How Matthew Stover’s ‘Revenge of the Sith’ Made Me The Writer I Am Today

Be mindful of your influences, Edinger: they reveal you.

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Reveal me to be a huge nerd, for one.

I make fun of the Star Wars prequels a lot, but I have no malice towards them. I was 6, 9, and 12 respectively when Episodes I, II, and III came to theaters— I was at the perfect age to watch them. They’re bad movies, ones that I have difficulty rewatching, but Episodes I and II still gave me a few hours entertainment and a wellspring for imagination back in my single-digit days. I left out Episode III in that mention because I still love that movie. There are two camps regarding ‘Revenge of the Sith.’ Some say it’s a last hurrah that proved itself worthy of the name Star Wars with excellent action, legitimate catharsis, and a devastating tragic story. Others say it’s just as much a mess as ‘Menace’ or ‘Clones,’ still plagued with lackluster acting, a rushed pace, and just plain bad directing. I exist in both camps simultaneously. Maybe it’s because the movie’s such a shot of raw emotion and energy as compared to its dull brothers. Maybe I’m just a child who’s easily amused by multiple flashy fights and recognizable (marketable) icons. I don’t care. It’s my number one guilty pleasure, and I fell both more and less guilty about it depending on what day I’m thinking about said movie.

Back in 2005, when I first saw ‘Revenge of the Sith,’ I absolutely loved the movie, no guilt there. So how excited I became when, on vacation, I picked up Matthew Stover’s novelization (which you can read for yourself in the link) for August reading. I thought I’d just relive some pleasant cinematic memories back when I started reading it. After finishing the book, I knew then and there that I wanted to be a writer.

Pretty crazy, right? Some people are inspired to write by tragic evens or a need to create or a classically recognized book. I could’ve been cool and said that my actual favorite book of all time (Frankenstein) got me into writing. But no, it was the spinoff of a film franchise. I could talk about the positives of this book; the beautiful prose, the fully realized characters, the great metaphors; but in a sense, doing so would feel like trying to justify my own work. For you see, I can trace nearly all the elements of my own writing, good and bad, to the creative decisions of this book.

Let’s start with the element of my writing that I’m trying to fix: the unclear descriptions. Both Stover and I use long and complex sentences to describe unusual or alien things. Both of us are not as clear when doing so, however. Pretty prose, but not great for clarity. Stover has an excuse. Say you read a passage from him like “Sometimes his [Obi-Wan’s] whirling spinning dive through the cloud of battle skimmed bursts so closely that the energy-scatter would slam his starfighter hard enough to bounce his head off of the supports of his pilot’s chair.” That sentence is in the first paragraph of this book, and it could take a bunch of rereads to understand. But if you see the film before reading this— like I did and I assume others did— you read this and go, “Oh, it’s that shot where Obi-Wan goes into a space battle and his head knocks into the back of his cockpit chair.” Here’s the problem: when I write like that, no one gets to see the movie version of what I meant. Stover’s style is appropriate because it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

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It’s so dense…

If you did read this without knowing about Star Wars, you’d be hella confused. Do you know what an “energy-scatter” even is? I reckon you can guess, its name seems self-definitive. But Stover tries to world-build like that a lot, and it doesn’t always work. I can guess what a turboblaster or humaniform droid is, but what’s an electordriver? And may the Force help you if you go into this novel not knowing about the Force. I only reread this story a few days ago, and guess what? A few months ago, I wrote a sci-fi short story trying to world-build in this exact manner with confusing results. When you imitate something, make sure you know why that something is doing it in the first place.

