Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Cynical_Ben, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Hey guys. So, apparently, my first idea of creating a general review thread for my recent reads was actually verboten. (Sorry, mods, that was my bad). Anyway, I'll be posting my general thoughts on the other books in my backlog elsewhere, since it's time to skip to the main event:

    [IMG]
    A Cynical Walk Through the NJO!

    Long story short, I've never read the NJO in its entirety, and I figure, having recently joined this forum, now's as good a time as any to do so! People have been posting threads about the NJO recently, wondering how well this series has aged and whether it's worth reading. I intend to find out the answer to at least one of those questions.

    I'll be posting throughout my reading of each book with my thoughts; some of the shorter books will get a single summary and review post unless they provoke interesting thoughts, while longer books, like Star By Star, I can see lasting a while. Please, by all means, discuss what I say in the thread; that's what a forum is for, discussion.

    Some quick notes: As with my previous review thread, Spoilers Are Allowed, so, if you haven't read these books, do so before joining in the discussion. Otherwise, don't complain about story details if people post them and you didn't know what happened. You read this thread at your own risk of spoiling yourself.

    Also, this thread follows the "Don't verbally attack those who aren't here to defend themselves" rule, which means this isn't a thread about bashing later books or certain authors or later plot developments. This is about the NJO and the NJO only, and I hope to see healthy, rational and level-headed discussion from all. Thank you in advance.

    And as with my previous review thread, I will Not be assigning books review scores or letter ratings or stars or anything like that. I find those rating systems too hard-line when reviews themselves are highly subjective much of the time. It makes it easy to just judge a book on score alone, rather than content. Judging it by its cover, in a fashion.

    I will be saying whether I recommend someone new to the NJO read a particular volume or whether I consider it "skippable", but most of my thoughts on quality will be contained within my thoughts and reviews themselves. Some books might be more central to the plot than others, but they might be recommended on certain qualities alone, like good characterization.

    Anyway, I'll be posting my first bit of summary/review Monday, tackling one of the few books of the NJO I actually have read: Vector Prime. And if anyone else out there would care to join me in reading or re-reading as the case may be, feel free. The more the merrier.
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  2. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    November 5 is the 10th anniversary of the release of The Unifying Force!
  3. HWK-290 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2013
    star 2
    Looking forward to this, I'll be re-reading along.
    You don't fool me, I know what you're really trying to say.
  4. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
  5. Darth_Garak Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 3
    Looking forward to this. Just don't try to read it all without something else breaking it up i did a NJO reread last year and i was tired by the time i finished it.
  6. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    I have Knight Errant and The Last Jedi to break things up if I need to.
  7. Force Smuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 5
    I read the whole series in two months 2 summers ago. Amazing.
    Oh god. I feel old.
  8. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I was off by a day and it is actually November 4. :(
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  9. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 6
    Great idea. I'm halfway through the NJO now and have enjoyed it; so far Vector Prime and the Edge of Victory duology are my favorites, although I can't say I've read one yet that I didn't like.
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  10. instantdeath Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    Cool idea. I was considering doing something like this once I reached the NJO. I have no choice but to believe you stole it from my mind.
  11. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Nah, it was stolen from me trying to do a NJO book club read through at a different forum with the desired conclusion coinciding with the 10 year anniversary of The Unifying Force. Alas...
  12. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    [face_whistling]

    Good to hear, feel free to join in the discussion. First Vector Prime post will go up some time tomorrow evening.
  13. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Here's what I first wrote for my earlier NJO read through when the book club started (and fizzled) on Vector Prime:

    I've finished Chapter 3: The Role of Politics, and I'm not sure I've mentioned this but the first ten or so chapters of Vector Prime are quite heavy on the exposition. Chapter 3 really sets up a lot of interesting things, not just for the novel but the series. Borsk Fey'lya is Chief of State of the New Republic and he has a six member advisory council, and three of these are anti-Jedi: Niuk Niuv, Ryor Rodan, and Pwoe. Pwoe says that the Jedi are "a dangerous group," with Rodan adding that they are "causing disturbances throughout the galaxy." Niuv says that the "Jedi Knights are not the law," with Rodan requesting from Fey'lya that they should "consider a resolution against the Jedi. A strong statement from this council demanding that they end all policing efforts that have not been explicitly authorized by this council or by regional ambassadors."

