Archive for August 2010

91-Books – Lost Tribe of the Sith series

August 20th, 2010 — 2:44am


The Challenge!
The Review:

😀 – The Force is strong with this one.
🙂 – I’d read it again.
😐 – Meh…
🙁 – I have a bad feeling about this.

Lost Tribe of the Sith by John Jackson Miller
My rating for the series as a whole: 😐 – Meh…
Precipice: 😐 – Meh…
Skyborn: Between 🙂 and 😐
Paragon: 🙂 – I’d read it again.
Savior: 🙁 – I have a bad feeling about this.

I decided to review all four books in one set since the e-books were so short. It was difficult to come up with a complete rating for each one since one book was on the low side of “Meh…” and another was almost a four-star effort, but I stand behind my shrugging humph as I think upon what I have read.

While I liked some better than the others, the series fell a little flat for me, both in mechanics and in general storyline. What bothered me the most was that there was not a proper balance between “show versus tell” throughout the entirety of the series and, while “show versus tell” is something with which many writers suffer, I came into this series expecting far more from a seasoned author like Miller.

Right from the start, I was thrown into a completely unknown landscape with very little to help me grapple with what I was being told and that, more than anything, brought out my old skepticisms about science fiction literature. A part of me feels like any reader should be able to pick up any book about the galaxy far, far away and should instantly be able to fall into the novel without little to no background knowledge. With Precipice, there were several times in that first chapter where I had to keep backing out of the novel on my Kindle to make sure I was reading the first book in the series. I was completely lost!

Granted, my Star Wars knowledge is limited, but I honestly thought I needed some kind of Star Wars concordance by my side to help me understand what I was reading. Perhaps it is just because I am still fairly new in this journey of mine, but I think that strong storytelling about this universe should assume only a few things: 1) That the reader has at least watched some of the films and 2) Even if the reader has not seen the films, he or she at least knows that there are Jedi and Sith, there is the Force and that lightsabers come in several colours and can cut everything. Unless the novel explicitly picks up after another series, there should be few if any assumptions made.

In Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, was it helpful to have watched or have read the novelization of Episode 4? Of course! That’s why the cover had “From the further adventures of Luke Skywalker…” in bold letters at the top. The reader knows going into the novel that if the name Luke Skywalker does not ring a bell, he or she is going to miss a lot of the novel.

I also equate this idea to reading The Lord of the Rings. Is it helpful to have read The Hobbit and have some understanding of who Gandalf is and what hobbits look like? Of course! Yet, Tolkien does not jump into the story assuming the reader has read what was actually a prequel of sorts to his masterpiece. If I sound like I’m ranting a bit, it is simply out of the frustration of not having any idea what was happening for close to a full chapter and one of the longer ones in the novel, at that. I knew next to nothing about who I assumed was my protagonist, names were being dropped left and right to the point that I was truly turned off by what I read.

Honestly, imagine watching Return of the Jedi without ever knowing a thing about Star Wars and picture the opening scene. Two random robots are walking in the middle of some desert, you have no idea who they are, where they are or why the little one beeps instead of talks, and the one that is talking keeps referring to some guy named Luke and something else about a princess. Even the opening scroll would not help you get far and the rest of the film would make no effort to explain anything to you. This is acceptable in ROTJ because it is a part of a trilogy so assumptions can be made. I had nothing to help me understand whether or not Lost Tribe of the Sith was a part of another series, I was thrown a lot of names in those few pages and, thus, I was frustrated.

My frustrations were also deepened by how the novels flowed. Far too much detail went to facts that did not make a difference by the end of the series, whereas characterization were, in most cases, left to basic summaries.

In Precipice, was it really necessary to read about every single muscle Korsin flexed as the Omen crashed on Kesh? Did the reader really truly need to see each facet of Keshiri life before getting on with the rest of the story? Likewise, why was the reader simply told about the history between Korsin and his brother instead of allowed to see a part of it before their jump to hyperspace and the eventual crash? This is where the balance between “show versus tell” comes into play. Far too many scenes in the novel were shown when they could have quickly been told and vice versa. In my eyes, if the author was going to spend eons describing what could be summarized, then the novellas should have been great epics of detail from every character down to the last sparkle of the rocks on Kesh.

