on July 8, 2004
The title for the latest Star Wars Extended Universe set of novels, New Jedi Order, has been touched upon within the books themselves once, maybe twice before, but in this amazing, thorough, impossibly revealing chapter of the series, the title of the series finally begins to take on the true extent of its meaning.
To summarize, Jacen Solo finds himeself captured by the Yuuzhan Vong, specifically held at the hands of Vergere, a minor character in previous novels. Slowly, through a variety of experiences that change his perspective, Jacen realizes that the current Jedi understanding of the Force is incorrect. To put it simply, Jacen faces the question, "If the Force is life, how can there be life, without the Force?" Referring to the Yuuzhan Vong's seeming non-existence in the Force. To understand that there IS in fact, no life, without the Force, Jacen realizes that the Force is in fact part of a larger power, an absolutely universal collection of dualities that bind things even as opposite as the Yuuzhan Vong and the New Republic, Love and Hate, Light and Dark and all others - they are all combined in a... something (energy, Force, connection, it's never really defined) that holds not only the Jedi and the New Republic in its grasp, but also the Yuuzhan Vong and all other life in the Universe.
Because so much of the book is composed of Vergere and Jacen's philosophical discussions, back and forth, one would think the plot and action would suffer, but this is not so, it merely heightens the intensity each action and turn creates. The introduction of Ganner as a main character, a full two thirds through the book, seemed strange at the time, but worked perfectly - highlighting the philosophy Vergere spouts - of dualities becoming one, through love.
With captivating descriptions, engaging dialogue, and a change in the very scales of power in the Star Wars Universe, the novel is a definite step in the right direction of a series that hasn't always lived up to its expectations or possibilities. Hopefully the books following this one do not fail to follow in Matthew Stover's path.
on April 2, 2004
Perhaps more than any other book, this paperback shakes the foundations of many people's notions of Star Wars. We learn that, rather being completely absent from the Force, the yuuzhan Vong exist in a part of the force jedi cannot (yet) touch. The biggest shocker: a dramatic reinterpretation of the nature of the force. Rather than having defined light and dark sides, the force is more like a prism that reflects all colors, viewpoints,etc. It is the user who determines the Force's purpose. Some, including myself, may question whether or this conflicts with Lucas' views, but in my opinion it is a breath of fresh air. As for the characters: Jacen gains some needed depth, Nom Anor is as cunning as ever and even more stylish, Vergere forces Jacen and the reader to answer hard questions about what tehy believe, and Ganner, well...all i can say is NONE SHALL PASS!
on August 14, 2002
You know, I've read countless reviews for the other NJO books and a lot of people are constantly complaining about how Jacen is too whiny and they're sick of him and his wishy-washy views. Here we have a book that gives us an awesome glimpse at Jacen's development, but also puts him in a place where he is no longer wishy-washy, and a lot of you still complain. I guess there is no pleasing some of you. I thought this was an awesome book. It gives a wonderful glimpse into the mind of Jacen and allows him to develop in a very different and dramatic way than other characters. If you are looking for space battles and stuff like that, this is not the book for you. This story is a character drama. It is designed to demonstrate and develop a character. I admit, I was disappointed about the death of a character in this book but war has casualties. Something that I see many readers of the NJO have a hard time accepting. This book is well-written, intriguing and a worthy member of an excellent series.
on August 1, 2002
I haven't read any of Matthew Stover's books before, and have been skimming the SW novels, focusing mostly on the New Jedi Order. But this book reminded me of why I bother doing so at all: to get a glimpse into the heart and mind of a Jedi and particularly his connection to the Force. Only, in this book Stover goes far beyond anything that has gone before, and greatly expands upon the definition of the Force and those attuned to it.
Unlike other SW books, most of the action in Traitor occurs in a few places, with a few main characters. The story purposefully focuses on Jacen's inner states rather than on New Republic politics, war strategy, or the latest in all our other favorite characters lives. His struggle with defining the Force, and how his perspective changes on how he sees himself, the Jedi, and the Dark Side make up the bulk of the novel, and thankfully so. The Force is not a prop here like warp speed, one of the neato things in this particular universe; the Force in a big way IS the story, grander and simpler and more mysteriously perverse than ever elucidated before, and brought home not with a pedandtic rant, but in the very readable struggles and choices made by Jacen Solo, in extremis with the guidance of a most perplexing and paradoxical teacher. And yes, there is more than enough incredible action.
on September 24, 2002
As a few have already said, I've always been a Jacen fan who has felt he was unfairly treated, both by the other authors and by the characters that think they "know" him. In this book, however, he is done justice beyond my wildest dreams.
