Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

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

  1. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
  2. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    So I thought I'd take a brief intermission from Dark Tide II: Ruin to post a defense of Jacen, although to be honest I don't know that I necessarily need to post a defense of him because it seems pretty self-evident to me that the criticisms of the character aren't borne out by reality, but are mostly tilting at a straw effigy of Jacen. I mean, three books into the series and Jacen has already rescued Danni Quee and tried to rescue slaves on Belkadan, and in Ruin right now he's deep in enemy territory with a strike team of two other Jedi and several Noghri. What more can he be doing to fight the Yuuzhan Vong?

    To Jacen, the Force is a deeply personal thing. Before things had gone to pot, Jacen outlines his perspective, which is important to understand the character and the resolution to the series:

    Any formalities concerning the Jedi, from the academy to any new councils, seemed to him 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 such power, needed no bureaucrats to guide his actions, and putting that governing layer there, he feared, would steal the mystery.

    At the time this was being published, it was extremely topical to Star Wars, given that the prequel era Jedi were precisely the opposite of what he wanted to see: government mandated enforcers whom sat in their ivory tower and didn't take action unless called upon to do so by elected politicians. In other words, people that sat on their hands while the galaxy slowly descended into chaos at such a slow rate that no one noticed it was happening until things were too far gone. Which is ironically what Jacen is being accused of doing in the series, but which he very rarely does. There's a difference between doubting the action you've taken, and not taking action at all. Vergere didn't teach Jacen to choose and act, she taught him not to second guess himself afterward, or to let that doubt cloud his future choices.

    Jacen isn't content with the notion that the Force is just an energy field for him to tap into for special powers which he in turn uses at his own discretion. The Force is numinous, but not in the sense of a personal god. The Force is the collective life force of all living things, so you're part of the Force, and so is everyone else. And you are your soul, your life force, your living force, your atman, "not this crude matter." You are the Force. And the Force is you, And everyone else. Luke's academy didn't provide an accounting of this, as depicted in Bantam, it was a mostly superficial sense of what it was to be a Jedi. As Stackpole and the NJO picked up Zahn's notion that Luke has decided that he doesn't need to use the Force for much besides guidance and that usage would necessarily limit his ability to lean on it for that guidance, i.e. power vs wisdom, the NJO similarly picked up on what Bantam established as what it meant to be a Jedi -- which was primarily written by Kevin J. Anderson through the Jedi Academy trilogy, Leviathan, and Young Jedi Knights. Jacen isn't satisfied with this superficial accounting of what it means to be a Jedi.

    And it might seem obvious, in light of the prequels and with the advantage of hindsight that this isn't what the Jedi are and should never have been, back in 1999, that's what they were. But at the same time, we see that Jacen isn't particularly interested in what the Jedi were in Episode I, either.
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  3. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
    star 8
    I didn't hate Jacen until Balance Point. He was fine in Dark Tide.

    I didn't care for his and Anakin's arguing over the nature of the Force but I didn't like it when Luke sat there and mused about it either.
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  4. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Funny, I liked him much more in Balance Point because he had concluded that he wasn't suited to war - which is often killing things - but still wanted to contribute where he could, in a way that wasn't martial. I still think that was the biggest missed opportunity of NJO - what happens when you're born into a family of warriors and you're not one?
  5. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    I was fine with him trying to make a contribution on Duro but holy hell, the dude needed some Brie to go with all the whine.
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  6. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Heh, yeah, that part of his personality didn't change! But, he wasn't doing it on the front lines and wasn't thinking he knew enough to dictate war policy, that made him more tolerable. For me anyway.
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  7. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Point.
  8. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    Jacen doesn't dictate war policy. He mopes in the corner during meetings and does what Luke (and Corran) tells him to do.

    Edit: And personally, I think Balance Point Jacen is pretty well set up considering that the last time he had a Force vision that he tried to enact, he got beat by a Yuuzhan Vong warrior, leaving him kind of confused. And he still broke the Warmaster's leg.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 23, 2014
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  9. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Jun 3, 2013
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    Jacen in BP annoyed me a bit, but he made up for it by going in and smashing kriffing Tsavong Lah's leg to bits. The rest of the series, he's fine to me, and amazing after Traitor, of course. Also, I really enjoyed Anakin in BP (except for those vomit-worthy scenes where he's fawning over his...aunt). Especially when he jumped on stage and dueled Luke to cause a distraction.
  10. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    hey guys remember how Ben is actually Anakin's son
  11. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Jun 3, 2013
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    Eugh. You know I never even considered the idea before I came to these boards? You guys are a bad influence. :p
  12. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    Insane theories are a part of fandom.
    Snape is Harry's father in HP for example.
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  13. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
    star 8
    "Dumbledore never told you what happened to your father."
    "He told me enough! He told me you killed him."
    "No...I am your father."

