Legacy of the Force V - Sacrifice
3.2 / 4
3.0 / 4
3.8 / 4
Civil war rages as the Galactic Alliance?led by Cal Omas and the Jedi forces of Luke Skywalker?battles a confederation of breakaway planets that rally to the side of rebellious Corellia. Suspected of involvement in an assassination plot against Queen Mother Tenel Ka of the Hapes Consortium, Han and Leia Solo are on the run, hunted by none other than their own son, Jacen, whose increasingly authoritarian tactics as head of GA security have led Luke and Mara Skywalker to fear that their nephew may be treading perilously close to the dark side.
But as his family sees in Jacen the chilling legacy of his Sith grandfather, Darth Vader, many of the frontline troops adore him, and countless citizens see him as a savior. The galaxy has been torn apart by too many wars. All Jacen wants is safety and stability for all?and he?s prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.
To end the bloodshed and suffering, what sacrifice would be too great? That is the question tormenting Jacen. Already he has sacrificed much, embracing the pitiless teachings of Lumiya, the Dark Lady of the Sith, who has taught him that a strong will and noble purpose can hold the evil excesses of the dark side at bay, bringing peace and order to the galaxy?but at a price.
For there is one final test that Jacen must pass before he can gain the awesome power of a true Sith Lord: He must bring about the death of someone he values dearly. What troubles Jacen isn?t whether he has the strength to commit murder. He has steeled himself for that, and worse if necessary. No, the question that troubles Jacen is who the sacrifice should be.
As the strands of destiny draw ever more tightly together in a galaxy-spanning web, the shocking answer will shatter two families . . . and cast a grim shadow over the future.
Stephen: The latest Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novel is out. It?s Karen Traviss? hardcover entry entitled Sacrifice. I can admit something, here and now. I wasn?t looking forward to this book. Despite the title, despite the Darth Who contest, despite the fact that it?s the mid-point hard cover for the Legacy of the Force series, I expected two things, first that nothing exciting would happen and secondly that I wouldn?t like the book. On the back cover is the following blurb (in addition to the dust jacket blurb):
To bring peace and order to a galaxy at war, Jacen Solo will sacrifice anything—or anyone. Now the moment of choice is at hand...
And that?s a good blurb, for one of the plot lines found in the book. The other plots are discussed briefly on the inside of the dust jacket but it?s obvious that they?re pushing Jacen?s journey here as the main focus of the novel. I?m not entirely certain that that?s a good decision, as I?ve serious questions on whether or not Jacen is a strong enough character narrative wise to carry the franchise forward.
As in her previous novels Traviss provides a handful of tight third-person POVs to propel her narrative forward. In this outing, the characters whose heads we get into are Ben Skywalker, Jacen Solo, Mara Jade Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Lumiya, Niathal and Boba Fett. That?s quite a list of point of views to wade through and keep track of.
The first I want to discuss is Ben. Ben here stays very true to the Ben that we?ve seen in the previous outings, especially as he deals with the happenings of the previous novel and his time on Ziost. After that, we get even more bad things for Ben in the form of another mission from Jacen.
Secondly, we have Jacen himself. Jacen does have the most happening in this novel. He?s finally coming out from under Lumiya?s umbrella here and we even get hints of just what is going on in his head these days. Yet, this Jacen still doesn?t feel quite the same as the one that Denning and Allston wrote about in their novels. I?m still not certain if that?s just due to the events of the novels or if its just fundamental differences in interpretation of the character or if it?s just an issue with Traviss not being able to write Sith Lords that well.
Frankly, I find myself wanting to give Ms. Traviss the benefit of the doubt and say that it is due to what is happening during the novel, but I?m going to withhold that judgment call until I can sit down and read the entire series in what is effectively one fell swoop. The other important part of the advancement of Jacen?s character here is the Darth Who contest. Which was the contest to name the next Sith Lord--which unless you?ve been living under a rock since Traitor is Jacen.
Next is Mara Jade. Mara Jade does a LOT in this novel. She?s very true to her roots as an Emperor?s Hand here. While there were a few issues with her saying (or thinking) terms which did not seem quite herself, but that said, her character felt more like Mara here than she did during Bloodlines which is a good thing. I would like to say more things about her character here, but a lot of that would fall quickly into spoilers.
