Legacy of the Force: Fury
1.9 / 4
3.7 / 4
Fighting alongside the Corellian rebels, Han and Leia are locked in a war against their son Jacen, who grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. Nothing can stop Jacen's determination to bring peace with a glorious Galactic Alliance victory--whatever the price.
While Luke grieves the loss of his beloved wife and deals with his guilt over killing the wrong person in retaliation, Jaina, Jag, and Zekk hunt for the real assassin, unaware that the culprit commands Sith powers that can cloud their minds and misdirect their attacks--and even turn them back on themselves.
As Luke and Ben Skywalker struggle to find their places among the chaos, Jacen, shunned by friends and family, launches an invasion to rescue the only person still loyal to him. But with the battle raging on, and the galaxy growing more turbulent and riotous, there's no question that it is Jacen who is most wanted: dead or alive.
Well, we're here with Book 7 of Legacy of the Force, and Allston's last entry into this particular saga. It's entitled Fury
(ISBN: 9780345477569) a mass-market paperback clocking in at 356 pages. It's a book that starts shortly after the events of Denning's Inferno
and as is usual with LotF novels takes place over the span of a few weeks. Its cover proudly displays a photoshopped version of Anakin Skywalker... oh wait... that's supposed to be Ben isn't it. I guess it's just another instance of Del Rey's unending reliance upon the prequels for their inspiration.
But that's enough of my pessimism concerning the state of the GFFA. Instead, let's pick at the emotional scars which are my opinions about the back cover blurb for this novel. It's a standard Star Wars blurb (see above) and most importantly this particular blurb does pique my interest. It worked well for the purpose of getting my interest, and also attracting it in such a way that I would be willing to purchase the book. What ails me about it is that post-reading, I'm trying to figure out what this blurb has to do with the book I had read. Odds an ends of the blurb look familiar to the story, yet the way that they're put together just doesn't read like the book.
The plot itself is the the standard fare for Star Wars novels in LotF. Basically, the plot is a number of loosely (if at all) connected story threads, all in service of the over-arching plot line. Which in some senses is a sad state of affairs for this novel. After all, it means that it just doesn't hold up as a stand alone book. Read in a vacuum, this book lacks an overarching plot to hold the characters to some grand task. To some extent this is something that has afflicted all the LotF novels, but none have been quite as bad as this one.
You have the usual mix of Star Wars characters here: Ben, Luke, Han, Leia, Jagged, Alema, Jaina, and Jacen. Then you also get a whole host of secondary characters, many of whom we've seen before. Yet, the joy here is that a lot of these secondaries, though we've seen before, are getting real, honest-to-goodness page time here. Seha, Wedge, Syal, and of course Kyle Katarn. In all truthfulness, it is these secondary characters who shine the most in Allston's novels. While he has a firm hand on the primary characters, I find myself most interested in the lesser knowns who he brings into play. After all, it's always great to see Kyle Katarn and Valin Horn--or any other Jedi that's not named Solo or Skywalker--swinging lightsabers. Even greater to see are characters like Syal in fighters or just interacting with the older characters.
All that aside, the character I liked the most here was Seha. You see her desire to do the right thing, to be a good Jedi, despite her past, and especially despite what she did in regards to Ben in a previous novel. Also, we get a decent amount of back story for her, explaining WHY she did the things she did. Out of all the younger Jedi introduced I think I like her the most. Oh wait, we've only seen her and Ben; the next youngest character is Valin, who happens to be nearly thirty. Poor Ben. He has no hopes of having a significant other unless someone gets on the ball and starts creating characters his age.
Anyhow, we also have Alema in this novel. Truthfully, I've long felt bad for Alema. She's never been given the time or attention from Luke that she should have gotten. In fact, she's been written off as Dark Side fodder since the death of her sister back during the NJO. An odd stance from Luke, when he never wrote off the twins when their brother died, and has no questions about Jaina's fealty to the Light even with Jacen's decent into the Dark. Maybe it's just Luke's attachment to his family, but personally, I think it was a bad characterization decision on Luke's part to not help her heal. Yet, that's standard behavior where Luke and the Jedi are concerned: if you can't overcome your own mental problems without specialized, psychiatric help, then you get what you deserve when you inevitably snap. Something of a self-fulfilling prophecy I fear.
