Lit you're gonna think i'm crazy but...

Discussion in 'Literature' started by jacktherack, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. instantdeath Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
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    Well, what can you say. When you're cutting down a tree, you don't hold back your swings in consideration of the tree's feelings. It's something that has to be done.

    But anyway, a non-condescending response to the thread proper: I don't think quality always translates to that "can't put the book down" feeling that so many publishers look for. Stover tends to write very "heavy" books. I love the Acts of Caine books, but I doubt I could ever read them in one sitting. Reading a Caine book-especially Blade of Tyshalle, arguably the best one- is akin to being hit repeatedly over the head with a metal pipe. It's an almost exhausting experience. Bringing another medium into it, I'd say Breaking Bad also fits this description very well. I believe I watched all ten seasons of Smallville in half the time it took for me to watch five of Breaking Bad. Does this mean I believe the former is a better show? Not in any universe. It's just that Breaking Bad is something that I couldn't binge watch, that I need to let sit so that I could fully process it.

    Now, a book can be masterfully written and still be a page turner. The thing is, a book can be awful and still leave you guessing (can anyone say The Da Vinci Code?). KJA, for all his faults, does know how to write a page turner. But at their core, they are- I can think of a few less condescending ways to put this, but what the hell- junk food. They have no substance, and they don't stay with you. As @catherine put it, if they weren't part of a larger universe, they would be utterly forgettable.
    Last edited by instantdeath, Oct 5, 2013
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  2. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    [IMG]

    I've been trying to figure out what grade level the Jedi Academy trilogy was written for.

    More broadly speaking, with Stover's novels there's layers of meaning and you can re-read his books multiple times and still catch stuff you missed. I don't think that the same can be said of KJA's novels.

    But maybe people just want mindless entertainment out of Star Wars?

    As was mentioned earlier, the likeliest literary influences on Star Wars were the pulps of the 1910s-1940s. Writers like Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs had better prose than Kevin J. Anderson. This influence can mostly strongly be seen in the writing of Brian Daley and in Stover's Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.

    I haven't read Doc Smith so I can't comment on his prose or writing in general but I hear Lensman was a huge influence so maybe I should.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Oct 5, 2013
  3. instantdeath Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
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    Felt I had to edit my post a bit, since all I seem to do is drop bad snarky one sentence posts these days.

    See, I don't think there's any thing a wrong with thrill-a-minute adventure writing. I don't believe that stuff is doomed to be junk. Brian Daley is an absolute master when it comes to this, and I enjoy reading the Han Solo Adventures as much as I do any thematically heavier novel. The problem with KJA is... well, forget I said that, KJA's problems are too numerous to list. He comes across, to me, as a guy who saw the movies, threw up his hands and said, "I can do that". He hits all of the familiar beats, yet takes no time to make it anything more than a checklist of events. His stories are very much about cardboard cut outs saving the galaxy.

    And, as a personal pet peeve, KJA is simply awful when it comes to the Force. There's so sense of mystery or weight to his description of it. He's the proto Drew Karpyshyn.
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  4. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    There seems to be two different depictions of the Force: there's the Force in the original Star Wars, which is not very mystical at all and is mostly just an energy field that Jedi draw on for their power, which seems to be the KJA/Karpyshyn version. Being a Jedi is about being a 1990s Saturday morning cartoon justice warrior that uses the power of the Force for GOOD against the Legion of Doom Sith that use the DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE for EVIL.

    Then there's the version of the Force from The Empire Strikes Back in which Yoda says a lot of profound lines that have depth and meaning to them. Unfortunately, the former interpretation has mostly co-opted those lines and reduced them to the lowest common denominator, which is what KJA does. Just paraphrase Yoda's dialogue as Jedi platitudes and you've got yourself a Jedi praxeum curriculum.
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  5. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Shatterpoint is a dark story that doesn't have a conventional happy ending, I can totally get people not taking to it. Just like I can totally understand people taking issues with Traitor for its darker elements.

    When it comes to flat out prose Stover is as good as Star Wars has to offer, but Matt's story telling hasn't always captured me in the way it has others. There is a lot of flat out depressing stuff in his books, dark and complex stuff about the human psyche and the depths to which people can fall. There is a lot of meat to his books that inspires a ton of discussion - just sometimes all someone wants is an X-Wing blowing up a Tie Fighter.

    I like all of Matt Stover's Star Wars novels on some level, down right love a couple of them, it is hard not to. But at the same time if Matt was the only one writing this universe I'm not sure how that would work out. I hear a lot about people not liking Denning's darker tones and violence in the current novels, but what he offers is kinda sloppy childs play compared to the depths that Stover can, and often does, take the characters to.