So instead, I?ll jump onto Luke. We didn?t see nearly as many scenes from his POV as we did his son or wife, but we do get him a lot of character growth from him in this novel. We finally deal with the change from Luke the Jedi Knight from the Bantam era to Luke the manager that we?ve had since the NJO ended. Specifically, we see Luke?s own thoughts on this change. How he recognizes that he?s different. And I liked that a lot.
Lumiya and Niathal really didn?t need to be POV characters. The thing is that some storyline needed to be told, and they were the most convenient POV available. It?s a drawback to tight third person, but is not a bad thing, nor is it necessarily a good thing. It just is.
Boba Fett, and by extension all of Karen?s Mandalorians are just there. Boba resolves a few issues and generates a few more, but I still have to question the validity of a Boba Fett who has such a daddy complex. Sure, watching your dad be beheaded by a Jedi when your a youngling will have an adverse effect on your psychology, but come on, that was decades ago. Boba Fett is worth billions of credits, he should be able to easily get a psychoanalyst to help him deal with his emotional baggage. After all, he recognizes that it is there, only an idiot would recognize a problem and then do nothing at all about it.
Then you have the secondary characters who pop up in support of your POV characters. Jaina Solo, Kyp Durron, Cal Omas, Mirta, and Lekauf fall into this category. The biggest oddity among those is when we have Kyp being referred to as a friend by Mara (which is odd, since everywhere else, they?re barely on speaking terms one to the other). On the other side of things, Jaina Solo finally decides that she is going to buckle down and be Sword of the Jedi (and is told that she should just pick one or the other of the two hanger-ons in her life).
The novel?s plot is split into three parts: hunting for Lumiya, Jacen angsting, and Boba Fett and the Mandalorians.
The hunt for Lumiya is just as it sounds. Mara Jade hunting down Lumiya. This is where we get to see Mara return to her roots, and we do get to see a lot of her psychology in the mean time as well. Of the three plots, this is probably my favorite, even in spite of Mara still saying things that just don?t seem Mara. What I really liked here though was the push away from whitewashing Mara?s past that has been going on since the Hand of Thrawn. We?re once more given the dangerous, assassin Mara. I just wish she had shown up during the NJO.
The Jacen angsting plot is just that. Jacen doing Jacen things. I know that it?s necessary to push forward the overarching storyline. I know that we?re being given important thoughts and concepts here. But I frankly, just don?t care. Despite everything Jacen has done up to the final sentence of this novel, I still don?t feel that he?s a Star Wars Villian. He?s definitely a bad guy, but he?s just not strong enough to run the show, at least long term, and if he gets redeemed, I doubt he?ll be able to run the show as a Hero long term either.
Finally, we have the Mandalorians. I still don?t see where this whole plot line is going, nor why it needs to be in her books. Allston and Denning don?t touch the Mandalorians at all, so we only get them a third of the time. They are ultimately bit players on the galactic stage, more concerned about their own sector of space than anything else. I?m left with cold sweats, expecting random Deus Ex Machina solutions involving them to clean up all the problems over the next couple of books. Imagine, Boba Fett and his Supercommandos as the LotF?s Zonoma Sekot. Yet, I?m an optimist, and I can only hope that there?s a reason for the Mandalorian subplot and that there?s a reason why Allston and Denning don?t touch it. Unfortunately, I am afraid that it is an empty hope.
The settings and other descriptions are much more fleshed out, and more accurately fleshed out than in Bloodlines. While we?re still not given anything huge by way of description, the various places we visit don?t all feel the same. One gets the sense of the rustic when on Mandalore with Boba. One gets the sense of ancient temples during the climax of the novel. And one gets the sense of the city while on Coruscant. It?s not so much that they?re described in excruciating detail, but it?s how the characters react to things. Boba notices the heat from the smith?s fire. Luke grumbles about traffic. Little things like that.
Of course this lack of detail is troubling as well. The Bothans get a new type of warship in this novel. But we don?t know what it is called. Nor do we even know what it looks like. What we do know is that it has five unarmed tenders and a lot of guns. But is it a square or a tube? Does it have wide, sweeping wings or is shaped like a Bothan assault cruiser? We?re just not told. The other new ship was produced by the Mandalorians and called the Bes?ulik. As opposed to the Bothans? ship, we are given half-way decent descriptions of this fighter. Which of course is better than the X-wing in every way. After all, the Mandalorians made it!
