You would think that, after twenty years,
Han Solo and Chewie could have finally gotten the kinks worked
out of the Millennium Falcon. But apparently Star Wars tie-in
novelists are just too damn enamored with cribbing their jokes
from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. (Apparently without ever noticing that
not only did the Falcon not have these problems before EMPIRE
STRIKES BACK, but that the ship had been fully repaired before
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK even came to an end.)
That is the beginning of this incredible
Here's the basic plot of the first novel of
the trilogy, as I understand it: President Bush sets up an
economic summit in
. When he arrives, he is completely surprised to discover
that Texas has been in a depression for the past twenty years;
Dallas is plagued by nightly race riots; independent militias
are roaming the countryside at will; Austin, Corpus Christi, and
Odessa have declared independence; and Laura has been kidnapped
by an insurrectionist group. For some reason, despite the ready
availability of telephones, the governor of
has not bothered, even once in the past twenty years, to pick up
the phone, call the White House, and say: "Hey, we might
have a problem down here." The President's response to this
crisis? "Hey, I think we all need to play tourist while
pretending that nothing is wrong."
What? That plot doesn't make the least bit
Yeah, that was kind of my impression, too.
Basically, there's a consistent and
pervasive lack of logical thought throughout the entire novel.
For example, on one page Allen will have
one of his characters reflect on the fact that, if they were to
jump into Corellian space outside of the regulated arrival zone,
they would be instantly pounced on and possibly destroyed by the
Corellian navy. Literally two pages later, Allen will have the
exact same character make an uncontrolled, emergency jump into
Corellian space, completely outside the regulated arrival zone
and practically on top of the planet itself, and then conclude
that she has certainly gone completely unnoticed.
Another example: The New Republic's
intelligence agency believes that something very bad is going on
in Corellian space. They aren't quite sure what it is, yet
(because their agents keep getting killed), but they suspect it
might be a threat to the
itself. Leia Organa Solo, the
's Chief of State, is planning to go to Corellia with her family
for a vacation with minimal, almost nonexistent security. Does
intelligence agency think it might be a good idea to tell
Leia that going to Corellia might pose a dangerous security
risk? Of course not. Instead, one lone agent alerts Han Solo
that there's serious trouble brewing. Does Han think it might be
a good idea to alert Leia to the problem? Of course not.
Speaking of the keen minds of the
's intelligence agency, let's talk about the latest operative
they're sending to Corellia: She knows that agents are being
killed. She knows that there's probably a security leak in her
agency which is compromising the Corellian missions. Yet,
despite this, after getting ambushed upon her arrival at
Corellia (and I quote): "She had not spent any time at all
wondering why the Corellians -- or some group of Corellians --
was so intent on killing NRI agents, or on how they knew her
arrival plans." I am literally left speechless at the
stunning incompetence of such a statement. (But it's actually a
double-whammy, because only three pages earlier we watched her
spend considerable time wondering exactly those things and heard
about some of the contingency plans she's taken based on her
suspicions. So she's not really incompetent, Allen just wants us
to think so.)
The same agent is the clever girl who came
up with the "warn Han Solo" plan: She wants him to
poke around Corellia, causing a visible ruckus from his
relatively safe position of diplomatic immunity in order to
provide a distraction from her own, covert mission. Brilliant!
What's her mission? Well, apparently, to spy on the Solo family
and keep them out of trouble. That's right: She wants Han to get
into trouble in order to distract people from her covert mission
of keeping him out of trouble. Sigh.
And it's not just the
's intelligence agency that's suffering from mind-boggling brain
damage. Han Solo is deeply concerned at the idea of safety
inspectors taking a close look at the Millennium Falcon. Because
the Falcon might fail to meet safety standards? No.
Because, for some reason, Han was supposed to have
removed all the military-grade hardware and weaponry from the
Falcon years ago, but "never got around to it" -- so
he's worried that the safety inspectors might notice this stuff
when they're doing their inspection. Okay, two problems: First,
Han, you may not have noticed this, but your wife is the
's Chief of State. Just have her sign-off on the Falcon not
being modified and be done with it. Second, you remember those
quad laser cannons? The big ones, with dedicated turrets on both
the dorsal and ventral sides of the Falcon? Yeah. Those are
still there. So anyone even casually walking past the Falcon
should notice that it still seems to be overly-endowed with
weaponry. (And don't even get me started on the fact that not
only does everyone apparently think Leia is departing on a long
trip without any security forces, they think she's departing on
a long trip without any security forces in a completely unarmed
ship. This is roughly equivalent to George W. Bush hopping into
a Cessna and taking the wife and kids for a quick flight to
But, apparently, no one's really that good
at thinking things through: "Luke thought he knew Coruscant
fairly well, but Lando led him through a labyrinth of passages
and tunnels and lifts and moving walkways that Luke had never
seen before." City the size of a planet and Luke is
surprised that there's parts of it he's never seen before.
