||Another standard adventure in what is
really shaping up to be a sub-standard series.
I think I'm insulted by the style of the
book, or maybe I'm just too old for these ones. The author weaves a pretty
good tale, but he doesn't allow his characters to be smart. They aren't
even lucky. I can't call what they have "luck", because the plot seems
to shape itself around them, instead.
The prime annoyance is the misdirection
at the end of every single chapter. They all end on a cliff-hanger, but
almost none of the perceived danger turns out to be real. When Zak is
surprised by a brain spider early on, it simply scuttles out of the way
at the beginning of the next chapter. Tash screams when she steps onto
the coals, but we find out in the next chapter that she was bellowing in
delight, because they were cool -can't Zak tell the difference?
The other annoyance, which continues
through every book in this series so far, is that Hoole, the "uncle" and
caretaker of these two kids, never believes that they were witness to
something strange and dangerous. Even though they have been right about
something being wrong in all six adventures that they have been on with him so
far! Even with all the evidence stacked against them, Hoole should
believe their word, anyway, from what he has seen. Yet he still treats
them as if they were young, naive children. Sure, they should be, but
because these adventures are theirs, he should be treating them like his
In a young reader's book, there has to
be some way for adventure to pop its head in, and it is usually
something that no parent in their right mind would agree to. No matter
how "inexperienced" Hoole is as a parent, common sense should tell him
not to take the children into the palace of Jabba the Hutt! Yet this is
a contrivance that I can handle, because adventures would be boring
without the danger element, and they tend to be more dangerous, still,
in the Star Wars universe.
What I wonder about is how anybody
could roam Jabba's palace so freely? Hoole went to see Jabba because
they are on the run from the Empire, for destroying the Ultimate Weapon
in the first six books. He wants Jabba to remove their identities from
the Imperial databases. In return, he will translate a scroll that is
sacred to the B'omarr monks, who transplant their brains into jars that
can be attached to robotic spiders to roam the palace. These are the
spiders that we see at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, which have
acquired a strange and terrific culture of their own. Because the palace
used to be theirs, before Jabba took it over, they have all sorts of
Once they are led to their rooms, which
are presumably quiet and clean (which is something I can't imagine), Zak
and Tash roam the palace at their leisure. Tash thinks the monks can
teach her about using the Force, so she is brainwashed very easily. Too
easily, I think, but I could never understand people who join cults, so
I may be wrong on that detail. But just because she loves to read and
study, doesn't mean she'll take things for granted, like she does here.
It should mean the opposite, actually, with her searching for answers
and uncovering the deception more quickly than anyone else.
Zak doesn't see the attraction of the
monks, so he wanders aimlessly and alone! Through Jabba's palace! The place where
people disappear so often and wind up dead! He is chased by a brain
spider, which is obviously trying to get his attention, not hurt him,
and he ends up in a cell in the dungeon. With no guards nearby, he is
able to pick his way free fairly easily, somehow rescuing a fellow
prisoner on his way out. How did he know the security code? Jabba would
never have a simple lock/unlock keypad on something like this.
My chief complaint about this story in
particular, is that I could see the clues that were right in front of
Zak's eyes. It was obvious that the monks were transferring the brains
of criminals into the bodies of other people, allowing them to go free.
It was equally obvious that the monk they trusted most would end up
being the one who was doing the transfers. I also figured out very early
that Tash would end up being used as a host body, yet Zak didn't figure
any of this out until the very end of the book. This, even though he
followed her out in the night while she killed the Imperial Regent,
leaving a K-mark on his forehead, just like the wanted criminal, Karkas
(which is a funny play on words). The growing rift between the two of
them was obviously meant to hide some of this, but I didn't believe it.
The characters were suddenly behaving strangely for no reason except to
serve the plot.
Some of the details behind the
transference didn't make sense, either, but are consistent with the
genre, nonetheless. There's no way Tash's body has nearly enough
strength to kill the Imperial Regent, even if it was controlled by a
different brain. Why would Monk Grimpen put Tash and Beidlo's brains in
mobile spiders, when it would be much safer for him if they sat on a
shelf, as Grimpen's would ultimately end up. As it was, that was the
only clue that Zak figured out, because Tash was able to get the spider
to spell her name. One would also think that the Imperial regent would
figure out that all of the criminals that Jabba gave him were
lobotomized, with the exact same scar on their heads. I suppose that as
long as he got to give a body to his superiors, he was happy.
In the climax of the book, such as it
is, Zak of course watches as Hoole goes under the operating table, but
is able to change his shape and get out of the restraints and defeat
their captors. I liked the thrill that Zak got, later, about being able
to beat up his sister, since the brain wasn't hers! However, I cannot
believe that Hoole's shape-changing abilities also give him the powers
that those creatures have. Where would he get the actual muscle? How
would he develop real poison on his tail? On a less serious note, how do
his clothes still fit when he reverts back? I'm not sure shape-shifting
in any venue is really well thought out.
The part that I did like about Hoole
was his candid conversation with Zak about himself. When Jabba couldn't
erase the data about him and the kids, they were offered new
personalities altogether. Hoole had no choice but to refuse, because his
species has to remember who they are inside at all times as they change
their outward appearance.
In the end, Hoole buys Tash's brain
back into her body with the scroll that Jabba wanted translated. With
that betrayal, they must not only be running from the Empire in future
books, but from Jabba's bounties, as well!
Speaking of Jabba, we know that he can
speak Basic, since we've seen it in other books (which ones, I can't
recall), yet he would never do so in a public audience. Speaking Huttese
puts him at an advantage, and since he knows he is superior to the
Imperial regent, he would stick to that. Even in the private
conversations with Karkas, he wouldn't stoop so low.
There was something different about
this book, compared to the ones that preceded it, in that there were no
characters from the original trilogy to save the day! Boba Fett had a
cameo, and Jabba was featured, so it wasn't completely without
reference, yet both were featured in a previous book. I hope this is a
permanent departure for the series.
There were definitely some good moments
in this book, but they were dulled by the lack of reasoning that was
required from the characters to complete the plot. For people who were
supposed to be on the lookout, because Jabba's palace was "dangerous",
they seemed pretty oblivious to any of the danger. I was surprised that
they didn't end up in the droid torture chamber, as real "galaxy of
fear" for droid-kind, especially their former baby-sitter, who was
released from service after the havoc from their last adventures.
I wouldn't mind more mystery books
along these lines, especially investigating other places we've visited
in the movies, but I hope everybody is more alert, and that Hoole
listens to the inevitable warnings that Tash and Zak will bring to him.
I think this was something he promised to do in the last books, but I
don't see it happening yet.