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Review of FOTJ finale: Apocalypse

If you click this link, you need to know two things:

  1. This blog post contains spoilers for Fate of the Jedi. Lots of them.
  2. This blog post contains nerd rage and possibly some offensive terminology. If you're easily offended or respect canon, original trilogy characters, or sensible plots, you might react poorly.
  3. I'm doing my best to channel MPK, who remains the original and best writer of this kind of stuff.

My first impression when I picked up Apocalypse was that hey, at least it's not the 200-page joke that Invincible was. The book weighed in at around twice that page count, which means somebody told Troy Denning that Invincible was a moronic way to end an "epic" (these are definitely finger quotes) 9-book series on galactic upheaval. Speaking of 9-book series on galactic upheaval, back to Apocalypse.

When we last left our heroes, they were dealing with the Lost Tribe of the Sith, who although having lost pretty much all of their homeworld, had somehow managed to infiltrate Coruscant en masse while most of the Jedi Order was out chasing this malevolent entity called Abeloth, which has very scary powers, can survive multiple wounds that would be fatal to non-Gen'Dai creatures, has been turning certain Jedi psychotic, and taking over the minds and bodies of other people (including two of Luke Skywalker's ex-girlfriends) with a form of tentacle-rape. However, Abeloth is actually calling the shots for the Sith, a fact that the Jedi seem to be oblivious to. Does this sound like a bad fan-fic plot yet? Not yet? Keep reading.

As an aside, Imperial Head of State Jagged Fel is fighting over an Imperial civil war (another one) where he and his cronies are blockading the deposed Daala and her cronies inside a moon she blew up. With him is ex-Jedi-ex-Sith-apprentice-ex-Yuuzhan-Vong-ex-deranged-killer-ex-girlfriend-of-Anakin-Solo-ex-Joiner-convicted-murderer-and-prison-escapee Tahiri Veila. Tahiri really should have left the Jedi Order after the Junior Jedi Knights series because the NJO, Dark Nest, LOTF and now FOTJ series have done nothing but dump on her life repeatedly. She's the poster child for character abuse. Pain. Terrible pain.

So now the Sith and Dark Grand Poobah Abeloth are in charge of Coruscant and the Galactic Alliance, having taken over its government through yet another sham election (snarky aside: you'd think the citizens of the Galactic Alliance would be sick to death of these constant power grabs, but they seem pretty fat, dumb, and happy). In response to this wanton takeover, Luke Skywalker and a ton and a half of Jedi and ex-Sith-but-not-Jedi-and-still-evil-but-totally-hot Vestara Khai decide to infiltrate the capital and start picking off Sith. If you're not up on FOTJ, let's just say there are multiple thousand of these Sith and while they have lightsabers and blasters and these fun little glass knives, most of them tend to suck pretty hard at actual fighting. Which is to say that Luke Skywalker can take on ten at a time. Even his teenage son Ben can handle several at a time. Darth Maul is spinning in one of his many graves right now. So is Palpatine.

Now, let's give Denning some props for making Luke look rather bad@$$ here. All of these Sith targets get this message right before they get the attack:

Surrender or die. Decide now.—The Jedi Order

Naturally, none of them surrender and many of them die. However, there are still thousands of them and the Dark Grand Poobah to reckon with. For some reason, this random bureaucrat named Wynn Dorvan who has been constantly set up as the next Cal Omas (who?) throughout the series as the "good guy administrator type" is consulted for his advice by Abeloth on how to deal with matters like actually governing and the Jedi surprise attack. Since it is later established that Abeloth can see the future, one wonders why the kriff she needs Dorvan. However, it's quite possible that as the "responsible adult in the room," Dorvan is just an insertion of the Great Author Himself, Troy Denning, into the story, which means he can't die and despite being some random bureaucrat, will turn out to be quite the hero. Dorvan's advice is that all the Sith need to group up into the Jedi Temple to avoid being picked off since the Jedi are roaming at will, picking off Sith like a bunch of hitmen. Since it's a heavily fortified structure, this would make sense, except that a point defense has historically been vulnerable to saturation bombardment.