It is not a book everyone will like. But it is not a book anyone will be apathetic about. It will be loved or hated passionately. There is a lot of time with Jacen and Veregre interacting during his hellish horrific coming of age journey. He faces questions he's been tortured with since he was a boy, during his literal torture and "training" under Veregre while imprisoned by the Vong, and the answers are often much more painful than the questions. Not only his but the readers's questions are desperately needing answers: Who ARE they, Vergere and Jacen? Good? Evil? Strong? Dying? Insane? Powerful? Dead? The reader feels every bit as uncomfortable as Jacen during his "shaping"; this book is not a passive read; nor is it light. It's like the scene with Luke in Dagobah for a huge chunk of the book, not just one scene. Any who call the philosophy "boring" have no sense of empathy; every question and every answer jar the reader every bit as much as Jacen during his imprisonment. But they are very very important in the answers that eventually come, and in the ways he uses those answers in his subsequent actions.
It is unusual as a Star Wars novel because there are few characters to jump between. It's also a change from the non-stop action like the "space cowboys" typical starwars novels; so this is not a typical NJO (nor Star Wars in general) novel. However, the characters that are there are three dimensional and wonderfully well fleshed out; Vergere is every bit the equal of Jacen in the interest factor; they are awesome opposite each other in a verbal and physical dance of dark and light; point and counterpoint. The interaction, growth and dialogue between the few main characters in general is passionate, ironic and interesting, (and even occasionally cheer producing), the questioning and "training" done in a way that still sucks the reader into the scene and the journey through the dark maze of his mind, and the real overt action, when it does come (throughout the book in occasional doses- in spite of this books' reputation of being "philosophy only"), will completely blow most readers away.
People can love him or hate him after this book, but they WILL respect the fact Jacen very probably is the only one in the entire galaxy who could have withstood that kind of "testing" and not only survived, but had the makings of flourishing under it. No longer whiny, whimpering, self doubting or angst ridden. He is developing into who he will become (and without giving too much away; who he's becoming is one of the strongest, most powerful characters I've ever read, in any series, even though you're never fully sure of him and what "side" he's on or whether he's sane or not. Whether or not one likes this style of book, it will feature into future NJO books heavily, (and I'm hoping Star Wars in general) so unless they've decided to stop reading the series altogether, it's a must read for any who want to keep following the storyline. This book just changed the course of the series, the Jedi, the Solos, New Republic, all force perceptions. 180 degrees. Very much for the better too, in my opinion.
But if they decided to end the series here and now? This book's strong enough to stand alone as the final piece. Ten stars and much kudos to the author for one amazingly written, moving, vivid, character driven book. Far and away my favorite of the series. And kudos to Jacen for becoming not only a fully developed character, but a man. And wow, what a man. It's about time.
on August 9, 2002
This book was, in my opinion, the best NJO book so far. For the non-StarWars fan, that's the New Jedi Order series, the latest in the Star Wars Universe.
Jacen Solo is the main character in the book, and Veregre playes probably her biggest role yet, but aside from that there are very few characters represented in the book. Those in the book are portrayed excellently though.
For the readers that like action, this book is only for the patient reader. You will not find giant battles either in space or with Jedi flashing lightsabers. The action is there, but what action there is focuses on the philosophy of it. That brings me to the main point of the book. Jedi philosophy takes a hit, and Jacen re-invents himself.
The book focuses on the training of Jacen by Veregre and Jacen's growth from a child into a man. The book is written with a purpose and is one of the few Star Wars books I could call literature. It was truely written with the flow and form that rivals some of the best novels I've ever read. When I read the book i was reminded when I was taught exactly how to write in my English classes. Through all this though, I believe the book is written in such a way that less advanced readers would enjoy it too. It is not like "Animal Farm" for instance, as Animal Farm's true point is difficult for the young reader to grasp. The plot of the book is easy to grasp, but the way it was written was what made it rise above many other books I've read.
I recommend this book to everyone that has an interest in fiction, young or old.
on March 16, 2003
This is one of the best installments in the NJO series. I'm glad TRAITOR has thus far rated 4.5 stars, because it deserves it. Ordinarily I'd want to see a larger backdrop and more characters, and this installment is unique in that there are only a handful of characters and the locations are just a couple. When I read the 'dramatis personae' I was initially disappointed but now I know TRAITOR is refreshing for its uniqueness.
