Star Wars: The Expanded Universe Read-Through: “Champions of the Force” by Kevin J. Anderson

champions-of-the-forceI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, Luke Skywalker continues his quest to found a new Jedi Academy in Champions of the Force, the conclusion of the Jedi Academy trilogy. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Champions of the Force

The plot of this one is pretty straightforward: Kyp Durron continues his vengeful quest to find his brother, Luke and his apprentices wrap up their successful battle with Exar Kun, and random things happen “back home” as the building up of the New Republic continues.

The Jedi Academy Trilogy started off really well, but it seems that with the next two entries, Dark Apprentice and Jedi Search Anderson failed to really cash in on the premises of the first book. The strong use of side characters has fallen by the wayside, with the exception of Kyp Durron, the excitement of the first book largely went into extremely improbable extremes, and everything is resolved so easily that it is difficult to get involved with the plot.

It’s difficult to pick one area that serves as the biggest problem. Admiral Daala, a potentially strong enemy in the first book, does get a chance to shine for a little bit again. It is unfortunate, however, that she is largely reduced to a sniveling whiner. Her overarching goals are largely abandoned, though the occasional bone is thrown in their direction. It’s especially difficult to read this having so recently read the Thrawn Trilogy, because Thrawn was a legitimate threat all the way through. Here, it seems Daala was introduced as at least something of a tactical genius, the apprentice of Grand Moff Tarkin, but quickly fell into the background.

Kyp Durron’s story is also problematic. Having effectively given him an invincible weapon, Kevin J. Anderson must try to both use the weapon and destroy it. The best moment is when he accidentally destroys his brother. It’s an emotional moment that was pretty rare throughout the whole trilogy. However, there can be no disputing that Durron by almost any standards would be a war criminal. But what happens to him? Pretty much nothing. He’s just thrown to Luke to deal with, and Luke, ever magnanimous, forgives him. Forgiveness is a great thing, but I’m surprised there was not way more outcry against Durron in this book and elsewhere. Maybe “I, Jedi” will pick this up. I honestly don’t remember that book very much (Don’t spoil it please).

Realistically, the utilization of yet another super-weapon makes the story all feel kind of trite. Oh look, Durron has a weapon that’s more powerful than the Death Star but basically indestructible. What will happen? I think this is the inspiration for The Force Awakens, to be honest, but I still maintain that it’s not very well done here.

Champions of the Force is not a terrible book for the Star Wars universe. Neither is it above average. As I re-read the books across the board, my biggest fear is I would spoil my past enjoyment. I haven’t really been let down so far, though some of my past enjoyment has been tempered. The Thrawn Trilogy was great, of course, but rediscovering the excellent Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin was a delight. The Jedi Academy Trilogy was worth a re-read, but perhaps mostly just for the information of the broadening conflict with the Empire than for anything else. I remember loving it as a kid when it came out, but it just isn’t as great as I remember.

The Good

+Decent character development of Kyp Durron
+Wraps up the storylines decently

The Bad

-Impossible to believe moments
-Improbable character reactions
-Too easily resolved conflict

Best Droid Moment

The introduction of FIDO- First Intruder Defense Organism, which makes no sense but is still kind of fun, was my favorite droid moment.

Grade: C- “I was disappointed to have the promising start to the trilogy be undermined by the next two entries. It wrapped things up alright, but was not satisfactory.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

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Star Trek: TNG Season 7 “Emergence” and “Preemptive Strike”

preemptive-strike

You can feel the emotions in this episode just bursting through the screen.

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Emergence”

Synopsis

Data and Picard discover something is seriously wrong with the holodeck. As they find this out, multiple nodes are appearing throughout the Enterprise. It seems like these nodes have similarities to Data’s positronic brain. Moreover, the crew can only interact with the ship through the holodeck program that it has been running, with hints throughout it on board a simulation of the Orient Express. It turns out that some kind of emergent AI intelligence has been created on board the ship. Once it is grown enough, it leaves, restoring the ship to normal.

Commentary

Other than the infamously horrid re-run episode “Shades of Gray” *shudders,* this may be the episode where the crew is least involved in the episode. Sure, they are there, but realistically the whole episode could have resolved itself without them. Indeed, they could just go into the shuttles or something, wait for the ship to get to the energy source it needs for the AI lifeform, and then return to a perfectly sound Enterprise.

Hey, speaking of life support failing–are there really no space suits or oxygen tanks or anything on board? You’re telling me with a ship that can create force fields, etc. they can’t sustain life support in one section long enough for the crew to get through the whole situation? Come on! There have got to be some kind of life support things–and if nothing else, the escape pods, presumably, would have a long enough life for life support to make it livable. Oh well. Ask no questions, hear no lies, I suppose.

All of that said, I didn’t really hate this episode. The mystery-solving was straightforward but still fun. The episode just wasn’t as good as I’ve come to expect. In season one this episode might have been among the top 10, but that’s saying how far the show has come.

Grade: C+ “Star Trek has had a few too many… somethings.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good, it was just bizarre.”

“Preemptive Strike”

Synopsis

Ensign… er, Lieutenant Ro Laren returns to the Enterprise, only to immediately be assigned to infiltrate the Maquis, a group of people fighting back against Cardassian infringements in the demilitarized zone between Cardassian and Federation space. However, as Ro carries out her mission, she begins to realize how much resonance there is between the Maquis’ struggles and those of her own people, the Bajorans. When push comes to shove and she is assigned to betray the Maquis to get them captured by a Federation force, she instead gives away the plan to the Maquis and saves their strike squadron, ultimately leaving with them to join the Maquis. She leaves Riker with a message for Picard, who is seen looking stricken by her abandonment of Starfleet.

