Lit The 181st Imperial Discussion Group: Jedi Search!

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Grey1, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    I bid you dark greetings, followers of the First 181st Exar Kun Appeciation Extravaganza! Ever since the year began, we've seen Exar Kun evolve from an arrogant Jedi Student to a ghost in a stone building; we've seen him evolve from a ghost in a stone building to another person annoyed by Corran Horn. What we haven't seen, though, is the story he was actually made for. Not the background story, not "the true story authorities didn't want to tell you". Just the story of how the guy who overslept Episode 4 suddenly wakes up to find a bunch of people occupying his creepy old stone temple and eventually gets evicted by them. Other people losing their home in this trilogy of misery include the tenants of the Maw Installation, some people on planet Carida, and even a poor slave boy isn't allowed to remain in the spot where he grew up.

    Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy, which we obviously start discussing with Jedi Search, has waited five years for inclusion in our discussion schedule. It is indeed one of the better known works in the formative EU, second in its importance and fame only to the Thrawn trilogy; but it's also seen a lot more criticism. Most of which will pop up again in this discussion, I guess.

    Now, where do we start?
  2. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    It's hard to read this trilogy and not compare it to Zahn's trilogy, since chances are good you've picked it up after putting down The Last Command and finding yourself hungry for the next adventure. It's pretty clear from the early chapters, though, that Anderson is no Timothy Zahn. There are wacky convenient-plot-device machines that can tell if you're Force-sensitive by waving a paddle at you (which might make sense in a post midi-chlorian world, but didn't in 1994), and Wedge leading a city reconstruction crew for some reason --- it's clear that Anderson wanted to use Wedge but had no actual place in the story for him. I mean, it's fine to feature him in something other than a starfighter, but leading a construction crew? What the hell? It's like he read the Jedi Prince series and drew inspiration from Ackbar being the heroes' personal speeder pilot. Even the Qwi Xux romance in the later two books seems like it was born from a desire to shoehorn Wedge in somewhere, but I'll get to that next month.

    Even the prose can't help but be noticeably worse than Zahn's:

    That was the sentence that did it for me.

    The beginning of the book is also weird if you haven't read Dark Empire. No fault of Anderson's, though, as he wasn't told that he had to incorporate DE until late in the game, but I've always felt like there should have been some kind of publishers' note or something. Anyway, Dark Empire II wasn't even released until after Anderson's trilogy was complete, and it seems like Anderson wasn't made aware of what was being written in Courtship until late in the game --- the beginning of the book sees Luke saying "I have no one to study at my Academy! Time to scour the galaxy for some potential students," but the last chapter is suddenly like "Also the Witches of Dathomir. Yeah, I forgot about them." Then Kam Solusar shows up in Dark Apprentice and it's like "Oh yeah, forgot about him too." I guess the kinks were still being worked out of the collaborative system in 1994.
  3. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    Yeah, so far in my reread the dialogue is pretty risible. Conceptually and in terms of its impact on canon, it's a great novel- having Luke refound the Jedi Order is one of the biggest events in the EU. It would be great to see what this might have looked like under the guidance of a more competent author.

    Also, Wedge the construction worker. This is how you utilize one of the greatest pilots in the galaxy, KJA? That's almost as bad as having Luke and Soontir just use pistols while Mara and Saba get the starfighters in Force Heretic.

    I give the novel credit for including vaguely original images on the cover art, even if the crashed Falcon is supposed to be upside down.
  4. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    Yeah, it was pretty cool that they put Daala on the cover. My mental image of her was pretty close to this one all the way up to the end of Apocalypse. A few other Bantam books gave us EU characters on their covers, but I was never fond of generic covers like these ones. There's nothing to distinguish them from each other --- it's just the movie heroes with worried-looking expressions on their faces, and either a shadowy figure or a pair of evil eyes in the background. That doesn't grab the interest of a potential reader. But a big central shot of C'baoth shooting lightning, or an intriguing new female Imperial character glaring at you from the cover --- that just screams "I'm a new adventure! I'm different! Buy me!"
    Last edited by Jeff_Ferguson, Aug 3, 2013
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  5. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    And I just came to Moruth Doole. Sorry KJA, but I can't take Slippy Toad threatening Han Solo very seriously. Especially when the species name is clearly a play on "ribbit".