Moving past the predestined Dark Jedi, we have the settings. Which I can admit to loving in this novel. The descriptions of the various settings (especially the abandoned Imperial facility and Kashyyk) are wonderful, filled both with mood and details. I wish I could paint pictures with words as easily as Mr. Allston makes it appear here.
Beyond the pretty pictures in my head, the book itself is physically well done. I don't remember any typos or grammatical errors. Even more important, I don't remember any continuity flubs being generated by this particular book. Which is increasingly rare within the context of Star Wars EU. Outside the obvious dependence upon AOTC Anakin, it is a perfectly decent cover, though I wonder how much could have been trimmed from the costs of the book if they hadn't used the foil and embossing for the Star Wars logo. Not that such savings would have been passed on to us consumers, of course.
As implied above, this book lacks a theme as much as a plot. That is due, in my opinion, upon the reliance upon the overarching LotF plot/theme. This is a pity, as Star Wars, at its most fundamental, is myth and morality play rolled into one. The various plots of Star Wars are firmly rooted in the concept of the Hero's Journey--with all the mythological and moral implications that implies. Yet, that is lacking here, and in the other LotF novels. While that lack of the fantastical, of the mythological, is not as pronounced as it was in the NJO it is still sorely missed; at least by this reviewer.
Ultimately though, I enjoyed the novel. I enjoyed reading it. That said, it was not a good book. It lacked an overall plot, and there was not a true journey which any of the protagonists went on. Sure two of them were different at the end of the novel than they were at the beginning. Yet those changes were from discussions rather than the events of the missing plot. Despite this being a good read, as I said, this was a bad novel; probably the worse that I have ever read from Allston's pen (or keyboard as the case may be). As a small portion of Legacy of the Force it worked fine, and once the whole story is laid bare, and is available to read from Betrayal
, this book will be an integral part of the plot, and sorely missed if not there. The problem is that we are so close to the final conflicts of that overarching plot that its demands are getting pushed harder against the various authors. Which means we should probably expect a similar lack of plot in the novel over the next two LotF novels, because I definitely am.
The pessimist in me wants to take this time to point out that had each author not re-tread the same ground over and over again (read how many times Han disowned Jacen), then maybe the rush wouldn't be so pronounced as it is now.
The optimist in me wanted to take this moment to point out that we get a hint of Mandalorian activity here, amazingly enough, outside of a Traviss novel (while the pessimist pipes in that it's even less than a cameo, it's a box).
My dual natures aside, I enjoyed the read, but found the book lacking as a stand alone novel. As much as I like Allston's writing, as much as I had fun reading this book, the lack of a plot means that I have to give this novel a 1.9 out of 4.
In my review of Exile
, Aaron Allston's previous novel in the "Legacy of the Force" series, I suggested that his three books within this series were following the broad outline of the original Star Wars
trilogy, and that there would be Ewoks in this one.
Well, there are indeed Ewoks in Fury
. The novel also ends with the explosion of the bad guys' big moon-sized superweapon. But because this is a "Legacy of the Force" novel, the Ewoks lurk in the undergrowth and cautiously shadow the heroes as they move around Endor, never appearing directly on the page.
They might appear in another novel describing these same events, but not in this one.
The destruction of the superweapon is undoubtedly necessary, as the bad guys were about to use it to blow up Coruscant, but the bad guys here are merely ordinary men twisted by circumstance, and the heroes are left with the unspoken possibility that, with a different plan, there might have been some other way to end the threat--a way which would have saved the lives of Centerpoint's crew, and not destroyed a millennia-old enigma that offered potentially beneficial new understandings of superscience and Galactic history.
