Exile…Posted: March 2, 2007
This is going to be an extended (and very, very geeky) discussion of the latest Star Wars novel, Exile, and the latest Star Wars novel series, Legacy of the Force. If you have no love of Star Wars in your heart or don’t care then there’s no need to proceed on. There are others things here for you to enjoy!
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
We’ll start with Exile itself. A good Star Wars novel, to me, is more then having an interesting plot (though that is certainly a key part) or engaging and exciting action sequences. Instead the clincher on a good SW novel is what toys (re: characters) in the massive EU sandbox an author chooses to play with in the several hundred pages they’re given.
On this count Allston knocks it out the park with Exile. The cast he employs contains a nice mix of the required (Luke, Han, Leia, Jacen, Ben, etc…) and old favorites (Wedge, Corran, Iella, and best of all Lando!). I grew up with the post-ROTJ books and anytime the old stewards of those books show up I am elated. I was hoping that Allston would gives us more from Wedge’s daughter Syal, but instead develops her sister a bit (Syal only gets a brief mention). But, as they say, you can not have your cake and eat it too.
As for plot and character development, Exile marks a few important twists and turns on the grand scheme of LotF. The LotF novels have generally had plots that march up with their title so in Exile a majority of the central characters (Leia/Han, Wedge, Ben) spend most of the book in… exile. Surprising, I know.
There are two overall developments (besides Jacen continuing down his inevitable path to Sithhood) that are of central importance to over-all direction of LotF and I’d like to touch on each.
1.) The overall political plot is now firmly on a prequelish direction, with a strong central government supported by the Jedi against a break away group of worlds, each faction being manipulated by the Sith. This is, as they say, unsurprising. Plot repetition is rife in Star Wars fiction and the political motifs of the prequel era are rip to be mined and given a new coat of varnish. So, unlike some SW fans, it doesn’t bother mean that LotF is going down familiar path ways.
Plus, it was obvious, as far back as Betrayal that they were going down this direction.
2.) Ben Skywalker, as of this novel, begins to drift apart from his fallen master. I believe we’ll look back and mark this novel to be a central turning point in his development. Throughout LotF I’ve found Ben to be the most compelling and interesting character. With Exile, it seems his journey from idealistic youth, to Jacen’s ‘Good German’ apprentice, is finally inching him down a bit brighter of a path. Where he’ll end up… well… Allston has left some very interesting character threads for Karen Traviss to pick up in the next LotF novel (she handled Ben brilliantly in Bloodlines).
Jaina continues to be back-burnered BUT things continue to develop and I hope sooner or later the LotF authors will give her more to do.
My central complaint (more of a nit-pick, really) about Exile, really can be extended to all of the Legacy of the Force books. That is Exile seems to just end (and if you count the excerpt from the beginning of Sacrifice that’s included it just kind of rambles on into the next novel). The plot doesn’t so much as conclude as… stop. The same goes for Tempest, Bloodlines, and Betetryal before it. This would not be a problem if I could read of ALL of the books in order, but I can’t. So, I’m left unsatifised.
Additionally of the LotF books I have read suffered from providing a satisfyingly answer to the question, “Why the hell hasn’t Luke just wised up and put an end to this mess?”. It is very obvious to everyone in the novel who has (even Boba Fett) spent a good amount of time around Jacen that he is evil, except for the Solo-Skywalker clan. Jacen’s ties with the Sith are obvious and if Luke is supposed to be nigh-invincible and head of the Jedi Order… you’d think he’d do something to put a stop to this. But of course, he can’t (yet) because otherwise this wouldn’t be a nine-book series. So the authors have to dodge the issue. Denning came the closest to providing a satisfying work around to this problem in Tempest, by having Luke and Mara actually do something and try sort Jacen out, but in Exile Allston failed to carry the ball on that one. Instead he developed a very, very, very stupid cover story for Jacen to give Luke and Mara. Ack.
Well, where does that ever us? I’d rate Exile as the second best LotF novel so far, behind Bloodlines but ahead of Betrayal and Tempest. This was a most enjoyable read and a great addition to my SW library.
OKAY. Now onto Legacy of the Force more generally. Exile leaves us with a ton of unanswered questions ripe for speculation.
- “Who will be Jacen’s sacrifice in the next novel?” I’ve discussed this before and am still convinced that Mara is, sadly going to be the one to bite it. I think it’s too early for Luke or Leia to be killed. Perhaps later, but I think Mara is (sadly) the most important expendable character at this point.
- “Ben Skywalker: Light or Dark?” Well, since the new Legacy comics series features a light-side descendants of the Skywalker line (and Lucasfilm has said no more kids of Luke and Mara), Ben will be the end of LotF be firmly in the Jedi came. I think the events of Exile mark the being of this turn for the character.
- “Jacen’s final fate?” I’m convinced that he’s going to die by (most likely in) the last book. Probably killed in combat with Ben. That’s my theory and am sticking to it.
Needless to say, I am extremely excited for the next Legacy of the Force novel. June can not come soon enough.