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Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Cynical_Ben, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager Needs Wine star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Up until I started the NJO, I had only read Tatooine Ghost, which I really liked; I thought Recovery and Star by Star were also good books. So I didn't get the Denning hate until I learned what he did with Tahiri in the post-NJO. And holy hell. I'm just going to keep TG, Recovery and SbS in mind and pretend that he stopped there.
  2. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    That's just the tip of the ice-berg. Denning's books post NJO aren't that bad but they do need to be read in moderation.
  3. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    Denning's ruination of Tahiri is bad, though.

    anakinfansince1983, so you finished SBS? How'd you fare during "that part" you were dreading?
  4. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager Needs Wine star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    I cried pretty hard, especially during the scene right before ("Kiss Tahiri for me") and Han and Leia's reaction when they learned the news. Denning certainly knows that it's every parent's worst nightmare. :_|
    darth fluffy and Revanfan1 like this.
  5. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    Just saying that I can read his books. There is a lot of problems with his books but they are readable.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  6. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    I've never cried at a book. Ever. Not because I don't find it sad, but just because it's not who I am. But "Kiss Tahiri for me" was one of the single saddest things I've read in my life, and if I hadn't known ahead of time that he died (I accidentally read the Enemy Lines duology first) I probably would've cried. Curse Denning for ruining it by having Tahiri go back in time to shove herself in the back to go into Anakin's arms and kiss him (it cheapened the scene to see it a second time, IMO). In fact, all of Inferno was pretty awful–skipping it in favor of Legacy is probably not a bad thing.

    Also, how'd you feel about Luke's reaction to it? I know you were probably pretty peeved about Mara's, of course, but then, who wasn't? I wanted to tell her to shut up, the man's nephew just died! Only time I've felt like that towards Mara.
  7. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager Needs Wine star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    I have never been so pissed off at Mara, and that's saying something, because she pisses me off pretty much every time she appears on the page. But this time in particular...what a self-centered egotistical whiny little *****. "You can't be sad, Luke--the baby might sense it and cry." Oh for ****'s sake...Shut. The. ****. Up. I wish Luke would have slapped her.

    As far as Luke...I thought it was fairly well done. It sorta reminded me of his reaction when he found Owen and Beru's bodies, when he seemed too shocked to have much of a reaction at all other than freezing in abject horror. I have seen a lot of commentary in which he was responsible for Anakin dying, and maybe there's a sense that he should have felt guilty, but I had gotten the impression that Anakin and his siblings were going on that mission with or without permission, so I don't blame Luke for it.
  8. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    I don't blame Luke, either. And I thought he couldn't control his shaking, or something. Did he just freeze?
  9. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Feb 17, 2004
    I always thought the mission was a terrible contrivance for the sake of plot.
  10. Lando Swarm

    Lando Swarm Jedi Master star 2

    Aug 9, 2013
    Definitely. Sending a bunch of kids was a ridiculous idea.

    Just dispatch Luke Skywalker and Kyle Katarn. Problem solved.
  11. Rew

    Rew Force Ghost star 5

    Dec 22, 2008

    Fixed that for you. [face_peace]
  12. Solent

    Solent Jedi Master star 2

    Aug 4, 2001
    Invincible made me wish I was watching the Christmas Special instead twice. Tahiri interrogating Ben [face_sick], and Han and Leia joking they were into bondage to finish a meeting where the main issue had been killing Jacen. (Need a wallbang smily).

    There´s also the "insects made them do it" Zekk - Jaina from DNT. He did really try his best to remove Jag from the picture. Or Jedi using DS emotions to power themselves despite TUF reaching the opposite conclusion about Vergere´s theories.
  13. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
  14. Zeta1127

    Zeta1127 Jedi Master star 5

    Sep 2, 2012
    The thing about interrogation in Star Wars is, Vader interrogating Leia in ANH wasn't shown, but everyone knows it happened and no one needed the details to get the point across, and Vader interrogating the heroes in TESB, well at least Han, was shown to a certain extent, but there wasn't any kind of gore involved only tremendous pain. These examples from the films themselves allow me to conclude that the way Denning does this kind of thing is not Star Wars.
  15. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    Meanwhile it explains the results of Ben's torture in excruciating detail, followed by explicit seduction. Yeah, Denning doesn't get it.
  16. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Hangman Host star 10 VIP - Game Host

