#Review: LIGHT OF THE JEDI, by Charles Soule

Or Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, but these headlines can only be so long.

Here’s the thing: I’m pretty definitively in they keep pulling me back in mode with Star Wars. I actively despise the fandom as a group, and while there were definitely some things I really liked in the sequel trilogy (I continue to love The Last Jedi, and after a couple of rewatches The Rise of Skywalker has settled in at “dumb, but fun”) I still don’t like the broader decisions that those movies made. Or, to rephrase it in a way might not be helpful, I don’t mind the way they told the story they told, but I wish they’d told a different story.

And with the single exception of Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars and Timothy Zahn’s new Thrawn books, I haven’t really liked any of the books that have come out since Disney took over. The comic books have been uniformly pretty superb, but they’ve stuck within the confines of the OT and haven’t really roamed the timeline in either direction. And yet I’m still buying them. I could have dipped out with The High Republic, or at least shifted to waiting for paperbacks, and … well, you see how that worked out. It was a perfect excuse; set 200 years before the events of any of the movies, it would involve all new characters and had little risk of reinventing anything that I’d grown to love over the years.

But, damn it, the list of authors they’d gotten to work on this thing was something else. All of them great. And while authors I love have failed at Star Wars books before– one of my favorite authors, a guy who has written a number of books I’ve reviewed here and a few that have made it onto my end-of-year lists, wrote a Star Wars book that was so bad I couldn’t finish it— it was still all encouraging as hell.

So, yeah, fuck it, let’s read The High Republic. And while I’m not going to go so far as to recommend that anyone who wasn’t already thinking about it pick this up, this is good Star Wars. Charles Soule has written Star Wars comics in the past– and, again, the comics have been uniformly good-to-great, even after Disney took over– but to the best of my knowledge this is his first SW novel, and the high quality continues. One interesting thing that hit me at about the 50% mark of the book was that because they’re starting over with a clean slate (a couple of the longer-lived Jedi are still around, of course; Yoda gets namedropped several times but isn’t actually a character in the book, and there are a few other members of the Jedi Council who showed up in the prequels) he can really get away with doing whatever he wants to his characters. It doesn’t matter how dangerous the situation in the book is, you know Leia is going to be fine, right? You only ever had to worry when the books were pushing “now” forward, so they could kill Chewbacca off at the beginning of the Yuuzhan Vong war, but anything set before that, all of the major characters were going to end up intact at the end of the book.

Well, High Republic doesn’t have any “main characters” yet. If anything, that’s a weakness of the book– it never really settles on a main protagonist, and there’s a lot going on and a lot of characters, so the characterization is a little on the thin side. But the plus side of that is that Soule is free to kill off whoever the hell he wants and nobody is wearing plot armor. You don’t ever get to the level of holy shit did that just happen that, say, A Game of Thrones managed, but this isn’t a 600-page book, either. This is a good setup for whatever they have coming; the central struggle starts off feeling like a natural disaster and becomes more sinister as things roll on, the villains started off really giving off cut-rate Yuuzhan Vong vibes and became something more distinct and unique by the end, and the actual mastermind of the whole thing really comes into his own at the end of the book. Again, if you’re not already a Star Wars person you probably don’t need to join the club for this, but if you were kind of teetering on the edge like I was, this is worth the buy.

In which I don’t wanna do this and I also don’t wanna not do this

All right. So, we’ve got our tickets. We’ve secured the services of a babysitter, and we’re going to see it at 4:45 on Saturday. I should probably be avoiding spoilers, and reviews are starting to hit, but … damn, it’s amazing and deeply depressing how little I care. The Force Awakens has slowly evolved into my least favorite Star Wars movie, and while I haven’t turned on Last Jedi the way I did TFA, I also never watched it again after that initial viewing in the theater. I would like to watch it before the movie on Saturday, but who knows. I actually pulled it up on Netflix an hour or so ago and upon realizing that I would be watching it until 9:30 I turned off the damn TV instead. Maybe tomorrow, after my last teaching day of 2019, or Friday, when I get home (probably early) from my no-students teacher record day. We’ll see.

I just don’t trust JJ Abrams as far as I can throw him, and in general I don’t like any of the broader decisions this trilogy has made. Frankly I’m still not at all sure why there needs to be an Episode Nine, as I thought TLJ tied up basically everything we might need to have tied up from TFA. The two movies made a decent duology; I’m just not sure what the hell you might do with this third movie to make it a meaningful trilogy.

Meanwhile, there are two episodes of The Mandalorian left, and … well, I’ve watched them all, and I’ll watch the next two, and then I’ll forget the show existed until the next season comes out, because it’s settled nicely into a “this is moderately entertaining but utterly forgettable” sort of rut, and Baby Yoda has morphed from something that was initially at least adorable and intriguing from a story perspective into a Goddamned albatross. We’ll see if they pull anything together with this episode and the finale, which airs Friday, I think, but I’m keeping my hopes muted.

I dunno. I don’t want to be One of Those Star Wars fans, but I’ve been souring on the fandom since the prequels and I’ve grown gradually more disinclined to call myself a fan of the “saga” aspects of the entire thing since Disney took over. The books mostly aren’t even worth reading any longer; all of the good Star Wars material seems to be in video games and comic books lately. I’m not going to start ranting about anyone beating up my childhood or anything like that but I’m going into this movie expecting to come out deeply disappointed, and I really wish it was anything other than that. Hell, even mad would be better, as I suspect that would generate an entertaining blog post– I just don’t think it’s gonna happen.

We’ll see, I guess. One way or another I’ll try to not be too much of an ass about it.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Luther Siler at Starbase Indy!

IUnknown‘m elated to be able to announce this, as I had thought that I’d been locked out of attending, but my next convention appearance will be at Starbase Indy at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel over Thanksgiving weekend!  I’ll have all of my books with me, including Searching for Malumba, and I’ll have bookmarks available for giveaways again too.  Maybe even something else, if I come up with some great ideas between now and then.

I will definitely have a booth in the dealer area, and I’m going to look into whether I can manage to be on a panel or two while I’m there as well, since that was something I wasn’t able to do when I was at InConJunction back in July.  This will definitely be my last con of 2015, as I don’t even know of any taking place in December, but… man oh man, do I have some plans for 2016!  Plans I can’t even tell you about yet!  Woo!

More details to come later as things are firmed up.

This morning’s embarrassing revelation

…beyond the fact that I can never remember how to spell “embarrassing.”

So the new Mad Max movie is getting hella good reviews.  I startled myself after the first trailer when I realized I wanted to see it, because, and this hurts to say, because as a proud geek this shouldn’t be true, but I’ve never seen any of the Mad Max movies.  I don’t even think I’ve seen parts of any of them.  I have a hazy awareness that Tina Turner is in the third one but that’s it.

My wife feels that this cannot be allowed to stand.

I know I’m not the only one of my people out there.  What have you not seen, or not read, that you really ought to have seen or read by your advanced age?

(Here’s the trailer.  This looks good!  I am surprised.)