I’m not going to lie: I’ve been dreading reaching these books in my reread not because I dislike them as a whole but because of how controversial they are. Actually, I don’t hate everything about these books, just certain parts. In the mean time, observe as I use humor as a red cape to distract all of you from yelling at me for being wrong! Can you tell I’m nervous? I think I’m doing that thing where I write too much. Maybe we should just start with the actual post. (Editor’s Note: Real glad I’ve moved past the caring if other people like what I like stage of my fandom life.)
Kids, in the spring of 2006, I was ready to give up on the current timeline of Star Wars books. The Dark Nest trilogy had left me mentally scarred and the Prequel Trilogy books just seemed so much nicer and safer even though I knew everyone was going to die. And then Del Rey did something very smart: they Allston-ed me. What is ‘Allston-ed’, you ask?
Allston-ed (verb) 1 The act of bringing in Aaron Allston to write more books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe therefore enticing readers who might have otherwise quit to come back and continue reading.
2 Experiencing a heart-breaking character death that makes you want to sob uncontrollably and from which you shall never recover.
To top it off, we were told that the planet Adumar would be making an appearance and that Wedge would be in the book. You have no idea how disappointed I was that the Adumarians hadn’t put up a statue of Wedge somewhere and written a charming song called ‘Hero of Adumar’ to go with it. SO DISAPPOINTED. (Wedge! The Man They Call Wedge!) (Editor’s Note: Still disappointed tbh)
Speaking of Wedge, why can no one just let him retire? Or maybe you should just not kidnap him and hold him prisoner. I’m told that’s a sure way to convince him to fight against you simply because he’s pissed. On the other hand, I find it hilarious when Wedge takes advantage of his pilots’ reflexes and military instincts and yells things like “Rogue Two! Break to port!” at them and makes them look ridiculous. So much about this book reminds me why he and Tycho Celchu are some of my favorite characters especially when you put the two of them together.
I really enjoyed reading this book. There was many a time where I was downright grinning like an idiot as I read through it. It was like I was reading this book for the first time again. I will never be over the Donoslane and Kolot references or Shalla’s brief unnamed cameo. To top it off, we get to see both Doran Tainer and Syal Antilles as characters in this book. Characters who do things and get page time. I have such a strong love for all of the Wraith and Rogue kids that this made me happy beyond belief.
Oh wait. These books are supposed to be about the Skywalkers and Solos, aren’t they? (Editor’s Note: Rogue and Wraiths 4 Life!) I think that Allston writes a really good Jaina and I love getting to see her as a pilot again. Wedge and Tycho are right: she is indeed a traitor for not sticking with the piloting thing. It’s such a shame since she’s so good at it. As far as Han and Leia go, I just roll my eyes and shake my head at them. I think they’re actually making the GFFA/Corellia situation worse by meddling. Allston also writes a really great Ben. That kid’s sense of humor cracks me up every time especially with his Lando impression.
I’m not a huge fan of Jacen Solo taking stupid pills at the end of the book though nor am I fan of Nelani dying. She had potential to be a really great character but alas. Damnit Jacen. Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to listen to Shire Brie? This will end in so many tears. Many of them will be mine.
It occurs to me that I must finally tell each and every one of you my position on the Boba Fett matter. I’ve done my best to avoid doing more than just nodding when the subject of his character comes up but I can no longer avoid taking a stand on such a controversial issue. Are you ready for this?
I don’t care. No really. I have absolutely no feelings on Boba Fett as a character. I don’t like him, I don’t hate. I have no emotions in me one way or the other. He’s no good to me dead but neither is he any good to me alive. I don’t care about him. (Editor’s Note: His kit is sweet even if it’s a pain to build.)
Why am I telling you this? Because I want to make sure that all of you understand that any thoughts I have about his part in these books is not fueled either way by an intense hatred or love for him. I don’t think that this long storyline had any place in these books. I think it would’ve worked better as a separate companion book. I found it to be somewhat interesting but not because of Fett himself. What kept my interest were all the allusions to Skirata and the rest of the clones who escaped after Order 66 because wow am I invested in them. While I don’t care about Fett, I do really care about that group of characters and I do like the Mandalorian culture. I just don’t think this storyline should’ve taken up as large of a chunk of this series as it did.
