19 March 2008

Book 2: Bloodlines: Better than the first, but...

Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines
Karen Traviss
29 August 2006

This second installment in the new 9-volume Legacy of the Force series proves one thing - even a good writer can't make up for a silly plot.

Legacy started poorly in the first volume with a premise for which there is no evidence, namely that the Galactic Alliance (GA) is now more like the old Empire than the New Republic, running roughshod over member states, creating a general air of mistrust and indirectly fomenting ideas of rebellion and secession. When Corellia decides it's had enough, Luke Skywalker suddenly looses his good sense and sends a Jedi snatch-squad to kidnap Corellia's leaders so that they can then be bullied into not leaving the GA. How's that for implausible?

But it gets even worse in Bloodlines. Not only aren't we given any additional background information about why now everyone suddenly despises the GA, the characters start to act even more out of character, especially Luke and Mara, who despite the very obvious evidence that their nephew Jacen Solo is turning to the dark arts, do nothing to secure their son Ben Skywalker from training with the budding Sith Lord. They're also complicit in continuing to support the GA in bullying the Corellians. In the story's other major thread, Jacen is appointed colonel of an antiterrorist unit and spends his days rounding up and interrogating Corellians living on Coruscant. All the while he continues to explore his new powers, killing a "terrorist" while interrogating her and traveling through time to meet his grandfather, none other than Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. Perhaps in the next volume he'll be able to visit Corellia by flying through space.

Fortunately, we've got Karen Traviss writing Boba Fett into the story and for a time at least diverting us from the improbable main plot.

Now 71-years old, the dying mercenary needs the help of the Kaminoan scientists to arrest a fatal condition. But the cloner who can help him has fled Kamino and if Boba is to ever to get help, he's going to have to first find him. Which is made all the more difficult when the new president of Corellia, Thrackan Sal-Solo, makes Boba an offer he can't refuse, a huge pile of cash to assassinate his cousin and chief political rival, Han Solo.

As regular readers of the Star Wars novels are aware, Traviss is the new authority on all things Mandalore, having written quite an extensive back history and even the rudiments of a language for her two Republic Commando novels and her Boba Fett novella. The former military journalist's command of detail in this world of clone warriors and mercenaries imparts a certain depth and confidence that makes these sections more compelling than the palsied main plot. They also have a sad charm about them, as Boba begins to reflect of his mortality and experience for the first time regret for having long ago abandoned his family.

Besides a well-drawn Fett, Traviss provides some clues as to what happened in the intervening years to some of the characters in her Republic Commando series, and she also gives us for the first time a partially developed Ben Skywalker. Until now he's been just a kid and mostly Luke Skywalker's kid. But Traviss here for the first time makes Ben into a young man with his own personality, who begins to come into his own as an apprentice in Jacen's antiterrorist unit, using his Force powers on raids to sniff out people and munitions. This is one character I'm now interested in seeing how Troy Denning will handle in the forthcoming volume, Tempest.

I don't expect, however, no matter how well he writes Ben, that Denning will be able to rescue us from a poorly developed premise. I think we're now too far in to see any hope of saving what has revealed itself as a thinly disguised and poorly conceived retelling of the film saga, a story about a boy of enormous talent, trained as a Jedi and lured to the dark side in the belief that only the power he can find there will prevent his loved ones from suffering.


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