Carrie Fisher has died. Princess Leia lives on.

Carrie Fisher passed away today. She was depressingly young–only 60 years old. She had more wit, more snark, more acerbic takedowns of Hollywood culture to give to us. We will never get to hear them.

Many people have spoken at length about Carrie’s most important traits. Unapologetic. Intelligent. Hilarious. Unashamed to speak about her mental illness and substance abuse. And of course, her status as the sole woman in the boys’ club of Star Wars, at least as it was originally conceived.

It may seem crass to write about Fisher’s most iconic role so soon after her death. As others have pointed out, she was far more than Princess Leia. She was a renowned novelist, sought-after script doctor, mother, daughter, and champion for the lives of so many living with invisible ailments. And after all, she didn’t create the character which brought her so much fame. She wasn’t responsible for her continued portrayal in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where many (like me) grew to love her even more than in the films. She was not the primary author of Princess Leia.

That last point, though, could be argued. There’s a degree to which any actor informs their character, of course. Jodi Foster or Cindy Williams may have done the role justice, but it would not have been the Leia we knew. “I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board” would have been imbued with a far different meaning if delivered by anything other than Fisher’s sardonic, strangely accented voice.

Beyond that, Fisher was responsible for at least some of Leia’s dialogue in the later films. While not limited to that character specifically, her work on Return of the Jedi served as one of Fisher’s first opportunities to punch up a script, condensing lines of dialogue to be snappier and less … well, Lucasian. Fisher was not simply Leia’s actress; Leia, in many ways, was Carrie Fisher.

And Leia is important. Many women have expressed how much it meant to see such a powerful woman represented on screen. For me, Princess Leia was not only one of the first female characters I felt encouraged to root for, she was one of the first female characters I felt comfortable identifying with. It may sound strange, but that’s an incredibly powerful–and freeing–feeling for a young boy. Leia was a gate through the fence of gender segregation, a pathway to the realization that there are no boy toys or girl toys, no limitation on playacting certain characters because of their gender identities. Princess Leia was my proto-feminism. The significance of that ideology to my identity speaks volumes about how important a character she has been in my life.

It is Princess Leia who wisecracks to Tarkin and Vader–not Han, not Luke, not Lando, who bends over backwards in fear of the Empire’s retribution. It’s Leia who stands up, fierce and sarcastic, to fascism personified, and who continues to mislead her captors even as her beloved homeland sits in the crosshairs of the Death Star. It is this false information which leads to the sole moment in the film where Tarkin recognizes he has been outplayed. “She lied. She lied to us!” His first underestimation of Leia and her band of rebels is an embarrassment; his second, fatal.

To be sure, Leia hasn’t always been handled well by writers and directors. While she was one of the original Wisecracking Princesses Who Can Save Themselves, her storyline in Return of the Jedi was much closer to a standard damsel-in-distress. And the Expanded Universe often had trouble using her effectively, afraid that political storylines would be far too boring and that Force-heavy storylines would be some sort of betrayal of her character. At the end of the Legends universe that preceded the current canon, however, Leia did receive Jedi training, and watching her navigate abilities the films foreshadowed and face her foes with humor, ferocity and a glowy lightsaber was one of the most genuine joys of those novels.

I hope the writers of future Star Wars tales don’t kill Leia offscreen. I hope they don’t kill her at all, though I’m also apprehensive about recasting the role or using a CGI double (as well as I think it worked in Rogue One). My preference would be to let Leia live on, even if this means awkwardly shuffling her into the background of the story in Episode IX. Unlike Han, whose story arc was completed by a heroic (or tragic) sacrifice, Leia deserves a chance to continue the fight. Or to retire to the life of consultant for the next generation of freedom fighters. Especially in this era of resurgent fascism, we need Leia. We need her stories. We need characters who have been in the fight before, who can show us how to resist.

