Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Vector Prime Review

Vector Prime - by R. A. Salvatore - October 1999

So, I reread it.  The first of the Del Rey books, the first of the New Jedi Order series, an ambitious multi-author, 19 book series that ran for several years.  I hadn't reread this book in a while - it's somewhat notorious among some fans as the "Chewie Dies" book.  It set the tenor for a new direction in Star Wars fiction, both for good and for ill.  So, let's get to it, shall we?

The EU - The Solo Kids Sliding Forward - I was taken aback reading this book just how much I enjoyed reading the Solo kids parts.  And a bit heartbroken.  It was clear reading this that the central focus of the *New* Jedi order was going to be the Solo kids - Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin.  And in them you had three distinct, interesting personalities -- and even in this book they started to grow, to develop, to mature.  They provided solutions to problems... they were starting to hold their own with the big three.  It was wondrous.

It was heartbreaking simply because I know how things go 30 books down the line, when that development, that promise, that shift of focus to the new characters never happens.  When the string of books started by Vector Prime draws to a close in Crucible - none of the three Solo kids need even have anything to do with it... and that's not an odd move, it's almost...standard.  The books for the past 10 years should have all centered around one of these three characters, and they didn't.  And that is tragic.  Makes me almost glad for the reboot.

The EU - Yuuzhan Vong Introduction - I will be honest - I don't like the Yuuzhan Vong as villains. There are some really neat things about them, but I got tired of them really quick.  Partially this is because I don't like bugs (between the NJO and Dark Nest Trilogy, it's amazing I kept in the Star Wars universe).  Partially it's because they end up seeming so overpowered.  But in this book, the introduction to them was fascinatingly well written.  There's mystery - powers and abilities are slowly revealed.  And while they are a threat, they don't seem superhero-story villain yet.  Yomin Carr was a great villain of the day - one of the best one-book villains in the Star Wars fiction series.  So basically the fact that I didn't mind the Vong in this book speaks highly of it.

The Bad - Nothing really bad.  It just turned...

The Ugly - Stupid, Hotshot Jedi - The thing that annoys me most about this book, and in some ways the rest of the Jedi Order, is that the problems aren't predicated on actual difficulties that arise but upon the characters' own stupidity.  Everything in this series hinges on the idea that the Jedi running around are hotshots, egotistical, and disliked.  Everything.

Consider this scenario instead.  Luke Skywalker has established the core of a New Jedi Order, who work as diplomats and officers of the peace (like what everything before hand had pointed to).  Jedi who are respected (remember in the Thrawn Trilogy - Luke is expected to be a source of wisdom and justice).  And so, you have a few Jedi stumble across this extra-galactic invasion.  What would happen.  THE ENTIRE GALAXY WOULD RALLY.

Seriously - those weapons of the Vong would be neat, but the New Republic would have gladly followed.  With structure and diligence.  And basically you could have done a similar story arc - where you just have so many Vong coming that the galaxy is overrun - you could have individual Jedi doing different things - defending, trying to establish peace with the Vong, understanding their absence from the force... without the Jedi as a whole being viewed as... dumb?  Evil?

Because this is totally out of character for what the Luke Skywalker we know would teach or allow.  C'Baoth and his intimidation techniques are shown to be terrible in the Thrawn trilogy -- and Luke sits and shrugs while his Jedi run around and do the same thing.  The summation of the Bantam era books was that using too much power is bad -- and then, 6 years later, that's what almost all Luke's Jedi are doing.

This *wasn't* Star Wars - it was a catastrophic shift in what that universe should have been.  An editorial decision of drastic consequence... the quick and easy path to generating conflict.  The literary dark side.  And once they started down this dark path, it forever dominated the EU.

The Grade - B+ - It was an enjoyable book.  It handled emotional events well, it set the series up beautifully.  But when I read it, I see the lost potential of the Solo kids, as well as the unraveling of a sane EU where the Jedi are, you know, the good guys.  And that just leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The New Jedi... Follies?

So I have finally done it.  I've started rereading "The New Jedi Order" series.  Vector Prime was pulled off the shelf, dusted off, and cracked open.

I rarely have the desire to reread any of these - I reread Stackpole's two books, simply because they were the last he wrote - but basically, the New Jedi Order is where I find I began to dislike the direction the EU took more and more (even as I acknowledge the quality of the individual books tended to increase).

It took me one chapter to remember why.

Who made the decision that when we finally get Jedi back, they should all be vigilante hot shots?  Seriously - how does that decision get made?  Remember, this is 1999 - so it can't be a reaction to Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith and the flaws of the order.  Just - oh, look, for 1000 generations the Jedi Knights were guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy - devotees of the light side of the force.

Oh, look - it's Wurth Skidder, just another one of those hotshot Jedi flying around in his X-Wing blowing stuff up.

How do you move from Knights, from Warrior Monks, to "let's make them like Billy the Kid"?

For this reason, more than anything - I'm welcoming the reboot.  And maybe we will have a story that is driven not by the Jedi being stupid.  Flawed, calcified, attacked -- that's understandable, but just flat out stupid... no.

Even a Jedi Order founded by Han Solo wouldn't be as fly-by-the-seat-of-you-pants.