Longer series of books tend to be known to make things more epic. A single novel can be rather grand. A trilogy, such as Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, can be epic by comparison. Michael Stackpole’s Rogue Squadron quartet tells a fantastic tale. A sextology such as the War of the Spider Queen edited by Star Wars veteran R.A. Salvatore goes on to tell a story of mythic proportions. And the fabled 19 volume tome that is the New Jedi Order defines legends, having achieved a status and a fanbase comparable to that of the films that spawned its saga. So you’d think a nine novel series, though a skyscraper next to the Olympus that is NJOE, would be the next best thing, wouldn’t you?
After all, there was a never a point in Enemy Lines– a pair of New Jedi Order novels similarly placed to Conviction that were also written by Aaron Allston- that I got the feeling of drag that Conviction gives me- the feeling that events are being stretched beyond anything they were ever meant to be. If text could be pixelated the way a JPEG is when it’s stretched, you’d see it here. Actually, you’d see it throughout the entire Fate of the Jedi series. That’s the only way to describe the fact that even when apparently monumental events are happening- events that should function as multiple climaxes- the voice in the back of my head can’t stop screaming “DO SOMETHING!”
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like this should be the case. There’s certainly enough material in Fate of the Jedi to fill several novels. There’s the tale of Abeloth, easily a trilogy on its own. There’s the story of Admiral Daala and the Crazy Jedi- just tell me that’s not a catchy title! Then you get the cheesy not-romance that blends Heir to the Empire, Attack of the Clones and InuYasha; that’s worth about half a book or a crappy comic miniseries. Han, Leia and Allana’s plot, admittedly, would work significantly better as a young adult or children’s book series. Then you get the Lost Tribe, which could make up their own novel if not more. So why is it that these elements, when combined, form something a little less impressive than Captain Planet?
After my read-through of Conviction, one thing is certain: Fate of the Jedi has overstayed its welcome, and there is not a single thing that Ascension or Apocalypse can do to change that. The series can stay the same, remembered for all time as an extended mediocre work on the level of the “Callista trilogy” (ironic, considering how many elements from that trilogy and the surrounding novels are revisited in this series for the first time in years), or it can suffer with the last two novels, hurting its memory, but nothing can help the series recover from simply going on too long.
Speaking of going on too long, Conviction seems to hint that Star Wars is very much going the same route. It’s one thing to take the leaps and bounds that led Dark Horse to Legacy, but it’s another thing to keep writing about the same characters. Normally this isn’t a feeling I have, so Conviction can be blamed to an extent, but as I read lines like “over thirty years ago” referring to things that happened in the Expanded Universe a dozen years after Yavin, I feel more and more out of place. As a hardcore fan, I can overcome this, but a newcomer to the novel wouldn’t as easily be able to shake the feeling that they’re out of place here. I blame a large part of this on Del Rey’s decision making regarding the leaps made in the timeline. Other than the references to Planet of Twilight (Nam Chorios’s first appearance), an example is when Valin and Jysella Horn are referred to as “experienced Jedi Knights” and their decades of relative experience over those such as Ben and Vestara- I don’t think Valin has had more than one mission as a Jedi in all the novels he’s appeared in, and I can be sure that Jysella hasn’t had that many. Wasn’t it about a year ago when fans were overjoyed that we finally had such basic information about the youngest Horn as a year of birth?
Then again, it isn’t only with the relatively ambiguous experience of the Horns that this discussion can raise eyebrows. There’s a brief viewpoint in which Raynar Thul is mentioned as a fairly experienced Knight. Raynar Thul was promoted to a Knight in what was believed to be a post-humous ceremony- and hasn’t gone on a single mission outside the Temple since then. Somehow, I don’t think that constitutes as vast a level of experience as we’re led to believe.
Enough about these Jedi, though. Wasn’t a major point of this novel supposed to be Tahiri’s trial- important enough in Allies and Vortex to merit another one of my theoretical novels? Frak, the cover’s dedicated to the girl and a large portion of the title’s relevance is designated to possible outcomes of her plot. She must put up a sterling defense and make up a large part of the novel, finally coming to some character resolution, right?