It brings out the best elements of the NJO series--dark drama and philosophical thought. I don't necessarily agree with the moral viewpoints of all the authors (I happen to be a Christian), but it's fantastic to see them grappling with the ramifications of George Lucas's Force concept. The NJO series is the "serious" storytelling that Lucas himself apparently could not produce. I would rather read one of the NJO books than watch a Star Wars movie (especially the new trilogy), if I was forced to make a choice.
There isn't as much action in TRAITOR as in other installments of NJO, but that isn't its purpose. Its purpose is to explore the Force philosophy and engage in more extensive development of one particular character. TRAITOR accomplishes those goals easily. It both moved me and made me think. On the other hand, the action scenes that are here are handled deftly by Stover; they are gripping and they serve a highly dramatic purpose rather than appearing just because the author thought, "Well, I need an action scene now." In other words, the action scenes arose naturally from Jacen's personal development; his changing character *caused* the action. I really found myself enjoying Stover's narrative style as well as his command of dialogue, and he transitions easily between action and talking scenes.
on August 4, 2002
Once in a blue moon, a book comes along which leaves your ears ringing. Once in a blue moon, a book comes along which leaves you breathless and giddy with joy. Once in a blue moon, a book comes along which compels reexamination and reevaluation. Once in a blue moon, you feel like you're growing and evolving along with the characters in the book - emotionally and spiritually!
Once in a blue moon is now.
This book is one of challenges. The challenge of writing a Jacen-focused novel, a character generally not liked. The challenge of Jacen's journey: he metaphorically, symbolically and literally journeys through HELL. Jacen's character is challenged down to the very core of his being, down to every bone in his body. The tone of the novel often borders on a grave darkness. The roller coaster ride hits some pretty low lows. In this way, Matthew Woodring Stover also presents a significant challenge to Star Wars readers.
In a nutshell, I see this novel as a microcosm of the entire NJO. This book will be to the NJO what the NJO has been to the Expanded Universe: change, evolution and veering differences. The NJO marks a time of turmoil, of change and new beginnings. Traitor achieves that end goal in some profound yet markedly different ways, if that's even possible. Not everyone tends to like unlearning what they hold dear, what they hold precious. Luke Skywalker had to do it in his training and now Jacen must.
A beautifully-written novel.
Regarding Stover's prose and writing style: they blew me away. I didn't believe he could possibly top his other novels, but manages to anyway. Stover's prose: precise and vivid. Stover's style: relentless, brutally honest yet symmetric and chaotic all at the same time. Loved every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every page.
on October 1, 2002
As a stand-alone sci-fi novel the book is ... average or a bit higher.
But if you 're a fan of the NJO series, you should probably read it. It's quite well thought out and goes into quite a bit of detail about the Vong and their culture, as well as the nature of the Force in the Star Wars universe. Jacen's character certainly develops more and so does Vergere's.
On the other hand, the overall story line really goes nowhere. Indeed, the entire book is dedicated to the character development of Jacen Solo and any additional characters are there only for his benefit. (with the possible exception of Ganner, who's heroic subplot pretty much made the entire novel for me).
Indeed, other than Ganner, NO other New Republic, Jedi, Imperial, Chiss, Happan - whatever! - characters are in this book at all! The course of the War and the overall galactic situation is never discussed.
In a sense, Traitor is the counterpart to Dark Journey, dealing with Jacen, instead of Jaina. Not bad yet not quite Zahn-callibered either..
on August 8, 2002
Stover delivers a wonderful plot, with excellent character development. It's not the same old cast of thousands, lightsaber fights, and star fighter battles. This it deep story telling that brings a new clarity to the NJO series through no more than 5 characters, and makes you question everything you know about Star Wars.
I have been very critical of the NJO series and very disappointed. I have even gone as far as saying it is beyond saving...and then along comes Traitor. With each turn of the page I found myself getting more and more hopeful that this NJO book would not fail to deliver. I was not disappointed...if anything I found myself more interested in Jacen and the Vong than ever before.
Stover delivers an amazing read through character development and complex events that dove tail into the greater story with precision. By experiencing almost the entire book through Jacen you begin to understand him and his transformation. The book asks the reader to "think" and question all they know about the Jedi, the Force, the Vong and what it means to be alive...all through Jacen's experiences.
Traitor is so well written that I fear the books to follow will only live in its shadow, leaving us readers longing for Stover to return and write another NJO book.