    Dumbledore's office, a few days later

    "But I don't have a sister."
    "...in order to protect you both from your father, you were hidden with Muggles when you were born. That is why your sister remains safely anonymous."
    "Hermione. Hermione is my sister."

    ...and a thousand 'shippers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

    At least until J.K. Rowling tells her fans that they've watched too much Star Wars.

    ...and that, ladies and gentlemen, actually happened, 2003-ish.
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  14. JediMatteus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    i loved the force philosophies of the NJo. It was the first time that we had ever seen anyone question what was right. What was a Jedi. To me this was some of the most interesting plots of the series. I enjoyed jacen's willingness to question everything... but in the end it led to arrogance and finally to the dark side. Only Jacen can recieve visions, and only he can sort them out. Only he was capable of righting the universe. These were his thoughts in Dark Nest, and LOTf. To me this and the 5 years journey altered him. I do think Vergere and the torture sessions burned the empathy, and love out of him. Vergere told him to be the gardner, and eventually he agreed to be so. sad.
    Last edited by JediMatteus, Aug 25, 2014
  15. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    THANKS YOUTUBE

    I guess I've felt less urgency to do it since no one seems particularly interested. Does anyone care?? :(

    Also, going further back, I've decided that Jacen's theme is Carry On Wayward Son


    Also I associate Anakin's theme from Episode I with Jacen in the NJO due to it seeming to fit in my mind plus the Episode I soundtrack being a thing I listened to when reading the series, but I suppose that has unfortunate implications.
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  16. Cynical_Ben Force Ghost

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    I enjoy reading your review, DM, if only because you pick things out of the book that I didn't because you've read them before.
  17. Gamiel Force Ghost

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    Dec 16, 2012
    star 5
    Really?
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  18. JediMatteus Force Ghost

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    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    yes. i dont mean in-universe chronology, but us in our universe real time as far as what was released at that point.
  19. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    Chapter 13

    Jaina meets with Gavin Darklighter a week after Corran, Jacen, and Ganner land on Garqi. She tells Gavin she doesn't blame him for not telling her that Jacen was going to fake die because he didn't know either, and he tells her he wouldn't have told her even if he did, which pisses her off. The novel then goes on a bit about Jaina's privilege and Jaina thinks about how she tries to earn everything in life and the New Republic doesn't owe her squat blah blah blah it kind of makes Revelation's hang up on her privilege as a Jedi princess or whatever kind of redundant -- Stackpole is actually pretty similar to Traviss with this bit and with his military focus, but he is less antagonistic or judgmental toward the Jedi characters about it -- he doesn't make Jaina flawed in the sense that she's ignorant of her privilege and it's something she strikes to eliminate. Whether he's successful in depicting it this way I suppose I'll leave to others to decide, same as Traviss.

    Anyway, the purpose of the scene is to establish that Gavin isn't going to play favorites with Jaina, and in fact she might even be put in a worse position than her comrades, because as he explains a lot of the common soldiers actually do think like Traviss' characters, and he wants to show that Jaina isn't going to be given the cushy jobs while they're stuck in the mud digging ditches or whatever. Afterward, the Ralroost and Rogue Squadron reconnoiter the Sernpidal system and see that it's growing a massive, Death Star sized vessel of some sort, and Gavin is afraid because he doesn't think that the Yuuzhan Vong life will have a vulnerable sphincter somewhere that's an analog to the exhaust port.

    Chapter 14

    Corran and the strike team have been on Garqi for a week, and we learn they're wearing body armor with a camouflage pattern specifically designed for Garqi's wilderness. Ganner develops a respect for the fact that the Yuuzhan Vong truly are principled against machines insofar as that they smashed the harvester machines on this agriworld thus causing a large amount of foodstuffs to go to waste -- he says a less principled culture would harvest the food for the season with the machines first and then smash them. They meet up with the local resistance and learn that the Yuuzhan Vong are experimenting with their slave coral growths to try to design the perfect slave warriors out of the species of the New Republic and Yuuzhan Vong warriors are engaging them in war games. They discuss whether they should sabotage their effort or report back -- Jacen thinks they should report back without revealing their presence because he fears reprisal against the locals that are still on the planet in hiding, while Ganner wants to WIPE THEM OUT. ALL OF THEM. Pretty predictable stuff. Corran says they're going to do the happy medium and infiltrate the war games and abscond unseen (in theory) with some corpses for study to develop some sort of immunity to the slave coral. Also the leader of the local resistance is some guy whose mother Corran knew that helped him escape to the New Republic I guess, I don't remember what this is about but I think it predates Rogue Squadron so maybe a Stackpole short story. Also I guess she was Sarah Connor so she had like a bomb shelter full of miniguns and stuff for fighting the Empire that the resistance is putting to use against the Yuuzhan Vong. This guy is basically John Connor, and I envisioned him as Christian Bale.

