When I began my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge this year, I was intending to cover Lost Tribe of The Sith. And then just last week, or the week before that, I discovered that it wasn’t a series as much as it was a collection of short stories and I was like, uhm… well…., so I rethought the whole thing and added the Fate of The Jedi series to the challenge instead. From what I’ve heard from a lot of friends who are dedicated Star Wars fans, this particular series has a, let’s say, not-so-good reputation. So I decided to take up that challenge because I wanted to get a bit more current with my Star Wars reading, and this seemed like a good place.
Fate of The Jedi #1: Outcast presents a very bold new vision of Star Wars that really might not be for everyone. When this novel begins, the galaxy far, far away has changed considerably since I was last in it. Jagged Fel is now the ruler of the Imperial Remnant. Former Imperial Natasi Daala is now the Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance. The Jedi are a force directly under the aegis of the GA, with much of its freedom curtailed, and so on. To be honest, I loved all of this. Yeah, sure, it was all really weird at first, and I still can’t accept that Daala of all people is now the leader of democracy in the galaxy, but yeah, this was actually quite a fun book!
Fate of The Jedi takes place a couple years or so after the events of Legacy of The Force, in which Jacen Solo turned to the Dark Side and became Darth Caedus. Much like his… illustrious grandfather, Jacen rampaged across the galaxy, a galaxy still recovering from both the Yuuzhan Vong War and the Killik War, a galaxy still trying to heal. Now, as Outcast begins, the ramifications of Jacen’s turn to the Dark Side are beginning to be felt by the Jedi and their allies. As a crucial galactic summit gets underway on Coruscant, one where Jagged Fel’s Imperials come to the negotiating table to join the Galactic Alliance, Chief of State Daala orders the arrest of Luke Skywalker, on grounds that he failed to predict Jacen’s change in loyalties and is thus as much to blame for the dead Jedi’s crimes as Jacen himself. This is the beginning of the fall for the Jedi and much of the novel chronicles this, as the Galactic Alliance increasingly stomps down on the freedom of the Jedi Order, fanning public opinion against it in a series of calculated blows.
It was all so… refreshing.
In the days of the Republic, before the coming of Darth Sidious, the Jedi were a law unto themselves. They were the peacekeepers of the Republic, yes, and in some ways they did answer to the Supreme Chancellor, but they were still largely autonomous. As Luke Skywalker rebuilt the Jedi Order in the years following the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader, that was still the case and during the Yuuzhan Vong War the Jedi were always at the forefront of the fighting, though many did give their lives for a dream and an ideal that the extragalactic aliens destroyed at every turn. The Order’s experiences then and in the wake of it never really allowed it to heal as a unit, especially not with the coming of Darth Caedus, and this is what Aaron focuses much of this novel on.
For me, what I liked about the novel was that it felt very realistic and relevant to the real world. I can’t really draw any comparisons to any modern accountability and situation, but that’s how the novel felt like. Gone was the adoration of the Jedi and in place of it was a cold, hard truth: that the Jedi being law unto themselves are reckless and unaccountable. When Luke goes to Daala to discuss his trial, she makes some really good points about how members of the Order behave during their investigations and how they are essentially a galaxy-wide ruling class of their own. Some of her arguments didn’t hold much water for me, but I was fascinated by all of this.
And it was very weird for me to see Daala in such a role, given some of her previous actions. I don’t remember her first appearance all that well, but I do remember that she was Tarkin’s most-favoured student and that she had a hand in the development of the first Death Star and more besides. The novel doesn’t focus all that much on her, but I did get the sense that she was a deeply political animal nonetheless and that she was playing the Jedi Order really, really well.
After all, she forces Luke to choose between being tried and found guilty of war crimes or resigning as the Grand Master of the Jedi Order and being exiled from Coruscant, forbidden to even contact other Jedi. Shrewd political operator she is.
