Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

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

  1. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I get what you are saying, but I think part of the point to Traitor is that Jacen was wrong in his indecision but right to be asking the question. There's not really anything in the novel to motivate Kyp to decide that Jacen is right, and he's not, at least not entirely.

    Ganner's moment of oneness with the universe is achieved by being himself and acting from his nature. He was primely placed. In order to stop the YV he has to intimidate them, he has to make them afraid to face them, he has to show off and be the badass that he wants to be.

    He has to be himself. And in just doing what comes naturally, he casts off any sense of Jedi control and let's his passion and joy become guided by the Force within, his innate nature. This is the whole point to the novel. Jacen needs to just be himself. Who is Jacen Solo? Ganner is the demonstration of what Vergere is saying put into practice.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Oct 28, 2013
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  2. CommanderDrenn Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2013
    star 4
    You've inspired me to finish reading the series ;)
    I don't know if it's just because it is a bad book, or what, but I am having serious trouble with the 3rd in the series....
  3. Cynical_Ben Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    The third book? You mean Ruin? I don't think it's a bad book, but it certainly isn't to everyone's tastes. Keep reading, though, that's the best part of the NJO: because there are so many authors who write in the series, if you don't like one book you can just muscle through and get to the next one and see if you like it better. I'm having to do just that as I get through Destiny's Way.
  4. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Ruin is pretty vicious at times, excessively so even, but it has one of the stand-out sequences at the end of the book. Actually a couple. Why more wasn't made of them remains baffling.
  5. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2010
    star 4
    No.
  6. Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2013
    star 2
    Here's a random question that just occurred to me. Does anyone know why Timothy Zahn wasn't involved in the NJO? Wasn't he, like, the godfather of the Expanded Universe back then? I would've expected him to have one of the big novels like Vector Prime or Star By Star or even The Unifying Force, but he didn't even write one.

    Was he just not interested, or was there some other reason?
  7. CommanderDrenn Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2013
    star 4
    I would've loved to see some of his writing in NJO
  8. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    Maybe Lucasfilm Licencing simply didn't ask him to contribute?
  9. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    He wasn't interested I think. Too dark for him. Zahn in the NJO era would have been awesome though.
  10. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Zahn didn't have a problem incorporating the imminent Yuuzhan Vong invasion into his novels. He didn't write any Star Wars novels between 1999-2003 when the series was being produced. Subsequently, his novels saw publication in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2013.
  11. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    He did write Outbound Flight and Survivor's Quest which hinted at the Vong.
    I don't remember the quote but I'm pretty sure he did state that the NJO era onwards didn't feel like Star Wars to him and that he wouldn't write in the era. He did want to write a Luke/Mara/Ben novel after LOTF but we know how that turned out.
  12. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    http://www.theforce.net/jedicouncil/interview/timothyzahn.asp

    In this interview, the interviewer says he said that the series was too restricting, but that he wanted to write the Empire of the Hand's perspective of the Yuuzhan Vong War. He didn't have an issue with the subject matter, just the execution, insofar as that he didn't want to be constrained to a series outline.
  13. Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2013
    star 2
    I'd love to read that story, if he ever wrote it. Of course, the same's true of the other things he mentions - another Hand of Judgment story (hey, they could combine those two), and definitely the Reenlistment of Baron Fel thing.
  14. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I find myself wondering in the split of the Jedi between Luke's faction and Kyp's faction whose side Kyle Katarn was on. Based on his character, I sort of suspect he would be on Kyp's side, given that he seems to have the same mentality in Jedi Academy regarding the Force as Anakin Solo later (earlier) does in Vector Prime. I could see Ganner Rhysode being Kyle's apprentice. This should be canon immediately.
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  15. Revanfan1 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
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    I think Kyle would see Kyp as another Rosh, except, y'know, smarter, better-looking, and probably more likeable. Kyle would probably view Kyp as someone who has the right idea but is going about it all wrong. I could see a really cool scene where Kyle gives Kyp a dressing-down for his attitude but also tells him to keep up fighting the Vong. And yes, Ganner being Kyle's apprentice needs to be canon right now. That would make Ganner and Jaden Korr sort-of brothers. :p
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  16. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 28, 2013
    star 4
    I tried to do it recently, and stalled out on the same book. The prose is so stale and nothing fun happens. The Vong are a cool threat, but I just don't get that "Star Wars" thrill from Stackpole's duology.

