Review - Champions of the Force - by Kevin J. Anderson (October 1994), book 3 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy.
I am going to do something slightly different with this review, lest it turn just into just me griping and have no creative merit whatsoever. So instead, I will interview the book.
EUBU: Ah, here we have our guest, Champions of the Force, the third and final book of Kevin Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy. Um, glad to have you be here.
CF: Oh, I'm just thrilled to be here.
EUBU: Good. Well, about yourself. You seem to be a slightly odd book, especially for a Star Wars Book - rejecting many themes and approaches that are standards in the Star Wars Universe.
CF: I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. There's action and star destroyers and light sabers and space battles and Kessel, can't forget Kessel. Everything that is part and parcel of Star Wars is right there.
EUBU: Well, let's use some of those things you mention as examples. For example, space battles. What was your approach to space battles?
CF: Oh, well here we play off of the great complexities of many Star Wars space battles - like at the end of Jedi. You have the battle against the Death Star and the Fleet. We get the same in miniature at the end of this book.
EUBU: Except that the Death Star isn't being run by a ruthless Governor like Tarkin - instead by paper pushers who want to hold committee meetings in the middle of combat.
CF: That's Right.
EUBU: Moreover, the Death Star Prototype is under manned and under tuned - as in they blow up the wrong planet.
CF: Well, it was a moon that they blew up, but yes.
EUBU: And the big action scene for our heroes against the Death Star occurs when the Falcon parks inside of the infrastructure and Mara Jade and Lando plant bombs while Han fixes the hyperdrive?
EUBU: Even though you don't need a hyperdrive to just fly around in normal space.
CF: Oh, but don't you see how this combines Empire and Return of the Jedi -both the Space Battle and blowing up the shield generator?
EUBU: Um, okay - but don't they fail in blowing it up?
CF: Sure, but that's so we can have new heroes take the fore.
EUBU: Bringing that up - in the other side of the giant space battle, we see Wedge Antilles, only pilot to survive both Death Star Battles, running around on the ground while C-3PO pilots five attack shuttles at the same time.
CF: Yes, that is right.
EUBU: Was that intentionally done on your part?
CF: Oh yes, I think we have long neglected the military potential of protocol droids.
EUBU: Ah. Well, um, continuing on. Now, it seems to me that this long Space Battle at the end ends up being highly anti-climactic because the main villains are already destroyed.
CF: What do you mean? Daala is there, and Tol Sivron is there.
EUBU: I mean villains that actually do any damage or harm to the good guys - like Exar Kun or Ambassador Furgan.
CF: Well, Daala is very dangerous - she is an highly accomplished officer.
EUBU: Who's never seen combat.
CF: But she's a highly motivated woman.
EUBU: Who thinks that spice-heads buffoons who follow an anthropomorphic toad who is a drug- addled rapist are the fullness of the rebellion.
CF: She's a tactical genius, simply lacking intelligence.
CF: Accurate Military Intelligence. But you do also bring up another great villain - Moruth Doole. He has to be dealt with.
EUBU: His children, who he himself armed, turn on him, and like a fool he runs into a pit of spiders and is eaten.
CF: A fitting death. Besides, you are overlooking the great villain - Sivron.
EUBU: And how exactly is he the great villain?
CF: Because he shows the dangers and corruption of bureaucracy, which is one of the major themes of Star Wars.
EUBU: ... Okay. Moving on. Now, what I find interesting is that you seem to focus more on these "villains" who are dealt with in quite ordinary ways, yet the book is called Champions of the Force in the Jedi Academy series. Wouldn't you expect such a book to focus on these heroes?
CF: Oh, but I do. They have their epic battle against Exar Kun.
EUBU: Yes, let's talk about that. So, you have Exar Kun, who is an incredibly strong Sith Lord, who defied the combined might of all the ancient Jedi and a military fleet. How exactly is he defeated?
CF: Well, our twelve champions of the force all stand up to him, and their light banishes his darkness.
EUBU: While Luke is still lying in the force-coma Kun put him in.
EUBU: So Kun is so powerful that he can force Luke Skywalker into a vegetative state, but he is conquered when 12 new Jedi basically tell him that they will be nice.
CF: Oh yes, it shows that the true strength of Goodness is that it is in fact not Evil. By saying no to bad things, we show that we are stronger than badness.
EUBU: And then chop it in half with lightsabers?
EUBU: Again, about this - these Champions of the Force that shine forth such light, light that overcomes the darkness. . . how many of them are there?
CF: 12. These are the first of the new Jedi Knights.
EUBU: Well, even though it is odd for the Star Wars Universe, I can respect the seemingly Christian overtones of light over dark, 12 disciples, 12 tribes, using such a strongly religious number, things like that...
CF: Huh? What are you talking about?
EUBU: Um, I assumed that you said there were 12 students because of the religious ramifications.
CF: Oh, no, there are just twelve students there.
EUBU: And these are the great champions of the force.
EUBU: Then why do we only know the name of 5 of them?
CF: Um, well, I didn't want to dominate the universe - I wanted to leave open room for other authors to bring in their own characters.
EUBU: Couldn't they just make up their own?
CF: But then they wouldn't be Champions of the Force. This way these new Jedi can draw on how they defeated Exar Kun in their own stories.
EUBU: By basically saying that they won't use the dark side...
CF: Yes, now you get it.
EUBU: ... Moving on. Now, this big fight is finished on by page 135.
EUBU: Out of 322.
EUBU: Weren't you worried about wiping out such a strong villain, about having these champions of the Force hit their apex roughly a third of the way into the book?
CF: Well, not at the all. We need to have good resolution to stories up front, that way we don't worry about our characters too long in the book. Besides, I wanted to get onto the redemption of Kyp Durron.
EUBU: Who was bad and wicked for around 10% of the previous book and 40% of this book.
EUBU: So we actually spend more time seeing Kyp feel bad for being bad than we do seeing him being bad?
CF: Yes - but it's a heroic redemption, isn't it? I mean, he breaks all his bones in his destruction of the Death Star and the evil Sivron.
EUBU: Um, about that - why didn't Kyp just ram the exposed command center since he had done that before? He wouldn't have needed to break all his bones.
CF: But then he wouldn't have disposed of the Sun Crusher at the same time. See, if he were to use the Sun Crusher as it was intended to be used, it would have been bad. However, there is a poetic symmetry as he uses the missiles to try and destroy not a star, but a Death Star.
EUBU: You really think that is poetic?
CF: It's brilliant.
EUBU: Um, is there anything else you think is really poetic?
CF: Yes, I am thrilled with my depiction of Mara Jade. I believe I added so much to her character.
EUBU: What in particular do you think you "added" to her character?
CF: I am most proud of my description of her on page 54. "Mara Jade wore only a tight-fitting jumpsuit; her curves looked like hazardous paths through a complicated planetary system." Nothing in the Star Wars Universe encapsulates the mystery and raw physical appeal of Mara Jade like that. That's why I had to pair her with Lando, because, I mean, that's the ultimate hot couple.
CF: Why are you looking at me like that? Is that a lighter in your hand?
EUBU: When you see evil, you need to hold it up to light, a burning, bright light.
CF: No, I'm flammable, keep that away from me!
EUBU: I'm sorry, I have to, there's no other choice.
CF: But, but, this is brilliant stuff! (bursts into flames)
EUBU: Now, finally it has some brilliance. (Waits for CF to stop burning, then kicks the ashes) You won't hurt anyone any more. Never again.
(For the more literally minded among you, this is my way of giving this book a big, massive F-)