    Sep 2, 2012
    That said, Leia's interrogation was shown in slightly more detail in Star Wars Journal: Captive to Evil (July 1998), with Death Star (October 2007) also alluding to it, though The Rise & Fall of Darth Vader (September 2007) suggests that Vader's using The Force to make Leia think she's in pain, rather than the droid's equipment.

    Star Wars Journal: Captive to Evil
    I'm weak. And dizzy. It's hard to speak or even lift my head. I can't make it to my cot. I'm lying on the floor.
    Like an animal. This is what they did to me.
    I try not to feel hatred. Because that's what they want. Hatred weakens the spirit as pain weakens the body.
    I didn't think such pain existed. In any universe.
    I have to rest now. To prepare for next time. But I record this fact.
    He ... did not ... break me.

    The torture began with one needle. It probed my most sensitive nerves. Darth Vader stood by. The pain grew until I broke my promise not to scream and let out a cry that came from the deepest part of myself.
    I practiced my mind techniques in the beginning. But as the pain began to take over, I could no longer reason properly. And then, as my sanity was slipping away, Vader spoke to me. He spoke in the voice of a friend. He wanted to end my pain — didn't I want it to end too? It would be so easy. It would happen immediately. All he had to do was raise his hand. And all I had to do was reveal where the Death Star plans were, or the location of the hidden Rebel base. Either piece of information would bring me sweet relief.
    I held on.
    "Never," I gritted out. Just that one word cost me a great deal of effort.
    The needle probed deeper. The pain grew and grew until I lost consciousness. They revived me.
    And then they started all over again.
    More pain. More terror.
    I would have broken if I hadn't been trained so well. I clung to the pieces of my training that had been shattered by the pain. Vader used the Force, trying to convince me that he was working for the Rebellion. That my father wanted me to reveal the location of the hidden base. Didn't I want to please my father?
    Confused and in raging pain, I held out against that voice. In the end, my resistance became nothing more tan a single point of consciousness. A pinprick of light illuminating the darkness around me. I concentrated and concentrated on that tiny particle of light, knowing that if I let go—all was lost.
    Then from somewhere far away, I heard Vader's voice. I heard him say "Enough."
    He wanted me alive. They would try again later.
    My eyes were closed, and my grip on consciousness was weak. But I heard the hiss of the door with relief.
    I'd made it through.

    Death Star
    "And now, Your Highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden Rebel base." Vader told her.
    As the interrogator droid floated in behind him, Vader saw her defiant expression falter. He felt her fear as the machine approached her.
    Good ...
    He heard the door slam down behind them.

    But, after half an hour, despite the truth drugs, electrical shocks, and other inducements he had administered, it was evident that her resistance had not been lowered enough for him to probe her mind. That was surprising.
    She was physically weakened and in considerable pain, but her mind remained shielded. She had revealed nothing.
    Most unusual for anyone except a Jedi to have such control, he mused.
    He kept his anger and frustration under tight rein, letting none of it show. He had other matters that required his attention — for now.
    "We are not done here," he told her. To one of the technicians he said "Have a medic tend to her."
    The technician said, "But isn't she sentenced to die?"
    "When I decide it is time," Vader said. "If she is not alive and well until that moment, I will hold you personally responsible."
    The tech grew visibly paler. Vader swept by him and out of the cell.

