I’m back! (He says, again.) As a glitch in the Disney XD app keeps me locked out of viewing The Freemaker Adventures, I am failing to get my Star Wars fix. With the hype train barreling toward Rogue One and the premiere of Rebels Season 3 (a review of which you can read here), I’m feeling the compulsive drive toward the galaxy far, far away…with nothing to read or watch! So join me as I travel back to a time where super weapons were a dime a dozen, more than one Hutt wielded a lightsaber, Darth Vader’s glove has magical powers, mountains weep, and the Solo kids are kidnapped every day ending in “y”! My first step: Star Wars: Scourge!
Maybe I should back up a bit. As an avid Star Wars fan since I was born (seriously: time of birth? 11:38), I was consumed in the world of the comics and video games. More, I loved the novels. But balancing the tough life of a high schooler in band and National Honor Society (yes, I am joking, but at the time! man!) meant that I didn’t have time for many books. Sure, I read the Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi. But it was really Knight Errant and Knights of the Old Republic that kept me in the galaxy. Because I only focused on the major releases, I only read five of the twenty-something New Jedi Order books and missed out on some standalones. One such release was Scourge. I specifically picked up Scourge first because I had heard literally nothing about it – it did not register on my radar at all. This could have been for many reasons, but I think I only heard about Legends novels in discussions about how bad they were. Not hearing about this one seemed like it was okay.
The first thing that I noticed when I opened this book was that I had no idea what the setting was or anything. Nothing pointed me in any direction in the book itself (I looked at the timeline, but man, that was in-depth and hard to follow, and I was ready to get started). I figured it was in the Clone War era because of the premise: an Apprentice is tasked with getting a hyperspace lane from a Hutt, but his son has been kidnapped! No, wait. That’s the 2008 movie. Uhm. Toro, a Pantoran Jedi, is tasked with receiving the coordinates of a hyperspace lane from a Hutt named Popara of the Anjiliac clan when he is mysteriously killed in action! Yeah, two stories revolved around securing hyperspace lanes from the Hutts and both eventually involve a rescue mission from a missing son within the range of four years. Unlike the 80’s Legends, when the authors would cut and copy quotes from the films verbatim, we’re looking at loose adaptations of the stories! The rest of the book, seeing as this was only the first chapter, didn’t fare much better in terms of creating an interesting narrative.
I mentioned this is a spoiler review, correct? The Jedi that Toro was called to negotiate with, Popara the Hutt, explodes. Like, in the middle of a dinner party. What? I thought this level of violence was reserved for the canon (see: the exploding skull in Heir to the Jedi). Nope. An assassination attempt on Popara ends in his explosion. I really wanted to say that as soon as possible. Let’s back up. Mander seeks out Popara to get the hyperspace lanes, and Popara agrees to the terms as long as Mander and the crew go to the quarantined planet Endreggad to rescue Mika the Hutt, his son. Zonnos the Hutt, heir to Popara’s empire and Popara’s other son, doesn’t much like the Jedi, because…well, we’re not sure why, but he threatens the team before they leave (even though he wasn’t the bad guy in the end – a red herring!). The planet is under quarantine because there’s an outbreak of some disease that we find out was caused by the Temptest, so the NR and CSA won’t deal with the planet. On the way to rescue Mika, they are caught by the CSA and interrogated and told to go home. They escape the CSA, travel to the planet’s surface, fight some thugs, and leave to bring Mika to his father, Popara, and are rewarded at a banquet. This is where Popara literally explodes. Zonnos thinks the Jedi killed it, and in return, the team thinks that Zonnos is framing them. They run. They come across some homeless people in armor and the CSA again. This kicks off an investigation into the source of the Tempest spice trade because all of these plot points are conveniently related! Based on their information they find through some incredible detective work (they’re literally just able to pull answers out of the air), they travel to the original Hutt planet to find out that Mika was the main Tempest dealer all along. It’s all very predictable, and this bullet point summary was given in lieu of reading the book (because most of it was filler).
