STAR WARS: FATE OF THE JEDI BOOK ONE: OUTCAST
By AARON ALLSTON
Published in the
by CENTURY PUBLISHING-now available in Paperback from April 2010 UK
Published in the
by DEL REY BOOKS US
Reviewed by Scott Weller
Can the Galactic Alliance be saved?
Despite only a mildly positive response to the closure of the previous Legacy of the Jedi series with its INVINCIBLE finale, the STAR WARS publishing license gathers apace once again and becomes even more ambitious with its new nine book series of exclusive hardback only edition adventures, all lined into one epic adventure that will span three years of publishing life, and written by established scribes Aaron Allston, Troy Denning and Christie Golden. Funny isn’t it, they do nine novel series, but we only got six films that spawned those novels, when we all know that there should have been nine on-screen tales in the first place. Perhaps this is LUCAS BOOKS ideal/homage to that original Lucas game plan that once existed pre-1983!
With so many books already in the EU range, great care has been taken with this new series to move with the times, and the ever changing reading audience, in trying to attract more fans and non-fans who’ve never been interested in the book saga before, and this new series have an equally very distinctive and deliberate new visual flavour as part of that strategy. I personally like the standout from shelves look of the colourful dustjacket designs, the first from
Ian Keltie (artist/designer) and David Stevensen (co-designer) - very much-the pop art Andy Warhol style which gives it that new buying impetus (there’s also the nifty inside chapter illustration as well that links to a modern yet cool retro STAR WARS/BUCK ROGERS type nostalgia of the seventies). Though a word of warning to newbies, once they have started reading OUTCAST, they’ll probably realize that they’ll have a lot of story back tracking to catch up on in order to totally enjoy it.
In a galaxy of chaos wrought to it by Jacen Solo as Darth Cadeus, Fate of the Jedi: OUTCAST sees major changes for the STAR WARS EXPANDED UNIVERSE, with our loyal and resilient Jedi Order tested to the full in a dangerous new situation amidst the beginnings of a new (or possibly old) and highly threatening menace utilizing a dangerous madness-type disease against them, with the New Jedi Order founder, Luke Skywalker, equally coming under fire from a past adversary- now turned keeper of the peace- for not having seen the dangers that one of his family would instigate. With all this pressure coming to the surface, the large cracks within the Galactic Alliance are beginning to shatter outwards…
A safe choice for a series starter, Aaron Allston (sorry to hear you’re unwell…get well soon!) carefully sets up the new story strands that will be explored in future novels, for what Lucas Books hopes will be their most important series yet. All of the world’s popular favourites from the previous series return-like our original indomitable heroes such as Luke and Leia, who are still as adventurous and as likeable as we’ve ever known them (though they are now starting to age physically as well as personality-wise, that bit more gracefully). Fortunately, Luke also has a lot more to do in this book, which is a relief- his plotline gets better as the adventure goes on- and there are some touching little moments where he is with Ben. The Han/ Leia relationship in recent novels, though, has been a mixed blessing-some of it feels like it is in the series because it has to be rather than it actually being necessary-OUTCAST is a case in point, to the possible detriment of the novel.
And where would the loyal EU readers be without their ever evolving characters such as Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker? Of whom the former is as popular as ever, the later still in the decidedly mixed rating category. Despite the terrible events of INVINCIBLE, Jaina continues to be the controlled Jedi with the cocky wisecracks and devil may care reasoning that only her father could biologically have given her! Ben Skywalker, meanwhile, shows the traces of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker from his family line. They all stay true and in character to their place in the EU. But for how long will their family foundations stay cemented? And what dangerous blasts from the past, linked to all the previous destructive handiwork of Jacen Solo, and their ramifications, will rear their heads this time?
Natasi Daala, who I’d previously been aware of in the series- even added in as Governor Tarkin’s girlfriend no less back in the earlier DEATH STAR novel- is also present in the new run. Though vindictive and sharp as ever, the writers seem to change her character’s position in the saga novels as they see fit-decisions that have proved controversial from time to time- and in this book she has a new role and position within the Grand Alliance that many fans may query- at least for the time being…
Also rounding off the shopping list of returning characters are the ever present Bounty Hunters. It’s okay, but haven’t they been done to death a little bit now?
After the heavy physical and mental battles of the previous series, Fate of the Jedi takes the series into further realms of traditional science fiction-of the chance for stabilization after civil war, of universe building and new alliances- as well as adding meat on some of the many storylines stretching way back to the Thrawn Trilogy, as the last remnant of the Imperial forces meets to discuss their assimilation into the re-ordered Galactic Alliance. Allston’s writing is as confidently assured as always and easy to read-his descriptive ability within the STAR WARS universe is fine, though there are moments when I felt my favourite universe has started to get a bit domesticated and I worry that it’s starting to lose it’s wonder- that it doesn’t quite have the sense of pace and breathless urgency that the visual experiences of the films have. I know that the books, though trying to be official cannon, are there to develop their own unique universe and be an all together different experience, but to lose sight of what actually made STAR WARS so popular with fans in the first place mustn’t be allowed to drift away just so they can make it like other science fiction/fantasy-I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again-this isn’t BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or TERMINATOR-this is STAR WARS. STAR WARS is unique! There’s a danger that the EU book series could become a little bit stale here…
Like the Prequel film series and parts of the LUKE SKYWALKER AND THE SHADOWS OF MINDOR adventure from Matthew Stover, Allston also gets a chance to put a little bit of our modern day Earth machinations of politics and media manipulation into the STAR WARS universe-this is a little bit more subtle, and more successful, however, than Stover’s previous let’s- stick- it- right- in- your- face attitude of writing.
On the further plus side, there is also the chance to create an intriguing new dimension to the Jedi Order, especially with the soon outcast Luke Skywalker, as he and Ben encounter the Force Mystics on the world of Dorin. But as this is happening, dangerous new incidents and machinations are starting up that will have consequences for the galaxy and, as ever, our noble band of heroes still struggling to bring long lasting peace to the galaxy...
AFICIONADO RATING: Despite some padding that could have been pruned down for a shorter page count, this is a solid start for the new series. But should there have been a little bit more of a publishing breathing time for readers between the end of INVINCIBLE and the start of the Fate of the Jedi series, I wonder? 8 out of 10