Lit The JC Lit Reviews Special: THE LAST JEDI (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Mar 4, 2013.

  1. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    The Coruscant Nights trilogy isn't . . . quite . . . anymore. We've got The Last Jedi, but something tells me none of the Jedi in it are actually the last Jedi ever, for real.

    Some rules: rate The Last Jedi on a scale of 1 to 10, supplementing your rating with a review, if you want to (It's not necessary but is highly encouraged). However, please do not rate or review the book until after you've read the whole thing. Thanks. :)

    Go for it.;)
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  2. Todd the Jedi Mod and Sitcom Dad of SWTV

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    star 5
    Picking up where Coruscant Nights left off, The Last Jedi takes these familiar characters and flips the status quo on its head, reminding us just how the iron grip of the Empire affects everyone in these dark times, even quirky droids.

    Reaves and Bohnhoff take us right into the action, setting up the book's plot, which follows Jax Pavan and the struggling efforts of Whiplash to hold the tide against the Empire. Laranth's death was pretty shocking, and it irrevocably changes Jax and tests his very will. He is of an order that forbade relationships, yet here is a woman he got very close to who has been snatched away from him at a most inopportune time. On top of that, Whiplash's leader has been abducted by Vader. I liked the role the Antarian Rangers played, since we never really see them that much. I also liked the subplot regarding I-5 and his body. On one hand, the fact that he can so easily change bodies shows just how much of a droid he is- just a collection of information that can be downloaded from one container to another. On the other hand, his distinct personality and apparent Force-aura show that he is I-5, an individual, something few other droids can relate to.

    At times I felt this novel was a bit disjointed, and also dragging on occasion. The whole plot is to rescue Yimmon, yet Jax and crew suffer many setbacks that, while realistic, also tend to make the story drag. But it is warranted in some parts, at least to develop Jax's character. He's reached a crux in his life where he is teetering on the edge and is close to falling from the light. His actions on Mandalore are very headstrong and impulsive, but most importantly dangerous and risky. The fact that he considered indebting himself to Prince Xizor, the devil incarnate of the criminal underworld, shows just how far he's willing to go at this point to amend for his mistakes, his indecisions that led to Laranth's death and Yimmon's capture. But when he goes to Dathomir, he gains some much-needed perspective when he sees the relationship between the female Witches and their male servants. Here he comes head to head with the Sith Holocron that's been plaguing him over the course of the novel, and with the help of these Witches, gains the knowledge that will help him free Yimmon. But his interactions with the Witches have brought him down a notch, and he doesn't berate himself as much anymore for past actions.

    The dual infiltration of Kantaros station was a definite highlight of the book. Sacha Swiftbird is a cool character, and she provides Den and I-5 their much-needed guile female companion. She even helps out Jax with his inner issues when she tends to his tree, and of course more concretely when she saves his life against Tesla. Then Jax uses his newfound knowledge to buy his friends time to escape as he confronts Vader once again. I liked the psychological interplay between Jax and Vader, as Jax contemplates what is going on in the head of the man who was once Anakin Skywalker. But of course, I-5 saves Jax and they all escape with Yimmon.

    As I said, this novel was a bit disjointed, but even still, I did like the themes explored here, like the Cephalons and their plight at the hands of yet another Sith Lord. Then there were plenty of good continuity nods, both to Republic and The Clone Wars, as well as Republic Commando for the scenes on Mandalore. The Whiplash plot on Coruscant was cool. Nice to see there were no actual traitors within the organization, just willing to do whatever it takes to fight for justice.

    I give The Last Jedi an 8.6 out of 10 for a fun adventure novel and great character study.
    Last edited by Todd the Jedi, Mar 8, 2013
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  3. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    I find myself echoing many of Todd's points, although for me I wouldn't say it felt disjointed as such.

    I liked how the various stories were kept in flow, you always knew where the various players were.

    Like Reaves' other books, it works best as an adventure character story - it isn't going to change the face of the galaxy but it uses continuity well.

    I don't really buy many SW books anymore, but those I do I hope to enjoy and this delivered in that respect 9/10.
  4. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 17.6/2 = 8.80
  5. King_of_Red_Lions Force Ghost

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    Mar 28, 2003
    star 3
    Though this novel is promoted as a standalone, I recommend reading The Coruscant Nights Trilogy first.

    The Coruscant resistance insists that its leader must be moved off-world (why? dunno. There are no places to hide a Cerean on Coruscant?) then spend the rest of the novel trying to rescue him after he is captured in transit. That's it. Nothing more. I wish for simple adventure stories versus the fate of the galaxy is at stake elements that are the essence of most of the EU . But, I wish there was something more of interest in TLJ than the effort to rescue Thi Yon Ximmon. I-5YQ's progression, the introduction of a potential sidekick (the unfortunately named Sacha Swiftbird) and padawan (the Dathomiri witch) are welcome story developments if the series is continued. Jax should have retained the knowledge and power he gained from the Sith Holocron. Instead, the authors hit the reset button. Lots of potential missed, there.