Also, that victory does nothing to end the war.
bears all the hallmarks of writing quality that characterized Allston's previous two novels in this series. The characterization of the recurring cast is excellent, including an effortless grasp of both major and minor characters brought in from the broad backstory of Star Wars continuity, and they are augmented by new players whose personalities the author can define for the reader in a single deft line. Also, the space-battles are a particular highlight, not just through Allston's ability to let the reader visualise any of the varied battleships and starfighters of Star Wars
space fleets in a single tight phrase, but because of the clarity with which complicated combat manoeuvres are described. These fight scenes are superbly done, all the more so because the writing skill doesn't distract the reader from following the action described: it just works
Allston is well-known for punctuating his books with wit and humour, and Fury
is no exception, but what is less often noticed is how the joking also subtly adds to the mood and characterization of his writing. In one scene here, Luke Skywalker meets his former apprentice Tenel Ka, now Queen of her home planet of Hapes, and they discuss the security procedures surrounding a royal visits to the lavatory. This made me grin, but between these two normally careful and formal characters, such a light-hearted exchange reflects the strength of their old friendship, and simultaneously serves to hint at the the unbalanncing effects of grief and tension.
Turning from the details of individual scenes and characters to matters of plotline, the most basic observation is there are two stories here. The main plot of the series follows the war that has driven Han and Leia's son Jacen Solo to embrace a Sith identity as Darth Caedus, and set him against Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Knights. In Fury
, this is offset by the personal fight of the Solo family against Alema Rar, a Jedi Knight driven insane by alien mind-control.
In contrast with the familiar skill with which the individual scenes were handled, I found the overall pacing of this novel somewhat unusual. That is not a result of the two-plotline structure in itself. A lot of stories have an 'A' and 'B' plot like this, and the 'B' plot here has an enigmatic connection to the wider story, through the lurking threat of the New Sith Order. A similar structure was used in Exile
, and I thought it worked to great effect there.
What puzzled me here was the way that the two plotlines were intercut--or rather, the way they weren't
. The second plotline is essentially a diversion in terms of the overall narrative, interrupting the book at the start and leading half the main characters away to deal with it. For the narrative stretch of the book, the 'B' plot then takes something of a back seat, and consists mainly of Han and Leia's daughter Jaina training at the Jedi base in anticipation of the up-coming showdown. Meanwhile the 'A' plot emphasises action with a series of Jedi assassination attempts on Darth Caedus. The book then closes each plotline in turn, with a battle scene that shows the Solos dealing with Alema Rar in her Outer Rim hideout, followed by another, much larger battle at Corellia in the Galactic Core, in which the other main characters all take part.
Perhaps the total separation of the two battles in the narrative happened because the fight at Corellia already seemed complicated enough. The Jedi launch simultaneous commando attacks against the major targets on both
sides, Darth Caedus' Star Destroyer and the Death Star-like menace of Centerpoint Station. Even so, I was left asking myself why the two battles were so firmly separated, and wondering if it have been more effective to have these two battles intercut, chapter by chapter or scene by scene.
Questions of narrative structure were further highlighted for me by use of occasional passages of omniscient narration to quickly describe battles and political events happening elsewhere in the Galaxy. I found these passages slightly intrusive here, but they do add further hints the existence of alternative narratives and parallel storylines within the same sequence of events. It's possible that the dismantling of the narrative may be deliberate, designed to create a sense of dissonance and uncertainty--one that is further reinforced by details as diverse as the lurking Ewoks and the fact the Jedi are attacking both sides in the big battle at the end.
This sort of narrative deconstruction was anticipated in Exile
, and I loved it there. Here, the unusual pace and structure created a thoughtful quality about the book that was effective in itself, but oddly juxtaposed against the explosions. In hindsight, it almost felt like two separate stories were going on here, intercut with one another in a way that had nothing to do with the two overt plots of the book.
