Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Troy Denning - Apocalypse

Okay - let me just retype the first paragraph of the book and use it to discuss what was... frustrating with the whole book.

The starliner swung into orbit around the planet Coruscant, and beyond the observation bubble appeared the glittering expanse of a billion golden lights. Through a thousand centuries of strife, those lights had continued to shine. Nothing had dimmed their brilliance - not the Rakatan enslavement, not the tyranny of the Empire, not the chaos of civil war. And they continued to shine now, in this new age of creeping shadow, when enemy impostors ruled the Galactic Alliance and Sith Lords slept in the Jedi Temple itself. But all those gleaming lights made Jaina Solo wonder whether Coruscant's trillion residents actually cared who won the coming war - whether it mattered that they were living under Sith rule, so long as those billion lights continued to shine.

When I read this paragraph for the first time... I sighed. I knew what was coming. First, there would be careless continuity and needless sops thrown to the rest of the EU. Why would Jaina Solo be thinking about... the Rakatan enslavement... I mean, no one knows about it in Star Wars the Old Republic. Oh, but wait, there's stuff about it The Old Republic, better throw in a tie in line. Of course, you know... I think you didn't really have Coruscant being a world city back then. And, well, didn't it get wiped out by the Vong? Which leads to...

Second, the drama of the indifferent. Sure, I mean, I know there is this massive one-upsmanship that comes up in the EU (and yeah, if Abeloth isn't just an attempt to one up every villain ever)... and so of course there's going to be some sort of massive danger to Coruscant... but... well... who cares? I mean, story wise... oh no... you mean the planet that has been bombed and attacked again and again is going to be... sort of attacked again? Oh NOES!

Third, oh, look, Jaina's talking. Now, I like Jaina as a character... but is she the main character? Well... sort of, she takes more of the narrative. Or is Ben the main character? Or is it Luke still?

See, the thing that made the Star Wars movies such a good success is that they were hero stories - that you saw the hero's journey... Luke goes from kid to mentored student to independent to hero. And even in the later movies, there is growth. In the prequel there is a fall. And in this series -- who is the main character who grows... or falls... and what is their story?


I'm waiting.

And I still am. I mean... this could have been a wonderful Ben story... but he's just sort of a side kick. It could have been an interesting Luke story... but, pyrotechnics of Jedi awesomeness is more of Denning's approach to Luke's growth (sort of like leveling with a force user in The Old Republic... oh, hey everyone, look, Luke's got a new button to press!).

The EU - Okay... there's a lot of action, if you like action. A few nice twists... even if the situations come up in a slightly random or hackneyed way.

The Bad - I know a lot of people say that Denning writes such wonderful combat... no, he writes long, tedious slugfests that immerse the reader into the fatigue the warriors themselves feel by making them worn out themselves. I mean, we have basically a week long, hand to hand combat raid show up in here. Really? That's the fast paced, exciting approach? And half the time you don't even know what immediate goal is meant to be accomplished... really?

Hey, blogger, doesn't this bad sort of contradict the EU? Eh, I supposed, which leads to...

The Ugly I just want a good story. I want a tale that flows and makes sense and is clear. I want there to be surprises and twists and turns... but I want a narrative consistency, a flow. And this book didn't have it. Loose threads don't really get resolved... and the things that get resolved weren't pressing from what came before in the series. If you look at the events of the last two pages -- those could have been awesome completion moments... but what really in this book or in the series led up to them - made them the focus or the resolution of the series and of the book?

And so... it just falls flat.

Grade: C- It's a below average book. In terms of telling a story, of weaving a tale, it just doesn't work. I think this shows a weakness of the multi-author series that we've had -- I can see the plot points that Denning was assigned to get to, the events that he was supposed to cover... but he just came to them in a sadly less than artful way. The individual paragraphs could be well done, the sentence structure was well done... but things just didn't add up as a whole.

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