Book Review: Choices of One

I like that I started 2015 off with a Star Wars novel.  I find that somehow fitting, seeing as this year is going to be a huge Star Wars year, what with the amping up of The Force Awakens.

Mei-Mei suggested Choices of One (by Timothy Zahn) to me almost 1 years ago in a random post, and Null definitely mentioned it as well…so thanks to you both – it somehow ended up on my reading list!  What makes it choices of oneso spectacular that it’s my first book of 2015 is that I have a reading list that ranges anywhere from 30-40 books on it at a time and I use random.org to pick the book I read next.  I had 34 books on my list, therefore giving me a 3% chance of actually getting this novel.  Anyway, I found that interesting because I’m looking for reasons that 2015 is going to be awesome and Star Wars filled.

I liked this novel SO much better than my last Legends book (still trying not to write EU), Dawn of the Jedi.  Which is funny, because if I think about what I’m looking for in a Star Wars novel it’s generally something that happens either way before the movies or way after the movies and therefore has no connection to the main characters.  Instead, Choices of One takes place between ANH and ESB and involves the three main heroes as well.

The first third of the book was boring for me.  I struggled with getting into it and found the character interactions between Han, Leia, and Luke to be halting and didn’t flow naturally.  On the flip side, I enjoyed the scenes with the commanders on the Star Destroyer and the scenes with Mara Jade…they kept me reading when I wanted to give up.  I forgot how much I missed reading about Mara.  Though loyal to the Empire and the Emperor at this point, there are still glimpses of the woman we will see her become through her relationship with Luke.

As the novel went on, I thought our three heroes began to find their groove and Zahn did a better job of reflecting what we saw from their characters in the movie onto his paper.  Particularly, I thought he did an amazing job with Luke.  At this point, Luke is not as serious or knowledgeable of the Force as he is by the end of the OT.  He brought to life a struggle Luke had with everyone thinking he is a competent Jedi just because he has a lightsaber and blew up the Death Star, contrasted with how he feels that he knows absolutely nothing except the small training from Ben Kenobi.  I loved reading it and found it weirdly relatable as it can happen to many of us, especially if we start a new job.

When the novel started to all come together toward the end and we find out that Mara, the Hand of Judgment (a group of stormtrooper deserters), and the Rebels are all going to be at the same planet at the same time, I got a little nervous.  I was afraid of Luke and Mara having an interaction pre-Heir to the Empire and I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that.  Thankfully, Zahn threw them in a situation together where they actually do not have a conversation and only briefly glimpse each other.  It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the novel for anyone that wants to read it, but suffice it to say that my fears were unwarranted.

Pros:

  • Overall, Zahn did a good job with keeping the three heroes true to form with personality quirks and attitudes.
  • I liked that there were a lot of larger issues and questions that were brought to life and made you think. For instance, Han’s moral struggles at the end of the novel when he is incognito as an Imperial Officer.  He faced a decisions where he did not have to help the Imperials in their emergency situation and they would all die, which is a benefit to the Rebel cause, or he could help them because in a sense they were a ship full of innocent people facing a common enemy.
  • Null would be happy about this: I actually really, really enjoyed all chapters that had to do with the back cover choices of oneHand of Judgment, a band of deserter stormtroopers who are this murky shade of grey. Are they good or bad?  I loved reading personalities!  In stormtroopers!  Mind blown.  But seriously, that was something I didn’t expect to like so much and I’m actually considering adding Allegiance to my book list because of how much I enjoyed them.
  • It was great revisiting Thrawn and Mara Jade again (though separately). I was afraid of overkill on Thrawn, but he was written in there just enough that there was no overload.
  • My favorite chapters/sections to read was actually Commander Pellaeon’s storyline on the Star Destroyer Chimaera. I loved how he wanted to take everything one step further on his job and showed that there was competency within the Empire.
  • I liked the setup it played between ANH and ESB. For instance, the relationship and conversations Han has with General Rieekan explains more of ESB.  Little moments like that were a nice touch.

Cons:

  • The first third of the book dragged. I couldn’t get into it and was frustrated whenever I had to read chapters with the three heroes.  I felt like it took a while for Zahn to get into the groove of depicting them well, but it could also have been my resistance to actually reading them.
  • It was easily guessable. Don’t go into this novel actually hoping for a surprise at the end.  This is mara jade choices of oneno Game of Thrones and I had figured everything out by the halfway point.  Still, there’s something to be said that I kept reading even if I pretty much knew what was going to happen.
  • Is it just me or was Mara a little less harsh in this book? This could very well just be me since I haven’t read the original Thrawn Trilogy in 10+ years, but I have a distinct memory of her being a little less reasonable.
  • The Luke/Mara scene where they almost-meet-but-not-quite seems a liiiiiitle far-fetched. I was obviously happy they didn’t meet but it still seemed slightly unbelievable.  I also thought it out of character for Mara to just brush aside the name “Skywalker” that she references Vader was obsessively hunting.  I feel like Mara would have done a more thorough investigation on who he is if the name linked to someone Vader was searching for.

Overall, I was much happier with this novel than with Dawn of the Jedi.  It showed that I can read Legends books with the main characters and not give up entirely.  I would rate this 3.5/5 stars.  I liked it more than average, but I couldn’t love it enough to give it 4 stars.

Advertisements

Book Review: Dawn of the Jedi

It’s highly entertaining to me that while I was reading the first EU book in over 10 years, LFL announces that all of the EU is now referred to as “Legends” and no longer canon.  It kind of seems like a waste of my time to try to fulfill my resolution of reading one EU book per year.  Should I forget about the previous books and move forward as LFL moves forward with novels?  Or should I continue to read the books of the past?