I do not know what direction Leia will take. But I do know that even if she joins Carrie in leaving our galaxy for one far, far away, neither the princess and general, nor the comedian and advocate, will ever be forgotten.

(Correction: The original post mentioned Fisher’s work on The Empire Strikes Back, along with a marked-up script. The script was actually marked up by the director, Irvin Kershner. Fisher’s first script work for Star Wars was actually on the third film).

Rebooting the Prequels – Bad Idea, or Worst Idea?

Miles Teller IS Anakin Skywalker 2.0!

My prequel post from last week got me thinking about a topic that’s popped up here and there since The Force Awakened was announced. Even more than an era of prequels, we live in an era of reboots and remakes. Red Dawn, Fantastic Four, Man of Steel, hell, we’re on like our fifth Spider-Man.

So if remakes are all the rage, the logic goes, why not remake the most controversial of films: Star Wars Episodes I-III? At first blush, it makes a certain sort of sense. Actually, wait, no it goddamn doesn’t. It makes as much sense as a boycott from the ten people who followed the Star Wars EU being relevant to Episode VII’s success. But because I hate myself, I want to quantify the reasons a prequel reboot makes no sense.

Let me say off the bat that I don’t want to discuss the quality, or lack thereof, of the prequel trilogy. There were some great things in those films; there were also some awful things. Fans and critics alike should be able to agree on that.

There would be absolutely no point

The Great Disney Canonization caused a major upheaval in Star Wars fandom, but at the end of the day it cemented a few things as immutable (at least for the foreseeable future). Those included the prequels, yes … but it also included several major works based directly on the prequels, including The Clone Wars, which ties into Star Wars: Rebels, which is still in development.
So, yes, theoretically Disney could reboot Episodes I-III and overwrite the old prequels, canon-wise. But how much freedom would they actually have? The original trilogy boxed Lucas in, at least to a small degree, as far as what he could do in the prequels. But now, with a significant number of canon pieces that link directly to that story, their ability to make any substantial changes to the prequel films is close to nothing.
That can’t be overstated: any prequel reboot would be forced to tell the exact same story, nearly beat-for-beat. Shot by shot remakes, do exist, but they’re generally reserved for lesser-known cult films, or highly beloved ones. Neither of which describe the prequels. At best, new films would be the same stories told with better dialogue, better acting and modern CGI. That’s it. Is that worth a decade of development, when we could be getting new stories in this universe?

You’d lose a lot of good along with the bad

As I mentioned above, I’m going to go with the assumption that there are worthwhile bits of the prequel films. None of them would be present in the new films. Now, I’m not making the Bring Back Legends!!! argument that a reboot would somehow erase the original prequels from existence. Rather, I’m saying that portions of a reboot would actually pale in comparison to the original.
Do you really want to see Obi-Wan without Ewan McGregor, especially considering how stoked everyone is for a McGregor-helmed Kenobi film? What exactly would you do with an actor like Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine in both the prequels and the original trilogy? Would you really try to bring him back to play the exact same role in the exact same story again? Would you try to recast him, even though the role has never been played by any other live-action actor?
Sure, you could jettison Jar Jar (though again, you have the pesky problem of the guy showing up in The Clone Wars). But would it be worth it?