    5/10.
  6. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 22.6/3 = 7.53
  7. SWpants Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2004
    star 4
    If any droid can be trained in the ways of the Force, it'd be I-Five as an HRD.....

    Or R2. :p

    My review is more of a compilation of my thoughts as I read through.


    - I liked the fact that the stasis field was used.

    -Laranth dying was sad! To be honest, I was worried for I-Five as well.

    - At first I was confused as to how Vader didn't realize Jax was still alive.

    - heh-heh-heh...the Oyu'baat.

    -This book involves a lot of other worlds: Mandlaore, Dathomir, Toprawa, Coruscant...it's a bit hectic for a 460 page story.

    -Probus Tesla's name keeps making me smile, even though I don't like him. Hah, Tesla.

    -When I read Augwynne Djo's name at first, I rolled my eyes. BUT it would make sense that she becomes the extremely strong ancestor of Tennenial and Tenel Ka.

    - Jax and Magash together. However, Den, I-Five & Sacha's parts were just as fun to read (if not more).

    -The end was a pretty decent ending.



    8.5/10
  8. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 31.1/4 = 7.78
  9. Loopy777 Jedi Master

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    Apr 8, 2013
    star 1
    Some context: I cared less and less for the Coruscant Nights books as they went on. Jax himself was a fairly dull lead who seemed to have showed up expecting a strong Noir atmosphere, and was unable to hold up the storylines on his own when said atmosphere didn't show up for work. The wider cast accumulated too many characters of a fairly flat nature, the most egregious being Laranth, the supposed romantic interest. Add to that some wacky ideas of how the Force worked, plus major mess-ups regarding the time line placement, and so when The Last Jedi was announced I could barely work up any interest.


    My Review (spoilers):
    I'm glad I wound up getting this book, though, because I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. Laranth's death, as Woman in the Refrigerator as it is, was the shot in the arm the series needed. Jax is no longer just a random Jedi, but is now a character struggling with one of the most real-feeling depictions of grief that I've seen in adventure fiction. This drives all his actions, sending him on what seems to be a Quixotic quest, and while the quest itself is fairly mundane and straight out of a WEG mini-adventure, Jax's missteps and flirtations with the dark side of the Force make it interesting. It's just so refreshing to see a Jedi deal with those kind of emotions without getting murderously angry and all BWAHAHA I WILL DESTROY THE GALAXY. His behavior gets reckless, Jax wavers on whether he's outright self-destructive, and he pushes how far outside his moral boundaries he's willing to go, and it all feels very natural. I got a better sense of Jax from this one book than I did from the entire CN series.

    That said, Jax still doesn't stand out much amongst all the Jedi we've gotten. He's no Mace Windu, Quinlan Vos, or even Obi-Wan Kenobi (not that I'm dissing Obi-Wan, but he's the best of the True Jedi). The adventure is, itself, fairly standard, and the plot doesn't always hold up as a logical sequence. The Dathomir portion, as interesting as it is, really comes out of left field. I-5 and Den are still around, but the latter is still a flat hanger-on, although his own grief over the team's losses serves functionally as a model for a relatively healthy response. I-5 continues to develop as more than your standard droid and goes through grief in his own way, but at times he feels like a bit of a setting-breaker. Why is he so unique, amongst all of galactic history's droids, that he has a Force presence and starts jumping bodies? Asimov's Bicentennial Man made the case for that robot's journey towards humanity and contextualized it in the setting, but I-5 just feels like an RPG character whose player is running roughshod over the GM.

    The "Whiplash" plot on Coruscant adds some interesting intrigue to the usual depictions of Rebel cells before Luke arrived, but it's only tangentially related to the main plot and at times feels fairly futile, given what we know about the wider setting. (Hint: the Emperor doesn't get assassinated here, and the end result for the people who try is fairly predictable.) The new addition to Jax's Party, Sacha Swiftbird, is a perfectly serviceable Female Mechanic Pilot Rebel, but I feel like I've already read about this character a few dozen times. (Perhaps I should never have read all those WEG Adventure Journals?) Maybe she'll develop in future Reaves books, but for now her place in the finale seems fairly out of place considering how well we know the rest of the cast.

    The timeline placement still feels a couple decades too soon, but at this point I just pretend that it bumped Force Unleashed out of its own spot and lives a year before Luke shows up. I didn't detect any outright timeline flubs, but I might be used to them. There might be some continuity issues surrounding Dathomir and Mandalore, but at this point I don't pay attention to that anymore. I've had my care for that kind of thing beaten out of me.


    Summary: Surprisingly well done adventure story that doesn't break any real new ground, but delivers a rewarding Star Wars tale.

