Sunday, August 14, 2011

REVIEW: Fate of the Jedi: Ascension


Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden loses the ability to keep readers by glorifying domestic abuse.

Around the halfway point in the book, Ben Skywalker forces his way into Vestara Khai’s room aboard the Jade Shadow. When she won’t reveal what she is doing, he takes her wrists forcefully. Vestara fights back and Ben strikes her cheek with a Force-slap. They continue to struggle until Ben restrains her with her sheets. He then reads the letters she had written. Ben feels shameful for reading her letters, but not for striking or restraining Vestara. A few minutes later, the two cuddle in bed and kiss. Vestara references the latter part of the evening towards the end of the book-with no mention of Ben’s violent behavior. The message? Domestic violence is okay. It will end in romance.

It’s not off base to think that Vestara is used to this type of behavior. Her father refers to her mother as a “good Sith wife” and acts condescending to her. She acts like someone who may have experience in that type of situation. Vestara simply gives up and allows Ben to do as he wishes.

The scene feels surreal. The concept that Ben Skywalker could strike a woman is downright insane. Expanded Universe fans know that Ben did not grow up in an abusive household. It’s beyond out of character. Luke and Mara’s son would never dream of doing such an act.

Character issues are the minor problem. The fact remains that domestic abuse is part of Star Wars with NO CONSEQUENCES. At no point should domestic abuse be seen as a good thing. It’s bad enough that women are continuously shoved down in the Expanded Universe. Adding a scene of positive abuse alienates the female audience even more.

I expect more from Del Rely and Lucas Books. That they allowed this horrible sequence to be published is disturbing and inexcusable.

Star Wars is ultimately the story of good versus evil. Heroes do not beat their spouses. They do not shove the people they care for down in a fit of rage. That is the activity for a horrible villain. Showing a future hero- the son of Luke Skywalker, no less- hurt the woman that he claims to care about in anger hurts the character, the brand and the book.

Ascension is plagued with side plots that would have been interesting if written properly. For example, the showdown between Imperial Head of State Jagged Fel and Former Chief of State Natasi Daala brings in an element that any fan of Fel will love. The stilted dialogue and glossed over space battle detract from what could have been a fantastic sequence. This is just one of the many sequences Golden doesn’t describe. She changes or adds in details with little or no explanation to fit the situation.

The book lacks a feeling of “doom” or “worry.” Abeloth is still dull. The little bit of characterization we seen makes her appear pathetic and petty. The Lost Tribe of the Sith are just unbelievable. Beings that escape isolation after thousands of years do not understand the galaxy enough to pose a threat. Their archaic lifestyle is highlighted at the beginning of the book with ceremony and masquerade. Reading these events was like watching a group of believers greet aliens for the first time or the Ewoks fawning over C-3PO.

The editing in Ascension is better than it was in Allies. Golden does use far too many clauses and repeats information a little too much. Her constant use of food becomes distracting. How many times must she discuss food in one book? Her understanding of the characters in the Star Wars universe often falls flat, especially regarding dialogue. Too many lines sound like they belong in the mouths of other people. When adding to the Star Wars universe, it’d vital to have an understanding of at least the voice of a character.

It’s clear that Vestara and the Lost Tribe of the Sith are her favorites, as they are all more developed and more intelligent than the other characters. Vestara, for example, continuously outsmarts Luke. A girl of her age could not logically take down Luke Skywalker.

Golden also uses far too many movie tie-ins. The constant references seem more like a way to say, “Yes, I do know Star Wars” than to provide amusement like Allston’s references did in Conviction.

Readers wanting a fun, interesting, worthy story in the Star Wars universe should stay away from Ascension. Its contents have forever marred the beloved fandom with an ugly, harmful moment of glorified domestic abuse.

And quite frankly, that’s enough of a reason not to buy the book.

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