One of the ways this book improved my writing for the better was in terms of character. In particular, how important they are. First off: when you’re reading a book, you can make the actors in your head as good as you want. All the major players; Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, Count Dooku, Sidious; are given wonderful descriptions from the third person omniscient narrator who loves these people and knows (and explains, which my writing needs to do) what makes them tick. Some people criticize the prequels because they’re too focused on politics. I maintain, especially after rereading this book, that the problem’s not dealing with politics, but dealing with politics badly. Star Wars is a vast universe, and a political setting can let those vast parts interact. This story knows what makes politics interesting: good characters, and the emotional relationships that build them. We don’t care as much about Chancellor Palpatine gaining more executive power, but we do care about how this brings brave and defiant Padme into conflict with her husband and Palpatine’s friend, the heroic-but-secretly-terrified Anakin. ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is the most emotionally charged of the prequels, and having characters that can express, play with, and desperately hide those emotions really brings out the tragedy in this story. The action scenes are kind of hard to read in this novelization. But Stove shows his mastery when he just has two people and a room to work with. My hands became stapled to this book during those parts.

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General Grievous is still one-note, but the book makes him EVEN MORE AWESOME, if that’s even possible.

Oh yeah, metaphors! The metaphors in this book are good too, which explains why I packed a lot of them in my older writing. In particular, I recall Stover describing Anakin’s gnawing fears as a dragon: always lurking, always reminding him of mortality, always stronger than him. Anakin doesn’t just turn to the Dark Side to save Padme; he does it so he can crush the dragon under his heel and say to it, “I am Darth Vader, and you are nothing.” Beforehand, people in the Republic called Anakin “The Hero With No Fear.” He never believed it. Now, after becoming Darth Vader and crushing the dragon, he finally can believe in the “Hero With No Fear” myth, even at the expense of others’ well-being and lives. See how this is much better than just saying, “Anakin is scared”? That’s not even the end of that character arc, which ends on a devastating note. Thing happening in character’s heads are already kind of unreal. Metaphors help make them real to the audience. I may go overboard with this in my writing, but segments like this remind me why I started doing it.

I guess it’s a given that I’m influenced by the whole of Star Wars, not just this book. I’d go as far as to say that I, like George Lucas himself, sometimes needs help unpacking the worlds in my head. And that’s what Stover’s great accomplishment in this book was. He took the rushed Dark Side transformation from the movie and unpacked it, made sure we understood the characters, made the journey slower and more relatable. Someone once said that the ultimate sin of an adaptation is to make the audience question why they liked the original work in the first place. Stover did the opposite— he made me appreciate the original more, and made me wish that Lucas had Stover on board with screenwriting so that Lucas could flesh out and explain his ideas better. Some things the book can’t fix. How anyone doesn’t realize that Palpatine’s the evilest dude in the galaxy is beyond me, and both book and movie waffle on whether the Jedi Order is corrupt or noble at this point in history. Still less of a guilty pleasure for me to read than to watch.

That’s what I’m thankful for this (belated) Thanksgiving: influences and the sometimes slightly embarrassing places they come from. This book will always have a special place in my heart. But, if I’m going to improve my writing, maybe I should get it out of my head for a bit.

Candidate Debate

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SENATOR and GOVERNOR face the audience behind podiums.

MODERATOR

Welcome to the first presidential candidate debate. For each topic, each candidate will have 4 30-second rounds to debate their position. We will begin on the subject of nuclear energy.

 

GOVERNOR

Thank you. My fellow Americans and I are against nuclear energy because of its dangers to the public. Not only can nuclear waste not be stored safely, but a disaster like Chernobyl on American soil can destroy thousands of lives alongside thousands of flowers. I consider this point so clear that I waive my remaining time to the Senator.

 

SENATOR

Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply not true. Used fuel for nuclear waste is not only safely stored, but it is also 96% recyclable, according to any nuclear physicist you care to ask. Nuclear energy is also a viable way of reducing C02 emissions across the globe. I waive my remaining time to the Governor.

 

GOVERNOR

Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply not true. Estimates by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation put C02 emissions by nuclear power at 4 to 5 times higher per unit of energy than alternative fuel supplies. Wind and solar power exist, and they should be used to their fullest capacity. I waive my remaining time to the Senator.

