Thu
Feb 27 2014 9:00am

Because Sometimes, Your Girlfriend Just Won’t Get Off the Computer—Star Wars: Children of the Jedi

Children of the Jedi, Drew Struzan, Barbara HamblyThere’s this thing called the Callista Trilogy in the Expanded Universe, and it’s really only called that because there’s this character called Callista in all three books that aren’t even written by the same person. (Barbara Hambly wrote the first and third, Kevin J. Anderson wrote the second.) The first book is called Children of the Jedi, and it is remarkable in that, for the first time in all of Star Wars history, Luke Skywalker managed to get a girlfriend.

I’m not kidding. This book may lead to Luke getting laid for the very first time. He’s about 30, by the way.

Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with Luke waiting for the right person! It’s just that his record with ladies is sort of… I’m trying to think of a better word than disturbing. I’m not sure whether to attribute this to Luke’s terrible compatibility sense, or something more sinister. First there’s Camie, his buddy Fixer’s girlfriend, seemingly the only woman on Tatooine besides Aunt Beru. (The implication in the novelization of Star Wars is that basically everyone has a crush on that girl.) He gets a little fixated on his sister next, but again, pretty much the only woman around. Then there’s Gaeriel Captison, who didn’t work out because her religion was all ‘The Jedi Throw the Universe Outta Gear,’ or what have you. There was Mara Jade, who had some chemistry with Luke, but let’s be fair—neither one of them was ready for the other when they met. So an editor at Bantam reportedly told Barbara Hambly to write “The great love of Luke’s life.”

And she wrote him a dead woman trapped in a computer.

Callista Masana is actually a pretty awesome character on paper; she’s a Jedi from the Old Republic days who was part of a splinter sect. The sect was run by Jedi Master Altis, who maintained a community of relief workers, both Force-sensitive and not. Basically, she was part of a group that did what Jedi should ostensibly be doing all the time. She went into hiding when Order 66 came down, but when Palpatine found out about a hidden group of saved younglings—aptly called Children of the Jedi—on a planet called Belsavis, he sent a nasty dreadnought to explode them. (He got a bit vainglorious with this one and named it the Eye of Palpatine, which is about one-eighth more snazzy than DEATH STAR, I suppose.) Callista gave her life to stop that dreadnought by destroying the ship’s systems. Her spirit got dumped into the gunnery computer, but her body was gone.

But why is this all important, you ask? Well, here’s a funny thing having to do with Emperor Palpatine’s concubines… (Those are three words you hoped never to read in succession. I’m sorry.)

Roganda Ismaren is the other hand in this quite complicated plot; she was a Force-sensitive young woman who lost her family to the Empire. In order to survive, she worked her way into the Imperial Court and eventually became one of Palpatine’s favorites. Then she fell in love and had a kid by another guy (who died), so she made herself useful as an Emperor’s Hand to make sure she wouldn’t end up dead. Her plan was to get other Imperials to think that her boy was Palpatine’s son, but once the Emperor died, succession wasn’t so important anymore. She had her kid Irek trained by a cool scientist who figured out a way to implant a chip in a Jedi’s brain so that they could use the Force to manipulate technology. Get in those computer banks and mix it up! So Roganda has Irek wake up the Eye of Palpatine and call it to Belsavis where she’s holding a meeting to get former Imperial big wigs to invest in the My-Son-is-the-New-Emperor Plan. She’s hoping the fancy dreadnought will convince the naysayers. Leia and Han grab Artoo and casually saunter in, trying to get to the bottom of the whole thing. Hijinks ensue, though Roganda and Irek certainly don’t end up with the prize they had in mind.

And that would be where Luke comes in. He hops onto the Eye of Palpatine to stop it from doing its thing with two students from the Jedi Praxeum; Cray Mingla and Nichos Marr. Or, to be more specific, a robot version of Nichos Marr. Yeah... background on that: Nichos and Cray were going to get married, but he got a fatal disease. Cray is a scientist, and worked day and night to save her man, but the best she could do was transfer him into a robot body using illegal Ssi-ruuk technology.

If you find yourself saying ‘gee, it seems odd that Luke is going on this adventure with two students who we’ve never met before, one whom is also sort of trapped in a computer just like his prospective new girlfriend,’ you’d be a perceptive type of person, and I like you very much.

What’s stranger is the critters on board the dreadnought; the Eye of Palpatine was basically designed to catch, quarantine, and brainwash anyone who tried to board it, so among its crew are Gamorreans, and Jawas, and all sorts of other unlikely company. They amble between being slightly helpful and a great big threat, depending on what’s needed. Cray and Nichos get separated from Luke right quick, and because the ship is not exactly intended for guests, Luke finds himself having to use the majority of his Force abilities to keep himself alive. Meaning that he’s using to the Force to maximize his use of the limited oxygen and whatnot. This is a really cool idea, and something I wish was played with more often—forcing Jedi to rely on their skills to keep them afloat in inhospitable environments means we get to see what they’re made of as resourceful people. It’s a smart way of handling the old folks-with-superpowers dilemma.

