Sunday, March 18, 2012

Children of the Jedi, Part 1

I swear, I didn't think I had a rant on this yet.

Okay, Children of the Jedi, by Barbara Hambly.  I would like to say this up front, I have never read this book before now.  I don't have anything against the author, she's not Kevin J. Anderson (that I know of) but I will freely admit that I started into this book to find something to pick nits about.  But so far, aside from a thing or two, I really hadn't thought I'd had a rant.

The most galling things about this book were really how bleeding boring it is but more importantly how technically badly it's written.  That second point has done more to bug me than anything else up to a point and it's really an issue with several prongs.  One of the is just that the writing is ambiguous at best, the reader is thrown into situations without being given any backstory.  When you pick up this book, it is not only assumed that you've seen the Star Wars films, but it also assumes that you've read the other books in the EU up to this point.  Which aren't just a few books, by the way.  Off the top of my head, there are at least six books prior to this one that give you some kind of establishing narrative that you kind of HAVE to have in order to get this.

We get references to things that happened in previous books, but we don't get any context or explanation.  One of the lines in the book is talking about Luke, and how important it is that everyone take Luke super seriously, I mean after all, this is the guy that destroyed the Sun Crusher!  I know, right?  Except he didn't, Kyp did.  Beyond that, I am not kidding when I tell you that the reference to the Sun Crusher is just like that.  Nobody screws around with the guy that took that thing out, let me tell you.

You're reading this blog, you know what the Sun Crusher is, I know what the Sun Crusher is.  Your average reader, no bleeding clue.  "Hmmm," that reader may be saying to himself in the book store, "I particularly fancy those fancy Star Wars moving picture shows and have been made aware of these new fangled page turners of a series they've written.  Well, I'll dive in with this one!  It's about young jedi, jedi children!  I should know everything I need to about that, let me tell you!"  Reader, turn back now!  It's your only chance!  You don't know what the Sun Crusher is, you don't know who Nichos is (a character I think was mentioned briefly in the Jedi Academy books and made remarkably little impact on me) and you don't know that Han and Leia are hitched with three kids!  And no, they aren't the Jedi young'uns the title refers to.  In fact, Nichos is, apparently, but he's a zombie, or a cyborg or a zombie-cyborg.  Screw it, he's Data.  That's what Star Wars needed, right?  A sympathetic character without emotions.
But that's my schtick...

The only parallel I can draw between this and some other story doing the same kind of crap is the later Highlander movies.  Endgame and the Source.  Don't you dare go watch those.  No, bad reader!  We're thrown into the Source with no explanation for an apocalypse that also apparently happened.  I mean, there are flaming barrels and an eastern European country and everything!  And there's this thing that everybody knows about, right?  The Source, it's a legend among immortals!  A legend that's never been mentioned in the four previous films, two cartoons and two live action television series at all, but everybody knows it!  See, we don't need to explain it.

Besides that, nothing feels like it's been written for Star Wars, heck, a lot of it doesn't even seem like it was written for science fiction.  I mean it does have all the proper elements, space, aliens, travel in space, empty space, space that seems empty but isn't, what I'm going to call half of a space battle and an alien world complete with hostile aliens.  But it's written like it's a high fantasy novel.  I literally am surprised every time I turn a page and don't read a 'thee' or 'thou' written down somewhere.  Nobody talks like they did in the films or for that matter even in the other books.  Hell, Keven J. Anderson may have written bad, derivative novels but at least the characters seemed mostly right.  Also, by the way, screw smashball.

The writing is confusing, too.  At one point, Luke is on a ship in an asteroid field.  Suddenly, the ship is under attack!  We don't know where the fire's coming from!  They'd better get out of there!  Shields up, Sulu, sublight engines to really bleeding fast!  Chapter ends.  Chapter begins, Luke has a concussion.  What?  When did that happen?  I turned a page and Luke went from making a quick escape to knocked the hell out and apparently so badly injured that he has to use the force in order to breath.  Jesus, shouldn't he be dead?  But, no kidding, that happens with no explanation, turn the page, mortal injury and struggling for consciousness.

Now, up to this point, I didn't have any problems with the story elements.  It was boring and things were either poorly explained or not explained at all and some things were just thrown at us without any pretext, but the story was there, it was going to be okay once I got past what was being substituted for an introduction.  But the book got there, it found a way to make no sense.

