Friday, February 24, 2012

Because Some Books Have It Coming

Darksaber.  The Wookieepedia has this to say about this book:

"Darksaber is a 1995 bestselling novel written by Kevin J. Anderson and published by Bantam Spectra."

This is what I have to say about it.

I began reading Star Wars Expanded Universe books when I was in the fourth grade at the tender age of nine.  I marveled at seeing some of my favorite characters have new life breathed into them and how the novels seemed to add layers of depth to them.  Suddenly Luke Skywalker wasn't just what he had seemed to be in the films, defined almost solely by his role; naive kid off to fight the evil empire, the fighter ace of the rebellion or the lone Jedi warrior standing against the tyranny of his father and the Emperor.  He'd become the guardian of a nearly dead tradition and was trying to bring it back as best as he could.  Han Solo was just the same as he'd been in the films, only he was even more snarky at times, but still struggling with his growing responsibilities and the weight of his position.  It was an incredible experience!

All of that said, I also became acutely aware of the gulf that separated the good from the bad, but not as aware as I am now.  Hindsight is, after all, 20/20.  I still was able to tell the difference between a title by Timothy Zahn and a title by Dave Wolverton.  My first Star Wars book was The Courtship of Princess Leia, so I didn't really have a benchmark to measure that particularly sad venture to, I quickly moved on to the Thrawn Trilogy, a series that still represents some of my favorite fiction to this day.

I went on to read the 'next' series, Jedi Academy by Kevin J. Anderson which helped lead to my growing contempt for this author.  No joke, I read the Name of the Wind last year and decided not to continue that series after I read the forward that couldn't stop thanking Anderson.  Now, to be fair, I stopped reading most of the Star Wars books by the time I was fifteen, excepting Zahn, so I know there's a lot of material out there now I haven't read.  Regardless of that, I can still say that Kevin J. Anderson wrote up some of what I consider the worst of the early novels, but even the rest of his work pales in comparison to how monumentally dumb that Darksaber is.

Now, if you're reading this blog, then you already know what I'm going to tell you about this book.  Well tough stuff because I'm not stopping for you, skip ahead.

The eponymous Darksaber is a weapon, this being an early Star Wars novel and especially one written by Anderson, it's a SUPER weapon!  As if the Sun Crusher wasn't dumb enough (oh, and it was dumb), the Darksaber is the dumbest thing I've seen this side of the Eye of Palpatine.  Don't look that up, you'll have an coronary.

I can even deal with those two easier than this, though, because at least they were developed by a government which has access to nigh infinite resources.  Darksaber, on the other hand, was created and funded after the fall of the Empire by a Hutt.  It's not even worth remembering his name, we might as well call him Jabba Jr.  So, Jabba Jr. is the, wait for it, head of a crime syndicate and apparently has all the currency in the bleedin' galaxy!

Lil' Tykes Jabba hired out to a bunch of space contractors, people he could trust, I guess, to build his weapon.  Now, if this were a starship and not what it is, I'd be fine with that, but I'm about to tell you what it is.  Darksaber is the Death Star, minus all the bits that aren't the super laser.  Just to be clear, we're not talking about one of the component lasers, the whole bleeding thing.  

So, who built it?  No, I don't mean who paid for it, who did Jabba the mutt pay to build it?  Are there crews of construction workers out there that were so unscrupulously corrupt and unethical that they looked at the plans he gave them and said, "Crime lord with a super weapon capable of annihilating an entire world?  Sure, anything for a buck!"

Okay, so having established that we move on to my next problem.  If I'm doing this, I build this monstrous starship somewhere remote but safe, like you would, right?  I mean, there's a lot of uncharted and simply empty space out there between world.  The Empire can't patrol it all, or at this point the Republic.  They check out the trade lanes and the populated worlds, why not build it in an unpopulated system that's easy to get to but nobody has any real reason?  So where does Junior the Dope decide to break ground on this now enormously fragile, defenseless mobile station?  Why, in an asteroid field of course!


Yeah, that's a thing that Anderson wrote down, gave to his editor and they both nodded their heads and said, "Yup, that looks good."

Now, this is all so stupid, I feel like you can't really appreciate it.  No, I'm going to help you out with this, alright?  Here is a real world example.

Starting in the 1980's, the US Navy began developing plans to help offset the country's reliance on bases in foreign countries.  The plans were drawn up for what amounted to an enormous floating base that was supposed to be able to be set up in a matter of two weeks anywhere in the world thirteen miles off the coast of an offending country that would serve as a launching point for any attacks without worrying about having the permission of international states between a base and the offender.

The mobile base was essentially a series of enormous barges that would be towed into place and secured together to allow for a base to house personnel, materiel and airstrips.  They were even planned to allow for the individual barges to flex to deal with waves.  It was a smart idea, but it was deemed unnecessary because the nation already HAS bases all over the world for power projection, and even aside from that, we have this whole other thing our naval strategy has been built on for the past fifty years, super-carriers.

So, imagine for a minute the Navy did build it.  When the plans were finalized, the Joint Mobile Offshore Base (JMOB) was going to cost about eight billion dollars.  It was deemed too inefficient for the cost.  Now let's compare that to the what is essentially that idea pared down to the next lowest level, the Nimitz class super carrier, which tends to run about four and a half billion dollars.

In this imaginary world where the US has JMOB's ready to attack anywhere in the world when suddenly, the Chinese Triad suddenly comes into possession of a Nimitz carrier.  Substitute any other organized crime group you'd like, the Yakuza, La Cosa Nostra, Russian Mafia, whatever.  This, this is what Anderson wanted you to believe was going on!

Would you like to know the dumbest part?  Yeah, absorb that for a minute, it gets dumber.  The former Imperial officer that was in charge of the construction decided to cut the corner of putting a Commodore 64 in for the primary computer.  So, Jabba the Dolt spent what is likely to have been ALL THE MONEY IN THE GALAXY to build a super weapon with the power to threaten a galactic government and THAT was when he decided, "Ya know, this stuff is really expensive, I think we might want to take some cost cutting measures.  Computer?  How important could that really be?"

THIS IS A THING THAT SOLD.  It hit #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list and sold copies world wide!  I'm not even kidding, this is what Starlog had to say on the back cover blurbs, "Anderson has all but assumed the title of chancellor of the Star Wars University."

With statements that dumb, Starlog deserved to sink...  RAGE!!!

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to have to think point and hard about how to fit the rest of this idiocy in space restricted comment boxes.