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A novel by John Whitman (1998, Bantam Skylark)
Galaxy of Fear, Book 12
2 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Chased by bounty hunters, the children make their way to the swamp world of Dagobah, where Tash meets a strange green creature.




Read on September 12th, 2004  
    Not really much of a conclusion to the series, but it does provide some closure to Tash's part of the story.

Seeing Yoda on the cover of this book, I was very apprehensive going in. As far as I know, this is the only book that has Yoda meeting people while in his exile on Dagobah. As far as I'm concerned, Yoda is slightly delirious in The Empire Strikes Back because he hasn't been in a social situation for a very, very long time. I don't think it was entirely an act on his part. Even given his social contact, it seems like a writer's convenience to put the research settlement so close to his home. Surely Luke would have come across battle damage, and the settlement in his training, if they were so close to the Dark Tree?

Fortunately, the author makes much of the story seem plausible, which is an amazing feat in itself. Yoda must also know that training Tash, so young and not yet wise in the ways of the galaxy, is very dangerous -for her and for the Force. Although he says there is another student coming, he really only trains Luke through Kenobi's insistence.

So why are Tash, Zack and Hoole on Dagobah to begin with? Once again, they are hiding from the Empire. Vader took out a bounty on their heads -something I didn't expect even after the end of the last book. They travel to the research laboratory where Hoole used to work, and find Dagobah on a list of planets that have been surveyed, but not explored. I find it difficult that Zak would find computer disks boring. Would he prefer more of the excitement that they have encountered over the last eleven books?

Their ship is destroyed by Boba Fett in orbit around the lab, but they get out in an escape pod. This part of the book, especially their first fight with Fett, was particularly interesting and well presented. It was also unexpected, which I enjoy. Some smugglers who were also looking for a hiding place take the information on Dagobah, and Hoole joins them.

From the initial survey information, I don't think Hoole would have realistically taken them there. Did he really think the kids would grow up on a backwater planet with no technology or social interactions, after living on Alderaan all their lives? They would have gone nuts. I think a better place to hide would have been Coruscant, where they could disappear forever, and still live decent lives.

Tash and the smugglers have a much easier time on Dagobah than Luke ever did (except for the people who died, of course). Yoda told Zak and Tash his name right away. The smugglers and Boba Fett landed easily in the swamp, even though the smugglers' ship initially sank. Of course, all these people were a lot more patient than Luke ever was through Empire. He saw what he expected to see, where Tash was very open to new possibilities.

While the original research team, and the ship that tried to rescue them, had all died, Hoole and the others met the Children, descendents of those people. Although they were very accommodating, they seemed a little strange, as have all the people Tash and Zack meet. It was clear to me from the very first strip of meat that the Children were cannibals. Maybe that's why Yoda never taught them anything. On the other hand, when some of them enter the Dark Tree, a simple video showed them the error of their ways, and they were redeemed forever, along with the Children who didn't see the video, so it seems like a simple task for a Jedi Master.

Yoda takes Tash away in order to teach Zak a lesson, which is something that I appreciated, too. Zak has felt useless since the last book. Tash, with the Force, and being older, has been doing a lot to help them hide from the Empire. Zak can only tag along. Yoda allows him to solve the mystery of the Children. Zak follows the clues quite well. He realizes that the famished Children have been feasting every time somebody dies. I find it strange that the Children seemed to be ashamed of this, hiding it from the strangers. The only explanation I could come up with is that they were hiding it because they didn't want to scare their new food supply away. By the way they were killing and amputating, I can't see how they were redeemed so quickly.

Even Boba Fett is captured, after he battles a swamp serpent to unconsciousness. Zak helps him escape, and they go find Tash and Yoda. Zak falls into the Dark Tree, where he discovers that he has Force potential, as well.

Baba Fett, for his part, is almost as inept as he was in Return of the Jedi. His blasters won't work properly in the swamp, so he uses his cable weapons, which Yoda deflects easily, while still maintaining his disguise as a senile imp.

Doing what he wanted to do with these characters, the author had no choice but to pull the stunts that he did at the end, to get them out of the situations. He called Fett away to Hoth so that they wouldn't be captured, and had Yoda decline to teach Tash in the Force because another student was coming. I wonder how they could have left so soon before Luke arrived.

The dialog in this book, as with previous instalments, could have used some work. It felt too raw, not well thought out. I find it frustrating when Zak or Tash say something, and everybody accepts their theories without question. "Maybe it's...", they would say, followed by the adults saying "then, I suppose we should do this..." They always turn out to be right, of course, but it could easily be something else entirely.

I suppose the logical place for Hoole and the children to end up is with the Rebellion. Hunted as they are, they will find no real rest. What a way to grow up, though... Joining with the Rebellion, however, makes it almost certain that Luke would come across them again at some point.

And the Children? No, they weren't around when Luke arrived. The smugglers (those who survived) relocated them somewhere back in civilization.

In all, this book is about the same quality as the series as a whole. I found it to be entertaining, though it didn't really do anything new. Still, anything that takes the story away from Luke, Leia and Han is a treat, because those characters have already seen the galaxy through so many crises. After twelve books, the same could now be said of Tash, Zak, and Hoole.


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