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A novel by John Whitman (1997, Bantam Skylark)
Galaxy of Fear, Book 5
Soon after Star Wars: A New Hope

Trying to hide from the Empire, Tash and Zak encounter the evil scientist's plot to harness the Force, on an abandoned space station.



1+ stars+

Read on December 16th, 2002  
    Frustrating, to say the least. So many sequences in this book were so well written, but the plot kept getting in the way. So many things in this book just didn't make any sense.

We learn a little more about Hoole in this book, but just enough to be frustrating, all the same. Escaping Hologram Fun World from The Nightmare Machine, Hoole makes his way to Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine. Why he thinks to bring two young kids there is beyond me. Frightening at the least, they could have easily been killed on Jabba's whim. Although we were told that Tash was terrified, she didn't sound like it when she confronted Jabba

The whole point of seeing Jabba seems to be to put Hoole in his debt, since Hoole doesn't think the information is trustworthy. Jabba and Hoole seem to go way back, but we will undoubtedly have to wait a while to see what their relationship is.

Tash contacts her internet friend, Forceflow, who tells her the same thing as Jabba: go to the world of Auril. These guys don't seem to know how to pilot a ship out of hyperspace, as yet again, they nearly collide with something. This already happened once in Planet Plague. Enough is enough, stop repeating the same horror gags.

The object that they nearly collide with is the space station Nespis 8, also known as the place where Luke met Kam Solusar before Dark Empire 2, and the place of Anakin Solo's birth. There, Tash finally meets Forceflow. I wondered why she had to tell Forceflow about Hoole, since he was the one who gave her the information at the beginning of The Nightmare Machine. As the story continued, however, I got a bad feeling about the man; it's strange that Tash didn't. I guess her crush on him got in the way. He expressed so much interest in the rumored Jedi library, but once it was found, he didn't go in. Later, he urged others to go, but never did, himself. Finally, when he disappeared and reappeared, I allowed myself to believe he was really Gog in disguise. To my disappointment, I was right.

I don't understand why Gog revealed himself when he did. He could have easily had Tash open the book as Forceflow; once he revealed his true form, he never had a chance. He became way too talkative, again telling everybody his plans. When he was finally injured, I'm sure he could have transformed into a bird, to out-fly Tash, or again when he was running away from her, or in the air vent.

Gog didn't seem right to be Forceflow, either. Why warn them against going to the planet of Planet Plague, then? Why give her the information on Starscream? Why would he need to hire the Anzati (at least they spelled it right, unlike in Darkness) to kill the assassin that Vader hired, when he was near the kids all the time? Still, speaking of Dannik Jerriko, I liked him here, much better than I enjoyed his stories in The Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and the Tales from Jabba's Palace. From his first protests of being innocent, I figured things were not as they appeared, and that he was saving them from the assassin, for whatever reason. It made sense in retrospect.

Life in Nespis 8 was really dumbed down, really simplified. This is a place where nice and kind treasure hunters come, slowly stripping the station bare. They all live in a single room, keep the same hours, sleep at the same time, never intrude on each others' territory, which makes them unusual for that kind of trade.

The exception, of course, was the treasure hunter who found the Jedi Library, as he was the only one out hunting at that time. This is why Zak could accuse Jerriko of murder, since the Anzati was the only person on the whole station not accounted for. I had to shake my head in disgust. I can't believe that every single person in that common room would want to investigate the death, either. That would have made an excellent time for somebody to rob the others, or at least search for their clues. The treasure hunter's scream echoed through the tunnels, as did Tash's. Why? That is a big station, and private conversations didn't seem to travel far in the same tunnels.

The garbage pit and the diagona were tired and derivative, especially using some of the same dialog from A New Hope! Still, it was put to good use by Tash later, assuming Gog was human, and not able to shape-shift into something that could fly above the reach of the diagona.

It turns out that Gog was stealing the life essences of people who opened books in his fake Jedi Library. The original one had been vaporized by Vader years earlier. I suppose if he could reanimate the dead, and create a creature capable of grabbing nightmares from their heads, he could create something like this. He wanted to find somebody with the Force, to find out how it ticks, to either steal it or annul it in Vader.

I cannot accept Zak's explanation of the cold of the cryogenic tanks. If it really was colder because of the tanks, then that room would have been very freezing, in order for the cold to penetrate to other parts of the station. The only reason for the whole thing was to explain the word cryogenic to the kids reading this book, through Tash, but it made her sound stupid, something this series doesn't do often, to its credit.

This was definitely a Tash book. She admits here that she isn't afraid of heights, but why, then, was she terrified of the cliff face in her nightmare in The Nightmare Machine? She seems to be obedient to adults, though, as when Gog tells her to step away from the lever, she does so, instead of pulling it and then facing him down. This brings us back to the level of the first book, Eaten Alive, where everybody would stop what they were doing so that the plot could advance and the characters would live.

The ghost of the title is somebody who tried to defend the real Jedi Library against Vader, and failed. He haunts Nespis 8 because he feels that he isn't worthy of becoming one with the Force. He helps Tash, though (by choking her to get her out of the room?), and reveals some of the details of the trap. He explains that she does have the Force in her, and that (NO!) her brother does, as well. Not another brother-sister Force family, please! At least we get development on Tash's behalf, and we might even see her testing her abilities in the future. She helps the Jedi Aidan Bok fade into the Force, by having her help him, redeeming himself.

Gog appears to die, to which I say good riddance, but I think he has at least one more appearance to make, judging by the last page of the book. He was never a good villain, once revealed.

I guess that's enough complaining about this book. It certainly wasn't all bad. As I said above, much of the writing was actually quite good, between plot holes. Deevee also had the best line in the book, after jumping in front of Tash and getting shot instead of her, he shakes his head, and says, looking down at his broken body, "with such a superior intellect, you would think that I could have come up with a better plan"! Ha!

I can only hope that this book was another glitch, in that it had to stretch the plot so thin and unlikely, make the situation so unrealistic, that it really fell apart. For the most part, it was written about the same as the first couple of books, with less exposition than the first one, but a lot more than The Nightmare Machine. Hoole should really start listening to Tash's feelings, no longer dismissing them out of hand. We've seen Tash grow a little, Zak a little less, but Hoole not at all. We require more development, with less technobabble and more plot. Maybe next time.


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