Reviews Books The JC Lit Reviews Special: CRUCIBLE (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac , Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Crucible is here, and the Big Three are doing something with Lando, who isn't Big, apparently! But we love him anyway.

    Some rules: rate Crucible 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.;)
  2. SWpants

    SWpants Force Ghost star 5

    Oct 28, 2004
    As I posted in the Crucible thread, I felt that Denning was a great choice for this novel. The plot overall was excellent, although I found the Rift and the monolith to be a bit extreme. Yet this is a different Universe than where there are many unknowns and crazy things already happened in previous subseries. I just want to understand the science behind it.

    There was true emotion, great evil that had nothing to do with the Force (and, while sadistic, was still interesting to read) and evil that was Force-based. It showed a great “end” to the Big Three <spoiler>without killing them off</spoiler> and that the Force still has its secrets.

    There were Mandos, sentient androids, Sith and Columi. There were new characters and experiences while focusing on the Quest to find the dagger of Mortis/Mortis Monolith that Luke put together (which I don’t even remember). I hope to see more GOOD standalone novels that focus on the Quest, on a possible new Grand Master, and the growth of the younger Knights.

    I know many disagree with me but I'd give it an 8.7/10
    FatSmel likes this.
  3. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Oct 23, 2004
    Wait Columi?! Hmm.... I might buy it after all....
  4. JediMara77

    JediMara77 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 5, 2004
    Copied from the other thread:

    I was looking forward to Crucible. I really was. For as much as the recent post-RotJ era EU has focused on the Big Three, they really don’t spend much time together. I picked up Crucible hoping it would be a fun adventure story that explored the Luke/Han/Leia friendship and gave them some nice character moments along with a proper send off. Instead I got another Troy Denning grimdark book: unnecessary torture scenes, characters getting maimed over and over, uber-Jedi being the only ones who can save the day, another impending apocalypse, and the continuing defarmboyization of Luke Skywalker. Moreover, Crucible contains some of the most egregious info dumps and clunky prose I’ve ever read in the Expanded Universe. I did not like this book.

    2/10, because I laughed at some lines and the first interrogation scene with Han had the potential to be really compelling (before the torture started), and I'm glad someone remembered Lando's still alive, even if he's "not a Jedi."
    GrandMasterKatarn likes this.
  5. Lane_Winree

    Lane_Winree Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 30, 2006
    Full review here, wrap below:

    It's a deeply flawed, confused book. The link above also delves into some other out-of-universe issues it presents. The treatment of female characters was incredibly disheartening. Teaming up Ben and Tahiri (given what she did to him in Legacy of the Force) was incredibly shortsighted and deeply problematic.

    This just isn't a good novel. It's info-dumpy, too reliant on action and gore, and lacks the sort of character introspection needed to make this a passable bookend for three cornerstone characters in the franchise.

    I give Crucible a 3/10 and really can only recommend it to militant EU completionists as a library borrow.
  6. LosDosMos

    LosDosMos Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 16, 2005
    All the usual Denning tropes are in play in Crucible: gratuitous violence, fetishistic sexualization of female characters, and Jedi who are casually written to be way too focused on vengeance and retribution. The most glaring problems with the novel, though, are the weak plot, bizarre climax, and the all-too-familiar place the characters find themselves when everything is said and done.

    More than once the protagonists voice fear of the Qrephs because they're (apparently) extremely intelligent and "always one step ahead." The problem with this is that while we're constantly told that the Qrephs are geniuses, they don't display any particular cleverness and are actually pretty dependent on Vestara Khai. It doesn't help that we've seen the Skywalkers and Solos face off against Palpatine and Thrawn, villains that actually were cunning. The Qrephs need to be dealt with, true, but the level of fear and lack of confidence espoused by the heroes seems disproportionate to the actual threat.

