I’m so glad there’s going to be a sequel trilogy, because I can only imagine how much more disappointed I’d be in Crucible if that wasn’t a factor.
It’s not that I was expected a masterpiece, mind you. I freely admit that Denning’s books have never been favorites of mine. But I was hoping for something a little bit different this time. Something at least a little fresher than what we’ve been getting in the ‘modern’ era of the Expanded Universe. Something that lets the Big 3 go off into retirement with one last fun adventure.
Crucible is not that book. It’s just more of same uninspired EU we’ve been getting far too much of in this era – very much a followup to Fate of the Jedi – trying too hard to be profound and failing.
(Yes, there are spoilers beyond this point.)
For those hoping this would be the final adventure of the Big 3, you may be in luck. Crucible anvils the ‘retirement’ aspect harder than anything we’ve had yet – a tone that has been ringing at the end of every big series since the New Jedi Order, yet never seems to stick. This time, I suspect it might, but due to that looming new trilogy, not because of anything that Denning tries to do.
There are lots of anvils in Crucible, actually. Torture for the sake of torture? Check. Our heroes in crazy disguises? Check. Borderline-disturbing imagery? Check. Characters who haven’t been away long enough for us to miss? Check.
The main villains, Marvid and Craitheus Qreph, do apparently date back to a role-playing supplement that I suspect most EU fans have never even heard of. But their underlings are a lot more familiar – Vestara Khai (of Fate of the Jedi) and Boba Fett’s granddaughter Mirta Gev (of Legacy of the Force.) We haven’t seen Gev since Invincible, so I’ll give her a pass, but Vestara? She wasn’t a particularly interesting character in FOTJ, and she’s still not someone I find intriguing here. (And a reference to her and Ben Skywalker as ‘former lovers’ sent me howling. They were 16-year-olds who made out, c’mon.) It’s a sad day when I’m happier to see a Mandalorian – a Fett, no less – than someone with actual angst potential for a Skywalker. And at least Gev had real motivation to be working for the slimy Qreph brothers.
Basically, there’s a lot of winceworthy things going on here. Another Mortis-esque monolith, because bringing in Mortis for Fate of the Jedi just wasn’t crazy enough, I guess. Insane Force-using Mandos. ‘Creepy Leia.’ And it all finishes up with in a crazy befuddled mess involving actual luminous beings. (Really.)
And the worst part? It’s all just so dull.
A few other thoughts:
- The ‘exploration’ of the Force here makes me long for the days when the worst we could expect from a Denning book was bug sex. Bringing Mortis and Mortis-esque Force mysticism into the Legacy era isn’t ever going to sit well with me, but the execution thus far certainly isn’t helping matters.
- Ben and Tahiri are partners, because let’s just forget she was molesting him a few years ago? Nope. Sorry. No pass. I don’t care how ‘redeemed’ she is.
- They make an appearance, but Jaina and Jag are pretty much the only characters who don’t figure much into the plot here. Good luck in Sword of the Jedi, kids!
There’s a lot left laying here that could go very badly in the wrong hands, with some very dangerous precedents being set for the Sword trilogy and beyond – if there even is a beyond. I was hoping this would be a simple adventure, but the stakes always have to go higher, don’t they?
I’m a Big 3 fan, but maybe it’s best we spare the classic characters further disrespect, and hope the new movies offer them up something less crudely ridiculous. If Crucible is the best the EU has to shuffle our heroes off into the sunset with, than dear George yes, shut it down. Luke, Leia and Han deserve better, and so do we.
A copy of this book was provided by Del Rey/Random House for review.