Category Archives: FotJ

Is Jaina Solo Luke Skywalker’s eventual replacement?

Is Jaina Solo Luke Skywalker’s eventual replacement?

“Perhaps that feared Luke Skywalker just that much. And that was a mistake. Luke Skywalker was not the Sword of the Jedi. Jaina was, and now the Sith had trapped themselves inside a locked temple with her” – Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse

Upon reading the quote from Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse, I found myself wondering why is it that Jaina is used at the end of a series to clean up messes. Yes, we’ve only seen this once before, but when an event happens twice within a short period, one starts to wonder.

Luke maintained a prominent role in every book of the Fate of the Jedi series. Odds are that most of the pages are dedicated to his particular plotline. (No, I’m not going to count, it’s just a hunch). Jaina has not. In each book, Luke deals with whatever mini plot is occurring on the planet he and Ben visit, faces Abeloth, fails at defeat and flies away. This formula would have worked more effectively had the Jacen plotline not been tossed aside and it hadn’t turned into a game of chase, but what’s done is done.

Now the Lost Tribe of the Sith and Abeloth somehow managed to worm their way onto Coruscant to cause problems. Based on the quote, it seems that Jaina will deal with the Sith in the Jedi Temple, as Luke cannot. Luke could not deal with Jacen, either. It was Jaina who ended that mess.

Jaina’s role as “Sword of the Jedi” crops up when it’s convenient. While it shouldn’t control every aspect of her life, only using it when Sith needed a swift kick in the butt alters the title. It makes Jaina sounds like a tool for the Jedi, or authors, to use. When she’s not needed, she fades into the background. Jaina doesn’t need that title to do what is right. Prophecies and titles are fine and dandy, but it’s the character’s choices that define them, not a string of words.

How does all of this make me wonder if Jaina is Luke’s replacement? Let’s look at their roles. Luke in the Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series played an important role, but could not take down the final opponent. Assuming Jaina takes down the Sith, something she’s proven she can do, she is once again solving a problem her uncle could not. If she takes down Abeloth that will further seal the deal. Given the quote, it’s a reasonable prediction.

By having Luke deal with the Sith and Abeloth throughout the series, he still plays an important role. He then steps aside to allow Jaina to defeat the Sith. He’s stepping aside for the new hero. If Apocalypse plays out this way, then it will be the second time Luke turns to his niece. He is no longer the “go-to Jedi” for grave threats. Luke’s role is more of a mentor and guide.

Passing the torch is a necessary step in a multigenerational story. Luke cannot be the hero forever. He has to move on. It’s inevitable. In a way, it feels like the authors are weaning readers off Luke’s role as the ultimate hero of the Star Wars universe.

And that’s okay. Part of what makes Star Wars such a lasting fandom is that the story is constantly progressing. The Star Wars universe is large enough to allow one Jedi to fit the mold of the mentor and teacher and another the fighter.

If these predictions are true and Jaina is the one to save the day, then why isn’t she on the front cover, you ask. My guess is marketing. The casual reader is going to recognize Luke (or Han, Leia and Lando) more than other characters. Del Rey already used EU characters on the fronts of Conviction (Tahiri) and Ascension (Ben and Vestara). Throwing a member of The Big Three on the cover of at least one of the last three books could be a way to try to increase sales.

Jaina fits the role as the “next Luke Skywalker” well. She’s not the same person, appeals to many fans and has enough experience to fit the job. While I don’t see her as the leader of the Jedi in the sense that Luke was, she would be a viable, believable hero- whether she works for the Empire or the Galactic Alliance.

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Abeloth: the antithesis of a good villain

Palpatine was cunning, sinister, manipulative and a servant to the Dark Side.

Thrawn was a military genius who studied his enemies to know how defeat them effectively them.

The Yuuzhan Vong slaughtered billions of innocent lives in the name of their gods.

Abeloth throws temper tantrums.

And she’s considered a villain?

Random House recently released the blurb for Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning.

But victory against the cunning and savage Abeloth, and the terrifying endgame she has planned, is anything but certain.

Doubtful. She’s as terrifying as a butterfly.

Abeloth’s general lack of being an effective villain hurts the Fate of the Jedi series. Based on the little we know about her, her only motivation for her acts are being crazy, destruction and wanting someone to love her. None of these characteristic is used in a way to make her a solid villain. The desire to destroy is not engaging when there is no concrete reason as to why.