    The idea that it would be possible for the Qrephs to conquer every single aspect of the entire galactic economy is ludicrous, but the biggest downfall to the idea of the brothers as legitimate adversaries is that they're basically a couple of Bond villains. After Mirta Gev and her Mando mercenaries (with a timely assist from Vestara) barely manage to capture Han and spirit him away to their secret base in the heart of the Chiloon Rift, the Qrephs hook him up to some machinery in order to make a map of his brainwave patterns, apparently with the ultimate goal of getting Han to admit that he shot their mother.

    Rather than do something sensible like lock Han in a cell and torture him in order to get their readings, the brothers set up an elaborate game of sabacc in which the bets are questions and the loser has to answer them. The Qrephs' initial questions for Han are "How did you feel when Chewbacca died?", "Why didn't you mourn your son Anakin's death as deeply as you mourned the loss of your Wookiee friend?", and "Why did you love your son Jacen less than you loved Anakin?" While this is ostensibly done to produce stress in Han and help the Qrephs get a handle on his brainwave patterns, the choice of questions smacks of Denning clumsily forcing an opportunity to address fan site message board criticism of Han's characterization in the NJO and LotF. The entire sabacc setup is absurd and convoluted and eventually brings Han into contact with fellow prisoners Jedi Knight Ohali Soroc and mad Mandalorian Barduun, which of course leads to the trio's escape.

    Denning leaves a few plot threads hanging. When Han denies shooting the Qrephs' mother during their sabacc game/torture session, Marvid tells him "there is a twelve-point-two percent" chance he's lying, and adds that they've killed every other suspect, 15 beings in all. Obviously Han didn't shoot their mother, so who did? We never find out. I understand how it would be difficult to fit that information into the flow of the story, and with the brothers dying at the end of the book it's certainly not important in the grand scheme of things, but given that it's the impetus for the Qrephs' actions throughout the entire novel, the fact that it gets completely dropped two-thirds of the way through stands out.

    Additionally, early in the novel, Luke visits with Senator Leuwet Wuul to gather information on the Qrephs. Wuul's young relative, Suuas, is caught spying on Luke and Wuul for the Qrephs, and Wuul promises to take Suuas back to their warren-clan for judgment. Later, Mirta Gev tells Han and Lando that Wuul and most of his staff were killed in an explosion on his yacht. The Qrephs seem to believe that Wuul is dead, but the issue is never addressed again, so his fate remains unclear.

    The Qrephs' secret hideout, Base Prime, may or may not be on Mortis (the answer is left slightly ambiguous and probably hinges on whatever plot Denning comes up with for any future books), and eventually Luke, Han, and Leia end up chasing the brothers through a metaphysical gate and into a place where somehow, in Luke's words, they are "literally made of the Force." After a skirmish with the Qrephs that leaves all five characters grotesquely wounded and near death, dark side spirits offer to end their suffering. Our heroes all reject the shadows and then are healed by Force, while the Qrephs accept and become powerful dark side Force-users.

    In the showdown that follows, Luke and Leia defeat and destroy the Qrephs and begin to disintegrate and become one with the Force. Leia only manages to come back to herself and re-form her body when she hears Han speak her name, and even then she returns as she was at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Han then has to give her A Concise History of the SWEU up till the present day, watching while Leia ages before his eyes and finally comes back to herself as she was before she began to drift apart into the Force. Meanwhile, Luke has had an epiphany about the nature of the Force ("The dark side was as necessary to life as the light side was…There was only the Force."), and when he finds Han and Leia, "He looked a little older than before the explosion, and perhaps a bit wiser and more at peace with himself."

    That wisdom leads Luke, Han, and Leia to realize that they need to take a break, an announcement they make to Ben, Tahiri, Lando, Ohali, Jaina, and Jag. "The Jedi Order was strong and vigorous. The time had come for him to step out of the way, to let his creation grow into something larger than himself."

