Star Wars

Star Wars
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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" ....