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The Force in the New Jedi Order
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The Force in the New Jedi Order
 PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:25 am Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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It's my opinion that a vast majority of people that I've spoken to about the New Jedi Order series have completely misinterpreted it, largely due to Traitor. Which isn't to say it's Matthew Stover's fault, because he clearly has said what he was going for, and part of that is to let people draw their own conclusions about the book, untainted by authorial intent. I'll preface by stating that I haven't read any of these books in several months if not longer, but I'd like to think I have a pretty good memory. And I suspect if I did re-read Traitor, my interpretation would probably shift slightly, as it seems every time I read it a new idea is discovered.

That said, I'll start with Traitor. The book itself is entirely about epistemology. We only get three POVs in the novel: Jacen, Nom Anor, and Ganner Rhysode. Vergere's POV is never depicted; consequently, the reader is left, along with Jacen, to determine for themselves the veracity of her claims, as well as discern her motives. The book switches toward the end with Ganner's perspective, casting Jacen in the same light, thus sort of providing a guide by which we attempt to discern Vergere's intentions, at least in the sense that we have some degree of understanding to Jacen's thoughts from his POV, and can get a better handle on Ganner's POV of Jacen.

Ultimately, the most important information communicated in the book occurs in the Solo apartment and in the epilogue. In the former, Vergere says "Ask yourself. Where else can one look?" That's essentially the entire lesson Vergere is trying to teach Jacen, about epistemology and knowledge. In the epilogue, she then tells him about compassion, which I think is important but isn't her main lesson: "You need not like someone to love him. Love is nothing more than the recognition that two are one. That all is one... That knowledge is the seed of greatness."

The Jedi are predicated entirely upon compassion, and I think Vergere has really hit it on the head even more than Obi-Wan and Yoda did. Incidentally, this also ties into The Unifying Force down the line, along with her apparent assertion that there is no dark side.

Now, onto Destiny's Way, where she talks to Luke as an equal, explains her intentions with Jacen and what she was doing to teach him, ridicules the Potentium Perspective, and acknowledges that the dark side exists! I actually find Vergere's discussion with Luke potentially "darker" than anything she says to Jacen in Traitor, because the sincerity with which she says anything in Traitor is entirely up in the air. But with Luke, her discussion concerns the dark side, and whether anger and aggression, and acting upon these emotions, is specifically dark, or only if one acts with them in a way by which they dictate one's actions. Thus, she seems to be walking a razor thin line with regard to what we know about the Force, but also one worth questioning. At one point at TFN, Stover posed an interesting question: was Yoda perhaps overly cautious in training Luke due to his father's mistakes and the potential for Luke to repeat those mistakes? Perhaps Yoda didn't want to take the training wheels off the son of the Chosen One because doing so with the Chosen One had not worked out?

Vergere tells Luke: "Our difference concerns where this serenity originates. You believe serenity is an absence of passion, but I believe it is a consequence of knowledge, and self-knowledge most of all."

Luke replies: "If passion is not opposed to serenity, why are they paired in the Jedi Code?"

Vergere states: "Because the consequences of these two states of mind are opposed to one another. An unchecked passion produces actions that are hasty, ill considered, and often destructive. Serenity, on the other hand, may well result in no action at all -- and when it does, serenity produces actions that proceed from knowledge and deliberation, if not from wisdom."

As for her actions in Traitor, Vergere explains what she was doing: "Jacen Solo had to be bereft of friends, of relatives, of teachers and knowledge and the Force and everything that could help him. He had to be reduced to nothing -- or rather, to himself only. And then he had to act -- to act purely out of himself, out of his own inner being. In that state of complete disinterest, everything else having failed him, he had no choice but to be himself, to choose and to act."

Based upon the premise that Jacen was left "bereft of... teachers and knowledge," it's my conclusion that Vergere's means of doing that, since she quite clearly offers him information about the Force, is that she fed him both true and false information, leaving him to figure out which was true and which was false. And thus, I'd say the reader was also left to figure out when she was being sincere and when she was being insincere. It would appear that since most people believe that Vergere proposed the idea that there was no dark side, that they believed she was sincere when she proposed this. Given that she freely discusses the dark side with Luke, I would think it obvious in retrospect that she did not, although I do think there was some truth to it "from a certain point of view," which will make sense come The Unifying Force.