Of course, with a title as grandiose as Fate of The Jedi, you’d expect to see a lot more Jedi featured here than just Luke and a few token others, and that’s exactly what Aaron provides here. We see tons of members of the Jedi Order, such as Kyle Katarn, Cilghal, Tekli, Tahiri Veila, Jaina Solo, Kyp Durron, Kenth Hamner, Saba Sebatyne, Corran Horn, Valin Horn and more. In fact, there is a major arc here involving Corran and his son Valin since at the day of the summit Valin suffers some kind of a mental break and falls under the impression that all his friends and his family members have been replaced by doppelgangers and that there is some kind of a mass conspiracy in place. Much of the Galactic Alliance’s tussle against the Jedi Order focuses on this, and it is kind of heartbreaking to watch.
Corran Horn emerged in the days of Michael Stackpole’s X-wing novels as a bold new hero alongside the greats like Wedge Antilles and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian and he has gone on to become a fairly important part of the galaxy far, far away, being both an exceptional Jefi and an exceptional starfighter pilot. To watch on the sidelines as his son Valin falls victim to a mysterious virus really gets to you, especially since Aaron Allston keeps us distant from the misery that Corran and his wife Mirax feel. I would have preferred something more personal, but I think Aaron’s approach works just as well.
Then there’s a subplot involving Jaina and some of her friends as they try to subvert the Galactic Alliance’s draconian policies and continue to help Luke and his son Ben, as the two of them go into exile together to find out how and why Jacen turned to the Dark Side and what changed him so, setting him on that path. There is some inter-connectedness between these two arcs, though they largely work alone, and tell separate stories.
And you know what, that’s why I usually love Aaron’s work so much. He packs in a lot of stories together and he then weaves them all rather flawlessly. Because as if all of this wasn’t enough, there’s also an arc involving Han and Leia heading off to Kessel to help Lando and his wife Tendra with their spice-mining operation there. This particular arc wasn’t as interesting as the other ones, largely because it was completely devoid of connections to the other arcs and, to be honest, is a story on its own, but I liked seeing all these characters together. Especially Nien Nunb, who was with Lando during the Second Death Star run, when Lando flew the Millenium Falcon against the space station alongside Rogue Squadron leader Wedge Antilles, another favourite Star Wars character of mine.
The way that Aaron sets up this arc, and knowing how he loves to tell complex stories, I am expecting the entire Kessel storyline to have a strong impact later on in the series, especially since something happened on Kessel that involved Han and Leia’s only grandchild, Allana. The daughter of Jacen and Tenel Ka, once a Jedi and now the Hapan Queen Mother, Allana has lived incognito with her grandparents and she experiences something on Kessel that scares the hell out of her. How it will all end up developing down the road I have no idea, but I will say that I am rather excited for it.
One thing that struck me while reading this novel was sadness. Aaron Allston passed away earlier this year, and for someone who had his first proper introduction to the Star Wars universe through Aaron’s X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar, I can’t read one of his novels and think about the man who wrote them. His latest X-wing novel, Mercy Kill, was fantastic and certainly among his best. Similarly, Outcast is for me among Aaron’s finer works. It is not as good as, say, Starfighters of Adumar or Mercy Kill, but it is definitely up there in the big leagues. There’s a sense of nostalgia in the novel that I can’t quite pinpoint. Perhaps it has something to do with the Jedi being held accountable, something with regards to how while the Emperor tore down the Jedi Order and all its symbols with violence, the current galactic government is doing so via special and insidious laws that severely miscast the Order’s members as mavericks and loose guns. The parallels are too great to ignore really.
But then, that’s what made the novel so fun to read, so I won’t really complain! All I will say is that Fate of The Jedi has gotten off to a fairly good start here, and I look forward to moving on with the next novel, Omen by Christie Golden, who is one of my favourite tie-in fiction writers right now!
More Star Wars: Crucible, Dawn of the Jedi: Into The Void, Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge, Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves, Kenobi, Maul: Lockdown, The Old Republic: Annihilation, X-wing: Rogue Squadron, X-wing: Wedge’s Gamble, X-wing: Mercy Kill.