    Also, Corran thinks Jacen is unpredictable, and that because Anakin killed more Yuuzhan Vong than Jacen on Dantooine, it is within the realm of possibility that he might pull a Ganner and just attack a bunch of them or something.
    [IMG]

    Chapter 15

    Not much happens in this chapter. Shedao Shai argues with Deign Lian, because the latter says that Shai's subordinates are whispering against him because they think he's being corrupted by Elegos. Meanwhile Elegos is carrying rocks around or something, some sort of painful manual labor. Shai kicks Lain in the chin because that's how the Yuuzhan Vong roll, and then he talks to Elegos, whom admits that he hasn't achieved transcendence through pain yet. They verbally spar about who is corrupting who, and Thrawn gets name dropped, because Elegos seems to have brought him up before, probably in the context about how lucky the Yuuzhan Vong are that he's dead because he'd totally study their art and wipe them out. Then they talk about Kre'fey and Shai isn't sure whether Elegos is telling him the truth and trying to pass it off as a lie, or telling a lie and trying to pass it off as the truth.

    Chapter 16

    Anakin and Chalco get left at the Pulsar Skate again, this time at Garos IV. Presumably whatever Luke et al. actually do here isn't that important because we don't know, but Anakin says Chalco is supposed to go look for Daeshara'cor and he tells Anakin to come with him, and a miniature Jacen appears on Anakin's shoulder and tells him not to, so he definitely decides to go with Chalco (too bad this approach wasn't taken later amirite?). Evidently, the Jedi are wearing Jedi robes this early in the series, which I didn't remember, because Anakin has to change into some clothes (he doesn't want to stand out as a Jedi) on the Pulsar Skate which aren't too big because haha Corran is short. Chalco tells some guy to buy up rooms and sell them at a higher price when refugees come in and gets some sort of kickback or something iunno and Anakin tells him that this will bite him in the butt when taxes get raised or something. Then they find Daeshara'cor and she mind tricks Anakin into running headfirst into a wall. You can't make this stuff up folks. Then she takes him captive because he is knocked out cold.

    COMING UP NEXT

    The poodoo hits the fan on Garqi.

    PART 2

    Chapter 17

    The strike team is making preparations to raid a war game with the purpose of taking corpses and killing witnesses. Jacen wants to wait until after the conclusion but Corran thinks there won't be an opportunity as clean up crews will come in right away or something. They catalog a lot of recordings of the war games from intact holocams and whatnot. Apparently Jacen has a scar under his right eye from the slave coral he had on Belkadan. The slaves don't feel the same in the Force to Jacen, they feel distant in it -- it is described as though they are a kilometer away when they're right above him.

    Apparently Ganner picks Jacen's brain about fighting Yuuzhan Vong, as Jacen had killed some and Ganner hasn't yet. We don't actually see this scene though and I find myself wondering why not? Jacen reflects that slaughtering the reptoids on Dantooine left him with the feeling that killing is ignoble, and yet he was doing what Jedi do. This is unfulfilling to him.

    Evidently Luke's training was incomplete and what resources were available were potentially tampered with by ol' Palps so as to lead you to the dark side. "Jacen knew, in his heart, that there was something more to being a Jedi than being a warrior."

    The resistance fighters ambush the Yuuzhan Vong during a war game, and Ganner and Jacen come up from the maintenance tunnels below. Seeing Ganner, the Yuuzhan Vong warrior pumps his amphistaff up in the air, I assume like the Tusken raider does with the gaffi stick! And then he issues a challenge to The Ganner.

    Ganner activates his lightsaber and goes
    [IMG]

    He didn't do an awesome flourish this time tho. They melee for a moment and Ganner grabs the Yuuzhan Vong's mask and pulls it askew and laughs to the hoots and hollers of the resistance fighters in attendance of this duel.

    "The Noghri moved through the Yuuzhan Vong slaves like rancors through Jawas."

    Jacen is attacked by three reptoids, kills one, the second is sniped by a resistance fighter, and he knocks out the third one.

