Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight
3.2 / 4
1.8 / 4
With the dark ascension of the Empire, and the Jedi Knights virtually wiped out, one Jedi who escaped the massacre is slated for a date with destiny—and a confrontation with Darth Vader.
Jax Pavan is one of the few Jedi Knights who miraculously survived the slaughter that followed Palpatine’s ruthless Order 66. Now, deep in Coruscant’s Blackpit Slums, Jax ekes out a living as a private investigator, trying to help people in need while concealing his Jedi identity and staying one step ahead of the killers out for Jedi blood. And they’re not the only ones in search of the elusive Jax. Hard-boiled reporter Den Dhur and his buddy, the highly unorthodox droid I-5YQ, have shocking news to bring Jax—about the father he never knew.
But when Jax learns that his old Jedi Master has been killed, leaving behind the request that Jax finish a mission critical to the resistance, Jax has no choice but to emerge from hiding—and risk detection by Darth Vader—to fulfill his Master’s dying wish.
Adrick: One of my pet peeves lately has been the lameness of book covers. In my opinion, a book’s cover should make you stop and think “Hey, I’d like to read that story”. One picture may not be worth a thousand words, but a good cover image certainly piques my interest enough to invest in those words. If I may be forgiven judging this book by its awesome-yet-mysterious noir-inspired cover, I would want to read this book even if I weren’t a huge Star Wars fan already.
It’s almost a shame that the book itself doesn’t adopt the pulpy tone established by the cover and plot description. There is little private investigating, the reporter is certainly not hard-boiled (although perhaps a tad over-easy at times), and no one’s gaze cuts like a blaster on full through the smoke-filled air of a cantina seedy enough to serve as a repository for the Ministry of Agriculture.
But retro-pulp expectations aside, this is a darn good Expanded Universe book. It’s a novel about some B-list characters in the Star Wars galaxy who find themselves in an entertaining but not galaxy shattering plot—this is refreshing after the lengthy, plodding Legacy of the Force. It also serves as a nice bridge between the prequel EU novels of recent years and the original trilogy era stories like Shadows of the Empire. When future generations of Star Wars fans read the novels in chronological order, they’ll have a much smoother transition from book to book than those of us who had to read each book as it came out.
Many of the characters here are imported from previous novels by Reaves and his sometime writing partner Steve Perry, so reading Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter and the MedStar duology before starting Jedi Twilight would be a good idea. Reaves also makes use of Even Piell, an underutilized Jedi Council member from the films, and Nick Rostu, a supporting character from Matt Stover’s Shatterpoint. Rostu doesn’t quite have the edge I remember from his original appearance, but it’s good to see some of Stover’s plotlines picked up on. Shadow’s Prince Xizor also gets some terrific scenes, including a climactic battle that pits the Prince’s hand-to-hand combat skills against Jax Pavan’s failing Force powers. This doesn’t sit too well with Xizor’s earlier/later experience with Vader’s dark side abilities in the Bounty Hunter Wars, but it’s certainly exciting.
Surprisingly, though, I enjoyed the new characters more than the returning ones. There’s an aide of Vader’s, whose fear of the Sith Lord becomes overwhelming, a Jedi from a splinter sect with unusual Force talents, and a Hutt with a taste for unusual—and potentially deadly--artwork. Jax Pavan’s struggle to find the Force—or to let the Force find him—is also explored in a new and interesting way.
If I have one complaint about this story, it’s that it’s set entirely on Coruscant—a planet that, in my opinion, is being overused. Aside from the multitude of EU works exploring Coruscant, we’ve seen the “rogue Jedi in Coruscant’s underworld trying to help people on Coruscant while hiding from Darth Vader” plotline before in both the Last of the Jedi and Evasive Action series. However, Reaves has done a great job here, and I’m ready for two more volumes of Coruscant Nights.
Stephen:Yes, I have once more submitted myself unto the Star Wars authors in the hopes of finding a book which would enthrall, titillate and overall give me the chance to enjoy a brief bit of fantasy-escapism for about a hundred thousand words or so. This time it was Michael Reeves' latest contribution to the Expanded Universe, entitled Jedi Twilight: Coruscant Nights I (ISBN: 9780345477507). This particular novel clocked in at 350 pages, which included a 3 page preview of the next Coruscant Nights novel. Now the fact that it took me around two weeks to actually read this book should be a decent indicator of my overall feelings towards it. Especially when you consider that I've purchased three others and finished 4 books in the same time frame--but more on that later, for now let's talk about the other things.
The plot itself is fairly standard adventure stuff, despite the almost noir underpinnings of the cover and the back-cover blurb. This was actually highly disappointing. I was wanting a noir murder mystery. It would have been new and exciting, yet what we ended up with was more of the same. That aside, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the plot: it just held the promise of so much more.
As far as characters are concerned, eleven people appear on the dramatis personae, giving the impression of a reasonably-sized cast, but in my opinion, that was someone reaching a bit to make it longer. Over half of those characters barely got screen time, and one of them appeared on only a handful of pages. Of those that remained, the important ones were: Den Dhur, Jax Pavan, Nick Rostu and I5.
Of those, the only one who really grew in the story was Jax Pavan. In the end, this was Jax's story. He was the one that had a task to go through, one that related to what it means to be a Jedi and what he should be doing with his life in general in a universe that has suffered through the Jedi Purge.
The villains of the piece were some random Hutt, who didn't get in the dramatis personae, Xizor and Darth Vader. That said, they could have just as easily been replaced by Random Strangers 1, 2 and 3. Did they grow as characters? Did we get new insights or concepts for them? No. Not really. And that was a sad thing.
Mechanics were well done, no typos, no glaring grammatical issues and in general a well wrought story. There was one issue I had with it--the author's reliance on using imaginary concepts to describe concepts both imaginary and real. The most annoying to me is probably the oddball terms coined to describe common things; for example pyrowall and conapt. Why couldn't the author have just said firewall and apartment?
But the biggest drawback I had in this novel was that I was bored. The fact that the two primary antagonists of this novel were known to have survived (because they appear in later stories) ensured that I had no sense of danger. Sadly, I fear that this will be a problem with all books set in the Dark Times. They can't kill Vader because he has to be around for the OT.
This boredom is the problem with this novel. There was no sense of adventure--something that Reaves could have generated by just having the primary antagonists be different people.
Overall, it was an all right book. If someone were to read all the Star Wars novels in chronological order, without knowing about the Original Trilogy, then, that person could be thrilled by this novel. It's a well-written book. But it's not a noir murder mystery set in the Star Wars universe, and by having the antagonists be Darth Vader and Xizor well, you just know that the protagonists just aren't going to win.
In the end, I'm giving this a 1.8 out of 4. Which is sad, because it had the potential to be a great book.