Commentary

Wow! This one blew me away. As readers know by this point, I love a bleak ending, and that, for Picard, was bleak. His protege, whom he has guided for so long, abandons Starfleet to join the very rebellion she was assigned to help take down. Yet, remarkably, this is exactly in character for Ro. Indeed, from about a third of the way in, I expected Ro to abandon Starfleet and join the Maquis. It made sense for her character.

I suppose that means the plot twist didn’t surprise me at all, but not for any bad reason. The characters have just been established so well that they operate inside certain parameters of behavior, and for both Ro and Picard this was right on.

Moreover, the number of interesting set pieces in this episode was huge. Each scene had a kind of poignancy embued into it by the scenery and set. The scene where the disguised Cardassians show up and start shooting (I spotted them earlier in the same scene and wondered if they may be trouble) was expertly set up to foreshadow the events to follow. I have to say this is one of the best TNG episodes. Certainly a great way to set up the ending of the series and lead into Deep Space 9.

Grade: A+ “Ro finds herself. And rebellion.” 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A+ “One of the best episodes of the series.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

One Sentence Book Review: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Review

Bearing little resemblance to film Blade Runner that was based upon it, this novel ably accomplishes the rare feat of lumping humor and suspense together successfully.

Links

One Sentence Book Reviews– Read more one sentence book reviews here. I’ve decided to do one for every book I read, which is a lot. I got started on 5/14/16 so this list will grow from there.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Star Trek TNG Season 7: “Firstborn” and “Bloodlines”

firstborn

Father and son, together 4evah!

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“Firstborn”

Synopsis

Worf’s son, Alexander, is uninterested in becoming a Klingon warrior. He decides to take Alexander to a Klingon celebration, and Alexander begins to enjoy some of his heritage. However, an assassination attempt on Worf while the two are visiting leads Alexander to realize that he prefers to avoid the violence inherent in much of his cultural background. Meanwhile, K’mtar, a Klingon who has the credentials to prove he is to be trusted as a member of the family, arrives to try to help instruct Alexander. As he pushes Alexander to become a warrior, it becomes clear to K’mtar that Alexander will not be shaped in that fashion. He decides to kill Alexander, only to be thwarted by Worf. K’mtar reveals that he is Alexander and came back in time to try to get himself on a path that would save Worf’s life in the future. Worf notes that K’mtar has already changed Alexander’s fate and that they can go on a path that pursues peace rather than war. The father and future-son embrace.

Commentary

Wow, that summary made the episode seem a bit more straightforward than it was. This was complex episode, and one that had much going for it. Sure, it was unbelievable in many ways (don’t ask too many questions about time traveling or what happened to K’mtar after the episode), but the core plot was enough to carry this one in ways recent episodes haven’t been.

There’s something particularly touching about seeing a son driven to the heights that K’mtar was to try to change his destiny and the life he and his father would live. Moreover, the way that Worf acknowledged that K’mtar had already helped change… himself?… was touching in a way that you wouldn’t really expect a Klingon-centered episode to be. I admit I didn’t really mind the bit of lacking closure, in which K’mtar and Worf just hug and peace out, though it would have been nice to have some sense of what happened to K’mtar after this episode. The main issue is that right after this, Worf and Alexander’s interaction isn’t so much “Hey, Alexander, I affirm what you want to do/be” as it is “Hey, we don’t need to do crazy try to kill each other stuff right now.” Oh well, baby steps.

Let’s also acknowledge I’m heavily biased towards Worf-centric episodes. I love them. Worf is awesome. Please make a Captain Worf Star Trek series! Moving on…

Grade: A- “A bit of a rush at the end but overall this was a very strong episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was good acting and a good plot but it lacked something to make it remarkable.”

Mother-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I appreciated the interwoven plot and action, but I wanted more suspense or foreshadowing.”

Father-in-Law’s Grade and Comment: B+ “More foreshadowing would be good, and the end was a bit of a letdown–future-Alexander just walks away. What happens to him?”

“Bloodlines”

Synopsis

DaiMon Bok is back and he threatens to kill Picard’s son. Wait, what? Yes, apparently Picard has–unbeknownst to him–a son, and the Enterprise goes to try to protect him. As Picard and his son, Jason Vigo, interact, Bok continues to make threats that he can, apparently, make good on. Picard’s son starts to have unexplained seizures, and Dr. Crusher investigates. Ultimately, Bok kidnaps Jason but when Picard confronts Bok, he reveals that Crusher discovered Bok manipulated DNA to make it appear Jason was his son, and the other Ferengi realize that the whole situation is unprofitable, abandoning Bok to his fate.

Commentary

I didn’t mention the very end, where Picard gifts a prayer stick to Jason that the latter had said was basically worthless before. It has new worth now, and that sums up what this episode has going for it. From the start, it seemed pretty clear Jason wouldn’t be Picard’s son. Illegitimate child with Picard? I think not. But the fact that Picard made such efforts to bond with Jason, despite the latter’s “disappointing” qualities, made this a great character-building episode. It was great to see Picard introduce his archaeological collection to his “son,” only to have Jason dismiss it as worthless. It shows that what we value is often highly subjective, and that relationships are complex. Not only that, but Jason’s character was also developed remarkably well over the course of the episode.

Can we finally get rid of DaiMon Bok? I don’t know. At least he makes it seem like the Ferengi may need to be taken somewhat seriously. The early seasons of TNG didn’t do any favors in that regard.

Grade: A “It had the right mix of suspense and feels. I liked it a lot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It’s hard to go wrong on episodes that center around Picard.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.