Lit The 181st Imperial Discussion Group: Jedi Search!

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

  1. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    All the flaws have been talked about at great length, but it's been a while since I went off on them, so, yeah, here we go.

    I think the main problem is the horrible, horrible, horrible writing. The prose is just awful; the dialogue is worse. The characters, especially Han, are so exaggerated. They feel more like the MAD Magazine parody versions of Luke, Han and Leia than the real characters. And let's not even get into Wedge and Lando. Wedge has always harbored a secret desire to be in building demolition? You don't say? And Lando ends up having a shootout at something called the "blob corral." I mean, let's just let that sit there on it's own; you don't need to know anything else to know that's stupid.

    I give him credit for creating Kyp Durron. He was one of my favorite characters in the NJO. But, unfortunately, Anderson really uses him in an awful, awful way and turns him into a totally annoying characters. But, hey, if not for Anderson, he wouldn't have been there for other, better authors to use effectively, so that's one point for Anderson.

    There are other points that should wait for the other books: Gantoris' magic lightsaber, the entire Exar Kun concept, Qwi Xux, the horrible Maw villains' comic relief, etc.

    Also, I'm not sure . . . does KJA start trying to force Ackbar and Winter into a romantic relationship in this book or is it not until the next two? Regardless . . . weird. I mean, what an odd idea to even have: "Let's give Admiral Ackbar a romantic subplot! With a human!" Yeah, that's a . . . thought . . . I guess.

    EDIT: And how could I forget my favorite awkward "this feels disturbingly sexual" concept of the entire EU? Namely, Luke's ability to rub a nub in people's brains to find out if they're Force powerful. Seriously, he "rubs" a "nub." There's just something wrong about that. And let's not forget that Kyp blasts him across the room when Luke rubs his nub. Yeah, nothing weird going on there.
    Last edited by Rogue1-and-a-half, Aug 8, 2013
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  2. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Not to mention Winter marries Tycho (though that may be later on; and yet she still takes care of Ackbar in TUF).
  3. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    It only worked in economical contexts, not in military. Science.

    Got me fooled... I fully expected the sentence to go on with a "so why don't we talk about all the beautiful stuff"? :p

    Regarding Wedge - he was an expert in building demolition, I'd say. Okay, bomber pilots might be even more expert than him, but let's just count the Death Star as a building. But seriously, I can't bring myself to hate this point, because it actually opens up a certain depth for the character. The party line is: Wedge was a good pilot kid; he became a rebel pilot; once he was a rebel general or admiral, he still wanted to sit in the cockpit until he couldn't climb the ladder anymore, which is when he retired and wrote his memoirs about being a fighter pilot. But how about a man who's finished fighting his rebellion? Who's not burned to a military crisp that can't function in the real world, and doesn't always have to rely on the mates from two book series' squadrons? Who can get closure for a decade or two of his life and start over as a civilian? Maybe even in a meaningful way, like building up stuff for people living peaceful lives when his previous life was just about dealing death and destruction? Even when he's commanding a capital ship or a fleet it seems like half of the audience and the authors want to make him into Admiral Kirk, weeping for the good old times when he was in that one spot he loved most, and ending up in circumstances that return him to that one status quo.

    And I think blob races are extremely funny, and probably cute. Plus, they work in B-movie sci-fi in form of the horrible gelatinous blob as a cameo joke. Works better than the Klaatu Barada Niktos having flying saucers, since the visuals don't clash so much.

    I'd just like to point out where this discussion will be going - the dual phase phallus ersatz, err, lightsaber, was one of the concepts nicked and not knocked by Stackpole; I'm not sure the Exar Kun concept is flawed; and the Maw villains could be pretty close to the seperatists from TCW.

    I wanted to talk about that, too, but for different reasons... ;) Luckily, I read the german translation in which it's "touching a knot", which never produced a sense of innuendo in me.

    What I wanted to talk about is the concepts of manifestation of Force sensitivity. Midichlorians were a huge deal in 1999, since a vocal group of people doesn't like a physically measurable manifestation. Magic loses its magic when you explain it, I guess. But here, we have two concepts: A machine - basically a Midichlorian scanner like Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan use it - and the technique of finding this, well, let's call it a knot that reacts to Force interaction. I don't think either reappeared in the EU, even though the machine angle would make a lot of sense after 1999. Now, in Jedi Search... why two approaches? And which do you prefer?