Rebooted prequels would bomb, irreparably harming the brand

Star Wars films are fundamentally commercial projects. As much as they mean to the people who create them and the people who simply enjoy them, they are (and always have been!) designed to make money. Every single prediction of future behavior from Disney and Lucasfilm should be viewed through that lens.
The Force Awakens did gangbusters in theaters, and there were a few reasons why. First, it was a new live-action Star Wars movie, which we never thought we’d see again and which we hadn’t seen for decade. Second, it made a concerted effort to broaden its appeal to more than the standard white male nerd that previous films had targeted. To be sure, women and non-white fans enjoyed Star Wars in droves before Episode VII, but TFA was the first Star Wars film to focus on representing them. And boy howdy, did it pay off!
A prequel reboot would be a severe underdog in all of these respects. A rehash of a story many people disliked in the first place, at a time when Star Wars fatigue is a very real worry, and with the same boring white boy Chosen One at the forefront. Sure, you could try to build up Padme and Mace Windu, or introduce a new person of color, but it’d be difficult. Anakin is the center of that story.
Even beyond simple demographics, there’s no audience for a series of reboots. Prequel fans? They’re going to be angry about an update to films that they love because of a perceived lack of quality. Prequel haters? It’s unlikely they’re going to line up to see films they already dislike, especially ones that follow the same basic story. “You remember that movie you hate? It has better dialogue now!” is not a recipe for box office success. Mainstream audiences? Hard to see them flocking to films with as bad a reputation as the PT have.

The prequels are what they are. Accept them and move on.

One of the hardest parts to swallow about the prequels was that they were, essentially, the capstone on Star Wars. Sure, things like The Clone Wars and Expanded Universe existed, but this was our last chance for a big budget, theatrical Star Wars experience. And it was disappointing. So that disappointment bred resentment, which led to anger, which led to fan edits and ultimately, well. This.
But guys, that’s not the case anymore! Star Wars is not done! Episode VII was fabulous! Rogue One looks great! We can accept that the PT had some flaws and still enjoy the series, knowing that there’s more to come!
The fantasy of fixing all the problems and molding something perfect out of the clay that George Lucas gave us has plagued the Star Wars fandom for a while–since the prequels, or possibly even the first film’s re-release. With maturity comes the realization that stuff–even stuff you love–need not be perfect. Warts will appear. In the not-so-distant future, we’ll likely see another Star Wars movie that’s pretty bad. It’ll happen. Accept it–or not. There are always other universes. I hear those Marvel flicks are pretty good.

Attack of the Prequels

This is a cross-post of an article which appeared on a different site, a long, long time ago. But with the release of X-Men Apocalypse, I still think it’s relevant. Enjoy!
Let’s be honest. Most of the time, “prequel” is a dirty word. Or if not a dirty word, at least a signal that the reader should be wary about what comes next. For me, no phrase other than “upcoming prequel” evokes as much dread laced with illogical optimism. No phrase other than, perhaps, “directed by M. Night Shyamalan.” Nearly every summer since the release of The Phantom Menace has given us our fair share of prequels. X-Men: First Class. Revenge of the Return of the Planet of the Apes. Even the original Captain America, while not really a prequel in the general sense, relies on a few of the same storytelling tropes through its use of the character Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) father. And it’s not limited to movies — plenty of video game prequels have hit the shelves in recent years, expanding on the stories of popular franchises such as Halo and Kingdom Hearts.

