Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

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

  1. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

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    Jun 3, 2013
    star 6
    Very. He proceeded to ask how Obi-Wan knew Zam Wessel (and he even used her name; how'd he know it?) would follow him to the bar. Obi-Wan replied that he didn't, and had assumed that she would follow Anakin–because what female could resist the way he was strutting around the bar? He then mimicked Anakin's "Jedi business" line. They were wasted, man.
  2. Ulicus Lit'ari [Literature Manager]

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    Jul 24, 2005
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    "So, what did you think?"

    "Excuse me?"

    "About the woman in the red dress."

    "... I think you must be confused. I'm just here to get drunk."
    Last edited by Ulicus, Sep 1, 2013
  3. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Kenobi better have a scene where Obi is either drunk or acts drunk. If I were JJM, I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation.
  4. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6

    Oh my GOD. I never realized this.
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  5. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
  6. Solent Jedi Master

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    Aug 4, 2001
    star 2
    Where´s that from?
  7. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

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    Jun 3, 2013
    star 6
    Labyrinth of Evil.
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  8. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Sorry for not updating this thread for a while, guys and gals. This week has been a bit hectic IRL and, I’m not gonna lie, I found Jedi Eclipse hard going at parts, for reasons I’ll elaborate on further down. But enough chit-chat, let’s get down to the…book… thing… (didn’t think that through…)

    First, a note. This is a very, very tightly plotted book, reminiscent of Prequel-era Luceno works like Labyrinth of Evil. If this duology was only a single book, as was originally planned, I wonder where the cut-off point would be. I wonder how much of the events of this novel or the first novel would have been covered elsewhere, or how much would simply have not been put to page. These two books are very different in tone and in content, so I have a hard time seeing them being condensed into one, longer book.

    Regardless, as I said, this is a tightly plotted book, with wheels within wheels being in motion and multiple seemingly unrelated plots coming together at the climax. Anakin and Jacen, Talon Karrde (a welcome addition to the cast), the Hutts, the Yuuzhan Vong, Leia and the Hapans, Viqi Shesh, the New Republic fleet command, Wurth Skidder (whose name is misspelled as “Worth” once, in his own dialogue. I’ll pass it off as him mispronouncing it, since he is a captive at the time), and, of course, Han and Droma.

    That’s why I found this book hard to get through, because it’s difficult to put it down, leave for a while, then come back and remember what was going on where you left off. It’s like watching half of a movie like The Big Sleep or Where Eagles Dare, stopping it, then resuming at another time. Without having seen it before, it’s incredibly hard to keep track of everything that’s going on without doing it all in as few sittings as possible. This is an issue I had with Labyrinth of Evil as well. It’s not really a problem, per se, more an indictment of me than it is of the book. Still, I thought I’d note it.

    I’ll discuss all of the plots separately here. First: Leia and the Hapans. Aside from Isolder, who I’ve always thought got the short end of the stick in every story he’s in, I hate the Hapans. Passionately. If they weren’t killed and screwed over so often, I’d see them as an entire race of Mary Sues. They’re basically the elves from Lord of the Rings, only less serene and even more petty. Leia even likens them to an entire race of fairy-tale princesses. Their politics are convoluted, nonsensical and old-fashioned. And Ta’a Chume’s death was the one death in the post-NJO EU that I didn’t mourn or feel was unwarranted.

    Yet, this story made me feel sorry for them. They were put into an impossible situation as to whether or not end their isolation, with the worlds of the Consortium split down the middle on their decision, and with all of the old characters we love (or hate) from Courtship of Princess Leia showing up to weigh in on the New Republic’s side. But every effort Leia goes to ultimately means nothing, except for the unmitigated and unnecessary slaughter of thousands of Hapan soldiers, crippling their home fleet and leaving their neutrality shattered, with nothing gained, not even a decent battle. The isolationist was right. By choosing to fight, they had already lost.