    How did earlier manifestations of Force sensitivity work? People radiating their "Force power" for other wizards to pick up as a presence? Waiting for someone to use telekinesis?
    Last edited by Grey1, Aug 9, 2013
  4. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    I didn't much care for the paddle machine that was used to pick up Force sensitivity. But then I never cared for the midichlorians either, so it's basically just that I'm not that crazy about the more "sciency" theories of the Force. Finding a spot in the mind and pushing it isn't so bad; I kind of like the idea of an involuntary reaction that utilizes the Force. I mean, a person can use the Force; a person has involuntary reactions. So why not an involuntary Force reaction? I find the phrasing hilarious in a kind of inappropriate way, but the idea isn't bad.

    Actually, that's kind of a theme in this series; KJA has some good ideas, but doesn't execute them very well. I'll talk more about a couple of these things in the later books (your points about Wedge, in particular, are well taken and I'll pick up on those in the later books). Also, I'm not averse to Daala as a character; I kind of like the idea of a female admiral that's just totally fanatical. She was rarely, if ever, used properly (though I haven't read the newer books that she's in), which is too bad.
  5. Dr. Steve Brule Force Ghost

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    One of the bits I liked in Betrayal (which I maintain to be the sole decent book in the DNT-LOTF-FOTJ-Crucible series) was the scene where Wedge basically spends his retirement sitting at home playing the X-wing games on his Space PC. Because why not?

    It's interesting how the early EU was really invested in the concept of interacting with Force sensitivity. The ysalamiri in TTT, the Force Cages and Holocrons (which at least originally only interact with Force users) in Dark Empire, the scanning paddles here (which I believe were also used to find Jedi students in the YJK books?), the various Sith amulets and poisons which can not only boost your Force powers, but also turn you from the light to the dark side, in TOTJ (which also introduced swords and other such weapons that could have the Force somehow imbued within them)...

    I guess I'm not sure where I'm going from this, other than it was pretty common in the EU to have scientific explanations and set rules for physical interaction and control of the Force, even before midichlorians. Yet I feel like the Force paddles from JAT, and maybe to a lesser degree the ysalamiri, were the only ones that EU fans really criticized.
  6. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    I like the Force as applied by the Jedi being measurable. Midichlorians, paddles, ysalamiri, etc. don't reduce how interesting the Force is from metaphysical perspective, and for me makes it more interesting.

    I liked Exar Kun and Gantoris' lightsaber. :(
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 9, 2013
  7. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    Actually, that was when he was stuck in a cell on Coruscant.

    I really do like Wedge having some goals outside the military. JAT isn't the best at articulating it, but his desire to be an architect is nicely expanded on in the X-wing material. He may have ended up a fighter pilot, but he didn't grow up dreaming of military glory; he grew up dreaming of building cities. And he got away from that, and ended up doing something that he loved but took a toll, and eventually he took a break from his command job to try doing something different now that he wasn't going to be in a cockpit anymore, to satisfy the desire to build something rather than fight. It's kind of a dumb move on KJA's part that's just there to get a recognizable character there for the Jedi paddle construction discovery, but it's been worked into something that's really great and rounds out Wedge as a character.

    That's a good point, that there was this tendency toward Force/technology interaction, but I do think there are a couple distinctions in there. Stuff like the holocrons and amulets are clearly mystical in nature -- they're technological in part but also infused with the Force, and reinforce the idea that the Force is mysterious and powerful and mystical -- they're Force-as-magic devices. Like the Force-imbued swords (and staffs), they're "enchanted" objects, which makes them fit more easily into the mystical, spiritual conception of the Force. The interaction between Force and technology there is mystical and obscure. The paddles move into a different realm of Force-as-quantifiable scientific phenomenon, and the evolutionary anti-Force bubble of the ysalamiri fits more into the scientific approach to the Force as well. I'd say the Force cages are in the same category -- the idea that you can just build an anti-Force device -- but they're sufficiently obscure not to draw as much attention. But they all share the quality of treating the interaction between Force and technology as rational and scientifically observable or quantifiable.
  8. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Excellent point, Steve. And I'll agree about the scientific/mystical distinction, Hav... up to a point. Because Star Wars is a combination of both; like Masters of the Universe, it's a fantasy story with technological gadgets. You have a weapon like a lightsaber that's either a glorified tool or something a Jedi takes a month and many ghost world trips to construct. Han can, of course, use it as a knife, but the thing itself only makes sense when coupled with Jedi abilities and Jedi philosophy.

