Outcast (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi #1)
Author: Aaron Allston
Publisher: Ballantine Books/Del Ray
Genre: Science Fiction
I consider myself to be a casual Star Wars fan. I enjoy the movies, Episode III being my favorite. I’m not as big a fan of the original trilogy as I am of the prequels, but I have seen all of the films at least once. I think to genuinely be a Star Wars fan you have to be a child of the 1970’s or have grown up with the movies being a part of your life, and that simply wasn’t the case with me. Science Fiction is not my all-time favorite medium of storytelling, but as Science Fiction goes, the Star Wars series is pretty much one of the Holy Grails (along with it’s longtime rival, the completely unrelated Star Trek series).
I was hoping for an adventure with this book and I was somewhat satisfied by the end. The novel begins a new series within the Star Wars expanded universe that follows up the events of the last sub-series, called Legacy of the Force, which focused on Han and Leia Solo’s son Jacen becoming the Sith lord Darth Caedus and attempting to take over the galaxy, and Fate of the Jedi centers around the aftermath of the civil war fought to protect the galaxy from Darth Caedus.
The book revolves around three plot arcs: the first involves a young Jedi Knight and bachelor named Valin Horn, who begins to perceive everyone around him as being impostors and goes on a rampage to attempt to uncover the truth. It becomes apparent once the story switches perspective, however, that Valin has developed a mental disease, and he is quarantined by the government and imprisoned in carbonite.
The second plot centers around Luke Skywalker, who is taken into custody by the government for failing to recognize the instability in Jacen Solo that led him to become the tyrannical Darth Caedus, and is subsequently exiled from Coruscant and relieved of his post as Jedi Grand Master. Luke and his son Ben begin a journey to retrace Jacen’s steps across the galaxy and learn what caused him to turn to the dark side. The final plot concerns Han and Leia Solo, who attempt to help Lando Calrissian discover what’s causing immensely powerful groundquakes that are destroying the mining planet Kessel, of which Lando is the main business proprietor and defacto ruler.
These three events unfold almost entirely apart from one another, and just when I began to become interested in the events of one, the story immediately shifted back to another plot and I had to begin involving myself with another plot again. The first hundred pages or so of the book do a great job of setting things up, and conversations between characters are very enjoyable: Allston’s characters are witty and likeable, and the exchanges between Luke and Ben are my favorite moments of the book. However, I found the most interesting plot to be the one concerning Luke, and there’s very little of it in comparison to the others. Luke and Ben travel to the planet of Dorin to learn from the Baran Do sages, a force-based order similar to the Jedi, about a force technique that Jacen Solo used to protect himself from detection and conceal himself in the force, but every time they begin to make progress on what Jacen’s experience with the Baran Do was, the story switches back to another plot.
The plot concerning Valin Horn, and the attempts of Han and Leia Solo’s daughter Jaina to discover what led him to his state of madness and to break him free from government imprisonment, is somewhat hit or miss. Jaina’s secret relationship with the leader of the Galactic Empire is interesting enough, as is the involvement of her government-appointed observer who happens to look exactly like her deceased brother Anakin, but I didn’t really feel very compelled by the whole thing. I kept wondering what was happening with Luke on Dorin, and since I never read the Legacy of the Force series, I wanted to know more about Jacen Solo and his turn to the dark side.
The third plot on Kessel was painfully slow and at times entirely boring. Han and Leia spend a lot of time exploring underground tunnels and shooting their blasters, flying around in the Millenium Falcon while thrilling battles take place, and I just wasn’t interested in any of it. They went to Kessel, discovered what was causing the earthquakes, detonated some bombs in a network of caverns and got out of there. The only interesting thing that happened during this plot was when another of the solo children, the very young Allana Solo, begins to hear a mysterious voice through the force that she presumes is malevolent, but we never discover who it is or why the voice was communicating with her.
In fact, none of the plots wrap up at all, with the exception of Luke and Ben’s plot, which basically involves them putting a stop to a misguided group of Baran Do hermits led by an old Baran Do master, and moving on to their next destination. The only real action of the book for me was the confrontation between Luke and the Baran Do master leading the hermits, but the whole flying section with the Rogue Squadron was completely uninteresting to me, and the several vehicle chase scenes on Corsuscant surrounding Jaina were only mildly entertaining. Ultimately I liked the book, but I really only liked the dialogue, the action all pretty much went over my head and the plot didn’t wrap up at all, but left me with a few unanswered questions that I don’t particularly want to read through another book to possibly learn the answers to.
This is the second Star Wars novel I’ve ever read, and while it was well-written and it’s characters likeable and charming, the plot didn’t really involve me enough to want to continue the series. I may read the next book in the series, but I’m certainly not anxious to learn more, as the characters in the Star Wars universe that I like the most have already died long before the events of this story, and without Anakin or Yoda to keep me reading, I’m only somewhat interested in what happens next.
If you’re a fan of the Star Wars expanded universe and really enjoy the space battles and chase scenes the series is known for, you’ll probably like this book, but if you want an engaging science fiction plot with big reveals and twists at every corner, you probably won’t get much from this. Outcast is an alright setup for the Fate of the Jedi series and is worth it for the great dialogue, but you may have to grit your teeth through some of the action if you find blaster pistols and spaceships extremely boring.