Okay, maybe I am a bit bitter about the pages wasted on the Mandalorians when we?re not given a reason for them actually showing up.
Unlike Bloodlines we?re not given an overriding theme for this novel. There?s just too many subplots up in the air, and there?s a lack of an overarching plot for the entire story. In Bloodlines the Boba, Han and Jacen sub-plots met up into the events on Corellia at that story?s climax. Here, there?s no connection between the Mandalorian plot and the rest of the POV character?s plots. I?m not certain if that was done on purpose or if it is due just to the nature of having to deal with the overarching LotF plot line. Additionally, I?m not certain if that lack is a good or a bad thing. I didn?t miss having it while reading the novel, but wonder about its lack now that I?m writing the review.
The mechanics of the story were done well. I cannot remember a single typo or grammatical error while reading the novel. This I like. It always makes me happy to see a book that is free of mistakes like this. Like I said during the Mara character bit though, there were some dialogue choices for her that I found not quite Mara-like. There use jarred me from the story, as I stumbled over them. I think the ultimate problem with those bits of dialogues were that it was just too Earth-like. Did it happen a lot? No, just one or two times, but it was still something that jarred for me. Even better than that though, is the lack of continuity flubs that I noticed while reading. I have the vague feeling that I spotted one while reading, but couldn?t remember where or what it was later.
Overall, I liked this novel a whole lot better than her previous entry, Bloodlines. I felt that she paid closer attention to both exiting canon and existing characterization. The Luke, Mara, Ben and Jacen that I read here felt more like the ones that Alston and Denning write than the ones that she provided us in Bloodlines. Frankly, it was as if she read my review for Bloodlines, and then wrote Sacrifice with the issues that I raised in mind. I know that that isn?t what happened, but I?m just happy that this novel feels more like a post-RotJ Star Wars novel.
One of my complaints about Bloodlines was the thought that I could have missed the entire novel, and it wouldn?t have mattered as far as the overarching LotF plot was concerned. Above all things, this was my biggest worry for this novel. After all, hardcovers are nearly thirty dollars these days. I?d hate to feel like I read a filler novel that set me back thirty bucks. Fortunately, that wasn?t the case here. A number of big things happen in this novel, some of which will hopefully push some stagnant characters into new directions.
I give this novel a solid 3.2 out of 4.
Paul: If you don?t know already, this is the fifth book of the ?Legacy of the Force? storyline, and the second in that series to be written by Karen Traviss, after Bloodlines last year.
This book contains the death of an important Star Wars character (out of respect to readers who?re still unspoiled, I won?t say who), and, as a direct result of this, Jacen Solo, the Jedi son of Han and Princess Leia, completes his journey to the dark side, and becomes a Sith Lord.
Also, as in Karen Traviss?s previous Star Wars novels, there are a lot of Mandalorians in this book: Boba Fett is the protagonist of a second plotline, largely separate in narrative terms, which provides a thematic counterpoint to the main action of the story.
I?ve found it quite hard to write a review of this book that sums up my reactions in a straightforward way?although maybe that, in itself, is the point. I do have some misgivings, but I found this a complex and sophisticated novel, and that, I think, requires me to respond with a comparably nuanced review.
What I?m going to do is to offer some brief thoughts on a series of separate points, in the hope that the combination will add up to a coherent whole.
1. The Author
I?ve been accused of having a personal bias against Karen Traviss. I don?t think I do, but I?m stating that for the record, so you can factor it into this review.
2. The Major Character Death
Sacrifice is central hardcover of the Legacy of the Force storyline, and like Star by Star in the previous New Jedi Order series, it sees one of the established ?hero? characters killed off.
Now, it?s possible to kill Star Wars characters in affirming ways?Darth Vader is a good example of this, as are Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the novels, Borsk Fey?lya stands out as an example.
Sacrifice chooses a more brutal and bleak approach, and I think that?rather than the actual decision to kill the character?defines my overall reaction. As a creative decision, there?s nothing wrong with it, but I?m a big fan of the character in question, so I doubt that I could have felt satisfied at the end of this novel.
But, more than that, I?d already found out about the ending by the time I read the book, so I was braced for it from the start?and that probably affected my reaction to the whole book. Emotionally, I felt less than I might have otherwise.