    If anything, the distinction between mystical old stuff and more recent scientific stuff helps give a historical dimension to this. Sith alchemy and enchanted swords were meant to be things in a strange, ancient age that looked more like a fantasy world than the movie age. On the other hand, science and technology are all around in the movie age; they are already used up in some parts. The Death Star is the equivalent of the atom bomb, and the civil war reminds us of WW2. Science is pushing the mystical stuff aside - even if it still valid, people stop believing in magic. But then again, the Force, or rather the way people interact with it, is observable; and if it is observable, you're already in scientific territory.

    The best point to clarify my stance on ancient alchemy vs. modern technology "getting a grip on" the Force are the Ysalamiri. Scientifically, you find out why they neutralize the Force, how large their bubbles are, how different bubbles combine, how you put them on your shoulder to fight a Jedi. But aren't they mystical when you don't use science? You step into a certain area, and suddenly you are powerless. A haunted place! The Force left you! Then you find out that it's the magical animal that takes your power away. It must be some kind of trickster! The same goes for alchemy, which is science understood only by few (if at all), and science, that, you know, Arthur C. Clarke.


    Now, what I want to delve into is what Steve pointed out. Old EU had all these interactions with the Force. Giving options to the heroes to be stopped, and to the little people to step up, stop Jedi, or take over for stopped Jedi. Expanding the universe in how all this works. How does this era of exploration compare to those eras before and after? First, Marvel - is it an "era of making cool stuff up" in comparison? What did they bring to the Force, and how coherent was it? On the other hand, NJO and onwards (maybe to be seen seperately). There's the psychological approach to the Force breakdown, and later on, Force-related actions are used like videogame elements (as seen as early as Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight) - people Force Push, they Force Jump and use Force Lightning. [Plus, there's flowwalking, which was changed again and again over the years.] Does recent canon offer a new view on the Force, maybe an "I've seen it all" approach?
    Last edited by Grey1, Aug 10, 2013
  9. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    We could have done all three books in one month... [face_thinking]

    OK, another question... seeing how this is essentially the genesis of Luke's round table, what do we think about the origins of these knights? And of the knights who later get retconned into the first batch of students? Are there any classic knight backgrounds, of honourable men? How much of the origin work seems to stem from Luke's rebel alliance/family history mold?
  10. wmu'14 Jedi Master

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    Although the writing style was very bad, I actually liked how the JAT moved the story forward with Luke FINALLY rebuilding the Jedi Order. The worst parts of the JAT aren't the Force Paddles or Luke building his Order in the temple of a Sith Lord. Rather, the worst parts are Daala's pathetic attempts at trying to bring the New Republic to its knees. For example, she tries to retake the ship-building world of Mon Calamari with a small fleet of three or four Star Destroyers. And she was also seriously waiting in the Maw for 15+ years with her men. Really?
    Not to bring this thread too much into Champions of the Force territory, but I didn't like also how Exar Kun is defeated in the first third and then we're left with Daala as the main villain.

    The parts with Han and Kyp Durron on Kessel were also boring.

    I actually enjoyed the parts with the Academy on Yavin IV, although I didn't really understand why after every Exar Kun attack, Luke doesn't do anything. I'm serious. I think someone dies and he's like "Beware the Dark Side" and the chapter ends and then next chapter picks up as if nothing's happened.
  11. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    The worst part of Daala's "campaign" was how destroying a defenseless colony on Dantooine was viewed by her as somehow sticking it to the New Republic, as if it somehow advanced her cause.
  12. Vialco Force Ghost

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    Everything she knew she learned from Tarkin.

    But I liked Jedi Search a lot, it really follows the style of the OT. Much better than the Thrawn trilogy when it comes to staying true to the themes of Star Wars.

    Anderson gets that Stars Wars is space opera not hard sci-fi. That's a revelation that Zahn fails to understand to this day.
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  13. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Slightly off-topic, but it occurred to me recently that a lot of fans are drawn to Star Wars because of the spaceships and battles rather than the eastern mysticism, Jungian symbolism, and Campbellian monomyth. I think that's why Zahn's novels are so popular.

