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A novel by Steve Perry (1996, Bantam Spectra)
3.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Prince Xizor plots to kill Luke, while Leia tries to save Han, and the Emperor plans the end of the Rebellion by setting a trap.



2 stars

Read September 4th to 8th, 2003 for the second time  
    So poorly written, that it makes me wonder what book I read six years ago. There were just barely enough good moments to make this book worthwhile, for die-hard fans.

This story is very simplistic, especially compared to today's Star Wars books, from which I mean the New Jedi Order. Those books are able to tell a grand story, and tell it in such a way that it is very exciting, especially lately. This book doesn't reach for any goal, except to have Luke, Lando and Leia do as many of the things we hear of in Return of the Jedi.

Worse, though, is the author's writing style. I don't think I've seen many that are more annoying than this (the New Jedi Order Agents of Chaos comes to mind most recently). The author can't seem to use full sentences, especially when the characters are thinking. Why does the thought have to be "Turned out the carrier was just a rumor", when it should start with "IT turned out..."? It happens so often, and it is obviously on purpose, that it is very annoying. Still more annoying is the way the characters are constantly thinking "well," or "oh, well". I wouldn't be surprised if half the thoughts in the whole book had some form of "well" in them!

Much of the book also feels forced. The rivalry between Vader and Xizor is written so that it looks petty. These two are too powerful to be dealing with such trivial matters. How did Vader expect to discredit Xizor by showing the Emperor a video or the Falleen killing somebody? Vader kills people all the time, including his own officers! Hiding information from the Emperor? While the Emperor is not all-powerful, he can easily know when he being betrayed. Vader thinks the man can't read minds. Why not? Vader and Luke read each others' minds in Return of the Jedi.

I also disagree that Vader was anything but loyal to the Emperor right up to the moment when he killed his master, but that is my opinion, and I can handle another take on the matter. Still, when he agreed to trap Luke, there was no hint that he wanted Luke to himself, as Xizor imagines. I even believe the words "join me... we can destroy the Emperor" was simply a seduction and a lie, but again, I can understand if others disagree.

The entire plot of this novel revolves around Xizor's desire to kill Luke, so that Vader would be discredited in front of the Emperor. I can't figure out how Vader would lose prestige over delivering a dead Luke, as he already told the Emperor that Luke would join them or die. Xizor also has a lot of faith in the fairness of the Emperor, even as he is saying that the man could kill on a whim. Plotting behind the Emperor's back and having him find out about it is a sure road to death, though the author doesn't write it that way. I don't understand why it took so long for the Emperor to find out about the plots of these two, either. Both Xizor and Vader look for proof about what the other is doing, as if that would have made a difference. Both also note that they don't need proof to kill a subordinate.

Finally, the characters don't feel right. I'll admit that I like Luke and Leia a lot better now, in the New Jedi Order, than I did when they were less mature, so I am biased. Everybody seems to be very childish, though. Who actually thinks about themselves the way that Luke and Leia do in this book? Do rich and powerful people actually think about their money and power all the time, comparing it to others? Do they flaunt it to themselves as well as to others?

One of the purposes of this book was to look at how Luke, Lando, Chewie and Leia went in search of recapturing Han, but that gets the least time. There is one action setup, where the Falcon is flown at tree level on Gall, where Boba Fett's ship has been spotted, but it feels more like a video game (presumably it was a large part of the game), without a real point. Luke, Wedge and Rogue Squadron sounded like a bunch of teens at an arcade compared to other star-fighter battles we've seen.

Luke spends some time on Tatooine, building a lightsaber at Ben's house (it's a good thing nobody tried to open that instruction book, or it would have been vaporized long before Luke ever knew it existed!), and trying to avoid getting killed by a swoop gang. The book sounds like it is medieval fantasy when Luke manages to shatter an axe with his lightsaber. Shouldn't it have sliced clean through?

Luke is captured by bounty hunters after capturing the Death Star II information for the Bothans. This is definitely the sloppiest way for "many Bothans" to die. With the help of Lando, he manages to get away before Vader arrives to collect him. Vader puts on a show of trying to get the plans back, and nearly ends up chasing the inoperative Millennium Falcon through an asteroid cluster! This is only one of many rip-offs from the movies that were probably intended to make this book feel like it was one of the movies.

Most of the book is dedicated to infiltrating Black Sun, the immense criminal organization run by Xizor. Leia, Lando and Chewie wait for a long time on Rodia, when finally Guri, the humaniform robot assassin and Xizor's bodyguard finally shows up. After a stalemate (which was one of the more interesting parts of the book), Guri takes Leia and Chewie to Coruscant to meet with Xizor. Leia wants to see if Black Sun can find out who is trying to kill Luke, where Xizor thinks she knows that he is behind the plot. I really liked that misunderstanding, so it's too bad that it only lasted one chapter before Xizor stops caring.

The Falleen can emit powerful pheromones to seduce members of the opposite sex, and Xizor takes full advantage of that. Why does he have to justify the fact that he already dumped one mistress before seducing Leia? Criminals are not usually portrayed as being monogamous. Anyway, Xizor is not happy when Leia is able to rebuff him after releasing her anger. She is probably using the Dark Side of the Force, without even knowing it.

It seems strange that Leia was so incautious in her dealings with Black Sun. All she knew was that it was a criminal organization, and that Xizor was its head. She didn't expect a woman as a negotiator. Why not? She didn't ask for an identity check on Xizor when she only heard his voice. That could have been anyone in the whole Galaxy! Then she trusted Guri all the way to Coruscant. At least we know where Leia obtained the bounty hunter costume she uses in Return of the Jedi. Leia also didn't do any research about the Falleen, or else she would have known right away about the pheromones. What happened to knowing an enemy before waking into a known trap? Very sloppy on Leia's part.