As for The Unifying Force, I think the full context of the "boon" of Jacen's hero's journey is better understood with more information on what the "Unifying Force" actually is. Introduced in Episode I, albeit indirectly in the film and slightly more directly in The Making of Episode I and the film's novelization. George Lucas defines it in the former as: "The Force itself breaks down into two sides: the living Force and a greater, cosmic Force. The living Force makes you sensitive to other living things, makes you intuitive, and allows you to read people’s minds, etc. But the greater Force has to do with destiny. In working with the Force, you can find your destiny and you can choose to either follow it or not."

The Living Force is the Force that is divided into light and dark, while the Unifying Force is essentially the "source," the "gestalt" or "whole" Force, untainted or unfiltered as it were by life into those two sides. It is the source of the will of the Force; as there's no "dark will" that emanates from the dark side, likewise there's no "light will," there's only one will which emanates from the Unifying Force. This was further exemplified in the Mortis trilogy of TCW, in which each of the three Force wielders embodied an aspect: light, dark, and the Unifying Force.

The Jedi are all about balance. The dark side in the Mortis trilogy is about destructive impulses, disobedience, and selfishness, while the light side is about creative impulses, obedience, and selflessness. The Jedi need to employ some destructive impulses in their work such as "aggressive negotiations," and I'd argue that things such as disobedience have their uses in certain situations. The idea of Jedi seeking balance is also echoed in a lot of the prequel era Expanded Universe literature, such as Cloak of Deception, which has a few good quotes that echo the Mortis trilogy:

"It sometimes seemed to Valorum that the Jedi behaved as if the Force ruled the ordinary world, and that the role of the Jedi was to behave in such a way that a balance between good and evil, light and dark, was forever preserved -- lest the scales tip one way or the other, opening a portal for the dark to come streaming in, or for allowing the light to blind everyone to some greater truth."

Thus, the chief concern of the Old Republic Jedi prior to the prequels -- especially with the believed absence of the Sith -- was not that of loyalty to light over dark, but of preserving the balance and to the greater unity of the Force and its will. This wasn't impressed upon Luke by Yoda or Obi-Wan, as one idea proposed during the NJO, or possibly I, Jedi?, was that Luke was trained as a weapon against the Sith. His training did not deal with the Unifying Force at all.

Thus the purpose of the New Jedi Order series was to reintroduce this idea to the New Jedi Order. And so, The Unifying Force concludes with Jacen realizing that the reason he could sense the Yuuzhan Vong via Vongsense was due to their latent connection to the Unifying Force, the Force beyond what the Jedi could sense and something which could not be stripped from them, since life and the Force are innately connected. And he achieved union with the Unifying Force completely during his battle with Onimi.

As well, Jacen and Luke discuss what Vergere said about there being no dark side, and decide that it is wrong:

"It's true that the Force is unified; it is one energy, one power. But here's where I think you and Vergere are incorrect: the dark side is real, because evil actions are real. Sentience gave rise to the dark side. Does it exist in nature? No. Left to itself, nature maintains the balance. But we've changed that. We are a new order of consciousness that has an impact on all life. The Force now contains light and dark because of what thinking beings have brought to it. That's why balance has become something that must be maintained -- because our actions have the power to tip the scales."

I find it slightly problematic that Luke attributes the belief of no dark side to Jacen, because as far as I know he never proposed it himself and merely relayed what Vergere told him, and I also don't believe Vergere was ever sincere in stating it so much as it being a rhetorical question of sorts for Jacen to ponder due to her discussion of the dark side with Luke. That Luke seemingly forgot this I chalk up to multiple authors writing in the same series. Speaking of Vergere's apparition:

JACEN: "Maybe she learned to tap into a power that was more all-embracing than the Living Force."