    I can't find my copy of Jedi Search but I did find Dark Apprentice and Champions of the Force, but I'd like to re-read it to see how much Anderson "gets" those things. I think he tends more to use platitudes and regurgitate lines from the films without demonstrating understanding of the meaning behind those lines. I'm not sure whether that's really better than Zahn just avoiding or minimalizing them, or presenting the ideas through characters that it doesn't really fit through a mundane metaphor.
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  14. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    I'm a rather big fan (conceptually, at least) of the backgrounds that KJA provided for Luke's Order. I like the idea of these new Jedi coming from all walks of life, which gives Luke's New Jedi Order a diverse skillset to tackle whatever problem needs to be solved. They have diplomats, political leaders, commandos, former darksiders (I seem to remember @Thrawn McEwok having some thoughts on that, but that probably should remain outside this discussion :p), former smugglers, and assorted other careers. KJA isn't the most competent author, but the composition of the early NJO is an excellent idea, and I would like to see more EU authors follow through on that. It provides the New Jedi Order with a greater breadth of skills, a greater experience of the galaxy at large, and a greater perspective on how to approach the problems of the era. Not to mention, it more firmly roots the Jedi with society at large, eschewing the aloofness of the Prequel-era Jedi. It's Luke learning one of the more important lessons from the fall of the OJO, which does a great credit to Luke's character. As for classic knight backgrounds, Kam Solusar and Corran Horn are the sons or grandsons of OJO Jedi (Corran Horn the grandson of an unorthodox, almost NJO-style Jedi at that). Luke's Rebel background does tend to skew the first class a little towards military veterans (Kam, Kyle, Corran, arguably Mara from her intelligence work, and possibly the retconned-in Madurrin, if due to her battle meditation abilities if nothing else). I think that it's as much shaped by the threat of the rump Empire as much as it is by Luke's Rebel background. While Luke envisions a peacekeeping force of commando-diplomats, he also has to deal with the reality of the still-significant Imperial forces, and chooses his first class accordingly.
  15. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    Holy hell, yes. I think you just described KJA in a nutshell.

    Seriously, there's so much about this book that doesn't make sense. Havac's posts have pointed out how the later EU worked overtime to actually make sense of it, but a novel shouldn't require that. RC-91, you make good points about Luke's inaugural Jedi Class, but you're including Corran, Kyle, and Madurrin, none of whom are actually present in this trilogy --- if we look at what KJA actually brought to the table in Jedi Search, we get the vague-and-only-kind-of-interesting Gantoris and a Hermit from Bespin who seems to exist just so that KJA could revisit a movie location. This trilogy is a good enough idea that later authors could revisit and improve it, but KJA's actual execution is just awful.
  16. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Well, he doesn't really choose those because he aims to make the Jedi a paramilitary organisation; those guys are actually some of the few people he knows (from that paramilitary organisation he used to volunteer in), and for some reason Force-sensitives seem to pop up where important stories happen. I'm pretty sure that if Star Wars were a highschool drama, the first class of Jedi students would have had a whole lot of actual students in it.

    Off-topic? At this point I'll take any discussion I can get!

    On a more serious note, I just wondered about that myself, having finished Mercy Kill a few days ago. And having read a bit from Coop's blog thing where people talked about who could and should be the Episode 7 villain. The thing is, putting the OT in perspective through the PT, Lucas showed that his story is not really about the football team rivalry between Evil Empire and Mighty Rebellion, but about mythical figures on journeys. Previously, when Bantam was extrapolating from just the OT, authors tried to get a healthy balance from the two. That's why Luke has to learn not to trust any white-bearded Jedi but be a Jedi on his own in the more secular TTT, and that's why the heroes have to fight a memorable-if-nothing-else Imperial madperson in the more mythical ghost fighting, knight training JAT. And all in all, they all tried to extrapolate on Eighties action movies, not on Lucas' mythical concepts that flew above everyone's head, including screenwriters who embraced the Hero's Journey model as the ultimate emotional movie template. I can't think of any creative group treating a SW book or series as a direct derivative from Lucas' mythological studies until NJO, and I can't think of any author actually putting work into that concept except for Stover. You might see philosophical ideas, or literary themes, but I don't think anyone ever saw SW as something beyond literature or beyond a fan-shaped universe - as the modern myth.

