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meanderings
I'm trying to feed my soul with thought
 
2nd-Jul-2006 11:19 pm
misc - red hair
And as you might be able to tell from the icon, I'm less than impressed. 

In no way is my opinion of the book to reflect on my anticipation of your fic, though, Li. That, I'm still thrilled about. But as far as the book itself and Hambly's writing style - well. Had it been submitted to the Archive, I'd have rejected it.  Some things are interesting. Some are not. Some turns of phrase are lovely and evocative; most are far too flowery for my taste and I find my eyes glazing over. 

By the time I reached chapter ten, I found myself so irked by certain aspects of the writing that I started keeping track of them. I'm now almost done with chapter sixteen, and I need a quick break. So here's my assessment of chapters 10-16, mostly divided into somewhat vague categories. Prepare yourself.


Earthisms

There are way too many of these, imo. What annoys me more than anything (in this category) is that in some instances Hambly seems to go well out of her way to avoid using a word so common that it wouldn't register as an earthism to most readers ("shallow cakes of colored wax" instead of "candles" springs to mind, especially when she flat out called them candles almost immediately afterward), but then carelessly drops much more distinctive earthisms. I'm not counting the names of gemstones - I think she's named most of the ones you'd find in a jewelry store so far - since A) gemstones are an accepted part of life in the GFFA, and B) it makes sense for them to be so, since if there are planets compatible with human life, it stands to reason that those planets could also have the correct minerals and circumstances to produce certain gemstones. Other less forgivable earthisms include:

cabbage
apricot
daffodil
saffron
vanilla (were it by itself in this category, I'd let it slide since chocolate is canon, but when combined with so many others it bothers me)
A-size power cell (not AAA? what about nine-volt?)
olive green
soda straw


too-obviously-trying-not-to-be-earthisms

pittens
skreekers
peepers
slootheberry wrinkle cream (slootheberry???)
foo-twitter 


failed onomatopoeia

hursh (to describe running water)
gronch (to describe Tusken speech)


plot and/or narrative inconsistencies and/or implausibilities

- While Luke is aboard the Eye, he suffers an ax wound to the thigh which results in severed tendons and an internal infection. He self-medicates with a pain reliever with the known side effect of reduced concentration. He goes without food or sleep for quite some time, remains physically active, and is under a great deal of stress. Despite this, and despite her own insistence on emphasizing how even the smallest exertion (physical or with the Force; they're both specifically mentioned) is a huge exhausting effort for him, Hambly has him acting like Super-Jedi. He influences people's minds, constantly attempts self-healing, heals others, levitates things, cuts down a bunch of Tusken Raiders, tries to get past the computer's parameters, climbs access ladders between decks, searches entire decks of the gigantic ship, and tries to rescue his two kidnapped friends, among other things. In between all of that, he finds the time and mental and emotional depth to fall madly in love with a dead woman whose spirit is trapped in the ship's computer. Color me befuddled. 

- If Hambly specifically mentions the Force one more time (The Force, Luke thought hazily. Got to use the Force), I shall throw the book across the room. Okay, so I won't - but I'll want to. I anticipate wanting to quite frequently. 

- Hambly switches too often between tags for the same character. Han goes from "Han" to "Solo" and back again in the space of a dozen paragraphs. In one brief scene, Mara is referred to as "Mara Jade", "Mara", "the smuggler", and "the woman who had been the Emperor's Hand". Enough already. That's a seriously amateur oversight.

- At one point, Mara says that she must look like one of the Nightsisters of Dathomir. A common phrase in the GFFA, or a spectacularly unoriginal and heavy-handed attempt to name drop from other EU books? 

- Mara is referred to as wearing a shirt that "Leia recognized as belonging to Lando Calrissian". Leia's got Lando's wardrobe memorized now? Never even mind the character assassination of poor Mara. Zahn seriously had his work cut out for him retconning some of the rest of the EU's drivel when he wrote HoT. 