That doesn?t mean I can?t respect this book, however. Even taking into account some details that I felt were slightly contrived, I certainly didn?t hate the way the character-death was handled, and there are other aspects of the book to think about, as well.
Probably the thing that most impressed me about Sacrifice was the narrative structure. More so than Traviss?s previous novels, it struck me as having an overriding pattern that was more than just a linear plotline: a theme of opposition and duality.
This is appropriate in all sorts of ways: Jedi Knights against Sith Lords, the antagonistic nature of the Sith?s own ?Rule of Two?, and the various duels and face-offs that punctuate the story. There area also themes of centralism and independence, Coruscant and Corellia, and, in a wider sense, civilization against the Other.
The main contrast, however, seems to be between the Skywalker-Solo clan, the inevitable protagonists of the series, and the family of the bounty-hunter Boba Fett. The Skywalkers are Jedi Knights, based on the city-world of Coruscant, capital of the Galaxy; Fett and his family, in contrast, are Mandalorian warriors, living on their people?s remote and sparsely-populated, but strongly independent, homeworld.
In this context, Fett is healing, learning to be human; the Skywalkers seem to be heading in the opposite direction, spiralling into darkness like wreckage spinning away.
It?s a nicely-constructed bit of storytelling. The Mandalorians have a cultural quirk of wearing full-masked helmets all day long, but interaction between them generally seems to be straightforward, face-to-face; in contrast, most of the important communication on Coruscant happens in terse commlink calls and pre-packaged soundbites. The nearest we get to honesty or intimacy is an informal business meeting in a juice-bar, or a hurried two-line note.
That said, the opposition between the two plots mean that they?re each essentially separate as a narrative strand?the connections are shared backstory and lateral allusions, rather than any genuine intertwining. This is, in itself, entirely acceptable, but the main narrative developments in the Mandalorian plot look like they might be designed to engineer a situation that will impact on the Skywalker plotline in Traviss?s next novel in the series, and if that?s the case, the developments in question could have been more organically connected here.
Whether it was the author?s intention or not, the structural counterpoint between Mandalorians and Jedi seemed to me to suggest a comparison, and even an implied morality: the Mandalorian way of life is better than the Jedi one.
Jedi go mad trying to serve the Force, or die horribly if they simply chose to defend those they love?and the whole Galaxy?against a dangerous madman; Mandalorians, on the other hand, once they?ve embraced their national identity, get to fly off into the clear blue sky in cool new attack fighters.
Similar reactions were voiced to Traviss?s Republic Commando novels, and Karen Traviss has made comments indicating that she enjoys writing Mandalorians more than Jedi?but rather than proving the point, it?s possible that an awareness of that pattern in the background is shaping readers? reactions to Sacrifice more than this book deserves.
Any intended subtext might be rather more complicated and subtle than it seems, and even if it isn?t, I?m not the sort of reader who really thinks that reader reactions can be dictated by authorial intent like that.
But even so, I do think there?s something missing in this book: a clear sense that any of these contrasts can be overcome, a hope that the metaphorical distance between Coruscant and Mandalore can be crossed?or any sense that it would be worthwhile bridging that gap.
In Star Wars, this is a striking absence. The saga makes extensive use of the underlying mythological structure known as the Hero?s Journey a major goal of which is for the hero to become ?master of the two worlds?, able to reconcile opposed attitudes?the mundane and the mysterious, the ordinary and the Other. This concept (which is probably larger than any definition I can give it) is a big part of what gives the saga its basic strength and enduring appeal: the sense that we can solve seemingly irreconcilable problems, and find hope beyond the boundaries of what we thought was possible.
Leaving this out is, I think, a major oversight in a Star Wars novel, and perhaps in any truly convincing portrait of human psychology. It?s a basic human need, and something that all human beings should be able to recognize, if only at times by its seeming absence.
As a reader, I?m certainly feeling it through its absence in this novel; my concern is that the characters aren?t. If anything, they seem to be deliberately moving away from compromise, defining themselves by adhering more closely to the values of one dogma or another.
With hindsight, I think I felt something similar when I read Bloodlines as well; perhaps it was even more noticeable there, although I didn?t express it so directly in my review of that book:
... the very clarity of the planning and writing seemed to remove the sense of possibility, closing off the view of the intangible horizon and the clear, infinite night sky.
