How do I hate Ascension? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height
Your soul misguided, your action out of sight
For you lack real being and any sort of grace
I hate thee to the level you don’t see every day
My raging need, by fire and saber light
I hate thee freely, as beings strive for Right
I hate thee purely, as if you turn from Praise
I hate thee with a passion put to use
In my old loves, and with a childhood’s faith
I hate thee with an ire I’ll never lose
Sci-Fi’s lost saints to thee, I hate with each breath
Anger, tears, of all my life! And, if the Force choose,
I shall but love thee better after thy death.
Does this graceful and blatant copyright infringement make my feelings clear enough? Ascension is, after Allies, Christie Golden’s third entry in the Fate of the Jedi series. According to viewers on the now-defunct StarWars.com forums, the best pull quote from my review of her previous entry was, “Allies is a well-constructed pile of bantha poodu”. For those who missed Allies (which seems to be a greater number of people as each Fate of the Jedi novel comes around), it was a book in which there was a plot that I can’t remember because every female character was either shot in the face or reduced to completely ineffective stereotypes that reduced me to such fits of rage that I swore the only way I would ever consider purchasing this book is if it became the single glaring black hole in my Star Wars cabinet. I’m so frustrated with the character portrayal in this novel and the fact that it somehow managed to take feminism back about 40 years that all I can remember of the plot is that Natasi Daala is a fucking idiot and Kyp Durron is an ass-tard who denigrates hard-working apprentices to “pet” status.
Now that we have a good idea what to expect, let’s move on to Ascension.
Since it’s relevant to how cheap and hateful this book is to the very concept of a fandom, let’s take a look at the cover. Oh, thank you, Mister Fett. I never knew that your flamethrower was able to detach and get handed over to somebody. Oh, it’s your backup. That explains a lot. Anyway, I really appreciate it, but we might need the main thing. We’re going to need your full tank of gas for this one.
I guess we should look at the front cover.
MizzeeOH: Why would you ever do that? Why would you ever look at that cover? I hate you. I hate you. I really hate you.
Ever watch a Disney Channel sitcom? Really, anything live action produced for or by the Disney Channel? The way the actors all have that wholesome, youthful, white America look? That’s sort of like what Ascension looks like.
Jammies: No, Iurus, that can’t be right. Look: StarWars.com said that Vestara Khai is supposed to be on the Ascension cover. She’s that badass, tattooed Sith girl from the Omen cover- the one that MizzeeOH went to Comic-Con dressed as last year.
Look again. That Disney looking girl with the lightsaber? The one who’s led a totally carefree life and has no idea about the hardships of living as a Sith? That’s supposed to be Vestara. Considering what happens in this novel, the irony is not only palpable, it’s actually physically painful.
Let’s move on to the back cover.
Boba Fett. That is Boba Fett on the back of this book.
Boba Fett: I wasn’t even in Ascension!
One scene, barely in character, to transition from Conviction to Ascension. I say barely in character because they say it’s Boba Fett, the narration (mostly from another character’s Point of View) describes Boba Fett, but none of the dialogue sounds like it came from Boba Fett. This isn’t Lucas’s Fett, this isn’t Jeter’s Fett, this isn’t even Traviss’s controversial Fett. This is just a bounty hunter who happens to fit into the plot. The worst thing about this is that it is going to have an impact on Apocalypse, which means we can’t just ignore it.
Boba Fett: Torch the fucker.
I’m glad to oblige. As we do, let’s get on with the rest of the review.
Ascension is the follow up to Conviction which, despite feeling as if absolutely nothing happened, seems to have moved some of the plots forward. Just not the one it spent time on. Granted, the triumvirate that was set up to run the Galactic Alliance in Conviction is composed of different people than it was in the previous novel, but it probably helps to read Conviction before this book.
In fact, the main plot- that of Vestara wanting to completely change what Order she’s a member of… where did that factor into Conviction again? Right, it was implied, and very painfully obvious to the reader, but never mentioned once to the Skywalkers. Which is why in the beginning of this novel, the Skywalkers are talking to Vestara about how she wants to quit the Sith and join the Light Side. How about we have discussions like this in the books, instead of assuming that the other author wrote about it? Wouldn’t that do wonders for the quality of the novels, so that I can find fans willing to engage in discussion about the newest book other than about how terrible the characters are written or how fans that bother to read the book are concerned about the authors’ need for professional help?
There actually is a discussion along those lines in the book, so why it is that Golden and Allston each assumed that the other would write this particular one is beyond me.
As for Ben and Vestara, the off-screen conversations aren’t the only infuriating things about this novel. That’s not even the icing on the cake- it’s the flame at the tip of the “Terrible Birthday” candle. Golden once again manages to make Twilight look like a progressive approach to relationships while simultaneously managing to degrade a character she introduced even after she performs epic feats. Other than Omen, Troy Denning’s installments seem to capture Vestara far better than anything Golden has managed to do with her. The same go for the Lost Tribe of the Sith (why do they consider themselves a Lost Tribe?), who spend a good deal of uninterrupted time being built up, only to spend the rest of the novel proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are in fact the most ineffectual faction in the entire galaxy.
Other than reminding us that Vestara’s role is as Ben’s loyal and obedient love interest, Ascension entertains us with a terrible romance that would almost be quite fitting in the Disney Channel setting the cover indicates if not for the references that apparently, when males are not being rage-filled or evil, they are composed entirely of a penis with a stomach attached.
Vestara and Ben share terrible characterization with others, going so far as to include movie quotes in mood-destroying moments that seemed designed for no other purpose than to royally piss me the fuck off. Come to think of it, it’s entirely possible that they’re also included for a double entendre which, coupled with other comments, would officially make this worse than Troy Denning’s shadier references. As for the mood-killing, the herky-jerky nature of the drama, romance and comic relief is about the equivalent of including a comic relief scene in Return of the Jedi the minute Han told Leia that “when he comes back, I won’t get in the way.”
The writing is all over the place. Continuity between books is erratic, continuity within the same book is even more erratic, and I swear to god the same passage was used (in a non-ironic, non-artsy way) three times to describe three different people’s reactions to the same situation. That was the first time that I put the book down in a fit of rage, but it wasn’t the last.
Speaking of fits of rage, some epic lightsaber combat takes place in Ascension. Unfortunately, Christie Golden doesn’t seem to have earned enough experience points from World of Warcraft to write epic Star Wars combat, and once again the best parts are kept off-screen and only referenced.
With all that, I won’t begrudge this author the compliments she deserves. Like with Allies, the emotional scenes were powerful, and really drove home what the characters were feeling, despite the other negatives about those same scenes. It was also nice to see Abeloth described with Lovecraftian imagery- nothing that took a stunning amount of originality, but it was very nice to see nonetheless.
What is Ascension? Ascension is clearly a Star Wars novel from a mirror universe, where ascending is actually about going as low as you can. Characterization isn’t so much terrible as incredibly inconsistent, just as time, factions and goals are, and are we really still stealing plagiarizing directly from Revenge of the Sith? It wasn’t that good the first time around, never mind the third rehashed watered down time. Ascension does have some plot points that are essential for Apocalypse, but when you realize just how confusing and often badly written Ascension is, I don’t think you’ll really be any less confused than you already are.
X-Wingurly: Hey, Iurus! I just found out that Ascension has some lore that confirms part of your backstory!
Um… great. I already know my backstory is true.
Anyway, this is Lord Iurus, reminding you that disappointment is not a path to Mastery of the Dark Side… but rage at Ascension just might be.