Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Invincible, Troy Denning
Those of you who are regular readers know how I feel about Troy Denning. (Those of you who aren’t: not positively.) So you can imagine how unsurprised I was when Invincible, the culmination of an overwhelmingly mediocre nine-book series that takes place after The New Jedi Order, was really really terrible.
But what bothered me most was not just that the book was terrible. It was that it violated the most basic principle of Star Wars: that hope is a powerful force in the universe. Now you can believe that or not—I do, I have to—but regardless, it’s a key motivator in the original films, and it has been throughout most of the novels. It is a basic tenet of my faith—not only my religious faith, but the faith that we all have to have in other human beings if we want to remain sane in an increasingly insane world—that all human beings are innately good; that, once fallen, all of us are capable of being redeemed. And again, you can take that or leave it; you can think that redemption is faith in Jesus Christ or in the spaghetti monster or in love or hope; but you can’t deny that it is also a basic guiding principle of the Star Wars movies. What do they teach us if not that?
And so that’s my gripe with Invincible. Not that the plotting was lazy—it was—or that the characterizations were shallow—they were. But that, in the end, it failed to do the one thing these novels have to do. We whine and moan about Star Wars and its wayward politics, the dubiousness of allowing a class like the Jedi to exist and to help govern, very creepily and undemocratically, by birthright. That’s all true, and clearly these movies aren’t meant to be taken as a model for how to run a government. What they are is yet another incarnation of a very familiar story, and an important one.
So when Invincible shows up and tells us that, no, not everyone can be saved, and that indeed, the guy who can’t be saved is a character we’ve grown up with and loved for years—well, that’s frustrating. Even in the New Jedi Order, which everyone complained was too dark (everyone except me, anyway), that basic belief in the possibility—the necessity—of redemption remained. Horrible villains, even, who blew up dozens of planets and killed trillions of beings (including Chewbacca!!!!) got the chance Jacen didn’t. And as much as I don’t really care all that much about his character, I care a lot about what it means that they’ve killed him.
For one thing, it plunges these books irrevocably into dark territory. That started with the aforementioned death of Chewie (and later of Anakin, and then Mara), but those deaths—honorable ones all—were the kinds of deaths you always get in stories that have any drama at all. So we accept those as a consequence of storytelling. But having Jaina kill her own brother after deciding—along with Luke, Han, Leia, etc.—that he can’t possibly be saved? That doesn’t work. It’s a violation of everything this series means to this lame group of us who keeps reading these terrible books.
In short: Fortunately Star Wars novels are such that if you didn’t already read them you’re not going to start now (and unfortunately they also seem to be novels you can’t stop reading if you’ve been reading them since age seven). So, I mean, don’t start now.
Read it if you like: All the other horrible Star Wars novels.