    So yeah, I can totally get why someone would prefer KJA to Matt Stover. I've read some Louis L'Amour in my lifetime because my mother is a huge fan and I often found the plots and characters really simple. There generally was some good guys, some bad guys, and a love interest. The good guys would win at the end and get the girl. Story done.

    He has sold over well 200,000,000 novels and keeps on selling them even though he's been dead for 20 years. He must have done something right even if it isn't my thing.
    Last edited by Robimus, Oct 5, 2013
  6. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
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    While I won't hesitate to acknowledge George Lucas was almost certainly making the story up as he went along and that it's absolutely impossible to separate his original intentions with his intentions the next day, I do think in context the Force we see glimpses of in ANH and the Force we learn more about in depth in TESB don't come across as fundamentally different. After all, Luke is the eyes of the audience. Through him, we learn about the Force slowly, but only through what Ben Kenobi tells us. Naturally, for the sake of the pace of the film, these lessons have to be condensed and simplified. When we see practical uses of the Force- Vader's choking, Obi-Wan's mind trick- they seem almost indistinguishable from magic. However, we do get hints that it is something more, as Ben explains that the Force is something that "binds the galaxy together", something we see displayed as he's able to feel the deaths of the people of Alderaan from across the galaxy. Even in the much maligned prequels, I believe the Force has always been presented with an air of mystery (interestingly enough, the one criticism above all others that has really made sense to me about the The Clone Wars movie, and perhaps the series itself, has been Roger Ebert's: The Clone Wars is the first Star Wars movie to never mention the Force).

    I'm not asking for every story to be a metaphysical exploration on the nature of the Force. Hell, for practical purposes I'm fine with the actions boiling down to simple "Force powers". The SW universe is a vast place with near-infinite storytelling possibilities, and contrary to Del Ray's belief, they don't all have to revolve around the Force. But in a work that centers around the creation of a new order of Jedi Knights, a work that should feature a great deal of imparting knowledge, there really should have been more than, "Kyp used the Force. Cool stuff happens".

    For the record, in case I didn't make this clear, I'm not arguing with you at all, just throwing out another reason why I consider KJA's work in the JAT to be lacking.
  7. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I don't think that the Force in the original film is incompatible with its subsequent elaborations, I just think that some writers choose to take the simpler version and reduce later elaborations to the lowest common denominator to foster that interpretation.

    I don't have a problem with stories not exploring the Force, I just wish that the ones we do have didn't get pooped on due to other authors apparently not understanding them.
  8. instantdeath Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    To be perfectly honest, I don't think that stripped down, RPG view of the Force stems from ANH: I'd argue it stems much more from the prequels. Or, perhaps not the prequels themselves, but the surrounding media instigated by the increased presence of Jedi. And, much as I adore it, I imagine KOTOR played its part as well, since the Force served as the games magic system, and every magic system in an RPG needs well defined rules.

    I don't think there's any "blame" to throw around, though. As I've said, boiling the Force down to "he threw a Force push at her, but she countered with a Force whatever" isn't exactly desirable in my eyes, but it's not enough to ruin a story. Fittingly, I think James Luceno has been known to use both styles. The fight scenes in most of his books are methodical and come across almost like a chemistry experiment when the Force is involved (yet this doesn't stop them from being suitably brutal, as in Darth Plagueis), yet outside of combat he isn't afraid to delve into what using the Force means. Could be because, if I'm not mistaken, Luceno has admitted that he considers his action scenes a weak point, but I believe it's proof that there's room in the universe for all kinds of storytelling. It's just about the execution.
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  9. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    KJA predates the prequels and KOTOR. But I'm not blaming anyone. I just think it's the way that any particular writer approaches the franchise. The Force is their Dagobah cave; it's what they bring with them! They project themselves onto it.

    The first film is the most ambiguous about the Force and it's very much universal in a Campbellian sense -- the other five films have fleshed it out with similarities to various sources to give it its own sense of cosmology or metaphysics. A student of philosophy or eastern religion might be able to identify various characteristics as originating from one particular thing or another, and there's a lot of overlap.