    Score: 7/10
  10. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 38.1/5 = 7.62
  11. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    After disappointing entries from Reaves and Bohnhoff in the past, I was prepared for a pretty mediocre novel. Thankfully, I didn't get it. It starts off rough, with a couple chapters that feel like they've been edited out of coherence, but the book picks up significantly after that. It still suffers from some of the flaws that brought down Coruscant Nights -- weird ideas about the Force that aren't necessary, no Jedi dying in the Jedi Purge and Vader failing to accomplish much -- and it feels a weird need to jump into every TCW continuity muddle it can headfirst, but those weaknesses are limited in scope and are offset by what the novel does right. Its take on Vader is fantastic -- an unstoppable menace, the unfailing protector of the Emperor, the omnipresent crusher of rebellion, the inescapable exterminator of the Jedi. There's hardly a page of the novel in which the characters aren't wondering where Vader is now, if he knows what they're doing, if he's setting a trap for them. The handling of him from a subordinate's position, via Tesla, is also great -- Tesla wants so badly to win his favor, but he's also terrified of him. Vader leaves him in charge, and he slowly starts to get full of himself, but then Vader comes back, and, well:

    In an obscure corner of Probus Tesla's consciousness, the part that was not quaking in scalded fury cowered in terror. "My Lord, I . . ."

    "Tell me."

    The compulsion was stronger than mere words, leaving Tesla with the impression that Vader held his will in one gloved hand.

    Great Vader. The only real improvement would be if Vader got to kill the one Jedi who dies, rather than her vaguely killing herself in the muddled early sequence. Her death, though, serves as an excellent focus for the novel, giving Jax more definition as he struggles through his grief. The depiction of Jax working through grief -- disoriented, anxious, not sure if he's making bad decisions or not, having a hard time caring -- is a real highlight, some great, deep character work that makes Jax pop even more than his usually-more-colorful supporting cast. Den's own take on grief, and his and I-Five's increasing distrust of the erratic Jax, is also good stuff, though Den is actually too muted as a character, and I-Five is sort of getting out of control as a plot device.

    Thi Xon Yimmon is another example of running too far with weird ideas, but he basically works for the role he's in, and the subplot with the Whiplash leadership in his absence is pretty good. PIZZA HAUS Pol Haus is an interesting character, and the tension of figuring out who might be betraying whom is solidly handled. The book has a good sense in general of the desperation of the resistance movement, and I finally found myself more interested in Whiplash as it stopped being a distraction from what Coruscant Nights was selling itself as and the book was able to focus more on the idea of what it meant to be a resistance fighter specifically under the burgeoning Empire. There's a great sense of tension and a sort of fatalism as they realize they really can't do much and they start thinking about moving operations offworld, reflecting the realization that trying to strike under the Emperor's nose on Imperial Center is just going to lead to misery and death; they need, in the long term, to disperse to the Rim and go to ground in areas where the Empire's power is weak, where they can build their assets in secret and do what they can. I'd previously been a little annoyed with the insta-Rebellion vibe of Whiplash, but the handling here was so good that I'm coming around on it, and I'm interested in seeing the way that resistance to the Empire sprung up in local networks that could provide the groundwork for the Rebel Alliance to unite them all. I'm at the point now where I'm interested in seeing Whiplash getting tied into the Rebel Alliance. The use of the Antarian Rangers probably ties in to this; I'll like just about anything that uses the Antarian Rangers, and tying them and Toprawa in was an excellent idea. With the other cameos, I wish we'd seen a Sarkin around there -- though, technically, Sacha Swiftbird's last name is an alias, so who wants to make Sacha Sarkin official? It would fit extremely well, what with her apparent minimal Force-attunement.

    The Dantooine stopover was weird and felt shoehorned in -- the book was, at least, very long, giving it room to accommodate this kind of thing -- but I'll at least give it credit for solid continuity use, and it was probably safer stepping in there than it was on Mandalore, which felt like an especially weird rush into an unneeded, awkward TCW tie-in/underthought retcon attempt. The action on Mandalore was fine; it just didn't need to be there.

    Overall, The Last Jedi is an improvement on the uneven Coruscant Nights trilogy. It's still uneven, but the lows are minimized and the character work is stronger, with some neat thematic work, an interesting a-few-years-into-the-Dark-Times atmosphere, and solid Vader. 8/10
  12. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 46.1/6 = 7.68
  13. MistrX Force Ghost

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    Jun 20, 2006
    star 4
    Clearly, it's been a while since the Coruscant Nights trilogy was regularly coming to our bookstores and there were elements from those that I didn't remember. That said, I feel fairly confident calling this one the best entry in the Jax Pavan saga. It gripped me from the beginning and held on, crafting a decent narrative and a terrific focus on characters, interesting me enough to want to keep reading through all 460 pages (nice length, BTW. Long enough to make a purchase worth it had i done so rather than checking it out from the library).

