Aug 10, 2010

Star Wars: Vector Prime (The New Jedi Order, Book 1) - R.A. Salvatore

Ok, so I'm a Star Wars fan. I know, it doesn't get any less elitist than that, but "a fact is still a fact" as they sing in Chicago. Thing is, like with most of my hobbies, the sheer number of them prevents me from delving into any particular one in full depth. What that means in this case is that while I've read some books and comics, played some of the games etc., I don't have that much first-hand experience with the Expanded Universe. However, The New Jedi Order series, despite its rumored uneven quality, has always seemed like a worthy chunk of EU story, so I turned in that direction.

Vector Prime, written by everybody's favorite R.A. Salvatore, features no emo dark elf philosophers whatsoever, and very few last names comprised of two nouns. That is to say, it is not your typical Salvatore book, which doesn't mean it's not written in his usual quality - chunky prose, mediocre dialogue, no characterization to speak of, and action sequences that are cringe-worthy in their sheer lack of dynamics. Still, without wishing to offend anyone, I don't really go to read a Star Wars novel expecting a literary masterpiece, and as an introduction to the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong's invasion into the New Republic, Vector Prime does an admirable job.

The war between the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant has finally reached its end, but the fledgling galactic government is far from stable. And when the enigmatic and charismatic Nom Anor starts to rouse a revolution on a far-away planet that threatens to unbalance the whole sector, the Republic tries to intervene. Meanwhile the remote scientific observation station of ExGal 4 witnesses a strange comet-like object coming from outside the galactic edge. Astrophysicist Danni Quee decides to investigate, unsuspecting of the horrible threat that she has discovered. In the end, it all boils down to Jedi Masters Luke Skywalker and his wife Mara Jade Skywalker, as well as the Solo family to prevent a catastrophe with galactic proportions. And not everyone makes it out of the mayhem alive.

Vector Prime was pretty controversial when it came out, as it was the first novel to actually do away with a central character from the original movies. It is not a huge spoiler as this is well known, but I'll still refrain from giving names. Still, fans were in turns enraged and ecstatic with this new development, as a good writer could do quite a lot with this in terms of character-building. Well, Salvatore is hardly the first name to pop into my head when I think of good writers, but he still manages to show the cracks into the survivors' idea of their own invincibility. What's more important, he also showed that the Star Wars universe can do serious as well as entertaining, and sometimes heroes die. Even beloved ones.

Still, Vector Prime is by no means a "good" book. The plot is all over the place, the pace mood-swings between "uneven" and "nonexistent", characters make with the dumb for the sake of plot-development, and the general impression one gets is of an uncertain pilot episode in a TV series. Unfortunately this particular series is written by almost as many writers as there are books in it (if I am not gravely mistaken, that is 11 writers for 19 books), so I am still gathering courage to start reading the next part of the NJO - Michael Stackpole's Dark Tide dualogy. Still, some day, maybe sooner than later, if my biyearly urge to read SW fiction hits me again.


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