Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: Allies (Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi #5) - Christie Golden

The FATE OF THE JEDI series, the second 9-Book/3 Author series, (with events that mainly began in the previous 9-Book series LEGACY OF THE FORCE) has a few of the very same problems that the previous one suffered from, but thankfully has a few things that distinguish it from that one as well, improving the overall story.

What was great about Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy was the concentrated effort by one author (arguably one of the best in the SW: Expanded Universe of books) to write a sequel trilogy to the original films that had the spirit of those films, but strode into its own direction and blazed new paths and ideas. In that same vein the NEW JEDI ORDER series was 19 books long and had 13 authors all bringing something interesting to the table and that series, while quite long, didn’t flag and stall as much as the new 9-Book series do.

So here I am at the middle of the series, just having finished the 5th book ALLIES by Christie Golden and just like in the previous series the middle is weighed down by repeated ideas and action, boring political side-plots that don’t really gel with the overall narrative. What it seems wasn’t learned from the LEGACY books was that Jacen Solo’s plotlines were damn near horrible when he was politicking instead of being Sith-like. Here we have the equivalent of that in the continuing presence of Natasi Daala as the Chief of state of the Galactic Alliance. She has a role, but here I start to see just how much padding she is. This combined with the still unresolved “Crazy Jedi” plotline, even though we know the source of the crazy makes for a slog of a read. Even the presence of her assistant Wynn Dorvan isn’t enough to make her plotline interesting. She makes stupid decisions, schemes, plots and does things that any normal politician would have been fired or lynched for long ago and nobody says boo. It’s become more than annoying at this point.

It’s not all bad though, as Golden’s skill lies in her ability to write a fun back and forth between Ben and Vestara. The romantic subplot between them is decently written and has the proper voice, so she definitely has that going for her.  My only issue with that though is that I think after what he dealt with concerning Jacen’s fall, Ben would be MUCH more leery of Vestara as a Sith than he appears to be, and I don’t think puppy love trumps Sith’s being Evil.  That’s a personal gripe though and not one with the author herself.

The plot moves along with similar devices for all involved as the previous volumes and only adding the team-up between Jedi and Sith pulls this book out of the repetitive hell it could have been.  Overall fairly written and executed, but at what point is it just more of the same? This is the issue with these 9-book series. I am POSITIVE that they could be told in 3 books and be REALLY good, 9 is just too many.

Everything continues to move towards a head on Coruscant. The inevitable confrontation between the parties involved is seen as forthcoming but it never reaches any kind of fruition. Therefore it feels like simply more pieces moving on the board with nothing big happening.

I’d like to mention something else. For some reason these three authors especially like to use Original Trilogy personalities for EVERYTHING.  Need a ship, or anything to do with seediness or smuggling? Call Lando. Seriously, when Lando showed up in this one I audibly groaned. This is an open note to the authors currently working in the SW:EU and the future authors who might do so: Stop feeling the need to add Original Trilogy characters to the fray just to connect things on a tongue-in-cheek level! If Luke and Ben are looking for a ship that can navigate the Maw and handle the damage it might take…why is Lando the one who automatically DEM’s the right ship? When everything connects on these levels it starts to become ridiculous. Why not take the time to introduce fresh characters with motivations we can’t guess? The reason Lando himself worked in EMPIRE was because even though he was a friend to Han his motivations were unclear and in the end he sort of had to betray them. That added an extra depth to EMPIRE that is refreshing in storytelling. If the main 6 Original Trilogy people show up in EVERY volume it begins to smack of uncreative. They don’t NEED to.  Like in Allston’s BACKLASH before it, there was no reason why Han, Leia et al. had to show up on Dathomir. They were DEM of the highest order IMHO. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun, but these EU authors need to realize that the point is to expand things and don’t be so utterly dependant on the veterans. Give us some new people to care about. To me this is the key reason that EU books like KNIGHT ERRANT, CROSSCURRENT, DARK ALLIANCE ect. get better reviews than the main FOTJ type series….it’s because there is more FRESH MEAT to be had. If you keep telling me stories that ALWAYS revolve around only Luke, Han, Leia, 3PO, R2 and Lando…things are going to get stagnant.

That said, I’ve heard that this series starts to pick back up at the end of the 6th book Troy Denning’s VORTEX and that in the 7th book CONVICTION things start to move forward again so I am looking forward to that, and the ultimate conclusion of the series.

The best news that recently surfaced is that the powers that be at Del Ray have taken fan and reviewer comments to heart. As such, the next series arc is going back to the duology/standalone/trilogy by various authors structure of the NEW JEDI ORDER series which isn’t a moment too soon as I feel the 9-Book series structure is not only tired but just doesn’t work as it requires too much padding and not nearly tight enough to make it worth the time.

ALLIES is a decent effort that I enjoyed bits of (mostly Luke and Ben’s plotline with the Sith), but overall came in at the mediocre level that will be one of my least fave efforts in the series.

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