    [IMG]

    Although Doole does help to set the pattern of all of Han's old smuggling contacts turning on him.
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  6. darklordoftech Force Ghost

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    Poor old Exar only gets a teeny-tiny forshadowing...
  7. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    He's the Original Phantom Menace. Which isn't even that much of a joke since we get the original Midi-Chlorians in this novel (plus the original politicians-are-always-corrupt plot in Zahn's work). Those were the days.

    Oh, old days remembered! This weird opening was actually the reason why I started reading the comics. I liked how weird this was. Previously, I'd seen a sort-of-review of Dark Empire on the back of a free McDonald's movie magazine (other free magazines available at other fast food chains, but eat healthy while you're at it), and I wasn't really into it, especially because of the price (almost triple the price of a paperback novel for a comic book? Outrageous.) Fast forward to Jedi Search, I got the feeling that I'm missing out on an important part of this thing that I would later know as EU and immediately started saving my money.

    Having read the JAT first, it was really weird to see all of those retcons of other force users Luke had run into when KJA was pretty clear on his setup. I guess it's not much different from the purge survivor thing, though. But back then, Dark Empire 2 and Kam felt like they belonged into a different universe (especially since we never got that prequel showing how Kam turned up at Luke's doorstep in the first place), Kyle's story in the Jedi Knight game felt like an alternate universe Star Wars since it didn't have a hint at the movie characters in it (which changed only with the graphic novels), and Corran... well, Corran had turned down his RPG force-sensitive character plot convincingly enough that he fit under "I've already met some force sensitives, but they only have talent, having learned nil up to now". But if you look at Stackpole's JAT update in I, Jedi, Kyle's still missing in the sense that Kyle would be in Luke's A-Team as a trusted quasi-Jedi and an excellent lightsaber combat/military stuff teacher.

    Back then, having a connection between two novels tended to be kind of an extreme I-see-what-you-did-there fanservice moment, and the thank-yous to some of the few other authors gave you a hint what to look out for. Today, it seems as if there's simply a huge list of stuff you can get wrong and a bunch of Wookiepedia pages if you want to include an ultra-obscure reference (preferably to stuff you wrote yourself in some obscure thing 20 years ago).
    Last edited by Grey1, Aug 3, 2013
  8. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Wow, this snuck up on me. I'll be back :)
  9. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Interestingly enough, I'm in the process of rereading this now. I'll have deeper comments once I finish, but I'm struck by how differently I react to this book now, versus how I first reacted when I read it, years ago when I had only read a few other Star Wars books. Hint: I'm enjoying it much, much less.

    I'm finding Han's dialogue, in particular, just laughable. But like I said, I'll go deeper into why I feel this way later.
  10. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Reading it at, what, 13 or 14, it was fun stuff. Because this is from the time when the Expanded Universe was actually being expanded, when you could create new Jedi characters and it felt exciting (up to the question of what the lightsaber blade colour would be). When every new planet was interesting. When Daala seemed like an interesting, because very different, twist on Thrawn's Grand Admiral template. [And while Zahn's trilogy introduced characters that seem more influential in the larger context of how EU turned out (let's just agree for a second that anything Daala did in LOTF onwards isn't as meaningful as the mere shadow of Thrawn), especially Mara and the original concept for the Solo kids, I think KJA's ideas about Luke bringing back the Jedi had a larger impact than any of Zahn's plots, which, except for Mara's future, are all neatly tied up in the end of The Last Command.]

