||This was a fun little adventure, based
on a video game, which felt a lot like a video game. It was written
better than many more serious Star Wars adventures, and had dialog that
sounded like it could come from a real person's mouth. Imagine. Of
course, other lines were not so well spoken.
My biggest complaint about this book,
ironically, also comes from the fact that it is based on a video game.
There is very little closure to so many of the things that the
characters see, because in a video game, they go from one obstacle to
the next, and move on.
The book starts on Naboo, from the
Imperial perspective. I liked the idea that the Emperor had a retreat on
Naboo, his homeworld. Based on the overwhelming "evidence", I am also
beginning to reluctantly accept that the Emperor might have had several
Force-sensitive people in his service. The prologue for this book shows
a person who supposedly looks for Force-sensitives in order to destroy
them. We don't see anything of him after the Prologue.
I am also resigned to the idea that so
many people know about such isolated worlds and their cultures and
creatures, such as Hoth (and tauntauns) and Dathomir (and rancors).
These were worlds that were so remote and barely even known about that
the Rebel Alliance chose one for its homeworld, and Han hadn't heard
about the other when he won it in a card game. I suppose that an
Imperial bioengineer would know about these things...
Dusque Mistflier (I also think these
types of names are way too prevalent in the expanded universe) is the bioengineer,
and a character that I liked from the beginning. She was naive, but that
was in character from her self-imposed isolation, accepting the fact
that couldn't advance in rank because she was a woman in Imperial
service, so not trying to. She was also self-determined, especially
since she made the decision to do something worthwhile with her life.
There is the implication here that
Dusque is a Force-sensitive, especially at the beginning when she wins
so much cash at the casino, and helps the "black haired man" win, too.
Later, Luke takes an interest in her as well, more, I think, than simply
as a fellow resistance fighter. The ability is never pursued, like much
in this book, so I can't be sure. She never appears in future stories
about the Jedi, but that doesn't mean anything.
I also liked Tendau Nandon, the
Ithorian who was her partner until he was executed by the Imperials in
front of her eyes. The story spends a lot of time building up the
relationship between these two, which impressed me. It wasn't like we
got to know Tendau for one or two chapters then he died in order to spur
her on to revenge. He was with the story for a significant portion of
The first adventure, after leaving the
animal duels (which seemed out of place on Naboo), was to go in search of an "evil" bat that they heard about
living on one of Naboo's moons. They find the thing, and survive thanks
to Dusque's instincts in leaving the area just before it became too
dangerous. What was the purpose? Was the evil bat created by the
Emperor? We never find out. It was a video game mission without a goal.
In this case, though, it was an excuse for Dusque and Tendau to do some
When they return Tendau is killed, and
Dusque is whisked away by Finn, the agent that Princess Leia hired to
retrieve a list of Rebel sympathizers within the Empire, before the
agent for the Empire finds it. In order to get to the current Rebel
outpost, which is located on Corellia, they take a shuttle to a nearby
planet, where Finn contacts somebody who owes him a favor so that they
can get a ship. The mission that Nym sends them on is just like a video
game, to the point where Dusque picks up a poisonous snake on their way,
so that it could attack one of the smugglers they are to obtain a map
from. Dusque struggles through the taking of life for a map and a ride,
but that becomes easy when it becomes self-defense, and after that stops
the struggle altogether.
I like the fact that the regular
characters from the Star Wars universe don't play a major part in this
book. Of course, I complain about the lack of character continuity in
the prequel books, but in this case, the book is interesting enough
that it doesn't need them. Han and Chewie escort Dusque and Finn to
Corellia while they are on another ship, piloted by a Mon Calamari. Leia
and Luke take the pair in once they arrive, then quickly send them on
their way again, only to show up near the end again. Lando had even made
a quick appearance in the casino at the beginning of the book, with a
wry reaction to the idea of somebody betting a starship in a game of
cards. These cameos are much better placed compared to, for example,
those in the Galaxy of Fear series.
In between, their ships are attacked by
Imperials, and they crash into Corellia's ocean, a short swim to shore,
but difficult given that they are both knocked out briefly from the
crash. If the trek from the crash shoreline to the Rebel camp was hard
on Dusque, it must have been even worse for C3PO, who has trouble on
level terrain! I liked Dusque's evaluation of the relationship between
C3PO and R2D2, as companions who could argue for hours! The base must
not have been very active, however, otherwise the Imperials would have
noticed a lot more traffic than a lonely Mon Calamari cargo ship.
