Tosche Station Radio #62: Where Do We Go From Here?

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On this episode of Tosche Station Radio, the hosts are joined by staff writer Bria for a discussion of diversity in Star Wars, a review  of Crucible, and ask where the Expanded Universe should go from here.

Kicking off the show, the hosts highlight what’s New on the Blog. Bria addressed the lack of diversity in Star Wars. Crucible released, and there was lots of discussion. First there was our new non-spoiler Go/No-go feature, Brian’s review, and finally Bria’s review. Nanci reviewed Overdraft: The Orion Offensive by John Jackson Miller. Finally, the inevitable happened. We have a Tumblr! Sign up there for our usual brand of fandom inanity in convenient, bite-sized morsels.

In Fixer’s Flash, Nanci’s been busy reading Overdraft: The Orion Offensive and an ARC of Kenobi by John Jackson Miller. She’s also working on some original fiction and somewhere in there, found the time to sell a short story. Brian also finished Kenobi and started watching Arrested Development. Only a few years too late to save it. Bria rewatched Dollhouse and picked up a new show to throw on her fandom plate, Hannibal.

Deak’s Dirt starts with more Disney Parks rumors. Will it be the largest ever? The Orlando Business Journal says yes. Paul S. Kemp says his duology is “on standby”, cites Disney and the Sequel Trilogy being the cause. Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells gets a blurb. Nanci gives a dramatic reading. Bria might be a tad excited for this. Disney is planning a large Star Wars presence at D23 expo. Also, Comic Con (July 18-21) and CE2 (July 26-28) are coming up! Let’s home for some exciting news. In release news, out now is William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Get thee to a bookstore!

On this week’s Camie’s Concerns, it’s a spoiler-filled review of the latest Expanded Universe release: Crucible by Troy Denning. How did the bookend for three of the most important characters in the Saga fare? From there, the hosts segue into discussing just where the EU needs to go from here and what the Sequel Trilogy means for it.

Tosche Station Radio is the official podcast of Tosche-Station.net and a part of Majestic Giraffe Productions. If you like what you hear, please leave a review on the iTunes Music Store. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Nanci and Brian are the co-founders and writers of Tosche-Station.net. You can find Nanci on Twitter with the handle @Nancipants and you can find Brian with @LaneWinree.

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and Audible.com.

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Review: Crucible by Troy Denning

Crucible by Troy Denning is a bookend of sorts. It’s not the dramatic conclusion to the Expanded Universe that many fans hypothesized, but it is sort of an end-point for Luke, Han and Leia. As such, expectations for this book are high, and that’s only natural for a book of such importance for the Big Three. Because of the importance of this book, my review is going to run a bit longer than it normally would. As an additional note, we’re also going to roundtable discuss this book on the podcast this week, so we’ll be able to hash out some additional thoughts that Bria and I couldn’t quite fit into our written reviews.

There’s a lot of things I wanted to touch on here so without further ado, to the review. Be warned, spoilers loom below the cut.

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Review: Crucible

CrucibleCoverI went into Crucible slightly hopeful and also without very high expectations, hoping that this book would surprise me.  Unfortunately, it failed miserably.  Instead of moving forward and away from some of the less liked bits of the last ten years of the Expanded Universe, Crucible latches on to those bits and runs with them.  Readers who haven’t read Fate of the Jedi will be lost about a great many plot points, which makes it a failure as a standalone novel.  The best way that I can describe this book is that it takes the worst plotlines from Fate of the Jedi, adds in lot of arrogant Jedi superiority, and then a final dash of Crystal Star at the end.  Unfortunately, no Star Wars fan ever said “The Expanded Universe needs more plotlines like the Crystal Star!’ and for good reason.  If this is really going to be the last big adventure for Luke, Leia, and Han, then I am oh so sorry for all three of them.