    I think one of the strongest aspects this time around was its focus on a slightly smaller cast of characters. Early on, the main core is reduced to Jax, Den, and I-5 with the occasional look in on a couple significant figures on Coruscant. One of the issues I had with the past Coruscant Nights was that its larger cast meant that two or three characters were shunted not only to supported roles, but basically to the periphery, where they were good for basically the occasional line of dialogue and background of group scenes. Like most stories, we have one or two characters who are clearly the main, but the supporting characters like Den and a handful of Force Sensitives that make an impact of the story, never seem like they're just taking up space, whether they are actually impacting the plot or simply giving a different perspective on the situation.

    In regards to Laranth's death early on, I'm of two minds. First of all, it got the story off to a very dark start, even more than Even Piell's did in the first Coruscant Nights book. It's a major defeat early on for our protagonists and it gave the rest of the story a sense of dread and desperation, like they were fighting up current from the get go. The fact that Vader was personally involved also allowed his presence and reputation, his movements alone, cast a pall over the activities of Jax and co. as well as Whiplash. Part of that is from the knowledge, of course, that we know Whiplash isn't going to make all that significant of an impact, that the Empire will remain a dominant force for years, that the Emperor and Vader will continue on. It's a similar feeling to Reaves' first well regarded Shadow Hunter, where the most we can hope for is some small victory for the heroes.

    Losing Laranth herself helps that atmosphere, but the emotional payoff isn't as great as it could be, in large part because she was fairly shallow as a character until Patterns of Force. Her fate didn't have the impact on the reader that I think Den's or I-5's might have, but one positive impact it does have is on Jax. Her legacy affects him throughout the novel and makes for a fascinating journey for him, especially after we've already gotten to know him for three books. It was a little strange for me because, though I remembered Laranth's feelings for Jax, I hadn't recalled how he had returned them, but fortunately Reaves and Bonhoff sprinkled in plenty of reminders of things like their relationship or that it was Sal who had betrayed Jax's father by wiping and dumping I-5.

    Pol Haus gets more development and it's good to see and Sal ends up being one of the more complex and flawed characters who seems doomed throughout. Their story isn't as strong as Jax's journey or the developments of his crew, but even knowing their plan is doomed, I wanted to see where it went.

    I'll always appreciate that Reaves sprinkles his books not only with obvious well known EU elements and characters (e.g. Xizor, cantina aliens, Singing Mountain, the Jedi starfighter) but that he and Bohnhoff use aliens, ships, and other elements already present in the EU. It's much easier to look up what the Laranth looks like than trying to imagine yet another freighter or fighter. We even get some follow up to elements from TCW and they do a fine job incorporating it and making it feel like the rest of the EU.

    I did also appreciate one of the characters commenting on another's advanced grammar. Ah, self-awareness, never gets old.

    A story that moves well, has depth, wraps up some of the old plots, and takes characters to new and interesting places. It's hard to ask for more. 9/10
    Last edited by MistrX, May 24, 2013
  14. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 55.1/7 = 7.87
  15. Pax Bandica Jedi Knight

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    Aug 15, 2013
    8.5/10

    Books like this are why I love Star Wars.
  16. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 63.6/8 = 7.95
  17. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    Just finished last night.... and it is so hard to rate this book. When it is good it is beyond awesome... especially the banter of many characters and their interaction but...

    ....then it goes on these occasionally weird episodes and you wonder why and how people would even know. Especially the Sith are common knowledge among the Resistance thing? Also those Holocron force powers were just weird...


    Okay let’s make it 8 of 10 because I did enjoy it a lot despite the occasional strange sidetrack it went on
  18. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 71.6/9 = 7.96
  19. Charlemagne19 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2000
    star 7
    Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Star Wars: The Last Jedi feels like a Star Wars MMORPG novel. This is a curious statement because we have had lots of Star Wars MMORPG novels and none of them felt like this. The Old Republic tie-in fiction is more or less identical to regular Star Wars fiction with the caveat it is rare that it's allowed to finish its story.

    The Ruins of Dantooine, made for the Galaxies MMORPG, is widely considered to be one of the worst Star Wars novels of all time. The Last Jedi, by contrast, is a very fun novel but it feels more like Galaxies and The Old Republic than any of the other novels ever did.

    Indeed, I'd argue it's not necessarily an online role-playing game that The Last Jedi feels like. Instead, it feels like a roleplaying-game period. I played literally hundreds of hours of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game as well as its sequel, Star Wars SAGA without the benefit of computers. A more or less typical party of characters would consist of a guy wanting to be a Jedi, smugglers, droids, and the obligatory Twilek love-interest.

    Our heroes would tool around the galaxy, conduct various raids against the Empire on behalf of the Rebel Alliance, and do their very best to avoid the attentions of Lord Vader. Because Lord Vader couldn't be killed due to the movies, or so fanboy logic went, he was depicted as an invincible juggernaut of destruction.

    You could thwart his schemes and plans but not actually stop the villain himself. When you wanted your Jedi Knight to face a Dark Jedi, you sent them up against the Imperial Inquisition. The Imperial Inquisitors, created by West End Games, were Darth Vader-lite types who were omnipresent Dark Siders after your heroes.

