Saturday, 13 September 2014
THE NEW HOPES! THE 'JEDI ACADEMY' TRILOGY CONCLUDES WITH 'CHAMPIONS OF THE FORCE'
Moving at lightspeed pace, the concluding part of Kevin J. Anderson's STAR WARS adventure-fest, now celebrating a landmark twentieth anniversary, gets off to a memorable and fiery start. One week on from Book Two's cliffhanger, the Sith-influenced, revenge-fuelled Kyp Durron uses his fearsomely powerful Sun Crusher weapon to destroy the Imperial Training facility world of Carida, though his rescue attempt of his brother, now a Stormtrooper, proves tragically doomed to failure, sending him into a firestorm of pain and anguish. As Kyp threatens further intergalactic annihilation, can his friends Han Solo and Lando Calrissian win him back from evildom's grip?
Meanwhile, back on Yavin Four, our Jedi icon Luke Skywalker's body is now in a cadaverous state- his mind and spirit trapped in a Force limbo controlled by the feared Exar Kun, determined to extinguish his heart of good forever by using Luke's now dispirited and unsure what to do trainees against him. Arriving at the Academy, its here that Princess Leia, despite her pain at Luke's condition, gives one of her finest moral-boosting speeches, ending his disciples continued state of quiet disarray, pulling them together in this difficult time, in a way that will see them ultimately taking the fight, with a little help from the Jedi-sensitive babies Jacen and Jaina Solo (finally getting some good moments in the trilogy), to the Dark Spectre plaguing the Massassi temples. Unfortunately, Leia's inner strength isn't available to them for long, soon making a desperate journey to Anoth, the secret location of her third baby-Anakin, in order to stop him from being kidnapped by the remaining Imperial fractions of Carida, intent on grooming him as their new Dark Side leader- a memorable sequence for Timothy Zahn's created character of minder/nursemaid Winter, gamely holding off the advancing firepower of Anderson's new Imperial creations, the Spider Walkers, thanks to a little technological help, nicknamed FIDO, created by Admiral Ackbar...
Finally, lovable Falcon first-mate Chewbacca, intent on freeing his Wookiee slave brethren at Kessel, brings Threepio, and assists General Antilles and his assault team, as they make their bid to capture the no longer Imperial protected Maw installation. But time and courage ultimately prove not on their side, as the Maw's protective Death Star prototype soon escapes the conflict, now fully armed and operational, ready to cause destructive turmoil to the New Republic, of which Imperial Admiral Daala, having previously cheated death from Kyp Durron's attack in book two, additionally brings further chaos. How can they be stopped?
Ending on a huge space battle, and a lone act of almost self-sacrifice, the ending of the Jedi Academy trilogy reminds us of those nostalgic days when the Expanded Universe had lots of future potential, not yet a bloated, continuity trapped beast. Champions of the Force wraps things up with fast paced enthusiasm and efficiency, of which all prior plot/character strands are generally, satisfyingly tied up. Only the lack of really memorable material for Luke and Leia in the drama stakes proves disappointing.
AFICIONADO RATING: Genuinely keeping the spirit of the post ROTJ era alive and well, forging new characters and new scenarios for future books to exploit, Champions of the Force may not boast the sophisticated writing style of Timothy Zahn, but Kevin J. Anderson's enthusiasm for telling a good yarn shines through. IMHO, it's certainly worthy of reprinting within the new LEGENDS branding of the STAR WARS book publishing program. 3.5 out of 5