Jun 28, 2009

YetiReview: Omen (Fate of the Jedi, Book 2)

20 words or less: Mediocre Star Wars novel that takes no chances while slowly progressing the overall plot of Fate of the Jedi.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Pros: Avoided mistakes of Legacy of the Force, no glaring continuity errors

Cons: Mostly a set-up novel, overly cutesy at times, poor execution of Luke/Ben subplot, weak page count.

The Review: If I were judging Omen by itself, I would give it a 1 or a 2. But Fate of the Jedi appears to be trying a more serialized structure than Del Rey’s two previous SW series so it's hard to distinguish one book separately from the series. Fate of the Jedi is really putting the “opera” back in “space opera.” Rather, I’m going to focus on its role within the series. There are the overarching threads that began in Outcast and continue here but aside from a very poor sub-plot featuring Luke and his son Ben there are no internal plotlines that get resolved by the end of the book. Young Jedi continue to go crazy with the mysterious Force sickness, Jaina and Jag continue to investigate what could be causing it in the face of government pressure, Luke and Ben continue to retrace Jacen’s five year sojourn, and Leia and Han continue to do nothing of importance. The book felt like a continuation of the series but it didn’t do anything that necessitated it as separate release from that of Outcast, especially given the fact that fans of the series waited 3 months to get a meager 236pages.

The only new information or plot development that we really gott was the introduction of a Sith remnant that had been marooned on the planet of Kesh for the last 5,000 years. Recent developments in the SW universe had set in motion a series of events that ended up with an ancient and sentient Sith ship locating the planet and allowing the Sith castaways to escape the planet. This was one of the more interesting plots of the book but it felt strange that it was introduced in this book rather than the previous one. It’s almost as if the series planners decided there wasn’t enough plot to carry a 9 book series without filler so they decided to introduce another plotline to boost the still low page count.

Other the insane Jedi plotline, which is interesting but extremely slow paced, the other characters have very little to do. Han and Leia took their granddaughter to buy a pet. Seriously? This very predictably started out as a mash-up of all of the creatures ever witnessed in a Star Wars film (rancors,rontos,banthas,etc.) and even more predictably turned into a fairly boring action sequence when the creatures get loose. The probability that Han Solo dies from being attacked by that large cat species from Attack of the Clones is so small that C-3PO couldn’t quote me the odds. Han and Leia are stuck in a character limbo where they can’t be killed off but they also can’t be fade into retirement; either of which would apparently upset the fanbase more than just making up ridiculous, implausible ways to give them something to do. But I can’t blame Christie Golden for making nothing out of nothing. She’s writing in a set series and she has to work within what she has assigned.

What I do blame Golden for is the lack of delivery in Luke and Ben plotline. She was giving the Aing Tii monks to develop, a mysterious Force sect that can use the Force to teleport, time travel, and who knows what else. There was so much potential and all of it ended up wasted, with the Aing Tii being extremely boring and developed as well as Michael Bay plot. There was a brief thread about a mysterious prophet that was interesting at first but that thread ends up being very poorly resolved with a conclusion straight out of an after school special. This wasn’t too different that the Baran Do (another Force sect) plotline in Outcast which didn’t do much other than give something for Luke and Ben to discuss and resolve until they figured out the next stepping stone in Jacen’s journey. They could give these Force traditions so much more depth and character but they turn them into these boring groups which are too stupid to solve their own poorly developed problems.

Another problem I had with Golden’s delivery was her choices of language. More than a few times, she chose weird turns of phrase that I can’t really describe other than “not Star Wars.” Even when they weren’t bad writing, they were still just off somehow. For example, towards the end of the book, Ben Skywalker gets excited and exclaims “Lubed!” That’s not a Star Wars utterance, and it shouldn’t every be said. Anywhere. At other times, she tried to be a little too cute with the dialogue between characters in relationships (Han/Leia or Jaina/Jag) and the conversations felt more at home in a romantic comedy than in Star Wars. Han and Leia tease each other in the movies but they aren’t so sappy about it. Golden seems to be the weakest of the 3 series authors so far, at least in terms of pure writing ability. I was not impressed with her Star Wars debut.

Regardless of quality, the overall plot did advance and it managed to do so without the rehashing and confusion that happened in the Legacy of the Force series which was one of my major concerns going into the series. They planners have really made an effort to organize FotJ, almost to the point where it seems like the books are overly simplistic because there is no room for organic growth. This book was released in hardcover with only 236 pages (the shortest HC Star Wars book ever, I believe). There were 4 major plotlines and I think that it wasn’t until page 90 or so that a single POV was repeated. 236 pages isn’t enough to write a complex and compelling story for four distinct groups of people whose storylines have yet to intertwine. If they combined it with the 309 pages of Outcast and edited out a few of the unnecessary scenes, you would have had a 545 page book that clearly established the plot of the series and would be worth the cover price. As a single 236-page book, Omen fails significantly. However, the faults of the book are independent of the faults of the series. As an entry in the Fate of the Jedi series, Omen manages to progress the story along without screwing up characterization or retreading old plot and I'm interested to see what happens when the storylines finally do manage to intertwine.

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