Discussion in 'Literature' started by Grey1, Aug 3, 2013.
Oh. Well, then I'll just say that the only thing I don't like about Traviss' writing is an excess of British euphemisms. Nothing wrong with British, now, I am not saying that. But too many real world euphemisms from any country annoy me. Especially when Luke said, "Well, bully for Jacen, then." How about "good for Jacen"? That's the only thing that feels a little off. Like when the Sith Pureblood in Dawn of the Jedi says "Yo." It just doesn't fit.
Even more, Zahn makes a few references, but he's generally smart about it. "I am not a committee!" -- a line from a critical and memorable period of their courtship -- has become a minor in-joke between Han and Leia, which is credible. Even better, Luke doesn't get it, because he wasn't there, and Zahn keeps that in mind. He keeps the references limited mostly to moments that would genuinely be memorable to these people. Importantly, he also introduces made-up references in the style of the OT itself. "It's like X," when X is a made-up, brand-new reference that doesn't need context, and adds a sense of depth, is something the OT was very good at (No disintegrations, sent to the spice mines of Kessel, that bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell), and Zahn does it himself where most authors just draw from the existing well of references. Zahn is one of the few who makes up his own bounty hunters on Ord Mantell, and he deserves a ton of credit for that.
It's different in quantity/dimension, but it's the same concept. Which is what I'm getting at: Early EU was a time when such "homages" were seen as both helpful and classic fan service. Zahn explaining situations in a way someone who saw the movies can easily relate to, or KJA sampling up a best of collection. And while I'll be among the first to say that KJA does this way too much, I wouldn't agree that Zahn is really smart about it. He might pay more attention to who's in on what joke, but this whole idea of characters remebering every line they said in a movie or always remembering those scenes as if nothing else has happened in their lives since then - that's not great writing, either. It's not like Lucas quoting himself by having everyone have a bad feeling. That would be Zahn having everyone say Point.
I think Zahn and KJA can best be compared using TESB and ROTJ - Zahn actually put the characters back to their TESB personas so they had a little more mileage in them again (with Lando being kind of collateral damage of this, even if it does make sense that he'll go back to business in peace time) while KJA goes for a full ROTJ sequel, complete with Ewok cuddliness (well, kind of) and reliance on previous stuff (like Tatooine and a Death Star) and the super weapon concept.
Basically, Zahn writes for SW fans who grew up since they played with their stormtrooper toys but now are more interested in star destroyer blueprints; and KJA writes for those who didn't grow up and still play with their toys. I'm pretty sure that's also why he did the young reader series while Zahn concentrated on his high-brow blue Sherlock Holmes.
In other news, I'm afraid that this thread will end up having more KT discussion than our actual Hard Contact thread (but I'd like to add that the Lucas quote was way less subtle because Bush and the USA were a bit more high profile internationally than Blair and the UK in that time. And Luceno played in the same vein, but he's generally not controversial, I guess).
I agree with some of this, though by the HoT Zahn stopped referencing the OT and started using his TTT, for referencing instead. The worst offender had to be Stackpole. He took a good but throaway line from ESB and turned it into a planet wide saying that was used every 2nd page in his books.
In regards to this book to be fair to KJA some (not all) of the basic storyline concepts are actually quite good.
He even used the name Mourth Doole which was from Zahn's books which he didn't have too.
Luke rebuilding the Jedi Order
Evil Sith Force Ghost
A female villain for Starwars
Of course the execution that went into them was nigh terrible but still the basic concepts are good. The other concepts are all terrible but these ones are good.
Would KJA's style be more acceptable if these were Young Reader books? I know everyone will say that it still wouldn't be great, but would it be better in that context?
Not really, Jude Watson showed a much better style for the same age range on those young reader books.
I'm late to the party, and am actually trying to reread the book to offer most honest perspective that I can.
