Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse


There can be no surrender.
There will be no mercy.
It’s not just the future of the galaxy at stake—
It’s the destiny of the Force.
 
In the stunning finale of the epic Fate of the Jedi series, Jedi and Sith face off—with Coruscant as their battlefield. For the Sith, it’s the chance to restore their dominance over the galaxy that forgot them for so long. For Abeloth, it’s a giant step in her quest to conquer all life everywhere. For Luke Skywalker, it’s a call to arms to eradicate the Sith and their monstrous new master once and for all. 
In a planetwide strike, teams of Jedi Knights take the Sith infiltrators by swift and lethal surprise. But victory against the cunning and savage Abeloth, and the terrifying endgame she has planned, is anything but certain. And as Luke, Ben, Han, Leia, Jaina, Jag, and their allies close in, the devastating truth about the dark side incarnate will be exposed—and send shock waves through the Jedi Order, the galaxy, and the Force itself. ~Inside Cover Text


Veteran Star Wars scribe Troy Denning is back for his third book in the nine book Fate of the Jedi series with Apocalypse.  This book also marks the third Star Wars series in a row that Denning has wrapped up, he wrot all three of the Dark Nest Trilogy books, he wrote the third, sixth, and ninth books in the Legacy of the Force series, and now in Fate of the Jedi, he has written the third, sixth and ninth books as well.

Apcalypse is a massive, massive Star Wars novel.  While not nearly as long as Denning's monumental New Jedi Order novel, Star by Star which weighed in at 606 pages, Apocalypse comes in at 445 pages and Denning needs every bit of that to wrap up the various threads of the series and to set up potential story lines for future Expanded Universe novels to build upon.

Apocalypse gives us some very interesting character developments and resolutions and really gives you the feel of a book with an ensemble cast.  There are tons of characters in this book and most get their moments to shine.  What I liked most about this novel is the range that it displayed, from the height of heroic self-sacrifice to the depths of self-interested betrayal.  There are a number of tie ins to other Expanded Universe works including a very awesome tie in to some work done by Dark Horse Comics.

Apocalypse will create some controversy.  George Lucas' work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars has sent shock waves through continuity and the Expanded Universe.  What we have seen in recent EU releases is an attempt to in an overt way weave in the new reality of the Star Wars universe into the books.  One of the key plot points in this book involves The Clone Wars animated series and fans are either going to hate or love what the creative team behind Fate of the Jedi did.  Personally I enjoyed what Denning did with this plot point, though I am still not sure what it means in the big picture.  I also wonder just how much of what Mr. Lucas has in his mind regarding certain elements of Star Wars that he has shared with the licensees, because they are treading in areas that seem to be very perilous regarding Lucas' potential to invalidate entire sections of continuity.

One of the biggest critiques that I have seen with Denning is his use of his pet characters.  Some of this criticism may not be the fact that he has pet characters, after all, all authors do this.  Some times author's have favorites because they are characters they created and sometimes they just have fun writing that particular film or EU character.  I think the biggest issue with Denning is that some of his favorite characters can be a bit annoying to the readers.  As much as we may think the Barabels are a cool species, I don't think too many of us enjoy reading lots of dialogue from Saba Sebatyne.  Frankly most people are a bit creeped out by bugs, so the whole idea of the Killiks and becoming a Joiner gets weird.  In Apocalypse I thought Denning did a nice job of sprinkling in his recurring characters without feeling like they were forced in or dominating the scenes.  There is one particular Barabel scene that I absolutely loved.  I was very upset by one characters particular choice and presumed fate.

Denning had a number of very well crafted lines in this novel, these one liners provided some dark humor as well as insight into characters.  One of my favorite lines comes at the end of Chapter one in a scene between Luke and Vestara;
 "Luke frowned. 'Then you used his own shikkar because...'  'Because I didn't have mine, and we have a war to win.' Vestara rose onto her tiptoes and whispered into his ear. ' I did it for the Jedi cause, Master Skywalker.' "
This last page of chapter one does a magnificent job of "showing" instead of "telling" the reader about the inner workings of Vestara Khai's mind and heart.  It just leaps off the page that Luke and Vestara have very different ideas about the "Jedi cause."

Apocalypse opens with a Godfather like settling of Jedi Order scores as the Jedi launch their strike against the Sith in an attempt to retake Coruscant.  But unlike some Star Wars novels that it seems like contract as they develop, i.e. action takes place in various locations and eventually events conspire to bring all the characters and events to one central location, this book feels like it keeps expanding exponentially, spinning off in different and exciting directions.  Some of the decisions that characters make in this novel won't be fully understood unless you have read much of the previous Expanded Universe works, especially the earlier books in this series.  I will say that I was very impressed with the amount of times Denning took the story in a different direction then I thought he was going to go.

The latter third of Fate of the Jedi has really redeemed the series' main villain, Abeloth.  To be frank when we first began reading about Abeloth, I loathed the character.  It was weird and didn't feel like it fit in the Star Wars universe, it felt more like Waru than the traditional Star Wars villain.  While I still don't love the character of Abeloth, I can appreciate her more in these later books as we get more revelations about her nature and abilities.  Of course I began to wonder if the authors had read Harry Potter when they began plotting out the series finale.

One issue that is becoming larger and larger as we move forward on the in-universe timeline, is just how long , Luke, Han, Leia and other characters from their generation can be the center of the story.  When is the proper time for them to transition into more supporting roles.  It seems like between deaths, characters being discarded, or characters not advancing, we are almost stuck treading water.  I was happy that we saw some movement in this regard in Apocalypse.   Killing off the "Big Three" isn't really something I am interested in reading about at this point, but I also am not sure if I want to read about Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker having to remember to put in his dentures before he slays the big bad in the next series.  I was very happy with Ben Skywalker's development in this series.  While Ben is still young, he has proven that he is character that can carry a novel and is an interesting mixture of characterization from his more idealistic father and his more pragmatic mother.

I am also impressed with how well the authors wrote the character of Allana Solo, given the characters age, they gave us a character that is most definitely in the upper percentiles in terms of intelligence and maturity for her age group, but one that was still believable.

The biggest downside of these large series is the issue of accessibility.  It is a real commitment to read a nine book series and takes a great deal of time to catch up if you have not been reading from the beginning.  That being said, if you started Fate of the Jedi and stopped after the first few books, or didn't start at all, pick up the paperbacks now or e-books and work your way to this novel.  Like it or not Denning has once again ended one series and set some courses for future Expaned Universe novels to follow, so this book will be pivotal to future Expanded Universe works in the Legacy era.  The good news for new readers is that in the immediate future the Star Wars franchise will be shifting back to the more accessible format of stand-alone novels, duologies and trilogies.  With a mild Expanded Universe refresher it's much easier to jump into these kind of stories and I hope it brings more readers into reading Star Wars novels.

Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse may not enter the pantheon of greatest Expanded Universe novels, but it is an exceptionally well written and entertaining novel that sets up the Expanded Universe for it's next cycle.  Stay tuned to LightsaberRattling.com after the Apocalypse's release as we dig into some of the unanswered questions and unresolved fates in the galaxy far, far away.

For more information on and to read an excerpt of Apocalypse please visit RandomHouse.com

1 comment:

  1. I was disapointed how the Vestara character ended. I was really pulling for her. There are jedi (like Kyp and Tahiri) who have done bad things and been forgiven. Didn't Ben help assasinate in LOTF series? So much happened between Ves and the Skywalkers (good and bad) to leave the misunderstanding hanging like this without room for reconciliation.

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