    The next time I read it, I had just finished Sacrifice. I basically wanted to find out if all the SW books I'd read had been more stupid than I'd realized at such a young age. The JAT was the perfect stand-in because it's important, I remembered it to be fun, and I'd seen it torn to shreds in this very forum. And yeah, I can't say I liked it as much as I did half my life ago. That year's saving grace for Star Wars was definitely Tag & Bink Were Here.


    But let's focus a bit on the first volume at hand... while TTT's future of the Jedi Order was Luke training first his sister, then the next generation of Skywalker (meaning Solo) kids. Here, for the first time, Luke reaches out to find others. How do you think does this story come across? Canonically, what needed to happen to make Luke go out and find students? How much have other sources diminished the impact of Luke finding the "first new force sensitives", since there's actually been quite a few before the Praxeum, retroactively?
  11. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    I suspect that Dark Empire in particular influenced Luke's decision to reform the Order. Luke had members and descendants of the OJO coming out of the woodwork to aid him, from Kam Solusar and Vima-da-Boda to Empatojayos Brand. He had encountered enough potential candidates- Kyle Katarn, Mara Jade, Kam Solusar and Corran Horn, not to mention his brief apprentices in Marvel Star Wars- that he would have felt confident that there were even more candidates out there to recruit. And he may have felt a need to create a Jedi Order partially to oppose what was left of Palpatine's Dark Side cabal post-DE.
  12. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    That is almost exactly how I pictured Doole. Actually, I exactly pictured Doole like the talking frog in Meet the Robinsons! Which is very sad if you think about it.
  13. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    On the one hand, it definitely appears odd that it took Luke so long to start training new students, but there is a logic to it. The OT presents Force-sensitivity as extremely rare -- and the fact that the Jedi, at their height in the PT, boasted only ten thousand members in a galaxy of trillions, backs that up IU -- so it's logical that the authors wouldn't think that Force-sensitives were just lying around waiting to be trained (otherwise, what would make Luke so special?), and it's logical that Luke would have a hard time finding trainees IU. It also makes a certain amount of sense that Luke wouldn't just start up Jedi school right away. He's brand new to this, and I found the chronologically-early EU's approach to that -- that he's willing to train the Force-sensitives he happens across, but feels like he needs more knowledge and wisdom about the Jedi before he actively seeks out candidates and starts training on a wider scale and is focused on seeking out that knowledge instead -- to be pretty logical.

    As for the EU hitting him with Force-sensitives prior to this, luckily they tended to be one at a time, and didn't lend themselves to much real training. Leia is the only one he's been training for the past seven years. People like Dev Sibwarra and the Ysannas died on him right away. Corran and Mara weren't interested in much real training. Tyria Sarkin wasn't strong enough to be worth training. Kyle Katarn basically got trained on his own and was focused on being a commando, so I expect Luke kept in touch with him and sent him material, but he wasn't exactly forming a new Jedi Order there with one guy. Dathomir and Ossus offered a lot of Force-sensitives, but they tended to be people who were already trained in their own ways, whom Luke would have had a tough time winning over -- they don't make for a great project for a beginner.

    TTT and DE together make a decent case for moving Luke forward to finally take the jump and start seeking out students. In TTT, Ben Kenobi's spirit tells him that he can no longer rely on his old Master's spirit for guidance (someone really should consider the story possibilities of Luke further speaking to Ben, Yoda, and Anakin post-ROTJ), and he seeks out a Master for further training -- and finds a Dark Jedi who, posing as a Jedi Master, offers Luke corrupt teachings. Luke is wise enough to reject those teachings, and ends up defeating C'baoth. I think that could be an important moment as far as Luke realizing that he really can do this on his own. He doesn't need a Jedi Master's guidance anymore. It's time for him to move on and be master of his own destiny, to accept his own wisdom and maturity. There's also Mara's emergence, building up his stable of potential future trainees near critical mass of about half a dozen people; the students are adding up, even if Mara's not ready for training yet.