Forty pages in I'm actually feeling like this book is woefully underrated Despite popular opinion of course. Yes, KJA's prose isn't great, but sometimes that works in his favor. For instance I enjoy how he writes Han. Yes he plays with the movie lines at times but all in all he captures Han pretty well. The in battle banter between Han & Chewie feels like it would have fit well in the films(mostly because Lucas uses symplistic dialog himself - but for Han it works).
One of the other things that I think really works is Kessel itself. It feels different and alien - and even in revisiting it after all these years it still feels different and alien to a lot of the worlds we get introduced to in the newer Star Wars comics and novels, and even that rotten TV show.
Another positive I'd like to point towards is the already mocked Moruth Doole. Yeah, he is the goofy frog - but KJA actually writes him as being alien. Often times we get aliens in the modern EU that are aliens, but are just like humans. They have completely human motivations, human desires - things we can indentify with as readers. Doole is shown in a different light, despite his greed and want for power, we also quickly learn about his very different taste in fashion, Rybet mating information, how the spice interacted with Doole, that type of thing.
I found it all interesting to revisit and am not at all dissapointed that I did.
Back with more later.
Watson's also been criticised here for extremely out-of-character depictions of Anakin, and possibly others.
But that's not a stylistic trait, that the fact that her personal opinion is creeping into the characterization of shared characters. In that regard, since we already have mentions of two authors whose personal opinions created controversy, how about KJA and "personal opinion"? Anything on that front?
RC, you mentioned the harem thing above. Here's the thing: Is this exploitation (and in an extremely weird way sexploitation) that's put to the page, being in extremely bad taste, or is it an instant marker for a very different culture that's probably based more on text book animal biology than on mysoginistic societies? Like Neimoidians being greedy because they have to fight for their nutrients in their earliest days? How does it compare to the Hutts (or any sci-fi race that can be accused of exploiting racial stereotypes found in human history, like greedy money-horny Ferengi and noble savage dark skinned Klingon warriors)?
Slightly OT but the Ferengi were originaly far more threatening than just comic relief and were based on Yankee traders in the 19th, early 20th Century, but apparently that cut to close to the bone and the writers felt US audiences would be to insecure for it so changed the Ferengi to comic relief.
The Klingons I thought were a cold war allusion to the Russians. Star Trek 6 was the ending with huge parallels to the ending of the cold war.
I wouldn't know whether the Ferengi change was because of audience insecurities or because the initially shady characters lent themselves really well to comedy (the shady businessman and bar owner being on the team of main characters and therefore having to have a heart of gold, his brother evolving from a dumb henchman to a idiot savant who thrives outside of his culture, and the delinquent youth being a good boy after all) - they are all good at heart, but then they don't really look repulsing anymore but rather silly. As for the Klingons, those are basically USSR russians (with Worf having emigrated once the wall came down), but notice how the culture turned far more savage when compared to the Sixties. The guys in the 6th movie are like that, a Lincoln and a fierce general from a foreign country; but from TNG onwards it's raw meat, shouting operas, and brutal animal-like mating.
Notice also how Worf was even raised by 24th-century Soviets.
Worf's summary of Klingon courtship is kind of funny though:
"The women throw things, the men recite love poetry. They duck a lot."
I'd love to take the opportunity to talk a bit about Daala. Does this first novel already highlight her incompetence in all its glory? Or could a case be made for her having some leadership abilities here, so that making her political leader of anything later on is a tiny bit more plausible?
Also, what's important to understand the initial setup of her character is that she's an outsider like Thrawn (publishing-wise, she's obviously Thrawn 2.0: the next big Imperial villain). While the Republic has strong female characters like Leia (who's the only one among her otherwise male peer group who went into politics) and Mon Mothma and even Clighal later on in this series, the Empire usually doesn't have those. Especially at the time this was written. Daala is Imperialette in the huge vilage of Imperials. Her only break was that one of the highest name-drops had some interest in her, and even then she was put next to a black hole so she wouldn't disturb the boys playing galactic domination. Okay, the execution again has all the obvious flaws, but what about this concept? The Empire as really not a great place for a woman?