And here's another blooper from Han.
Remember how the NRI agent told him to stir up trouble on
Corellia to provide a distraction from her own mission on
Corellia? Well, when she predictably shows up on Corellia:
"Somehow, Han was not at all surprised. She was just the
sort of person who would pop up out of nowhere, light years from
where he thought she was." Uh... What? Light years? How big
a planet do you think Corellia is, Han?
And while I don't expect space operas with
dogfighting spaceships to have the most rigid of scientific
bases, I do expect a certain internal consistency and logical
follow-through. For example, at one point during the story Allen
unveils an interdiction field capable of covering an entire
solar system. In the STAR WARS universe, an interdiction field
is essentially a huge, artificial gravity well designed to yank
ships out of hyperspace.
I want you to stop and think (in precisely
the way that Allen didn't), about what would happen if you
created a huge gravity well right in the middle of the solar
system. In fact, to make things a little more interesting,
imagine that you take a gravity well more massive than any
planet and pop it down right inbetween the Earth and the Moon.
Other things that bug me without being
- Luke gives Leia a red lightsaber. I don't
even know where to start. ("Hey, sis, I've got a black
helmet with a ventilator mask built right in! Wanna try it on?
It's very fetching!")
- Lando the professional lothario didn't
feel right to me. (There's a difference between being a lady's
man and hunting around for a big bank account to marry.) Luke
agreeing to tag along as a chaperone was worse. The fact that
their lady huntin' took them, oh-so-coincidentally, straight to
the Corellian sector just makes me roll my eyes.
- The New Republic apparently has no
standing military. Given the massive, epic battles which have
featured in every other Star Wars tie-in novel I've read, I'm at
a complete loss in understanding why Allen would assert such a
thing. I'm even more baffled that an editor at Bantam didn't
instantly red-line such an obvious gaffe.
- The art of carbon dating is unknown upon
the world of Corellia.
- Giving Han an evil doppleganger (complete
with goatee) is just... painful.
And just to make sure the pain lasts for as
long as possible, the trilogy is badly padded in an obvious
attempt to stretch a single novel worth of plot across three
volumes. There are places where Allen literally takes a lengthy
paragraph to describe something that should have only taken two
sentences... and then proceeds to give you six different
variants of that paragraph. The man literally takes fifteen
pages to describe a crash landing, using a narrative technique
lifted from Voltron and best explicated by this Sluggy Freelance
In short, there are three things which
happen during the crash landing: The pilot applies thrust. An
object falls off the ship. The ship shakes violently. These are
repeated, in nauseating detail and seemingly randomized order,
until the ship finally crashes into the ocean.
And folks, here's the scary part: That's
only the first volume.
The plot of the second novel, as far as I
can tell, looks something like this: "Ms. Flowers, we
understand that you once had a romantic relationship with Bill
Clinton. We really, really need to use the United States Army.
Could you go and ask Bill Clinton if we could use it for
awhile?" For the full effect, you need to imagine that
conversation taking place right now, in 2005.
Then the maddening exposition sets in
again. Not only does Allen continue to inundate you with six
paragraphs of repetitive exposition when a couple of sentences
would do, but he begins repeating about ninety percent of the
expository lumps from the first volume out of that bizarre and
misguided belief that large swaths of people will be picking up
a trilogy starting with book two.
So why did I keep reading? Well, partly
because I'm clearly a glutton for punishment. But largely
because the plot, no matter how ineptly handled, still managed
to keep my curiousity piqued. In many ways the trilogy was a
political thriller transplanted into the Star Wars universe, and
the central mystery of the thriller was just intriguing enough
to keep me turning the pages, even if I was reduced to skimming
across Allen's endless repetition.
You might find the same thing to be true:
Having started, you may find yourself curious enough to endure
the literary pain.
And that's why you really shouldn't start
reading these books to begin with.