Story: On the trail of the captured Jedi Knight named Tahl, Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi finds himself losing confidence in his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, as Qui-Gon allows his personal feelings for Tahl to obscure his loyalties. At the same time, Obi-Wan and his master must try to resolve a conflict between social classes that is tearing the planet of New Apsolon apart.
Review: Boy, I hate the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I have read many Star Wars novels and with the exception of “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” and the Brian Daley Han Solo books, I have found them almost universally dreadful. (The early Lando books weren’t too bad, either.) Seldom do the authors seem to grasp the storytelling forms used in the films. They seem to have set up their own little view of the Star Wars Universe and are more interested in adhering to that than to the work of George Lucas. (Case in point: you can make an argument for an anti-alien bias in the Empire based on what’s in the films, but the EU makes it an all-encompassing passion of the Emperor far beyond anything that Lucas even suggests.) The one area where I have ocassionally found a more accurate representation of the Star Wars universe is in books written for a younger audience. (They don’t want to mess around too much for the sake of the kids.)
So it was with the hope of reading a decent, on-target story about Qui-Gon Jinn (my favorite Jedi) that I decided to read the junior novel “The Death Of Hope”, part of the “Jedi Apprentice” series. I couldn’t have been more mistaken if I had tried.
For starters, the story picks up basically mid-stream. Apparently the “Jedi Apprentice” series, rather than being a good entry point for young readers, is just as tied to EU continuity as any other EU media. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s attempts to rescue the Jedi Tahl are a direct follow-up to the previous book, in which Tahl is kidnapped after declaring her love for Qui-Gon. That’s right, her love for Qui-Gon. You see, at least at this point in the series, the focus is quite heavily on Qui-Gon’s strong feelings for Tahl and how they are driving and distracting him.
Now, I can forgive the idea of Jedi being so open to the idea of physical attraction because these books were written before Attack Of The Clones was made, so the rules against marriage for a Jedi had not yet been created. What I cannot accept is a Qui-Gon Jinn who loses focus like he does here. Practically the whole book is him fighting against his instincts (often losing) to throw everything else away to rescue Tahl. Obi-Wan (the apprentice here, remember) is the one keeping the duo on track, constantly worrying about how his master is losing it.
When I read a licensed story like this, I tend to hear the voices of the actors in my head as I read the dialogue, and this was a big reason why this book just felt wrong to me. Qui-Gon doesn’t sound like Qui-Gon. He’s irrational. Sure, The Phantom Menace mentions that he has defied the Council before and that he considers Obi-Wan to be a wiser man than he, but I think it’s clear in the film that he is just being modest. Qui-Gon defines the ideal Jedi and to plague him with this kind of storyline is a disservice to the character.
It doesn’t help matters that the story, an extremely simple tale of political infighting with siblings on opposite sides of some kind of class war, is boring and there are no legitimately interesting supporting characters around to make the reader give a damn what happens to anybody. It’s revolves around some sort of ongoing fight between two opposing groups: “The Civilized” and “The Workers”. (No, I didn’t make that up. It’s really that mind-numbingly simplistic.) The planet’s led by the elite “Absolutes”, who are trying to purify the planet of the underclassess…or something…or other…blah…blah…blah.
“The Death of Hope”, indeed. The death of any hope of finding a decent EU novel.
Author: Jude Watson