This article contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: Bloodline
If you missed convoluted politics in Star Wars and always wanted to see Han Solo in space NASCAR this book is for you!
First I will say this, obviously I've never written a book, so though I'm not a fan of this work, I know others who are and I want to tip my hat to Claudia Gray for adding to the Star Wars canon, in what I'm sure was nothing but the best intentions to present a great characterization of Princess Leia Organa.
One of my main gripes is that the plot was unnecessarily convoluted, and I'm disappointed that the Story Group didn't learn from the prequels with one key aspect: galactic politics. It was never clear in the prequels, nor in this book exactly how the Senate operates. Sure they throw words around like debate, gridlock, corruptioin etc. to tell you it's not working, but it's not believalble. In several scenes any Senator can simply take the floor, but when Leia needs to inform the Senate of her investigation's findings at a critical juncture in the book all of a sudden a Quorum is needed, and apparently it's an arbitrary one at that is decided by Senators, but which ones? Who knows?
Mon Mothma is mysteriously missing but we don't know why, all we know is that the Chancellors after her have been weak, and apparently the way to correct that is to have a First Senator. Yet we don't know what the Chancellor's role was, or their powers and the same for the First Senator, so we can't independently come to a conclusion as to why the Senate finds this as a viable path forward in preventing the government from collapsing. Yet we are told that and so we have to accept it for the sake of the story.
I understand that not everyone is going to enjoy politics in their Star Wars story, but when trying to establish how we get to the situation in Episode VII, one which is critical to the understanding of how things could have gone South so fast following the OT, I find its utilization in this novel severely lacking. Aftermath shed some clues into how the First Order came to be. In my opinion, this novel largely did away with some of those foundations, though to be fair they are alluded to somewhat. The main sticking point for me is in Aftermath we learn that Mon Mothma wishes to demilitarize rapidly while it's hinted at that Leia is not of this thinking. Yet in Bloodline Leia is a Populist who believes in relative autonomy for the systems while the Centrists believe in strong central authority. It doesn't take a political scientist to see how these views are contradictory in coloring Leia's political philosophy.
In the real world we see how partisanship plays out, but there are several motivations that drive such behavior which aren't illustrated in Bloodline between the two factions. We have thousands upon thousands of Senators who seem to be swayed at a moments notice simply because the story demands they be of that mindset even if it's unrealistic. In one fell swoop Leia has the galaxy turn it's back on her making her persona non grata, yet Tai-Linn announces his candidacy and literally embraces Leia in the same moment. Much of the book feels this way to me personally, where it's part political thriller and the parts that make no sense really don't need to because they serve to lay the foundation for the First Order.
We've seen in other books, namely the Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, that we had the First Order, the Independent Systems and the New Republic. There were more believable and interesting ways to lead to this setup than one party clandestinely undermining the government they are a part of to secretly fund a paramilitary force that will replace the current government by making a new government. We know from Aftermath that the Imperial Remnant is in deep space slowly and quietly rebuilding. We know from TFA the belief in order and Empire, etc. so to see them trying to finance their rebuild by relying on criminal sorts to cover their efforts is stupid if not out right contradictory to their motivations.
I could go on dissecting what's wrong with the politics, so in no particular order here are the rest of my gripes with this book. Again not so much from a literary standpoint, but from the perspective that these books are forming the new canon and how we view our favorite heros in light of the new movies. I wasn't one who was married to Legends and I'm actually happy with most of the new additions to the canon. To me though, Bloodline is the weakest of the bunch:
- Han Solo, hero of the Rebellion, and at one point a General, pretty much abandons his wife to be in space NASCAR. When she's nearly killed in a failed bombing attempt Leia convinces him not to check on her and he loves her so much that he stays with the races.
- Han does come back just in the nick of time for a brief cameo to save his Princess in distress, just so that she can feel like she's so much of a drag always trying to tie him down that she sends him off back to space NASCAR which clearly is more important than their obviously neglected marriage.