Here, instead of optimism, we seem to have sharp divisions ? between Jedi and Sith, Alliance and Mandalorians, Skywalkers and Fetts. Those conflicts are needed in Star Wars
, of course?but so?s a sense of resolution to them, or at least the hope of a resolution.
?Sith happens?, as they say, but to suggest it?s all that happens is to be less than true to human nature.
Karen Traviss writes her stories through tight character viewpoints, limiting what she describes on the page to the thoughts and senses and background knowledge of specific characters. This gives her writing a focus and immediacy, and her skill is on display again in this novel.
However, her depictions of established Star Wars characters can be very different from what I expect, and that?s especially true of Boba Fett and Mara Jade, arguably the two most important characters in this novel.
This is a very subjective point, but when the characters don?t read right, I find that I start noticing the tricks that the author is pulling to make them jump in certain directions?or I think that I do, which is worse.
On the other hand, I really liked Jacen Solo in this novel.
Yes, I?m still not completely convinced that his story has the strength to carry a nine-book series, and on top of that, I?m increasingly coming to think that the basic dynamic and drive of the series is hampered by the fact that the storyline requires the other main characters not to know that he?s become a Sith? but the way in which his descent into madness and his accession as a Sith Lord were intertwined was very nicely written; and I was left at the end with a sense that he might have the potential to develop from here in some really surprising directions.
In going slightly mad, he?s slipped out from under the weight of the preconceptions and psychological complexes that have been twisting his reactions for a long time?he might end up a hero again, after all, even after all he?s done.
If Jacen falls completely to the dark side now, it will, in my opinion, be because he failed to grasp the opportunity, not because he defined himself into the Sith corner.
I?m not entirely convinced that this was a reaction that was in the author?s mind when these scenes were written. But I?d be happy to be proved wrong on that point?and if not, then I?ll refer you to my earlier comments on the reader?s right to impose their own interpretation.
Sacrifice certainly didn?t have the same sort of problem with continuity details as Bloodlines, and I saw signs that a real effort was being made to connect back to previous stories in the Star Wars canon; but even so, some small niggles remain, on fannish topics like the interstellar geography of Hapan space, and what happened to the astromech droids that should be co-piloting the X-wings.
I suspect that some of these were actually deliberate decisions, taken to keep a tight focus on characters and key events during the climax of the book, but I?d have approached these problems head on, and risked a slightly more complicated narrative.
Perhaps the most serious continuity issue, however, is the overall sense of disjuncture between the three authors in the series. The structure of ?Legacy of the Force? involves each author writing a book in turn, three sets of three, and while I?m sure it seemed like a good approach when the series was being planned, it isn?t working.
The switching between the authors is stunting the subplots and shorter character-arcs that should have given support to the main plotline and enriched the overall storyline, with each author generally ignoring the themes of the previous books to focus on their own area of the storyline.
Equally seriously, there?s no clear idea on how the main plotline should develop from novel to novel. The basic events line up, and the connection is improving?the start of Sacrifice isn?t nearly as serious a disjuncture as the one between Betrayal and Bloodlines?but it?s still annoying.
I think there?s a better connection between Allston and Denning than there is with Traviss, but that may be my particular prejudices coming through: I like the sort of continuity-heavy, highly-detailed Star Wars that the two of them tell.
Sacrifice does feel like an improvement on Bloodlines in this respect, as already noted, but some of the basic posits of this story?Ben Skywalker?s return to the Galactic Guard, and Mara Jade?s attitude towards Jacen Solo?seemed to happen without any acknowledgement of decisions that the characters made in the intervening books.
That?s a legitimate attitude to take?it may be simply an honest decision about what?s clearest and best for the narrative; it may be meant to give this book the air of being a ?historical novel?, a different interpretation from those of Denning and Allston; or maybe it?s just an inevitable factor when the writing of the books overlaps. I can?t say for sure; but the end result wasn?t quite what I personally look for in a Star Wars novel, especially not one that?s meant to be part of an ongoing series like this.
My own view is that responding more interactively with the developments in the other authors? novels would have enriched the story, and tied the series more tightly together.