Once I moved past the initial shock of being thrown into a novel with a back story I may never learn and the long spans of description that came to nothing in the end (seriously, several thousand words were spent on the crash alone and it made not one bit of difference how the ship crashed in the end), I did enjoy many aspects of the series that caused me to think of the Sith on a deeper level and encouraged me to continue with the novels on my list.

As I said earlier, the beginning caught me off guard, like a Chemistry mid-term on something the professor never covered in class, and there were several times in the novel where I was shouting to myself, “Let’s get on with this! Somebody bring out a lightsaber!” That initial boredom was quickly overshadowed by the Sith themselves.

The idea of “pureblooded” Sith was completely new to me and utterly fascinating. These red-skinned people had somehow interspersed with humans and other species creating other Force-sensitives, but in a sense, not as attuned to the dark side as a pure-blood Sith would be. The only part that dampened my new-found intrigue with the Sith were some of their conversations.

“‘What’s the third choice?’
Gloyd’s painted face crinkled. ‘There isn’t one. But I figured it’d cheer you up if you thought there was.’
‘I hate you.’
‘Great. You’ll make someone a fine Sith someday.'”

Some of the discourse between the Sith sounded almost ordinary and just as balanced as the Jedi, albeit in a slightly more sarcastic light. I had always imagined that the Sith were a mysterious and magical sect so bereft of the normalcies found in non-Force sensitives that they were barely capable of holding almost jovial conversations like the above quote. This view has also been reinforced by what I had seen in the films and in Clone Wars. I suppose, however, that this runs with the idea of what Anakin was screaming at the end of Revenge of the Sith; the Sith are just as “normal” as anyone, depending on a certain point of view.

The idea that the Sith ran in a gamut of shapes, sizes and colours was the complete “Oh wow!” moment in the book. Again, the films leave one with the perception that any Force-sensitive being is human since it takes a humanoid form to hold a lightsaber and, ergo, master the Force. I was delightfully surprised to “see” the array of Sith colour; from the pure-blooded red Sith, to every other colour in the rainbow. It was like viewing the world through John Lennon’s Imagine, but then brought back to your senses by the fact that they all carried “evil-coloured” lightsabers.

Further fascinating for me was the concept of something as basic as drug use in the GFFA. Korsin’s brother is an addict and I found myself sympathizing with his plight, regardless of the fact that I have had no similar experiences in my own life. That said, I also find that the more I read, the more the GFFA begins to mirror real life, but in a manner that makes the characters appear simultaneously down-to-earth and still like the wayward warriors they are.

In the end, though, the Sith did live up to what I expected Sith to do and I had to hold back a cold laugh at the callousness of the protagonist in the last chapter. What I enjoy most in an anti-hero like Korsin is whole-hearted evil and cruelty. It does not due for a villain or the protagonist’s character to be wishy-washy or grey. What Precipice confirms (at least for me) is that the Sith are evil, but some are clearly more evil than others.

By the time I came to Skyborn, I had imagined I could not be shocked again by another onslaught of information I did not understand, but once again, I was proven wrong. Within the first few hundred words, I was wondering if I was reading a story within the same series. The beginning of Skyborn was packed with so much mundane detail that I was certain that The Lost Tribe of the Sith was just a collection of short stories that were in no way interconnected. Of course, by the end of the second chapter, I finally saw the connection, but much of the second book of the series left me a little muddled.
Since I was unable to see how Adari and her Keshiri people related to the Sith, I found myself, again, wondering when the author was planning to get on with the actual story. Like in Precipice, detail upon detail was lain upon the reader, this time about the purple-skinned Keshiri and their view of the world, when much of this could have been summarized rather quickly without hurting the story.
When considering the novel on whole, Adari’s characterization frustrates me almost as much as my initial confusion in Precipice.

“Adari had never felt shame for all those hours she’d spent searching the creek beds, or for finding more interest in the shards of a shattered stone than in her children’s first words.”
Initially, I was not intrigued by Adari as a protagonist. She did not reach me on a “womanly” level or otherwise and I think what made this most apparent was the description of her love, or lack thereof, for her children.