    Then there's DE, when Luke encounters Palpatine once more. He tries to do too much himself, and needs the assistance of Leia to defeat Palpatine. Then that struggle continues, and Jedi figures start popping up, and Luke ends up with a sort of retinue of Jedi, with Leia, Rayf, Jem, Kam, Brand, and Vima all around him. For the first time, he's got the experience of being part of a real, impromptu Jedi Order, and training multiple followers at once, and they're crucial to helping him actually defeat Palpatine. He only comes out of it with Kam and Leia still around, but that experience is there and he's now got multiple permanent followers. And now, between TTT and DE, Luke is confronted with the fact that he's got three nieces and nephews who will have to be trained in the future. The responsibilities are adding up, and Luke is already getting pushed into taking responsibility as a Jedi educator whether he wants it or not, and I think that adds up to make a lot of sense when he says, "Okay, I'm ready to be a Jedi Master now, I have to take on the responsibility now and I'm confident I can handle it, so I'm going to start training students." So Leia's too busy to be a full-time student, but he takes Kam, whom he's already got following him around, he extends invitations to Corran and Kyle and Mara, and then he starts trying to rustle up students to teach in a batch. We kind of have to adjust the whole, "Find me students, because I have no idea whom I could possibly teach!" implication of Jedi Search into, "Find me students, because I have a few but I want more if I'm going to get serious with this Academy idea, and I've focused on searching for Jedi lore rather than Force-sensitives for the past seven years!" But that's a relatively small tweak to a setup that I think does basically work in the EU context.

    I do think it's a fair point to bring up Kyle, though, because he's a really interesting point. He's essentially a fully-fledged Jedi, as much so as Luke, independently trained, by 5 ABY. He focuses on fighting for the New Republic rather than restoring the Jedi, and leaves that sort of leadership to Luke, but I think we would be safe assuming that Luke stayed in contact with him and shared what he learned with him. His stature, realistically, would be nearly as great as Luke's -- he doesn't know as much, but he's an experienced Jedi who's got experience in the field and has defeated several Dark Jedi. Yet, for OOU reasons, we don't see him playing a prominent role in the Praxeum's first class even though he's part of it. IU, how do we explain that? Kam plays the role of the guy with actual experience, acting as Luke's right hand man/TA in the class in I, Jedi, but Kyle, who would be as well or better suited to that role, appears to be lying low. I'd suggest that he may have suffered from some depression after his experience in Mysteries of the Sith, resulting in his lack of confidence in his own abilities and wisdom, and his desire to be there as a student rather than be leading anything. The fact that he ended up giving up on the Force rather than progressing reinforces that; he only ends up as a right-hand man to Luke once he regains his confidence in his connection with the Force after Jedi Outcast.
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  14. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    In what way are Gantoris and Kyp ideal "First Students", meaning that they come across as the most talented ones, the ones that are most important to the plot, the most "Luke Skywalker" ones (even if they have their faults that don't match up with Luke)?
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  15. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    I'll always view Gantoris as pretty much a waste of a character, but that's more of a Dark Apprentice subject. Hell, everything about this trilogy is more of a Dark Apprentice subject --- it's the book where almost everything that actually happens in this trilogy is clustered. Champions of the Force is a drawn-out resolution that rids itself of viable antagonists very early on and then meanders aimlessly for a while, and Jedi Search is really just a lot of setup for the rest of the trilogy. Who's the main badguy for the first three quarters of the book? Moruth Doole? Oooooh, scary. Jedi Search reads like the first comic in a six-issue arc, serving mostly as setup with a badguy reveal/cliffhanger on the last page. Not necessary when you have 300+ pages with which to play, though. Although not as bad as the Corellian Trilogy in this regard, this three-book cycle definitely fits the bill of "trilogy for the sake of a trilogy."
    Last edited by Jeff_Ferguson, Aug 7, 2013
  16. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    I think that Kyp and Gantoris both demonstrate the potential power of the order, as well as one of its most common pitfalls- arrogance. Kyp's arrogance at least isn't blatant in Jedi Search- at that point he's still a beaten-down prisoner trying to escape Kessel and the Maw.