    But the circumstances of that loss, no one could have foreseen. Anakin and Jacen’s debate over Centerpoint, and Thracken Sal-Solo’s re-appearance (another character I despise, by the way), play out as a call-back to the Corellian trilogy, and all of the references make those books seem better by proxy. The moral debate between the two is rendered almost entirely moot as the situation changes too rapidly for Jacen’s assertions of non-aggression to remain valid. If it had followed the original plan, using Centerpoint to trap the Vong in-system and staging the battle on the Corellian doorstep, Jacen would have had a point. But after the Vong revealed their true plan, Centerpoint wasn’t going to be used that way. It could have been used to mount a surgical strike to eliminate the enemy without hurting anyone else. Like a lightsaber. And Anakin knew that it could. But Anakin also trusts (or trusted) Jacen more than he trusts his own instincts. The results, Sal-Solo firing the station instead and the fiasco it causes, drives a wedge between the brothers, Jacen further into his melancholy and Anakin further into his more aggressive stance. The ramifications of this will probably be brought up in the next book, we'll see.

    Oddly enough, this book doesn’t follow much of Han’s plot from the first book. Sure, he and Droma are still out looking for the latter's clan mates, but Han's hurt and healing isn’t the focus here. Really, his entire section of the plot plays out like a mixture of the two different sets of Han books that came before this one: the Han Solo Adventures and Ann Crispen’s Han Solo Trilogy (RIP). You have callbacks to Bollux (imaginingHarrison Ford saying that makes me smile) and other parts of the Corporate Sector, just as in the first book, and the way Han plots and schemes his way through everything, independent of any of his Jedi family and flying by the seat of his pants more often than not, reminds me a lot of the Crispen works. It's a fun, adventurous part of this book, great to read after Han was left in so much pain at the beginning of the series.

    Also reminding me of the Crispen books is the appearance of the Hutt clans. Their presence is further noticing of the elements of fringe being introduced to the series. While the Yuuzhan Vong may be willing to tolerate groups like the Hutts who are willing to roll over and let them by, that tolerance only lasts as long as they are not obstructing the war effort. Talon Karrde knows which side he’s on: he’s siding with the Jedi, trying to preserve the Republic however he can.The Hutts try to play both sides while retaining their neutrality, and they wind up one step behind the machinations the Vong put together, while still partially responsible for the failure of their plans. Retribution is swift, as by the end of the book, Hutt space is blockaded and the various clans splintering. Just like the Hapans and the New Republic.

    Just like Ruin, this book ends in a victory for the Yuuzhan Vong. Their goal was never to take Fondor, they would never have been able to hold it. Their plan had three facets: exposing those who were informing on them to the Republic, using the Hutts as best they could while still preparing them for an eventual demise, and destroying as much of the Republic’s ship manufacturing capabilities as they could reach. The fact that they splintered so many of the factions arrayed against them, ruining any chance there was for a united counteroffensive against the push to the Core, was frosting on a cake.

    I have to give the Vong credit for this. Whoever masterminded this plan of misdirection inside of misdirection played everyone perfectly. They played the Hutts, they played Talon Karrde, they played the entire NRI, and they played the Jedi. With everyone engaged in intelligence games, trying to figure out what the Vong had planned for either Corellia or Bothawui, where they would strike next and in what force, trying to manipulate them to one or the other, setting up their fleets and making plans, they had already lost the battle.

    The Fondor twist genuinely took me by surprise, since I’d forgotten which battle took place where on the invasion timeline. The whole lead-up struck me as a very WWII-era plan, sowing so many different plots and seeds and ideas, and then subverting the entire minefield and doing something completely unexpected. The intrigue wasn’t to protect the plan, it was to misdirect and shield it. I would imagine that Malik Carr and Nom Anor share the credit for this plan, it has both of their experience and personalities in it. Nom Anor especially, it all seems like something he would have put together with how well he knows the politics and species they face.

    Make no mistake, the Vong won, even if half of their fleet was unexpectedly wiped out in Centerpoint’s attack. The Hapans are removed from the field just as the Remnant was in Ruin, the Hutts showed their hand and gave the Vong an excuse to demolish their hierarchy, the Jedi were once again blamed for everything and the New Republic is breaking down into even worse fragments than before. The reveal of Viqi Shesh’s loyalties is well-played, I expected it a bit, but still well done. She’s an interesting character, the sort of political character you enjoy reading about because of how thoroughly and well she plays everyone. Palpatine would probably have made her a Moff.