Finn gives Dusque a lesson in blasters
that seems like it came straight out of the Guide to Weapons and
Technology! I have mentioned something similar about other books, but
somehow this author managed to pull it off reasonably well. Perhaps it
was the romantic overtures that so often interrupted the "sales pitch"
making it more interesting than simple exposition.
Surprise of surprises, the list is
hidden in the ruins of an ancient Jedi fortress on Dantooine! So that's
where the title comes in; I was beginning to wonder. I suppose after
discovering that the Rebels had a base there at one time, it was
inevitable that the Imperials would set up an outpost of their own. Dusque
managed to bluff her way through the base well, with her Imperial
credentials. That was, after all, the reason that Finn wanted her along.
As an Imperial bioengineer, a very prestigious position, she gets to go
just about anywhere unquestioned. I found the reasoning behind that to
be very nebulous and not very convincing.
It was at this point that I began to
suspect Finn as a double-agent. Although I should have perhaps expected
it when he had tickets to the shuttle on Naboo before he even rescued
Dusque from Tendau's fate. His immediate dismissal of the radar image
was a greater indication. His reluctant acceptance of Dusque's feeling
that they were being followed seemed like appeasement. So just before
they are attacked under the waterfall by the Gray Talon, I knew that he
was going to double-cross her, even though I knew he loved her.
He was going to reveal himself to her
because she had found the holocron. As another hint that she might have
Force-sensitivity, she plunges her hands into an old fire pit, drawing
it out. A great hiding place, I might add. Gray Talon delays the
inevitable revelation to much later, and Dusque's insatiable appetite
for scientific research once again saves her as she uses the acidic bile
from an animal that attacked them to fend off their human attackers.
They escape the planet, but not before
witnessing several interesting wild animals, which seemed to be there
just to be witnessed. Strangely enough, however, the author managed to
once again get away with it, because it was made interesting, and didn't
seem to be there just to show off the local wildlife. Dusque's position
gave the readers another perspective. It was also interesting how many
of the animals they encountered were impervious to blaster fire.
I hate the tactic of confession before
killing somebody, or nearly killing them. It is used by way too many
authors and TV shows. It makes no sense for Finn to reveal himself in
the waterfall, especially after insisting that she carry the holocron.
Fortunately the smugglers prevented that. After their escape on the
shuttle, it makes much more sense for him to confess after he stabs her
in the heart. Although his treachery wasn't a surprise, his ability to
kill Dusque was.
It can be frustrating to the readers
when they know something essential that the main character does not.
Watching Dusque remain naive, misinterpreting Finn's silence and moods
so obviously, reduced the quality of the story a little, but it was
handled reasonably well, for the most part.
Of course, Dusque is saved because Luke
had "a bad feeling", and so kept a ship nearby, which is also
too much of a cliché. He must have used the
Force to know exactly when to approach. Maybe he caught part of the
transmission. I sense sequel potential here, as the two main characters
survive, in different worlds, but still love each other, even though one
stabbed the other nearly to death.
I wonder if there are short stories
about these people, something to continue the story to give some of its
elements a conclusion. I have given up on Star Wars short stories, so I
wouldn't know about them. I have trouble believing that Finn could
survive after this, though, even though he delivered part of the list to the Empire. He
lied twice to Darth Vader, and I have trouble believing that Vader
couldn't detect that.
This book was somewhat refreshing,
especially the parts where Tendau was alive, and it
reminds me of books I used to read when I was younger. Short, linear,
with a precise writing style that made it easy to read, yet kept my
interest. These days, I seem to read books with several plotlines. I
love the complexity of these books, but sometimes it is fun to get back
to the linear stuff.
I also like the fact that it was a
series of small adventures. The fate of the galaxy might have been at
stake, because the names on that list might have turned the war around,
but perhaps not. The danger wasn't constantly spelled out to us, so the
adventure might have been a simple footnote, and an important journey
for an ordinary person like Dusque. Or is she ordinary after all?
One another note, I really wonder what
sequence inspired the cover art for this novel. I can't recall reading
about stormtroopers shooting while under the cover of a scout walker.