    I did enjoy Vector Prime... maybe I should just skip ahead to whatever comes after Dark Tide.
    Last edited by Son of a Bith, Nov 1, 2013
  17. Cynical_Ben Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Sorry for the lack of proper updates for a while, folks. Destiny’s Way was a hard row to hoe. It took me over a week to finish, longer than any other book in this series so far, even SBS. I’ll explain why below.

    I’ve not read any other works by Walter Jon Williams and, to be honest, after this book, I’d be wary about doing so. I have the same problems with this book that some people, it seems, are having with Ruin. Nothing against the author personally, but the first two-thirds of this book, right up until the ACKBAR IS BACK moment, are as boring and dry and the worst parts of Vector Prime. That’s why I found this book so hard to get through; I had a hard time keeping myself going through most of the combined exposition and tell-not-show of the first two thirds of the book. The only interesting parts were Luke and Vergere discussing philosophy, which served to both sum-up the message of Traitor and to illuminate just how easy it is for others to misunderstand it.

    WJW has a good grasp of space combat, of how the technology of Star Wars works, of how most of the characters (excepting a few) think and act, and the fleet scenes are actually well done, my inner fleet junkie approved. But until we actually start building toward the climactic battle, the book lacks the charm of Allston’s books, the charisma of Stover’s, or the gripping darkness of Denning’s. It lacks any sort of reason to keep me reading. It’s just dry, mechanical words on a page. Again, it reminds me most of a lot of the worst parts of VP, where exposition was valued above storytelling.

    I’d be very, very disappointed if this was the hardcover I’d been waiting for since Traitor was published. Compared to Traitor, this book is almost bad. It barely manages not to be, fortunately, thanks to its gripping and well-constructed final act. But it’s a near thing. I understand the need for recap for the folks who missed the paperbacks between this and SBS, but surely most of the readers of this series would have read those books, they had to read something between the hardcover publishing.

    The first two thirds of the book, as I said, are mostly recap and catching up from the events of the past, let me see, five books, all the way back to SBS by way of Traitor and Dark Journey. We even get a follow-up to the events of Ruin as Han and Leia head to a rendezvous with Pelly to discuss the Empire’s role in the war so far. Pellaeon is rather OOC in his scenes as well, he comes off as less an old man of the Empire and more of a generic British military governor. And the little speech in the garden… just felt off. I’m not sure Pellaeon ever believed what he’s saying before now. And all of a sudden, Leia’s serving as a diplomatic envoy, despite her being done with politics several books ago, and Jag’s back to his usual stiff self. Disappointing.

    Jaina leads a successful mission over Obroa-skai, trying to assassinate the Supreme Overlord, but takes out a Supreme Commander by mistake, someone we’ve never heard of. Seeing how hard, and thus brittle, Jaina has become after the events of SBS and the supposed deaths of both of her brothers is… interesting, but not really compelling. We’re just retreading ground from Dark Journey and Rebel Dream. Also Keyan Farlander is an Admiral out of nowhere, likely because WJW didn’t want to step on Allston’s toes by using Wedge instead. And both of them are recalled to Kashyyyk as Kre’fey joins back up with the main NR fleet.

    Jacen also returns to his family, in one of the few emotionally effective scenes in the book, as he reunites with both his parents and his sibling. The fact that Jaina, while obviously happy to see him, still keeps him at arm’s length speaks to both the realities of war she’s resigned herself to, and the fact that she was really over this several books ago. Jacen is more mature and acts less like a teenager, but he still makes mistakes, he’s still human. I like that Vergere’s training isn’t an instant win button for him, it takes time and experience for teaching to have an effect, especially philosophy.

    Speaking of Vergere, her conversations with Luke are the highlight of the first part of the book, trading questions as they both seek to understand each other. Her philosophy isn’t wrong, it’s just different, and the fact that Luke doesn’t trust her makes it harder for him to understand what she’s trying to say. I find it rather amusing how she distains the courting of politicians and the pomp and ceremony of the knighting ceremony, since, in hindsight, her own generation of Jedi would do things very similarly in the war they fought. I can only imagine how Vergere would have dealt with the state of the Jedi during the Clone Wars.