Mild Spoilers Beneath The Cut

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Go/No-Go: Crucible

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Later tonight, we’ve got a pair of Crucible reviews that we’ll get posted. Until then, we want to try something new. Our reviews usually feature spoilers, and I’m certain a number of you wish to stay spoiler-free but also want to know if something we’re reviewing is something you should go out and buy right away. That’s why we’re introducing a new feature called Go/No-Go. What we’ll do is go around the horn Mission Control style and have the blog’s staff writers offer a brief, spoiler-free paragraph detailing whether or not they think a book, film, or other piece of entertainment is a Go or a No-Go to purchase.

First up on the launch pad: Crucible by Troy Denning

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EU Retrospective: Fate of the Jedi Part 2

Well.  It’s done.  I’ve finished reading these books and I’m ridiculously relieved to be through with Fate of the Jedi.  To be completely honest, even though there are a lot of things in Legacy of the Force that upset me, I’d rather read a series like that than this one.  I hated the character derailment that some of them were subjected to but I prefer that series as a whole to reading about anything with Abeloth ever again.  No more tentacles please.  There were a lot more high points in that series than this one.  To top it off, I just never felt as invested in these books.  There was both too much and too little going on.  I know that sounds impossible but I don’t know how else to describe it.   Basically, the majority of the series made me do this:

At least there was Mercy Kill waiting for me at the end.  Observe my Wraith Squadron related tears of joy.

Warning: There are some NSFW words on some of these gifs

Vortex
My sentiment about having to read this book again can be summed up in one word: Ugh.

This book is bad.  It’s not Jedi bug sex bad because I didn’t cringe and resort to drinking but it is bad.  I literally just finished it and tossed it down and said “Stupid.  So stupid.”  Was half the galaxy replaced by Skrulls?  Honestly, I’m running out of reasons for why so many people acted the way they did.  Everyone makes bad decisions that in turn make me want to bash my head against a wall.  I can’t even rage like I usually do.  It’s just all so gosh darn frustrating.  We’ll go down the list.

First and foremost is everything involving Kenth Hamner.  I have yet to understand why “The Villainization of Kenth Hamner” had to occur and I think it’s ridiculous.  While I don’t think that he (or anyone in the order really) is looking at the situation from an entirely rational point of view, I also don’t think that anything that happened with his storyline was logical.  I especially disagree with how he dies.

That brings me to point two which is Saba.  I liked Saba when she was originally introduced.  I really did.  I feel like I’m not dealing with entirely the same character anymore.  It’s nice that she doesn’t take any pleasure in killing Kenth but it doesn’t change that she did and the last time I checked?  You don’t reward someone for that by making her the new Grand Master.  Seriously, Cilghal and Corran?  Seriously?  Kyp Durron or Kyle Katarn would’ve been better choices.  I’ll agree about wanting someone who’s more of a warrior in charge but I certainly don’t think that staging a kriffing COUP is going to help things.  There’s general distrust of the Jedi Order because they’re too powerful and act only as they see fit.  Clearly the best way to counter this is to remove the Chief of State from office.  EXCEPT NO.  NO IT IS NOT.

On the other side of the galaxy, we’ve got Skrull!Luke Skywalker.  Everything about this Luke feels wrong.  I don’t know what else to say except that this isn’t the Luke Skywalker we know from the films and previous books.  I’d also really like to know when his storyline went from ‘Retrace Jacen Solo’s Force Odyssey’ to ‘Retrace Luke Skywalker’s Love Life’.  Oh and hey!  We can throw in some Sith while we’re at it.  😐

Fourth, I still don’t get Abeloth.  If I could never read again about her tentacles and giant mouth that eats people or whatever, I’d be happy.  She is ridiculous.  Everything about this storyline is ridiculous and I want it to end.  I’m so done with all of this.

This next one doesn’t anger me as much as it annoys me.  I honestly don’t get the point of including this slave uprising storyline.  I know it gets used more later and does tie into the overarching story but it feels overall like wasted page space to me.  Sorry.

Finally, who thought this Barabel nest thing was a good idea especially when it comes to ending a book?  No, don’t answer that.  It was rhetorical.  On a scale from 1-10, this ranks an 8 on the Unnecessary Scale.