Unfortunately, the characters weren’t really developed much even when the plot was left so predictable. You’d think that the plot was left as simple as it was in order to spend more time developing the characters. After Toro’s death, Jedi Master Mander, an Archivist, is sent to the system where he was killed in order to figure out what happened and secure the hyperspace lanes anyway. After leaving Yavin IV (aha! a mile marker! it’s post-RotJ!), he meets Toro’s sister, Reen, who is pissed that Toro is dead. The two team up because….Rodians shoot at them at the same time. And, oh yeah, there’s a Bothan nearby and he eventually joins the team. I’ll return to these characters soon. It was all extraordinarily convenient how it worked out. An interesting premise was promised by the back of the book: it teases that Mander doubts himself as a Jedi Master and has to work through his own existential crisis. Really, this amounts to about six pages of the novel in which he ponders whether it was his fault that Toro was killed in the battlefield. In reality, it was a far less exciting answer: Toro became addicted to a spice called Tempest and overdosed at the end of his life, causing him to jump out of a window. We’ll come back to this. I was really excited about a one-off focusing on a doubting Jedi that wasn’t a Skywalker, but Mander’s fears about failing his apprentice didn’t mean much to the entirety of the novel. Really, he spends little time doubting himself and more time showing why he is, after all, a competent Jedi with literally no reason to doubt himself.
Returning to the side characters, we have Reen (the aforementioned Pantoran) and Eddey (a Bothan), neither of which add any more depth to the book. It’s already pretty shallow thanks to Mander and Toro, so I hoped that someone would make up for it. Reen’s character isn’t developed much beyond “angry smuggler who can’t trust anybody”. Fully focused on finding justice for Toro’s death, we don’t spend time getting to know her. Eddey, on the other hand, might just be the only competent Bothan in the galaxy, yet he merely serves as a plot device to figure out key points of the mystery as he travels with the crew. On a mission from Popara the Hutt, the Hutt who has the hyperspace coordinates, they are intercepted by the Corporate Sector Authority, and are joined on their adventure by Angela Krin, a by-the-books official in the CSA. Okay, so the characters don’t add much to the novel. So…if the characters don’t add much, and the plot is pretty much cut out of the proverbial cookie cutter…does the novel offer anything? Perhaps.
Maybe the most interesting part of the novel was that the most unique aspect, Mika, wasn’t really unique at all. Remember Bendorion the Hutt, the Dark Jedi who fought Princess Leia? Yeah. Mika is like him. (Yeah, a SECOND Force sensitive Hutt!) Mika was trained by Toro during negotiations, but Mika tried to control Toro by feeding him Tempest, making him addicted. Mika never really learned how to use a lightsaber. Nor was he able to learn how to use the Force very well: all he was able to do was learn the Jedi Mind Trick, which he used on Angela Krin to get the CSA to accidentally work for him. During the final showdown between Mander and Mika, Mika unsuccessfully uses a Mind Trick on Mander after Mander destroys a Twi’lek handmaiden who tried to duel him with lightsabers. Uhhuh. Fat lot of good his Force ability gave him, I guess.
Reading up on the history of the book, this book was adapted from an RPG source book, which makes a LOT more sense of the story and the crazier elements here. Maybe the characters were bare because we were supposed to be playing them. For what it was worth, a one-off book never to be mentioned again, it wasn’t bad. It was a quick read, but it was entirely predictable and reeked of Legends era stereotypes (every thug was Rodian or Nikto, the handmaidens were Twi’leks). I left the book wondering what prompted it’s printing: it didn’t contribute to any greater story, nor do I think any character was mentioned again. The canon, so far, is devoted to printing stories with weight, that either answer questions or give new perspectives on the movies or other stories. Scourge fails to do either for me.
But, the adventure has only just begun! Next up, I start my chronological read-through of the Legends timeline with Lost Tribe of the Sith!