- On page 188, we find the passage: "She was silent for a time, and looking at her, Leia wondered suddenly if that was what had drawn Mara to the Emperor in the first place: that Palpatine, Force-strong as he was, had been the only one who could teach Mara, the only one like herself that she knew." Interesting, that Hambly would know enough of the EU to mention the Nightsisters but not enough to know that Mara was taken as such a small child that she can't even remember her home or parents. "Drawn to the Emperor in the first place", indeed.  Newsflash, Ms. Hambly: Mara didn't choose her servitude to Palpatine. In addition, one wonders why, if Mara had merely "been drawn" to Palpatine because she wanted to be taught, why he didn't just cut her down as he'd had all the Jedi cut down. Not to mention that even though Mara was unaware of the other Hands (way to piggyback on Zahn's ideas, O Bantam Authors Who Completely Draw Blanks When It Comes to Thinking of Original Plots), there's still at least one other Force-strong person who Mara knew very well indeed. Tall, dark, asthmatic, had a bad habit of choking the bearers of bad news. I'm sure we all remember him. 

- On pages 190-1, Mara says: "No, they didn't use drugs." Four paragraphs later, she says of the same people, "(They'd) drug them with a hallucinogen like brain-jagger or Black Hole." 

- Running short of stormtroopers and other guards, Palpatine and Vader resorted to drugging people senseless, using the dark side of the Force to burn the effects permanently into their brains, and locking them up with whatever needs to be guarded? Does this strike anyone else as singularly ineffective? I guess they were also running short of guard droids, guard animals, and booby traps. 

- On page 202, it's mentioned that "Luke had taught Leia to break and reassemble a standard X-wing engine in a pinch". Hmm, why doesn't that sound right to me? Oh, maybe it's related to this passage on page 242, where Leia reflects that Luke had tried to teach her how to sense other beings with the Force "in her hectic intervals between trying to be a mother, trying to be a diplomat, trying to keep the New Republic from falling to pieces and her children from dismantling poor See-Threepio". Well, Force knows that with all those other demands on her time, learning to break and reassemble a standard X-wing engine would be high on Leia's to-do list. I am inspired. In intervals of my own hectic life (though vastly less hectic than Leia's, since unlike Leia, I don't have a husband to maintain a relationship with, children to raise, an interplanetary government to run, or Jedi training to absorb), I shall learn how to break and reassemble a standard F-16 engine in a pinch. I'm sure it'll come in handy some day. 

- Coffee is called "coffee" instead of "caf". Hello, Bantam editors . . . 


pretentious wording

On page 202, Luke is spoken of as being "tired unto death". Huh? Even Palpatine, Padmé, and Leia in their full-blown politician modes didn't say "unto". But Luke, Tatooine farmboy and Rebel fighter pilot, is likely to be thinking it?


miscellaneous weirdness

- Seeing Callista's image in the computer, Luke mentally sees her hair as being like "a thick-leaved tree in summer". Don't know about y'all, but I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what that's supposed to mean, or why it's supposed to be flattering. 

- On page 249: "Leia had more or less forgiven Qwi Xux, the Death Star's primary designer, when they had finally met, seeing the woman's stricken horror at what her abilities had wrought. It was a little hard to appreciate how anyone could be naive enough to believe Moff Tarkin's assurances that the Death Star was a mining implement, but she understood that the Omwat woman had been raised in a carefully constructed maze of ignorance, coercion, and lies.

And when she had seen the truth, she had had the courage to follow where it led her  - not something everyone did."

Huh. Sound like any other EU character you know? I'm not blaming this particular inconsistency on Hambly, since - up to now, at least - she hasn't maligned Mara beyond bumping her out of the possibility of being Luke's love interest and posing her in Lando's clothes. (It physically hurt to type that sentence.) And for all I know, the fans who argue so passionately that Mara can never be excused nor redeemed for her actions as Emperor's Hand feel just as strongly about Qwi Xux. But I've been saying exactly this about Mara for years now (the difference being that while brainwashed, Mara was never the monumental idiot that Qwi Xux had to be to believe she was just designing a giant shovel), and it's nearly always rejected. Yet here it is in profic about that lovely little bubble-brained savant, Qwi Xux, who was directly responsible for more deaths than Mara could ever have dreamed of accomplishing. Argh doesn't quite cover it.


just plain idiocy

- Gamorreans hurl the insult of "prissy-butt". Uh-huh . . .