Abeloth had some potential. With the ability to control minds, she could have been an interesting threat. Aaron Allston was the only author who used her ability to make the young Jedi snap in a productive way with Jysella and Valin Horn in Conviction. What was the point of making a bunch of wacko Jedi if only two did anything? Yes, I understand that they created upheaval, hurt the Jedi’s reputation and pushed Luke and Ben towards the “Lost” Tribe of the Sith, but so much more could have been done with them. While she does use her mind to conduct some manipulation, forcing the Sith to do what she wants or taking control of a government (been there, done that) is hardly as shocking as turning Jedi the Maw Jedi into her uncover agents.

Abeloth’s appearance also destroys her chances of being a memorable or capable villain. When she falls into her temper-tantrum episodes, her face melts like wax. You know, like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In addition, she has tentacles, star-like eyes and a mouth wide enough to rival Pac-Man.

What the hell?

While her appearance does allude to her “unknown” aspect, it makes it difficult for readers to envision her scenes. When I read, I imagine what I’m reading. I can’t make a clear picture of Abeloth in my head. It’s distracting.

It’s difficult to explain Abeloth to someone who hasn’t read the series. She’s an usual being, but not trans-dimensional like the infamous Waru. She can do something to a being’s mind, but hasn’t exploited this characteristic to the fullest. Her motive seems to be only destruction. There’s nothing about her that makes you want to know why she exists.

And she looks like someone partially melted the Kraken and threw two large shiny diamonds in the mess.

She’s certainly no Thrawn.

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The Nostalgia Effect: Why it’s making people want an unnecessary reboot

Ah nostalgia. It makes it possible to forget the unbearable heat and long lines during a childhood Disney World vacation. It makes memories more pleasant and adds to the overall appeal of corny kids’ shows and lame music. It makes it possible to ignore bad acting for an amazing story.

Nostalgia has a dark side. It makes us believe things from the past are better than they really were. This belief can lead to stupid decisions.

Like rebooting the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

After the publication of a new Star Wars book, someone calls for a reboot because he didn’t like a particular event. More often than not, this comment is written in a fit of full-out nerd rage with no real argument as to why the reboot is “necessary.” With the recent release of Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden, I feel it’s necessary to bring up this frequently debated issue yet again.

Think about what would happen if the Expanded Universe were rebooted. No more Jaina, Jacen and Anakin. Ganner’s amazing death scene? Never happened. Chewbacca dying by a moon landing on him (which was the only way he could go)? Gone. Peace between the New Republic and Empire? Forget about it. Jedi Academy? What Jedi Academy? No more Pellaeon. No more Thrawn. No more Mara Jade Skywalker.

Well, what if the reboot took place after the Thrawn trilogy?

But I want Kyp Durron! a group of fans scream.

Okay, well, let’s keep it up to the Thrawn duelogy.

What about Tahiri, Raynar, Tenel Ka, Jagged Fel, Valin and Jysella Horn, Syal as a starfighter pilot…

You see the problem.

It’s impossible to erase the Expanded Universe. Many argue that the books went downhill after DelRey took over publication. Plenty of subpar books were published under Bantam. Bantam-era books are generally softer, less risky and lack suspense. While these aren’t bad characteristics, it makes them rather repetitive. The Empire attacks. Luke, Han and Leia come in to help. Something somewhat scary or bad happens. Luke, Han and Leia succeed. The end.

It’s easy to find fault in a book. When a poorly written story comes along, it stays fresh in fans’ minds until something better comes along. This feeling of dissatisfaction makes fans clamor for familiar tales. For example, if Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” was the first Star Wars book someone read, she may feel like it was the perfect story. Nostalgia.

Cleaning the slate doesn’t work if the editorial staff makes poor decisions or untalented writers are permitted to publish books. Wishing for the stories of the past hinders the hope for great storytelling of the future.

And do you really think that our favorite authors will want to start over? Would you want to abandon the characters you created?

I think not.

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REVIEW: Fate of the Jedi: Ascension

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden loses the ability to keep readers by glorifying domestic abuse.

Around the halfway point in the book, Ben Skywalker forces his way into Vestara Khai’s room aboard the Jade Shadow. When she won’t reveal what she is doing, he takes her wrists forcefully. Vestara fights back and Ben strikes her cheek with a Force-slap. They continue to struggle until Ben restrains her with her sheets. He then reads the letters she had written. Ben feels shameful for reading her letters, but not for striking or restraining Vestara. A few minutes later, the two cuddle in bed and kiss. Vestara references the latter part of the evening towards the end of the book-with no mention of Ben’s violent behavior. The message? Domestic violence is okay. It will end in romance.

It’s not off base to think that Vestara is used to this type of behavior. Her father refers to her mother as a “good Sith wife” and acts condescending to her. She acts like someone who may have experience in that type of situation. Vestara simply gives up and allows Ben to do as he wishes.

