Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex

I got this book for Christmas, and it's probably the first new Star Wars book I've read since I stopped reading the New Jedi Order series.  I was kind of getting tired of the whole "the universe is doomed we're killing everybody" tone that the books were taking.  I don't know when they moved on, but we're now 43 years after A New Hope.  I'll get to that timeline bit in a minute.

Anyway, I thought I'd do a short review series of the book.  In part one (this post), I take a quick look at the production quality put into the book and my first impressions.  Part two will be after I hit the mid-point of the novel, and part three will be my final impressions upon finishing it.  On we go...

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex: Episode I: First Impressions

Come on, I had to go with the "Episode" route for this.  Surely you saw it coming?

Vortex is written by Troy Denning, who is no stranger to the Star Wars novel universe.  Including this novel, he's written 18 Star Wars titles, which includes 10 novels, 2 eBooks, 2 short stories, and a few gaming-related stories.  Like many other SW authors, he's also got a lot of Fantasy & Science Fiction novels under his belt.  So I think it's safe to say that Denning knows what he's doing with a typewriter.  Specifically to Star Wars though, most of the stuff he's written has been set in the new universe (and I mean like 20+ years after Return of the Jedi), with a few set around the time of the novels written in the mid-90s.  This sounds confusing but what I'm trying to get at is that Denning is part of the "new blood" SW authors.

Onto the book itself; it starts off with a very detailed timeline of Star Wars novels.  This also doubles as a shopping list of books I want to buy now.  As I mentioned before, Vortex is set 43 years after A New Hope.  Assuming Luke is 18 in ANH, that makes him 61 now.  Or roughly what I assume Obi Wan Kenobi is in ANH.  Why is this important?  You'll see...

The book also follows the X-Wing series' example and includes a dramatis personae at the beginning.  It is very useful, especially to somebody who hasn't read a Star Wars book in quite some time.  Even though it just gives you the most basic information available, it helps paint a little picture of who is doing what in a universe that is still somewhat familiar, but very different.

The book itself has high production value: cool little graphics at the start of each chapter.  It's very easy to read.  The type is apparently called "Galliard" - see the write-up from the book here.  Actually, I thought that was also a neat inclusion, something that you don't often see.

OKAY now we can get to the story.  We start off with an excellent hook: Lando Calrissian (yessss) and Jaina Solo (daughter of Leia and Han) are floating in an old rustbucket of a ship - in the wrong system.  Aiming to arrive at Coruscant, they instead show up near Kessel.  Somebody has impersonated Lando's voice to redirect their flight path and generally disable their ship.  Who would do that?  Why would they do that?  I don't know, but it's a great scene to start off and Denning has painted a pretty neat picture of the old ship.

AND, in just 14 pages, I've been given the makings of a cool story as well as given some back story.  Holy carp - Jaina had to kill her own brother???  Because he turned to the dark side???  That is just nuts, and I'm sort of glad that I didn't have to read - God, I think it's at least 20 books - to get that information.

Oh yeah, and Lando must be what - in his 70s?  80s?  Let's remember, Han and Lando were at least 5-10 years older than Luke.  Let's be generous and say he's in his 70s.  I do want to point out a nice scene where Jaina remarks that Lando hasn't taken the time to dye his hair.  Hard to explain but I thought it was funny anyway.

That's as far as I've got so far - 14 pages.  But I am enjoying it; high-paced action to start the story mixed with some "here's-what-happened-for-those-of-you-who-don't-read-star-wars" fluff in the background.

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