    The Rise & Fall of Darth Vader
    Looming over the prisoner, Vader said "And now, Your Highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden Rebel Base."
    There was an electric hum from behind Vader, then a spherical black interrogator droid hovered slowly into the cell. The droid's midsection was ringed by a repulsorlift system, and its exterior was festooned with devices that included an electroshock assembly, sonic torture device, chemical syringe, and lie determinator.
    Leia's eyes went wide at the sight of the droid, and Vader could practically taste her terror. She said "Keep it away from me!"
    Vader seized his prisoner, pinning her arms to her sides while the interrogator droid moved in closer. There was a brief hiss from the droid's injector arm, then Leia cried out and fell backward, slumping against the cell wall with a thud. "You can't ... she said. "You c —"
    "Your Highness," Vader said in his most soothing tone. "Listen to my voice."
    Leia's eyes rolled in their sockets, unable to focus on anything. She stammered, "V-voice ..."
    "That's right. Listen ... I am your friend."
    "Wha — friend?" Leia said, then winced. "No ..."
    "Yes!" Vader insisted, watching her plunge deeper into a hypnotic state. "You trust me, you can confide in me. All your secrets are safe with me."
    "Mmmm?" Leia licked her lips. "Safe?"
    "That's right, safe. You are safe here. You're among friends. You can trust me. I am a member of the Rebel Alliance, like you."
    A look of relief swept over Leia's face as she muttered "Rebel?"
    "What did you do with the Death Star plans, Leia? Where are they? The Rebels need to know! Help us, Leia!"
    "No," she moaned, closing her eyes. "Can't!"
    "It's your duty," Vader urged. "Your duty to our Alliance. Your obligation to Alderaan and to your father. It's your duty to tell us where those tapes are!"
    "Father?" Leia said, her eyes still shut.
    "Yes," Vader said. "Your father commands you to tell us!"
    "Father ... wouldn't."
    Growing impatient, Vader used his own psychic powers to make Leia believe she was in excruciating pain, but after several minutes, he ended the interrogation. He sensed that her willpower was formidable but must have been augmented with certain physical and mental disciplines. She would not be broken easily.
    Leaving the detention cell, he went to report to Grand Moff Tarkin in the Death Star control room. Vader said. "Her resistance to the mind probe is considerable. It will be some time before we can extract any information from her."
  17. Zeta1127

    Zeta1127 Jedi Master star 5

    Sep 2, 2012
    My point stands thus, none of those detailed accounts of Leia being interrogated have any gore, and I was also trying to make the point that with Star Wars less is more.
    aleja2 likes this.
  18. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Hangman Host star 10 VIP - Game Host

    Sep 2, 2012
    True. Aside from the blood on the floor of Mos Eisley cantina after Obi-Wan severs Ponda Baba's arm in ANH, do we ever see anyone bleeding?
  19. Cynical_Ben

    Cynical_Ben Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 12, 2013
    Sorry for the delay on this part, folks, like with Onslaught I had a hard time finding a stopping point in the book to discuss things. This is going to be a long review/ look-at, anyway, and I’ll be looking at a few different aspects like characters I liked or elements that I disliked, so strap in. Onward to Ruin.

    First of all, for being Stackpole’s final work in the EU, this book is… average for him. Onslaught is much better, in my opinion; it has better pacing overall and a more cohesive plot. It’s not that Ruin is bad, it’s not, it’s still a good book, it’s just that Onslaught is better.

    That being said, this is still a good book. Even though this and Onslaught technically form a duology, both books stand on their own and can be read independently. I don’t know why you would, though; both books are highly Recommended from me and hold important parts of the overall narrative. They might not be essential reading if you’re looking for the central parts of the series overall, but you would miss quite a bit by skimming them or skipping them altogether.

    As I said above, the plot isn’t as cohesive as Onslaught’s, because in that book, the only part of the narrative that didn’t fit was Corran’s subplot, because it was setting up the plot for this book. In Ruin, most of what Luke, Anakin and Co. do in the first three-quarters of the book as they traipse across the galaxy after a rogue Jedi, and what Leia does in extending diplomatic relations to the Imperial Remnant, are immaterial except to set up small plot points for the final battle. Leia doesn't even do anything for the last fifteen chapters of the book, I don't even know if she has any lines.