Adari had her children simply because it appeared to be the appropriate thing to do and had no love for them. Even the Sith love their children, so what does this say about her? I cannot see her apathy towards her children as a more masculine quality either. It just feels fake and unbalanced. I am one of the last people to stigmatize the role of women in literature, but I have rarely seen the aloof mother done properly where some kind of vice was not involved and, even in Moth Smoke, one of my favorite novels, the author was discussing a woman who cared for little outside of herself. Adari obviously cares about rocks, but she just disregards people.

Adari is presented as more level-headed that the rest of the Keshiri, but lacks the outright selfishness necessary to make her behaviour to her children and her people believable. That is not to say that a lack of a maternal instinct is tantamount to selfishness, but for something that is so ingrained in womanhood, there needed to be more than just a few lines telling the reader that Adari did not love her children or motherhood.

Adari’s heresy trial, while somewhat amusing with its Scopes Monkey Trial meets Star Wars storyline, has incredibly little to do with the actual plot. Her chief “prosecutor” is given a plethora of detail and back story, but Izri Dazh plays no part in the overall story.

“‘But you know that all that is Kesh came from the Skyborn,’ Izri said, jabbing his cane in her direction. ‘Nothing can be born of Kesh anew!’
She knew; every child knew. The Skyborn were the great beings above, the closest thing the Kesh had to deities.”

Most of the first chapter was downright boring. Seriously, this was my Kindle note from this part of the story:
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #2: Skyborn (JOHN JACKSON MILLER)
– Note Loc. 104 | Added on Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 06:38 PM
this story just got a million times more mundane. really? we are just reading about a darwinesque stone trial? even when described in the context of another world it has been done so many times it is simple and inane.

I suppose Izri plays the Dr. Zaius in the story, but he shines brightly for a long while before fading into inconsequence.

This is not to say that Miller could have summarized everything about the Keshiri by saying, “All folks down in Tahv-ville believed in the Skyborn a lot, but Adari, who lived just north of Tahv, did not.” but all the detail just became overbearing.

What would have made an incredible story would have been to make it one complete novel, where the first chapter showed the reader what was happening to the Sith, the second chapter discussing Adari and the Kesh, the third including more information about the Sith on Kesh and so forth until Adari meets the Sith, bringing the two parallel stories together.

I could not help but notice, however, the glaring dig at religion Miller inserted into this story and, while I would like to see his ultimate point being that science can break down anything in the universe into matter, energy, space and time, a dig is still a dig no matter how annoying.

What I did enjoy was when Adari met the Sith. Miller did an outstanding job of presenting how the Sith would appear to someone who knew of nothing outside of her terrestrial bounds and this was where the overflowing detail was finally put to good use. The reader got to “see” the Sith precisely how Adari saw them which helped paved the way for the third and, in my opinion, the best novel of the series.

The second half of the novel is what kept me drifting between two ratings for the whole book. While the first half was drab and grey, the second was full of life and colour, much like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of her Kansas home into the beautiful land of Oz; the two halves are like night and day. By the end of the book, I found myself, again, wishing that Miller had made this one continuous story.

While I found the italicized trips into Seelah’s memory a little heavy-handed, I think Miller did a good job with the memories and with the third novel altogether.

There was more of a balance between “show versus tell” in the third than in any of the others and, even though, Miller did include irrelevant details in this book as well (again the memories), the details did not distract one long enough to wonder where the author was going with the book.

At this point, the groundwork has been laid and all that is left is story. I did find it difficult to believe that the Sith were still earnestly attempting escape after fifteen years on Kesh, but their actions were exactly what I had expected of them; a lack of justice for the voices of the weak and a complete sense of power and control. Fascinatingly enough, the one I had thought who would feel the most comfortable overpowering a Force-lacking species, was the one most anxious to still leave the planet.

All this notwithstanding, Paragon was far from perfect and some of the same questions I had about the ability to “see” using the Force while watching ROTS, sprang up in this story as well. In ROTS, I found it amusing (for lack of a better word) that the Jedi, who could sense the slain souls of fallen Jedi half a galaxy away, could not sense a Sith lord sitting just a stone’s throw away from them, i.e.: Yoda sits directly across from Palpatine in the beginning of AOTC, but other than simple mistrust thrown at any politician, there is no sense that Yoda senses a real disturbance in the Force. In Paragon, I see marked similarities, though on a smaller scale.

