Commentary: Omen

 

Holy shit, I’m finally going to do my first real Spoiler Free review.

But Iurus, wasn’t Outcast your first Spoiler Free?  Well… yes and no.

The second of what will be nine spoiler-free reviews of Fate of the Jedi is ready. For those of you like me who hear “spoiler” and run as far in the other direction as possible, you can finally find out if Christie Golden‘s Omen– her debut in the Star Wars expanded universe- is any good or not.

When I first read Outcast, I decided to do a spoiler free review.  The book was already out, and NJOE had already done a few reviews on it.  The difference was, you wouldn’t read them before you read the book, because at the time, Kirr was following SQT from Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ News & Reviews standard procedure (which either she stopped enforcing or never did, and he followed it out of following an example), meaning all of the reviews NJO put out were filled with spoilers.

Luke Skywalker, founder and Grand Master of the Jedi Order, is in the midst of what has already been an event-filled exile to atone for the mistakes of Jedi past. At the critical time period where Skywalker’s wisdom and ability are denied to them, the Jedi Order needs him most, as Jedi continue to succumb to the mysterious delusions that have been affecting the generation raised during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. Even as Luke searches for the cause of this mysterious affliction, another danger to the Jedi and the galaxy arises in secret.

At this point, Outcast has already been out… probably several weeks.  I wrote up a review- this was probably my second novel review of all time, and it sucked, but it was spoiler free.  I went up to Kirr and said “hey, can I join the News Team and post spoiler-free reviews, starting with this one?”.  About two weeks later, Spoiler Free: Outcast made it to the front page, and I became the third person on the list of ARC recipients from NJOE.  My first ARC, and first pre-release review, was Omen.

My job’s not to hint and squeal at the properties this novel has for a canon fanatic such as myself (although there are many), but to review its quality as a book. That’s good for me, because I’ve been cutting out near-spoiler after near-spoiler and a whole bunch of stuff that really doesn’t matter to you if you can’t tell what I’m talking about. Most people reading this review will have read the excerpt included with Outcast, which many believed was written by Aaron Allston as well. I say to you, the quality of this excerpt was not a fluke. While you come to see evidence that Christie Golden and Mr. Allston are not the same person, her style and quality of writing is very similar to his, which is definitely saying something. Characterization is outstanding. She pushes me along the intended course of the novel, but I don’t feel like I was pushed.

Oh god, I’m so glad I have better ways to start reviews than this now.  People may not like them, but they’re a shit ton more interesting than “it’s not my job to tell you what I liked, but if I liked it”.  I long felt Spoiler Free was my most relevant review platform because it was the one that forced me to come up with new things- ways to keep it fresh, ways to introduce it, and ways to get my point across without needing spoilers.

Even with this review, I was specifying Christie Golden by name.  That’s what reading Star Wars will do to you.  But there’s a huge ass difference here that I’m going to have to get out of the way.

Star Trek, at least, what little I know of it, is known for introducing new societies and species and within an hour, making you feel as though you’re familiar with much of their society. In this light, there’s no surprise that Christie Golden, best known as a Star Trek author, began her work in the Star Wars universe in Fate of the Jedi, which may give us our first novel glimpses of as many as eight such societies (oh, how I hope it does so). She does her job well, though I would have liked to see a little more of this. Unfortunately, the novel is just too short to give us more of what we want, and I see it less as a flaw of her planning than as knowing what is completely irrelevant to the novel (despite me personally wanting it). In the end, I think since we got what we need, and that it would be beyond the scope of the novel for me to expect Miss Golden to give me more.

I pretty much exhausted my knowledge of Christie Golden at the time here.  Had I read some of her other books, would I have read more into this novel? Probably not.  Fate of the Jedi has been so formulaic that I can’t remember what specifically happened- who went crazy in which book, and so forth.  There wasn’t much in the way of “characters” among the Aing-Tii, and I don’t think Jorj Car’das was even there.  Omen, like Ascension had a good Lost Tribe set-up in the beginning and, like Ascension, the Lost Tribe disappears and goes about their lives without the reader seeing them.  While there are flaws with Omen‘s approach, I still think it was done fairly well.

Golden does just as well with pre-exisiting characters, giving us some scenes very reminiscent of Allston or even Matthew Stover. The banter rode the line between campy entertainment and over the top, but I don’t think it really fell in one direction. Universally true facts about humans hooked us on the characters, which is becoming more and more common in Science Fiction lately. Hand in hand with this (the human aspect) was the humor, and the emotion in the novel. We get some really good emotional scenes, happy and sad, and there’s a lot of humor that requires you to like and dislike the characters Golden does. Thankfully, this is a task the author makes easy to do. See if you can spot who her favorite character seems to be. Oh, and her favorite species- count the blue plush elephant guys! (No offense to any Ortolans intended.)

God I miss this.  I miss looking at Christie Golden’s books like “wow, these characters were really written spot-on!”  That pretty much evaporated after this book.  The more I think about it, the more I think Omen was written by committee; it showcases all three of the authors’ skills in a way that no other book in the nine does.  The humor, as I mention here, had the potential for many of the problems that I found in its execution in latter novels, but the context here was that much better and it really made all the difference.

Probably the only thing I was disappointed at, other than a few things I mentioned that were pretty much necessary to the plot, was some lack of appearance. I don’t want to go into much about the lacking character or characters, but suffice it to say that it’s a pet peeve of mine and it really held back some joy when I realized I wasn’t going to see them as much as I expected.

I can’t remember what I was referring to here.  Rogue Squadron?  Certain Jedi?  I honestly have no idea.  I really wish I did, but at this point missed opportunities just serve as a reminder which series I’m reading.  PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER…. Itty bitty living space.

In the end, I would recommend this book to any Star Wars lover. It’s a very character based, slightly plot driven novel, which holds a lot of appeal in the aftermath of the darker, more plot driven Legacy of the Force. Only time will tell if this focus can remain once the plot swings into high gear, but if Omen is any indication, Christie Golden will pull through. May the Force be with you.

Heh, intentionally or not, I was spitting Del Rey’s marketing ploy at everybody.  At this point, a little more plot direction would be nice.  Then again, sometimes you get things like characters you barely know being beheaded off-screen, so… yeah.  Also, lol at the plot swinging into high gear.  Fuck this series.

That’s my Omen commentary.  What will I look at next week?  Only the Force knows.

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