Wednesday, March 18, 2015

7 Days of Legends: Dawn of the Jedi–Eruption by John Ostrander


Ever since Star Wars: Gamer started publishing short stories, Star Wars developed a proud tradition of publishing free short stories in order to promote upcoming fiction releases.  Sometimes these would be promoted to fans that were already reading Star Wars: Gamer, then Star Wars: Insider after Gamer’s run ended.  Sometimes, these stories would be published online.  Star Wars short fiction had been collected and published for years, but it wasn’t until West End Games’ Star Wars Adventure Journal stopped being published in 1997 (the same year that I watched the Star Wars trilogy on the big screen, which may or may not be a coincidence) that it served a purpose other than allowing authors to write fan fiction in their favorite series.  In 1999, two major novel lines were launched by Del Rey for Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, a series of 19 novels that are still the best-remembered Star Wars literature project of more than three books, and tie in novels to the new prequel trilogy movies.  Both the first line of Clone Wars books and the New Jedi Order made their full use of this idea of using free short stories to encourage people to pay for long ones, with Emissary of the Void having become the only reason that a lot of fans remember that Star Wars Gamer existed.

Dawn of the Jedi: Eruption comes from this proud tradition, and as such, it isn’t a very long story.  Like several other short stories (the earliest probably being James Luceno’s Ebook novella Darth Maul: Saboteur), Eruption was folded into the covers of the novel it existed to promote: Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void.  While Into the Void was written by Star Wars newcomer Tim Lebbon, Eruption was written by John Ostrander, writer of over one hundred Star Wars comics and, to my knowledge, no previous prose stories.

Ostrander writes about Lanoree Brock, the heroine of Into the Void and Twi’lek Je’daii Hawk Ryo from the Dawn of the Jedi comics.  The two are tasked with dealing with labor negotiations and the hostage situation that sprung from it, in the midst of a literal eruption of the volcanic sort.  The twin roles give a good showing of what the Je’daii mean for the Tython system, which has both similarities and differences to what the Jed mean to the Republic in its twilight years.

The short story, published in April of 2013 and a week before Into the Void, is a fair introduction to the setting for new readers.  Fans of the comic series will see it as a short aside, an introduction to a new character, and a day in the life of more experienced Je’daii than the stars of Force Storm, while prose-exclusive readers will see their introduction to the Je’daii weapon - the longsword - the ideology of balance, and the chaotic brother-versus-brother and neighbor-versus-neighbor life of the Tythan colonies.

As would be expected, Lanoree Brock stands out as the star of this story.  Hawk acts as an action hero, doing nothing that you wouldn’t expect from the average Jedi Guardian (though he does it well).  Brock, on the other hand, handles the negotiations, which she rightly identifies as the more difficult task, through a combination of intimidation, timing and persuasion, she identifies a poisoning attempt by scent and talks a confession out of the culprit, and perhaps most importantly, treats it all as part of a day’s work.  This would get a little overblown in the actual novel, but for a teaser, it does a good job.

If there’s anything I feel this story is lacking for its length, it’s the sense of being part of something greater.  Comparing it again to Darth Maul: Saboteur, it was clear that that story was just a minor mission leading up to something greater.  Eruption makes a mention of being summoned to Tython for the briefing at the beginning of Into the Void at the end, but that’s about it.  There’s no sense of the calm before the storm, which helps the story feel self-contained, but doesn’t give you any feeling of anticipation of the book to come.

I wouldn’t recommend hunting down Insider #141 just for the sake of reading this story, but if you have an interest in Into the Void or already have a reason to read Star Wars: Insider (and let’s face it, I don’t need a specific reason to want to read more Star Wars: Insider), give Dawn of the Jedi: Eruption a look before reading Into the Void.  You can treat it as a sort of Chapter 0, introducing you to the character before she meets with the Masters on Tython.

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