No, I haven't yet had the chance to read the book - that'll be coming up soon, though, since my beautiful hard cover arrived on Monday. :-) But I did manage to listen to the audio book.
So, the Legacy of the Force series has come to a close (I say it hasn't, since there was no real 'Legacy' evident at the end of the series) and a couple of years have passed. The Second Galactic Civil War has also ended, but the after-effects of this event are still being felt. There is a growing mistrust of the Jedi, and many see them as above the law elitists. At a time when bad publicity is the least needed, the Jedi son of one of the Order's most respected Masters goes rogue, mobilizing the Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance into action - while the Jedi try to pin down the cause of the malais that struck one of their own, Natasi Daala brings Luke Skywalker to task for allowing the once-hero of the New Republic and Galactic Alliance, Jedi Knight Jacen Solo, to become Darth Caedus.
I've been waiting for something like this to happen, to be honest. I mean, Kyp Durron destroys the Carida system, murdering billions; Corran Horn's misplaced trust in the Yuuzhan Vong commander, Sheddao Shai, gets Ithor destroyed, and before it all, Luke's own act of destroying the Death Star and causing the deaths of millions, was bound to lead somewhere. So bringing charges against Luke seems the logical step to take - after all, even if Jacen Solo had survived, how exactly would he have been punished? So Sith, not even Darth Vader, has ever seen the error of his / her ways - they believe (and this is the real reason why they will always be the biggest threat the Jedi will ever face) that they are right, that what they are doing is for the greater good (well, at least those Sith that have a measure of brains and vision). But the Jedi have no 5-year plan. For beings capable of using the Force to receive visions and glimpses of the future, they are very now-focused and reactive, and this is the main reason why I'm very glad to see this storyline in the Fate of the Jedi series. Call me a lover of what Karen Traviss did for Star Wars (and I am, through and through), but there hve to be consequences (and therefor, a measure of reality) for what the Jedi have been doing for the millennia they've been around. Having Luke realize that it is a neccessary path was one of my fist-pumping moments, and it was also a storyline that Aaron handled extremely well. We do, after all, have to see and understand both sides of the argument.
The trip that Luke and Ben go on to try and retrace Jacen's footsteps during his 5-year Odyssey is a bit of a reach, though I can understand that it's a neccessary plotline for Luke to be able to get a sense of Jacen in those situations - in certain respects, Luke knew Jacen better than his own parents. I would have substituted Ben Skywalker for Jaina Solo, though. Not only would that have made for some very interesting story-arcs with Ben on Coruscant, but it would have given Luke and Jaina the opportunity to really spend time together. Granted, Aaron did pull it off, and the glimpse into the world of Dorin and the Baran Do Sage's was interesting but ultimately of little value - the only story-driving point being that father and son now know where and how Jacen learned one particular ability.
The Kessel-arc was interesting, too, but I would have liked to know a bit more about how it ties into (if it does) the Celestials and Centerpoint Station. I can't wait, though, to find out just who contacted Allana... :-)
I do think, though, that Outcast was a better beginning to a 9-book series - sure, it's an almost sedate saunter into the plots that the series will be remembered for, and there's no "Holy Crap!" moment at the end (as when Jacen murders a fellow Jedi and chooses to become a Sith in Legacy of the Force: Betrayal), but Outcast definitely sets the arcs and the tone of Fate of the Jedi, so, in my opinion, a great, promising start. :-)
The storyline gets a solid 7 / 10 from me.
Now onto the production of the audio book:
Once again, I'm in awe. :-) (Well, you wouldn't know it, since this is the first audio book I've reviewed on the blogs)
Marc Thompson does a stellar job of capturing the voices of the characters - he's a veteran now, so he should, but he always puts in effort, and it definitely comes across. You can also hear how much he enjoys what he does, which is great!
Music- and sound effects-wise it's excellent! You really do feel as if you're in the thick of things, hearing air-scrubbers on the ships, feeling the tension with the lightsabers and music; it really is cool! :-)
I'm also glad that the audio book is unabridged (the one I listened to, at least) - you really do get a sense that the story flows better. :-)
I give the audio book a solid 9 / 10,
So my combined rating for Fate of the Jedi Outcast is a promising and entertaining 8.5 / 10. :-)
To order your copies of the audio book, click here for the US and here for the UK; to order your copies of the book (still in Hard Cover), click here for the US and here for the UK; for those in South Africa, please use the Kalahari link at the top-left of the blog.