Give Crucible (and Troy Denning) a Chance

The Big Three, Together Again in Crucible

At San Diego Comic Con, the Star Wars Expanded Universe editors and authors announced several new projects, including Crucible, the first post-Fate of the Jedi novel to feature Luke, Han, and Leia. It should not have come to a surprise that Troy Denning received the contract for this novel. Denning has been involved in the SWEU for a very long time, and has become a staple among post-Return of the Jedi authors. This is not to say that all of his contributions have been welcomed with open arms; many fans credit Denning for the increasingly dark and gritty tone of Dark Nest, Legacy of the Force, and FotJ.

Reaction to Crucible has been, in a word, audible. Fans on message boards, the Star Wars Books Facebook page, and on Twitter expressed dismay that Crucible would focus on the Big Three and be written by Troy Denning. I understand those concerns, of course. Del Rey and LucasBooks have assured fans that the megaseries format is going away, and that they’ve heard fans complaints about the direction of the post-RotJ novels. The announcement of Crucible, which many fans see as “more of the same,” doesn’t demonstrate any sort of major changes in that storyline. For so long, fans have endured galaxy-spanning wars, character derailment and death, and not enough focus on developing new characters. Trust me, I understand all of this. If you listen to the podcast, you’ll know that I often make the same complaints.

And yet, strangely, I find myself cautiously optmistic, dare I say excited, about Crucible. Yes, I’m looking forward to a Troy Denning book; I know, I can hardly believe it myself. While I also want future novels to focus on the next generation as well as characters who’ve been shoved to the side in the megaseries, I still want to read about the Big Three. I love them all, especially Luke, and I want to see them interact in their own storyline. They’re a family, and after all that’s happened in their lives they deserve to be together. I can’t remember the last time they were involved in an A plot together – maybe for a few pages in Backlash? The chemistry of the Big Three is what drew me into Star Wars, and I’m excited to see them go off on an adventure again. Do I expect this to be a “last hurrah” of the Big Three? It would be nice, but probably not. And that’s fine if it’s not.

Because now that the megaseries format is going away, Del Rey can publish lots of different novels taking place in the post-RotJ time period. We can have novels featuring the Big Three; we can have novels featuring Jaina, Jag, and the rest of that generation; we can have novels featuring Ben and other Jedi his age; we can have an Allana and Chance team-up series (you know that would be fun); we can have novels about side characters in the vein of the X-Wing series. We can have all of these at the same time, just like it was in the Bantam era. The existence of a novel like Crucible does not mean we won’t also be getting all the novels we’ve been asking for. This was just one round of announcements; Pablo Hidalgo clarified that there will be more at Celebration VI.

To address the other concerns, this about Troy Denning personally: his sole standalone contribution to the SWEU is Tatooine Ghost, a novel I greatly enjoy and that was not merely another “apocalypse of the week.” As for the characters, there’s no doubt that Denning can write a good Han and Leia (especially when Allana isn’t around for them to be the worst parents in the galaxy). And while I’ve read concerns about the way Denning writes Luke (and have shared in those concerns many times), I think the tendency to write Luke as dark is steadily fading away – at least I hope it is.

Judging from the Comic Con announcements, are there reasons to expect that the status quo will change? Probably not. But, like Luke, I’m willing to be optimistic in this case, and wait for the Celebration VI announcements to really pass judgment. Expecting the worst never does any good, and there’s been enough doom and gloom in the EU of late that right now I just want to look for the positive in whatever we’re given. (Case in point: I loved that the Horn family was given such a prominent role in Apocalypse, even if I didn’t like the book as a whole.) Now, that’s not to say that I won’t be disappointed if we keep getting more of the same types of novels, and all the wonderful characters who’ve been shoved to the side and marginalized for so many years don’t get their time to shine. But I can’t deny that the idea of a Big Three novel gets me excited, no matter what the time frame. (My only complaint about Crucible, well, besides wishing it was being written by Matthew Stover? I wish Mara was still alive to join them. Cue one lone tear.)

I never thought I would ever write a blog post encouraging people to be optimistic in regards to yet another Troy Denning book, but here I am. I’m not saying you have to like the book, or even that you have to read it. You’ll definitely be hearing my complaints if the novel is typical of Denning’s recent works. But outside the megaseries format, and focusing on just a few characters who I love – well, I’m willing to give him – and Crucible – a chance.