 

SENATOR

Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply not true. Wind and solar power do not exist. Solar panels are the suburban dad equivalent of getting grills on your teeth. And wind power is our attempt to kill pigeons. Those things kill thousands of birds every year- a fine goal in and of itself, but not a suitable energy replacement. I waive my remaining time to the governor.

 

GOVERNOR

Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply not true. The plain fact is that birds are immortal demons. They’re Satan’s attempt to punish us for building Convertibles. To suggest we have any power to resist Satan’s domain is to suggest that an ant can plea to overseas trade markets. My opponent’s mere existence should remind you that we live in a cruel world where Satan hate-fucked God to give birth to the human race. I waive my remaining time to the Senator.

 

SENATOR

Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply not true. I do not exist. My opponent is debating the open air in one of his many delusions. You can’t vote for me, but you can vote for my political party, whereas a vote for this man is a vote to give Tyler Durden nuclear weapons. I waive my remaining time to the Governor.

 

GOVERNOR

Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply not true. The Senator did not waive his remaining time over to me. He’s still talking.

 

SENATOR

No I’m- (shuts himself up)

 

GOVERNOR

Yes, I am the senator. I speak with the Senator’s mouth, and I tell you that I will outlaw maple bacon and pee in Putin’s mouth if elected. I now waive my remaining time to the Senator, who is me. Thank you. Americans, what this man says is simply very true. My intelligent and spank-happy sexy opponent-

 

SENATOR

(losing composure)

Oh god, are you mad?! Am I mad!? Look at what we’re doing! I just wanted to win a debate and prove you wrong, not spiral into a vortex of madness and shit flinging! Is this what debate in America has become?! Was it always this!? Is this some mad purgatory we’re in where we-

 

MODERATOR

And time! Thank you for debating, gentlemen. Our next topic is mental health in America-

 

SENATOR runs screaming from the room.

 

BLACKOUT

Motivation vs. Commitment vs. The Third Option

Eventually, you all are going to learn to not trust me.

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For example, I might tell you to go straight right here.

About a month and a half ago, I posted some advice regarding whether one should write when one feels like it or if one should stick to a rigid schedule. And look who you’re getting advice from: an unpublished author who still has much to learn. This blog is more than an advice/review/awesome stories hub. It’s a document of my progress as a writer. And I’ve progressed to the point where I think blind commitment isn’t an easy, fix-it-all solution.

Most of this new writing strategy is for the benefit of my mental health instead of my writing life. My therapist and I, working though the various inner parts that exist in me, discovered viciousness in the critical part. Critical parts should act like a gentle nudge to your heart. My critical part, psychologically and physiologically, acted like a battering ram. My anxiety leads to depression, and my critical parts lead to anxiety. So, in the past few months, I’ve shifted from bowing down to the critical parts to raging against the critical parts to comforting the critical parts when they act up. I began to see the critical parts (an interpretation based on a dream of mine) as a dying old man, grabbing onto my shoulders with desperate occasional lunges while I dutifully stayed by his bedside at the request of my family— the people who developed my conscience and, as an indirect result, gave me the dying old man. Nowadays, instead of letting the old man pull me down, I console him while I slowly, in my head, remove his hands from my shoulders. I lay him down. He’s dying, he can’t rule over me anymore. That’s what I go though when the critical parts try to bully their way into making me do something, even if it’s writing.

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So that Tumblr post that tells you to force yourself to create? Maybe not best for me at this stage of my life. And something else worth noting: I’ve exceeded all my writing goals these past few weeks just by writing when I feel like it. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I also had hella lots of assignments due in all of my classes. But this time, instead of stressing out over the projects, I went with the flow, listened to my heart’s desires. Used the Force, in other words. And I came through the whole process, of major projects required from classes all at once, less stressed than I should have been. The only time I fell into depression this November was when I said No, Nick, you’re going to have to postpone bedtime for another four hours so you can work. After you sleep, you will continue working until it’s all done.