    Therein lies the novel's biggest weakness. After the 22 books that make up the Dark Nest trilogy, Legacy of the Force, Fate of the Jedi, and Crucible itself, we're right back where we were 10 years ago at the end of The Unifying Force: the Jedi Order is strong, Luke has a new understanding of the Force, the Big 3 are taking a step back, and the next generation of heroes are coming to the fore--except Mara Jade and Jacen Solo are dead, Ben has replaced Jacen in the narrative, and all the surviving characters are 15 years older. It's as if everything since Dark Nest has been nothing but an exercise in creating scenarios to air pet theories on past events without really accomplishing anything beneficial to the EU or meaningful to the readers.

    Seems worth it, doesn't it?

    Rew, RC-1991, Mia Mesharad and 8 others like this.
  7. Trisdin Gheer

    Trisdin Gheer Jedi Master star 2

    Jun 18, 2013
    Good lord.
    Grey1 likes this.
  8. LarryG

    LarryG Jedi Knight star 1

    Sep 4, 2012
    At the end of Apocalypse, Luke was dedicated to making the jedi strictly stay to the light, no excuses.

    Now, as you say, he seems to be shifting again to a point that seems similar to his thoughts at the end of the NJO series, where the Force was not good or bad, just the intentions of its use/misuse.
  9. CooperTFN

    CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus star 7 VIP

    Jul 8, 1999
    Hav, where do you stand with this thing? Reading currently? Ignoring? Building up antibodies first?
  10. Nobody145

    Nobody145 Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 9, 2007
    Another Denning novel, more unpleasant memories. It wasn't quite as bad as Invincible or Apocalypse, but that's not saying much, nor does it fix any of the leftover problems from those series and has most of his normal problems.

    At least the novel didn't take place on Coruscant but we still got some stupid GA politics, such as the Jedi are virtually pariahs in the GA, the Neutrality Act saying the GA is not formally involved in the Jedi vs. Sith war, I am so sick and tired of the "blame the Jedi" game. During the prequel era its not so bad as Palpatine is manipulating things, but here, from NJO onwards, its apparently just the Jedi's role to be blamed for everything. Not to mention one of the few good Senators we've met is probably killed off-screen (it would be nice if Wuul survived, but I doubt someone that helpful to the heroes could survive, the heroes have to be only Jedi and close associates of the Jedi, such as Jagged and Han).

    Han and Leia are old and while Leia has the Force, Han is relying on his wits more and more now. It was slightly entertaining to see Han manipulate the Qrephs during that last sabacc game, but a few too many mentions of how... fit Leia still is leaves me uncomfortable. And did not need the image of creepy biot Leia that a darkside-possessed Mando had latched onto as his "princess".

    At least the Jedi Council can function fine without Luke there to hold their hands, but its still hard to see much Jedi wisdom. Their treatment of that Jedi apprentice seemed... harsh. They've been through a lot the last few years, with Jacen and the Lost Tribe but Jedi are supposed to be compassionate and the test still seems a bit too much like military special operations training. But then that seems to be what the Jedi are reduced to in most post-NJO novels. Its what Luke and Leia are doing for most of the novel while they're busy trying to rescue Han.

    The Qrephs were Columi and supposedly so-smart but we hardly ever see it, we just kept being told that. Its not like they're 10 steps ahead of anyone and as mentioned above just act a lot like Bond villains with amoral science and money to back them up and attempting to break the laws of nature and so on. And its almost funny what their vendetta against Han turned out to be, and that Han actually probably didn't kill their mother, but they had already gotten revenge on all the other possible suspects so it was down to Han. That torture sabacc game was really gross though, especially with the Mando literally feeding on the pain. Vestara was there to be annoying recurring villain as usual, only to escape in Ship, again as usual. Mirta Gev still looking for that nanokiller cure but didn't really do much either.