Unfortunately, people take a lot of stupid pills in this book and really just in the series. Jacen is an idiot for deliberately going down this dark path and I insist that it could’ve all been avoided if only he had a Sassy Gay Friend. Ben Skywalker could’ve also used a Sassy Gay Friend for not deciding to stay with his parents after witnessing Jacen brutally torture a woman to death. (Editor’s Note: …this reference now reads as painfully dated and I apologize.) Everyone in this book just deserves a giant wake up call for (in some cases) not recognizing that Jacen is acting in a less than stand up fashion and should be stopped now. I know that he’s been written as ridiculously powerful thanks to that five year journey power up but I don’t believe for a minute that the combined power of various Jedi Masters couldn’t have stopped him. Hell, just let Jaina at him.
On the other hand, Karen Traviss introduces two characters that I really like in these books. The first is Mirta Gev and the second is Captain Shevu. Despite being a member of the secret police, Shevu is one of the few positive influences on Ben in these books and I just think he’s a great character all around.
Also, it’s about time Thracken Sal-Solo finally died. Was that mean? Oops. Sorry not sorry.
My first thought when I started this book was “Oh really? Alema? Again? She should’ve stayed dead.” Seriously though: how did she escape being eaten by the creature thing? How? Also, do you want to know how I’m still feeling about all of the Prequel Trilogy flashbacks and references?
Aurra Sing? Boring. Unnecessary. Also, I don’t read the post-Return of the Jedi books to routinely have bits of the Prequel films replayed for me. This doesn’t apply to just this but all of them. It’s driving me up the wall.
Also? I don’t care that Jacen Solo is 30 years old. Someone should’ve smacked him across the head for referring to his parents as “terrorist scum” and then again when he put out an arrest warrant for them and refused to retract it. I know the Solos win the Crappy Parenting Award but seriously? I keep waiting for someone to knock him over the head. Ben too. And then we can lock Jacen in a room with a Sassy Gay Friend and he can look at his life and look at his choices and ask what what what is he doing! Alternatively, as discussed on Twitter, we will accept a Sassy Gay Force Ghost Brother or a Force Ghost Mace Windu with the Fist of Doom.
I do love that we get to see Tenel Ka again in these books! I still insist that a book about her as Queen Mother of Hapes would be an awesome addition to the Expanded Universe. Who doesn’t love a good novel filled with court intrigue? I also like that even though she clearly loves him, she doesn’t let that love completely blind her. Speaking of female characters doing things right, I also love that Jaina seems to be one of the few with her head screwed on straight. Sure, maybe she’s gone straight to furious but can you really blame her? I’d be pissed as hell too if my twin brother was behaving like this. (Editor’s Note: I miss these ladies.)
It’s a very small moment but I also really liked Mara mentioning how Luke has to have a ton of spare parts handy to keep his mechanical hand functioning. I’m not what about it exactly caught my attention but I just thought it was very fitting.
I can’t help but grin every time I pick up a Star Wars book and it has Allston’s name on the cover. It’s partially because I love his writing style and partially because I know that Wedge will have a leading role in the book. Of course, I then proceed to open the book and see that Myri Antilles is in it and get even happier. I told you that I have my biases. I can honestly say that I loved every bit with Myri and the rest of the gang are working the Errant Venture for information. I remember thinking it when Allston first wrote about almost the same group in his New Jedi Order books: this is a dangerous group of people. You don’t want to be working against them. (Editor’s Note: MYRI ANTILLES IS BETTER THAN YOU.)
It floors me that one of the first people to really truly call Jacen out on his heel-face-turn behavior and actually make a few bells ring is Wedge Antilles. Don’t get me wrong, no one delivers a life lesson lecture like him but really? Skywalker/Solo clan, you are slacking. (Observe as I still wait for Winter to show up and smack him across the head for being an idiot.) Also, although this doesn’t really apply to JUST this book, I don’t like that all of the sudden Jacen knows about battle tactics. When did this happen?