    Speaking of politicians, we get Fyor Rodan with a bit of character development, as it turns out he’s not a one-dimensional antagonist, he’s a genuinely decent politician who sees the Jedi as being above the law and thus dangerous. And he has a point, as Luke brings up. We also see Cal Omas for the first time in anything resembling depth, as he’s elected Chief of State thanks to Lando and Talon Karrde and promptly reestablishes the Jedi Council with half non-Jedi and half Jedi, a great arrangement. He also brings the one and only Admiral Ackbar back in a consultant role to earn them a victory. He also gives the green light, over the protests of both the Jedi and some of his other councilors, Alpha Red, an obvious Chekov’s Gun if I’ve ever seen one.

    The idea of using a biological weapon that will perform, not only genocide, but speciside, is an abhorrent one, even to me. It’s something that not even the Yuuzhan Vong are willing to consider as an option, even they see the uses of keeping a species alive and not utterly wiping them from existence. Alpha Red promises to wipe out, not only the Yuuzhan Vong warriors, but also their priests, the shapers, the Shamed Ones, their ships, their weapons, their armor, and every bit of life they’ve spawned on any of the planet’s they’ve touched. It’s an incredibly short-sighted solution to the war, a weapon of such potential destruction that its creation is a sign of complete and utter desperation. This isn’t just a nuclear bomb, this is making a gas that would kill everything, people, tanks, cars, planes, computers, even animals and plants.

    Complete annihilation, even against an enemy like the Yuuzhan Vong, should never be the solution.

    Speaking of the Yuuzhan Vong, we get some pretty good chapters from their perspectives as the Supreme Overlord makes his domain on Yuutanzhar. Pretty much all of the Vong leaders or notables we’ve seen are gathered there, excepting Nas Choka because he’s busy distracting the Hutts with his mesmerizing dance. Nen Yim is filling the eighth cortex, Harrar is trying to cover his backside and keep out of the spotlight, Tsavong Lah is being the brutish, obsessed thug we always knew he was, but the highlight is Nom Anor. After so many failures, after being outwitted and out-gambitted on every front since Ruin, he finally realizes that he’s fighting a war that cannot be won, put together one last massive plan, and then disappears. He always has an escape route, after all.

    We get a few other scenes of things happening, like the YVH-M droids making every spy the Yuuzhan Vong have utterly useless, Mara piloting a sub, and a disturbing number of scenes of implied sex (I counted five, with a possible sixth, including one with Tsavong Lah), but most of it is surprisingly boring. All of the elements are here for a good set-up for the battle at the end, all of the espionage, the politics, the training and fleet work, but the dry, uninspired prose makes it drag much more than it should. It reminds me a lot of Triple Zero or True Colors, books were most of the action happens in fits and starts and is surrounded by a lot of people talking. Maybe that’s a realistic view of war, but that’s not what I want to be reading. The only scene that sparks a bit of life into things is when Vergere goes first-person and describes her time on Zonama Sekot and her first meeting with the Yuuzhan Vong.

    Ackbar’s reintroduction as an old, worn down veteran who has to be helped just to walk and stand is a bit… I’m not sure. It’s not sad, it’s not overly sentimental. It makes sense from a story perspective; Ackbar is the strong, respected leader that the NR admiralty has lacked, thus far. I’m just… not as enthusiastic about his return as some people probably were. I see it as more of a desperation thing from the NR and a lack of confidence in their own admiralty than anything. It’s like if the US had asked Eisenhower to come out of retirement to command their forces in Vietnam. The difference being, of course, that Ackbar is a wily leader who’s been studying their enemy, and has formed a plan for battle that could potentially destroy the Yuuzhan Vong.

    Of course, that’s not what happens, but the results are no less gripping. The last third of the book or so is the lead-up to and depiction of the final battle, Ebaq 9, where the Yuuzhan Vong somehow get trapped in a “dead end” system and systematically wiped out by pretty much the entire New Republic fleet excepting a few scattered battle groups like Wedge’s. We get Farlander maneuvering his entire battle group like a starfighter squadron, Kre’fey reveling in the slaughter since the Bothans declared holy war, Bel Iblis being wary, and Han actually leading the smuggler forces with a great deal of effectiveness. We also get the Jedi meld finally coming to full realization, with Jacen coordinating the battle from the bridge of the Ralroost like Ender in his glass dome.