If this book was anything other than Conviction, you’d be right. None of the “side” plots- that is, anything covering anybody who’s not a descendent of Vader or one of their love interests- gets a lot of screen time at all. One of them comes to a resolution that changes nothing and could have gone either way and come to the same effect, and one of them comes to a resolution that effectively amounts to a slightly modified rehash of Legacy of the Force (although either of these resolutions require the other to function). The rest of the plots spend the entire book taking baby steps- two people that appear in the first chapter take until close to the last chapter just to get to where they’re going, with nobody standing in the way. That’s the way Conviction rolls- is there any wonder there are filler scenes added in just to make it look like major, cover-related plots are getting somewhere? Seriously, Vortex and Allies each spend more time on the cover plot of Conviction than Conviction does.
Okay, so the story is poodoo, and it’s dragged out beyond belief. Did Aaron Allston at least keep my attention?
Well, we all know Allston’s penchant for comedy, established in his Star Wars premiere: Wraith Squadron. The thing about Wraith Squadron, though, is that it’s packed with action and drama, which allows the humor to serve the same braking purpose it does in the Star Wars trilogy, and that the humor is really essential in getting to know the new characters. Here, the humor just serves to remind us that this novel is going nowhere fast. There’s not really many surprises to the humor, unless characters acting in a believable manner that doesn’t make them look like total tools (thank you, Allies) is a surprise. Really, the only thing you could consider new here is the way a certain pair spends so much time bicker just off-screen (a lot of the so-called “funny” dialogue in this novel happens there) that a stranger asks if they’re a couple. Gilmore Girls can pull off bickering dialogue between an almost-couple better than this, and everybody in that show has their dialogue written and checked by the same person who can’t write distinct parts! Like Outcast and Backlash, Conviction is filled with references to the movies, but here they feel more like feeble attempts to remind us that it’s still Star Wars and that Ben has seen the movies too than they do as any sort of nostalgic reminder.
I think this goes without saying, but it’s time for me to recommend Conviction to someone. I can’t recommend it to Tahiri fans, because it makes me care less about Tahiri than I did during the Dark Nest trilogy, and I can’t recommend it to Star Wars fans who enjoy political maneuvering, starship battles, Force contests (as they can’t use the Force on Nam Chorios unless they want to summon a Force storm) or lightsaber battles. I’d recommend it to people who want to know the details for later Fate of the Jedi installments, but I think it would be a far better expenditure of money to go on Wookieepedia and find out about those two semi-resolved plots, and then get back to business as usual at the end of Vortex. So, I guess buy this novel if Planet of Twilight is your favorite book of all time and you really need to know what happened to the characters in that book. Otherwise, I’d give this one a pass.
Iurus arrived, lightsaber in hand, to put an end to this. “This has gone on long enough,” he growled, calling upon the Force to tear the monstrosity down.
At least, that’s what he intended to do. As the construct that is Fate of the Jedi began to shake and crumble, a rocket seemed to come out of nowhere, clipping his shoulder and sending him spinning to the ground before exploding nearby.
“We meet again, reviewer,” Boba Fett’s voice came from above and behind where Iurus had been standing. “But you’re alone this time.”
Iurus rose to a crouch, glowering at the bounty hunter. He was right.
“That shot was your warning- the next one will detonate when it hits you. I’ve been charged with seeing Fate of the Jedi through to the end.”
“You haven’t won, Fett,” Iurus spat through his teeth. “Luke Skywalker will back me up on this one.”
“Luke Skywalker is over used, Reviewer,” the bounty hunter sneered. “He was meaningful in Dark Nest and the New Jedi Order, and intimidating in Legacy of the Force. Now, his presence and the resulting actions have as much meaning as Ken, the Jedi Prince.”
“Still, you know you’ve only beaten me for today.”
“I’ll deal with later when it comes,” Fett replied confidently. Iurus rose to leave, and Mand’alor did not interfere.
Advanced Reader Copy courtesy of Del Rey