    Ganner is ultimately slashed in the leg by the Yuuzhan Vong, and falls on his haunches. The warrior charges him, and apparently the guys watching earlier stopped watching because no one took any shots at the warrior, and Jacen went to get the manhole cover to hurl it at the warrior, but the warrior apparently stepped into the manhole in his rush to Ganner, breaking his leg as it plummeted mid thigh into the hole before his momentum carried him past it. Then Ganner decapitated him from the eyes up! Apparently it was a feint by Ganner.

    This seems to have pissed the other Yuuzhan Vong present off, and the chapter ends.

    Chapter 18

    So apparently Luke was meeting with the director of the University of Garos library for some reason (I guess they have a lot of Imperial records) when he gets a call from Anakin's comlink. But it's Daeschara'cor! She offers to trade Anakin in exchange for the data she is seeking, because they apparently beat her to the library. Mara says that Daeshara'cor can't let Anakin go because they'll capture her, which seems kind of asinine to me considering she can just tell them his location -- they presume he's restrained -- and they can recover him after she's long gone. But I guess this assumes some sort of simultaneous exchange. But it's a moot point since they already established that the university library has no Imperial superweapon files.

    Mara is pretty vengeful about this whole thing. Daeshara'cor is seeking superweapons to use against the Yuuzhan Vong, so she's liable to do anything, like kill Anakin! This is despite the fact that Mara was pissed earlier that Qwi Xux wouldn't build superweapons to fight the Yuuzhan Vong. :confused: Luke name drops Alderaan, Carida, and the Krytos virus. One of these things is not like the others. Luke decides Daeshara'cor is not on the dark side and Mara is being alarmist.

    Anakin tries to guilt trip Daeshara'cor, because she used to be cool until she started making him run into walls. Then Chalco struts in with a blaster rifle and some sort of rodent in the other hand, and demands Daeshara'cor's surrender. He shoots a stun bolt at her, which she easily deflects into his knee. Chalco is shocked at his humbling because his black market ysalamiri corpse FAILED to fulfill its intended purpose.

    Then Anakin uses telekinesis to launch the blaster carbine into Daeshara'cor's forehead, knocking HER out cold -- you can't make this stuff up, folks -- and Chaclo takes credit for bringing the blaster. He asks Anakin to keep the miriskin fiaso a secret from Luke because I guess he cares what Luke thinks about him iunno.

    Chapter 19

    When we last left the battle on Garqi, the Yuuzhan Vong warriors got pissed that one of their own got his skull cleaved in half, and ordered the slaves to attack. This pisses Jacen off because he's not going to kill the people he should be protecting! He Force pushes some of them causing a domino effect to the phalanx.

    Meanwhile, Corran kills a Yuuzhan Vong in a melee much shorter than Ganner's. This left one final warrior, who apparently ordered an issue to retreat, but the resistance fighters all decided to shoot him at once, turning him into hamburger as he did the "getting lit up by automatic fire dance" that was popular in 80s action movies.

    The leadership dead, the reptoids scatter, and the team begins collecting some unconscious slaves that Jacen knocked out, but are spotted by coralskippers. One zeroes in on Corran, but Jacen follows Indiana Jones' example and uses the Force to levitate the manhole cover up to jam the coralskipper's plasma emitter thing, thus causing it to blow up when it fires.

    The team makes a hasty retreat taking fire from thud bugs. They fortuitously retreat for the Baffor tree grove, trying to delay the Yuuzhan Vong as a rearguard while the resistance and some Noghri take the captured slaves back to the ship. Seven Yuuzhan Vong warriors show up, and the leader comes out and identifies himself as Krag of Domain Val. Christian Bale wants to turn him into hamburger, but Corran says if they do some one on one duels it will stall for time. Ganner is cool with this, so he identifies himself and declares that Krag has to go through Ganner to fight Corran, then a Noghri steps forward and does the same. Then someone shoots a reptoid and all hell breaks loose. The Noghri, Worf Mushkil, rushed Krag, but was almost immediately impaled.

    Ganner engages him next, and is pretty quickly cut across his face, which is pretty gruesomely wounded considering it is said he had to hold his hand to it in order to keep it together. Then Jacen steps in, does a brief saber lock, almost breaks the warrior's leg (that's his signature move), then just cuts it off in a Kenobi maneuver in which Krag's sword arm follows.

    Meanwhile, Corran fights two warriors simultaneously to defend Ganner, and begins to suspect he's outmatched... when Baffor pollen happens. The battle is immediately over, and Corran tells Jacen it's time for a little arson. Jacen is upset because "Can't you feel the Force here, Corran?"