How did that change in continuity, and why?
I liked the idea of a female Admiral that's been sidelined because of her gender. You could do a lot with her rage and her insatiable drive to prove herself, especially once she discovers that she's the last bastion of the Empire. That's a great character; yeah, the execution was off, but the potential was there.
Pretty much this. You did not need the bird woman scientist either or more super wepoans to have it either
I don't know if you mean just Jedi Search alone, but honestly as all of JAT just kind of blends together in my mind, I'll say that she really doesn't come across as inspiring or capable enough to command a one-person shuttle, let alone the Star Wars version of Los Alamos. Even in Darksaber, who can blame none of the other warlords taking her peace efforts seriously, especially since they've been fighting in the trenches so to speak for the last twelve years while she's been sitting twiddling her thumbs, then immediately destroys her forces the instant she ventures out of her safe zone? I guess the fact anyone followed her at all after she murdered the other warlords says more about how bad they were than any skills of her own (and no one tried to kill them and unify their holdings before her, really?)
Of all books, Planet of Twilight made her come across as the least incompetent leader, thanks largely to the fact that she's only leading a few hundred people who just want nothing to do with the war any more.
I've never really liked the idea that the Empire was a bad place for women. Yeah, no women are shown in the movies, but other than Leia, Mon Mothma, and the Rebel comm officer in ESB, it's the same for the Rebellion. I guess Zahn started it with an attempt to make service on a star destroyer something like a submarine in the modern navies at the time, but the whole anti-female bias seems more like a reflection of the 90's debate on feminism and professional women in America.
Also, speaking of Cilghal, I think Jedi Search is where the NR Senate is first shown. I was always confused by the fact that Cilghal is referred to as an ambassador, despite representing her world in the Senate, when the same series also has Furgan, who definitely doesn't. I'm sure KJA was inspired by the ANH dialogue referring to Leia as an ambassador (I think YJK also refers to senators as 'ambassadors') but I see it as the start of the pervasive symptom of the NR and its structure not really being defined all that well.
The same is true of the Galactic Alliance in the late NJO when no one seemed to be sure exactly how it was different from the NR and how the Hapans and Imperials were supposed to be integrated into it.
@Dr. Steve Brule
Stover refers to Palpatine as having been the ambassador from Naboo in the Revenge of the Sith novelization. I was just rereading it and it threw me off as a mistake the first time but it pops up more than once so I have to imagine that it was intentional.
Knowing the EU though, I'm sure there is some line in an article somewhere that explains that he was an ambassador before senator or something.
I must admit I always was a big fan of having the Empire as this flawed totalitarian military. Even more so with the alien bias, which is both referred to but then completely undermined with Thrawn. Here, I think KJA is trying to make the character more memorable by giving her one "remarkable" trait, as well. Just as Thrawn could have been a human but wouldn't have been so msyterious and iconic, having Daala replaced by a Tarkin or Piett clone would have robbed her of a dimension. I'm fully aware that adding a simple trait like gender doesn't really add a dimension to a character; but here, there's something different than just some guy being Ozzel's punished cousin or something.
As for her "strategy" against the former rebellion... whether she was intended to be competent or not, I think what's important is to see what KJA wanted to put into her character, and into the story. One, Imperials aren't the misunderstood nice guys with a complicated childhood here (and they weren't that in Zahn's earlier books, either) - they're sadistic fascists. While Sherlock Thrawn is portrayed in a really realistic fashion, making his battle plans on his analysis of a species' artwork, Daala is just evil. She kills innocents any way she can, because in her mind, if you're not on the Empire's side, you're not really innocent. In that regard she is what Thrawn accuses Vader to be. In her incompetence, she is Ozzel's successor - the evil leader who's just too arrogant and too stupid. Meaning that the story is really shaping her into a brunt tool: a hammer of a villain who's easily put through the story points of being a threat and being neutralized. I think a lot of her incompetence wasn't really set up by KJA as something coming from her character; it's rather the dumbness of the evil fascist and of the villain who has to lose. Meaning that KJA obviously didn't intend Daala to be the ultimate threat in this. Speaking for the entire trilogy, she seems to be the big villain with superweapons in book one; but she's really not as important as the "phantom menace" dark man that's taking center stage in the next book, and that realy enjoys having a superweapon that someone else developed. In that sense, she's Nute Gunray. Not too bright, a classically trained villain, and essentially nothing more than a stepping stone for the bigger villain. Her relationship to Kyp should be discussed with the third book, I think, and then we'll also take a look at how this relationship informed her later career.
