The Crystal Star, by Vonda N. McIntyre

December 31, 2011 at 13:54 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Poorly Rated Books, Star Wars Saturday!) (, , , , , , )


Famous for holding the title of “Worst Star Wars book ever”, it is tempting to argue that The Crystal Star unjustly steals this dubious honour from other books: books that have worse plots, shabbier writing, stupider characters, or a more selfish disregard for the Star Wars universe. Some of these monstrosities even manage multiple mortal sins in a single book.

At the very least, Vonda McIntyre can be partially exonerated of bad and sloppy writing. Her story might be fundamentally flawed and vapidly two-dimensional, but at the very least readers should not need to stumble through clichéd  sentences and grammatical atrocities, or dreadful monologues that stare listlessly from the page begging for a mercy-killing. McIntyre might be a bad architect, but she can at least lay bricks, as it were.

Star Wars author Abel G. Peña suggests hesitantly that it might not be “‘Star Warsy’ enough…there are not enough fantasy elements in the novel.” An absence of fantasy is clearly not the problem here. McIntyre writes like the cringingly-awful Angela Philips in Tales From the Empire, churning out some sort of juvenile fantasy mash-up with golden transdimensional gods, villains steering planets through the galaxy, the anachronistic “wyrwulf” with its “great limpid liquid blue eyes.” We should be grateful McIntyre did not describe any “willowy, lissom-limbed” aliens (she does fixate on that one word, though, describing the ‘limpid flank’ of a spaceship and the ‘limpid gold scales’ of said transdimensional god), but her very tone and creative descriptions are simply wrong for science fiction, and wrong for Star Wars in general.

“The enormous first dome of Crseih Station spread out like a carnival around him. Bands and jugglers, acrobats and merchants demonstrated their abilities or displayed their wares.”

-The Crystal Star

And where else can this book go? It is badly hurt by McIntyre’s decision to revisit that quagmire of so many other Star Wars authors: children. Writing realistically and interestingly about children is a veritable minefield in any literary field, and it is an awkward and fumbling attempt here. Much of the book is taken up with a poor facsimile of Oliver Twist’s workhouse (Hethrir’s schoolyard prison where he keeps the children). McIntyre’s villains (not including the bizarre spectacle of Waru) are unimaginative and pedantic nonentities and her heroes are infuriating and irrational idiots. In spite of the dramatic promises of the book’s blurb, there is no sense of crisis or universal peril looming in the story; merely a steady plod towards inevitable showdown and anticlimax. If McIntyre succeeds in one thing, she succeeds in bringing fans close to actually disliking the star cast of Han, Luke and Leia, and growing tired enough of their bickering and petty squabbling, and their bald-faced idiocy, to actually secretly cheer for the cardboard villains and the androgynous and inadvertantly comedic Waru.

A bad book all around, and while it might not quite deserve its reputation, it doesn’t really deserve rehabilitation, either.

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