- Ransolm Casterfo --I got nothing, I just saw the most ridiculous name in the Star Wars Universe next to Rinnivirin Di so many times I had to put it out there as one of the things I couldn't stand about this book. Maybe Handsome Castro was taken?
- The Senate is a bunch of gullible idiots. Out of the thousands of species, some who were probably alive during the Clone Wars, none has the experience to see when they're getting played yet we're supposed to believe these are seasoned politicians. They immediately believe Leia is Vader's daughter and shun her, and despite having the original evidence of Casterfo's meeting with Hadrassian, they believe the doctored version because clearly it's what the reader needs to believe.
- The Old Republic failed because of corruption, so the New Republic essentially mimics the exact same setup and expects a different result. Or maybe it didn't, I don't know no one bothered to explain how the systems work, they just told us this is not working.
- Leia reveals she's shocked someone in her party wants to be First Senator to do nothing. She was going to save the galaxy if she was First Senator by changing debate rules. Because every great democracy that failed or was saved from the brink of collapse was done so because their parliamentary procedures were just not clear enough.
- Greer has a blood disease. Played zero role before or after anything of significance. Who cares.
- Lady Carise. She reminds me of Jane Krakowski's character in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
- My adopted daughter is the progeny of the galaxy's most dangerous Sith Lord. I don't know how to tell her so I'll leave her a message in case I day so I don't have to do it in person. But rather than use any of this fancy technology or trust it with R2, I'm going to voice record it in this music box--but after this song about Alderaan and it's non-existent moon--and then I'll entrust it to some Governor on some planet--I'm sure it'll get to her eventually and never ever fall into the wrong hands at the exact right time it would serve the plot...
- Leia's mom was Padme Amidala the benevolent Queen of Naboo and former Senator who decried Palpatine during his quest to overthrow the Old Republic? Leia was raised by Bail Organa who 200 pages earlier we celebrated by erecting a giant statue on our grounds because of his work to start and inspire the Rebellion which eventually overthrew the Empire? But her dad was Vader! We hate Leia! Clearly after all these years and opportunities only now will this one fact of half of her genetic parenting come into play. Boooooo Leia!
- The Senate building is so big because there are thousands of Senators and only one story of building to keep things equal that a conveyor sidewalk is needed to travel from office to office, but during the Napkin Bombing (God help me), everyone escapes because of Leia's quick thinking. Not 1 person or being dies, not 1. Nope, and there was a Twi'lek wearing sunglasses who did it, because you know sneaky stuff.
Okay that's my rant. And I know some of you are asking well if you're so smart how would you have fixed it? Here's one possibility:
Afraid to follow in the footsteps of the Empire Mon Motha and the newly reconstructed New Republic favored decentralized government with the New Republic serving to regulate trade and a basic set of laws across New Republic worlds, which were fewer than the Old Republic as many world's chose to remain independent after the Galactic Civil War. This meant the Rebellion forces were dramatically reduced to a peace keeping force with much of the military responsibility left up to individual worlds. The First Order emerges, not as a political faction within the New Republic, but rather as a political group of formerly independent worlds under the guise of defending themselves since the NR was unable to do so. Unbeknowst to the NR the true forces behind the First Order is the Imperial Remnant as laid out in Aftermath.
Han Solo would be a military consultant engrossed in his work along with Leia who as a Senator believed in a stronger Centralized government and military force, but is on the political outskirts as everyone believes she just can't let go of the war. He would work tirelessly to aid his wife in setting up a strong military, but both these heroes would be seen as unable to move past the GCW, characters like Casterfo not admirers of the Old Empire, but rather starry eyed idealists who believe the peace would last. This sets Han and Leia as the too involved in galactic affairs parents that leads them to neglect their parenting of Kylo Ren as laid out by J.J. Abrams. The birth of the Resistance could have been told as a result not of a too bureaucratic government, but rather a struggle between idealist political philosophy versus realist and how the Galactic Civil War changed the heroes we knew who were so black in white in the OT, but were shaped by the lessons of that era and now are working to ensure the new peace lasts in the face of those lessons.