    I think Stover's mindfulness of the setting makes his stories more interesting than they would otherwise be. It's not so much his treatment of the Force that I find interesting as much as it is his approach to what it means to be a Jedi Knight. Compared to KJA or Karpyshyn, the two you mentioned, Stover takes a hard look at the life of a Jedi and what a Jedi does when put into situations in which there are no easy answers. Other writers shy away from this; there is no Kobayashi Maru in their books. "When you always know what is right, where is freedom? No one chooses the wrong, Jacen Solo. Uncertainty sets you free." Fighting evil Sith Lords isn't a complex task that is conducive to character improvement and growth. That's why Luke's growth in the films doesn't come out of destroying the Sith Lords, and why Anakin's destruction of the Sith requires his growth.
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  10. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
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    Right, I'm just talking about the point where simplifying the Force became the rule, rather than the exception. I wouldn't attribute KJA's particular method to anything but his simple writing style.
  11. Revanfan1 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    But with Stover, except for Shatterpoint, all of his books have a great ending. Even ROTS. "Love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars." LSATSOM, Cronal dies in a burst of pure light and the good guys win. Even (and maybe especially) Traitor has a very good ending, despite Ganner's death, with the saving of Jacen Solo from Yuuzhan'tar. And a lot of Vergere's teachings, when taken in-context as a good person teaching her student to be better and look beyond platitudes, are actually quite loving, almost like an aunt with her favorite nephew. She gives him a whole lot of pain, for sure, but in the end Jacen loves Vergere like Luke loved Obi-Wan, and Jacen "had a lot of gardening to do". Now, in SOM, there are some very depressing parts with Luke fighting the Dark that Cronal put inside him, but in the end Luke conquers that Dark, and to me, that's just as good a feeling as a book full of "heroic dude saves the damsel in distress". Because he overcomes intense adversity. It's not (as) compelling a story if there's no intense adversity. Take Lord of the Rings. The scene near the end of ROTK, when Frodo can't go any farther because the Ring is literally weighing him down beyond what he can take, and Sam picks him up and carries him is still today one of my all-time favorite movie scenes, and it gives me chills and makes me want to jump up and cheer. This is what Stover's books can accomplish.
  12. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    The end to Shatterpoint is awesome.

    "The good guys barely manage to win, they come out of it brutally scarred, the main character is going back to his home planet to try and rescue a woman who is like a daughter to him, and discovers that the guerrilla war that she's been fighting in has driven her completely insane and his people are being slaughtered by settlers and are committing atrocities in return and at the end of the book, basically all he has is the ability to look at Yoda and Emperor Palpatine and say 'Well, it could have been worse.'"
  13. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    Which, in and of itself, shows how powerful Mace Windu is. If he can go through all that and say "it could've been worse" he can handle anything (except Anakin and Palpatine together, of course). I'll tell you what, though, Stover's books play with your emotions a lot. Way more than a book about a hero saving a damsel in distress. In Stover's you get happy, sad, depressed, angry, hopeful, victorious, and joyful all in the same book, but in the others you've got happy all the way through. Nothing wrong with "happy all the way through" books, of course; sometimes you need those to recover from the emotional rollercoaster of a Stover book. But you need adversity to be put in place so the heroes can whoop its rear end halfway across the galaxy.
  14. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I think that Shatterpoint is Stover's clarification about a lot of the ideas presented in Traitor through Mace Windu, whom is narrating his thoughts to an audio journal. Mace says a lot of the same lines that Vergere does, as well as presenting the same ideas worded differently.

    The overall theme to both those books, as well as Shadows of Mindor, is of the goodness of the heroes overcoming the darkness of the world. He has Mace state the point in Revenge of the Sith:

    "Since the fall of Darth Bane more than a millennium ago, there have been hundreds of thousands of Jedi -- hundreds of thousands of Jedi feeding the light with each work of their hands, with each breath, with every beat of their hearts, bringing justice, building civil society, radiating peace, acting out of selfless love for all living things -- and in all these thousand years, there have been only two Sith at any time. Only two. Jedi create light, but the Sith do not create darkness. They merely use the darkness that is always there. That has always been there. Greed and jealousy, aggression and lust and fear -- these are all natural to sentient beings. The legacy of the jungle. Our inheritance from the dark."

    Jacen and Vergere, Mace and Nick, and Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Artoo, Lando, and Wedge are creating light.
  15. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Luke conquers intense adversity in Crucible too, does that make it a good book? Are you comparing the endings of Stover's books to the ending of KJA's books? I'm just not sure where you are going here.

    And many would argue that Jacen Solo suffered from a Star Wars form of Stockholm Syndrome by the end of Traitor.

    Mace Windu can't save the woman he cares like about like a daughter from the horrors of emotional trauma caused by war.

