STAR WARS: FATE OF THE JEDI
Originally published in hardback in the
by CENTURY PUBLISHING, and now in paperback from ARROW UK
Reviewed by Scott Weller
There’s a fine old saying that you can always judge a man by the caliber of his enemies. And in the case of Luke Skywalker, they’ve all been pretty formidable-Darth Vader, the Emperor, Shira Brie, the Yuuzhan Vong, Jorus C'Baoth, and many more that I could roll off the top of my head. Now, as the FATE OF THE JEDI saga enters the third book in its series, old and new enemies come to the fore as Luke and his trusty son Ben continue their dark explorations in discovering what led to Jacen Solo turning to the Dark Side and finding a path to the conquering of the Jedi madness that has afflicted their order within the New Republic. Things have already gotten off to a rocky start for them on this mysterious and danger fraught journey but now its all about to take a sinister new turn as they explore the dark recesses of The Maw.
ABYSS is a return to better form for author/fan favourite Troy Denning after the sadly lackluster LEGACY OF THE FORCE: INVINCIBLE, which brought that saga limping weakly to an end rather than breaking new boundaries of action and excitement. In this book, characterization for our Jedi heroes Ben and Luke Skywalker is now stronger than previously, helped with Denning’s previous experience of the saga’s heroes and a good ear for believable (at least within the STAR WARS universe) dialogue. The book, back to a worthier page count as a hardback, also has much more atmosphere and suspense with the introduction of the books new threat (which you’ll have to read about –we don’t want to spoil things). Overall, so far, this new LUCAS BOOKS saga has had a pretty rocky start, but ABYSS could be the stabilizing element story-wise that it has so desperately needed-hopefully, future books from Allston and Golden (the principal other writers of the set) will expand on Denning’s plot-lines with greater success.
The new Sith Race becomes a bit more complex with ABYSS than they had been when introduced in Christie Golden’s previous book OMEN. Denning changes the game with them slightly, too, giving sharper focus to the main assassin characters, and making them overall more interesting in the new situation they find themselves in when they are forced to land on a dangerous jungle world, and then building on that with a further new malicious threat uncovered at The Maw, which we hope will have further dangerous/universe altering consequences for the STAR WARS universe. Though there are continuity clashes with what had been set-up in James Luceno’s MILLENNIUM FALCON novel, ABYSS also brings back the Mandalorians in a good way within the Daala/Coruscant Jedi madness story, and even Han and Leia get in on some of the action of this plot-line-their scenes pretty good after their previous poor utilization as, for the most part, an un-necessary plot filler device in numerous sections of the previous books.
There’s a sense of some mystery at last (a little bit more about the background behind Jacen’s conversion to the Dark Side slowly unraveling to keep interest), as well as some good description of scary sequences involving the Sith Tribe fighting for survival, the Sith Assassins on their mission and the Skywalker’s and their events at The Maw. Regrettably, though, Luke’s unusual journey into the land of the dead sadly doesn’t quite live up to the potential the reader hopes for within Denning’s descriptions and there are still some sections of the book linked to this new saga that aren’t working for me-some readers may also be shocked by events at the books conclusion with regards to the new Sith. And then there’s my usual complaints that certain characters beyond the Lucas originals still don’t make much of an impact on me and also peak my irritation factor (i.e. Jaina Solo).
Overall, I can’t honestly say that there’s much originality to ABYSS, either on the STAR WARS front or beyond-there are echoes of ALIEN, STAR TREK, TOTAL RECALL. DOCTOR STRANGE, classic sci-fi authors (Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, heck, even a bit of Michael Crichton is thrown in for good measure!!) and some of the good old fashioned horror/mystery comics from DC comics that were eerie enough to unsettle me as a kid, but they do say its always wise to steal from the best, and certainly Denning does to a degree that many fans will still find compelling!
AFICIONADO RATING: The strongest entry in the FATE OF THE JEDI series thus far, ABYSS is a step in the right direction and really hits its stride toward its conclusion. Worth a look for regular fans of the EXPANDED UNIVERSE who’d been disappointed by some of it’s previous works. Let’s hope though, in the long run, that this doesn’t turn out to be the best of the new nine book run, and that future books improve on Denning’s work if the writers can seriously attune themselves to its overall great potential. 8 out of 10