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A novel by Voronica Whitney-Robinson (2003, Del Rey)
A Star Wars Galaxies novel
2 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

An Imperial bioengineer and a secret agent team up to find a hidden holocron with the names of rebel sympathizers.



Read August 17th to 21st, 2006  
    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 book.

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 soul searching.

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.


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