Tuesday, January 06, 2015

please, Mr. Abrams, no Mara Jade

This is where I reveal the extent of my Star Wars nerdiness.

When I was a kid, I used to read movie novelizations, including all the Star Wars-related movie novels as well as the non-canonical* novels, like Alan Dean Foster's still-beloved Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which takes place between "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back," but features a Luke/Vader encounter that really doesn't go well for Vader (in fact, "Empire" features nearly the opposite outcome).

Later in life, just when I thought I had buried my nerdish tendencies for good, along came Timothy Zahn with a new trilogy of Star Wars novels: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. These stories take place a few years after "Return of the Jedi": the New Republic is in the process of mopping up remnants of the Empire, but one of those remnants, Grand Admiral Thrawn, proves to be a threat to the existence of the fragile new order. Han and Leia are married and have twins: Jacen and Jaina. Luke remains single, but little does he know that there's a potential love interest on the horizon: Mara Jade, also known as The Emperor's Hand—a secret assassin who operated in the shadows during the Empire's heyday, independent even of Palpatine's more visible right-hand man, Darth Vader.

I'm all for strong female characters, but not when they're obviously the author's pet creation, so cherished by the author that he gives someone like Jade pride of place even over Luke Skywalker. By the time we get to the climax of The Last Command, the final book in Zahn's trilogy, Luke is reduced to near-uselessness while Mara Jade steals the show and performs all the heroics. That was a highly disappointing conclusion to an otherwise diverting series.

Mara Jade doesn't become Luke's love interest until much later: Jade's character is taken up by different authors in the non-canonical universe, and she's slowly turned into Luke Skywalker's other half: she already has a limited range of Jedi skills, including a certain level of Force-sensitivity; add to that her native toughness, and she's a natural complement for Luke, who's been fairly lonely throughout most of these stories, having lived the hard life of a warrior-monk for so long. (Luke's arc is that he eventually founds a Jedi academy in an attempt to restore the old Jedi Order. Since he's ignorant of most of the Order's 1,000-generation history, he gets help from a device with massive storage capacity called the Jedi Holocron, i.e., a holographic chronology of the Jedi, with data and video footage from ancient to more recent times.)

In any event, I'm not a big fan of new characters' stealing the spotlight from the old ones. I don't know how much JJ Abrams plans to borrow from the "Expanded Universe," but I sincerely hope he stays away from Mara Jade. I might not mind so much if he creates his own original Star Wars characters—but as I felt with Timothy Zahn, I don't want Abrams's characters to crowd all our old favorites into a back seat.

Please, Mr. Abrams: no Mara Jade. For the love of the Force, no.

*Among true geeks, the term "EU," or "Expanded Universe," is used to denote all the stories that take place outside the context of the two George Lucas film trilogies. Perhaps my favorite EU novel is The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. It's funny (See Threepio has never been more hilarious), and it respects the power of the Jedi in a way that Timothy Zahn's novels don't.



John from Daejeon said...

If you haven't read Wolverton's other novels, you are really missing out on a sci-fi writer second only to Heinlein in my book. I enjoyed "Courtship" so much (even though the kidnapping was tough to swallow), that I had to track down his other works. Sadly, "Courtship" lost a lot of its luster once I devoured "On My Way to Paradise" and "The Golden Queen" trilogy. But don't take my word for it, read the reviews of "On My Way to Paradise" on Amazon, and you'll be well on your way to reading one of the greatest novels of all-time.

My favorite "Star Wars" novel has to be book 3 of "The Han Solo Trilogy: Rebel Dawn" by A.C. Crispin, but even it doesn't come close to "On My Way to Paradise" or "The Golden Queen."

On a sad note that bodes poorly for the future of the world, I just introduced my 12 year-old nephew to the original (unedited) "Star Wars" film trilogy. Let's just say that this young "Star Wars" fanatic was far from impressed by old relics from my past. Afterwards, he "force"d me to sit with him and watch "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" cartoons and play various Lego "Star Wars" games on his X-Box. Afterwards, he told me how sad he was for his dad and I to have not had the awesome recent "Star Wars" games, movies, books, and merchandise that he is immersed in when we were his age. I couldn't help myself and told him, "Yes, but at least we aren't like your grandmother. She lived during "Star Wars: Dark Times." Now, he's begging his dad to get him those pre-Republic comics to see how life was back in his grandmother's time before there were "Star Wars" films. Ah, to still be so young and gullible.

John from Daejeon said...

I have quite a ways to go before I can even begin to classify myself as a true science fiction or fantasy fanatic as these ultimate fans make my little "TOS" shrine seem like a minuscule pimple on a Gorn's scaly green ass in comparison.