Thursday, October 25, 2012

Star Wars: The Jedi Path review

*Warning - long and personal introduction ahead*

    I am a Jedi.

    I mean this in the semi-literal sense. When I was a boy, religion was something distant and difficult for me to comprehend. Church didn't really provide me with the answers I wanted, mostly because while I believed in Christianity, everyone talking about it wasn't speaking about subjects my younger self had questions about about. What was good? What was evil? What does forgiving your enemy look like? How would God appear to science? What was God's opinion about multiple religions? You know, the usual.

    Along came the Stars Wars trilogy.

    Obi Wan Kenobi's explanation of the Force as an energy field created by all living things, surrounding and binding us was a way for my six-year-old self to understand God. Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Jabba the Hutt, and Grand Moff Tarkin gave me a framework for understanding why bad people did the things they did. Obviously, it was because the bad guys got the best toys. My opinion has gotten slightly more nuanced since then but it was still important to me.

     Like a set of dominos, the Star Wars trilogy got me thinking about spiritual matters. As incredibly important as Star Wars was for virtually every boy on the planet my age, it was doubly important for me.

    Which is, admittedly, part of the reason why I hated the Prequels' handling of the Jedi. In addition to the movies' other flaws, George Lucas hurt the public perception of Jedi. Role-models are deeply important to children and just because they were from a movie for kids, doesn't make the Jedi any less important in that regard.

    Star Wars: The Jedi Path is an attempt by the Daniel Wallace to assemble all of the information about the Jedi Knights given over dozens of video games, tabletop RPGs, novels, and more into a single coherent narrative. This otherwise dry assembling of text, most of which I already have in their original forms, would be dreadfully boring if not for the way the author intersperses commentary from some of Star Wars universe's most famous Jedi.

    The book contains in-character thoughts and asides from Yoda, Count Dooku, Luke Skywalker, Darth Sidious, Qui Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, and a couple of other Jedi. These comments range from insights into the Jedi's rule of attachment to jokes. This, by itself, is worth the price of admission.

    The book gives a short description of the history of the Jedi, their philosophy, lightsaber styles, and ranking systems. In short, everything you could possibly want to know about the Jedi but were afraid to ask. Some of the commentary highlights why Luke Skywalker went with certain beliefs over others while others talk about why so many people in the galaxy were willing to turn on the Jedi.

    If there's any flaws, it's in the inclusion of the Jedi Guardian, Consular, and Sentinel classes. Created for the Knights of the Old Republic video game to justify traditional RPG play-styles, they really don't have any place in the setting. It'd be like if someone started talking about cleric as a function separate from priest in your typical D&D setting.

    In conclusion, Star Wars: The Jedi Path is a worthy addition to any Star Wars fan's library. There's a much more elaborate version than the one I bought but, honestly, I don't see the documents as being worth it. It's entertaining and more than worth the eleven dollars I paid for it, but not enough to justify getting the novelty edition.


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