Anyhow, during that period he bonds with Callista-in-the-computer, sharing memories and learning about being a Jedi from a decidedly more useful source than his norm. These bits are a very interesting insight into Luke’s character, who can be so underestimated in some of the EU novels and the fandom at large. No, he’s not Mr. Snappy One-Liner like Han, and he’s not a political powerhouse like his sister, but Luke Skywalker is—as I constantly repeat at parties to the detriment of my friendships—an interesting person. It’s easy to forget that the Good Guy actually has a personality, something Hambly discussed her desire to explore in interviews about the book. For that alone I have an incorrigible soft spot for this tale.

But then there’s the part where Cray is about to get murdered by the weird brainwashed crew, and sort of gives up on life once she realizes that her robot boyfriend didn’t really get his soul downloaded into the hardware. Her assumption was that she had made a full transfer when she saved Marr’s life from the disease, that this mass of wire and metal was really Nichos at the core. But when he can’t save her due to being fit with a restraining bolt, she is forced to realize that this is simply a robot with her fiancé’s memories and no more.

Whoa, first of all—the fact that you can even put a restraining bolt on someone who you consider to be a person is whack. Laws of Robotics are one thing, but this means that you can recall the guy with a remote and all sorts of creepiness, and just, no. More to the point, Cray’s revelation that Nichos-the-droid has no soul doesn’t seem like a fair assessment; people are their memories. That is what forms us individuals. So if she’s right, and somehow Nichos’ “soul” didn’t transfer, she’s going to need to give me a little more by way of scientific reasoning on that one. (But then, there are so many scary things to consider about how the Star Wars universe handles droids, it’s really no surprise that this is where we end up.)

Still, it doesn’t end there. When Luke finally does rescue Cray, she tells him that she doesn’t want to live without Nichos. She’s going to destroy the Eye of Palpatine and he’ll have time to get out, but she’s doing a swan song. Which is super convenient because if Callista is going to survive, she could use a fresh new body, and Cray is totally willing to hand it over.

Look, if I’d had several books worth of The Epic Epical Love Story of Cr’Nichos (Star Wars ship names should have apostrophes I’ve decided), maybe I’d be less wary of this decision. As is, it simply reads ‘Girl Has Big Love Feelings So It’s Okay For Her to Die Over Dead Boyfriend.’ She’s a plot device. The fact that she happens to be a super-cool scientist does not negate this. She exists to give Luke’s undead girlfriend a new meat suit.

Speaking of which—Luke, I understand that you really want a lady friend, but being okay with using a former student’s body to that end... there is really no way for that to come off as anything but wrong with a capital W the size of the North American continent. It’s kind of gross. You will all be interested to know that the longer Callista inhabits Cray’s body, the more that body starts to morph to look like the Callista of yesteryear.

Uh-huh. Well, isn’t that wizard?

But these things always come with a price, of course, and that price is surprisingly not two dead students. (As I said, we barely knew the kids.) It’s that once Callista has fused herself to the shiny new body, she finds that she can no longer use the Force.

Oops.

What happens to Callista and what happened to the Star Wars fandom following is a fate I will tackle with the next two books. That’s right, lovelies—Darksaber is coming up.


Emily Asher-Perrin would like to point out that she saw exactly no problems with having a girlfriend trapped in a computer as an eleven-year-old. So. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

16 comments
Shariq Ansari
1. DarkeSword
I remember reading this book during my Star-Wars-novel-obsession phase I went through during my teen years. I liked the idea of Luke finally getting a girlfriend, but this book was just so ridiculous. What a shame.
Scott Silver
2. hihosilver28
Guh, I hated these books. The only ones from my time reading the EU that I remember in any detail are the Thrawn Trilogy, the Jedi Academy Trilogy, The Courtship of Princess Leia (because Luke gets his doctorate in being a BAMF in that book), and then I, Jedi. I can't remember where I stopped. Probably about 15-20 books through the chronology as it existed 10-12 years ago.
Pamela Adams
3. Pam Adams
The first part of the title had me expecting a review of the movie Her.
shiznatikus
4. shiznatikus
I remember consciously choosing to skip this when it came out, despite my deep and abiding love of Star Wars. I'm glad I did. *shudders*
shiznatikus
5. Colin R
Oh god, Darksaber. Is it the worst Star Wars story ever told? It very well might be.

Sorry, getting ahead of myself. I was totally confused when I read this as a kid. The whole Cray/Nichos storyline seemed like something I was jumping in on the middle of. Did I miss some stories that came before this somehow? How could that be?? I read everything Star Wars! No, it's just a contrived situation that allows another situation to be resolved. Ignore Cray and Nichos--no one else is going to remember them after this book either!

Really, Star Wars is loaded with lots of uncomfortable subjects that lie just beneath the (so-called) kid-friendly surface, that the movies almost treat like jokes. Slavery. Sexual violence. The unsettling question of whether droids are sapient, and whether they can suffer. Nonhuman rights. The books in the 90s were only marginally more thoughtful about this stuff.