13 thoughts on “Give Crucible (and Troy Denning) a Chance

  1. Pingback: EUbits: To Crucible or not to Crucible?

  2. Denning does very fine episodic work -- it's just that the only way he seems to advance a major plot is to kill someone. As this is a standalone, episodic work, it could be good. Or random entire planets might explode for no reason.

  3. Well said Nanci! I agree with all you say - and welcome both you optimism and balanced tone!

  4. I think Denning is - at best - a mediocre Star Wars writer. Even Kevin J Anderson was better, and he had some wild notion and ideas... and the books, while important for lore, are not particularly well written.
    His "mysterious" and "dark" streaks are silly and substandard.

    Of course, I have only read the immensely bad Dark Nest trilogy (what a pile of dung!) and his episodes in Legacy and Fate, which were only slightly better. If his one-shots are better? Only time will tell.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with jegergryte. Denning's characters don't have personality -- they are just puppets forced forward by the plot, and the plot is always protruding from the text like a bone in an open fracture.

    He is no stylist, and an utter stranger to nuance, always writing to a formula. His attempts at humor are feeble and repetitive (switching Threepio off mid-sentence for the umpteenth time?), his idea of neologism consists of joining two capitalized words together, his protagonists take ridiculous amounts of punishment and survive unaffected while dispensing with a dozen enemies in a single sentence. The borderline nonsensical excuses for characters regularly bashing each other every couple of pages make it unabashedly clear that Denning believes a) his readers are morons, or b) his readers are here "for the action" (I leave it to you to consider the difference). Whenever an important character is going to die, he first makes the fact of it obvious (unwittingly, perhaps?), then prolongs the intended victim's suffering to a ridiculous degree with the obvious intent of evoking pathos.

    Any responsible editor (i.e. not interested in rehashing the same thing ad nauseam) would have gotten rid of him a long time ago.

    • Have either of you read Tatooine Ghost? That's the reason both Nanci and myself are cautiously optimistic about Crucible.

      Listen, I understand that you're disappointed in Troy Denning. Heaven knows I am and that I have not been the biggest fan of his work since Dark Nest. But to deny that he's capable of writing a more nuanced book that can work is foolish. He's demonstrated he can write a competent novel, so even if the vast majority of his work is subpar, you can't possibly write Crucible off this early.

      Crucible is not the typical Denning novel. It's a standalone that looks to be in a much more controlled setting with a much more clearly defined plot and oversight. Am I expecting it to be a good novel? Not really, no, but if there's going to be one Denning novel that works, this one is it.

      • (Belligerent and rude. This isn't just another fandom web forum. Show civility in your discourse or you can go away.)

        • I was stating facts that made your position indefensible. The least you could do was show my arguments for everyone to judge. I am going away.

  6. I can't see this novel being of any great consequence without Mara Jade Skywalker at Luke's side. I don't know if I can even stand to read another novel that takes place after Mara's death (unless she is brought back)! Why bother? I am so sick of Luke not having Mara and Han and Leia being together for 40 + years producing sith lords, and one child killing another! The main reason I continued reading the novels after the Bantam Series was to continue to follow the events surrounding Luke and Mara's marriage and their fight against evil as a Jedi couple! Now, the love of Luke's life is dead! What I want to know is why does Lucasfilm bring back Darth Maul in Clone Wars but won't bring back Mara Jade in EU?! Lucasfilm brought back Boba Fett after he was killed off in Return of the Jedi. The Dark Empire comics brought back Palpatine. Are males who are not good guys the only ones that are brought back? Also, in Star Wars, I never understood why Obi-Wan told Vader," if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine" when all he became was a force ghost. Perhaps a good writer could use that idea as a starting point to bring Mara back? Feel free to use that idea Troy Denning! ( P.S., I don't want to see Luke get married to someone else!) (P.P.S., I did enjoy Tatooine Ghost. I guess the prequel novels are the only halfway decent ones now!!)

  7. I agree with you, I switched to fan fiction after they killed off Mara Jade, it was a horrible decision, because they wanted to emulate the last teo prequel movies, since Anakin lost his wife, and Mother, Luke losaes his wife, and Ben loses his mother.

  8. Pingback: Go/No-Go: Crucible | Tosche Station

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