January 10, 2006

Jedi Academy

I guess I should try to fill in the gaps in the Star Wars timeline today, because the whole deal with Supreme Court nomination hearings just gives me tired-head. Moving forward in the timeline from Zahn's terrific Thrawn trilogy, which I reviewed previously, we have the unfortunate Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin Anderson. This begins a chronological run of bad books that infests the Star Wars expanded universe timeline for around 5-6 years.

Technically, the Dark Horse comic book series "Dark Empire" (in which a resurrected Emperor tempts Luke with the dark side and tries to take over the Universe again) falls between these two trilogies, but most novel fans like to kind of forget about that. From what I've heard, the story is pretty shallow and doesn't mesh well with the rest of the canon. It is rarely referred to in novels other than Anderson's, so maybe we can get rid of both and all be better off. The thing is, Anderson spends a lot of time in this trilogy referring to (and spoiling) other stories. I'm not sure if he was doing this for padding or to sink his claws deeply into the canon to ensure his trilogy is an integral part of everything, but it was damned distracting.

In this trilogy, Luke wrestles with the idea of forming another academy, knowing the problems that plagued the previous one. This series was written before the movie versions of Episodes I-III, and the lack of continuity is a little embarrassing here. Luke searches for descendants of old Jedi, trying to find students capable in the Force so he can rebuild the order (inconveniently, in a temple inhabited by the spirit of an ancient Sith Lord). Meanwhile, Han and Chewie visit the Kessel system and run across yet another rogue remnant of the Empire dreaming of the glory days with a plan to conquer the galaxy with a superweapon.

There is very little of the depth of Jedi history here that makes the Star Wars story compelling. Luke is portrayed in a very vanilla fashion (very weak and passive rather than action-oriented), and none of the new characters really sticks, although one recruit, Kyp Durron, will become important later in the New Jedi Order series. Kyp has a big role to play here, but his struggle with Jedi training, light side vs dark side, is handled clumsily in Anderson's hands, with none of the spirit of Episodes V and VI and Luke's struggle.

The starkest difference between this and the Thrawn trilogy is the absence of any semblance of a compelling bad guy. Combine that with the fact that we know nothing of significance is going to happen to the good guys, and we have a "what was the point of that?" trilogy. Anderson invests a lot in trying to make the Kyp Durron storyline and the Remnants of the Empire storyline percolate, but is just isn't well-done, so the rest of the trilogy suffers without something new and interesting to build around. I would put this in the bottom third of the Star Wars books

Posted by Observer at January 10, 2006 12:45 PM

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