Am I forced, then, to choose between my art and my health? Not forever, no. One day I’ll be able to listen to my critical parts without wanting to shut down. But for now, I need to let free the part of me that really loves to write. It exists, no doubt. But forcing yourself into writing can splash water on a furnace of creativity, only creating smoke to make the furnace less effective and everything else smoky.

The third option, when it comes to when you should write, is to force yourself to follow your heat’s immediate and fleeting whims. Write or edit when you feel like it. But whenever that feeling strikes— and for writers, it will happen often— pick it up and lose yourself in the process without hesitation. Even if “you’re writing the wrong things.” Even if “you should be working on other projects.”

I’ve kept my weekly goal with this blog, and now you know it’s not because I’m forcing myself to.

A Review of “Jacob at Peniel”

A while back, I did a review of a short story called “Jacob at Peniel” The story itself is in the link. Below are my thoughts. If you ever want me to do something similar with one of your stories, contact me at cicadaman@sbcglobal.net and we’ll work something out! Below is the essay I wrote:

What ‘Jacob at Peniel” Wrestles With

            The first few sentences and paragraphs of a story define the rest of it. This is required; fiction encompasses such a wide variety of emotions and situations that we need to know where a story’s coming from in order to judge the rest of it. Beginning a story with a murder, for example, tells the reader that he or she will read a violent, horrifying, pulse-pounding, not particularly subtle work of art.

“Jacob of Peniel” understands that much, at least. This is a character study about a Reverend reflecting on his life, so it begins with him alone, completing a character-defining action. Reverend Jackson Baekhardt’s sedan breaks down. He doesn’t call for help or try to push it away, though he has four more hours until his sermon begins. He didn’t check the engine or even push the car off the road and out of the way of other drivers. He takes a half-mile walk with “long, abrupt strokes” (1) to his office. Why would he do such a thing? Due to the nature of fiction, we can extrapolate character traits from this microcosm. He left the car after two attempted starts because he is impatient and has other things on his mind. His determination and single-minded nature reveals itself through his straight walk to work. And he’s careless: he doesn’t care about the state of the shoes or the fate of the car. Something bigger is on his mind. The audience sees character revealed through action, and now expects more character revealed through more action in the rest of the story.

The next few paragraphs continue this trend. The narrator tells the audience that the Reverend plans to ‘free’ his congregation by delivering a sermon to them. There’s an anecdote about Baekhardt asking for a second chair, not receiving one, buying his own, and losing it. Now we know that the church is strapped for funds and not respectful of their Reverend, and the Reverend realizes this and must take care of himself. Also, the Reverend cares enough about his clients to make this an issue.

The fourth paragraph of “Jacob at Peniel” begins to slip away from the story’s goals. Jackson Baekhardt doesn’t eat breakfast. This continues the characterization (single-minded) of the protagonist, but not with much description or even involvement. “He probably should eat breakfast more often, but he was out of the habit,” (2) says the narrator in a dry, quasi-involved manner. Word choices like “felt” and “probably should” drive the audience away from the narrator, because they add a layer of distance between the reader and Baekhardt. We don’t know what it feels like to be on an empty stomach, only that our protagonist has one. But, at this point, perhaps the author made this choice because we’re supposed to study the Reverend, not fully empathize with him or experience things the way he does. For this path to work, “Jacob at Peniel” requires clear, strong characterization.