    Chapter 20

    Christian Bale refuses to join Corran's crew, and Corran tells Jacen to shoot up Ganner with space-morphine against his will, which morally bothers Jacen. But he suddenly realizes that being the leader doesn't mean that he gets to boss other people around, but that he has tremendous weight on his shoulders, and this is true of Luke too. And suddenly Jacen doesn't want to be the boss of the Jedi anymore. Responsibility to others could blind him to responsibility to the Force. In other words, he's well on his path to becoming Qui-Gon. :(

    Jacen tries to inject Ganner against his will and Ganner uses telekinesis to stop him. Then he tells one of the Noghri to cauterize the wound on his face. Jacen tells him he'll have a horrible scar and if he just waits until they get to a bacta tank he won't, and Ganner is like "chicks dig scars." But as Ganner has his face burned without anaesthetic, Jacen feels less pain rolling off him in the Force than disgust.

    "The old Ganner, he had a perfect face over a perfectly arrogant attitude. Not so anymore. Every time I look in the mirror I'll be reminded that he died on Garqi, and I'm here in his place."

    Then Ganner takes off his belt and tightens it around his arm and is like "shoot me up!" Jacen says he could have taken the painkiller BEFORE burning his face and Ganner is like "nah."

    Meanwhile, the Ralroost is waiting on the edge of the system for exfil, with Rogue Squadron. Jaina refuses to use the Force to sense if Jacen is alive, because ignorance of the success of the mission created unity, and she didn't want to cheat that! But she doesn't know what a comlink is. And then the Yuuzhan Vong attacked.

    NEXT TIME

    The Empire and Baron Fel strike first I guess.

    I might just stop here and do The Unifying Force though if that's what the people want.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 28, 2014
  20. CT-867-5309 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2011
    star 5
    Yeah, I remember saying this in one of the LOTF/KT threads, she already went through this in NJO. But I don't want to turn this into another one of those threads.

    lol, so does everyone else, Jacen.

    This really isn't Stackpole's thing, so the poor execution isn't at all surprising.

    You reminded me that Stackpole really writes the individual Vong warrior as very formidable, quite a handful for Jedi. No?

    Later, the individual Vong warrior gets more mookish.


    Ahhhh, Mara.

    Stackpole does this kind of thing a lot. He makes a point to have characters point out how humbled (or whatever) they are, and it always comes off as anything but. These lessons learned always feel so incredibly artificial. Not only is it not what real people do, but Stackpole always says too much. Telling, instead of showing and leaving some of it unsaid. In the above scene, he could have said the same thing with much less, making it seem more natural and emotional, while allowing the reader the pleasure of discovering the meaning (which would be obvious, even if unsaid) on their own.


    It's your time, I appreciate it either way. There's not a whole lot of Star Wars going on at the moment, and even though there's plenty of EU just around the river bend (Rebels, A New Dawn, etc), I can't shake my apathy for it. Is A New Dawn out yet? I have no idea when it's coming out because I don't care.
  21. Darth_Garak Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    I'm enjoying this. I think you should finish Ruin however, there's not a lot left and it's not a big book anyway. Just my two republic credits.
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  22. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    Re: Traviss, my thought is that any redundancy is less on her and more on Denning, because she's writing in reaction to Dark Nest and his depiction of the Jedi. So the reality is that Denning really messed with Jaina's character too, but that is forgotten in the clusterfudge that are his novels. But I would say that, wouldn't I?

    Re: the Yuuzhan Vong, I think an individual warrior is more or less the equal of the Jedi early on. Corran and Jacen both get whooped in onslaught, but Jacen owns Krag -- who is the commander on Garqi IIRC -- pretty easily, and Ganner and Corran both take out one warrior each, but Corran doesn't think he can handle two at the same time while defending a wounded Ganner. I think it is around the time of Conquest - Rebirth - Star by Star that they start becoming mooks, although Destiny's Way explains that Tsavong Lah is really a terrible warmaster that succeeded strictly through attrition, and in so doing killed off all his seasoned veterans, leaving a majority of the army to be comprised of the scrub Yuuzhan Vong.

    And sure, Stackpole lacks nuance, but I'd take him over most the authors that have written SW over the past decade. It has been nearly fifteen years since he's written a SW book.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 29, 2014
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  23. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 8
    I had not thought of the Vong as "mooks" in later books but now that you mention it, they were far scarier/creepier in early books. They later became Hysterical Dudes With Messed-Up Faces, Yelling at Clouds.

    I still find them some of the best SW villains though.

    As far as Stackpole...he writes the pilot scenes really well and I recall liking what he did with Jaina. Not a fan otherwise though. I don't care about Jacen's musings on being a Jedi nor do I care about Corran's pity pot at the end of Ruin.
  24. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 6
    Reading about Jacen pissed me off too, but for different reasons.
  25. JediMatteus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2008
    star 5
    I loved the scenes on garqi actually