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!


4 comments:

  1. I especially enjoyed the character development for Admiral Daala in Darksaber! I felt she was so underdeveloped and just this mad killing machine that I really, really disliked her in the Jedi Academy trilogy. And not for the reasons I was supposed to dislike her. But with Darksaber, KJA actually creates her into this even more ruthless, conniving, intelligent leader - one who doesn't want to lead no less - that really made my blood chill. I began to dislike her for all the right reasons. And the end scene! I won't ruin it, but I was seriously impressed.

    I also really enjoyed that KJA threw the Dark Side into the mix in a sort of subversive way, which of course is how the Dark Side operates best. I was all prepared for Callista to be healed by LOVE and Luke's LOVE for her, and the LOVE of the other students and Jedi. But I was pleasantly surprised when the Dark Side rose up instead in her desperate desire to connect to the Force again. Desperation and despair and fear are the breeding grounds for the Dark Side after all, and Callista felt all of those things because she couldn't touch the Force any longer. And I like even more that Callista goes off at the end of the novel, leaving Luke and us as readers twisting with agony. What will happen to her?! Will we ever find out?! I guess only BHambly will be able to reveal it to us. You are so right Es, thank god we don't have to wait helplessly for the next EU book to come out! I also really like focusing on the positive parts of KJA, because during the reading I hit certain points were I didn't think I could continue because of the dreadful writing. But he did do some awesome things with characters and development that I enjoyed. Thanks for pointing that all out!

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  2. Oh, I totally forgot that I wanted to add Daala's awesome character upgrade to my post. Thanks so much for doing that! I agree, she's very compelling as a villain - there were moments when I felt truly in sympathy with her. It would have been amazing to see what she might have done under Grand Admiral Thrawn's command. Obviously not possible but an interesting idea. I was also really moved by the last scene - incredible!

    Good point re: Dark Side! Sometimes, in the movies and EU, it can feel like the Force is a plot device: oh, the Force works this way, how convenient! In this case, though, it's easy to see how dedication to the Force and the Light Side requires serious sacrifice an the recognition that we can't always get what we want ...

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  3. ... or that sometimes the only way to get what we want requires some kind of sacrifice, compromising one's morals in this case it seems. It is rather convenient to have the Force there to save everyone and to communicate with the dead and to provide the perfect guidance. I actually really liked that KJA didn't take that route at all with Callista. I liked that he set road block after road block, and not even the hard work of one Jedi and one former Jedi could break through. It shows (he actually SHOWS something!! It's very exciting!) that Luke definitely doesn't know everything there is to know about the Force and how easily and sneakily the Dark Side can creep in.

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  4. I think this point is especially interesting because KJA is notorious (as we've seen) for turning Luke into the all-knowing, all-seeing Jedi Master - throughout the Jedi Academy Trilogy, KJA has Luke lecturing and sounding so sure of himself and the Force. Yet, he hasn't even been a Jedi ten years! Authors like TZahn and BHambly keep Luke relatively humble and show the intense pressure and insecurity he experiences as the first of the new Jedi. I think that's important, and I'm thrilled the KJA went ahead and showed (I agree! SHOWED!) some of Luke's limitations, in terms of understanding and control. Very refreshing!

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