    In a weird way, The Last Jedi is also a throwback to the Pre-Prequels Star Wars universe. There's no hints of the emotionally unstable Anakin beneath Darth Vader's mask. Instead, he's treated as an unstoppable force of nature akin to his handling in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The Empire is all-pervasive and tyrannical with freedom-loving people across the galaxy desiring to overthrow it. The Rebel Alliance doesn't exist yet but our heroes work with miniature versions of it on numerous worlds.

    The Star Wars RPG universe had ample room for other heroes than Luke, Han, and Leia with dozens of low-level or wannabe Jedi Knights tooling around. Jax Pavan isn't really a threat to the supremacy of the Dark Lord like, say, Starkiller because despite being a fully trained Jedi--he's ridiculously outclassed by Vader. Were Luke Skywalker and Jax to ever meet up, it's likely untrained Luke would be more powerful than him. That's how the RPG worked too, with Rebellion-Era Luke possessing ridiculously high Force stats despite his untrained nature.

    This "classic" of the Star Wars universe is important to bring up because I suspect whether you like RPGs or not will determine what you think of this novel. It feels very much like someone novelizing a campaign. There's a bunch of Maguffins, exotic locations, rescue missions, guest-stars, and temptations for Player Characters to hang themselves with (also known as the "Deck of Many Things" ploy). Jax Pavan goes to Topwara, Dathomir, Coruscant, Mandalore, and Darth Vader's secret fortress. He meets with Prince Xizor, Lord Vader, and members of the Singing Mountain clan. Even the mission, rescue an important Rebel General, is the kind of thing West End Games used to put in their adventure modules.

    Overall, I really enjoyed The Last Jedi but I have complaints. One of them is the death of Laranth. There's a phenomenon in comics known as "Women in Refrigerators" and this is an example of that. Basically, Laranth's death exists solely so Jax Pavan can have some character development by having him react to her death. Given Laranth was an interesting character in her own right, being a Jedi Gunslinger, this only makes it more troublesome. Her death also comes off as somewhat perfunctory as if she didn't warrant something suitably epic.

    I also think the rescue of Whiplash's leader is too low-stakes for a 400+ page novel. Whiplash is a Rebel Cell, not the Rebel Alliance and I would have preferred something more epic like Jax Pavan wanting to blow up a Star Destroyer or the Inquisition's base. Some members do want to achieve something huge but well, we know what happens with this plan the moment someone describes what the objective is.

    Curiously, despite its old school feel, the book ties together the "modern" EU with The Clone Wars Animated series in a way which feels seamless. Mandalore is under the control of Death Watch and selling its citizens as slaves, the Dathomir have large number of Zabrak-Human hybrids even in the Singing Mountain clan, and there's no sign of any real continuity hiccups. It makes me want Michael Reaves to have Jax hook up with the Mareks on Kashyyk or jump ahead to the point Starkiller can hang out with Pavan.

    In conclusion, I really liked The Last Jedi but it's crunchy genre fiction at its crunchiest. You won't miss out on anything by not reading this book but it's enjoyable enough if you want something Star Warsy for your diet. I hope they make another couple of books in the series as I have no objections to the character or his continuing adventures.

    8/10
    Last edited by Charlemagne19, Sep 28, 2013
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  20. jacktherack Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 2008
    star 4
    i thought it was a great book. i've read all of reaves and perry's star wars books, and have liked all of them with the exeption of death star. i would probably give this one a 9/10 the only thing that really bothers me is (i posted a thread on this but it got locked) that if you take the entire eu into account there are approx 93 jedi running around during the original trilogy, and it would be more like 150-200 of them at this time.
  21. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    star 7
    Average score: 88.6/11 = 8.05
  22. Cynical_Ben Force Ghost

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    Aug 12, 2013
    star 4
    So, to ring in the new year and usher out the old, I decided to take on a book that’s been in my backlog for a while (almost a year) and get it over with. I picked The Last Jedi over the others since I had read the previous books in the Jax Pavan saga (Jedi Twilight, Street of Shadows and Patterns of Force), though it has been years. I enjoyed the overall plots and ideas behind much of the previous trilogy, but a lot of the actual execution of the ideas and plots they brought up were often lacking. I always counted the portrayal of Darth Vader in book three, Patterns of Force, highly among novels, but the actual prose of the novels was often too stuffy and focused on jargon and scientific facts that most characters currently in POV should have been ignorant of, and the continuity involved could be very dodgy.

    Sidebar: That’s why I was not all that upset with Evan Piel’s death in both Jedi Twilight and TCW; Aurra Sing and Captain eyepatch Typho both met their ends in similarly ambiguous circumstances in the later books in the series, and there are several other gaffs, involving the overall timeline especially, that shrieked of a lack of research, editing, or both. So no, losing Evan Piel's relatively meaningless death in Jedi Twilight in favor of a meaningful and plot-important one in TCW didn't hurt all that much. Interesting to note, this book never refers to said Jedi by name; Jax always refers to him, even mentally, as Master.