LUKE: "The Unifying Force. That might explain it. In fact, all the years since the deaths of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and my father, I've felt as if the Jedi have been on a quest to recover the Force's power to glimpse the future, which is perhaps the nature of the Unifying Force. The search has not been unlike our search for Zonama Sekot. And there's a power here, in the air and the trees and everything else, that convinces me we've found our way to something even greater than what we were seeking."

Sekot instructs Jacen on the Unifying Force:

"Jacen, to tap deeply into the Unifying Force, we will have to surrender our desire to control events. We will have to unbridle ourselves of words and of thinking, because thoughts, too, are born of the physical world. We must refrain from analyzing the Force, and simply allow the Force to guide us. Our relationship with the Force must be impeccable, without the need to be supported by words or reason. We must carry out the commands of the Force as if they were beyond appeal. And we must do what must be done, no matter who attempts to stand in our way."

Luke, after the conclusion of the Yuuzhan Vong War, says to the Jedi Order:

"But here's what I wish to say to all of you: if I have learned anything from the events of the past five years, it is that the Force is more all-embracing than I ever realized. Light and dark do not always stand opposed, but mingle with each other in curious ways. More important, the Force seems to have a will, and it's when we're acting against the will of the Force that we can get into trouble. Anger by itself is not of the dark side unless it is accompanied by a desire to dominate. When we act in harmony with the will of the Force, we disappear into it. When we struggle against it, we not only sever our ties with the Force, but also feed the needs of chaos.

...

"Our forebears believed that they could balance light and dark by remaining always in the Force, and thereby perfecting themselves. Gradually, however, as the Supreme Chancellors appealed to the order time and again for advice in resolving disputes, the Jedi became adjuncts of the Old Republic, then marshals and warriors, taking it upon themselves to uphold the peace, and little by little being drawn away from the Force and into the mundane."

Finally, Sekot itself states that it does not follow the Potentium, which I'm merely quoting so that it's not conflated with the beliefs espoused by Sekot or other characters: "The unprovoked attack by the Far Outsiders stirred something in me. Counter to the teachings of the leaders of the Potentium, I became aware of the existence of evil. In a sense, evil helped give birth to my awareness. Now I understand that the acts of the Far Outsiders may have been nothing more than a reawakening of the evil my parent experienced when its symbionts used its creations not merely to defend Yuuzhan'tar, but to launch an era of bloodshed that resulted in the death of countless worlds -- along with many latent planetary consciousnesses."

So ultimately, the "boon" that Jacen discovers in the New Jedi Order series is the rediscovery of the Unifying Force, and his moment of transcendence with it and rediscovery of that by means of his complete surrender to the will of the Force. The books set chronologically after The Unifying Force, starting with The Joiner King, sadly have completely ignored that aspect of the series, and instead became caught up on Vergere's claim that there is no dark side, an idea that I cannot find Jacen or Luke ever supporting at any time in the New Jedi Order series.

And thus, it feels as though the New Jedi Order series has become wholly irrelevant in that it has been rendered thematically moot by the reframing of its story to that of Jacen being seduced to the dark side by a Sith.

Post Script: This was mostly written stream of consciousness and I haven't re-read it in its entirety so it's possible that I left some idea open with the intent to revisit it and never did, so feel free to point out if I did, or request clarification, and it shall be done. Although, to be honest, I probably shouldn't have any sort of expectation that anyone will read this far.


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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:07 am Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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I'm curious whether people are reading this in its entirety or if people are opening it, seeing its length, and not reading it.


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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 2:21 am Reply with quote  
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Well, it is quite daunting Razz . For my part I've simply not had time to read it. I got past the first paragraph before I was interrupted by my sister coming round. I'll have another go at some later.
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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:12 am Reply with quote  
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Had a read/skim through not long after it was posted, but would need to read it again in more detail to make a proper comment. There's some interesting points in there though.
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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 7:52 am Reply with quote  
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Okay, I've read it. To be honest, it's still floating around in my brain at the moment, unsure of what to make of it.
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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:58 pm Reply with quote  
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I read it and it makes me even more convinced that the idea of The Unifying Force is foolish. In my opinion it adds an unneeded layer to the Force. I don't have time to go into detail, but it's just was a bad decision by Lucas and company.