    As I said, the best part of the book is the end. The Yuuzhan Vong lose over a third of their fleet, have many more ships damaged, hundreds of thousands of warriors are killed, the last remaining voxyn finally die, and Tsavong Lah himself goes down to Jaina’s lightsaber. However, the New Republic does suffer losses, especially among Farlander’s group and the smugglers, with almost half of the latter being damaged or destroyed. Vergere also decides that she’s a Jedi, and sacrifices herself for Jacen and Jaina by ramming an A-wing into the moon. Ackbar couldn’t account for every eventuality, and he underestimated the single-minded fanaticism of Tsavong Lah directed, not toward battle, but toward sacrifice.

    I’m not sure that Destiny’s Way is a good title for this book, it’s vague and open to interpretations, sure, but a better title would have been Turning Point, even if that is a bit obvious. We get a major victory against the Yuuzhan Vong, Jacen is back with his family, Nom Anor now knows that the gods are phony, and the Jedi know of Zonama Sekot’s existence, thanks to Vergere. All of these things make it a Must Read, it’s just a pity that most of this book is so interminably boring. Until you get to the last few sections, or really enjoy reading about many people talking, there are big chunks of this book that you can safely skim over, especially the recaps of previous events and books.

    Next time, we tackle the first in a trilogy and see just how hard it’ll be for me to keep enthusiastic about this series going forward. Force Heretic: Remnant, the book with the worst cover art in the series thus far.
    Last edited by Cynical_Ben, Nov 1, 2013
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  18. Revanfan1 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    I agree that the book's a bit dull most of the time. It did have its good scenes, though, and those are terrific. The Battle of Ebaq 9 was way beyond cool, so was the duel on the space station and Jacen using emerald lightning. Other than that there's not much to speak of in the book, except Jaina gets That Title That Doesn't Matter.

    Also...

    Show Spoiler
    You say there are six implied sex scenes in this book? I remember the Han/Leia one, the Luke/Mara one, and you mentioned the Tsavong Lah one. What are the other three?
  19. Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2013
    star 2
    About that. Did anyone else feel that the Alpha Red story in the NJO was just a little too obviously lifted from Deep Space Nine and the Dominion War?
  20. Cynical_Ben Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    I'm not versed enough in DS9 to say. But I don't know if it implied the complete and utter dissolution of everything the Yuuzhan Vong are and have built.

    This book did have some good scenes, I just wish the material between them was better.

    Emerald lightning... I'm honestly not sure what to think about that. It seems like the beginning of The Big Misunderstanding that is the post-NJO corruption of Vergere's teachings.

    also (open)
    Luke and Mara have two scenes, including one mid-book or so with Jacen in the same suite, not to mention a lot of rather playful teasing, Han and Leia have two, one explicit and the other a remembrance, Nom Anor teased another out of Tsavong Lah, and Jaina implies a possible one with Jag.
  21. Revanfan1 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    Huh, I remembered a few Han/Leia scenes on Mon Cal but I thought one was in The Final Prophecy. Or maybe there's another one...

    And I don't remember the Jaina/Jag one. Huh.
  22. Cynical_Ben Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    Han and Leia get one on the Falcon coming back from their rendezvous, with them reminiscing about something that might be one in a later scene that took place before the book.

    Jaina has at least two scenes where she "longs for the taste of his lips on hers", one that almost gets... icky before she realizes that she's got more important things to do, like wishing for death.
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  23. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I'd say emerald lightning was Walter Jon Williams going off of Plo Koon's electric judgment that was created a year or two beforehand.

    It has nothing to do with Vergere... except people trying to make the connection. Might as well argue Obi-Wan trained Anakin to choke people.

    Edit: I just had an additional insight into Traitor, specifically early on with Vergere's lecture on pain.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Nov 1, 2013
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  24. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Yes, "every power should be available to either side of the Force" is a separate issue.
  25. Gamiel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 5
    You are hard to please:p
    Last edited by Gamiel, Nov 1, 2013