    All of this said, I came into the book knowing little of the plot aside from the points noted in other reviews of the book; that the status quo was challenged, that it stands alone but benefits from the rest of its series, and that Vader is incredible. I was fully met with those exact points, and more. The Last Jedi is a book that knows exactly what it is, fills the role, and does what it sets out to do. But it also surprised me with complexity, depth, and most surprising of all: moral ambiguity.

    Michael Reaves has been writing for Star Wars for a while, but a few of his more recent books, Jedi Twilight and Streets of Shadow especially, felt really dry and lacked enthusiasm. Patterns of Force, his first albeit unofficial collaboration with his coauthor on this book, Maya Bonhoff, was scattershot and felt cobbled together from an outline and some first draft scenes, but since Reaves was ill at the time that’s understandable. I haven’t bitten on Shadow Games, so I couldn’t comment on it.

    Jax Pavan has always been a half-bland protagonist, his unique view of the Force basically the only defining feature he had. This book gives him motivation and added layers. His companions, I-5YQ and Den Dhur, have much more depth and definition due to being in more works for longer, but have been drifting in and out of focus, lacking much motivation beyond being Jax’s companions. This book gives us glimpses of their hearts and minds, even in limited page time. The tangle of plots around Whiplash, the resistance movement on Coruscant established and focused on in the previous trilogy, are tied up and slid aside. In short, this book goes a pretty long way toward fixing a lot of the problems the other books had.

    The continuity niggles, though, are still there. This time, it’s not entirely because of a lack of research. Reaves and Bonhoff did their research, diving headfirst into some of the “new” continuity provided by The Clone Wars TV series. Satine and her New Mandalorians, the Black Sun and Hutts having a controlling interest on Mandalore, Death Watch, the Nightbrothers and Sisters, Zabrak/Dathomiri hybrids, it all gets mentioned or brought up. Not to any major affect on the plot, mind you. I admire the authors for being willing to incorporate some very new (at writing) information into the story, especially considering the huge hole the same show opened up in relation to the first book in this very same series. But it does clash a bit with the previous depictions of certain events and planets, Mandalore and Dathomir, specifically. In the context of TCW, they make sense, mind you. But for continuity purists (and Wookipedians) this book has to be a nightmare.

    Pretty much the entire core plot, however, is fine. Jax and his team, I-5, Den and the Twi’lek Gray Paladin Laranth, try to shuttle a resistance cell leader, a Cerean by the name of Thi Xon Yimmon but hereafter referred to as Yimmie, off Coruscant in the wake of the events of Patterns of the Force, where Imperial retaliation against them killed a lot of innocent bystanders. They’re ambushed, Jax hesitating about whether to rescue his crew or save the cell leader, and in the end loses both of them, I-5 being blown to smithereens and Laranth, his companion since Jedi Twilight, being killed. Darth Vader decides to leave Jax alive, however, letting him stew in the juices of the failure his hesitation wrought. The implication is that Vader expects Jax and Den to die when their vessel plunges into a nearby sun, but they get into an escape pod and are picked up by some Antarian Rangers after Vader departs with the resistance leader in tow.

    Thus, we get the catalyst for the main plot. Jax is now driven to recapture the resistance leader, no matter the personal cost. This book is a personal journey to extremes for him, giving him a driving motivation beyond blind resistance to the Emperor and Vader. Jax goes from a mostly orthodox Jedi to one walking the narrow tightrope on the leading edge of slipping into the grip of the dark side, desperately clawing for any ideas, any leads, any sort of power that might give him an advantage over Vader long enough to save Yimmie. He constantly reminds himself, preaches to himself, that it isn’t vengeance that he seeks, its justice, its putting right what’s been made wrong.

    But it is vengeance. Its vengeance for his own failures, his own mistakes, vengeance for the death of his friend, vengeance for the capture of the leader of the resistance. Jax seeks revenge, to pay back the Empire for what they’ve done, pushing aside his allies, his friends in the process. He turns to forbidden Sith teachings to give him the edge he so desperately seeks, turns to Black Sun for intelligence and information, turns to the possibility of his own death, of whether time can be a plaything in the hands of the Force, of whether anything he might have done might have saved Laranth’s life. He gets reckless, uncaring, callous, desperate.

    This is the sort of dark side flirtation I enjoy much more than the instant fall and the cackling villains most stories gave us. The last time I read a Jedi’s struggle against the evil in their own soul that was this subtle, it was in Dark Journey. Jax is called on his growing sense of darkness a couple of times, but always shrugs it off. And the narrative never really has him turn away from the actions or methods he's used, not until the very end. Moral ambiguity, blurring the line between light and dark in a very, very dark time.