Rob, I love ya, but that makes no sense.
Dialogue is one thing --- fringe characters and nobility definitely shouldn't speak the same way --- but fringe characters using simplistic dialogue doesn't need to be accompanied by bad prose. It shouldn't be accompanied by bad prose. And even if someone wants to argue that there's some poetry to the idea of bad prose matching bad dialogue, the argument falls flat because in KJA's books bad prose accompies everyone's dialogue.
Daala is the posterchild for Anderson's horrible, horrible plotting and pacing with this trilogy. Books 1 and 2 set her up as the trilogy's big bad villain, then promptly threw her into the trash so that... so that what? So that Exar Kun could be killed in the first act of Book 3, leaving the bumbling, comic-reliefy Tol Sivron as the main villain at the end of the trilogy? So that her role in Book 3 could be limited to a pretty pointless cameo during the climax? Champions of the Force is easily the weak link in an already weak trilogy, but I guess I should wait until October to go into that.
I'm not interesting in arguing with you at all. I think Han's dialog worked well, and often I feel that Han's dialog doesn't work well. A lot of authors miss the mark when it comes to him. The more simplistic writing style fit the character of Han Solo well in this case.
I'm not sure how or why poetry would enter the discussion at all.
In dialogue, sure, but the prose which surrounds the dialogue of a character who speaks simplistically shouldn't lower itself to the same simplistic level. Which clearly wasn't a conscious choice on KJA's part anyway, since the prose surrounding everyone's dialogue is awful. Writing a fringe character as speaking simplistically is one thing, but claiming that the book's overall bad prose benefits that is way off the mark.
"We have to get out of here!"
Chewbacca barked the Wookiee equivilant of "no kidding"
They ducked into the atmospheric tail, buffeted by the suddenly dense gas particles pelting the ship. Around them streamers of heated gas glowed orange and blue. The X-Wing came in from behind still firing.
Han's mind raced. They could skim around Kessel in a tight orbit, then slingshot back out of the system. With the black hole cluster so close at hand, no one would risk jumping into hyperspace without intensive prior calculations, and neither he nor Chewie could spare the time to do them.
With the Falcon's sensor dish slagged, Han couldn't even send out a distress call or try to sweet talk the traitorous commander of the X-Wing. He couldn't even surrender! Talk about being stuck. "Chewie, if you have any suggestions---"
It does the job for me. Could it be better? Sure. Denning's prose is much better, yet I enjoy his books far less. Go figure.
I did say I'd comment on this, didn't I? Well, unfortunately it's one of those works that I find doesn't inspire much. It's not good enough to leave any sort of lasting impression, but not bad enough to inspire any intense feelings of disgust (though that is somewhat rectified by later authors, who make sure that the murdering psychopath featured in the novel becomes Space President).
KJA is actually, in my opinion, the same kind of storyteller that George Lucas is, though not on the same level. He's a very visual writer, a writer with no shortage of grand ideas, some awful, some truly inspired. He clearly doesn't understand nuance or subtlety, and has no desire to. KJA writes about cardboard cutouts saving the galaxy. But at least he can have them do it in somewhat interesting ways.
