Mar 23, 2009

Fate of the Jedi begins today

After several months of focusing on other eras, Star Wars returns to the "present" today. By which, I mean the future of the story of Luke, Leia, and Han that occured a long, long time ago.

Aside from the forgettable Millennium Falcon, which was as much "History of the Millennium Falcon" as it was a "current" Star Wars story, no progress has been made in the SW present since the Legacy of the Force concluding Invincible which was released last May.

Given the lackluster reception that Revelation received, it's about time for the Galaxy Far, Far Away to finally start moving forward again.

The new series, Fate of the Jedi, begins with Outcast by Aaron Allston, the veteran SW author who also kicked off the previous 9-book series, Legacy of the Force. I've copied the description below.

After a violent civil war and the devastation wrought by the now-fallen Darth Caedus, the Galactic Alliance is in crisis–and in need. From all corners, politicians, power brokers, and military leaders converge on Coruscant for a crucial summit to restore order, negotiate differences, and determine the future of their unified worlds. But even more critical, and far more uncertain, is the future of the Jedi.

In a shocking move, Chief of State Natasi Daala orders the arrest of Luke Skywalker for failing to prevent Jacen Solo’s turn to the dark side and his subsequent reign of terror as a Sith Lord. But it’s only the first blow in an anti-Jedi backlash fueled by a hostile government and suspicious public. When Jedi Knight Valin Horn, scion of a politically influential family, suffers a mysterious psychotic break and becomes a dangerous fugitive, the Jedi become the target of a media-driven witch hunt. Facing conviction on the damning charges, Luke must strike a bargain with the calculating Daala: his freedom in exchange for his exile from Coruscant and from the Jedi Order.

Though forbidden to intervene in Jedi affairs, Luke is determined to keep history from being repeated. With his son, Ben, at his side, Luke sets out to unravel the shocking truth behind Jacen Solo’s corruption and downfall. But the secrets he uncovers among the enigmatic Force mystics of the distant world Dorin may bring his quest–and life as he knows it–to a sudden end. And all the while, another Jedi Knight, consumed by the same madness as Valin Horn, is headed for Coruscant on a fearsome mission that could doom the Jedi Order . . . and devastate the entire galaxy.

Chances are that if you've found this article, you already know this much and more. I won't just rehash the information that you can find elsewhere. Instead, I'd like to focus on what I'd like to see from the series.

  1. Tighter plotting - Legacy of the Force's 9 books used the same rotating author schedule with disastrous results. Each book started with a 100 page, poorly written rehash of what had happened the volume before. As a result, the characters seemed to forget things, repeat themselves endlessly, and infodump endless amounts of information while contemplating the decisions they had made. If readers are expected to remember dozens of books worth of existing material, I think we can expect them to remember what happened in the previous novel. LotF felt like 5 books of content in 9 books of pages. If they expect us to pay hardcover prices for all 9 books, they better produce a quality series.
  2. Consistency of Story/Characterization Across Books - With the removal of Traviss from the author line-up, this may the easiest to deliver on. The Mandalorians, love them or hate them, were significant in all of Traviss's books but didn't having much to do until the concluding volume. It really stood out in LotF and I would much rather see signs that the authors tried their hardest to weave a story together than indications that the authors took a very very basic outline and wrote the story that most interested them. Jacen seemed to have fallen for one of three similar but not identical reasons depending on which author was writing him. It will be interesting to see if LotF was an exception or if it's just impossible to produce 9 books fast enough and maintain story cohesion.
  3. More original characters - The NJO and LotF were not kind to the EU. Countless characters fell and few rose to take their places. We are running out of Jedi not part of or related to Luke's first generation of students. Did Luke's Jedi order stop training Jedi? If not then there should be some fresh characters to develop and *gasp* care about? There is also an absence of Force Muggles. Besides Han, Jag and maybe Wedge, I don't think there are any significant Forceless characters running around the EU right now. And since when are aliens the minority characters in SW? We get our alien quotient, typically filled by Saba Sebatyne, and then we move on.
  4. Less Angst - The most important element of LotF was Jacen's fall to the Dark Side. The authors had to 1) make it happen and 2) make it believable. Rather than building off the natural progression that started in Traitor, LotF tried to turn Jacen into some kind of respectable Sith that fell flat. The universe just wasn't fair, wasn't safe enough for his daughter, wasn't orderly enough, and Jacen/Caedus had to fix it. The authors also decided to tell his fall rather than just show it, giving us poorly contrived excuses for his every decision. Is it any wonder that one of the promises of FotJ is a deeper explanation of Jacen's fall? The audience simply didn't buy it the first time around so they have to try to write it again.
  5. More Action For Luke - Through the Bantam era, Luke got significantly over powered to the point where no one could legitimately challenge Luke in a fair fight. For the past several years, authors have stopped trying to make a challenge for Luke, instead opting to sideline him with emotional, moral, and other angsty dilemnas, letting lesser characters die when Luke should have been able to easily take matters into his own hands. Now they've just given up trying to rationalize things and exiled Luke as part of the premise, leaving the majority of the galaxy to fend for themselves while Luke and Ben do their own thing. While the Reign of Daala was poorly contrived, the separation of Luke from the rest of the cast has been proven to work in the HoT duology, DE, and even ESB. Hopefully, this separation works well enough for Luke to do something interesting without taking over the story.
  6. No Galactic War - The NJO was 21 books, the Galactic Civil War close to double that. LotF tried to fit a major galaxy spanning conflict into 9-books, while trying to justify a major hero's fall to the Dark Side. The resulting conflict was hardly believable and the two sides were fighting and dying over issues that weren't really ever explained in the first place. Fighting for freedom, fighting for existence, fighting for Corellian sort of independence from a responsibility to supply ships to a galactic defense fleet. Which one of these is not like the others? 9 books isn't long enough to give us a well developed galaxy wide conflict from beginning to end AND an engaging personal story.
  7. LotF Clean-Up - Denning's choice to focus tightly on Jaina's struggle at the end of Invincible was a risky one. While reactions were mixed, no one can deny that a lot of threads from LotF got dropped, including the whole civil war. We need a little bit more information as to why a war criminal was installed as Chief of State and why the war ended with the assassination of the legally appointed head of state other than 3 quick pages thrown together from the Legacy Issue #0.
  8. No New Force Powers - Every series has tried to establish a new power usually ranging from poorly described to logically impossible. Windu's shatterpoint, Jacen's flow-walking and Vongsense, Lomi Plo's doubt-based concealment, Vergere's "mini-presence", Alema Rar's mind rubbing and camera zapping, the list goes on. The Force has been a crutch for way to long and unless you are a Palpatine level power, you should only be able to do force enhanced physical feats, telekinesis, and minor sensing abilities. At it's heart, the Force is a magic system and without rules, a magic system is worthless. The Jedi end up being veritable gods and it's boring.
  9. No Shadow Bombs or Stealth X's - This is a corrolary to point 8. Space Battles have been taken over by Jedi and there is no reason to have anything but. Why field a fleet if a squadron of Jedi can fly undetectable fighters in perfect precision and deliver undetectable ordinance inside the shields of the opponents fleet. While it's a realistic application of force abilities, it ruins the story.
  10. Sith History - The in-universe history to Sith is always fun and I'm very interested in what the hints we've gotten so far will lead to. We've got the Korriban Sith, the ancient Sith ship, and the eventual Sith Empire of the Legacy comic series. Hopefully, we can get some more information as to what they are up to.

That ended up being more of a my problems with LotF but since they are both 9 book series written by 3 different authors, a lot of what I want to see on the menu is influencedby what Del Rey has served up in the past.

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