I wish I could say more about this novel, but Hambly's novels never made a huge impact on me. I remember Darksaber more clearly than either of the surrounding two novels, mostly because it is so awful.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
6. Lisamarie
When I look at my SW books, all chronologically ordered (of course), this is where I feel the post-RotJ stuff starts to take a real dip (as I really enjoy the X-Wing series, the Thrawn series and even the Jedi Academy series) - although I do think this story does have some interesting points to ponder, as you bring up - but I think in some ways it gets tainted by Darksaber/Planet of Twilight. And then I think after that is the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy, and Crystal Star, OMG, Crystal Star.

As a huge fan of Luke, and a high school aged girl, I was very critical of the romantic relationships, haha. Maybe a bit possessive. I actually did not mind Callista in this book - I did want him to find somebody! It was later on she kind of got on my nerves. (I'll be honest, most of the reason I hated Black Fleet Crisis was Akanah, the Yevetha were actually kind of neat).

I probably was not as critical as the treatment of female characters either - but I will say that in some ways, I kind of like that we don't totally know Cray and Nichos and all their history going into it - it makes the universe seem a bit bigger, you know? Although I get what you are saying about Cray mainly existing as a plot device. But, I don't know, doesn't any non-main character in a book? I wrestle with that sometimes. Although I agree that the whole 'I have nothing left to live for because my boyfriend is dead' is kind of eeeeeeh. I mean, she was also sacrificing her life for the others to get away, but the way they framed it made her kind of disposable.

I'm not sure I agree that people are their memories, either...but I'm not sure I can handle that discussion today, heh.
Kit Case
7. wiredog
there are so many scary things to consider about how the Star Wars universe handles droids

And if any author took a close look at it, you'd get Cylons. Which I always figured was the real backstory for BSG.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
8. Lisamarie
By the way, if you ever do get to the other side of the timeline, I'd love for you to cover Karen Traviss's clone trooper books because I think those really do go over some interesting ethical questions!
Kristoff Bergenholm
9. Magentawolf
I loved this book, except for the whole 'Luke gets a girlfriend' bit...

I mean, here he is, inside this giant automated dreadnaught that he needs to stop, using his resourcefulness and inginuity to solve all of these problems..

Then they had to spoil it with the nonsense about downloading Callista into a new body.
Margot Virzana
10. LuvURphleb
No offense to Hambly but I hated this book and planet of
Twilight. Callista is so whiney! She doesn't shut up. Dark saber I liked because of the other plots. Callista I was glad to see go.
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
@6,LisaMarie, OMG, Crystal Star

Right there with you on that one.

This is another one that continued the terrible precedent of having to incapacitate Luke to make the threat formidable. (This precedent is started in the Jedi Academy series, when Luke is kicked out of his body, and continues all the way through the New Rebellion. I guess you could even say Thrawn started it, with the ysalamiri, but that one didn't feel so blatant.)

This is one where the Force started to get weird. Manipulate machines? OK. Leia spirit walking while held prisoner? OK. Force toys? OK. If Callista can insert herself into a computer, why wasn't Nichos able to insert himself? OK.

I actually like Planet of Twilight a bit, it reintroduces Daala, Leia learns to lightsaber fight(Luke has the Force taken away, AGAIN), and most of all it has my favorite thing the SWEU EVAH, Artoo and Threepio doing their Rosencrantz and Gildenstern thing(which is the only think redeemable about New Rebellion).
shiznatikus
12. Megaduck
Oddly, I remember liking Children of the Jedi. Darksaber I don't remember except for the scientist parts but nothing, NOTHING, is worse then the badness of The Black Fleet Crisis. (Ok, maybe Chrystal Star is almost there)

I like this raw chaos of this book. No one is in control, EVER. Things start bad, and get worse. I liked watching the Eye go from premire super weapon to scavanged peice of junk as the jawas and gremorians ran around in it. I like the fact that the bad guys plan was dead from the get go. I like that everyone spends the entire novel trying to get something, anything to go right.

I like Platwel. I thought they had a lot of great imagery and discription in it. Children of the Jedi is a very VIVID novel. The descriptions of the crack, the rotten remains of the tunnels, and the misty horror feel of it all.

I like that they gave Han something to do, I liked his interactions with Liea. I like the fact that they bring both of their backstories into hit. His as a smuggler and hers as a princess.

It's not a great novel (the entire cray thing made me wonder if I'd missed a short story or something) but it does have some good parts.
JoeNotCharles
13. JoeNotCharles
I only vaguely remember the bits with Cray and Nichos, but I loved the Eye of Palpatine itself and all that part of the plot. So overall I put this in the upper half of Star Wars books I've read.
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
This was one of the first ones to actually fade to black for sex, instead of the just implying it happens because the kids exist.

This one also tried HARD to take Mara out of the running as Luke's TRU LUV by hooking her up with Lando. I LOLed when they had to retcon that out.
shiznatikus
15. Eric Saveau
The really amazing thing about this is that Barbara Hambly is a truly wonderful and accomplished writer... but you would never know that if this was the first work of hers you had read. And, as noted, it starts out really interesting with all the complexities of the dreadnaught environment but then... yikes.
Alan Brown
16. AlanBrown
I remember this as a very strange and creepy book. Other than the X wing books, and Zahn books, this was pretty much the last EU book I ever read.

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