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A novel by John Whitman (1997, Bantam Skylark)
Galaxy of Fear, Book 6
Soon after Star Wars: A New Hope

Arriving on the base of operations of project Starscream, Tash and Zak discover some shocking news about their uncle.



1 star

Read on December 17th, 2002  
    Even more disappointing, even messier with the plot. I didn't enjoy this book at all. Maybe I'm getting tired of these characters. Maybe I'm getting tired of the concept. The horror doesn't phase me, the cliff-hanger chapter endings are more and more annoying. The classic trilogy characters are written worse every time we see them.

If I had mostly complaints about Ghost of the Jedi, I don't think I have much positive to say about this book, except that it actually uses some of the concepts that it built up in the previous five, if only in the last chapter.

Project Starscream is over, thankfully, and Gog is finally dead. I don't really understand why he was allowed to survive the last book, as he barely had a purpose here.

We finally learn about Hoole's secret life, which should have given the character some much-needed development, but instead, he sulks around and gives up on life, even though Tash and Zak need him. It turns out that he was responsible for an experiment that went terribly wrong, which instead of creating life, annihilated all life on the planet Kiva. All Kivans were killed? None were off-planet at the time, and Hoole didn't try to take any with him when he left? Sounds unlikely.

I wondered if it was Tash's intuition working again, when she mentions that the stones look like people turned to stone. It seems not, though, as the shadows are the only things left alive. Here is where we really get into fantasy, and way outside of the Star Wars universe. These shadows are the life essences of all the people who died twenty years ago, and they want revenge on Hoole. We finally learn that he abandoned his first name because of the guilt he felt, but it seems rather anticlimactic, since so much of a big deal was made of his first name in the earlier books. At least the reason for it was sound.

If everybody knew about the scientist who destroyed Kiva (but only by first name?), why isn't the planet bustling with activity, with anthropologists studying the lost culture?

Once again, their ship is in trouble as soon as they exit hyperspace, this time hit by an automated defence system. Why didn't Hoole expect some sort of defence of the lab, since he obviously knew about the ion cannon? The ion cannon worked well here, but when it was used later, I had to scratch my head in wonder: since when does an ion cannon not harm people? In the X-Wing game, we could destroy a powerless ship completely with an ion cannon, and anyway, it is emitting harmful ions. In this story, it affects only the shadow creatures.

When they get to Gog's headquarters, which were originally the headquarters for Hoole and Gog, when they were partners years ago, they find a baby in an incubator egg. As soon as everybody sees the baby, their carefully honed senses go out the window. Why did Tash and Leia turn so stupid upon meeting the baby? Their maternal instincts took over their brains. Of course the baby was a weapon, or something was done to him, since he was alone in Gog's laboratory! When every person holding the baby disappeared, that should have also given them a clue.

Upon leaving Gog's laboratory, why wasn't it destroyed? The records might have been destroyed, but the equipment was still there, the initial test results, and so on. Since Gog didn't clean out his email to the Emperor in twenty years, so that it could be used to turn the shadow creatures onto him, I am surprised that he didn't have Starscream files all over the place. Even I clean out my email fairly often, and that was a pretty incriminating piece of evidence he saved.

The Rebels, from Luke and Han to the commandos who barely had a name before they were killed, were handled terribly. I expect that Vader didn't notice Tash's Force sensitivity in the same way that he didn't notice Leia's in the interrogation chamber of the Death Star in A New Hope. The adults in this story, aside from Hoole and Gog, barley got to say anything that was more than a syllable at a time. Grunts!

When the two Arranda's find out the truth, they get mad at Hoole, jumping to conclusions way before he is finished his story. This is insane. Everybody there knew that there was more to the story, as there always is. They have obviously learned nothing from their adventures together, that nothing -absolutely nothing- is as it seems! Tash compares Hoole to the Death Star, which destroyed her homeworld, which is a strange comparison to make, since his was an accident. They should have guessed from Hoole's sullen nature when he reached the planet, that he had been involved.

To have everyone blame Hoole is also strange. Were the wraiths listening to Imperial propaganda for twenty years? Did Gog scream out to the planet that it was all Hoole's fault that they were dead? Surely the wraiths knew that there were two scientists involved in the project, and that Gog was equally guilty as Hoole? Why did they not know? They would have attacked him as soon as he returned to the planet, and we wouldn't have had to worry about Starscream. (For that matter, why does Zak say that he thought only "Mammon" was responsible, because that is all he had heard? He only heard about the story a few hours before!)

Vader finally catches up to them (why so late, since he left so much earlier than them?), and traps them in a shootout. The boy Eppon is growing so fast, and it is apparent that Vader wants him. Gog reappears, with no explanation as to how he got off Nespis 8 or got medical treatment for his severe wounds, which made him less than a whisper in the Force from Vader's perspective at the end of Ghost of the Jedi. Eppon the weapon is activated, and kills several stormtroopers before he and Gog escape. Fortunately, Vader is not humiliated here.

They all make their way to the laboratory, where Gog unleashes Eppon on Hoole. Somehow, Eppon couldn't absorb Hoole because he covered himself in Wookie fur. Wouldn't that be part of his body, so it wouldn't matter? Why did Eppon need bare skin? He actually touches bare skin later, but Hoole isn't absorbed, where others are absorbed instantly. When Vader arrives, he uses the Force to fight the creature, but only by throwing Eppon around. Why didn't he just snuff the life out of the creature with the Dark Side?

With all the throwing of Eppon, and a blast by the Rebels as they come to save the day, part of the laboratory falls down, trapping Vader conveniently on the other side, away from every single other person, including Eppon. Gog still hasn't tried to escape, simply watching his creation do its dirty work.

Eppon's ability was the only thing that impressed me here. He grew stronger like the planet D'vouran in Eaten Alive. He could reanimate his dead limbs when they were cut off by Vader's lightsaber, as in City of the Dead. His skin was poison, like the creatures from Planet Plague, and he could tap into a person's mind, like The Nightmare Machine. Tash's only weapon against it was the Force, which Gog couldn't harness in Ghost of the Jedi. Once Luke realized as well, he overcame his nightmare and helped.

Is every single person susceptible to the nightmares? It seems to me that somebody should have been immune, probably Han. Even faced with their ultimate fears, some of them should have been able to come to terms with it.

But once again, this is a Tash story, so she gets to save the day. She turns Eppon on Gog, actually cheering for him when he does! Gog destroys it with a bomb planted in its head from conception.

With that danger out of the way, the shadows reappear. They grab Hoole, and come after everybody else. But Deevee manages to get Gog's email to the Emperor on a screen, which states that he knew of the lethality of the test, but allowed it to continue, anyway. So, in the typical cliché for many books in this series, the shadows stop attacking the good guys and turn on Gog. Surely there were enough shadow creatures, from an entire population, to deal with everybody at once?

Anyway, Gog is now gone for good, and once again I say good riddance. Eppon is also gone, though I don't know if his twitching fingers really indicate that he is still alive, or whether it simply a cheap horror trick, like the end of Eaten Alive.

The book really felt like another mess. Perhaps I am just tired of this series, having read the first six books in ten days. In either case it was my intention only to read the first six books, which I knew were related, for the time being. I will return to the series at a later time, probably returning to adult Star Wars books for a while.

To end off this part of the Galaxy of Fear books, I must say that this one was a disappointment, especially with the plot. The author seems to do well with character development, when he is inside the minds of Tash and Zak Arranda, but the moment he goes outside, to give dialog or describe plot, the quality of the writing goes down. I think it would be best if he stayed with the psychological side of the thrillers he writes, and avoided any more contact with Han, Luke and Leia, as well.

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