“Legacy of the Force” and the Weakness of the Structure

So, as everyone should know, I’ve been re-reading the Star Wars Mega Series (New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi) and am now about half-way through “Legacy of the Force”.  I’ve also been commenting on some specific aspects of them in more detail because I’ve already given my overall impressions of the three series.  For “New Jedi Order”, I’ve talked a lot about how its structure worked really, really well, as it allowed various authors to play with their favourite characters without actually forcing other authors to use those characters or readers to actually read about them (since only the mainline works were necessary to get the plot, and even some of those weren’t really necessary either).  This structure was, of course, changed in the next two series, and in my opinion to their detriment.  The first reason for that, I think, is that they lost out on the ability to truly capture the entire breadth of the Legends characters and scope and so by the nature of the structure gave short-shrift to some characters that some parts of the fan base really liked.  The second reason is that the authors in this series had their own favourites that might not have been the favourites of many fans that got what could be seen as altogether too much focus for the story that was being told.

So before getting into specific cases, let me expand on that a little bit.  What we have are some characters that have deeper story arcs than what we might expect from side characters, but those story arcs are also for the most part only tangentially related to the overall plot.  In “New Jedi Order”, these stories could be segmented into their own books or duologies, but in “Legacy of the Force” if they were going to be expanded out they had to be expanded out in the mainline works (because, obviously, there’s nothing else).  This is problematic in two ways.  First, it clutters up the mainline works and detracts from the main plot.  Second, it doesn’t allow for the room to really develop those stories, and so they aren’t developed as well as they could have been.  So both the main plot and the side plots suffer when the authors try to stuff them all into the mainline books.

The most famous — or rather infamous — example in the series is Karen Traviss’ favourite aspect, the clones/Mandalorians.  Her subplot follows Boba Fett through his attempting to find a cure for the degeneration he is experiencing, while connecting/reconnecting with his abandoned family and trying to rebuild Mandalore as the new Mandalore.  His actual connection to the plot itself is that Jacen kills his daughter during interrogation which both indicates his growing darkness and sets up a new fear for him, that Mandalore starts rebuilding which adds to the chaos, and at the end that he trains Jaina Solo in specific fighting techniques and provides some Mandalorean technology to help her kill Jacen.  That’s pretty much it.

Now, I happen to like Boba Fett — I like his depiction in “The Bounty Hunter Wars” better but this one works better for a longer story arc — and kinda enjoy the Mandalorean parts, so I didn’t really mind the diversion, but even I had to admit while reading it that for the most part all of that is tangential to the plot.  All we really need to know from the perspective of the main plot is that Jacen killed Fett’s daughter, and even that isn’t really necessary, except to have Fett be mentioned in the context of the plot so that we remember that he still exists.  Knowing that Fett is out there and that Jacen has techniques that Jaina can’t counter directly or understand, having her go there to learn to fight differently isn’t unreasonable, and the revenge plot gives good reason for him to accept her for training and provide her with some new weaponry.  But we clearly didn’t need to follow him as he gets involved in assassination plots or builds a new type of fighter or connects with his granddaughter or finds his wife or learns to accept his role as Mandalore from the perspective of the main plot.  If you find it interesting, it’s clearly tangential, and if you don’t like it, it’s taking time away from the main plot that you hopefully were enjoying.

And it not getting its own set of works also hurts it.  A lot of the time, the arc seems to stop to give a Mandalorean lore dump, to get in the basic ideas that Traviss wants to get out.  If it had its own separate works, then there would be the time to let that all come out more organically and even to allow us to go deeper into the separate issues.  As it stands, things, even important things like his getting the cure, seem to get resolved far too quickly and with far too little detail for the sort of plot they actually are.  This is because she has to get it all out in her works because the other authors are obviously not as interested in it as she is, but she also has to do it while advancing the main plot.  If the works had been separated, then there would have been more room to develop all of that and make it a more interesting story without having to essentially stick it into the gaps when the main story doesn’t need to be advanced.

The other case is Denning’s.  Now, I’m nowhere near as interested in his characters — Alema Rar being the big one that I’ve noticed in this series — as I am in Fett, but there was an interesting subplot that got squeezed out in the works that would have benefited from its own duology, which is the discussion of the Sith through Lumiya, the Ship, and Alema Rar.  This one is again disconnected from the main plot because in the main plot Lumiya is trying to manipulate Jacen and so isn’t going to tell him the whole truth about the Sith and what her intentions are.  So what we get are tantalizing snippets of information when Lumiya and Alema discuss the various aspects and what Lumiya’s actual plan is.  A duology focused more on them and their interactions, especially when the Ship comes into the picture, would have worked really well and allowed them to develop that more, again without having to infringe on the main plot too much.  And it also would have allowed readers who liked Alema Rar to get more of her, and readers who didn’t like her to ignore her.

And all of this is actually really, really important, because aside from those plots needing more development, it turns out that Jacen Solo’s story could have used the extra time and focus to get more development as well.  I’ll talk about that next time.


One Response to ““Legacy of the Force” and the Weakness of the Structure”

  1. “Legacy of the Force” and Making a Sith | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] So last time I suggested that if “Legacy of the Force” had had a structure more like “New Jedi Order” it would not only have allowed them to develop the side stories more and made them seem more interesting and less intrusive, but would have given them room to better develop Jacen Solo’s fall to the dark side, which I argue they desperately needed.  This might seem odd since my assessment of the series has always been that it was an attempt to do the prequel trilogy right and that it mostly succeeded at that.  However, that doesn’t mean that the fall doesn’t seem rushed at times, and that it could have benefited from having more room to make it work. […]

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