Ravilan, a red Sith and from my limited understanding, a pure Sith, should have been able to “feel” or interpret the Force with far greater accuracy than any of the humans around him. Why Ravilan could not see or sense Seelah’s murders on a Force-limited planet like Kesh is just mind-boggling. As soon as I had read that Seelah oversaw all births, I assumed she was doing something naughty and this intuition was without anything that came out of her past memories; this was based solely on her character in the past two books.

Adari’s character seemed a bit shunted to the side for the greater part of the story and I could not help feeling slightly betrayed considering the amount of time spent on her in the previous book. I also did not like, or perhaps I simply did not understand, the end and Adari’s newfound desire to return the Keshiri lifestyle back to its roots. In hindsight, this was just the beginning of what would become a truly mundane end to the series.

This novel was what almost brought the entire series down a complete notch for me. There are so many issues that I could probably take up the remainder of my blog space complaining about it, but instead, I will focus on characterization.

Adari Vaal began as the wayward heroine to the series and, robbed of what could have been an incredible rise and a fantastic level of depth, Adari’s character was left lifeless and bland. There were several points in Skyborn and Paragon that Adari seemed to have some promise, but in the end, she was simply wasted.

What caught my attention most in Skyborn, infuriated me most in Savior. Skyborn presented the reader with an Adari who was the heretic, the mother to children she barely loved, and the geologist who would rather spend her time examining rocks than interacting with her own people. How and when and, better still, why did she develop these feelings of patriotism about her homeland and her people?
I was at no point struck with the sense that Adari particularly cared for her own people and Korsin’s fascination with her throughout the second and third books gave the perfect setup to have Adari either run away with the Sith should their help arrive or overthrow Korsin to set herself up as the supreme leader of her people. Good God! She had ample opportunity!

She reunited the Skyborn with the Keshiri; Adari could have, should have, claimed herself queen/empress/Skyborn Elect/whatever over her people and, if she harbored some understanding of injustice, why not use her newfound power to overcome the Sith and bring her people into a Kesh Age of Reason? The Keshiri are so numerous that they don’t have a number to count their population. Surely, amassing an army devoted to their Keshiri-Skyborn could have helped take down the Sith. I am not saying it would have been easy or bloodless, but anything would have been better than what came of Adari in the novel.

Adari’s plan was comical in its inanity. What it proved was that she had learned nothing from spending twenty years amongst the Sith. She had spent years in their inner circles and, even if she was not Force-sensitive, she surely could have learned enough about the Sith and the ways of the dark side to come up with a plan better than what was presented. Were the Sith not a resourceful people? Could they not, knowing that food and shelter were just a ways off, have fought and clawed their way back to the mainlands eventually? She spent a minimum of ten years drawing up plans and the idea to “strand” the Sith was best someone with inside knowledge could create? It is unthinkable!

Adari’s character had so much promise and yet it was all for naught. Even worse were the open questions that will never receive answers. Why devote an entire novel about a single character and her view of her world only to have her dissolve into mediocrity in the end? Why would a character with such spirit and so out of sync with the rest of her people, even want things to go back to the way they were? The reader was told a million times that Korsin thought the world of her, but why? We were not shown anything out of the ordinary about her other than what was given before her encounter with the Sith and yet, somehow, we are left to decipher what specific actions of Adari endeared her to Korsin. I just can’t stand it when great characters are just wasted; it is like they are brought to life with a real purpose, but laid to rest never realizing their full potential. I may not have been able to immediately associate with her, but Adari’s character had great potential to become like the Sith, yet the antithesis of them at the same time.

What was probably most disappointing about the last book and the series as a whole was that the series did not leave me feeling like I was further enlightened in the Star Wars universe. There are likely other series I kicked off this list since Lost Tribe of the Sith made the cut in my first glance that would have been far more gratifying, but it will be a long while before I even get to them.

Unlike with the first two books on my list, I don’t feel like I have learned anything significant from the series. Since I was reading about completely foreign characters who were not developed as well as they could have been, I felt nothing when reading about their deaths or banishments. There was nothing more than a, “Okay…I guess it’s over, now.” when I got to the end. Actually, it was more of a “He’s going to end it like that?!?!?” but either way, I was not pleasantly surprised as I had been with the last two. It was evitable though; there was no way I would be able to read 91 books without coming across a few that did not settle well with me.

