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A novel by Michael Reaves (2008, Ballantine Books)
Book 1 of Coruscant Nights
17 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

A droid who has information vital to the burgeoning resistance elicits a search by former Jedi, Vader, Black Sun and a self-aware droid.




Read August 18th to 30th, 2010.  
    It's too bad this story was as dull as it was. I think it could have been more. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of film-noir, and this, like the Medstar duology (Battle Surgeons, Jedi Healer), written in part by the same author, attempts to be such a story (though it didn't really succeed at that, either).

The story features characters we've seen in other books, almost exclusively. We have Dun Dhur and I-five, who we met during Battle Surgeons. They are on a search for the son of Lorn Pavan, the man who I-five adventured with in the enjoyable Shadow Hunter. Jax Pavan is a Jedi who became a Knight just as the Clone Wars were ending, and is now on the run. Den and I-Five find Jax in the den of Rokko the Hutt, as they are running out of options. It's the kind of plotting that is too metropolitan for me. As they search for Jax, they find hundreds of people named Jax Pavan in one sector of Coruscant. Probably true, but not very interesting. 

Nick Rostu is from Harun Kal, and even helped Mace Windu in the barely tolerable Shatterpoint. He is witness to the death of Even Piell, Jedi Master, at the hands of the clone stormtroopers (who are actually called stormtroopers here, even though it's only a few months after the events of Attack of the Clones). Nick delivers a message to Jax about his former master's mission, which sends Jax out to find a strange droid with information vital to the fledgling Rebel Alliance. This is where Jax contacts another Force-user, part of a strange outcast group of Jedi dropouts. I have a lot of doubt such a group would exist, especially given the very specific number of busts lining the Jedi archive -in Attack of the Clones (the novel), it is said there were only twenty of these, which I also have trouble believing. Regardless, these Force users don't use lightsabers, and instead use their talents to perfect their blaster skills. Jax goes to see Rokko the Hutt, knowing the gangster would eventually hear something about it.

After saving Jax's life, Nick is then taken to see Darth Vader's personal aide, a being who hates humans but studies the Force, named Rhinann. Rhinann is charged with finding Jax, for some unknown reason, and uses Nick to track him down.

Then we have Prince Xizor (from Shadows of the Empire) and Kaird, an avian-like species, both rising stars in Black Sun, and competitors to becoming the next Vigo. Xizor sets a trap for Kaird, who falls for it, and is forced to accept the duty of trying to kill Xizor, as the Falleen is sent to find the Rebel droid. Kaird misses, and is captured by Xizor, who shows him how he is trying to create a humaniform droid that can take somebody's appearance and memories, the obvious predecessor of Guri.

They all meet up on the other side of Coruscant, where Xizor is doing some super-secret work, including his droid. This is an area of Coruscant that has rabid droids, which fight each other and tear apart any organic lifeforms. Of course, the droids attack the groups when they arrive. Xizor uses his pheromones to trick Nick into leading him to where Jax and the others are hiding.

Darth Vader arrives, as Jax and Xizor do battle. Jax ends up with a light whip, but often temporarily loses his connection to the Force. I have trouble accepting the explanation that he hid too long away from the Force for fear of Vader finding him, and that he's trying too hard. As with all stress-related problems, the Force returns to him when he relaxes. Yuck.

The Rebel droid ends up being a hoax, a plan by Vader to obtain Jax. He never ends up having anything valuable. Jax and I-Five set up a huge explosion that their ship barely escapes, and Xizor is defeated, but will obviously become Vigo instead of Kaird. Vader abandons his shuttle and its crew to the explosion as he catapults away in an escape pod. Considering how loyal Anakin Skywalker was to his soldiers, I have trouble believing he has changed so much in only a few months. By the time of A New Hope, yes, but not now.

As for Rhinann, he stole a Sith holocron from Vader just before defecting to Jax, the same one Jax's father and I-Five were transporting back on Shadow Hunter, when they met up with Darth Maul.

It seemed that the first hundred pages or so were written when the author was in a completely different mood. In the first part of the book, it was as if he went out of his way to find unusual words to describe a situation, words that I actually had to look up, though I could guess at many of the meanings. That was annoying enough, but the author became inconsistent in that after the first hundred pages or so, they disappeared completely (which actually made the book more readable)!

Was the ending disappointing? I can see how the droid being a plant might be, to some. Unfortunately, I figured that out earlier, to a point, and didn't find that it was too bad an idea, after all. The story, however, just wasn't fully interesting enough to keep me reading night after night. Unfortunately, that also makes the review less than interesting, because I just didn't feel like reviewing it, and I'm sorry for that.


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