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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:23 pm Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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My favorite post-1999 stories are those that deal with the Unifying Force. Jacen's hero's journey is my favorite story in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

I actually believe it's plausible that Lucas had the idea in mind even when he was producing the original trilogy, because there's no mention of a "light side" in any of those movies anywhere. The Jedi are allied with the Force, not its light side.

The idea that they're allied with the light side, in contrast with the dark side, is an EU invention. And the treatment of the dark side by the EU until the advent of the prequels is a little silly. Not universally, but with the West End Games RPG, for instance, if you took their rules for governing "dark side points," I think Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan would have turned to the dark side halfway through The Phantom Menace. And that WEG RPG informed the Expanded Universe, starting with Heir to the Empire, so it bled into a lot of those stories.


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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:42 pm Reply with quote  
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At first I was intimidated by the size, but once I started reading it I couldn't stop. Bravo. Very well written piece. Personally I think it's worthy of being posted on the main page. Wink
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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:26 pm Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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Thanks. Having re-read it in its entirety, I did notice a point that I did revisit but probably could have done better regarding Vergere's claim that there's no dark side. I didn't use a whole lot of quotes from Traitor besides the salient point about epistemology and also compassion, but I'm going to post again with her speech about the absence of the dark side along with some more quotes.

Having thought about it, I think the original trilogy did, in fact, have the Unifying Force in it in all but name as a consequence of Yoda's Taoist teachings. That the Expanded Universe mistook this, which is exemplified in the conversations between Vergere and Luke in Destiny's Way, suggests to me that the New Jedi Order was sort of a "fix" for this disparity in the same sense that many view I, Jedi as a "fix" for the Jedi Academy trilogy. In fact, a few of the Expanded Universe books even make note of this idea of the Unifying Force even before the New Jedi Order series, but most of them conflate it with the "light side."

My next post in this thread will provide pertinent quotes and discuss it in depth, but I will need to grab the quotes first. As a "preview" of what it will be about, look at Sekot's quote about the Unifying Force. That idea is present in Vergere's speech about the dark side, as well as in earlier pre-NJO novels, including (shockingly!) a Galaxy of Fear book which discusses Jedi philosophy (Taoism) to an extent.

Oh, and I might repost an essay I discovered some time ago from 1999 that someone else wrote about Qui-Gon Jinn which basically lays out the Unifying Force via Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace, but essentially lays out what the New Jedi Order series would do years before it did it.

The fun part about the New Jedi Order is that due to Stover's writing, and the collective writing of Jacen's hero's journey, you can come away with so many different ideas. I think that's true of the films and Stover's other novels as well. I'm re-reading stuff I wrote at a different SW forum two years ago about this subject and it's reminding me of old ideas that make sense.

In fact, my mind is blown by understanding.


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 PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:53 pm Reply with quote  
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http://www.scifidimensions.com/Jun01/forcetaobutterfly.htm

There's the essay, it's from 2001, about the Force in Episode I.

The idea of the Unifying Force is essentially a Taoist influence on the Force; especially the idea that the dark side is equally as necessary as the light. This is in contrast to the Manichean dualism that originated in the Expanded Universe out of the original trilogy, but given Yoda's Taoist teachings in The Empire Strikes Back, I believe that arises out of a projection of Manichean dualism onto the source material rather than it already existing there, at least to the extent that the Expanded Universe took from it. The dark side is definitely more corresponding with evil than yin yang in Tao, for instance.

I also believe that the Unifying Force as a concept is inherent to the Force as depicted in the original trilogy. The Unifying Force is the Force. It's an energy field that surrounds and binds all living things. The dark side of the Force is a side of the Force, but "the Force is what gives a Jedi his power," not the "light side" of the Force. The dark side is only negative when used out of balance within the Force, or in excess.

As for the quotes, I'll go to Vergere's speech about the dark side in Traitor:

JACEN: "What do you mean? I can feel the dark side here. I touched the dark side, and it, and it, it touched me..."

VERGERE: "No. What you feel is the Force. This is the shameful secret of the Jedi: There is no dark side."

JACEN: "Vergere, I know better. What do you think just happened here?"

