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Conviction (Star Wars)

Conviction - Aaron Allston I feel like the books in this series are following a cycle. Golden develops the Sith, showing where they came from, their homeworld, their history and develops the love interest between Ben and Vestara, Denning deals with the epic showdowns with Abeloth and between the Sith and Jedi, and Allston mainly develops the political changes that are happening inside the Galactic Alliance. I guess this sort of thing is inescapable, each author has their own interests and strengths, but it's becoming altogether thoroughly predictable. What surprises there are in this series feel the result of bungled attempts to develop a sense of shock by bringing things from way out of left field that feel like they have no place in the story or the legitimate development of plot at all. Some authors are better than others at weaving the fabric of events together across the entire galaxy, but it feels more and more as this series winds down that the better author is doing clean-up from the mess created by the others. It's hard to say what each individual author is attempting to achieve within each individual story. Rather, new plot elements are introduced and layers are added with no real satisfying resolution of what came before.

Conviction succeeds, in part, because it does start to resolve some of the things that have been brewing in the story for the past six books, and does so in ways that are intriguing and, like all good narrative, leaves potential for further conflict and new direction. A good example of this is Allston's resolution of the split between the GA government under Daala and the Jedi Order. The slave rebellion backdrop finally pays off and provides a believable and legitimate excuse for a Jedi coup, and the political intrigue on the part of all factions involved is intricate and sufficiently elaborate to draw this novel above the soap-opera-esque nature of the series so far. The moral and ethical questions raised by a peacekeeping order seizing government power by force with the intention of righting things is a timeless historical one and doesn't come off as cliche (although perhaps that's my own nerdy political bias). I do have to say however, that Daala's descent into dictatorship seems rather abrupt and unbelievable, and there's been no consistent characterization of her throughout the series. In some novels, she appears an embattled politician genuinely trying to manage an impossible political situation and restore some semblance of order and balance to a diverse and war-torn galaxy. In others, she appears callous; devoted to order at the expense of liberty and as concerned with obedience as a totalitarian dictator. While her spat with the Jedi leads to some believable extremes in her attempts to rein them in, her other political divergences seem much less believable. Anyway, the radically different characterizations confuse the reader. You don't know whether to feel sorry for her or despise her. I'm all for gray areas, but there seems no believable regression of character - just boom, Daala's an evil dictator the likes of Palpatine. Attempts to humanize her fall flat and feel disingenuous and it does no justice to the character's potential.

These political developments hold the most interest for me as the story progresses. The more "thrilling" and "exciting" developments with Abeloth seem more and more contrived. I just don't see why it's important to keep that part of the story going any more. The mysterious Jedi illness is no longer a mystery and Abeloth's intentions remain unclear and the Sith seem like petty and incompetent wanna-be tyrants - and I think that's the point. Not one of the adversaries introduced in this series, whether it be Daala, Abeloth or the Sith, have a plausible or well-developed motivation for any of their actions. Galactic domination? Sure; why not? There's no personal motivation for the reader to identify with or even understand and so their actions seem incredible, a series of motions that typical bad guys go through. The problem is, even casual, non-analytic readers can't help but think, "Why?" and it's just distracting.

Since the announcement of the ending of this series, I can't help but think that the novels leading up to it are nothing but filler - that the resolution the authors intended is already there and they're just milking it to get to that point. It's the drawback of these long, extended story arcs and I wish they'd get back to standalone novels or trilogies by single authors.