The scene feels surreal. The concept that Ben Skywalker could strike a woman is downright insane. Expanded Universe fans know that Ben did not grow up in an abusive household. It’s beyond out of character. Luke and Mara’s son would never dream of doing such an act.

Character issues are the minor problem. The fact remains that domestic abuse is part of Star Wars with NO CONSEQUENCES. At no point should domestic abuse be seen as a good thing. It’s bad enough that women are continuously shoved down in the Expanded Universe. Adding a scene of positive abuse alienates the female audience even more.

I expect more from Del Rely and Lucas Books. That they allowed this horrible sequence to be published is disturbing and inexcusable.

Star Wars is ultimately the story of good versus evil. Heroes do not beat their spouses. They do not shove the people they care for down in a fit of rage. That is the activity for a horrible villain. Showing a future hero- the son of Luke Skywalker, no less- hurt the woman that he claims to care about in anger hurts the character, the brand and the book.

Ascension is plagued with side plots that would have been interesting if written properly. For example, the showdown between Imperial Head of State Jagged Fel and Former Chief of State Natasi Daala brings in an element that any fan of Fel will love. The stilted dialogue and glossed over space battle detract from what could have been a fantastic sequence. This is just one of the many sequences Golden doesn’t describe. She changes or adds in details with little or no explanation to fit the situation.

The book lacks a feeling of “doom” or “worry.” Abeloth is still dull. The little bit of characterization we seen makes her appear pathetic and petty. The Lost Tribe of the Sith are just unbelievable. Beings that escape isolation after thousands of years do not understand the galaxy enough to pose a threat. Their archaic lifestyle is highlighted at the beginning of the book with ceremony and masquerade. Reading these events was like watching a group of believers greet aliens for the first time or the Ewoks fawning over C-3PO.

The editing in Ascension is better than it was in Allies. Golden does use far too many clauses and repeats information a little too much. Her constant use of food becomes distracting. How many times must she discuss food in one book? Her understanding of the characters in the Star Wars universe often falls flat, especially regarding dialogue. Too many lines sound like they belong in the mouths of other people. When adding to the Star Wars universe, it’d vital to have an understanding of at least the voice of a character.

It’s clear that Vestara and the Lost Tribe of the Sith are her favorites, as they are all more developed and more intelligent than the other characters. Vestara, for example, continuously outsmarts Luke. A girl of her age could not logically take down Luke Skywalker.

Golden also uses far too many movie tie-ins. The constant references seem more like a way to say, “Yes, I do know Star Wars” than to provide amusement like Allston’s references did in Conviction.

Readers wanting a fun, interesting, worthy story in the Star Wars universe should stay away from Ascension. Its contents have forever marred the beloved fandom with an ugly, harmful moment of glorified domestic abuse.

And quite frankly, that’s enough of a reason not to buy the book.

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Dear Del Rey

Dear Del Rey:

Hello. I am one of the many disgruntled Star Wars fans. My love for the Fate of the Jedi series was killed with the release of “Allies.” I did not run out and buy the book. I waited almost a month for it to come in at the library. It took me two weeks to read. My desire to finish my review and not earn an overdue fine at the library forced me to finish it.

Nevertheless, the release of Vortex, restored my hope. Thank Troy Denning for that.

I have mixed feelings about Troy Denning. I find him to be a talented author. Star by Star is one of my favorite books. He captures emotions well. His personal feelings about characters tend to leak onto the page, however. He likes to mess with fan favorites. It affects the story negatively and is, frankly, distracting and annoying.

How did Troy Denning manage to do this, you ask? First off, his plot goes somewhere. To put it bluntly, stuff actually happens. I don’t want to give away any details, but the plot moves forward. Your editors know this. A stagnant story is boring. His characters act, for the most part, appropriately. He creates situations and events that keep the reader interested. For example, the long scene at the end involving Jaina, Han, Leia, Zekk, Taryn and the other was gripping and exciting. At no point was a bored and ready to move onto other things.

Vortex’s
sales are down, as expected. When a company puts out a piece of crap, people are going to be hesitant about buying another product. It will be interesting to see how Conviction does. I intend to buy that book. I have faith in Aaron Allston’s ability to produce excellent content.

The damage has been done, though. Readers won’t forget what a mess Allies was. We won’t forget the bad writing, poor characterizations and lackluster plot. Regardless of the events of Ascension, I will not purchase that book. Christie Golden’s first two books were simply too awful. I hope Del Ray learned their lesson: simply slapping Star Wars on a book isn’t going to make fans love it. We won’t pay for crap.

Sincerely,
An avid Star Wars fan

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