Examining the Star Wars Mega Series: New Jedi Order

It’s been a while since “Fate of the Jedi” ended, and even a while since I finished reading “Fate of the Jedi”, but I now own most of the main “mega series” Star Wars works: New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi. And I have, over the past couple of years, dug them out of the boxes I store them in and read them again, and in fact I’m doing that right now. So I’ve been inspired to comment on them, and particularly comment on them in a way that lets me compare and rank them in terms of how much I enjoy them, and talk about what makes them work for me. Note that this will indeed be “for me”, although some of my praise and criticism will be objective, in the sense that they will do someone good or bad. But have good or bad elements does not, in and of itself, make a work good or bad, or enjoyable or not enjoyable. It all depends on how much you care about those elements, and also on the elements contained in the whole work.

This will, obviously, contain spoilers for all of the works, so I’ll start my comments on New Jedi Order below the fold:

Of the three, New Jedi Order is probably my favourite, even though it’s the one that I don’t actually have complete. I read “Vector Prime” for the first time ever this month, and am still missing “Balance Point” (I think; it might be hiding somewhere). The main reason for this is one of the things that might count against it: it has a large number of authors and stories that it all weaves together. Having so many authors runs the risk of being inconsistent, and it does do that in places, but the best thing about it is that it lets the authors bring out their favourite characters, and the ones that added to the Star Wars EU while not overwhelming us with them like the other series do. If you don’t like Corran Horn, you can skip the duology that features him and not lose much; you’ll lose the details of, say, his duel at Ithor, but the other books reference it enough that you’ll have a vague idea what happened, and so for the purposes of the other books you won’t have to have read the books to know what you need to know to have the events of the later books make sense. And this even works — or, perhaps, especially works — for the death of Chewbacca. Again, I never read “Vector Prime”, but through all of my other readings and re-readings of the series I pretty much knew what happened: the Vong dragged a moon down on a planet, Han, Anakin and Chewie were rescuing people, Chewie rescued Anakin but couldn’t be saved himself, and Anakin took the Falcon away from Chewie while Chewie was still alive, but when there wouldn’t have been time to save him. I say “especially” here because this event, obviously, is critically important to the characters, especially Han himself and his family, and so the event gets referenced a lot in the later books … but you don’t have to read the scene itself to get what happened.

Which is good, because after reading “Vector Prime” I can only conclude that that novel, itself, is an utter mess. I like Salvatore’s AD&D stuff, but this novel seems crowded — which might be expected from a novel aimed at introducing such a big series as this — and, worse, not really like Star Wars. I think the best example of that might be how he treats Danni Quee. I think she comes across as more like Cattiebrie than later authors will present her. In the later novels, she has a strong will and some ability, and she retains the drive Salvatore gave her, but she’s less “Warrior Princess” in the others. Salvatore comments on her strength, meaning physical strength, in at least one place, and turns her into almost a Mary Sue: good at everything and liked by everyone. Even the Vong finds her the most interesting of the lot, which includes someone trained in combat. Thus, it really looks like Salvatore writing to his own desired sorts of characters, even if they don’t fit as well into the Star Wars universe.

So, overall, “Vector Prime” seems to miss all of the elements that make the Star Wars movies and novels interesting, which is bad because it’s the novel that kills off Chewie. What we needed was a set-up and a death scene that reminds us of who Chewbacca was, and has him go out the way Chewbacca should go out. And all of the elements of that are, in fact, there, but I think it’s really hurt by the lack of focus on it. This isn’t something like Tasha Yar’s death in TNG, meant to be a simple aside and unimportant death, but is instead meant to be a strong driving force in the series and to drive home that this is serious. It would have been better to make that death and the events that lead up to it their own book, and leave the Jedi split and investigation to their own book, especially since that can easily be done inside other books, and in fact can be done better as we get to see different Jedi with different reactions, which isn’t focused on enough in the series. For the most part, we get Luke’s side and the side of those that support him, but we don’t get a really good sense of why, say, Kyp Durron is acting the way he is, and the one Jedi that did support him that we do get to see in detail realizes that he was wrong and converts. It would have been nice to have seen the underlying conflict expressed better.

Another mistake they made, I think, is in killing off Anakin. After killing off Chewbacca, they didn’t really need to kill off another major character, and killing off Anakin was a bad choice because of the plots he was involved in. I never really felt that Han and Anakin had settled their differences over Chewbacca’s death, Anakin and Jacen’s debate was about the only way we got to see two main characters clash over what it meant to be a Jedi, and the effect on the already damaged Tahiri felt a lot like piling on. And I think that was the main issue here: it felt like piling on, with all of the other problems being faced by the main characters and the Solo family, it was just more suffering added to them. So it felt pointless and not particularly useful, and ended a number of potentially interesting plotlines.

There are some inconsistencies, particularly in how the Vong are portrayed, at times. The ending with the living planet is a bit contrived, but contrived in a way that at least fits with the Vong and their story arc. The series is too big and so at times it can feel like the war is dragging on and on, as some authors produce victories that need to be undone so that the series can continue. But, aside from all that, it’s a good series that ties the EU together and represents most of the main characters of the EU and movies in a way that lets you focus on the ones you like and ignore the ones you don’t. So, while it has problems, it’s definitely worth reading, and again is my favourite of the three series.

Next up: Legacy of the Force.

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