    I don't quite hate the novel but more that it was boring, with endless action scenes, followed by Luke and Leia in healing trances to heal from horrible wounds (Han lost an eye early on), then repeat. All to end with a "Let's retire for a change" message... which would be more welcome if this was the first time we had heard this. Also dislike that it took almost becoming one with the Force for them to understand this instead of just a normal "everyone has grown up, time to pass the torch". I liked Abyss relatively a lot compared to other recent novels, but even here the mysterious Force matters they got involved in weren't that interesting. Expecting complete answers isn't required (not like the Abeloth backstory we got late in FotJ was all that great), but some clue to what that monolith was would be expected.

    Another bad post-NJO book, but at least I don't it caused that much lasting story damage (especially compared to the last 18 books) and nothing incredibly stupid happened (such as a certain deposed Chief of State), but still definitely not a good book. 3/10
    GrandMasterKatarn likes this.
  11. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 17.7/5 = 3.54
  12. Gorefiend

    Gorefiend Chosen One star 5

    Oct 23, 2004
    Hmm well, it is by no means terrible, though not patricianly great either, it has some nice aspects and villains that work in their outright alienness, though it could easily have cut Thairi, Mirta and Vestara and not really lost anything, as Thairi does nothing worthwhile whatsoever, whilst Mirta and her gang of disposable thugs would actually have worked better just beings more vat grown creatures and just give the novel more focus on the villain brothers. Vestara also seems to just be around to be around, though I admit the biot they create of her is so outright WTF it made it worth it. ;) The setting is a nice idea and Denning manages to describe it pretty well as well as give some interesting political background, though sadly it is not even remotely as flashed out as the CorpSec, the Tion or the Centrality that were created for similar purposes.

    I shall give it a 5 out of 10
  13. Jedifirefly5

    Jedifirefly5 Jedi Knight star 2

    Sep 5, 2012
    It was readable. I do like Han's love for Leia. And his thoughts on his life, he doesn't regret anything really. I think what I take away is this adventure would have been a walk in the park for the earlier versions of our heroes, without them going into the force thingie. They need only look in the mirror. The real thing is, that every life matters but in the end the waves of new generations blot out the last's footprint it he sand. Or the more things change the more they stay the same so...... chillax?
  14. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 22.7/6 = 3.78
  15. JediMatteus

    JediMatteus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Sep 16, 2008
    my score is not quite as bad. To me the biggest problem with this book was static characters. You just can't put names on static characters and expect us to relate to them. Han was the only one that sounded like who he was supposed to be. All of the violence and torture that happned to the characters was not needed at all. I also thought that the villians were not fleshed out enough to be credible villians. They did not come off as brilliantly intelligent as they were supposed to be. Did not really see Jaina enough for my taste. I also wonder if Tahiri really is ready to be a true jedi

    Now for positives. I liked the scenes overall in the monolith and the end. It was interesting. Denning did a decent job setting up the big three for semi retirement, and i think we are about ready for the younger generations to take over. It ended pretty well. We finally got R2 and Luke together again in a novel; that was nice. It was also good to see Leia and Luke with more scenes together. When was the last time we had that happen... Backlash i guess, but for me it feels like
    New Rebellion. We need to see them more often if there are some period pieces done. I loved the new Han Solo, Omad, I think his name was. They need him to stay on in future roles. Not enough young non- force users.

    In the end the novel did not do much for me. Meh.
  16. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 27.7/7 = 3.96
  17. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    I'm now thankful I didn't buy the hardback due to reviews. Library, here I come.
  18. Stymi

    Stymi Force Ghost star 4

    Jan 10, 2002
    I have typically like Dennings work. This one: not so much. But a score of 3 or 1? Kind of ridiculous. This is no where new TFU bad, and I gave that a 2...I think. It is just too...mystical? It would have been more powerful if the realization by the Big 3 that they had to pull back developed more as a consequence of the story, instead of some mystical experience in an odd mystical bubble that was too far removed from reality to gel. Star Wars has always had a mystical twist, of course. But there is a fine line here. It has to have "rules" and be attached in some way to the physical world. Somehow, the Force has always felt as if it could be a manifestation of the real world. But this book elevates the Force the a level of just plain silliness. And that's not to say I don't like when books explore the nature of the Force and help define more for the readers. The Coruscant Nights books and Bane Trilogy both did plenty of that. Loved it!

