Ambush at Corellia, by Roger Macbride Allen

November 6, 2010 at 13:33 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Poorly Rated Books, Star Wars Saturday!) (, , , )


In science fiction books–particularly those revolving around the unlikely exploits of deathless characters who never fail at their tasks–the willing suspension of disbelief is naturally expected to be somewhat elastic. The reader waives certain rights, like the right to a coherant storyline, the right to expect reasonable actions from heroes and villains alike, and the right to expect five year old children to be incapable of flying spaceships. Wait. What?

It ought to be an international law that children’s authors are barred from ever writing about politics. Allen’s book is essentially a children’s story with slightly smaller print, and demonstrates the desperate need for such a law. His forays into explaining the complex system of Corellia and its Diktat are cartoonish, clumsy moments, with pointless megalomania and tiring tirades the order of the day.

While Allen’s work is generally poor, and tiring to slog through, he earns his low score for some simply unforgivable mistakes. Firstly, he treats Lando Calrissian like a two-dimensional cutout of the-vain-and-preening-but-constantly-foiled-black-man, bouncing around the galaxy looking for women. To take the most objectionable part of Calrissian’s character, and indeed the part of his character that came off with the cape and the glittering smile – to take the persona that all other Star Wars authors managed to agree was nothing but a persona – and turn it into the defining characteristic of Calrissian, is simply unacceptable. It might be telling that in one or two lines, Timothy Zahn wrote off Lando’s storyline from Allen’s trilogy in one of the most welcome “it never happened” moments ever.

This sort of sloppy and offensive writing is noticeable even to young teenagers reading the book, but more overt is Allen’s simple disregard for the Star Wars universe. If a writer is creating a Star Wars novel, his reader is attracted for one reason, and one reason only. He wants to hear about Star Wars. Throughout the book, Allen’s myopic inattention to any location but the Corellian star system suggests to the cynical reader that he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His painful descriptions of Luke’s Jedi abilities seems to confirm this, and by the time he moves on to space combat, starfighters and laser cannons, it becomes clear even to the most generous reader that Allen might have watched Star Wars once or twice, ten years before writing this book. Obviously, Star Wars is no place for amateurs, and obviously this sort of criticism has its counterpart, that perhaps Allen is taking the franchise on a fresh tack, away from all the stale sameness of before. Well, we don’t want any of that, thank you. Keep your flying astromech droids to yourself. Oh, wait…


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