The audience learns of the Reverend’s reaction to Genesis 32, and the wrestle between Jacob and God. This allusion sets up the internal conflict between Jackson and God. He will tell the congregation (like he tells them every Sunday, another example of single-minded determination) “of the terrible cost of God’s mercy” (2). How does he know about the cost? An event later in the story will have to reveal what happened in the past to influence him, otherwise the audience will miss out on a key part of Baekhardt’s character. The narrator tells the audience of the Reverend’s fellow seminarians sentencing him to Three Pines, and how he gave up hope. But because the story focuses on vague, ethereal descriptions about the Reverend, the audience doesn’t know enough about the situation and therefore the main character. Was the Reverend exiled because he misbehaved or radiated a negative countenance? Are the seminarians at fault, and the audience should distrust them as much as the Reverend does? Or is this an error on the part of another party? The Reverend “was doing God’s work, and it mattered little where he did it” (3); perhaps the narrator conveys in that sentence that it doesn’t matter how he ended up there. But this story is all about character, and this is an important moment in the past that defines character. When the Reverend chooses to not attend the annual conference, his actions hint at inner wounded pride. But no description in the first two pages supports that interpretation, and the other details of this paragraph are too vague to do the same.

Some character change did happen in the past for our protagonist. He once quoted Bible scholars and interpreted his holy book like it was a work of literature. Now he values the emotional and spiritual experience of preaching more. We’re not given an idea on what drove that arc, other than the hand of God smacking him upside the head. We’re building up to a moment in the character’s past that explains how he came to hold values that most modern Christians wouldn’t even consider. For now, we’re left with vague, repetitive descriptions about how crushing is this love, how it’s like fire and water and weight. How a character describes things establishes a lot about him or her. Since the Reverend is a determined, no-nonsense character, simple descriptions might work best. But what do we learn about the Baekhardt’s world through his comparisons? If he was once mighty and now humbled by his faith, describing the presence of God as ‘like falling from a skyscraper onto a sword,’ would: establish the character’s awareness of hubris; show his mind’s focused on the city; and provide vivid, painful imagery that drives home how painful and devastating the whole experience was. Instead we get rocks and water. If the author wants us to keep the audience a good distance from a narrator, that’s a valid storytelling method. But we can’t be shut out from the Reverend entirely; we must understand where he’s coming from, and words like ‘felt’ and ‘think’ and ‘wondered’ and ‘realized’ don’t allow the author to capture the struggles of the only character the audience can work with.

But then we have a moment where something happens: Sarah leaving Jackson in the past. Here’s a stab at actual storytelling, but with many flaws. Sarah left because of Baekhardt’s change in faith. But what caused that change to begin with? Why can’t the audience see what happened when God punched the Reverend like he owed Him money? The only bit of story here is backstory, and only bare marrow at that. This is the event that should reveal what happened in the past to influence Baekhardt. Without it, the audience misses out on a key part of Baekhardt’s character. God’s no longer a player in the tale, just a device used by the author to push what little story there is. Sarah said the Reverend never loved anything. Where can the audience see that, since that was never apparent before?

Here’s the damning takeaway from the story: there’s no reason why this particular moment must be shared. The Reverend is preparing (at least, it’s implied he’s preparing, since little in the present is described) for a sermon that, by his own admission, is no different from any other week’s preaching. All the moments that define character are in another time period. A tale focused on one character doesn’t put the character through an arc, or an obstacle, or anything that would make this moment worth committing to paper. The audience can’t even extrapolate from the text what the protagonist looks like. A general piece of writing advice goes ‘Is your character in the most interesting part of his/her life? If not, why aren’t you writing about that?’ Another piece of advice discourages characters from being by themselves, instead giving them someone else to bounce off of. ‘Jacob at Peniel’ would benefit from taking both to the heart like a sandbag.

I discussed story a lot through the lens of character. That’s because good story and good character should go hand in hand, with characters making choices that drive the story which provide new opportunities for character. ‘Jacob at Peniel’ demonstrates that the lacking qualities in one hurt the other. The Reverend doesn’t advance the story, and the story gives the Reverend no chance to express himself. Even the traits established early on aren’t supported by later actions- why would an impatient man wait until the day off to work on his life’s passion? As it stands, ‘Jacob at Peniel’ acts as a character study and hardly even that.