However, since it's the last novel, such a simple and elegant solution isn't available to our heroes. Instead, Luke comes up with this—wait for it—an audacious plan. Like EVERY OTHER ONE OF HIS PLANS IN EVERY EXPANDED UNIVERSE NOVEL EVER. Like, the man is incapable of just going to the local tapcafe and picking up a cup of caf. No, he has to plunge hundreds of meters down through Coruscant's busy skylanes while blindfolded and then fight his way through hundreds of meters of vicious alien plants before he can reach the special tapcafe with the cup of caf that will save the galaxy. Luke decides that the Jedi will send a strike team (oh dear) to infiltrate the Jedi Temple and lower its defenses while the friendly military units under Denning's favorite Bothan paramour, Bwu'atu (wait, wasn't he "involved" with Daala? First of all, that's disgusting. And second of all, why would he help the Jedi since they deposed Daala? We don't know, but let's pretend it makes sense because it's a Denning novel) wait until the shield generators are disabled to attack the entrenched Sith. If this sounds like a cross between the ending battles of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones to you, you're probably too imaginative to be reading Apocalypse. Coincidentally, those were the two worst Star Wars movies that aren't called The Clone Wars.

Speaking of Daala, she makes an alliance with an avatar (read: mindslave who has undergone facial penetration by tentacle) of Abeloth and decides to negotiate a truce with Jag Fel to hold an election over who will lead the Empire to stop the infighting. Now, let's remember that Fel has her surrounded and outgunned despite her plucky defense. An appropriately bad@$$ Jag Fel response would have been to just blow Daala away, but instead, his poor castrated character (sorry Jaina!) agrees to this moronic plan out of the goodness of his heart. In case the verdict wasn't in before, despite all his posturing in NJO, Jag Fel makes a crappy Imperial. However, luckily, he's still oh-so-clever and during this election, sends Tahiri to go investigate some special facility that serves as Daala's secret campaign headquarters, after Tahiri helpfully volunteers that hey, that ship that slipped through your little blockade has Abeloth inside.

While this is ongoing, Han and Leia Solo along with their granddaughter Amelia (alias Allana) and the Hapan navy evacuate the Jedi academy on Ossus as a bunch of Sith attack it. After some forced tension which sadly kills off a bunch of redshirts unnamed Jedi and their families, a bunch more Sith, and almost endangers the real characters, Allana has this creepy vision of her Barabel buddies coming under attack at the Jedi Temple and insists that they go help like any good 9-year-old. (Important note: the creator of said Barabels is none other than TROY DENNING! Nothing like a little authorwank). And somehow, despite firm insistence that Allana stay with the safety of the Jedi at their secret base, she stows away. If you're having another awful Phantom Menace flashback, you're not the only one.

We'll cut back to Tahiri at this point and say that she gets dubbed an "Imperial Hand" by Jag (ooooh, a new identity for her, how original). Suffice to say she goes into the "campaign headquarters" aka secret lab, rescues Boba Fett of all people, who's been pursuing some other agenda of his offscreen for most of the series. Oh, and there's some random Denning fanwank in here involving the Squib trio he created for Dark Nest. Together, Fett and Veila trade barbed insults with each other and weapons fire with the guards and eventually Abeloth. With their powers combined, they explode this particular incarnation of Abeloth and escape just before Jag has a frigate bombard the place into glass. Having assuaged the pleas of Fandalorians everywhere by having Fett come in as a deus ex machina, Jag then explains away this little "blowing up your opponent's campaign headquarters incident" as a necessary act to stop Daala's insidious scientific experiments on galaxy-destroying plagues. While that is up Daala's alley, it's a bold-faced lie but the perjury discredits her, just when she thought she was winning due to Abeloth's Force-imbued propaganda efforts. This allows Fel to win the election! Right? WRONG! As it turns out, Fel has one of his bestest admirals ever enter as a third candidate and throws his support to Admiral Earnest (not his real name) for the good of the Empire. If you're seeing visions of a grinning Troy Denning offering two middle fingers to the Legacy comic series, you're not alone. He and Tahiri then go to Coruscant to play some minor role as he's decided he doesn't want to be much of a hero anymore. The best thing Jag did in this entire series was defeat Daala both in battle and in politics. The worst thing he ever did was leave her alive. AGAIN.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ben and Jaina and Vestara and most of the other Jedi go into the Jedi Temple to start their big fight and discover that oh boy, it's a TRAP. Cuz Abeloth can see the future and stuff. However, that doesn't seem to slow our heroes down too much and lots of significant bodily harm is inflicted, mostly to the Sith, who fall like slightly upgraded versions of stormtroopers to Chuck Norris Luke Skywalker. Of course, at some point, Vestara gets separated and captured. Threatened with penetration-by-tentacle by Abeloth and her Sith minions, she reverts to her true evil self (aside: we knew she was evil all along after she killed some other Jedi girl to save Ben. She might be hot and in love with Ben, but she's still totally evil). She reveals Allana's secret identity which she deduced after being super-smart and then, lo and behold, the Sith point out that Allana, Han and Leia are right there, trying to sneak into the Jedi Temple to warn her Barabel friends. Now, one wonders why they couldn't just call Luke or Saba and be like, "Hey, know you're busy. There's some Barabel Jedi with a nest in the Temple. Allana had a vision they were in trouble, so might want to send a couple of your boys over to check on them." But no, due to some obscure Barabel cultural thing invented by Troy Denning that probably has a lot more to do with plot devices than an essential part of their culture, Allana has to go into a warzone herself, along with Han and Leia to save her friends. This allows Vestara to lead an attack on the little party, resulting in some minor tension as the author lets you think for half a page that first Han and then Leia are killed. Which they're not, but Denning likes to watch you squirm. Moreover, not only is Allana in a war zone, but first, she watches one of her Jedi friends get literally shot and cut to pieces by a wave of Sith (in gruesome detail, thanks for that Troy), and then she starts shooting Sith. As a nine-year-old. Joseph Kony, meet Troy Denning. Oh, but it's okay, because Allana is a hero and she's sad about killing people. Nice one, Troy. Oh, and eventually Jag gets to rescue Han and their group and extract them, along with their Barabel friends.

