Tuesday, September 19, 2006

impressions after reading the Betrayal Star Wars novel

I say "impressions" because I don't want to do a full-blown review. I'm satisfied with the book. Some of the scenes dragged a little for me, but I admit that I have a weakness for winding, ever-developing plots made up of a lot of little chunks...in short, I wish it was more Zahn-esque. I did like that each character showed off his or her own unique voice, behavior, and mentality. The humorous dialogue sprinkled throughout the book was great, too, and it didn't feel forced, because the characters are known for the ability to make wisecracks in any situation. I appreciate the references to past events in the sprawling Star Wars timeline, although I get annoyed by how much I need to be caught up. Skipping all of the "New Jedi Order" books except two will do that.

I kept being distracted by the inconsistent application of technology in the Star Wars universe. On the one hand, there are starships, laser guns, "transparisteel", and droids, but on the other hand, the people seem to live a lot like us. They drink "caf" to stay alert. They wash dishes. They use switches to turn lights on and off. They wear physical armor, which appears to be mostly useless against any firearms. Any piloting controls appear to operate about the same as an airplane. Well, maybe you press more buttons if you're about to make a faster-than-light jump. There are vehicles that float above the ground, sure, but where's the hoverboard that Michael J. Fox taught us to ride? Hmm? Food seems to be prepared and consumed just like it is now. Health care seems pretty primitive, apart from the cool bionics. In general, there's a surprising lack of automation present, considering how advanced the computers are. At least in Dune there was an explanation for the same occurence: the legendary rage-against-the-machine jihad!

I won't discuss any real spoilers here, but speaking of parallels to Dune, the ability to see the future raises some intriguing ethical, end-justifies-the-means dilemmas at the end of the book. If I somehow know that your life will cause something bad to happen, is it right for me to kill you? How sure would I have to be? How could I be sure that I had considered all the alternatives? Does "destiny" become a consideration? Since the future isn't set in stone, would any vision be a reliable basis for making important decisions? Could one all-seeing, all-knowing person take it upon himself to redirect the course of history? Considered over a long enough time range, is any action only good or only bad? And the HUGE kicker: is the Sith way of embracing attachment and passion necessarily evil, or merely different? RotJ would suggest that it is precisely Luke's stubborn attachment to his father that leads to his redemption. Don't forget, Yoda and Obi both told Luke to cut that attachment loose and make with the patricide.

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