- Han wears a sarong? o.O

- Leia's aunts owned pittens named Taffy (EARTHISM!), Winkie, and Fluffy???

- One of Leia's aunts was named Rouge. There's just no reaction for that but *wince* . . . 


I think that when I finish the Callista trilogy, I'll reread TTT or HoT. I'll need an anti-squee antidote by then.
Comments 
3rd-Jul-2006 09:52 am (UTC)
Wait until you reach the mind-cube maze. Then you can explain wtf to me.

I liked Callista as a character. I think, at the time I read it, I was just sooo happy that they finally gave Luke a love interest that didn't die or marry the other guy that I was pretty content.

(I seriously thought that Mara was going to die in the first NJO book when she was sick because everyone else Luke loved did. It actually made me stop reading it.)
6th-Jul-2006 08:58 am (UTC)
You're right about that mind-cube maze. Of all the idiotic ideas.

I don't mind Callista as a character. I certainly see some good qualities in her. But as a love interest for Luke, no. I'd been actively 'shipping L/M since HttE; even Gaeriel irritated me, and I understood full well that she came before Mara chronologically. But for the profic to bypass Mara so completely in favor of someone Luke barely even knew - let alone was already dead - well, it really bothered me. And the Lando/Mara thing just plain pissed me off. It wasn't the least bit believable.

So did I! :O I skimmed Vector Prime, saw that Mara was likely terminally ill, and subsequently refused to do more than skim the NJO books in the bookstore in search of L/M scenes to make sure she was still alive. I wouldn't even begin any real reading until after Ben was born and I was relatively sure that she wouldn't be killed off.
3rd-Jul-2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
At one point, Mara says that she must look like one of the Nightsisters of Dathomir. A common phrase in the GFFA, or a spectacularly unoriginal and heavy-handed attempt to name drop from other EU books?

You know what's always bothered me? The constant use of "bantha." As far as I've ever seen, banthas are only on Tatooine, which is some little, obscure, backwater place in the galaxy, so I don't understand how so many people know about them and reference them in everyday conversation. Unrealistic.

Also, I HATE QWI XUX. And I always thought she and Wedge were just...weird and creepy together.

Oh, EU, it's so sad that you are mostly junk.
6th-Jul-2006 09:08 am (UTC)
I totally, totally agree about the bantha thing. I've seen it with a few other highly localized animals as well, but bantha is definitely the most prevalent, and it's STUPID.

I didn't read the X-Wing books by Stackpole because I could not stand his Gary Stu-ification of Corran, and that's where Qwi Xux was, right? But from what I've heard about Qwi Xux, she seems a spectacularly bad match for Wedge. I can't even imagine Wedge falling for her in the first place.

It really is sad, isn't it? :( Anything Zahn writes is good. Allston and Stover have records nearly as good. Luceno's usually good, and Stackpole is if you keep him away from Corran and don't let him have Mara call Luke "husband mine". (In twenty or thirty years, maybe, but not yet.) Anyone else, it's practically a crap shoot. *irked*
9th-Jul-2006 08:39 pm (UTC)
Actually Stackpole either didn't have to deal with her or ignored her (I think the original Rogue Squadron books fall before JAT), and Allston gave the relationship its coup de grace in Starfighters of Adumar, while very, VERY generously allowing Qwi to leave with what dignity she had intact, thereby freeing Wedge up to marry Iella (who I think is Stackpole's creation.) Qwi Xux and the Wedge thing with her can be laid entirely at the feet of Kevin J. Anderson and the Jedi Academy trilogy.

Star Wars: It's like a soap opera, in a way....
10th-Jul-2006 07:55 am (UTC)
A Club Jader! I must have made the blogside. Must remember to check that a bit more regularly . . . :p

Glad to meet you. :) And thank you; you're absolutely right about the timeline. I'd forgotten to take that into account. I really like Iella, so that's a mark in Stackpole's favor. (I actually do like his writing, except for that darned glaring Corran Gary-Stu-ification. *sigh*)