We'll start at the obvious beginning point, the start of the book.  A guy, we don't know who, but a guy, is nuts.  He's nuts, and he has to find Han, and judging from the context, he has to kill Han, at this place, at this time!  Cut to this place at this time.  Han and Leia are doing a thing with aliens.  No it doesn't matter what, it's just a convenient set piece.  And that guy apparently attacks at the place and time stated!  Only it turns out he's not attacking!  He's an old friend of Han's hopped up on space cocaine.
I'm an adult theme!
And it turns out he wasn't there to kill Han, he was there to warn Han!  So... way to keep that suspense up.  For, like, ten pages.  Maybe less.

He's muttering about the Children of the Jedi!  "Well, what does that mean?" you might be asking.  The short answer is that we don't know yet.  The long answer is that apparently Nichos, you remember, Mr Data, was apparently one of them.  He was a guy at the Luke's academy who apparently got so royally screwed up that the only way to 'save' him was to imprint him onto a droid.  So he's essentially what you might call dead inside.  But he apparently grew up where the Children of the Jedi were being raised.  I guess.

So Han, Luke and Leia do the obvious thing and split up.  Every DnD player out there is shouting about how you never split the party.  Sigh.  So, Luke goes to this asteroid field, that he doesn't know exists, on a hunch.  Oh, wait, sorry, this is Star Wars.  He uses the force.  No, I don't have to explain it, he used the Force.  (Seriously, laziest plot device ever.)

Bad things ensue.  They're forced to land on a planet that they know to be inhabited by Gamoreans.  Just so we're clear on this, the author goes through great pains to tell us about how savage and uncivilized these merciless pig men are.  Why, they've never stopped fighting each other long enough to develop much past the iron age!  By the way, this isn't their home world.  And it looks like they've been here for a really long time.  And it doesn't seem like they were brought here as slaves or anything.  How the hell did they get here?  I'm not kidding, they never developed anything more than hit thing with sharp thing but they have a colony on a distant world?

Anyway, they land on the known to be dangerous world and start rumaging through their supplies on the ship.  Luke is rather confusingly trying to use the Force to heal his concussion in the dumbest way possible, increased blood flow!  We all know what a concussion is, right?  A person hits their head so hard that they actually manage to cause their brain to hit the inside of their skull cavity and that causes the brain to swell.  So, if you increase blood flow to the area, you are going to make the swelling increase.  He learned the technique from a Jedi student... who may have been trying to get Luke killed, I guess.

Alright, looking for repair equipment, then BOOM!  A stormtrooper gets the drop on them!  Shiny armor and blaster and everything!  But just one, so be sure to be really careful.  Right, so on this known to be dangerous world, they go to the cargo bay, that I guess you have to get out of the ship to have access to, and they leave the door open?  Crap, that concussion was bad enough that it made Luke forget how to breath and close the door behind him.  He might be bound for the short transport for the rest of his life.

The trooper takes them the full mile back to his hut where he explains that he's been hanging around something like thirty years and is the only surviving Imperial on the planet.  He had been captured by the Gamoreans but they let him go after the blasters they stole ran out of charge.  By the way, this guy's blaster, it still works.  His armor is still shiny and white.  He still has a fully stocked and functional medkit that he treats Luke's head with.

The trooper, who's given a name but that doesn't matter, asks casually if they know anything about this whole Eye of Palpatine thing.  When they say they don't know what he's talking about, he explains that it's a giant dreadnaught, a 'battle moon', and that he and the rest of his garrison were waiting on it to show up.  Damn, that is one patient trooper, I mean I've heard of hurry up and wait in the military but this is ridiculous.

So, they go back to the ship, everybody's pals now.  They get aboard and the restless natives attack!  So they close the doors!  And more natives attack the first natives!  Everyone's going to ride this out until a voice tells everyone to get off the ship before they blow it up, and it's the Eye of Palpatine, right above them!  Oh no!

Wait, so something big enough to be called a battle moon can land on a planet?  And not be crushed under its own weight?  Or be dealt massive damage from reentry?  Or anything?  That's ****ing stupid!  And then, when they disembark, they take cover, except for the trooper, who makes a serpentine path for the woods and gets shot down by a drone.  Well, I'm glad we brought him in to tell us all of this stuff we could have literally waited a few pages to learn on board the ship.  Gee, I'm glad we gave him a name so we could make a real impact when we casually murdered him, aren't you, the author?

The real kicker?  I'm only sixty pages in.

Expect updates.  And possibly clarification if I'm feeling charitable.

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