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A novel by Michael Reaves (2008, Ballantine Books)
Book 2 of Coruscant Nights
17 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

After a client seeking to get off-planet is murdered, Jax and his comrades investigate, while someone tries to murder Darth Vader.



Read January 2nd to 9th, 2012, in softcover  
    The book was a fairly easy read, but didn't offer too much of substance. One of the storylines could have been dropped, and it would have improved the story immeasurably. The other story tried to be a murder-mystery, but didn't give enough clues, so that its resolution was questionable. Glaring errors about continuity bring the rating down even further.


Spoiler review:

This book is not as good as the previous one, which wasn't that great to begin with. But at least Jedi Twilight had something of worth, no matter how I typically dislike Black Sun stories. Here, the chases were less interesting, and the cast of characters was fairly boring.

I want to begin with the setting. My understanding was that Jedi Twilight took place soon after Revenge of the Sith. The timeline puts it around two years later, and this one follows almost immediately. Is this enough time for Darth Vader and the Emperor to create the reputations they are accused of having in this novel? As far as my understanding goes, Palpatine was always a ruthless politician, right to the end. He ruled by sly and sneaky means, not by force (yes by The Force, but not directly by force). Darth Vader was used for the fear factor. So nobody should have much of anything to say about the Emperor.

So I disagree with the author's assessment of these two at this stage of the Empire.

The first plot, which is completely disengaged from the main one, though it touches three short times, contends with Captain Typho of the Naboo guard, who was apparently in love with Padmé and wants to avenge her death. Boring, and we've seen all this before. So he travels to Coruscant, engages Aurra Sing in the pillaged Jedi Temple (and wins!), steals one of her lightsabers, and goes to ask for an official record of the travels of the Sith. Improbable that Darth Sidious filed a flight plan under his own name, I think. Yet that's what is on record, and any bureaucrat can access it.

Suffice it to say that Typho concludes that because Sidious traveled to Mustafar at the same time as Padmé and Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader must have killed them. Huh? This is only one of the blatant errors this book made. From Aurra Sing, he learns that Vader is still after Jax, so he actually manages to meet the man, when Sing could not, and Vader couldn't track him down, either. He follows him back to his residence, then contacts Vader arranging to give the information. Needless to say, when the time comes, and Vader shows up, Typho tries to kill him, and is killed. This was about as boring as it can get, but at least it was written in a straightforward manner, so that it wasn't that hard to get through.

As for the main plot, Jax, Den, Laranth, and I-Five are part of a network that gets people off Coruscant, sort of a precursor to the Rebellion; maybe it was started by Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, already. At the beginning of the book, we hear of the Camaasi incident. I still think that all the Sith had to do to get the Jedi to fall to their knees was wipe out a bunch of people. The Jedi would have felt faint, and apparently have to lie down; they wouldn't be able to fight.

Anyway, although the government says it was rogue black holes, the story later changes to one of military action. Everyone in the book suspects Palpatine immediately, which I think is completely unreasonable.

Jax is hired by a beautiful and sexy alien woman, who can secrete pheromones like Xizor, to get one of the Camaasi survivors, who creates incredible pieces of art made of light (and powered by the same crystals that make lightsabers possible), off the planet. But when they get to his apartment, he's been murdered.

The thing is, Jax reveals at the end of the book, in the murder-mystery climax that all murder-mysteries have, that he had suspicions all along that it was the droid servant of the Baron. But we get, from his point of view, several episodes, nearly half the book, of going on a wild goose chase, of being depressed because they didn't have any leads, to the art thief/dealer, and so on, that the revelation is a complete let-down. The motivation for the droid was flimsy at best, and the way it had no adverse feelings about its act is more than disturbing. The police (why does the author use the very annoying term "cool" for police?) district captain is also a disturbing character, as he is easily convinced that a murder by a house droid was not a big deal and is eager to blame it on some other criminal. The whole thing is so blasé that it feels stupid.

On the other hand, the wild goose chase did give us an opportunity to see a whole lot of very strange and almost unheard-of aliens, some of which are cryptic, others which throw insults like complements, and more. I haven't seen so many strange aliens in a single book in a long while.

So what happens to Aurra Sing? I always thought Aayla Secura killed her in Rite of Passage, but she turned up in the Clone Wars cartoons -but that's not really saying anything, because they've destroyed so much continuity that I have to suppress all of my knowledge gained from the books and especially comics while watching them. Here, it's revealed that she was sent to a prison world after the events of Rite of Passage (the author specifically states that it was Secura who captured her and cut off her antenna). Darth Vader secures her release, but it seems for all her loathing and Dark Energy, she lost something in the mines, because she's defeated by Typho, and then Laranth fights her to a standstill (in a fun hall of mirrors setting), and the Jax defeats her in the climactic battle when she shows up out of nowhere. She goes down into a construction droid that melts sand into asphalt, but I'm not convinced she's dead.

I-Five gets little time here, but his sarcastic banter with the others is fun. Vader's old archivist Rhinann is still with the group, and does some research for Jax, piecing together the story of his father, who of course died back in Darth Maul. I think the author became very confused during this phase of the writing, because there are very obvious and glaring errors here. For example, the embargo on Naboo was stated as being both 23 and 18 years ago on the same page. More importantly, the author confuses the Darth Maul story with the one told on Drongar in Battle Surgeons and Jedi Healer. It is stated that the bota from that planet I-Five is carrying around inside him was discovered to have increased Force-sensitivity, and that the information was twenty years old, at the height of the Clone Wars -but sorry, the Clone Wars just ended a couple of years ago.  It makes me wonder what else I missed that the author got confused about or did bad research on.

Anyway, I-Five reveals that Jax's father was killed by a Sith, and that he has the bota still inside him. Jax suddenly decides that Palpatine must die (because he thinks Maul was associated with Palpatine "as Supreme Chancellor", when Palpatine was still a Senator -and when did it get out to the general public, or even the Jedi at large that Palpatine was a Sith?). And I fully expect Jax to use the bota to enhance his powers when he decides (as Typho did) that Vader must die because Palpatine killed his father (or Maul, or... whatever). But the end of the story produces a twist, as Rhinann wants to become Force-sensitive, and he discovers through his research that I-Five must have it...

And so the story will continue through another book, which will hopefully be better than the first two. Laranth is leaving the group (and since she didn't do much except be stereo-typically moody because she was in love with Jax and he didn't know it -I'm not sorry to see her go), and the new girl who hired Jax to begin with joins them. She's Dejah Duare, a sexy Zeltron, who can emit pheromones like Xizor, because the author seems to like that trait in his aliens, making two in two books.

As mentioned already, the book was an easy read, even though the author liked to use big complicated words for simple things. Yet the story had barely enough to keep me interested, and seemed to go on for no reason, and contained at least one plotline that should have been removed from the onset.


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