Oh, well…Onto Darth Bane: Path of Destruction!

Truth be told, I have already started Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and am loving every minute of it, which is what made it so difficult to come back to these, but on I trek! 🙂

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91-Books – Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

August 5th, 2010 — 8:20pm


The Challenge!

😀 – The Force is strong with this one.
🙂 – I’d read it again.
😐 – Meh…
🙁 – I have a bad feeling about this.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster
My rating ~ : 🙂 – I’d read it again.

The Review:
The novel, the first true instance of the Expanded Universe, felt like a complete lesson in Star Wars for me. Only two novels into the Star Wars universe, I already see the underlying story in a clear and bright light. So many things I had never considered sprang to mind while I was reading and when I got to the end, it seemed as if I had come out of the book a little wiser.

It was not until the scene where Luke was attempting to get Leia to appear less regal that it occurred to me that Leia was actually a princess and often behaved like one would expect a wealthy monarch to behave. In the films, she came across as simply bold, but the novel gave me a little more insight into that boldness.

Likewise, there were parts that, while pulling me out of the fictive dream (though, at no fault of the author), expanded my thinking about the characters/inhabitants of the Star Wars universe.

“‘I am told this mining is an expensive venture. The Empire is smart enough to save where it is able,’ he concluded with pride.
‘That probably extends to your pay and retirement,’ the Princess ventured maliciously.”

Even while reading “Episode 4” and gaining some insight on the idea that all or most of the Alderaanians actually perished in the first full test of the Death Star, I never considered the day-to-day folk that interacted with, or were part of the Empire; that they would have normal lives and even think of things like a salary and retirement.

Intriguing me further is what happened to all the people who had remained loyal to the Empire after Episode VI. Going beyond that even has me wondering about the people who possibly sided with the rebels before and during The Clone Wars, but then decided to “play it safe” and remain loyal to the Empire during the next rebellion, again finding themselves on the losing side. I suppose that is why I’ve got this great reading challenge, but still, I am intrigued.

Most striking in this novel, using my knowledge of the prequels, was how much Luke and Leia model their parents and how their personalities differ from what one would expect. Leia is often quick to anger and has an absolute surety in herself that goes beyond being raised a monarch and, by contrast, Luke is far calmer throughout all of their hardships and surprises. Leia’s personality reeks of her father, while Luke encompasses all of Padme’s rational and sensible, albeit sometimes passive, calm.

Just when I thought I could not be further intrigued, the idea that since Leia was the one who obtained the most of her father’s personality and spirit, would she have made the better Jedi of the pair if they had been trained simultaneously? I have to admit, she appeared rather powerful being able to somehow withstand one of the most powerful sith lords that had ever lived with no training in the Force. It just makes me wonder…

All of this pondering and wondering aside, I enjoyed the novel on whole. The underlying story of trying to find a crystal that could enhance the Force came across as fascinating, though it made Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha manga appear far less original for me. The new world was a treat to discover along with more of the Empire’s dealings and simply a wider view of how the people in the galaxy far, far away interacted with one another. All this notwithstanding, there were some parts that confused or disappointed me.

The mechanics of the novel were far different from the first; the sentence structure was far more jagged and broken, perhaps creating some misunderstood rhythm, but the change was definitely noticeable.
Parts of the story also seemed a bit rushed to me, especially Halla’s character. Halla’s appearance came across as far too easy and, while a part of me believes I think this way because my knowledge of the prequels, but the characterization just seemed off-balanced. It reminded me of reading Christopher Paolini’s Eragon for the first time and how the mythology he presented felt like he was just trying too hard to come up with something original.

In fact, even by the very end of the novel, I still did not trust Halla as I was not keen on our protagonists trusting this person who had come out of the blue with all this knowledge and a pension for help at no cost. I would have liked to see some more distrust coming from Luke, especially after their separation.

When Halla describes herself as simply ambitious, I started to suspect as ambition feels like a very un-Jedi-like quality and, as he knew virtually nothing about her, I wondered why Luke had not bothered to ask more questions.