    Luke wants to recreate the Jedi Council, but Jacen is opposed to this. You see, Jacen has it all figured out. "Is this what it means to be a Jedi Knight?" is evidently a refrain that Luke has heard from Jacen for the preceding several months.

    "Any formalities concerning the Jedi, from the academy to any new councils, seem to [Jacen] to be layers of bureaucracy added to something spiritual and personal, something that should not be governed. In Jacen's idealistic sixteen-year-old eyes, the individual Jedi Knights, by their mere acceptance of the philosophy necessary to sustain their Force powers, should be self-governing. A properly trained Jedi Knight, who had been taught to avoid the dark side, who proved he could resist the temptations associated with power, needed no bureaucrats to guide his actions, and putting that governing layer there, he feared, would steal the mystery."
  14. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Here the first part of Vector Prime, folks.

    I remember this book to some degree, but the first time I read it was a while back and a speed-skim just to check it off the list, so this is mostly fresh. However, since this book lays the groundwork for much of the series, I feel justified on doing a more in-depth review. Here are my rolling thoughts, chapter by chapter:

    Chapter 1: Let’s get this out of the way now: Salvatore has a hard job here, and heaping complaints on him isn’t fair. He has to establish the plot status quo, re-familiarize us with the existing characters (i.e. Jaina’s a thrill-seeking teenager, Leia’s undergoing a mid-life crisis and Mara’s sick) while introducing us to new ones, and bring up a new villain (Crimson Empire notwithstanding). However, this isn't a strong first chapter. He manages his job, but only just. The first half of this chapter is nothing but an exposition dump dressed up with a space battle, and the second half makes me hate Wurth Skidder. What kind of name is Wurth Skidder anyway? Most irresponsible Jedi ever; Yoda would have smacked him across the back of the head and called him a moron.

    Also, I feel that, unless I was already somewhat versed in the EU, I wouldn’t have much of an idea as to what’s going on, especially in the combat scene (Salvatore mentions help from Stackpole in the Acknowledgements, reading that combat scene makes it pretty clear what he helped with). Yet, all of the exposition here makes it clear that this is meant to be a jump-in point for those unfamiliar with the EU. Who is this book for?

    I’ve not read much of Salvatore’s other work, but from what I’ve heard, he’s good at taking a vague outline or concept and fleshing it out. He has a decent number of other series under his belt in a variety of properties and original work. The problem here is that, he restrains himself from world-building for most of the first chapter in favor of recaps and exposition. The latter part of the chapter, where he shows the situation on Rhommamool and introduces us to Nom Anor, is much better. That should have been the opening, not girl time with the Sky-Solo clan. Start with the villain, then lead into what our heroes are doing to stop him, not the other way around.

    Chapter 2: Much better than the first one. Salvatore’s hitting his stride as he gets into Danni Quee’s head and then gives us our first-ever insight into the Yuuzahn Vong. Yomin fullname Carr is a portrayal of what being an alien in Star Wars often means: familiar, yet different enough to feel “off”. The fact that he’s purposely playing a part makes it a bit better, he acts as human as he can in all but a few scenes of the chapter. When the Ooglith thingie comes off, it makes it clear just how alien he is: capable of things that most humans can’t do, like leaping a three-meter wall at a full sprint or climbing a hundred-meter tower, then gnawing through a signal cable like a giant rat.

    Danni rubs me the wrong way. I’m sorry, but she reads like a Disney princess, perfect at everything, a child prodigy and the most competent person at the station, despite being the youngest, is the de-facto boss, and yet still she’s discontent. She craves excitement and adventure, like she had in the good old days; she’s not sure what to dream of anymore. Gag me. With a spoon.

    And who should be working with Yomin fullname Carr, but the leader of the Rhommamool Red Knights Nom Anor! www.dramabutton.com! More later.
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  15. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 6
    I liked Jaina from the outset but chapter one's description of her so-called awesome master-apprentice girl-bond with Mara, just made me hate Mara, because I have a tendency to hate anyone after being told ad nauseum how wonderful he or she is. I wanted to care that she had a disease, but I didn't want to be told I was supposed to care about it.