    There's a lot in this trilogy that was decent, conceptually, only to be wasted by the fact that KJA was writing it. Lando getting utilized is great... only it reads as if he was blatantly shoehorned in, and for the first half of the book he is watching Umgullian blob races (which produced the memorable, ingenious term 'blobstacle'). Streen the Jedi Space Hobo is introduced and then virtually never used again, except when an author needs to pad out a council scene. A female Imperial admiral is introduced... and it turns out she slept her way to the top (not to mention holding up WILHUFF TARKIN as a sexual ideal). Moruth Doole's whole reaction to the New Republic sending an envoy is nonsensical- does he seriously believe that they wouldn't check up on Han freaking Solo? Does he seriously believe that he can fend off the same navy that fields the Lusankya?

    And then there's the creepiness. We have Slippy Toad keeping a personal rape-harem and sending any of the offspring off to work to death in the mines... and he's played for laughs. KJA is really bad about putting stuff like this in his novels and not noticing the implications- as Havac and I were discussing in #eu a few days ago, he's basically the beta version of Troy Denning.

    Also, Luke on Eol Sha:

    [IMG]
  17. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Is this as bad as Tahiri molesting Ben? In a word: yes. [face_sick]
  18. Bly Force Ghost

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    K-Mac did a decent job with him, to what little page time he got in BFC, but getting put in charge of the Jedi while Luke's away is a pretty big thing. :p
  19. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    I am so tempted to re-read this trilogy, but at the same time I think it might be best to keep it locked away as the memories of a nine year old that thought it was swell.
  20. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    And Streen was never on the Council, so he couldn't be used to pad those scenes. That job fell to Kam and Tionne, sadly.
  21. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    I honestly can't decide what to tell you, and as the discussion host I should trick you into reading it. But yeah, it loses a lot of its magic when you find out how the world works.


    But speaking of magic... we all are on the same page in regard to the amount of stuff these books invent, aren't we? There's so much scenery in it. A lava planet! Huge building reconstruction droids. Force detection gadgets. The spice mines. Some weird black hole conglomeration.

    And while most of the above is a one-off affair, the Maw actually proved fascinating enough for authors and concept creators to keep it in play. Seeing how it started as a gimmick to open up a background for Han's could-be-true-could-be-not bragging in the very first movie, it got a decent lot of mileage, didn't it?


    Another point I think we could take a look at is how the story is broken down. Luke is starting an official Jedi Search, but even if it should be the spotlight, this reads like the B-plot. Because at the same time, Han, who's not searching for Jedi, reels in the bigger catch by accident, and we know accident (as in the author's plotting) equals the Will of the Force. This balance of these two approaches is tipped when Han also stumbles over the trilogy's secular antagonist and the superweapon that opens the wider galactic plot. Luke only gets little foreshadowing of Exar Kun which can be shrugged away as "of course they're afraid of producing a new Vader", and not as an influence that will come in from the outside (as compared to a student going back completely on his own).
  22. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    Speaking of the superweapon that opens the wider galactic plot ---

    Quantum armor? Seriously?

    "It's badder than the Death Star because it has armor that can resist everything! Even the core of a star! Yet Qwi Xux hands the technology over to the New Republic and it's NEVER SEEN AGAIN."

    It's really difficult to go three sentences describing a KJA book without using the word "zany."
  23. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    He eventually reused the quantum armor concept in Young Jedi Knights- however, the armour in that is at least dentable.

    Lando uses it on his ship, that was mining the gas giant Yavin for corusca gems in its lower atmosphere.
  24. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    He did? The hell? If he hadn't, he could have used the excuse that the NR scientists weren't able to duplicate it before Kyp stole the Sun Crusher in Dark Apprentice. But now there's the burning question of why the NR didn't have a fleet of quantum-armored ships when the Yuuzhan Vong invaded. Good one, KJA.
  25. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    The Jedi Academy trilogy was my first EU book trilogy and I loved it. Read it a couple years ago and was fine with it.