Overall, perhaps I've been resisting this book too much. Subjectively, I really enjoyed the individual scenes that made up Fury
, but I was left a little underwhelmed by the overall shape of it at the end. In hindsight, its structure is both sophistciated and unusual, and I'm not sure if the aspects that I've highlighted here are really flaws, or simply things I didn't expect, and that thereby left me puzzled by their unexpected pattern.
Possibly, though, part of the problem lies with the tension between organic narrative development and the fixed story architecture of the "Legacy of the Force" series as a whole. In terms of characterization, I think I would argue that the things I found problematic were largely to do with the interaction of well-drawn individual characters with the rigid matrix of the wider series plotline.
I continue to have my doubts about the ability of Jacen Solo to serve as the primary antagonist of this series. He feels too weak a character for the role demanded of him, especially as he's almost unspported by engaging allies in this book--Tahiri Veila, the only Jedi to have joined him, isn't more than mentioned here, off on a mission of her own. But when Jacen is allowed to be himself, rather than strain to single-handedly fill the space within the plot that's more traditionally occupied by the entire Galactic Empire, he shines. The scene in which he tells his secret daughter that he is her real father is particularly worth singling out, a touching variation on classic Star Wars motifs that loses no power from its subtle adaptions of lines and leitmotivs that have elsewhere become fandom clichés.
It was also good to see Syal Antilles again--a new character created by Allston in Betrayal
, notable since then for her near-total absence from the plot, even in Exile
. However, her reappearance emphasises another issue that characterizes this series as a whole. There's a large cast of characters here, and they can't all be given page-time without losing sight of the main plot. Perhaps the way that characters drop in and out of the story is deliberate, to an extent--reinforcing the sense of dissonance and alternative narratives I described above--and if so, it works effectively. But in terms of the overall structure of the series, it tends to emphasise what seem to me to be an underlying weaknesses. The tension between tight plotline and diverse narrative strands hasn't really paid off here.
One piece of characterization that I found truly jarring was the way that Jaina decides to go off and train with the Mandalorian commandos, a decision that will be followed up in the next novel in the series, Revelation
by Karen Traviss. As an element of the plotline, this was relatively well-handled, and the suit of Mandalorian power armour that serves as the catalyst for Jaina's decision was also used as an excellent excuse to allow ex-Imperial fighter pilot Jag Fel to engage in hand-to-hand combat with Jedi.
But while the sequence of events that leads to Jaina's decision is convincingly written, this cannot make me feel that the actual decision itself makes sense. Jaina is not exactly a conventional Jedi, and it is hard to see what major insights Boba Fett can offer that cannot be supplied more easily by her team-mates Jag and Zekk--both of them experienced bounty-hunters. The setup for the next book seems designed to back up a series-plotline decision that Jaina has something to learn from the Mandalorians, a decision that I doubt was Allston's own. It is hard to see how this could have been done better, but the question for me is whether it should have been done at all.
Lastly, I was slightly disappointed by Ben Skywalker here. After his solo adventure in Allston's Exile
, and his prominent role in the immediately preceding novel, Troy Denning's Inferno
, he became a very passive character in this book. He swings his lightsaber, and follows his father around, but he didn't really do anything significant in Fury
From a character perspective, that makes sense after what he's been through, and the thematic echo of Luke's own more overtly articulated mental paralysis is interesting, but without a single chance to really shine, Ben feels like he's a lesser character here than he was in the preceding books. Even if he'd just engaged one-on-one with Jacen for two or three lightsaber blows, I think that would have transformed his role within the book. Maybe the sense that he was being kept out of the fight was another deliberate touch--but maybe that's just me over-reading, and with that sense of uncertainty in mind, it's hard to know what to feel about his role here.
That said, I can hardly claim that I disliked this novel in any way. Its disadvantages are mainly those of the "Legacy of the Force" series as a whole, and its strengths are more than enough to offset them. Also, it had Ewoks, even if they were hiding in the undergrowth, and that is enough to earn it a lot of love, and a score of 3.7 out of 4, from me.