    I didn't hate Wurth Skidder, my reaction was more along the lines of "yeah, what a dumbass," but I think you're right about what Yoda would have done to him.

    The introduction to the Vong was great, the droid execution was downright scary, and Yomin Carr was creepy enough to give me goosebumps from the time he was introduced.

    As far as Salvatore, the only other work of his that I've read is the AOTC novelization, which I really liked.
  16. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    This was Salvatore's first Star Wars book, and the AotC novel came two years later, if the Wook is correct. I think this book has a few of the growing pains new authors often have when working in the Star Wars universe, but he does a pretty fair job as far as I've read. I wouldn't blame him if he never writes a Star Wars book again, though, after reading about the death threats he received over Vector Prime.
  17. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    From the perspective of someone that read this back in 1999, part of the reason that people took issue with it is that Luke's Jedi are completely different than the Jedi in the prequel films. But I think that is the point. The New Jedi Order is part rediscovery and part making its own mark. They're not supposed to turn into the Jedi that we see in Episode I, but they are supposed to come to embrace the deeper and more complex view of the Force held by those Jedi in lieu of their more Saturday morning cartoon style heroism that Bantam inflicted upon them. I think that's what Wurth Skidder represents.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 19, 2013
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  18. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    @DigitalMessiah, I agree with you, as we'll see with my thoughts on the next few chapters. I'll try not bring up the events of the later books and violate my own rules, but I will say this: a couple of the main complaints about the NJO I've heard were "fixed" later on: Madame Chicken became a Sith rather than just confusing, and the newer Jedi Order became more like the old one. If they'd switched Jacen with Anakin and somehow brought Chewie back to life, the circle would have been complete.
    Last edited by Cynical_Ben, Aug 19, 2013
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  19. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Denning tried to do the former but the editors rejected it.
  20. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    A different Jedi Order isn't a problem, it should be different - can recall being irritated by the whole Padawan term, which should have stayed with the PT and the Old Order.

    DM's post raised a crucial point: The notion that Jedi aren't the law, which in turn begs the Q what are they? Obi-Wan's account is they were the guardians of peace and justice, that pretty much says law to me. Of course, just about everyone on that council has something to hide so they're bound to be anti-Jedi. VP was the book that practically said: You know that massive crisis of 6 years ago that nearly killed the New Republic? No one learnt anything from it!
  21. Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 7, 2012
    star 3
    And even back in JAT, wasn't it an act of the New Republic Council that formally established Luke's Jedi?
  22. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Yes, the scene was rather similar to the one in Vector Prime. But in Jedi Search, it seemed to be more of a courtesy on Luke's part. He didn't need to ask permission, but he wanted to have good relations with the New Republic and so was keeping them apprised of what he was doing with his new Jedi order. I guess the same is true of the scene in Vector Prime.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 19, 2013
  23. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Part of the problem where Luke's concerned in NJO is that he's accustomed to a certain level of confidence in the NR leaders, he's used to that where Mon Mothma, Leia and perhaps even Gavrisom is concerned. But Fey'lya isn't at all secure or confident, he's paranoid and insecure and looking for scapegoats and has stacked the council with mirror images of his attitude.
  24. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    "We have a hundred Jedi Knights setting their own agendas throughout the galaxy," Luke explained. "That's the problem."

    "...The point is that the scattering of Jedi Knights prevents any cohesive movements."

    "That's why we need the Jedi Council," Luke pressed a moment later. "A singular purpose and direction."

    "Is that what it means to be a Jedi Knight?" Jacen asked bluntly, a question Luke had been hearing many times in the last few months -- from Jacen, and not from his other apprentice, Jacen's younger brother, Anakin.
    [IMG]
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 19, 2013
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  25. HWK-290 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2013
    star 2
    Luke wasn't the only one. It was a systemic issue with the entirety of the old guard (read: leftovers from the Rebellion).

    To skip ahead a bit - but only for a bit! - Destiny's Way:
    Show Spoiler
    Poor Gial. :(