Aw, shucks that’s a hard decision!

I’m kidding.  Of course I’ll read EU books before they were “Legends”.  As long as they’re good.

But, you know, I don’t read EU books.  I’ve discussed it many times on my blog, but this past experience was a heavy reminder of why I don’t read them.

Because this one sucked.  Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh.  I hate to say any author’s hard work “sucked” because they put a lot of time and effort into it…but LFL: Please don’t let Tim Lebbon write anymore Star Wars novels!

I chose Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void because they had a sample of the first chapter in a Star Wars Insider last year.  I really, really liked the chapter and figured the rest of the book would be the same.  Plus, it’s about Jedi, my favorite!  Originally it was a comic book that was adapted to a novel, so I’m hoping that explains away the reasons I didn’t like it, but I don’t believe that’s the case.

*Spoilers below*

dawn of the jediIn a nutshell: This is not exactly an “origin” story of the Jedi, per se, like I was hoping for.  Instead, it was more of a sampling of the history of the Jedi, more than 25,000 BBY.  They live on a planet called Tython where there are nine temples.  In order to become a Je’daii, you need to travel between each of the temples to gain a well-rounded skill set to become a Master.  I had to look some of that up on Wookiepedia because all I remember was that there was a lot of traveling and temples.

The story focuses on a young Je’daii Ranger named Lanoree Brock, who is tasked with the mission to stop her brother, Dalien Brock (who was thought to be dead), from activating a hypergate.

The story goes between flashbacks of growing up with Dalien and trying to force him into being a Je’daii like herself and the real time of her mission to find him.  While on her mission, she meets up with a Twi’lek named Tre Sana who helps her.

Yup.  That’s the gist of it. Lots of plot. 😉

Pros:

  • Lanoree actually kills her brother at the end of the novel.  I know, strange that this is a pro.  But the whole novel is leading up to this climatic confrontation and you think she is going to “save” him from himself.  Possibly see him regret his actions and become a better person.  But nope, he remains foolhardy (I say foolhardy because he wasn’t necessarily “evil”) until the end of the novel where she has to kill him.
  • We get to see the Jedi as an organization years and years before the Prequels. Before they had lightsabers, they had swords.  They did everything lightsabers do, but were swords instead.  Not much detail on how they made the swords to have the exact same properties as lightsabers, though.
  • The novel was centered around a female protagonist.  Lanoree is practically a robot and it’s hard to feel supportive for her, but at least the main character is a female.  She is a Je’daii who can kick some serious butt and leads the story.  I always like to see books that are written entirely from a female perspective.
  • I learned that Sith were a species before they were the antithesis of the Jedi.  It was really confusing at first to be reading about Lanoree walking by Sith and not freaking out.

Cons:

  • My main problem with this novel was that I never felt attachment to any of the characters.  Lanoree is not a very likeable character lanoree brockand her brother is just annoying, not really evil.  The closest I felt for any character was Tre Sana, but even he was kind of wooden and non-likeable.  I like feeling for characters, rooting for them, and when I put the book down, I want to feel like they were my friends and I have invested my emotions into them.  I want to feel sad when someone dies (or almost dies? It wasn’t entirely clear) as was the case with Tre Sana.  Instead, I felt nothing when he died and thought the way it was written was very strange.
  • The juxtaposition between flashbacks and real time also created a very jarring novel.  I’ve read that style before, and I know it can be done well, but in this case, it made it a lot harder to read.  Lebbon seemed to want to write a fantasy novel during the flashbacks and a science fiction novel in real time.  It seemed like he was trying to mix two genres together and I wasn’t having it.   They never really matched up.  Tython and the Je’daii were the fantasy realm, whereas Lanoree’s mission with Tre Sana was sci-fi.  When Lanoree and Dalien were traveling to the different temples together (flashback) they encountered fantastical beasts, complete with beasts that could withstand the Force.  That’s fine if beasts can withstand the Force, I remember reading of such in Heir to the Empire, but by the time we got to them, it felt like the author was running out of ideas for suspense.
  • I never understood the connection Lanoree felt for her brother.  There were never any flashbacks that gave us the siblings being in tune with each other and completely loving each other.  Each flashback had a sullen, hateful Dalien, and a Lanoree who tried to push her ideals and training of the Force down his throat.  So where was this supposed connection and love coming from?  Was it just the whole “blood is thicker than water” thing?
  • The writing was horrible and there was very little actual plot.  I felt like I was reading an airport novel.  It consistently left chapters on bad cliffhangers that didn’t make me want to turn the page.  The dialogue was bland, and though there was a lot of action packed into the pages…it felt like nothing really happened.

Okay, there was more than just these points, but I feel like I would end up complaining way too much.  I think I had high hopes for this book since I liked the excerpt from Insider so much.  It’s never good when you have high hopes, because then you are bound to be disappointed.

I gave this book 2/5 stars on Goodreads because it wasn’t HORRIBLE.  But it was forgettable and it sums up why I stopped reading EU books in the first place.  When you get a bad Star Wars EU book, it’s pretty bad.

However, I’ve had some suggestions from Mei-Mei recommending Choices of One and Null recommended Darth Plagueis, and I’ve heard good things about both.  Maybe I should just start at the beginning and read the Thrawn Trilogy again…I think it’s been enough time to revisit them.

Anyone have any other suggestions?