What makes these types of stories attractive? That’s not a very difficult question to answer. For the audience, we get more of the world and characters we love. For the creators, you’ve got a built-in audience, and much of the time, a pre-written story. But as we know from looking at the Star Wars fiasco, these things don’t always work out so peachy.
The main problem is that creating a prequel — a story before the story we already know — forces the author to fight the audience’s imagination. Sequels do this too, but in a much less violent way. Sequels can fail to satisfy our hopes — look at the Matrix sequels for examples of this — but they rarely crush our dreams. Prequels are another matter. Ever since the first time I saw A New Hope, I dreamed about the Clone Wars. Was it some sort of Dark Side plan that cloned Jedi and turned them evil? Was it an uprising from the clones in the galaxy, used as slave labor, that eventually led to cloning technology being banned? I had notebooks full of this stuff, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. And then came Attack of the Clones. The less said about the disappointing reality of the Clone Wars, the better.
So are all prequels doomed to this sort of failure? No, of course not. The aforementioned X-Men: First Class received mostly positive reviews. The Godfather: Part II, while not 100% prequel, is told through heavy use of flashbacks, and is generally considered one of the greatest movies ever made. Metal Gear Solid 3 was an unexpected prequel, and many count it as the best of the series. So there’s a way to do this right. In fact, I think there are a couple of guidelines that the most successful prequels follow:
If you’re making a prequel to “answer questions,” you’re doing it wrong
One of the major problems with the Star Wars prequel trilogy is that it was created to answer questions that never needed answering. No one really needed to know precisely how Anakin became Darth Vader — if that was a fundamentally important bit of information, it would have been answered in the original trilogy.
Now, to be sure, there will likely be questions answered. For instance, First Class, in the process of telling its story, shows us how Charles Xavier lost the use of his legs. This is fine, and it ends up adding an interesting twist on the character. But the reason why it works is because the story isn’t based around telling us this information. The writers didn’t start by saying “Okay, let’s make a prequel that tells the story of how Professor X lost his ability to walk.” They said “Let’s make a story that explores the history of the X-Men,” and the mysteries solved were incidental.
Don’t subvert the inevitability — embrace it
The common wisdom about why most prequels suck is that we already know what’s going to happen; why would we be interested? Why would we want to watch a movie about Anakin if we know he’s going to become Darth Vader?
Some prequels try to get around this by slyly changing what you thought you knew was going to happen. This rarely works, and often just creates a lack of cohesion between the two stories. A good example is Padme’s death at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In Return of the Jedi, Leia specifically says she remembers her mother, but this actually proves not to be the case. Instead of creating an interesting moment where our expectations are subverted, it instead just leads to confusion. And even those who accept the logic that Leia’s feelings were metaphorical, or that she was speaking about her adopted mother, are in the position of having to wrangle up convoluted explanations instead of enjoying natural story tie-ins.
Problem is, the whole “we can’t know what’s going to happen” excuse doesn’t cut it. Plenty of stories tell you exactly what’s going to happen, and still manage to be entertaining. We know Ahab’s sense of vengeance is going to lead to his downfall. In Oedipus Rex, like almost all of Greek tragedy, the audience is specifically told the ending of the play in the form of prophecy — and yet, this doesn’t rob the story of its power.
Generally, the stories that do it best are the ones that consciously play with the idea of destiny through the eyes of the reader/player. The best example of this concept that I can think of is Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. For those not familiar with the series, Crisis Core is a prequel starring a young soldier named Zack. Zack factors strongly into the story of Final Fantasy VII, but he’s actually dead by the time the main story starts. For most of the game, Crisis Core is not really a masterpiece. It’s very anime-ish, and the new characters the game introduces fail to inspire much interest. However, as the game moves toward its end, we, as players, start to feel a tad of dread. Zack is going to die; we know this, and we’ve known this from the start. But as we move closer to it, that inevitability starts to become more and more real, until we get to the final battle of the game, with enemies closing in all around. We know this is where Zack dies — the original game shows us as much. But we can’t help but try to fight against the inevitable. We can’t help but try to down each soldier, one by one, even as they lay into Zack beyond any hope of success. This desire of the audience to strive against what they know must happen (what has already happened, in some sense) is something that prequels excel at. It’s a feeling, actually, that I don’t think good old traditionally temporal stories can evoke. The best prequels make use of it.
A prequel needs to be a good story in its own right
This is a “rule” that obviously needs to be true of any story: standalone, sequel, prequel, whatever. And it shouldn’t need to be said. A story needs to be good and complete regardless of what comes before or after, right? Sadly, a lot of producers don’t seem to understand this.
I don’t mean to pick on the Star Wars prequels, but I think I’m going to have to call out Attack of the Clones again. It’s just such a monumental failure when it comes to the idea that each part of a saga needs to be an interesting story by itself. What, if anything, happens? Really, there seems to be some sort of mystery involving who commissioned the clone army, but really, it’s not a mystery at all. Shocker: it was the Jedi that turned evil and is now fighting against the Republic! I know, you never saw it coming! Aside from that, there’s nothing. There’s no story arc. There’s really no character arc; Anakin and Padme’s love story comes apropos of absolutely nothing and is given no time to develop. The one exception I’ll make is for the scene where Anakin returns to his childhood home, finds his mother and slays the Tuskens. It’s a good plot point, but even that is only good because of what it foreshadows for future installments. It does not make a complete story.
It’s easy to say “Well, that’s a middle entry, so of course it’s going to feel less complete.” And that’s a cop out. Look at The Empire Strikes Back. While it’s not a prequel, it is a middle entry, and it absolutely plays its role well. It expands on the world of the first film while giving us a open ending to make way for the third. However, The Empire Strikes Back is a complete story with a satisfying arc (multiple arcs, actually). The easiest one to focus on is Luke’s: he starts out as an accomplished pilot, gets instructed to seek out Jedi training, ultimately quits his training before he’s finished to go rescue his friends, despite the warnings of his teachers … and his overconfidence leads to his failure. It’s not a happy arc, and without Return of the Jedi as a bookend, it would be pretty depressing. But it’s still a story.
Creating a satisfying, standalone tale is what many prequels fail to accomplish. You can’t necessarily write a prequel story to cater to the tastes of people who have never experienced the original, but that’s not the point. The point is to maintain the interest of people who do know what’s coming next.
Or say screw it, and jettison continuity
The Indiana Jones series (well, before the fourth one) cares very little for continuity. Some characters appear from previous movies, but for the most part, each film is a self-contained vignette. What happens in Temple of Doom matters very little to the overall franchise. Nintendo games, especially Zelda and Metroid, take a similar view. Hardcore fans may obsess over discovering an exact timeline, but it’s not the main point of the experience.
I’d almost argue that these works fall out of the scope of “prequel.” Sure, sometimes they may technically take place earlier than the original work, but if they aren’t making use of that backward shift in time, then it hardly matters.
Now you know what to look for