    The bad guys were way too in your face villainous. Even Palps could be argued to have more virtuous goals, even if it was rooted in selfishness. I have to admit to being a Mando fan. But even non-Mando fans have to admit they have been established as a force to be reckoned with (and well before Karen Traviss). But they were played as ineffectual fighters, extremely gullible, and just generally stupid in this book. I also never felt any real sense of tension. There were plenty of parts I enjoyed, however. But I was left pretty unsatisfied overall. My least favorite book in a while. But better than some more recent ones like Revan and the new Wraith Squadron book (I know so many thought it the best thing since the invention of the printing press, but I found it pretty boring).

    I will go with 6.75/10 for this one. I like stories that continue the post-ROTJ story-line. And we might not get another for a while. When we do, who knows what those stories will be about. I was hoping for so much more from Crucible.
  19. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 34.45/8 = 4.31
  20. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Sep 2, 2012
    I have to give it a 4.
    The injuries, the end of the 1st sabacc game, the entirety of the 2nd sabacc game[face_sick]. Still feel queasy thinking about all of those injuries.
    The Unifying Force it is not. It is not a satisfying end to the Big 3's story. The galaxy isn't at peace and Vestara, Mirta Gev and Ship are still out there. There was no satisfying conclusion there. Han, Leia and Luke got plenty of action and lines but way too much weird stuff.
  21. Volderon

    Volderon Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 23, 2007
    Oh dear lord, I didnt expect it to be this bad with all the reviews here.
  22. family_business

    family_business Jedi Knight

    Jun 22, 2006
    Pretty awful book. Very poorly written, with nothing new to add to existing storylines. 22 books after TUF, seems like nothing has changed except Mara and Jacen are now dead. Just goes to show you things should have ended after TUF. I'm still holding out hope for a Jaina &Jag Husband/Wife book by Golden. The chances of that happening are pretty slim though now. I expect it to be cancelled this weekend.

    Crucible gets a 1/10.
  23. AlyxDinas

    AlyxDinas Jedi Knight star 4

    Jul 12, 2010
    I've outlined some issues I have with the book in the discussion thread so I'll actually be brief. Crucible is a book with lofty goals but very little ability to follow through. Let's be honest first. This is not Denning's worst book. He actually does a lot to try to really make the Big Three have a good adventure and you can tell that he's trying.

    But there's an inherent disconnect between the fiction Denning writes and the universe he's writing in that cannot be reconciled. His characteristic violence shows up and for all his effort, characters like Luke and Leia can come off as rage filled or dogmatic in strange ways. There's some interesting ideas here yet they're not followed through well enough to make up for the failings. It doesn't quite help that the antagonists are not as intimidating as the text wants the reader to believe.

    The two biggest problems facing the book, however, is that Denning can't properly write the mystical events he wants to cover in the book's climax with much skill and the ending itself functionally ends on the tone Luceno left for the EU in 2003. Except we now have a lot of violence in between that feels like a waste. So many dead characters, so many tragic occurrences and missed opportunities for the same general set up we already had. It's not even bittersweet.

    It's just bitter.

    3/10. A generous 3/10.
    GrandMasterKatarn likes this.
  24. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 42.45/11 = 3.86
  25. Darth Ridiculis

    Darth Ridiculis Jedi Padawan star 1

    Jul 15, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was only disappointed by the unresolved Mortis threads. I was left feeling the way I did in Black Fleet Crisis when Luke's mom wasn't actually his mom. But like those novels, I still enjoyed the ride. I liken these books to simple escapism, and there's scarcely a Star Wars novel (save Jedi Trial) that doesn't have something to merit in my mind.
    kataja likes this.