Obi-Wan had mentioned that Vader had helped hunt down and destroy the Jedi after turning to evil, so why hadn’t the question come up about how Halla managed to escape Vader for so many years and, better still, why did Luke never questioned whether Halla was good or evil when he understood she was Force-sensitive? Vader was Force-sensitive, was he not?

There were also a few places were the characters seemed to contradict themselves, most notably Luke. In the beginning of the novel, Luke discusses some of his studies on Tatooine and his lack of interest in zoology, “only the stars.” Much later, however, Luke pulls an entire alien language out of almost nowhere, which means he must of brought his head out of the clouds for long enough to study languages and culture, i.e.: anthropology.

While zoology and anthropology do not fall hand in hand, in my eyes, if Luke was as focused on the stars as he had earlier said, he would not have been able to pull the language of the Yuzzem from past studies at the opportune time.

It sounds to me that Luke would have been just as interested in the ecology of other planets as with their cultures. It is like describing snow to someone who has never seen it. The listener is entranced with something the storyteller would find very simplistic. I imagine it would be the same with Luke; learning about all the flora and fauna of other worlds would preoccupy his time when he was trying to get off the sand-ridden Tatooine.

“The universe is full of dead people who lived by assumption.” (Best quote ever! ^_^)

I would have liked to see Grammel’s character expanded more. There was just so much potential with him, but we only got to chip the surface of what appeared to be a very deep character. From his initial descriptions from Halla to his final demise, I had hoped more would come of the character and, from the way he was written, a part of me wonders if more details of Grammel had been included in an early draft of the novel, but were shed by an editor.

What completely caught me by surprise was the outright violence of the novel.

“Luke refastened the heirloom at this belt as the four of them ran for the front of the building, leaving confusion and blood in equal amounts behind them.”

I am still unsure whether the violence gratified or disgusted me. On one hand, I am unaccustomed to getting a full dose of anything more than mild PG violence from Star Wars and, since reading something always makes it far more acute for me, I experience the violence to a greater degree. The higher detail of violence comes across as so foreign it is distasteful, but on the other hand, it enriches the story and truly brings it alive in front of my eyes.

What leaves the matter further muddled is that when compared with what I have seen in the films and Clone Wars, the violence is not really that bad, but it is only when I read such depictions that I think about exactly what happened. That is, thoughts of, “Whoa, that soldier is not just dead…he’s dead.” spring to mind to make the whole experience more real for me, which, again, can be both bad and good.

“Mostly parted in sleep, her lips seemed to beckon him. He leaned closer, seeking refuge from the damp green and brown of the swamp in that hypnotic redness.”

Luke and Leia’s…um, relationship, was rather interesting to read. Strange as it may sound, for the majority of the novel, I found it easy to forget that Luke and Leia were siblings as they wandered about Mimban. In fact, at times, I was so entrenched in Luke’s mind that it almost possible to forget that the mild sexual tension between them could have been perfectly normal…almost.

There were also points where I was simply amused by how close Foster came to the complexity of the emotions coursing through Luke and Leia. They both “feel” something and they (or at least Luke) think it is some kind of romantic love because they simply don’t know any better, which brings me to something I touched upon in my review of “Episode 4” and I know I will bring up again.

“‘He’s near, very near.'”

Towards the latter end of the novel, Luke picks up the “disturbance in the Force” and knows that it is Vader, which intrigues me to no end.
The scene was very creepy, though a part of me is romantic enough to believe that part of the reason Luke feels Vader’s presence so strongly is because they are father and son, meaning that George Lucas could have possibly had an idea of where the whole story was heading at the time of Episode 4, which leads us into Leia’s foresight:

“Leia inhaled in terror, her eyes widening. ‘No, not him again, not here.'”

Out of all beings in the universe, her mind jumped to Vader. Why? Why not Essada himself since she apparently goes into shock anytime anyone refers to him? Better still, why not think of something in regards to the jewel they are seeking? Hadn’t she been the loudest opponent of the expedition to find it and was she not distrustful of Halla, even at this late point in the novel?

These questions and more were running through my mind as I read and, while I suppose I was literally reading too much into it, several scenes in the novel seemed very much like they were a glimpse into Episodes 5 and 6.

There was one thing about the novel that I can honestly say I did not like, though it was more of a constant ideal or thought pattern than any singular event.