It is important to note that Kyle Katarn is not directly mentioned in this story that I recall during the Battle of the Jedi Temple. I think the reason for this is apparent. Even Troy Denning realizes that after having played Jedi Outcast, the Sith have no chance against Kyle Katarn.

Now let's throw in a random aside where another team of Jedi visit the Killiks (another Denning creation) to get information on Abeloth. It's like Denning decided to pour Dark Nest all over FOTJ's conclusion to remind us how epic his only solo Star Wars series was.

At the same time, Luke and Corran and Jaina and Ben are fighting their way through to the shield generator controls with varying degrees of injury. Jaina is the most hurt, so she volunteers to go first as a diversion (read: sacrifice) and Luke promotes her to Master on the spot to honor her willingness to die for the cause and give up her future as the Imperial Womb of Destiny. They almost get taken down by Abeloth right when Tahiri and Fett destroy her other mindslave, which causes Abeloth's-incarnation-on-Coruscant to flee in pain, sparing Jaina for now. Apparently, despite being able to 1) possess people, 2) drive Jedi psychotic, 3) survive multiple mortal wounds, 4) see the future, 5) wield more Force power than Luke and Ben combined, 6) live for thousands of years, 7) create vicious hostile plant life and 8) cause major tectonic events, she can't handle having one of her avatars blown up into atoms. We'll ignore this glaring inconsistency since it lets the plot advance. The destruction of the shield generators lets the friendly military units arrive and start blasting their way into the Sith-occupied Jedi Temple in an eerie copy reversal of Revenge of the Sith. Oh, but Ben gets captured. Somehow.

This allows our Jedi heroes to recover with some field medicine courtesy of their military friends who are battling through Iwo Jima the Jedi Temple. While they've been getting major surgery and having organs stitched back together, the military allies and other Jedi have been bleeding themselves out against the remaining Sith while Abeloth causes utter destruction via groundquakes and volcanoes over much of Coruscant. After an obligatory scene where Jaina emerges naked from a bacta tank (if this sounds like the end of Invincible, let's note that they're written by the same author), there's a Council meeting where the Killik research team comes back and finally gives about four books worth of exposition on Abeloth and Luke's like, "Oh yeah, there was this story Yoda told me about something related way back when and now it all makes sense." The mind boggles at the cheapness of this particular sudden revelation. It's like a standard Star Trek technobabble solution (oh, if we just reverse the polarity, the ship will be saved!) except with weird mysticism instead of pseudoscience. Basically, Denning spends several chapters creating a mythology to explain all the randomly cliche moments from the series (the Pool of Knowledge? the Font of Power?) and then ties in some random story from the Clone Wars to explain how Anakin Skywalker screwed everything up.