    Overall, a great book that requires careful reading to get all of the intricacies of what’s happening, like much of Luceno’s work. Throw ideas and plots and characters from pretty much every Han-centric novel of the Bantam era into a blender with some of Luceno’s carefully crafted political intrigue and some terrific battle sequences, and you have this novel. While I’d give Hero’s Trial a Must Read rating because of its centrality to Han’s character arc, this one is a solid Recommended, since it’s not as central to the overall plot of the series but still contains some great sequences and important plot events like Centerpoint and Fondor.

    Next time, we’re getting into one of the more divisive book in the first half of the series. Strap in, we’re heading into Balance Point.
    Rew likes this.
  9. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    I wish I had the Nas Choka gif...

    I think I'll actually join in re-reading Balance Point since it's considered to be one of the relatively worse novels of the series and I'm a masochist. Also it's important for Jacen, because he mopes around in it.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Sep 7, 2013
  10. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    And I just realized that I misspelled Ann Crispin's name every time I mentioned her in the post. [face_plain] Poor woman just died and I can't even get her name right.
  11. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    A question worth asking: after Balance Point, are you going to read the Troy Denning e-book Recovery, which is supposed to take place right afterward, or are you ignoring the e-books and going to Conquest, which I'm actually eager to re-read since it's Anakin's katabasis.
    [IMG]
    I have to admit, this is rather nostalgic.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Sep 7, 2013
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  12. Gorefiend Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    Man of Edge of Victory was so awesome... *goes reread it and remembers better times*
    Force Smuggler likes this.
  13. anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of CT, SW Saga and Lucasfilm Ltd

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    I wasn't crazy about the return to Hapes; I don't much like Isolder and I think his mother needs to be slapped, but I did feel sorry for the Hapans at the end of the book. And for ****'s sake, why are we giving Anakin something else to feel guilty about, something else that wasn't his fault?

    Balance Point...it wasn't my favorite NJO book but I didn't hate it either. But...my one sentence summary would probably be "STFU Jacen."
  14. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    It was his fault. He could have fired but he chose to defer to Jacen.
  15. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

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    Aug 12, 2013
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    Poor Anakin. If they didn't brush the Centerpoint incident under the rug by placing all of the blame on Thracken's shoulders, he'd have the most cause of anyone in the galaxy to retreat to a hermitage. Really, he should be feeling worse than the end of this book shows, almost, because he knows that he could have spared all of the Hapans who died at Fondor. He could have prevented their deaths, and chose inaction on his brother's advice. It should be worse than the Chewie situation because, unlike there, where he had no chance to save his Wookiee friend, he could have saved the Hapans. And yet, because of his inaction, they died.

    Poor Anakin.
  16. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    Blame? Thrackan was celebrated as a hero.
  17. anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of CT, SW Saga and Lucasfilm Ltd

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    As I saw it, Thracken fired, causing the Hapans to become "collateral damage," therefore it was Thracken's fault. Anakin did not cause Thracken to make the choice that he did.

    I agree with the "poor Anakin" sentiment though.
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  18. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 6
    I'm on the fence on this. While you're right, he could've taken the shot, he intentionally placed the responsibility squarely on Jacen's shoulders, either because he didn't trust himself to make the right decision, or he trusted Jacen more than he did himself, and Jacen made the wrong choice. But he could've done it without damaging the Hapan fleet and killing them, which Jacen didn't know. However, Anakin didn't know Thrackan would try to take matters into his own hands, either. Anakin probably just assumed the weapon would remain unfired, in which case the Hapans probably would've arrived and whopped the Vong's collective backsides off Fondor. No matter which way you go with it, there are unknown qualities. Should Anakin have fired? Probably.

    It's been a while, but weren't Nom Anor, Malik Carr, and Nas Choka all at that battle? All three figures weighed heavily at the end of the war and, if Anakin had fired, Nom Anor wouldn't have been on Myrkr to pursue Anakin's team, leading to Anakin's death–unless Tsavong Lah had sent someone else, someone more vicious than Nom Anor, in which case the entire strike team might have died, not just Anakin and a few others. So, there's no way to know the exact result of Anakin firing, but in the end it probably would've dramatically reduced the length of the war due to the loss of Choka, Carr, and Nom Anor.
  19. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    Choose and act. Anakin didn't even choose. In that situation, he's no different than what people complain about Jacen.