Chuck Palahniuk suggests a list of forbidden words that writers should refrain from using for at least six months, enough to get them to ‘unpack’ what’s going on in a story. Some words listed at http://1000wordseveryday.tumblr.com/post/54758529019/writing-advice-by-chuck-palahniuk-in-six include ‘thinks’, ‘knows’, ‘imagines’, and ‘remembers’. This character study would reap thousands of benefits from that. If the author wants the audience to keep some distance from the Reverend so as to study him better, he/she needs to give the reader something to study. The more content an author can provide, and the more specific detail on the page, the more meat an audience can ingest, and the more satisfied they’ll be when they’re done. And if the author wishes to keep some of the hallmarks of “Jacob at Peniel” as is, he or she should change the first few sentences to reflect what’s to come.

Star Wars Episode VIII: Dark Force Rising

Superpowers exist in the Star Wars universe. If you remember Grand Admiral Thrawn from last time, his superpower is super-racism.

Yes, it shocked me to find out about that as well. But when you read events in The Thrawn Trilogy where Thrawn says “Oh the Pxyxlxnsx species won’t do three-point-turns in space because they psychologically can’t handle it,” it’s easy to imagine a political candidate working out how to appeal to minority voters in the same vein. Or Rommel invading Egypt with an army of locusts in order to expose a perceived psychological weakpoint. This is the easy trap to fall into when you’re writing alien species, where every single member of your warrior race is strong, headstrong, sings work songs, and have long dongs. Everyone’s the same, and there’s no way that can be real. It makes me wonder about the Vulcans that are our equivalent to punk anarchists or DJs or something.

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Thrawn’s so tiny! How cute!

Anyways, welcome back to our retrospective on Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, in particular the second book in the cycle. This book’s title: Dark Force Rising. And let me leap back to the first book to elaborate on a point I smacked on that post like a “100% organic reflection! Honest!” sticker. I talked about why the Star Wars movies outgrew Heir to the Empire, but didn’t elaborate on what grew to what. So let’s go back to 1983 and ask people what Star Wars is. They’d say it’s an adventure tale, an action serial, a rip-roaring good time with enough philosophy and emotion to separate it from other action movies. That’s what the series was at the time. But in 2005, people would describe the entirety of Star Wars as a saga, an epic mythology, a operatic tale that cycles themes, quotes, and ideas. Star Wars 4-6 is like Flash Gordon; Star Wars 1-6 is like Greek Mythology (and not just because both the prequels and Zeus fucked mortals up). Star Wars 4-6 is a three-part episode of ‘Batman: The Animated Series,’ while Star Wars 1-6 is The Dark Knight Trilogy. Now imagine if they made another movie in the Dark Knight movieverse where Batman just defeats a guy. It may be a cool guy, and it may be a fun time, but it wouldn’t justify three movies worth of buildup and the ruination of a finished character arc. Star Wars 4-6 is a three-part TV episode, Star Wars 1-6 is an epic movie series, Star Wars 1-6 plus the Thrawn Trilogy is an epic movie series followed by a TV episode with TV-like stakes and arcs. The Thrawn trilogy was once just a continuation of a serial- compared to the mass the Star Wars movies evolved into both in scope and in popular consciousness, the Thrawn Trilogy is not a big enough, or worthy, follow-up.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the stakes in Dark Force Rising are too small and no one cares. The subplots- one with an ambitious Rebel leader arresting Akbar with a false accusation of treason, another one we’ll discuss later- are interesting. The main plot is a MacGuffin hunt, a search for a lost fleet of technologically-advanced-yet-strategically-iffy warships. They say whomever gets to the warships first, New Republic or Empire Remnants, will turn the tide of the war. “Watch us raise the stakes while we postpone the question of whether the stakes’ll be raised!” We went from moon that can blow up planets, to shocking revelations, to shocking revelations and a moon that can blow up planets, to a really cool bad guy, and arrive now at a scavenger hunt. Boy, isn’t that a ramp? Maybe this kind of smaller conflict is for the best, so we don’t have the ridiculous lightsaber escalation that occurred in the prequels. But this threat should pump fear in my bloodstream, and it’s not. One reason concerns the minimalist, imagery-deprived prose of author Zahn, which moves along action without letting time for describing scope or magnitude.