    Revenge of the Sith is right up Stover's alley because it is such a dark story in the first place.

    To me Mindor has more in common with Crucible than anything else - it is infinitely better than Crucible yes, but it is kinda a psychedelic trip into metaland with a villain that spends the whole novel in a box.

    And I like them all. That doesn't mean someone is wrong for not liking them as much, or not as much, as I do.
    Last edited by Robimus, Oct 6, 2013
  16. Revanfan1 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    *braces self*

    Crucible was executed badly. But the idea was pretty good (forget the eyeballs-in-the-neck thing; I hated that). But I simply never got the same epic feel from Crucible that I did from SOM or Traitor, despite the fact that I did like Crucible in many parts. To me, Crucible is a classic Denning book: a KJA disguised as a Stover. He tries to make everything work out like Stover does, but his execution is faulty. No, Crucible wasn't as good as any of Stover's (and I'd argue it was about on-level with Darksaber), but for all its flaws, it tried.

    I disagree that Jacen had Stockholm Syndrome in Traitor. I could see where such an argument would come from, but I simply disagree with it. Because even though Vergere did start out as his captor, she ended up helping him run from the Vong. Stockholm Syndrome would be him identifying with the Vong, not Vergere.
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  17. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    But he did come out of that book completely onside with Vergere and Vergere's identity as a hero is very much in question to me. As dumbed down as it is, and as much as I hate it, canonically she is a Sith. Canonically, Jacen Solo turned into a bad guy - in an examination of the larger picture here I don't think it is possible to talk about what a positive influence the chicken had on Jacen Solo because in the end Jacen Solo did nothing good for the entire rest of his life following his experiences in the NJO.

    Yes, I know, it was the fault of terrible writers not getting it.[face_monkey] But it is what it is.

    Again though, your not proving anything by repeatedly trying to prove my posts wrong with definitions of this or that or telling me how writing is supposed to be. Everyone is going to take something different from these books. There isn't really a right or wrong answer to the question of which author someone likes better for whatever reason.

    People aren't always looking for a cerebral experience in their entertainment media - it is certainly nice to have the option of course - but all one has to do is look at film box office totals to realize that simple fun stories sell just as well as intellectually complex/meaningful stories do. In fact they are probably more popular where a general audience is concerned.
  18. CT-867-5309 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2011
    star 5
    If it's not Stockholm Syndrome, it's certainly some kind of bond through inflicted trauma, as Vergere tortured Jacen in more ways than one.
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  19. Gamiel Force Ghost

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    Dec 16, 2012
    star 5
    It is the Vong Syndrome:p
  20. Revanfan1 Chosen One

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    Jun 3, 2013
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    Oh, I'm not doubting that. There's nothing really complex or meaningful about Kenobi and it's just as good as Mindor. I'm just saying that sometimes, to me, it's better to have "Hero Conquers Extreme Adversity" as opposed to "Everything Always Goes Good". Don't get me wrong, most of the time I prefer the latter, if only because the former is so deep that you can't handle a bunch of it. It's why, even though I love Stover and want him to write more Star Wars books, I'm glad he doesn't have as many as Zahn or Denning or Allston, because it'd be too much deep thought too often.
  21. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    If Jacen is so brainwashed by Vergere, why does he completely disregard her advice in the next book?

    Sometimes I wonder if everyone else is just reading different books than me, or if they're so absorbed into "Star Wars canon" that their memories rewrite what they read when it's retconned.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Oct 6, 2013
  22. Gamiel Force Ghost

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    Dec 16, 2012
    star 5
    He is a teenager, he will ignore or hate the advice of people that he love constantly
  23. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    But he's brainwashed and does everything Vergere tells him to do!

    I appreciate the logic that Yoda is responsible for Luke turning to the dark side in Dark Empire though. If he was killed by Leia in issue #6, I would have been convinced Yoda is a Sith Lord. Still on the fence though -- Yoda's influence on Luke might not have been great enough and that is why he didn't go all the way dark side.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Oct 6, 2013
  24. jacktherack Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 2008
    star 4
    Now to be fair the only stover novel i've even read is shatterpoint and i'm not even completly finished with it, for the jedi academy trilogy i read it a long time ago, i think i was like 13 or somthing, i remember liking it, but i haven't read it since, i read darksaber about a year or so ago and thought it was pretty good.
  25. purplerain Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 14, 2013
    star 4
    Whatever the case, I'm glad KJA didn't write the novelization(s) of ROTS and/or ROTJ.