Monthly Archives: June 2011

In Defense of the New Jedi Order

The New Jedi Order is my favorite set of Star Wars books. Is it perfect? No. Is each book in the series great? No, but as an overall series, it delivers.

Many fans do not like the series, which is fine. You have the right to dislike whatever you want. In no way am I bashing those who don’t like the series.

I’ve asked many people why they don’t like the series out of curiosity. Unfortunately, due to the internet’s high troll population, most conversations fall flat. Some people answered though, and their answers weren’t that surprising.

One of the biggest complaints about NJO is how much darker it is, usually linked with character death. The fact that the series is darker is one of the most appealing parts of it to me. Many of the books published previously seem a little too predictable. When a reader knows that the main cast and their closest friends will make it out of the situation alive every time, there’s no sense of suspense. Some type of suspense keeps readers turning pages. Was anyone worried that Thracken Sal Solo would actually harm Jacen, Jaina and Anakin in the Corellian Trilogy? We knew Han would escape Nil Spaar during the Black Fleet Crisis. There’s nothing wrong with having safe characters in most franchises. It doesn’t work in Star Wars, however. The universe is just too big for a large, untouchable cast. I’m not saying that the authors need to off characters left and right; that’s a mistake. Pointlessly killing a major character doesn’t do a story any good. Only when a character’s death fits the story and the character should authors do it.

Killing Chewbacca and Anakin worked for the series. Chewbacca’s let us know that characters close to the main cast were no longer untouchable and gave the series a specific tone. Anakin’s broke the idea that everyone was safe. Killing of a young, direct descendent of the main three threw the idea in the trash compactor. However, killing a character isn’t the only action that makes a series darker. Hopelessness, mass destruction and impossible odds add to this. Many characters hit rock bottom, something many are familiar with at some point in our lives. Sometimes that’s what it takes the situation to improve.

Character angst appeared more in NJO. Doubts, fears and other negative emotions ran rampant. It made the books feel more real. There’s no way to make a Star Wars book seem 100 percent realistic and I don’t want that to happen. Han Solo needs to have a ridiculous accurate for his age. Booster Terrik needs to be the old man running a Las Vegas-esque Star Destroyer. Without these types of characteristics, Star Wars loses itself. The advantage of bringing in the character angst is that readers understand the characters better. We become emotionally involved in more people. During “Traitor” by Mathew Stover, fans became locked into Jacen’s mindset through his breaking on Yuuzhan’tar. Had I not seen into his mind, felt his grief and pain, I wouldn’t have been as moved by his actions at the end of “The Unifying Force” by James Luceno.

The other major complaint I’ve seen regards the Yuuzhan Vong. I find them fascinating. They are religious fanatics. Anyone who’s tried to reason with a fanatic knows how difficult one is to deal with. The Vong weren’t defeatable like past enemies. New weapons, strategies and ideas were brought in. This type of villain added something different to Star Wars. Only so many superweapons can find their way into the books. Organic ships pose a new type of challenge to fighter pilots, for example. With such daunting odds, every successful encounter felt that much sweeter. Fighting a Sith and warlord every other book is boring and tedious. We need variety.

Is a long, dark series something that Del Rey should pump out regularly? Absolutely not. Fans need the light-hearted, movie-esque plots. Books with a large amount of “untouchables” aren’t unenjoyable. Throwing in a story arc that breaks the pattern is necessary, however, to keep the series unpredictable and interesting. The variety of fun, semi-series and dark story arcs makes the overall franchise appealing to more fans. Those who enjoy darker tales have something to read, as do those that like the fun, Big Three dynamic.

Another way NJO delivers is in the character cast. Michael Stackpole, for example, pushed Corran Horn forward in “Dark Tide II: Ruin.” Readers hadn’t seen Horn prominently for a while. Tahiri Veila, a fan favorite from the Junior Jedi Knight series, turned into a deep, well developed character. We also gained characters like Jagged Fel, who’s since his first line over comm waves at Ithor become an integral part of Jaina’s life. Many of the authors dedicated more page time Wedge, Jaina, Jacen, Han, Mara and many others to character development. “Dark Journey” by Elaine Cunningham showed us the darker side of grief and brought fans closer to Jaina. After “Conquest” by Greg Keyes, Anakin became an even larger hero for many. By focusing on so many characters, something possible in such a long series, fans grew closer to more beings. These deepened our emotional bond with the franchise.

After rereading NJO, I felt more connected to the entire Star Wars universe. I felt like I understood the characters better, which in turn made parts of Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi more logical. I find rereading a book more enjoyable the than first go-around. When you reread, you notice little details missed before. You aren’t running to the finish. You notice the strengths and the flaws.

No book is perfect. A story that seems perfect to one person is horrible to another. While we should expect a quality product, it’s okay not to like every detail of a book or series. As fans, we need to respect people’s viewpoints.

Therefore, its okay with me that you don’t like NJO, just don’t bash me (and others) for liking it.

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