Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Just finished this much-anticipated (by me, at least) new Star Wars novel by Claudia Gray: Bloodline (2016). I have to say it was a nice and very quick read. I liked it, but didn't love it. Lost Stars was a better book, as was Battlefront: Twilight Company. In the good column, we get to see old friends as the main characters in this book. Well, at least one old friend: Leia. The book has a lot of politics in it, as it takes place during the New Republic, some 20 years after the events of the OT (but still some years short of The Force Awakens). Before the First Order comes to fruition. Before the Resistance is formed.
It has a lot of politics, but not enough politics. Specifically, how can I read for 332 pages and not know what planet Senator Leia Organa represents in the Senate? No idea.
Let's follow the timeline. She'd have been the senator from Alderaan many moons ago (that's no moon...too soon?). Then, after the Senate was disbanded by you-know-who, AND her constituents having been blown up, she would have switched to being an outlaw and Rebellion figure. Then, 20 years later, she's back in a re-formed New Republic Senate...representing who? Where has she lived since the OT? Who elected her? They never say. The book says Leia has no other permanent residence than her modest living quarters on Hosnian Prime (home of the New Republic Senate...for now).
Another minor quibble: The new planet Gatalenta seems to come up far too often to be mere coincidence. The X-wing pilot Joph Seastriker was from there, Leia drinks some tea from there while aboard her personal ship, which is being escorted by the X-wing flying native. Gatalenta is said to be famed for its tranquility and its tea. In addition one of the Senators close to Leia, one Tai-Lin Garr, is also from Gatalenta. The one and only decoration to adorn Leia's living quarters is a painting from Gatalenta. A fountain in front of the Senate building (next to a statue of Bail Organa) is a gift from the citizens of Gatalenta. I suspect a conspiracy of coincidence; perhaps this world with factor in to the next movie? Whatever it is, it was mildly annoying to have some many mentions of this brand new world wedged awkwardly into the text. Usually only a few pages from each other.
One more complaint, while we're at it: One of the big events of the book comes to be known, galaxy-wide, as the "Napkin Bombing". uuuhhhh.....
The story moves briskly, as I said, although the scope feels a bit underwhelming at times. Much is made of the stalemates and gridlock in the Senate chamber, and two fairly lame political "parties" are thrust upon us: the Centrists who favor a strong role for the New Republic and the "Populists" who would rather avoid repeating the mistakes of the previous Empire. Feels a bit too cute for my tastes. They constantly refer to each other by these two names, and claim silly things like "I could never be friends with a centrist" or "She's pretty good...for a populist". Give it a rest, people. You have important work to do.
A couple of side comments are made in support of the new Disney Star Wars equal rights push, which I support in theory, but seems a bit forced and to be awkwardly implemented in practice. One character is said in passing to have two moms. Not a big deal. In another scene a male fighter pilot is said to be acting like that because he has a "new man in his life" or somesuch. It doesn't quite seem like the non-PC versions of these statements would have ever cropped up naturally, so it seems odd when these are wedged in deliberately. Filling a quota or something, rather than an organic part of the story. Again, I am happy with a more inclusive (in every way) Star Wars universe, I'd just wish the attempts at inclusivity weren't so obvious and seemingly ham-fisted. Maybe I'm just not used to seeing these things in these novels, which, of course, is the whole point. I'll simply note it as an observation and move on.
The person I really want to read about during this Force-forsaken era is Luke. Where is Luke's story? Don't care about the rest all that much.
At the end of this novel is a sample of the upcoming Chuck Wendig affair, Truce at Bakura 4, uh, I mean Aftermath: Life Debt. As if we haven't been through enough, lately. Still choppy writing. Not quite as bad a random word salad as the first book, if this sample is anything to go by, Still don't care about the characters (especially Mr. Bones, and the rest of them). To top it off, Wendig now gets to write about Han and Chewie. Not a fan. Not. A. Fan.