    Den and I-5 are constantly on edge through the entire story, driven from one idea to the next, from one port to another, trying to support Jax and find a way to help his mission to rescue Yimmie, but increasingly disillusioned with the vast lengths their leader and friend is willing to go to. I-5 is even more overpowered than in previous stories, if that’s possible, by being able to transfer his memory core and such into multiple bodies. And poor Den is just dragged along, alternatively mystified and terrified. Along the way, they’re joined by an Antarian Ranger, Sacha Swiftbird, who’s just Force sensitive enough to know Sith lightsabers when she sees them and manages to revitalize the team in the long run, giving them a much-needed breath of fresh air and perspective without being a cliched new love interest.

    The resistance on Coruscant, after having its leader stolen away by Vader, gradually factions, splinters, and puts together a big all-or-nothing strike against Palpatine that Jax inadvertently, by way of making a deal with Prince Xizor, alerts Vader to. The attempt, along with the resistance, is utterly crushed, leaving them unable to mount any operations beyond shuttling beings on and off the planet. We get a lot of good character work with Pol Haus, a prefect in the ISB, as he tries desperately to save the resistance and, like Jax, finds every road he travels down wrought with failure and death. Tuden Sal, the one who betrayed Yimmie’s location to Vader in a misguided and desperate attempt to manipulate the rest of the resistance into going along with his plot to assassinate the Emperor, also gets a lot of good scenes, showing us just how flawed and driven beings at the head of such a movement tend to be.

    Aside from Jax, though, this book’s best work is its portrayal of Vader. Not necessarily when he’s “on-screen”, since Vader only has scenes devoted to him at the beginning and end of the novel, with little glimpses of him scattered throughout. However, it’s Vader’s touch, his presence, the menace and threat he presents that are best done and felt through almost every scene in the book. Vader is the sort of villain who’s best used sparingly, exactly as this book does, letting his reputation and the menace of his power do most of the work for him. Having him fight Jax directly, as he did in Patterns of the Force, weakens him because unless he kills Jax, it means that Jax got the better of him.

    This book doesn’t have that, not at all. Jax is terrified of Vader from the very beginning, and him toying with Jax after Laranth’s death only deepens that fear. Vader is the reason Jax drives himself so close to the dark side and is so desperate to use any possible means to rescue Yimmie. He knows that Vader is stronger, smarter, has more military resources and greater intelligence resources than Jax does. The only advantage Jax has is that Vader thinks that he’s dead, and even that is in constant risk of being surrendered any time Jax opens himself to the Force.

    Vader, as seen through both Jax and through Tesla, the Inquisitor, Jax’s nemesis through the other three books, is an unstoppable force of evil, respected and feared by everyone who has heard his name. The Dathomiri fear him, the Mandalorians fear him, Black Sun fears him, the members of Whiplash fear him, even his own Inquisitors fear him. Not because Vader might execute them for failure, but because they know that no matter how strong they become, they will never be stronger than he is. Tesla tries desperately to earn Vader's respect, but Vader considers him almost beneath notice, only of use so long as he carries out his duties correctly. The scenes where Tesla feels Vader's disapproval, even just through the Force, are chilling.

    In the end, Jax’s forbidden knowledge the Sith holocron his father entrusted to him allows him to evade and frustrate Vader long enough for I-5, Sacha and Den to make their own rescue attempt and escape Vader’s hidden space station with Yimmie. Jax and Vader’s fight is hardly worthy of that sort of nomenclature; Jax spends nearly the entire battle on his back foot, running and dodging through the station, stalked and chased by an indomitable, unshakable pursuer. The only thing that gets him out of there alive is I-5’s unexpected interference and possibly the intervention of Laranth from beyond the Force. Still, it’s a bittersweet victory at best, as the resistance remains in tatters and Jax has his mind wiped of the holocron’s knowledge by the Singing Mountain Clan on Dathomir, unable to trust even himself with the sort of power he had to use just to survive.

    Overall, this book is well worth the time and effort to read it. It’s a fairly decent length, but manages to never quite drag, even in the slower sections. A solid thriller packed together with Star Wars flavoring, able to draw from its predecessors and still stand on its own, giving us one of the best Vader portrayals in recent memory along with elevating the characterization of Jax Pavan to a rather compelling level. Both Reaves and Bonhoff deserve props for putting this book together, revitalizing Reaves’ often dry prose and either eliminating the flaws of the previous books or at least reducing them to a minimum. An extremely solid read, very recommended, more people out there need to read and enjoy this book. Even if you didn’t like the other books in the series, give this one a chance.

    I hate to give out scores to things, but this book is probably around an 8/10, well above average, just barely missing out on greatness. It's not Shadows of the Empire, but it isn't The Crystal Star either.
  23. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    @Cynical_Ben Speaking of these books' continuity, doesn't this book state that Nick Rostu died in Jedi Twilight?