Other films aren’t quite so adept, though. Next time you see an ad for that hot upcoming prequel — and I assure you, you’ll see that ad sooner than later — remind yourself of what the artists are trying to create. Yes, promotional material lies, but it’s still easier to categorize a movie or a game than you may think. Does the movie seem to downplay a perceived lack of control while answering silly questions like “Want to find out how Bob got his giant sword?!” Does a tagline for a book proclaim “The story behind the story … is not what you thought!” If that’s the case, shy away … or at least check your brain at the door and enjoy the explosions and gratuitous sex. That’s usually the best you can hope for.

Star Wars: Aftermath Discussion and Review

Aftermath is a controversial book. The reviews on Amazon make it clear: lots of five star reviews, and lots of one-star reviews. Let’s be honest, though — this is a Star Wars book. I love Star Wars (to the point where I think it’s actually the defining American myth), but in the end this is still a licensed novel, and really not worth of the hemming and hawing that accompanied, say, .

I feel bad for Chuck Wendig, which is weird thing to say about an author who is at the height of his popularity and has no doubt brought in a nice chunk of change from this novel. He’s waded into a fight that’s not really about him, and he’s born the brunt of the attacks in recent weeks. Detractors say it’s because he’s a bad writer, or because the book just doesn’t feel like Star Wars, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is that a subset of Star Wars are staunchly conservative.

Now, I don’t mean politically conservative. Some of them are that as well, but the overall problem is that these fans simply can’t accept change. In any form. And change is here, oh yes. The biggest and most infuriating, from the perspective of these “fans” (I don’t like to put quotes around that word, but can we even call people who hate the property “fans?”), is the EU Apocalypse which relegated all the Star Wars stories told prior to the Disney-Lucasfilm merger to the dustbin of history. There’s been plenty of dicussion of the necessity of this move (and yes, it was necessary), but none of that will convince the EU fanatics. To them, saying the EU is finished (or worse, not “real”) is equivalent to retconning the original films. If you claim that Han and Leia don’t actually have a daughter named Jaina, you might as well claim that Luke wasn’t actually Vader’s son.

