Christie Golden is officially my least favorite Star Wars Expanded Universe author. I can't quite place my finger on it. Maybe it's the flippant narrative that turns me off, or the inescapable feeling that the EU is devolving into a young adult romance with Team Sith on one side and Team Jedi on the other, but it was just about all I could do to get through this one. It saddens me that the EU has come to this. The enemies the SW protagonists face keep getting more and more epic - invading armies from outside the galaxy, whole tribes of Sith, and malevolent galactically powerful entities- and with each new level of power, there seems to be less and less effort put into the basics of storytelling. It's almost as if Golden and crew are trying to overcompensate for a lack of character development by overshadowing it with this huge epic that ends up being rather poorly executed. Almost all of Allies
is filled with trendy modern slang and altogether English analogies and idioms that distract from the whole "Galaxy far, far away..." bit. Reading this series makes me miss the Empire. No super powers, no mind control, just sheer cunning and brilliance. Zahn did it right.
Anyway, in this volume, the wandering Luke and Ben team up with the Sith to get to the bottom of the whole crazy Jedi business (dun dun duuuuun), and what a surprise, the Sith are out to betray them. There's a budding romance betwixt the young Ben and Sith apprentice Vestara Khai that oddly resembles the romance between Luke and Mara, but not executed nearly as subtly, tactfully or engagingly. In fact, I find the subplot related to the romance rather dull, unsurprising and leaden, like a series of steps that I already know they have to dance through before they'll ultimately end up together. And, out of left field, there's a strange anti-slavery subplot awkwardly introduced at the midway point in the novel, that, while intriguing and has the possibility to raise some interesting moral, ethical and political questions seems to serve no other purpose than to hasten the political demise of Chief of State Daala, whose slip into full-on dictator in this novel was presented with equal lack of finesse. This whole novel felt like a series of hyperdrive jumps with no taking in the scenery in between, like a plot outline with only the barest connections between the major plot development points with no lead in or discussion in between. The dialogue is just as dismal. Jedi Grand Master
Luke Skywalker can't seem to help but issue childish retorts when dealing with his Sith counterparts, spitting out their titles like he just called them a bad name. The whole thing is rather unsophisticated and demeaning to the characters, universe and themes so painstakingly and brilliantly crafted by previous authors in the EU.
And, being the nerd I am, I'm compelled to finish it, regardless of how bad it is. These characters mean something to me, and I like spending time with them, even in the hands of less capable authors, which is a testament to the literary powers of their predecessors.