    Edit: And if you don't fire the weapon at all, you have to figure the outcome would be similar to Thrackan firing it -- a space battle in which both sides take casualties.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Sep 7, 2013
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  20. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

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    True. Though Jacen did choose at the end of BP, dropping a table on Tsavong Lah and all.
  21. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    I loved that scene, the gravity of it. It's like they're in a nuclear submarine and just got the orders to launch their nuclear ICBMs but the orders may be obsolete. Jacen is Denzel Washington and Thrackan is Gene Hackman.

    I just don't understand why Anakin gets a pass.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Sep 7, 2013
  22. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    It was Anakin's choice, and it was his fault. He made the decision Jacen would have made. I don't think anyone expected Thracken to jump in the way he did, everyone assumed that Centerpoint could only be used by Anakin himself. Thracken was hailed as a hero because one: he's a neutral party, not a Jedi or aligned with any political faction at that point, two, because he is a figure the Corellians can rally around, and three, because he took the initiative to action. Maybe the Hapans would have destroyed the Vong. Maybe it would have been vice-verse. In the end, it doesn't matter.

    All that evil requires to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

    That's the lesson Jacen (and Anakin) had to learn. Anakin learned it at Centerpoint, and Jacen will learn it soon enough. Condemning Anakin for what he did is harsh, he knows what Centerpoint can do and he knows all of the stories about superweapons like the Death Star and the Darksaber and the Galaxy Gun and oh my gosh so many others. He knows that he can shoot it without causing collateral damage, but he doesn't trust his own decision making. He doesn't want to be known as the man who pulled the trigger if he's wrong. So he defers to his older brother, whom, despite their disagreements, he sees as wiser in the workings of the morality of the Force. For all of his insistence on action, he hesitates, and, in the end, he does nothing. He primed the blaster, but left it in the holster.

    Debating "what if" is immaterial. Anakin made his choice, for once he followed Jacen's path. Did he make the right choice or the wrong choice? He certainly would have saved a lot of lives and taken out a solid chunk of the Yuuzhan Vong leadership at the same time. But he would also be known as the boy who fired Centerpoint, the Jedi who wiped out an entire enemy fleet with the push of a button. It would make all of the fears the councilors express about the Jedi's power, about their staging an insurrection and setting up a theocracy, suddenly seem a lot more valid. And, in the end, whatever the outcome, Anakin did not want to be the one to pull the trigger.

    So he didn't.

    Poor Anakin.
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  23. DigitalMessiah Force Ghost

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    There would have been consequences beyond political if Anakin fired it. The weapon became inoperable due to Thrackan firing it, but if Anakin fired it and successfully destroyed only the Yuuzhan Vong fleet while not destroying a single New Republic or Hapan ship, then he would have been called on to fire it again and again. The weapon would have been the catalyst to a quick end to the war, an end which saw the obliteration of the Yuuzhan Vong. And if Anakin refused to fire it again, all the same political problems would have occurred.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  24. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

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    Jun 3, 2013
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    Exactly. In the short run, maybe it would've been a good idea to fire it once and win the battle. In the long run, though, it would have led to a galaxy controlled by senators willing to commit genocide–the same as if the Vong were in charge.
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  25. Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Let's be honest: all of this was done to write Centerpoint out of being a quick solution to the Yuuzhan Vong, just like how Ruin covered the bases with most other sources of superweapons. Making it a moral dilemma would be convoluted outside of the context of the disagreement he and Jacen are already having.

    It's the same problem the writers of LotF had with Luke: how do you keep them from ending the series a few books in?

    How do you stop Superman? By playing to his sense of morality so that he leaves himself open.

    How do you stop Luke Skywalker? By killing his wife and making him go off the deep end so that he's afraid of what he'll become if he follows through.

    How do you stop Centerpoint from annihilating the Vong as soon as they move toward the Core? By making it so that it isn't Anakin who fires it, it's Thrackan Sal-Solo. And once it's fired, it conveniently breaks down.
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