    There are also a few scenes that feel like they’re setting something up, and don’t have much of a payoff, like Han’s scene with the Solo kids. It’s effective in showing how broken Han still is, but there’s no resolution, no point except to remind us that, yep, Chewie’s still dead. The rogue Jedi comes back to the fold after a stern talking-to, and the Empire shows up later for two battles, then leaves again. It's Iron Man 2 syndrome, where there are too many plot points that exist to support other stories rather than letting the plot focus on being self-contained.

    However, the things that this book does right are threefold: One, the battle scenes; Two, re-introducing us to the Remnant and its varying factions; and Three, giving us a portrait of the Yuuzhan Vong warrior caste that sets the tone for just how terrifying and effective an enemy they are.

    First, the battles. Stackpole is my favorite author of Star Wars combat in prose. Ground combat, space combat, fighter combat, it doesn’t matter. Every battle snaps and snarls with action and stress, being visceral and impactful without being confusing, gory or explicit. He knows when to give us detail and when to back off and leave it to our imagination. Other authors may do combat well, like Traviss for instance, but it doesn’t always feel like Star Wars combat. Stackpole captures the mixture of fun and adventure along with grim destruction and doubt that comes with the swing of a lightsaber, with the bark of a blaster, with the opening of a Star Destroyer’s broadside. One thing, though, all three books in this series so far have seen copious amounts of blood, especially from the Vong themselves. Even from lightsaber stab wounds, which shouldn’t bleed at all.

    Second, the Imperial Remnant. I’ve never felt as giddy with a Chekov’s Gun being set above the mantelpiece as when Pellaeon and the others were introduced in this novel. It’s obvious that Stackpole introduced them here, and then dismisses them at the end, for their reappearance to occur in a later installment. But it just felt so good to read about Impstars, Moffs, seeing Pelly on the bridge of the Chimera, even seeing Chiss again. It also introduced Jagged, in all of his stiffness. Is this his first appearance? I know the Fel kids are a mixed up bunch continuity-wise, but this is the earliest I’ve seen Jagged specifically. And right away he and Jaina are flirting, despite him having all of the personality of a tin soldier. Still, it’s good to see him, he reminds me of reading about his dad. All of their scenes read like a flash-back to an older era of the EU.

    Third, and most effective, in my opinion, is the character of Shedao Shai. Through him, we get to know more about the Vong culture, about the caste system, about their tactics and their equipment, and most importantly, we get hints about their religion. Shai’s utter devotion to pain as the only meaning of life is unsettling, yet his conviction makes him believable and not a caricature. In him, we finally begin to see why the Vong are so willing to fight to the bitter end, what the inner workings of the Vong war machine are, why they value single combat so highly. And his complex relationship with Eglos reminds me of Saladin, allowing a crusader knight to live in his court so that they could learn from each other about their respective cultures. Of course, in Saladin’s case, he was the more refined and civilized one, while Shai is brutal and cruel. Honest, but cruel.

    Really, Shai is a complex character and thoroughly interesting being, which is good because he takes up half of the narrative for himself. If he were a poorly developed or written villain, I’d have grown bored with him and thought much less of this book. But, like Nom Anor and Yomin Carr before him, he provides us with a much-needed face to an otherwise faceless enemy. He gives the Yuuzhan Vong personality beyond their culture and technology. And, most of all, he makes the war personal. This book reminds me of the Empire Strikes Back in one important way: the bad guys win. Not in the way Shai would most have liked, certainly, but I think he would have approved of Corran being shamed by his failure to save Ithor and thereafter cast out of both the New Republic Military and the Jedi.

    On that note, what about Ithor? The planet was one of the greenest and most vibrant (and pacifistic) in the EU, and this book reduces it to a burnt-out cinder. Moreso than any other action before it, this one illustrates just how deadly the Vong can be given time and the right leader at the helm. They thoroughly and utterly kill a planet full of living creatures. And somehow Borsk and the other NR leaders manage to make it the Jedi’s fault, thereby fragmenting their ranks even further and ensuring their own eventual downfall. Stang it, Borsk, who gave you the keys?