Keven J. Anderson - ARGH. I missed most of the EU between CoPL and SotP; I was so irritated with TaB and flat out disgusted with CoPL that it took seeing Zahn's name again to make me care anything about SW books. Thus, I missed most of the incredible awfulness. I learned about most of it through a fic on the Club Jade archive, actually: How Zahn Could Fix This Mess, vs. 1.2. I remember reading it and thinking, "They didn't. They didn't. Surely they didn't . . . "

Well, not having read the JAT (yet - I'm feeling weirdly compelled to catch up on the EU grotesque-ness, so perhaps after the Callista trilogy I'll attempt that) I'm not qualified to say much, but knowing that KJA paired Mara with Lando and Wedge with Qwi Xux, I sure don't have much faith in his characterization.
11th-Jul-2006 12:08 am (UTC)
*squee* It's Darth! I love that one...("No warning signs," indeed!)

A Club Jader? Eek! Where? ;) Yep, linked via the blogside! Oh, how I wish I had missed most of what KJA did, I really do. And if you think Lando and Mara is weird (though again, in "I, Jedi" Stackpole retconned it until it almost made sense) and Qwi and Wedge just wrong, the Winter and Ackbar vibe will REALLY get you. I suggest reading "I, Jedi", or at least the first part, right after the JAT so you can see what was *really* going on in some parts. For your sanity's sake, at least.
4th-Jul-2006 01:49 am (UTC)
I HATEEE the mind cube maze. Yes, please, I can use the Force to suck your medically disembodied spirit into a tiny labyrinth!

Despite all her badness, though, I have to forgive Hambly because of Callista. While she never explains a bunch of stuff about her, Callie was the most readable aspect of the novel. I usually skip the Han/Leia segments, and the whiny!Luke segments, and just stick to Callie.

And Cray is an intelligent woman - how could she think that droid with memories of her dead fiance = her dead fiance?

And Gamorreans would never be able to speak Basic. Piggy had to have some mechanical voice box so people could understand him! That's just common sense.

- Coffee is called "coffee" instead of "caf". Hello, Bantam editors . . .

I think it becomes coffeine or something similiar in PoT. I'm serious. ;p
6th-Jul-2006 09:14 am (UTC)
The medically disembodied spirit was as bad as the mind cube maze. Grrr.

Callista's okay; I see plenty of potential. But I don't think Hambly wrote that potential to the full by a long shot. I think you'll do way better with her.

Cray thinking that Nichos could ever be Nichos in droid form is another monumentally idiotic part of the book. Transferring as much of Nichos's memories and knowledge and personality into a droid in the first place is almost as unrealistic. You can do a lot with machines, but living creatures are a lot more complex. Sentient creatures even more so - and scientists can't even figure out how or why sentience exists anyway. But sure, they can transfer it to a computer. Blech. I find that plot device to be really irritating no matter what author uses it. I didn't even like it when Zahn did something similar in Manta's Gift, and he offered a lot more explanation and plausibility. (I forgave him because the rest of the novel was so great, though. Unlike Hambly where most of the writing is barely tolerable. :p )

You're right about Piggy! I knew there was something else about that situation that was bothering me!

*weeps over "coffeine"*
7th-Jul-2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
Ugh, CotJ is one of the EU books I truly despise. ANd I can find redeeming qualities in The Crystal Star! (What? It was cute. :p)

Leia knowing how to disassemble an X-Wing engine I might have bought... if she hadn't learned from Luke. It makes a vague sort of sense as a skill she might have picked up during the war. More so than learning from Luke in her copious spare time, at any rate. :p

The ever changing epithets annoys me. Because it's a sign of not paying attention to your viewpoint character! Someone who thinks about Han as "Han" isn't going to start calling him "Solo" out of nowhere.
9th-Jul-2006 07:40 am (UTC)
I think I read The Crystal Star when it first came out, and I can't remember a thing about it. :p

And you're absolutely dead on about the rest, especially the not paying attention to your viewpoint character bit. It seems like a small thing on the surface, but it really can make or break a story.
9th-Jul-2006 01:47 pm (UTC)
It's the one where the kids getting kidnapped is more or less the entire plot. Most fans hate it because of Waru and Luke's characterization, but that doesn't change the fact that the kids were CUTE in it. :p

NOthing sells a story quite like nailing character voice. ANd nothing kills it faster than having the character's voice COMPLETELY off.
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