Friday, December 05, 2008

Coruscant Nights

The other day I was at the library and I spotted these two Star Wars novels on the shelf in the sci-fi section. And I figured, "Why not?" So I left with Jedi Twilight and Street of Shadows.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure what I think of these two books. I suspect that author Michael Reaves was hoping to create a sort of Star Wars noir novel, given the series name and the cover design. And in some ways, he succeeds. Both stories are grimy and dark.

They follow the adventures of Jedi Knight Jax Pavan shortly after Order 66 brought the Jedi crashing down. In the first book, Jax joins the hunt for a missing droid, one that contains information that a group that calls itself Whiplash needs to hurt the Empire. In the second, Jax is contracted to find the killer of a Caamasi artist while dodging a bounty hunter who is bound and determined to capture him.

The books were okay. Reaves did a good job of capturing the feel of what downlevel Coruscant must be like. He creates some new alien species that were interesting to watch. And he pulled in some characters from the Extended Universe and utilized them well.

My one major gripe about these books is that Reaves has fallen prey to a problem that has afflicted many Star Wars authors. He can't capture Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith shows up in both books and I had a hard time believing I was really reading about the Emperor's right hand man. Let me put it to you this way: in the second book, Darth Vader laughs. Twice. It wasn't with joy or amusement, but can you picture Darth Vader laughing? Me neither.

Unfortunately, these books do continue a mental trend for me, a growing dissatisfaction with Star Wars novels in general. I think the reason why is because of how deep and wide the Extended Universe has become.

Allow me to elaborate. I jumped onto the Star Wars novel bandwagon back when Timothy Zahn published the first three novels way back when. Zahn was able to capture my imagination because these were new stories about characters I loved. And those three books were it as far as Star Wars was concerned. Nobody else was telling new stories.

Now look at how things have grown. There are who knows how many dozens of novels, both for adults and children. There are the numerous graphic novels. There are the video games. There are the prequels and the new Clone Wars TV show. In short, there's too much information to keep straight. The Star Wars franchise is beginning to collapse under its own weight.

That's not to say that there aren't faint glimmers of hope. I, for one, have been enjoying the Star Wars Legacy graphic novels, but that's mostly because they're set a hundred years into the future. In other words, everything I know is pretty much gone (with a few minor exceptions). The characters and situations are new yet familiar at the same time.

The same is true for the forays into Star Wars's dense backstory. I had a fun time reading the Darth Bane novel a while back. And the reason why is because, while there were connections with other parts of the EU, it wasn't overwhelming.

So what's the solution? I would almost suggest that Star Wars should lay fallow for a while. Let the fans digest what's out there and wait for a bit more. Let us get hungry again. But then, I doubt George Lucas would ever stumble across this site to take my advice.

Still, a guy can dream, can't he?


Bluestocking said...

I reviewed these books too!

Brandon Barr said...

I Haven't read any starwars fiction. So thanks for the reviews. I guess if I plan to start, I should start with Zahn.