That is a thoroughly personal opinion, however, and maybe it?s simply not practical for the writers. You don?t have to agree; all I can do is offer my opinions on the issues that matter to me, or which I think TheForce.Net?s readers might be interested in. If you have any thoughts or reactions, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
I?m giving this a straight 3 out of 4, which is 75%. The story told here is one that I can?t really enjoy, and I wasn't sure quite what I felt about the differing treatments of the Mandalorians and the Jedi; but the book doesn?t make me feel as pessimistic overall as Bloodlines, and it?s solidly written in a way that commands respect.
Overall, it?s probably better when viewed as a novel by Karen Traviss than it is when seen as a chapter in the story of the Skywalkers and the Galaxy far, far away?and in a lot of ways, it?s not actually that bad as a piece of Star Wars, either.
Mike: Well, after a little over five years, this will be my last TFN book review. That Sacrifice came out in May, and it's now October, should be all I need to say to explain why that is. And since it has been a while now, I have no need to shy away from the big spoilers (not that I would anyway, I guess) in the book...
People change. I've always been very lenient when it comes to characterizations of the main characters in the EU, because while it is possible to write Luke and Co. poorly, there are also many different reasons why they would act differently in different books - people change over time, obviously, and even when looking at a short amount of time, you probably don't act exactly the same around your parents as you do around your friends. Or at school/work compared to at home. Or in a comfortable environment compared to when you feel threatened. And so on. And there are probably days when you wake up in a weird and uncharacteristic mood for no particular reason whatsoever, simply because we're complex beings.
Applied to the EU, this means that just because Mara doesn't act in Legacy of the Force like she does in the NJO like she does in the Thrawn trilogy doesn't mean it's bad writing. Just because Luke doesn't treat Lumiya the way he'd treat Raynar the way he'd treat Vader doesn't mean the authors don't understand him. And because this wonderful continuity of ours is maintained by a team of caring and intelligent folks (even if we don't always agree with them, either), when confronted with stories where hindsight reveals characters doing things that, let's face it, really are completely unbelievable, we can always come up with a nifty in-universe retcon for it.
With all that in mind, it's safe to say I didn't enjoy Mara's softening up in the NJO. I'm more interested in her as a fierce and clever secret agent-type - special forces/espionage training isn't inherently evil, and there's no reason to assume it'd go away just because she's become a "good guy". I didn't complain about it during the series because even though it doesn't suit my personal taste for the character, it is a logical development for someone entering middle age and starting a family. The training would still all be there, though, and it's been great to see that aspect come back to the forefront in response to a serious threat to her child's well-being. The nature of this series, and of Jacen and Ben's relationship, meant that this development would probably have been inevitable in some fashion, but Karen Traviss really seems to be approaching her novels from this perspective, and she makes a noticeable effort to push that interpretation rather than acting as if she's always been the way she happens to be in this story, and I'm really happy to see it. Sadly, the nature of this series also means that...she had to die. She's too competent to not have gotten quickly to the bottom of the threat as soon as she really became committed to it, and Jacen's too powerful (whether you're willing to buy him as a Sith Lord or not) for her to take down on her own, so when you put the field into play the way they've chosen to do so here, this was pretty much inevitable.
And the best thing about it is the Sith threat, and Mara's death in particular, will now allow Luke to change a bit as a character as well, which Traviss also handled (to the extent it was possible within this chunk of the story) in a similarly self-aware fashion. Yes, Luke has become a very hesitant and dispassionate character lately. Does it irk you? It should - it makes him less effective as a character because his strength lies not in management and order, but in making bold decisions and striking out on his own to do what his heart tells him is right. But that's not the same as him being out-of-character, and the evidence of this is seen in Luke's own reflection upon this very issue - he knows he's changed, and he doesn't like it, either. The sad truth is that the Luke of the Thrawn Trilogy era wouldn't have let Mara go off alone and get killed, and if it takes Mara's unfortunate demise to point that out - to him as much as to us - then it's fine by me. I just hope the rest of the series lives up to that realization.
On the actual logistics of the story, though, I was a little annoyed that the book closed without Jacen's guilt officially known by his family. Ben seems to have a pretty good idea, and I'm hoping that will play itself out promptly, I wouldn't be surprised if Inferno backtracks on that a bit and gives us a Ben who's only slightly suspicious of Jacen, rather than half-convinced of the truth. It's a forced playing-for-time strategy that I've seen in a lot of stories, and I'm hoping they'll prove me wrong here.