“‘Using energy weapons on primitive sentients,’ she muttered in outrage.”

I was a far cry into the novel when I simply could not overlook the ideas of “primitive” versus “civilized” any longer. Throughout the entirety of the novel, and most often through Princess Leia, was the subtle discussion of the primitive species on Mimban and how they were uncivilized in comparison with their visitors. Perhaps my ideals are more “modern” from growing up in the 90s, but I find it a bit far-fetched for any one or entity to determine what amounts to being civilized.

A culture rich in differences does not make it uncivilized or necessarily primitive and, likewise, a culture ripe with technology is not necessarily civilized or advanced; just different.

It reminds me of reading Anna and the King of Siam and reading as Anna Leonowens disregarded the Siamese people as simple and akin to primitives since their culture was nothing like that of the English. That titular character can be forgiven of her ignorance, but as there did not appear to be any of the same redemption from that line of thinking in this novel, I am unwilling to afford Princess Leia the same courtesy.

Somehow this unapologetic description of the native Mimbans dates the novel for me, as I cannot imagine a writer of this new century so boldly declaring a culture sad and primitive; it maintains a pre-Civil Rights and pre-Women’s Lib feel to it.

A part of me wants to pass off these sporadic claims as coming from Leia’s relatively sheltered and slightly spoiled upbringing, but she was not the only speaking or behaving in such a manner. The Imperials thought in this same manner, as did Luke and it was only Halla who first noted that the Coway considered them (Luke, Leia and Halla) to be the primitives, though this was not until close to the end of the novel.

Leia’s disgust with Empire’s dealings with the native Mimbans does not exempt her from a similar line of thinking. The same thought process that allows the Imperials to laugh at the “greenies” as they perform the most menial jobs for just a drop of liquor is the same thought process that goes into deciding what “like us” and civilized and what is not.

Those thoughts were almost…uncivilized.

Despite ringing declarations of what was civilized and what was not, there were parts of the novel that I simply adored and often brought a smile to my face.

“He rapped another of the growths, was rewarded by a totally different ring. They exchanged smiles, and then the cave was filled with crude but sprightly tunes as the natural chimes sang under their hands.”

Some scenes of the novel were downright wonderful and the above was no exception. Their experience in the cave right up to the point that they met the natives was incredibly well-written and, at times, so picturesque that I often wished there was a film made of this novel as well.

“‘I am afraid your slow-witted companions will no longer be able to help you or anyone else, Skywalker.'”

As always, Darth Vader stole the show for me and brought the novel from a close “Meh” into a definite re-read.

Cold, callous and simply evil to the end, Vader brought the Force back into focus and, from his toying with Leia and then Luke to his not-so-complete demise, he was exactly what I had hoped to receive from a “new” Vader appearance. Equally gratifying was that there were few inconsistencies with the character I have grown to love from the films.

I can accept just about every move he makes and everything he says as the last scenes seem to fall in line with what I “know” about the character. He is “devoid of any spark of humanity” just as he appears in the films and, while I still wish the irony of Vader removing Luke’s arm in Episode 5 as Luke had done to him could have somehow made it into the films as well, Vader’s character as a whole left me fully satisfied.

What I got most from the novel, however, was a great appreciation for Princess Leia.

In all the years of watching the films, she had always seemed just a really cool character, but with nothing of the depth of Luke or Yoda or especially Vader. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye allowed me to really “see” Leia as a complete character with a full, unwavering personality and history.

Her snarky running commentary, her proud and patriotic sureties, her desire to defeat absolute evil and, of course, how she beat the crap out of Luke after he slapped her in the bar. Leia’s character was so very well-defined and well-drawn in comparison with my first experiences with her that I think I might have found the novel generally satisfying even if Vader hadn’t made an appearance.

Foster’s first original foray into what would be known as the Expanded Universe was the complete treat to read and, now, I am primed to continuing delving further into this literary world. The excitement was not as thrilling as “Episode 4’s” novelization, but it was still a delight to read. I must say that it is rare for me to go into a novel with extraordinarily high expectations and, despite not living up to my ideal, still find it enjoyable enough to want to experience it another time. Splinter was not my blockbusting jaw-dropper, but it was still a great ride.

Next up: Lost Tribe of the Sith #1: Precipice

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