Alright folks, I have to put this out there.
In recent years, I’ve gotten back into reading the Star Wars Extended Universe books. The ones I read back in middle school were a lot of fun and very entertaining, but I’ve discovered (to my pleasure) that these later books–30 and 40 years after Episode VI, so the protagonists we all know and love are parents with children of their own, and even grandchildren–delve into the much harsher and darker realities of interpersonal relationships, the nature of the Force, and the willingness of both good and evil alike to do anything to survive.
Things have gotten a lot darker, if you’ll pardon the pun.
But in finishing the second book of the Fate of the Jedi series the other night, I came upon a quote from none other than Luke Skywalker that I quite literally jumped out of bed and raged over for a few seconds. Please note that continuing to read will result in possibly a significant number of spoilers, so consider yourself warned!
In the New Jedi Order series, a new species that is utterly absent to the Force invades the known galaxy, and what ensues is the costliest war in the history of the galaxy that lies far, far away: total death toll estimates number around 365 trillion lives. The New Republic is toppled (though ultimately replaced by the Galactic Alliance), Coruscant is decimated, and numerous central characters are killed as a result. It’s an incredibly dark series.
As a consequence of the invaders’ total absence in the Force, one of the major themes in this series is the nature of the Force itself. The title of the final book in the series, The Unifying Force, should provide a not-too-subtle hint: that the Force extends far beyond the archetypal “dark” and “light” dualism. Ganner Rhysode, an incredibly minor character, is the first to discover this: as a consequence, he opens himself up to powers Sith and Jedi alike have closed themselves off to as a result of their strict adherence to some [synthetic!] philosophical divide, and is able to give Jacen Solo the time he needs as Ganner holds off and slays hundreds of Yuuzhan Vong warriors.
Hundreds. We’re talking warriors who, all through the series, are an even match for a Jedi one-on-one.
Anakin Skywalker, Jacen Skywalker, and ultimately Luke himself discover this unification, this “oneness”, in time over the course of the series. It requires more control, more confidence in one’s belief that they are doing what is right, but it is, to use the technical term, a much higher-bandwidth Force connection.
I thought this was really neat: the Force wasn’t so black and white after all. And it explained one of the things I’d always had trouble comprehending: why Sith always seemed more powerful than Jedi. It was because the Sith were more in tune with their passions than Jedi were. But they too were limited, as their feelings controlled them. Jedi suppressed their feelings entirely, effectively squelching out power that could be useful. Only by unifying these approaches, using the best of both, could the full potential of the Force be realized.
There’s an entire series of books between New Jedi Order and Fate of the Jedi, and a lot of really important stuff happens, also involving the deaths of more protagonists. This is the latest series; in fact, the final book hasn’t even been released yet. Oh yeah, it’s that new.
But anyway. Fast forward to the second book of the Fate of the Jedi series: after the trials of the galaxy and the discovery that the Force is more than dark and light, all the way up to the point where I read, where Luke is paying a visit to a secluded species known as the Aing-Tii. They regarded the Force as a “rainbow” and had some very specialized techniques for wielding it that Luke was curious about. But as he’s there, he–Luke Skywalker, Grand Master of the Jedi himself–delivers this “gem”:
For a Jedi, there is no place for a rainbow Force. There is no room for compromise. We walk the path of the light side, or we fall to the darkness. There’s no gray area, Ben.
Pulling back for a second: the last decade has been pretty damn hard on Luke. He’s lost a lot of friends. He’s lost family, too: his nephew Jacen fell to the dark side and nearly resurrected the Empire, and in the process, killed Luke’s wife.
He’s dealt with a lot of shit. It’s somewhat understandable if, from that perspective, he shuts down somewhat and clings a little too tightly to what he knows. But come on: he’s a freaking Grand Master! He’s the most powerful living Jedi in the galaxy and did, on several occasions, singlehandedly overpower Darth Caedus. To go from oneness with the Force to “there are only two sides to this coin” in 10 years? And, I might add, without any contextual support in the very book where he made that preposterous claim?
He and his son are literally on the planet with a species who are living proof that the Force exists in shades of gray. True that Luke and his son are talking about Jacen’s fall to darkness, but that very conversation highlighted how nuanced and complicated his fall was! In fact, the whole freaking series is about how the Force is more complicated than just dark and light.
Seriously. New Jedi Order more or less introduced the concept, and the entire Legacy of the Force series saw Jacen succumbing out of an admittedly well-intentioned desire to make the galaxy a safe place for his daughter to grow up in. tl;dr: a nuanced, complicated, and dirty fall to the dark side. Not this lust-for-power thing right off the bat that Luke seems to suggest in his quote.
Ugh. That was a painful shot in the arm. I was in a daze for the remainder of the book, mainly because I looked like this.