The only part of the book that I truly liked was the climax inside Xizor's castle (it's actually called a castle!). The gang infiltrates the castle through the waste system and kills many more guards than is plausible, yet it was very exciting, especially when they finally escape. I don't know why Lando threw the thermal detonator into the garbage chute in the first place (it was mean-spirited, though he knew Black Sun would come after them one day if he didn't, and it was suicide if the Falcon didn't arrive, which was a good possibility), but it made for a lot of excitement as everybody tried to escape. Once again, though, Leia is inconsistent, wanting Chewie to get Luke away from the trap at one moment, then glad Luke is coming to rescue her in the next. Luke, meanwhile, drops his lightsaber to fight hand-to-hand with Guri. Where did this come from?

The droids flying the Falcon, around buildings and away from patrols and such was much more funny than I remembered it being. I think the key was showing it from an external point of view, through the communicator, instead of from their eyes. Actually, the droids were pretty well-written most of the time, but only when the author refrained from explicitly saying that they were funny. I especially liked the way C3PO stood up to Chewbacca, saying that he wouldn't play any more holoboard games if the Wookie ripped his arms off! Han must have made that remark more than once, because Leia had heard it, and she wasn't in that scene in A New Hope. Chewie's gambling was a high point of the book, as well, especially when he ended up playing C3PO again because everybody else was afraid to gamble with him!

There were a number of small things that I also enjoyed in this book. Was this the first presence of the Barabels, who would become great Jedi as of Star By Star? I also liked Xizor telling Jabba the Hutt to speak Basic, not putting up with Huttese. Jabba is sly enough that he probably could speak Basic!

The actual ending of the book brought back my disgust with the author, as the battle over Coruscant, between the Falcon (why was Luke flying, and not Lando, who knew the ship much better?), Vader's forces and Xizor's ships, was typical of the other battles here, and barely worth mentioning.

Of course, Dash Rendar is "killed". Who? That's my reaction. He is truly annoying as a character, more so than he was to Luke and the others. He pops up whenever somebody needs to be saved, like Luke among the swoops, at the gardener/ spy's place, in Xizor's castle, and in the final battle. However, as shown in Shadows of the Empire: Evolution, he is very much alive.

It's also interesting to note that with all of their adventures with Black Sun on Coruscant, they missed Boba Fett's arrival on Tatooine, which is what they started the book waiting for! For some reason, the author doesn't even mention that! In fact, the last time Luke was on Tatooine, he couldn't have done anything to rescue Han because he didn't know how to contact Leia, Lando or Chewbacca! Dash, however, knew where to find her later on, though, after the Bothan affair...

The Bothans seemed to have multiple-personalities, depending who was talking. They seem to have a spynet larger than that of the Empire and Black Sun individually (would those organizations put up with that?), and they sell to the highest bidder. However, they are also loyal to the Rebel Alliance, yet Leia thinks Black Sun would know who is killing Luke better than they would.

As much as the characters seemed to be out of character, I did appreciate the differences between the younger Luke and the mature Luke, as seen in Destiny's Way. He was impulsive in The Empire Strikes Back, but more patient in Return of the Jedi (though he was idealistic there). Here, he is definitely still in the frame of mind from the former film. It is easy to forget that he liked to take chances and enjoyed the thrill of the fights and chases. His thoughts were poorly written, but the character managed to peek through, nonetheless.

The only truly interesting thing about Xizor was his lack of understanding of the Force. He indicates that he was alive before the Jedi were wiped out, yet he still doesn't recognize how Luke is blocking his blaster shots. He consistently underestimates the Emperor and Vader (as if is his first time doing these kinds of political manipulations). Even as he dies (as Vader blasts his skyhook from the sky -though we are never specifically told that he was killed), he doesn't understand that the Force is more powerful than he will ever be. Very interesting.

I honestly cannot figure out why I liked this book so much the first time I read it. The author's style was so poor that it made the book rather annoying to read. The plot was so full of holes that I'm amazed the book didn't fall to pieces in my hands. This book documents everything that needs to fall into place between Empire and Jedi, and it has some good moments interspersed among its pages. Even with so little good to say about it, I am feeling generous, and so the grade had been rounded up. There is enough here to recommend, but just barely.



4 stars

Read April 6th to 14th, 1997  
    Excellent book.  I was afraid when this book came out that it would have plot conveniences galore, just to explain things that didn't need explaining.  However, everything was written with skill I haven't seen in a Star Wars book since Zahn's series.  Luke's training in the Force, Vader's attempts to catch Luke, their attempts to rescue Han -expertly done -all flowed naturally.  Not worth the worries. 

One thing I didn't really like was the Bothans' discovery of the plans.  Though expertly written as well, that's just not how I believe the discovery came about.  The way "many Bothans died" to get the plans for the second Death Star to me says that it was a lot more complicated than it was here.  But that's just my interpretation. 

Another thing I didn't like was the way that Vader knows about the trap.  In Jedi, again by my interpretation, he is completely unaware -witness "what about rumors of the Rebel fleet massing near Sullust?"  I don't like the way the Emperor plays with Vader, with Xizor behind his back, but it feels natural for the Emperor to do it that way. 




A graphic novel by John Wagner and Killian Plunkett (1997, Dark Horse Comics)


1 star

Read on November 11th, 1998  
    The art was pretty well done, but the story was VERY disjointed.  I know the flow from the novel, but some parts were completely left out.  There is also no sense that Dash Rendar is actually useful.  His death ends up meaning nothing.  If I hadn't read the book, I would have been completely lost.  As it was, I was pretty lost anyway.  I had to flip through the novel again to make sense of everything.  

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