Heir to the Episodes

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I recently finished Kevin Hearne’s Heir to the Jedi, one of the books in the new Star Wars mythology.  Disney-fied Star Wars, for those of you who didn’t know, has planned twenty novels to define their own mythology.

To be sure, the collection of Star Wars fiction that came before had lost its appeal to me (referred to as the Expanded Universe now that it has been set aside) after it destroyed all of the victories of the original Star Wars crew to make a path for new drama.  The result was something that Dr. Per Anderson of Concordia College, Moorhead used to refer to in Babylonian mythology as the Downward Spiral of Violence.  Basically, no victory of good was ever going to be lasting, evil would always come back, the solution would always be violent, and the world would continue to decay and darken as the process repeated itself.  The summary of Babylonian myth applied to the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  The death of Chewie was terrible and contrived.  The death of Anakin Solo was worse, and I gutted it out to the end of Jacen Solo’s fall to the Dark Side and death (because it would be unoriginal to save a Dark Lord of the Sith, and killing your own brother is so much more enlightened).

That long rant goes to show how hopeful I was to pick up a reboot of the mythology.  Sure, I have some trepidation.  Apparently Disney likes the child-snatching socialist, anti-family, anyone-who-disagrees-with-our-politics-gets-a-lightsaber-sendoff Jedi Order of the first three movies, because it certainly seems that they are gearing up to have Luke start a new order of those Jedi who will never love, have children, marry, or any of the normal, healthy things that the Expanded Universe offered up before it turned them into a sacrificial offering to sell more stories.

Even more exciting, the Iron Druid author Kevin Hearne, who had proven to me that he could take old mythologies and make them new.

Heir to the Jedi is a pretty good exploration of what it feels like to be a burgeoning Jedi with no real training.  It is a really mediocre novel otherwise.

For starters, the characterization is off.  Calling someone Luke Skywalker doesn’t make him Luke if he talks differently, thinks differently, and performs differently.  The “newbie” Jedi bops back and forth from wry commentary about life, to commando level tactical awareness, to super-piloting, and then we’re supposed to believe he’s insecure and doubtful about the Force.

That’s another thing: The only character who can’t figure out some way to teach Luke about the Force is R2-D2.  It’s such a mystery that everyone else can guide Luke over dinner conversation.  At this rate Luke doesn’t need to go to Degobah to learn from Yoda.  He needs to open a food court and flirt some more.

If this story were somehow wedged into the middle of Stackpole’s I Jedi about an expert commando and veteran pilot suddenly discovering the force, I would believe it.  But insted of Corran Horn it’s supposed to be the super-earnest Farm Boy of Destiny doing all these things.

The ending was particularly weak.  The established genre fiction formula of Dark Moment – Critical Decision – Dramatic Reversal never really happened.  At half of the key moments Luke is more spectator than anything else, which means he should NOT be the point of view character.  The ending was dramatically significant for Luke’s future character choices, but they carried no real feel of resolution.  It was a novel without a climax, and that leaves no one satisfied.

Then there is the ragged episode-related plot.  Heir to the Jedi has the same plot structure as Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Narnia books.  It is a series of almost completely unrelated stories held together by the same cast and some underlying character grown in one and only one character.  The problem is, Jedi has none of Dawn Treader‘s heart or soul, so the two primary strengths of the format disappear leaving only sort-of-entertaining stories between the same cover.

There are worse Star Wars novels out there, to be sure.  Thirty years of Expanded Universe produced some stinkers.  This is the least professional novel I’ve ever seen Hearne crank out.

A disappointment as Star Wars or as a Hearne novel.  Not recommended.

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