Well folks, the last weekend before my exam has been and (nearly) gone, and my revision is still near-nonexistent! Basically, I don’t exam well, so the sooner this is over, the better!
What I have been reading, of course, is Star Wars stuff! I finished reading Darksaber yesterday, which I’ve been off-and-on reading for the past fortnight or so. It’s a book that I remember enjoying a lot when I first read it all those years ago, but as with a lot of these novels lately, I’m finding I’m less impressed with it.
Last year, I read the Jedi Academy trilogy, which was a bit of a let-down, too. Following that trilogy, we have the so-called ‘Callista trilogy’, written between Barbara Hambly and Kevin J Anderson. Children of the Jedi, by Hambly, sees Luke take on the re-activated superweapon Eye of Palpatine, during which time he falls in love with the disembodied spirit of former Jedi Knight Callista Ming. The weapon is destroyed, during which Callista manages to re-inhabit human form, though as the expense of her ability to use the Force. The book is about as dire as it sounds, thoughI seem to remember there are one or two moments that were interesting, but otherwise it doesn’t really warrant the effort to read it.
Darksaber forms more of a sequel to the Jedi Academy trilogy, as we see what some of the trainees have been up to over the past year or so. Written by Kevin J Anderson, the plot feels a bit more galaxy-spanning than his previous trilogy – indeed, it feels a little more ambitious overall. In addition to the Jedi trainees, we also get to catch up with Admiral Daala, who did indeed survive the events of Champions of the Force, and Captain Pellaeon, who has been wandering adrift since Thrawn’s defeat at Bilbringi. Two further storylines see the Hutts building a superweapon, and of course, Luke and Callista continuing their story trying to find Callista’s powers.
As typical for many of the Bantam novels, movie references are heavy and innovation tends to be weird. I mean, we revisit many of the movie locations, often on the slimmest of reasons (we even get to meet up with the Wampa from Empire Strikes Back again!), while new places include Dorsk 81’s home planet where everyone is a clone, and a luxury resort carved into a comet that is primarily used to mine water. Movie references can often be nice and grounding when you read tie-in material like this, but in many of these books the references are contrived and gratuitous, and can sometimes feel downright lazy, if I’m totally honest.
I actually feel really bad for criticising this book, as I really liked it back in the day, but the simple fact remains that it just isn’t all that good as some of the more serious Star Wars fiction. It definitely feels like a kids book that is taking itself a little too seriously at times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing on kids books, but when a book is sold as adult fiction, I expect it to be pitched at an adult audience, even if the subject matter is Star Wars. The biggest thing on this is Luke and Callista. Something I found quite strange is how they seem to agree that their relationship isn’t worthwhile unless Callista has her Force powers, which comes across as elitist and weird, basically. Eventually, Callista discovers she can use the dark side, which just isn’t worth it, but she decides it might be best if she leaves Luke rather than being reminded of what she used to have. The whole storyline plays out as perhaps the worst sort of soap opera. I remember reading an article that stated Lucasfilm had decided Luke and Mara would end up together, but because the Bantam novels weren’t released in any sort of chronological order, stuff like this would happen as other women were brought into his life. In this respect, Anderson has a bit of a rough time trying to resolve the situation set up in Children of the Jedi, after Lucasfilm had decided Callista would not be the woman for Luke.
Kyp Durron is back, Anderson’s pet character, and while he isn’t quite so insufferable in this book (largely due to the fact he isn’t in a large portion of it), he still gets to brood wonderfully and rubbish like that. Daala is her usual fearsome-yet-ineffective self, as she tried to unite the Empire, kills a load of the squabbling warlords, but still manages to balls-up the whole thing.
The title story involves Durga the Hutt and his efforts to create a superweapon with which to terrorize the galaxy. It’s actually pretty hilarious, and while some of it is a bit too simplistic, like it’s more suited to a children’s book than anything else, but has the distinction of seeing the first ever Rebel speaking-character from the movies being killed off. Remember General Madine, from the Death Star II assault briefing in Return of the Jedi? Well, he gets killed. The character of Durga the Hutt was created for this novel, where he isn’t really much more than a pantomime villain, but he was further developed during AC Crispin’s excellent Han Solo trilogy, where the Hutt storyline of that book series is just wonderful. We also get to meet the Imperial Engineer, Bevel Lemelisk, who created the Death Star project and had been introduced primarily via the West End Games RPG.
Speaking of the RPG, I also read the Barbara Hambly short story Murder in Slushtime, from the Adventure Journal. The story involves Callista among a whole load of Gamorreans, following the events of Darksaber. The Adventure Journal has got some really great stuff, and not just the short stories – there are articles that provide settings for RPG campaigns that are really significant, as they were subsequently used by the novelists. Murder in Slushtime is a kinda throwaway story, which is sort of a murder-mystery that shows us a whole load of Gamorrean culture that I’m not entirely sure we ever wanted to know! This is only increased by the RPG article that follows. Who knew Gamorrean boars wrote love poetry when they felt all romantic during the wintertime?
The Callista storyline is ‘resolved’ in Planet of Twilight, which is perhaps the second-worst Star Wars novel of all time. I haven’t actually read it in decades, but it feels like a collection of shorter stories, or perhaps more like a short story that has been elongated beyond all business, with another couple of stories stuck on to try and mitigate the fact. Luke searches for Callista, but when he actually finds her, they merely agree to go their separate ways from afar – I mean, they don’t even converse, they just nod to each other from across a valley or something. It’s generally unsatisfactory, but there we have it.
I should probably return to the revision…or, at least, try to…