Perhaps it's because of this tendency to throw a multitude of ideas at the wall in hopes that a few will stick that he's added so much to the EU. His characters went on to become major players, and many of the concepts he introduced remained mainstays for years. This could, of course, just be because he was one of the first writers to really expand the universe. I have not yet had a chance to read I, Jedi (I intend to after I reread the trilogy), but I imagine that one of the reason it succeeds for so many is because it's able to take some of KJA's base ideas and put a character that actually resembles a person through it.
As for the actual characters he creates... eh. I like Cilghal well enough, and appreciate KJA's efforts to establish that the Jedi were in the business of healing as well as lightsaber slinging. I like the concept of Kyp Durron, but I just don't feel he was handled well at all. He seemed to lack a consistent personality, and as a result felt all over the place.
But as I said, KJA is a visual author, and that of course leads to some very cinematic scenes, even if one is left with a sense that these scenes could use a more skilled director to bring them to life. The beginning chapters of Dark Apprentice, in particular, is littered with visually interesting scenes. Ackbar shattering the Cathedral of the Winds as Leia's seat ejects into a tempest? Cool visual. Han and Kyp skiing, narrowly avoiding a giant drill rising from the ground? Cool visual. As stupid as the Suncrusher is, it slamming through a Star Destroyer, literally cutting the thing in half, is also a very cool visual.
Others have criticized his prose, enough that I feel little need to go there. In a word, I'd call it inefficient. It mostly gets the job done, at a bare minimum, but as a reader I'm always left with a sense that I'm only getting part of the picture. In addition, he reuses words constantly. I think the word "lumpy" is used a dozen times in Jedi Search.
As bad as the prose is, however, it's downright elegant when compared with the dialogue. I could not disagree more with the people saying Han's dialogue is done well. Simplicity is one thing, stupidity is another entirely. Not only does Han come off as a complete idiot every time he opens his mouth, but he's also played up as a goofy character, something that I've always hated. There are Han lines that I feel were intended to be accompanied by a laugh track. When you combine his dialogue with his actions, it's a wonder how this character survived life in the Fringe for more than a day.
Plot induced stupidity is of course not limited to Han Solo. Luke Skywalker clearly has this in abundance. I don't ask that Luke be a perfect teacher- frankly, I find it much more engaging to see him make mistakes- but even aside from that, he comes off as either annoyingly pompous or incompetent. A great example of this is his confrontation with Moruth Doole. Up against a small frog man who knows the location of his missing friend, what does he do? He pushes him against the wall and allows him to run out of the ship and call his entire fleet on them. Good call, Luke.
Frankly, all of KJA's non-original characters come across as caricatures of their original selves. It's almost as if he chose one or two defining traits of the characters- Lando is a womanizer, Leia is a diplomat, Luke's a Jedi, Han is a scoundrel- and made that the core of their being. And Wedge, well, I suppose in KJA's defense he didn't have much to go on, but it's impossible to look at this portrayal as anything but unfavorable when compared to the Wedge we see in Stackpole's work, or even Zahn's work.
Last but not least, I'll mention a personal pet peeve; KJA's compulsion to pair every character up with somebody, even if that pairing makes absolutely no sense beyond the fact that both players are available. I mean, the chief offender, one that was thankfully only hinted at, is Ackbar and Winter. Not only am I fairly sure Ackbar and Winter never exchange words in the Thrawn trilogy, I'm not entirely sure they're ever in the same room. And Mara Jade? Well, Luke's off limits, might as well stick her with Lando off-screen at the expense of anything resembling character development. And the Wedge and Qui Xux (to this day I'm not sure how to pronounce that) was thoroughly painful.
However, despite the many, many things I hate about this series... I find I can't say I don't enjoy reading them. These books were some of first EU books I read, and as such, after the Thrawn trilogy it was the first time the SWEU felt like it was opening up to me. Also, I choose the "historical document" method of reading Star Wars books, and as I've already mentioned, these books have quite a few scenes that would be good if they were written better with characters that actually more than passingly resembled their original selves, so I can just fix it in my mind and find I get an enjoyable space opera.