book report: Barbara Hambly; Children of the Jedi

10 March 2007, 12:06 pm

I liked Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels a lot, even if they were a somewhat guilty pleasure. Many other people apparently liked them too, because LucasFilm and Bantam Spectra cooked up a chronology spanning some fifteen years after Return of the Jedi and found writers to fill it in with dozens of novels. The back cover descriptions and the lush front cover paintings of these books touched some eternally-thirteen-year-old part of me, and I bought more of them than I will admit. Unfortunately, the adult part of me found most of them so badly and baldly written as to be totally unreadable.

Lately I’ve ditched several of these novels via Bookmooch. I’m happy to connect the books with people who really want them.

But initially I held back a handful I thought I might actually read someday, because they were written by writers whose work I already knew and had enjoyed in the past. Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi was the first of these. I’d read one or two of Hambly’s fantasy novels and remembered them favorably — not great, but not as thoroughly cliché-ridden as some of the other fantasy novels I’d read.

Children of the Jedi turned out to be a perfect book to read while feverish. It wasn’t as clunky as some of the Star Wars novels that had failed to draw my interest, but it wasn’t exactly challenging either. Structurally it’s a bit like The Empire Strikes Back, cross-cutting between widely separated events in bizarre, extreme, enviornments. Luke Skywalker, See Threepio, and an the requisite motley, unlikely, collection of allies find themselves marooned on a decrepit battle station ruled by an insane supercomputer, and haunted by a strange entity. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Princess (now Chief of State) Leia, and their assorted pals and foes try to unravel the mysteries around a secret enclave of Jedi children on a crazy planet where life exists only in fragile enclaves between a wintry surface and a volcanic molten hell. Ultimately (of course) the disparate plot threads collide, and derring-do, tense chases, Dark-Side-of-the-Force hijinks, and things-blowing-up-real-good ensue. Children of the Jedi evinces the same sort of plot flaws the original movies showed throughout — the Force has a strange tendency to become much less useful when the author needs to make it difficult for a character to surmount obstacles. I was particularly annoyed that Skywalker mysteriously, but conveniently, forgets many of the uses to which his lightsaber can be put.

Children of the Jedi trots out plenty of the standard riffs, with various folks expressing the signature “bad feeling about this” on no less than four occasions, and plenty of arms and/or hands being de-attached with lightsabers. It has some references to other series books that felt very clumsily grated on, and I think it would have be stronger if it were cut by twenty percent or so. But it also offers some quirky touches that I appreciated, like the weary ex-stormtrooper who embroiders flowers on his homespun clothing. And it kept me from focusing on how rotten I felt for a few hours — it delivered all that I asked, and expected, of it. Maybe that’s not such faint praise.

One comment on “book report: Barbara Hambly; Children of the Jedi”

  1. editrix

    Demons?

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