Similarly, I feel like the unanswered questions about Lumiya's past (what she was doing for forty years, how she got involved with Vergere) are being neglected here, and while I can't imagine the authors have genuinely forgotten to resolve that issue, Lumiya's apparent death doesn't make me terribly confident that we'll be getting answers anytime soon.
I've made an effort in the past to mention that I'm a fan of extraneous and digressive material from time to time - the security monad in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous being the best example. I'm not seriously expecting Traviss' big Mandalorian plot to have no relevance to the greater story down the line, but the point I want to make here is that even if it didn't, that doesn't make it inherently worthless. One of the things that was most lacking in the NJO, something that I think a lot of people still want to see today, is sideline details. All the NJO really had was the occasional plot bunny that was intended to become important later, but fizzled out; the result is that now we know very little about what things were like behind the scenes during the Vong war, and we're having to get filled in on a lot of it long after the fact, like with Traviss' A Practical Man eBook. Granted, some of you apparently could give a crap what the Mandalorians were doing during the war, but I like stuff like this, and I personally feel that their arrival in The Unifying Force would've been more satisfying in we'd seen the events of APM beforehand.
Getting back to characterization for a second, I like how Traviss handles Boba Fett, but he's a fundamentally different kind of character from Luke and the others, so the traditional rules of development and evolution don't necessarily apply here. Fett, essentially, is the GFFA's Batman. If you were to look at real-world examples of people who suffered some horrible trauma in early childhood, you'd probably decide that even though it can affect the way you grow up in interesting ways, seeing your father eaten by an alligator at the age of twelve will not make you put on a costume and spend the rest of your life fighting reptilian aggression as the Astounding Anti-Gator. If anything, the younger you are when such a thing happens, the less of an effect it has on your adult self.
Batman, of course, is still a compelling character, and the fact that "dead parent = lifelong obsession" is an unrealistic assertion is just part of the necessary suspension of disbelief. The same goes for Fett being motivated by Jango's death the way we see in Traviss' work with the character; it's not realistic, per se, but neither is a human being the best bounty hunter in a galaxy filled with species who are physically and/or mentally superior to him in a variety of ways, so I'd much rather take that pill along with an unrealistic motivator than with something more pedestrian - before AotC, as far as anyone knew, Fett's whole deal could've been that he just really liked money. And/or killing things. Faced with that, I'd much rather accept "I need to be the best or ghost daddy won't approve of me". The interesting part here is that Star Wars doesn't work the same way that Batman works - there's a real timeline at work, and a finite beginning and end to this character's existence. That means that it's still possible for realistic development to occur, it's just a little harder, because it has to be chained to his original motivator in some way - if Boba Fett's going to start running the Mandos, or adopt Mirta, or whatever, it's got to be because he's convinced Jango wants it. It's a different way of looking at things, but it's no less interesting, and I'm anxious to see how it continues, especially when it inevitably collides with Jacen's development. And it will.
Since I'm on the Mandalorians, I can't help but comment on the implicit Goran/Medrit relationship. Part of me really wants to make a big impassioned statement here, because Star Wars' relationship with homosexuality has been one of my bigger axes to grind for a while now. I've thought about it, though, and everything I might say on the matter can pretty much be boiled down to one sentiment - ignoring homosexuals is making just as much of a statement about them as is showcasing them, whether positively or negatively. When a debate concerns the very nature of the species at the center of your fictional universe (which is another of my GFFA axes, but I won't get into that now), there is no avoiding it - even if you think homosexuality is a choice, that doesn't negate the fact that people are making that choice, and in a body of work that includes literally thousands of separate human characters, LFL producing fifteen years' worth of stories (charitably) without a single gay human is not neutrality; it's cowardice.
Lastly, I guess I'd just like to say that for all the debates that have arisen since Karen Traviss got involved in this universe, and in spite of whatever failings she might have as an author overall (though some of you see way more of them than I do), she is an example of the kind of creator I want to see as much of as possible from Star Wars in the future. Being truly invested in this universe should mean having points of view, axes to grind, and, yes, agendas. You can disagree with the particulars, but I've never seen anyone suggest that Traviss doesn't care, and as long as she's bringing that passion and insight to her SW writing, along with people like Aaron Allston, Michael Reaves, Matthew Stover, and God willing, Sean Stewart, I'll always take that over another lifeless Denning novel. There, I said it.