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EU Retrospective: Fate of the Jedi Part 1

Well.  Here we are.  Reading Fate of the Jedi again.  I had actually just gotten around to reading the series in its entirety the month before I started this project and I can’t really say that I was looking forward to reading it again so soon especially given how long I delayed reading it in the first place.  This series was first published in March 2009.  By then, I was a poor college student and the prospect of reading and buying series published entirely in hardcover was not very appealing to me especially after Invincible.  At some point, I picked up the first book because it was Allston, liked it well enough, but wasn’t overly inclined to run out and read all the others.  In the summer of 2011, I finally convinced myself to read the first four books… and then got side tracked by a New Jedi Order reread and didn’t return to them until fall 2012.  Basically, this is a very long winded way for me to say that this series never really managed to grab my attention and draw me in like some of the others.  Unfortunately.

I blame Abeloth.

Outcast
Well, they Allston-ed me again.  It’s nice to see that the previous galactic war had consequences and that they are carrying over here.  However, I still cannot figure out why the heck anyone would put Daala in charge.  It makes zero sense to me.

The good news is that this book has a lot of my favorite Allston moves.  We get a pilot reunion over on Kessel and thankfully, Wedge seems to still be retired.  We also get the Darkmeld group which I positively LOVE and not just because Winter finally get to reappear.  It’s a rather excellent mix of people.  I also loved that we get Jag referencing his relationship to Wedge because that’s brought into play far too infrequently.  The relationship between Jaina and Jag is also very well written and it’s nice to see them together and functional again.  Also, every time Jag corrects someone about it being the ‘Galactic Empire’ instead of ‘Imperial Remnant’, I crack up.

In typical Allston fashion, the Horn siblings (and family) finally get to take center stage only for their lives to end up seriously sucking.  Valin Horn, stop being crazy.

The other high point of this book has to be the father/son relationship between Ben and Luke.  I love getting to see Ben’s ridiculous sense of humor (Grand Master Whango Mittpool!) and how well they work together.  The whole plot line of retracing Jacen’s steps and trying to figure out what happened is actually rather intriguing although I think his problem was named Lumiya.  Regardless, it will be neat to see these other Force using orders.  But really, it’s just great watching these two play off one another especially with their different strengths and weaknesses.

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EU Retrospective: Legacy of the Force Part 2

We’re so close to the end of this project and also so close to me dying of high blood pressure.  I’ve said before that I didn’t hate this series completely the first time I read it and that still remains true now.  However, there is a definite turning point where my enjoyment of the books shoots waaaaay down and that turning point was the ending of Sacrifice.  I’m also realizing that reading all these books so close together isn’t doing me or the series any favors.  When there are months between publications dates or you’re just casually reading the books, you have time to cool down between each book.  When you’re reading them for a blog, you don’t get that breathing space so I apologize, I really do, for the fury displayed in this post.

Ironically enough, much of that fury isn’t directed at Fury.

Inferno
I’m trying really really really hard right now to take some deep breaths after finishing this book.  It’s possible that this book upsets me even more than Sacrifice did because I’m honestly scraping the bottom of the barrel here for any positives about this book.  I guess that I can’t really hate on the writing style?  It didn’t offend me or anything.  Oh!  I did like the brief scene with Han, Leia, and Tenel Ka towards the end.  It’s a nice moment and I love that the Solos see Tenel Ka like part of the family.

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EU Retrospective: Legacy of the Force Part 1

I’m not going to lie: I’ve been dreading reaching these books in my reread not because I dislike them as a whole but because of how controversial they are.  Actually, I don’t hate everything about these books, just certain parts.  In the mean time, observe as I use humor as a red cape to distract all of you for yelling at me for being wrong!  Can you tell I’m nervous?  I think I’m doing that thing where I write too much.  Maybe we should just start with the actual post.

Betrayal
Kids, in spring of 2006, I was ready to give up on the current timeline of Star Wars books.  The Dark Nest trilogy had left me mentally scarred and the Prequel Trilogy books just seemed so much nicer and safer even though I knew everyone was going to die.  And then Del Rey did something very smart: they Allston-ed me. What is ‘Allston-ed’, you ask?

