn's version of Mon Mothma, who works so hard to hold everything together as Thrawn threatens to blow it all apart. Not to mention factions within the New Republic (haaack, cough, Bothans...). I'm very much looking forward to reading about Mon Mothma, and how she deftly works the Republic out of this new predicament.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Trust in the Judgment of a Jedi: Joruus C'Baoth

Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth
Dude's clearly out of his mind. Let's just start there.

As I turned the final page of Dark Force Rising last week and sat there, trying to figure out how I was going to not write twenty-five different blog posts about all the different thoughts, emotions, and new observations crowding into my head at once, it occurred to me that Joruus C'Baoth is an enigma worth his own post (and if I refuse him one, I hate to think what he'd do ...).

Like so many of Zahn's other characters, C'Baoth isn't just evil. Dark Force Rising is the only book in the series where readers actually get to see events from C'Baoth's point of view and then, only when he's alone on Jomark. Egotistical and power-hungry C'Baoth might be, convinced that he "had found the true meaning of power", but he's also struggling with the nature of himself (Dark Force 22). He's paradoxically driven to twist and warp the minds of those around him, bending them to his will even as he's physically and emotionally hurt by his own actions: "It was hard ... to hold his thoughts and feelings closey in line" (Dark Force 29). His own nature is apparently driving him to madness. Just using the Force causes him pain: "It was hard to concentrate - so very hard - but with a perverse grimness he ignored the fatigue-driven pain and kept at it" (Dark Force 92). A healthy living being's reaction to pain is to avoid it or cure it, if at all possible. C'Baoth continues to push himself further into it and, while he continues to gather power to himself, also continues to destabilize his own mind, driving himself further into madness.

Captain Pellaeon, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Jed Master C'Baoth
This self-destructive pattern makes him all-the-more dangerous, something Luke begins to recognize (as does the reader) during his brief stay with C'Baoth on Jomark. C'Baoth's solution to a conflict is to control it and treat the parties to that conflict as "lesser beings," whom he claims "hate [the Jedi] for our power, and our knowledge, and our wisdom" (Dark Force 292). C'Baoth's solution is to take absolute control of the conflict and manipulate it until the solution appears and is enforced as he wants it. There are plenty of other characters in Zahn's universe who have control issues (ahem, Councilor Borsk Fey'leya) but C'Baoth stands out as truly dangerous because he has the power to force others to let him take control. Interestingly enough, it's Captain Pellaeon, simple Imperial captain serving under the power and vastly intellectually superior Grand Admiral Thrawn, who expresses ambivolence about attempting to harness C'Baoth's insanity for the Empire's use, even going so far as to argue with his superior officer about it: "And what happens when we've bent the rules so far that they come around and stab us in the back .... until [C'Baoth's] doing what he damn well pleases and to blazes with the Empire [and everyone else]" (Dark Force 88). Of course, Pellaeon's concerns are justified, which becomes slowly apparent as the trilogy progresses.

Another round of applause to Zahn for creating a truly terrifying villain (or is he a victim? He is a clone, after all) ...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ro interrupts your regularly schedule blog for Scoundrels!

 What better way to celebrate the new year than with Timothy Zahn's brand new Star Wars novel, Scoundrels? I can't think of one, honestly.

Family? Friends? Booze? I'll pass on all, thank you, as long as I have my copy of Scoundrels! And I do, a little ahead of schedule. It helps to know people (which I do, as does Es). I'm not too far into it, just about ninety pages or so, but I'm enjoying the heck out of it so far!

As promised to Es, no spoilers! But the general plot summary is as follows: crime is afoot! And Han Solo is asked to intervene and steal back 163 million credits taken from a man whose father (an innocent merchant, or so we are to believe...) was murdered for the money. Han takes the job and assembles a crack team to recover the credits to be split up (and therefore paying off his debt to Jabba) between the man who hires the crew and the crew themselves. This book takes place in between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. And that's basically the premise. At least the premise that we start with. If I know anything about Zahn, I know that things are not nearly as simple as they first appear. Maybe this book will be the Star Wars version of Oceans 11 that it initially seems, but I doubt it. Zahn excels at throwing wrenches into everyone's plans. Especially his main characters! And can I just say that I'm excited that Han is getting a bit of the limelight. A whole book about him and his team, and I couldn't be happier. Luke and Leia are all well and good, but let's face it, Han needs to have a solo adventure (Oh yeah, I totally went there)! So, let's sit back and enjoy the ride.

And from us here at the Star Wars Bookshelves Revisited blog, Happy New Year!

UPDATE (1/4/2013) - As an addition to this fabulous post, please check out this totally awesome interview that did with peerless master of all things Star Wars, Timothy Zahn!

"'Star Wars' author Timothy Zahn on his Han Solo/'Ocean's Eleven' Hybrid, 'Scoundrels'"