    Anakin, Jaina and Jacen all grow and learn as the book goes on, Anakin especially maturing quite a bit, but they’re both still young and learning. Seeing Deshara’cor’s death hit Anakin on the still-not-quite-healed wounds Chewie’s death left made me sad, as did the death of Jaina’s wingmate. Their whole family needs time to rest and heal, but I don’t know how much they’ll get it.

    Also, Mara continues to be schizophrenically written, especially when she’s alongside Luke. She goes from tough and capable Jedi to simpering and clingy wife so fast it makes my head spin, sometimes within the same sentence. My thoughts on her in my post discussing Vector Prime still stand; she’s been the most poorly written character in this series thus far, a with a disturbing obsession with having children that pops in at the most dramatically inopportune times. Geeze, is she having a mid-life crisis in the middle of a war? There are more appropriate times for this sort of discussion, woman, there’s a war going on out there and people with more urgent needs than your ticking biological clock.

    I enjoyed the more meta part in the conclusion of this book: the passing of the torch from the old generation to the new. Corran voluntarily hands his badge in, so to speak, and leaves the defense of the Republic and the position of Luke’s de-facto right hand (with Mara still mostly out of commission) up to others. Namely, he tasks it to Jacen and the now-mercifully-humbled Ganner. I like this. It’s a way to write Corran out of the series for a while without killing him, and to have him pass his torch, so to speak, to the younger generation. It’s an effective scene, one I wish had been repeated with other older Jedi later on.

    Overall, the sideplots are still fragmented, but the core of the book is Shedao Shai and the efforts of the New Republic and their allies to contain and defeat him. With his death, though, there is no happy ending, no celebration. Jagged was right about one thing: celebrating before the job is done is false. This book doesn’t celebrate Shai’s death, it mourns, because with him Ithor died. What’s more, an even greater threat looms over the event horizon. Ruin, indeed.

    Next time, we’ll be moving into the other of the two books in the series I’ve read before and begin Han’s healing: James Luceno’s Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial!
    Jedi Ben likes this.
  20. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    Maul had a fine red mist escape his waist in TPM.
  21. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Hangman Host star 10 VIP - Game Host

    Sep 2, 2012
    Good point- I was thinking primarily of the OT. Anakin's burns are pretty grisly-looking in RoTS.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  22. stung4ever

    stung4ever Jedi Grand Master star 3

    May 17, 2002
    I would imagine a lot of that had to do with Dark Tide being planned as a trilogy. The middle book, Siege, was cut, and the last 2 books were combined into one.
    aleja2 likes this.
  23. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    Reading this thread reminds me how very much I liked Anakin Solo. I want him to live. :(

    Solent and anakinfansince1983 like this.
  24. HWK-290

    HWK-290 Jedi Padawan star 2

    Jul 29, 2013
    All Luke has to do is learn how to use the Force to reach into Winter's head to overwrite reality with her memories, and everything will be well again with the GFFA.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  25. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager Needs Wine star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    As far as Ruin...

    I enjoyed Stackpole's writing, particularly of the space battle scenes. This book added to my interest in the earlier series of books featuring the Rogue Squadron.

    I never liked the concept of a duel. I'm sorry, but if the end result is someone being murdered, there isn't a "polite" way to do it.

    That said, I didn't think Corran should blame himself and slink off after what happened to Ithor. The Vong did it, period, whatever their reasons. Just because the New Republic Senate likes to blame the Jedi for everything from the Vong invasion to the lack of existence of Santa Claus, doesn't make it so.

    This was the book of Jagged Fel's introduction. Sorry, not impressed. Jaina, you can do better.

    Daeshara'cor's situation and state of mind made me sad, but that was partly because I really liked Miko.

    You've pretty much summed up why I hate Mara. She thinks the entire universe revolves around her. She thinks her ticking biological clock is the most important thing in the galaxy.

    Sharing one of my favorite lines from the book, from page 90:

    "When you get to know someone, you can be hurt if they go away suddenly. The hurt is really big and really strong."

    I liked the whole conversation about Anakin's guilt over Chewie's death, how Anakin was finally able to talk to someone outside the family and shed some tears over it.
    Revanfan1 likes this.