VERGERE: "The Force is one, Jacen Solo. The Force is everything, and everything is the Force. I've told you already: the Force does not take sides. The Force does not even have sides."

JACEN: "That's not true! It isn't... It's a lie..."

VERGERE: "No. Search your feelings. You know this to be true. The Force is one. Light and dark are no more than nomenclature: words that describe how little we understand. What you call the dark side is the raw, unrestrained Force itself: you call the dark side what you find when you give yourself over wholly to the Force. To be a Jedi is to control your passion... but Jedi control limits your power. Greatness -- true greatness of any kind -- requires the surrender of control. Passion that is guided, not walled away. Leave your limits behind."

When taken at face value, this sounds like Vergere is trying to fool Jacen into using the dark side freely, because if you don't control your passion and surrender yourself to it, especially if that passion is anger, you're becoming like Luke did on the second Death Star when he cut off Vader's hand. But Vergere's talking about the Unifying Force here, and is trying to impress upon Jacen the holistic nature of the Force itself. It does have sides. It encompasses everything, so those things associated with the light and dark sides are encompassed within the Force.

But it's also true that the Force doesn't take sides. The will of the Force isn't beholden to the light or dark sides of it. This is clear through the film saga itself.

As for the idea of surrender, this is echoed by Sekot, as I previously posted:

"Jacen, to tap deeply into the Unifying Force, we will have to surrender our desire to control events. We will have to unbridle ourselves of words and of thinking, because thoughts, too, are born of the physical world. We must refrain from analyzing the Force, and simply allow the Force to guide us. Our relationship with the Force must be impeccable, without the need to be supported by words or reason. We must carry out the commands of the Force as if they were beyond appeal. And we must do what must be done, no matter who attempts to stand in our way."

The idea even goes as far back as to Shield of Lies, in which Luke demonstrates a similar understanding of the Force:

"He then took advantage of the open space inside the bay to work his first complete set of Jedi training drills since leaving Coruscant. Working both with and without his lightsaber, he patiently went through the complex exercises which brought him to a profound state of restful clarity. It was in this state that he felt most keenly the truth and the wisdom of the simple words: There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is the Force. The peace, the knowledge, and the serenity were gifts that came with his surrender to the Force and with his connection through the Force to all that was.

"Sustaining that clarity was always the challenge. In the isolation of a Dagobah, the Jundland Wastes, or a hermitage on a frozen shore, an experienced Jedi could preserve that inner state indefinitely. But the chaos of the real world was another matter. When ego returned, so did will. The surrender became tainted, the connection flawed. The clarity gradually slipped away under the continuous assault of elementary drives and passions. Even the greatest of the masters needed to perform the practice regularly lest they lose the discipline that made them what they were."

Compare this concept to Jacen's moment of transcendence:

"As his grandfather had done, he had broken through the apparent opposites that concealed the absolute nature of the Force, and found his way into an unseen unity that existed beyond the seeming separateness of the world. For a moment all the cosmic tumblers had clicked into place, and light and dark sides became something he could balance within himself, without having to remain on one side or the other.

"The consciousness that was Jacen Solo was strewn across the vast spectrum of life energy. He had passed beyond choice and consequence, good and evil, light and dark, life and death. All that had been required of Jacen was complete surrender -- a technique once mastered by the Jedi Order but at some point misplaced; transposed to an emphasis on individual achievement, which had opened a way to arrogance. In that the path was available to any who chose to seek and follow it, Jacen understood that the discovery was really a rediscovery."


And another discussion between Jacen and Sekot, in which I feel Sekot sums up entirely what Vergere was getting at all along:

JACEN: "And you'll exercise that power to defeat them?"

SEKOT: "If necessary -- but without contempt. If I defeat them aggressively, if I hate them for who they have become, then I will have separated myself from the Force, and permitted my ego to triumph over my desire to merge and expand my consciousness. I will have corrupted the light with my darkness, stained it forever. Self-awareness tricks us into believing that there is us, and that there is the other. But in serving the Force we recognize that we are all the same thing; that when we act in accordance with the Force we act in accordance with the wish of all life to enlarge itself, to rise out of physicality and become something greater.