All that’s bad enough, but there are real-world changes to Star Wars as well. Wendig is a new author to the universe; if Disney had chosen to hire Timothy Zahn, the originator of the original Star Wars EU, some of the old school fans might have swallowed the change easier. Aftermath is also written in a very modern style — very urban fantasy, which is something that hasn’t often been seen in the tentpole Star Wars novels (though the degree to which this is new and mindblowing has been vastly overstated). It also contains not one, not two, but — *gasp!* — FIVE gay characters! If you think I’m exaggerating how big of an issue this is, I welcome you to browse some of those one-star reviews. CTRL-F ‘gay’ if you like, and see how many hits you get. The accusation is that the mere existence of LGBT characters (there is no sex, not even any kissing or same-sex hand-holding) is ‘shoving it down our throats.’

Some people have accused me of conflating all of these complaints, but I think they generally stem from the same discomfort.

The organized effort to sink Aftermath has been operating under the assumption that if the book fails to sell, Disney will reverse course, bring back the old no-gay, Jaina-and-Jacen EU to canon status (or, more realistically, continue to release new stories in the Legends universe). This, of course, is not even an option. But assuming it was, the diehards have failed. Aftermath hit the NYT Bestseller list two weeks in a row. Force Friday was an amazing financial success. The change in the Star Wars universe cannot be halted anymore than the change in our universe (LGBT characters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon).

And you know what? You’re free to be mad about it. The appropriate response to those feelings might be, “You know what? I liked the EU, I’m not a fan of how they’ve changed it. I think I’ll back my bags and move on to a different thing to get my nerd on about.” Boycotting is always an acceptable course of action. The inappropriate, juvenile response is to throw a temper-tantrum and dedicate a non-trivial portion of your day to trying to sink the book and its author.

So is it any good? Yep, it is. The stream-of-consciousness does take some getting used to, but it only took me a chapter or so before I was immersed. Random-ass excerpts posted on Reddit do not do *any* written work justice, and this one suffers more than most from being digested out of context. Many of the new characters are some of the best I’ve seen in Star Wars in a long time — I particularly loved the continuing development of Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane, as well as the introduction of the Imperial “loyalty officer” (read: torturer) named Sinjir. The vingettes interspered between the main narrative chapters give us a great glimpse into the post-ROTJ galaxy, and also provide neat little hooks for future stories.

Aftermath probably won’t blow your mind, but it’s easily the best Star Wars book to come out since the Disney purchase, and it’s well worth the time of any Star Wars fan. If you refuse to try it, it might be time to accept that you’re no longer a Star Wars fan. And that’s totally fine.

Review: Star Wars The Old Republic – Revan

A clumsy, disappointing followup to a seminal game

*Very minor spoilers follow*

While the exploration of the Old Republic era started in the comics, Bioware’s original Star Wars game, Knights of the Old Republic, created a massive interest in the events that occurred thousands of years before the appearance of Luke Skywalker. At the center of this story was Revan, the eponymous hero of Drew Karpyshyn’s new novel. Ever since the end of the original KOTOR, Star Wars fans have wondered what happened to the mysterious Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-Jedi. And, if they’re like me, they couldn’t be more disappointed.

The basic plot is simple: Revan, now married to Bastila, remembers there’s some great threat in the Unknown Regions and goes to seek it out. The secret, as we learn in the first chapter and as anyone familiar with The Old Republic can guess, is that the Sith are out there, waiting, plotting their invasion, so a significant portion of the novel is seeing the view of the Sith Empire culture from the eyes of one of it’s citizens. It plays out pretty much how you’d expect. There are very few twists and turns, and even the ending, while slightly unexpected, isn’t terribly surprising.