    Other than that, when we accuse KJA of regurgitating movie locations, characters, and lines - that's what early Bantam stuff did. Zahn writes cringeworthy "it was just like that Cantina where Han had met Luke" moments in his first trilogy, and in HOT he adds TTT memories to the list. With SW fans turning into savvy cynical internet nerds, stuff like Stover quoting Gandalf with "None shall pass" ends up as one of the fan's favourite scenes ever, while Pellaeon saying "The Empire will always strike back" and anyone in LOTF saying "Han shot first LULZ" manage to excite. And if you ever take a look into holy Darabont's holy Indy 4 script, you'll see it was filled to the brim with cringeworthy "homages" to the old movies. And if even holy Darabont loves to write like that...

    Another thought, one about KJA's rather "offending" ideas - like making the Imperial woman completely incompetent, seemingly implying something bad about women, or like all those half-baked ideas of stuff that's probably cool but executed without enough thought - isn't that a lot like what Lucas is consciously putting into his movies? Like, putting a clown character in, or making the Vietcong metaphor into teddy bears, or making the evil general a serial mustache-twirler, or even drowning the romance plot in schmaltz? Stuff that might be in there out of some out-there homage thinking, or out of the writer's laziness (or who knows, maybe both)?
  17. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Zahn's constant references to the films are one of the issues I had with his novels, and I don't buy the argument that he had nothing else to reference either. Lucas is a good writer at implying history, like the time Anakin and Obi-Wan fell into that nest of gundarks, or that business on Cato Neimoidia. Lucas is good at suggesting a much larger universe through the dialogue in general, like the spice mines of Kessel.

    Apart from having Han open the novel on Tatooine, which I assume Zahn meant to be a bridge to his trilogy from the films, he was pretty good at creating new planets. The same is true of Dark Empire, which invented a lot of iconic Star Wars locales, such as Nar Shaddaa.

    As for reusing film characters, that almost seems necessary, because invented characters almost never stick. Mara Jade did through popularity, Corran Horn did because Stackpole wrote eight novels and used him in each one, and the Solo children did out of necessity -- and they were more plot devices than characters early on. It seems like Del Rey has quit trying altogether with each author having his or her own stable of characters outside the status quo that established itself of Jaina's husband, the mother of Han and Leia's grandchild, and Luke's son.

    As for the mythological component, I think Veitch was cognizant of it, especially Jungian symbolism, when he was writing Dark Empire. The Black Fleet trilogy also seems to acknowledge the eastern religious influences with Luke's arc.

    But otherwise, the dark side was given a Luciferian bent, Luke just repeats Yoda's lines with proper syntax, and there's no underlying meaning to being a Jedi except early 90s Saturday morning cartoon style heroism. It may just be that western values were used by default and out of lack of appreciation of the meaning to what Yoda says. I think "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try" is the most popularly misunderstood line in the films. Yoda's lines are reduced to this:
    [IMG]

    The Star Wars EU writers only scratched the surface of the films, and consequently only took away from it the superficial elements. This is why the EU gets a bad rap. And it's problematic from a continuity perspective because there's a lack of continuity in the sense that these writers occasionally muddy the waters with their lack of understanding and then that needs to be respected by future writers. They write that 2+2=3 and future writers have to respect that while respecting that the films say 2+2=4 -- but more often than not 2+2=3 is all that there is and the depth of the films is overridden.

    Stover tried to reset things back to just 2+2=4 and fans utterly lost it because the paradigm has become 2+2=3.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 19, 2013
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  18. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    Save for a couple of indulgences in Heir (very brief scenes in Mos Eisley and Dagobah), for Zahn it's usually limited to mere movie references. And yes, I do forgive him for it because it was the very first post-ROTJ novel and was targeted to casual fans, too. For Anderson, however, there are no limits. Go back to Hoth while helping Callista rediscover the Force because you once saw a Force Ghost there? It makes perfect sense!!! There's really no comparison between Zahn and Anderson on that front.
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  19. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    That was the best scene ever. :p

    No seriously. It was.
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  20. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    There's a fine line between "none shall pass" and "You know, Captain, I feel the hand of history on my shoulder. I really do." Or "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," for that matter.
  21. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    I don't get your point. Are those lines references/callbacks? My mind is drawing a blank.
  22. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    "A day like today is not a day for, sort of, soundbites, really -- we can leave those at home -- but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders, I really do." - Tony Blair

    "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." - George W. Bush

    Lucas was a bit more subtle about it, I suppose.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 19, 2013
  23. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Gotcha now, but...I still don't know where this line was used in Star Wars.
  24. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Who is a British author? You're re-reading Legacy of the Force; you'll get to it eventually.
  25. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    I'm just going to spoil it for you and say that Caedus says it during Revelation.