Here's what you need to know: Abeloth is a malevolent Force-destroyer who embodies chaos, explaining why she feeds off of fear and anger and lives, and when her avatars are kerploded, she gets weaker. We also learn that for some reason she's trying to recreate the rest of the family of Force-embodiments whose destruction Anakin presided over. To do this, she has seized Vestara to be her representation of darkness and Ben to be her representation of light. Now, at some point, Abeloth flees the Jedi Temple in a Sith meditation sphere along with Ben and Vestara back to her creepy homeworld. While a bunch of Jedi deal with an incarnation of Abeloth that's living in the Jedi Temple's (sabotaged) computer core, Luke and Jaina (who bids her third heartfelt farewell to Jag that includes something like "if I die, just know I always loved you" of the novel) go to hunt down Abeloth in the Maw. While Jaina flies the ship and fends off the meditation sphere, Luke has an out of body experience where he and a mystery Sith (possibly Darth Krayt) who had a cameo earlier join their disembodied selves to defeat Abeloth while Vestara and Ben also join forces to defeat Abeloth in person. You see, because Abeloth is Chaos, she can only be destroyed by a Balance between light and dark. The Jedi and Sith must join together to fight this enormous foe!!!!11111

So, about that bad fanfic plot. Are you feeling it yet? Troy Denning isn't. By the power of deus ex machina, Abeloth is defeated and Jaina manages to avoid being blown up by Ship (she gets the easiest job of all this time, to make up for Invincible, where Luke basically sat around and played mindgames with Jacen). However, when Jaina reaches the planet and tries to retrieve Ben and Vestara, Ben finally learns that Vestara tried to kill his cousin and that she truly is EEEEEVVVVVIIIIIIIIILLL. Jaina and Ben try to take down Vestara, but she flees on the damaged meditation sphere.

Luke gets pretty hurt from his out-of-body experience and tries to say "Okay guys, I've done enough for the galaxy. Time for me to be with my dead beloved wife." At which point, Mara's spirit slaps him and says "No, you can't quit because Darth Mystery Sith hasn't either." Luke grumps a bit, but agrees because he's totally whipped, even though Mara's dead. He then also tells the still butt-hurt ghost of Jacen that unleashing Abeloth was all his fault, which is true. Then he wakes back up over Coruscant where Jaina has brought him and Ben back for another round of medical treatment. Let's just say that their insurance premiums must be through the roof because they're constantly getting shocked and blasted and stabbed and shot. They accept that Vestara is still on the loose along with the other remaining unresolved plots and return home, where Wynn Dorvan is elected Chief of State (of course). Also, the Jedi Order relocates and Jaina finally marries Jag Fel three-and-a-half book series after they were first paired together. Too bad he forgot to tell her that Troy Denning took his manhood ten chapters back.

Just in case you lost track of the unresolved plots:

  1. Daala's still angry and out there
  2. Boba Fett is still angry and out there
  3. Neither head of state of the Empire or the GA can keep their job for more than a few years. Is there any chance of stable government for either state?
  4. There's this mysterious artifact that Anakin saw used to kill these other Force embodiments that Luke sends some Jedi out to find (spinoff novel incoming?) for when Abeloth returns (it's established that she can't be destroyed forever even if the other Force embodiments were. Go figure).
  5. The Killiks are multiplying like crazy in preparation for "the end of all things." Presumably averted by the destruction (for now) of Abeloth, but the Chiss don't take kindly to that. Oh, and they have Raynar Thul back in return for info on Denning's mythology. The Chiss don't take kindly to that either.
  6. Vestara Khai is still out there, as is Darth Mystery Sith, and there are probably some Sith stragglers on Coruscant
  7. That abolition movement that so much brouhaha was generated over earlier in the series barely gets a mention.

