Sunday, October 11, 2009

Star Wars: Abyss by Troy Denning

The thing about genre fiction is that for the most part, when you buy a book there is the expectation of more of the same, and not great literature. In a sense it's like catching another episode of your favorite TV show. Watching Star Trek, for example, is not like watching Citizen Kane or or similarly reading 1984; that doesn't mean its not worthwhile or entertaining on its own.

Occasionally, your expectations are surprised, and the bar is raised. A little.

Troy Denning's latest addition to the Fate of the Jedi series starts out like most Star Wars books. However, the pacing is good, the mystery suitable, and the payoff in the end well rewarding. For a change, Troy describes a lightsaber battle that is vivid, interesting, and surprising.

The plot unfolds as the still-exiled Luke and Ben travel to The Maw (a cluster of black holes) to continue to research why Jacen -- Darth Caedus -- fell of the deep end and turned to the dark side. There they discover a space station -- a smaller twin of Centerpoint Station -- where force sensitives and users float in a Force trance in an effort to dissassociate themselves from the physical world and transcend into the Force. Of course not all is as it seems...

Oh yeah, and the Sith are active in the galaxy again. This time, they are exiles stranded on a planet for 5000 years. Old school Sith.

And, the Jedi are still dealing with some of their order going crazy.

While Luke and Ben are investigating the "Mind Walkers" the Sith find out where they are and attempt to capture and/or kill the Jedi.

I think Denning did a good job describing the final showdown between the Jedi and the Sith exiles, being very vivid and well described. Unlike other Star Wars novels, where the action can be a little turgid, Denning's pacing is very good and gives an excellent sense of the action.

Although not specifically evident here, one issue I have with the Star Wars Expanded Universe is the recycled plots an use of "one-upsmanship." For example, in the Original trilogy, the Death Star could destroy whole planets. In the EU, that wasn't enough, so now we get star destroyers that can do the same, or even worse, a small fighter-type craft that is both indestructable and can destroy whole stars! Not to mention the Yuushan Vong, a threat to destroy the entire Galaxy! But just as worse, the plot of the Original Trilogy (and to an extend the prequels) is recycled both in the Legacy of the Force series, as well as Dark Horse's Legacy series. I'm hoping this series avoids both traps and defines itself as something original within the setting. Apropriate drama and gravitas can be created without recycling themes or devistating threats to the Galaxy...

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