The other reason deals with Thrawn. Thrawn, bless his heart, loses so much. The fandom considers him such a badass that they forget how bad he is at chasing ass. He always is a pinch away from catching a hero or outwitting a member of The Holy Trio before Thrawn’s prey zips away. The Grand Admiral captures one character in this book, and guess what? Luke and Mara (Mara’s a former Imperial assassin) bust said character out of a Star Destroyer prison block in a series of lucky escapes and coincidences that are a blast to read and are also a moment to consider how many scented meditation candles Thrawn must now buy so he can stay calm this time. And even when (SPOILERS COMING CROSS YOUR LEGS) Thrawn takes most of the Dark Force fleet at the end, the worry is dampened by Thrawn’s previous failures (TERROR LEVEL LOWERED, SPOILERS GONE). Luke had some lucky escapes in the past, but even then he lost a mentor, and hand, or a father, you know, something actually devastating.

The highlight of this book comes from the meeting of Joruus and Luke. The Imperials spread rumors of a rediscovered Jedi Master throughout the galaxy. That way, when Luke hears Joruus’ voice in his head asking him to resume his training on Joruus’ planet, Luke doesn’t suspect the Imperial trap Joruus has been setting. Joruus now has the opportunity to turn Luke to the Dark Side while pretending to be a Light-Sider. The two Jedi- one good, one evil and bonkers- meet on Jormark, Joruus’ planet of choice. This meeting precedes a tense encounter (another highlight in the book) where Luke and Joruus are asked to mediate a complicated spat between two cheated individuals. Something similar happened to Luke earlier in the book, on a different planet. When Luke was by himself judging a dispute, he listened to both sides, deliberated, then reached a compromised-but-fair decision. Joruus, in a near-identical situation on Jormark, invades the mind of one of the participants and uses that information to Force-lightening the bollocks off of the one he thinks is responsible. Before this event, the Jormark story arc was a dark mirror to Yoda training Luke, with a Dark Side master in place of a Light one. This scene, in particular, mirrors the dispute from earlier in the book, and moves Luke from thinking “he’s a weird guy, but I need guidance,” to “maybe this Jedi Master isn’t so masterful.” This is a good way of sequalizing- build on what was before, twisting it until it’s beyond a repeat. There’s a lot of sympathy for Luke combined with dramatic tension over Joruus’ Imperial motivations and Joruus’ crazy-based motivations.

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I meant to get a picture of Joruus, but I think I accidentally traveled to the future and pinched a drawing of Alan Moore instead.

Only Joruus C’Boath is not insane. Not really. Even though everyone says he is. He’s just power hungry, desperate to bring his warped Jedi-on-top-of-food-chain-by-messing-with-Muggle-brains philosophy into dominant Imperial Goals. And that’s the problem with this character, this book, and the entire trilogy- nothing’s expanded on. The prose is business-oriented, getting us to the next scene with minimal time setting the previous scene or developing moments. I’d do the same, I imagine, if I was to write a follow-up to 3 action movies that kept the pace going and I already had a universe developed for me. The prose is cut down in service of… of what, the high stakes? The best parts in this book are character-driven subplots, not the endlessly repeating space battles or the repetitive Thrawn failures. This book would’ve been fine at 50 pages longer- it’s overall the slowest section of The Thrawn Trilogy, and the pacing should serve the content.

Am I focusing on the negative because I automatically like books with Star Wars in the title, and I’m only waking up to that now? Not according to the many Expanded Universe novels I gave away to my library while keeping these three books for re-reading many years later. Worlds change. Mine does on a weekly basis, and my views on this book change from chapter to chapter. Check out the series not just for what it is, but what can be built off of it- and what things looked like in a franchise while it was still expanding.

NEXT TIME: The Last Command! Can I nurture my love for this Trilogy while more weeds spring up?