Allston-ed (verb)  1 The act of bringing in Aaron Allston to write more books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe therefore enticing readers who might have otherwise quit to come back and continue reading.
2  Experiencing a heart-breaking character death that makes you want to sob uncontrollably and from which you shall never recover.

To top it off, we were told that the planet Adumar would be making an appearance and that Wedge would be in the book.  You have no idea how disappointed I was that the Adumarians hadn’t put up a statue of Wedge somewhere and written a charming song called ‘Hero of Adumar’ to go with it.  SO DISAPPOINTED.   (Wedge!  The Man They Call Wedge!)

Speaking of Wedge, why can no one just let him retire?  Or maybe you should just not kidnap him and hold him prisoner.  I’m told that’s a sure way to convince him to fight against you simply because he’s pissed.  On the other hand, I find it hilarious when Wedge takes advantage of his pilots’ reflexes and military instincts and yells things like “Rogue Two! Break to port!” at them and makes them look ridiculous.  So much about this book reminds me why he and Tycho Celchu are some of my favorite characters especially when you put the two of them together.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  There was many a time where I was downright grinning like an idiot as I read through it.  It was like I was reading this book for the first time again.  I will never be over the Donoslane and Kolot references or Shalla’s brief unnamed cameo.  To top it off, we get to see both Doran Tainer and Syal Antilles as characters in this book.  Characters who do things and get page time.  I have such a strong love for all of the Wraith and Rogue kids that this made me happy beyond belief.

Oh wait.  These books are supposed to be about the Skywalkers and Solos, aren’t they?  I think that Allston writes a really good Jaina and I love getting to see her as a pilot again.  Wedge and Tycho are right: she is indeed a traitor for not sticking with the piloting thing.  It’s such a shame since she’s so good at it.  As far as Han and Leia go, I just roll my eyes and shake my head at them.  I think they’re actually making the GFFA/Corellia situation worse by meddling.  Allston also writes a really great Ben.  That kid’s sense of humor cracks me up every time especially with his Lando impression.

I’m not a huge fan of Jacen Solo taking stupid pills at the end of the book though nor am I fan of Nelani dying.  She had potential to be a really great character but alas.  Damnit Jacen.  Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to listen to Shire Brie?  This will end in so many tears.  Many of them will be mine.

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EU Retrospective: The New Jedi Order Part 2

Things might be going really downhill for the galaxy but boy are they going uphill for me as a reader!  I actually find the middle chunk of New Jedi Order books to be incredibly solid reads and rather enjoy all of them despite the emotions they might provoke from me.

Balance Point:
It’s a marvel I stuck with the New Jedi Order because Balance Point is the third book in a row that just doesn’t impress me. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, it’s just meh and I find it to be boring.

Again, the bits with Mara and Anakin working together are definitely a highlight. Actually, everything with Mara in this book is a high point. And that’s about it.

The entire point of the book seems to be an excuse for the Solo family to continue to have its issues and to resolve most of them by the end. The other point seems to be for Jacen Solo to continue to have his philosophical issues with using the Force and I still don’t buy any of that reasoning. By this point, the war’s been going on for a year and the Vong are clearly an issue. I don’t believe for a minute that Jacen Solo would sit back and not give his all to defend the galaxy. It just doesn’t fit with this character. With Tsavong Lah declaring that he wants all the Jedi dead and singling out Jacen, this feels like it was almost tacked on editorial meddling when they realized that he wouldn’t be the Solo kid dying.

I’m sure there are other people out there who liked this book but not I.  I’m going to stick with my resounding ‘meh’ for my review.

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Crucible Gets New Blurb

Random House posted a new blurb for Troy Denning’s Crucible, the next and perhaps last grand adventure for Luke, Han, and Leia in the Post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe.

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a  pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. They will stop at nothing to control the lucrative Outer Rim mining trade—and ultimately the entire galactic economy. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

Crucible is due out on bookshelves on July 9.

Via Club Jade