"In that sense, all living beings are seed-partners, Jacen, passionate to unite with all life, and to help give birth to grand enterprises -- whether a starship, a work of art, or a deed that will echo through history as a noble action. I am no different than you in wanting to play a part in the evolution of the spirit. My consciousness yearns for this."

THIS

This perfectly encapsulates the theme of symbiosis and balance which Lucas was going for in Episode I with the midi-chlorians, the Gungans and the Naboo, and the Jedi and life and the Force.

As for Vergere's idea of control tainting one's path to greatness, control requires ego. Luke's pathway to complete surrender is incomplete because in his attempt to subvert his own darkness, he seeks to control himself from not feeling anger or hate, and allows his ego to prevent the loss of self into the vastness that is the Force. Vergere is proposing that anger is not bad in and of itself, and the darkness that the anger feeds can be eliminated through self-mastery.

If you know your inner darkness, instead of denying it as Luke did, one needs to come to know it so that it can't affect you. This is great writing, IMO, because it's taking another Jungian concept, integrating the shadow, which meshes so well with Star Wars because in addition to the Taoism that Lucas used, Star Wars is no stranger to the Jungian archetypes that Lucas used in the monomythic structure he based the series on.

So if you know yourself, when you surrender to the Force, you will be able to be subsumed by the Force completely. And now my appreciation for the New Jedi Order has increased tenfold. And I have some sense of hope in the sense that despite the ridiculous Vergere retcon, Sekot still exists with this knowledge, and hasn't been retconned into being a Sith Lord yet.


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 PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:42 am Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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Crash Override wrote:

I actually believe it's plausible that Lucas had the idea in mind even when he was producing the original trilogy, because there's no mention of a "light side" in any of those movies anywhere. The Jedi are allied with the Force, not its light side.


Seriously? Shocked I'll have to look for it next time I watch the OT.
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 PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:34 pm Reply with quote  
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  Jedi Master Skid
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I really don't know what to think of Jacen/Caedus. I've only read him in the LoTF series when he fell to the dark side and it just reminded me of Anakin all over again.
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 PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:11 pm Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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Jedi Master Skid wrote:
I really don't know what to think of Jacen/Caedus. I've only read him in the LoTF series when he fell to the dark side and it just reminded me of Anakin all over again.


Jacen in the New Jedi Order has very little in common with Jacen in Legacy of the Force. I'm mostly speaking about his hero's journey in the New Jedi Order series, and how it was sort of a "fix fic" for the Expanded Universe as a whole to undo some of the assumptions made about the Force in the Star Wars universe following the original trilogy to bring it more in line with the Force as presented in the films.

Unfortunately, that was promptly undone immediately afterward, which is part of the reason why JINO has little in common with the Jacen that underwent the hero's journey.


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 PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:49 pm Reply with quote  
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Crash Override wrote:
I actually believe it's plausible that Lucas had the idea in mind even when he was producing the original trilogy, because there's no mention of a "light side" in any of those movies anywhere. The Jedi are allied with the Force, not its light side.


I agree, (though I'd have to look about light side not being mentioned in the movies for I never paid attention) but the thing is in large part what the EU described as the Light Side is what the Unifying Force has become. Yes there are some differences but it basics were the same. That's why I say it was unnecessary to bring into the EU like they did. In fact I'd say it was the NJO that changed the Light Side of the Force into something different.


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 PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:58 pm Reply with quote  
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  Crash Override
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Werehunter wrote:
I agree, (though I'd have to look about light side not being mentioned in the movies for I never paid attention) but the thing is in large part what the EU described as the Light Side is what the Unifying Force has become. Yes there are some differences but it basics were the same. That's why I say it was unnecessary to bring into the EU like they did. In fact I'd say it was the NJO that changed the Light Side of the Force into something different.


The Unifying Force and the light side as depicted in the EU are quite distinct. The Expanded Universe depictions of the light side leads to people creating a direct correspondence between Jedi = light side and Sith = dark side which simply isn't the case, because out of that interpretation stems the confusion over how Anakin restores balance to the Force by destroying the Sith.


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