The most glaring problem with Revan is the characterization. Now, I fully admit that Karypyshyn had a rough job here. One of the main conceits of the KOTOR games is the ability for the player to create their own sense of who Revan (and the Jedi Exile, in the second entry) is. So there’s necessarily going to be some disparities between Karpyshyn’s Revan and mine. That’s not my problem. My problem is that the other characters act nothing like themselves, if they have any characterization at all. Gone is the strong, capable Bastila Shan. She’s been replaced by a Stepford Wife that seems to exist solely to say “I love Revan SO MUCH!” Canderous has been castrated, and he acts toward Revan like a rescued puppy toward its master. The rest of the characters are waved away with the flimsiest of excuses: “Oh, we can’t possibly ask Mission to help save the galaxy with us. She owns a shop now! A SHOP!” This run down of all the companions from KOTOR (except Carth, who, for some reason, is not mentioned once) and the reasons why Revan doesn’t want to talk to them gets pretty absurd.

Lord Scourge

The weird characterization doesn’t stop there. It’s not just consistency with previous material — the novel has a plethora of internal consistency problems. Revan oscillates from a paragon of justice, completely unwilling to do anything anyone would frown on, to a witty rogue, charming the pants off of everyone he meets, to a heretic, bravely straddling the line between Light Side and Dark Side. If you asked me for a single trait that defined Revan, I couldn’t give you one. And that’s just lazy writing, in my opinion. The new Sith character, Lord Scourge (who, it must be said, is really the main character of the novel) undergoes similar contortions. He starts out as a typical Sith — not so much evil, as just kind of a dick. About halfway through the novel, he has an about face and starts to think of a couple of people as his friends, suddenly grows a heart, etc. There’s almost no incentive for this — any motivation that’s present is given to him offscreen.

And thus, we come to the second glaring problem of the book. A good 75% of the plot — everything that’s not Scourge’s story — happens offscreen. Revan’s entire plot arc is just him remembering things, or having visions about things. Nearly every chapter in the first half of the book begins with Karpyshyn giving us a narrative infodump about something that happened in KOTOR, or something that happened between KOTOR and Revan, or something that’s going to happen in The Old Republic. I understand this is a setup for Bioware’s next game, and that you need to refresh people who haven’t played the older titles in years, but the author chooses the clumsiest way to do it. Instead of cleverly dropping a few reminders here and there, he just decides to organize the majority of the novel as if it’s the introduction in a video game manual. I can count two significant actions Revan takes in this novel. The rest of it is just backstory.

Strange and lazy choices, such as infodumps, are accompanied by wooden dialogue, horrible pacing and weak descriptions

Finally, I was very much surprised with how weak the novel is on the technical side of things. Strange and lazy choices, such as the aforementioned infodumps, are accompanied by wooden dialogue, horrible pacing (action scenes that go on for pages and pages, followed by major decisions and time shifts that are barely mentioned in passing) and weak descriptions. I say I’m surprised because Karpyshyn’s other Star Wars novels have actually garnered a fair amount of praise. But after reading Revan, I’m not in much of a hurry to track them down. I believe Karpyshyn knows how to tell a decent story, as evidenced by his role in Bioware games such as Mass Effect, as well as what I’ve played so far of The Old Republic. And normally I can forgive mechanics if the story is intriguing enough. But the problems here are so glaring, and the story so lackluster, that I can’t help but notice every little detail. I don’t normally expect great literature from Star Wars books, but I do expect some authorial effort and external editing, something Revan is in dire need of.

In the end, I can’t even really recommend this book to die hard Star Wars fans. The plot informs The Old Republic, and I’m sure some of the characters in Revan are the same we’ll be fighting in endgame raids in a few months. But all the relevant information can be found in a few minutes on Wookieepedia, and the read would probably be just as enjoyable. At the very least, I was at least able to plow my way through to the end — it was never so painful that I couldn’t continue. But I can’t say I had a good time of it.

NaNo winds down — will I make it?