    I enjoyed CN trilogy none the less, but haven't taken the time to read this one yet since it came out so shortly after Apocalypse killed my interest and I never got back around to it.
    Cynical_Ben likes this.
  24. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    Average score: 96.6/12 = 8.05
  25. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    I'll give it a 9/10.

    This is a major improvement over the Coruscant Nights trilogy, which I liked anyways, for the most part (although for some reason, due to the cover art, I always pictured everything cast in an orange, green, or red glow :p). It also helped that just before TLJ was published, we got this image of Jax Pavan in TERC, so I could finally picture him in flesh-and-blood instead of cast in orange, green, or red light. ;)

    The death of Laranth was a hard-hitter...not to me, because I almost expected it, given the title (Laranth technically being a Jedi, Jax couldn't be the "last" unless Laranth died), but to my brother, who's never even read the books but found the idea of a female Twi'lek Jedi gunslinger insanely cool. It was disappointing to me to see her go, but I was almost sure it was going to happen anyways so I wasn't paralyzed with grief, or anything. It certainly wasn't a death worth of Anakin Solo or Ganner Rhysode, but hey. Anyways, said death, along with Yimmon (Yimmie!) being captured, provided the perfect motive for Jax's journey through the book.

    Speaking of, I found his flirtation with the dark side believable without being slammed over the head with it. It was subtle. I almost didn't notice how he was acting until halfway through the book. There was a portion where I feared he would attempt to kill the Zabrak woman to get the blood he needed, so when he did not I breathed a sigh of relief. His "deal with the devil" with Xizor may come back to haunt him though–as far as I can remember, he never paid up, so if there's ever a sequel there may be a vengeful Falleen overlord on Jax's butt.

    The continuity was pretty good in this book. I loved seeing Mandalore in its entirety (the Shadow Syndicate thing was mentioned, making me wonder if the Republic went to Bo-Katan's aid during the late Clone Wars, because to me that wouldn't be something that would be common knowledge among the Jedi, and Jax was just a "common" Jedi), and them visiting Keldabe (Traviss reference!) and the Oyu'baat. It also made a certain amount of sense for Xizor to be there given Black Sun's allegiance with the Shadow Syndicate. One thing that peeved me off about it was that despite the amount of time spent on Mandalore, I cannot remember a single Mandalorian in the whole book. You'd think there would be Mandalorians on Mandalore. Oh, well. Another fun part was Toprowa. Remember Aren Folee? Yeah, she was first mentioned as Tobb Jadak's contact in Millennium Falcon. And then there was the fact that Jax used "Corran" for his alias. I think Laranth's alias was also a lore reference, but I can't remember offhand.

    I-Five and Den are great; I've loved Den since I read the MedStar duology, and I-Five has been a great presence throughout all but two of Reaves' books that certainly leaves an impression. I-Five switching bodies was a little unusual, and I think him being a Pit droid may have been a WAC reference (NOOOO!) but other than that, I found him quite fun as always. Sacha Swiftbird was a welcome addition to the cast, and I laughed when she found the Sith lightsaber in Jax's bedroom. The Dathomir characters were fun and more lore references all around there.

    As for the Whiplash scenes, all I can say is I am now a Pol Haus fan. I used to get bored in the first three CN books whenever I'd read his scenes; the dude was bland and somewhat annoying. But he was absolutely wonderful in this book and I think it's great we're getting good CSF characters (him and Traviss' Jaller Obrim, at least). Tuden Sal has been a pain in the rear since Shadow Hunter, and that hasn't changed as of yet. How Whiplash ever let the guy into their ranks, let alone into a command position, is beyond me.

    As others have said, Vader was extremely well-done in this book. Not much physical presence but his menace is all over the place. And the fact that Jax had to run rather than fight for almost the whole "duel" was great, because it just shows how powerful Vader is. And the pyronium thing still confuses me; I know Anakin gave it to Jax, but where did Anakin get something like that, and why did he give it to Jax? And now Vader wants it back. In the real world, it would probably translate as, "Hey, Jax, remember the ring I lent you in high school? Give it to me or you die!" Still, fun!

    One of the only reasons this book didn't get a 10/10 is that Jax didn't even get to land the killing blow on his rival; Sacha stole the show and decapitated Tesla from behind. It's a bummer, because Tesla's been hounding Jax for a long time and Jax really should've been the one to end it. Still, it didn't bother me all that much, it was just annoying.

    As a wrap-up, I'll say there were two things that really stuck out to me in this book. I-Five/Laranth helping Jax at the end was great, and some threads there left it open for I-Five to be a very special droid indeed–and the fact that he's in a replica droid body but has a laser cannon for an arm is totally awesome. The second thing is, Laranth's plant. I love how it was used as a symbol of Jax's struggle with the dark side. After she died, he cared for it obsessively, but the closer he drew to the dark side and the more spacey he became, the more he forgot to care for the plant–and the point he realizes this is really when he pulls back from the dark side.

    I'm still holding out for a sequel, Reaves/Bohnhoff!
    Iron_lord likes this.