I’m not a huge fan of Ben Skywalker’s little side mission. Almost leaving a little girl to die? Really Ben? This really just reinforces for me that he was also taking stupid pills because I don’t get how he can be so obtuse. Also the Sith Sphere ship annoys me. I know. I’m in for a lot more books of eye rolling.
I’m glad that we get to see Jag again and I think that Allston handles writing that less than ideal situation well. I don’t remember if they end up being the ones to successfully take Alema out of the picture but I really hope they take that crazy bugslut down. I’ll admit though that I’m much more of a fan of the Jag-Jaina-Kyp dynamic than the Jag-Jaina-Zekk one. Sorry trash collector. Speaking of Kyp Durron, his improvised taras chi tactic is hilarious. Hush, Corran! Don’t ruin it by telling everyone.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. I hate that Mara dies in this book. I hate it. SO MUCH. I don’t think that she’d be stupid enough to go after Jacen on her own like this. I do have mixed feelings about the poison dart thing though. On the one hand, it means that Jacen doesn’t defeat her in lightsaber combat because he’d never be able to do that but on the other, it’s a really stupid way to die and I still don’t think it should’ve worked. It’s also a massive cop-out if Jacen is supposed to “immortalize his love”. MASSIVE. Ugh. (Editor’s Note: Still bitter. Still miss Mara.)
On the other hand, I’d just like to note that Mara goes out while wearing dark grey fatigues and NOT the catsuit like she wears on the cover. So even if you do happen to dislike Traviss, you can’t dislike her for catsuit reasons!
The biggest problem I have with this series is that it frequently feels like the plot is driving the characters instead of the other way around and that’s not a good thing. For example, in this book, Jaina’s last conversation with Mara feels forced and I just simply can’t believe that so many people would remain unable to acknowledge that Jacen has completely gone off the rails. It took overhearing that conversation for Ben to realize that Jacen is not what he seems? Really? Jacen sending you (a 14 year old boy) to assassinate a government leader wasn’t a big enough tip off? SERIOUSLY? You are all the worst spies ever. EVER. There are just so many signs for all of these characters that they are heading down the wrong path and they refuse to acknowledge them. I’m convinced that this was the year when everyone took stupid pills. Again.
Also, where the heck were Jaina, Han, and Leia for most of this book?
I’d like to have more to say about this book but I’m mostly just angry about Mara right now. Thinking about the good Captain Shevu makes me slightly less angry though. Even though I desperately wish that he’d stepped in and stopped Jacen from sending Ben on this mission, he’s one of the few good influences in that kid’s life right now.
While, again, I still don’t think that the Fett parts belong in this series, I’m finding myself enjoying some of them for ridiculously selfish reasons. I can’t help but like Mirta Gev. She’s a pretty kick ass character and I like watching her mental adjustment period as she goes from viewing Fett from her mother’s eyes through her own. Also, I mentally rolled around on the ground and squeed a lot when first Jaing and then Venku showed up in this book. I just love the Skirata clan so freaking much, guys. I AM DEEPLY INVESTED IN THEIR CONTINUING EXISTENCE. Also, I’m probably the only person in the world who wants this but I couldn’t care less about another Imperial Commando book and would give almost anything to have Traviss come back and write some standalone book about them especially Venku.
Okay, so maybe that gif’s a lie because all of you know there are other books that I would also trade my soul for but I think I’ve made my point.
I’m trying to be somewhat positive here, guys, but I’m failing again. I’M GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE PISSED ABOUT MARA AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME.
Next time, on the Waru Express, I will continue to be angry about a plotline shaping characterization as more of the characters I rather like continue to be used, abused, and derailed all the way to Bakura but pause to grin over Wedge and Tycho being awesome.
Originally posted to Tosche Station on May 10, 2013.