Just thought I’d throw up a quick status: Currently at ~27,000 words, with less than a week to go in NaNoWriMo. Many of those words are high quality. Many of them are not. Some of them are song lyrics and an almost completely unrelated script. But I will finish. I’m determined. Next Monday, I’ve got the whole day to crank out the close to 20,000 words I’ll need to make the 50k target. But it’s going to happen.

In other news, I’ve recently completed a script for the internet show I’m developing with a few friends. It’s short and sweet, and occurs right in the middle of the season, which has yet to be written. But I like it. It made me actually laugh, and I don’t normally laugh at my own writing, so that has to mean something. Here’ s a taste:


OPEN! …on Martin Luther King Jr.


That could work.


He’s been assassinated, and there’s blood everywhere


Jesus Christ, okay, we’re not doing this…


Zoom in to his assassin, chugging a nice, refreshing Pepsi. Fade to the tagline: Pepsi: Not What You’d Expect.


Not only is that the worst advertisement I’ve ever heard, I’m not sure you actually understand the concept of product placement.

Finally, I’m finishing up Star by Star, which is probably the most important book in the New Jedi Order series, if not the entire EU. It’s pretty good so far — incredible by Star Wars novel standards, actually, but merely good by regular book standards. I’ll probably have a review of it up on December 1, after NaNoWriMo is done.

Review: (NJO) Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial by James Luceno

* Warning! Star Wars EU spoilers! *

I first attempted to read the New Jedi Order series in high school … and it didn’t go well. The reason, I’ve found out, is that the audiobook of the first novel, Vector Prime, is catastrophically abridged. Earlier this year, I got back into Star Wars, so I decided to try NJO again. I had better results — Vector Prime is readable, but not great. It serves as a setup for the rest of the series. The Dark Tide duology was much better, though it seemed to contain a little too much “monster-of-the-week” type adventures for the characters. So I went into Hero’s Trial — the first book in James Luceno’s Agents of Chaos duology — cautiously optimistic that the upward trend would continue.

Hero’s Trial gives us the first real glimpse of the NJO Han Solo, dealing with the aftermath of Chewbacca’s death. In the Dark Tide books, he’s almost unbearably emo; it’s understandable, but not necessarily ideal for a story. It’s good to see Han back in his element here. He’s upset and slightly more low-key in certain areas, but it works for the kind of characterization that Luceno uses here. Han is still too standoffish with his family for my tastes. I kind of wish that Luceno went in a different direction than the cliche middle-age crisis (though Han fiddling with having an affair would be interesting!), but there are only a few moments in the book where I found myself rolling my eyes.

The big picture seems to be fairly inconsequential until the very end. A Yuzhang Vong priestess, Elan, and her familiar, Vergere, decide to act as defectors to trick the Jedi into a meeting, where Elan can slaughter the lot of them. This defection eventually attracts some unsavory characters, who, of course, have connections to Han (what unsavory SW character doesnt?). This defection leads the Galactic Alliance and Han Solo to (separately) track the defectors and fend off Vong. There’s a pretty big conflict at the end, with about four or five separate groups fighting for different things. It’s exciting, but starts to strain credulity when the Vong begin fighting against their own fake defectors being returned to them.

One of the best new additions that Hero’s Trial introduces is Droma, a male Ryn (new species, looks a bit like an older, but not ancient, Dark Elf) . Droma, in Chewbacca’s absence, is the perfect foil for Han. He’s smart, slightly sarcastic (but not annoyingly so), and mystical if not superstitious. He doesn’t put up with Han’s crap, which is exactly what he needs at this point in the story. Of course, Leia would probably be even better in this position — but so far, NJO has been pretty unwilling to have her do anything of consequence.

Overall, Hero’s Trial is a good read — not great, but not bad either. I’m still waiting for that killer book: one that connects on every level, and makes me say wow. But for now, it’s entertaining and continues the SW story. I’ll give it a 3/5.