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 Wars: The Expanded Universe Read-Through “Dark Apprentice” by Kevin J. Anderson

sw-da-kjaI 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 Dark Apprentice, the second book of the Jedi Academy trilogy. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Dark Apprentice

There are two huge problems with this book, and they are largely interlinked. The first is that major characters act extremely out of character a number of times. The most telling example of this is when Han finds out Leia has been in an accident and his first reaction is to gamble with Lando Calrissian for who owns the Millennium Falcon. What? That seriously happened!

The second problem is that there is a whole lot of filler in this book. Unlike Jedi Search, which had a tight narrative that kept the action going, Dark Apprentice has heaping helpings of scenes where the characters do little other than wander around. Case in point: Jacen and Jaina Solo get lost and wander all around Coruscant while Chewbacca and C-3PO scurry around trying to figure out what to do. Once more, this also demonstrates characters acting out of character. It is unthinkable that C-3PO would fail to follow protocol so obviously (he’s a protocol droid!) and that Chewbacca would refuse to do all he could (i.e. notify the authorities) to save the children of them an to whom he owes a life-debt. Going back to the example of gambling above, an inordinate amount of time is spent with Lando and Han going back and forth on who owns the Falcon and gambling away time. These two problems are severe, and make Dark Apprentice feel very much like an in-between book, just taking up space rather than moving the narrative forward.

On the other hand, Anderson does a better job in this book of developing more of the side characters. Notable examples are Kyp Durron and Admiral Ackbar, who each get enough development to feel more real than they did before. However, even Durron is shorted time in the spotlight due to the aforementioned filler material.

The plot of Dark Apprentice feels very much like a placeholder as well. Yes, the development of Durron and his seemingly swift fall to the Dark Side was interesting, but it happened so fast that it was difficult to get into it as much as I wanted to. Other than that, little seemed to happen. A few plot twists were thrown in, and the setting up of Ackbar to take a fall in order to try to split the New Republic was the best moment of the novel. These moments of brilliance make the amount of silliness harder to swallow. It’s one thing to have scenes that resonate with the “fun” of the Star Wars universe, but it is another to do so at the cost of the overall plot.

Dark Apprentice is a filler book. It is particularly frustrating to read this one following the excellent Jedi Search. It feels like so much more could have been done with the plot and characters. Unfortunately, there were too many tough-to-swallow moments.

The Good

+Side characters get chances to shine

The Bad

-Out-of-character behavior
-Lots of filler
-Too-swift development of major plot points

Best Droid Moment

C-3PO losing track of the twins and worrying about getting dismantled

Grade: C- “I expected more after the first entry. ‘Dark Apprentice’ has too little going on to make it a suitable follow up to ‘Jedi Search.'”

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.