Now, let's briefly recap

  1. Troy Denning learned that a series finale needs to be longer than 200 pages (Good)
  2. Troy Denning can still not resist the urge to insert himself and his special characters into the book at every possible mention (Fail)
  3. The battle for the Jedi Temple occupies much of the book, but it goes at a breakneck pace. I'm unimpressed by how it was done. A lack of truly climactic lightsaber duels really hurt here. Even Invincible had a better ending clash between Jacen and Jaina. The actual lightsaber conflicts are numerous but shallow. (Fail)
  4. For some reason, it's okay that Allana is involved in combat and shooting people at nine years of age and Han and Leia go along with this. Despite continuity showing that Han and Leia worked very hard to keep their own kids sheltered until at least fourteen, when Luke taught them to kill people. The TPM flashbacks are not welcome. (Fail)
  5. A whole series-worth of exposition and a mythology had to be crammed into the series finale to finally give us a clue on what the KRIFF was going on. And rather than slowly just giving it to us throughout the series, there's minddump of information from the Killiks that then gets repeated in a Council meeting. (Fail)
  6. Unlike Invincible, Apocalypse managed to avoid killing off a number of minor but beloved characters. Of course, they did kill off Callista and Akanah earlier in the series. Previous-series character deaths are definitely down from LotF but there's still too much random devastation. (Meh)
  7. Jaina Solo finally gets Master and Missus, respectively. (About kriffing time, but Good)
  8. There's just not that much character development in Apocalypse. Everyone is too busy putting out fires and killing people. The one exception is Ben and Vestara, who finally realize that they're not meant for each other. In 400 pages, there's just not as much character development. (Fail)
  9. The scenario wherein Allana gets involved in combat is contrived at best. It just smacks of WELL I NEED TO GET ALLANA IN HERE TO EXPERIENCE THE HORRORS OF WAR AND SHOW THAT VESTARA IS STILL EVIL. (Fail)
  10. The power level of Abeloth is not consistent. She has all this power, and yet she's not out there possessing every Sith in sight. She's already consumed a whole city of Force-users on Kesh, but doesn't do that to the Jedi Temple with all of the Jedi and Sith inside. Any Sith that Abeloth possesses basically becomes an incarnation of her with all of her powers, and yet she only possesses a few at a time. For some reason, she leaves Dorvan alive despite him being useless. For some other reason, she can see the future which lets her anticipate the attack on the Jedi Temple, but doesn't use her powers to thwart it. (Fail)
  11. Abeloth also has absolutely no personality or character. The motives that these authors come up with for their villains are pretty meh. The redeeming factor here is that Vestara is an interesting character who has a lot of growth. (Meh)
  12. Deus ex machina reigns supreme. Whether it be the sudden "Oh yeah, Yoda told me this story" from Luke to "Boba Fett appears suddenly after being absent most of the series to help destroy one of Abeloth's incarnations" to the worst, "Darth Mystery Sith joins forces with a disembodied Luke to defeat Abeloth," it's everywhere in this story. (Fail)
  13. We have Troy Denning to thank for making tentacle rape canonical. He's a sick man, and if you've noticed where repeatedly harps on Leia/Jaina's femininity (in states of minimal/undress), you already know this. (Excuse me while I gag. FAIL)

In the end, Apocalypse earns 2 Goods, 2 Mehs, and 9 Fails from me. Its biggest redeeming quality (and this applies to FOTJ as a whole) is that it's not as bad as Invincible/LOTF. That's a pretty underwhelming reason. The post-ROTJ universe is oversaturated with characters and they don't necessarily need to be killed off, just not included in major roles. If you haven't read Dark Nest or LOTF, then reading FOTJ is a total chore. And reading those other two series is a total chore anyway. Post-Bantam ROTJ is also oversaturated with crappy stories (caveat, Bantam-era novels had some pretty awful stories too. The Crystal Star anyone?) and it's a shame to see how mediocre the writing has become. Force powers are still way out of line and coming up with realistic threats that actually tax the Jedi Order/Luke is much too strained. The whole Jedi Temple battle sequence reads like The Force Unleashed XVI: Luke, Ben and Jaina Fight Sith with Abeloth as the final boss. Download the exclusive bonus pack now to unlock Kyle Katarn!

Unfortunately, I don't see this trend of poor writing changing in the greater post-ROTJ picture. The best part of Apocalypse was the excerpt for Mercy Kill, the new Wraith Squadron novel by Aaron Allston.

This concludes my review/rant of Apocalypse. If you liked LOTF or FOTJ, you might like this book. But if that's the case, may Kyle have mercy on your soul. Atarumaster88 Jedi Order (Talk page) 17:03, March 20, 2012 (UTC)

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