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A novel by Roger MacBride-Allen (1995, Bantam Spectra)
Book 2 of the Corellian Trilogy
18 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Han is captured by his treacherous cousin, as Leia gets help escaping Corellia and Luke goes to an old friend to secure a fleet.



4 stars

Read October 13th to 18th, 2009  
    I think this was a better novel than the previous one. It still felt a little stretched out, as if the author didn't have enough material for three books, and so had to give details that went on for pages, instead of paragraphs. Still, the writing style felt more natural, and there was very little strange language (like "that soldier guy").

The book takes place on three of the five Corellian worlds, as well as Coruscant and Bakura. Yes, that's right: we've returned to Luke's first post-saga love interest, from The Truce at Bakura. Funny that we haven't heard of Callista in these novels, yet...

After returning to Coruscant from the Corellian interdiction field, Luke and Lando are briefed in a secure underground bunker, where they have to go through strange mutant animals to get in the back door. This is one of those sequences that went on for a little long, but was entertaining, in a very Star Wars way. What is Mon Mothma doing in such a powerful position, now that she's been out of office for so long? It must be good to have her, but why retire, then?

Once again, I can't wrap my mind around why the New Republic does not have any ships left, especially after Tyrant's Test. It defies belief. But the result is a neat trip to Bakura, where they obtain some neat technology that we haven't seen since. Just before leaving Coruscant, Luke and Lando (who incidentally can go anywhere they want, unlike the post-NJO books) meet up with Kalenda who tells them about the starburster plot. Did they go tell Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar? It would have been nice to skip some pages of meaningless adventure to know.

Needless to say, while Luke has been forming the Jedi Order, Gaeriel Captison has married (her husband died several years back) and had a young daughter. Luke tries to come to terms with what might-have-been, lost love, and so on, like any schoolboy does, and Gaeriel tries to feel at ease, too. I'm not sure it worked, but they get to work right away, anyway. I don't remember if Captison survives the trilogy, but with this buildup, I suspect not.

The Bakuran fleet, which has to maintain readiness in case of a Ssi-Ruuk attack, is equipped with hyperdrive relays, which are designed to activate and blow one after the other, in order to maintain a hyperspace bubble around the ships so they can get through an interdiction field. Very interesting, and I wish we had seen more of this against the Yuuzhan Vong. The four-ship fleet makes its way to Corellian space, where they make the titular assault at Selonia. One ship is heavily damaged riding out the hyperspace bubble, so the Admiral decides to sacrifice it, as the Corellians, Selonians and Drall are making a terrible defense strategy against them, making it obvious this is a trap of some sort. Good thing the Admiral had a ship to spare. They allow the ship to be led into the trap, where a huge, planetary-sized repulsor is activated, smashing the ship into nothing. The Corellian system now has a new weapon, but not as powerful as what will be revealed in the next book...

Leia is trapped in the government building after the Human League took over Corellia in the last book. She is placed in a room with Mara Jade, and together they engineer an escape. It takes pages and pages for them to scale the wall down to Mara's chambers and call her ship, but at least it was an interesting number of pages, especially having them standing out on a window ledge in the rain batting away thermal detonators and flying a huge ship close enough to a building by remote control that they could jump on and get inside. They get away into space, where they wait and decide to move to Selonia. This seems like a plot device, as one wanted to go to Drall (where Leia knows her children must be) and the other wants to go back to Corellia (where the thick of the action is). So they choose a solution that makes neither happy! This, at least, gives them a prime view when the Bakuran fleet shows up, and to witness the repulsor weapon.

Han, for his part, spends the whole book in the Selonian tunnels under the surface of Corellia. He was taken to the Human League headquarters, where he was tortured by his cousin, Thrackan, being forced to fight a Selonian named Dracmus. The Selonians help Dracmus and Han escape. The author didn't have much imagination in creating his alien races, if indeed they were his creations. Both Selonians and Drall are furry animals, the Selonians being tall and skinny, rather otter-like, but for underground work, and the Drall being short and round. We get a little culture of the Selonians with Han, but they refuse to answer questions, so we don't know anything about why they have helped him escape. There are several Selonian languages, clicks for the tunnels, and others for the cities, which is neat. Somehow, although running around the tunnels got long, it was rarely boring. The Human League attacks have created many refugees. Dracmus and another Selonian take him into space to go to Selonia (imagine that) so he can help them convince the Overclan that they need the New Republic. But the ship is poorly made, and they panic when the Bakuran fleet arrives, blowing out the engines, and are so stranded. They also get to witness the repulsor weapon, before Leia senses him in space and she and Mara go pick him up.

The kids get to go hide on Drall with Chewbacca. Instead of getting interesting points of view from the Wookie, we get some Jacen and Jaina viewpoints, and some from Ebrihim and his aunt Marcha, whose farm they go hide at. When she hears of the starburster plot, she is confused, but when she hears of the mysterious room the kids found on Corellia in Ambush at Corellia, she knows what they found: the planetary repulsor. She takes them to the site on Drall (where she conveniently knows the exact location, but nothing else), where they find the similar room on that planet. It seems that with all the racket and ground shaking they made opening up the cone into a repulsor cylinder, that they are just inviting company to investigate. However, nobody in the Corellian system seems to be too smart. I wonder if Marcha is really on the good side.

Marcha also knows that the Corellian system was created artificially. At least somebody knows the history of the repulsors, to a small degree. She must have spent a lot of time researching them after being attacked by the Drallists. Apparently a long-dead alien race used huge repulsors to assembly five inhabitable planets together. It seems that the next logical step would be Zonoma Sekot from Rogue Planet and the Yuuzhan Vong war.

The last point of view comes from Tendra Risant, Lando's love interest. Having money, she bribes her way into space, determined to get to Corellia and warn Lando that a fleet is massing near Saccoria. With all the mixed signals being revealed in discussions among the Drall and between Leia and Mara, it is obvious that the Triad is responsible for the starburster plot, but they were betrayed by whoever is on Centerpoint Station. When Lando arrived in the Corellian system, he and Tendra finally get to talk by their antique radio (speed-of-light) communications gear.

And in the final chapter, we see another star go nova, with Wedge helping to evacuate the planet before that happens -except that nobody took the threat seriously, so a lot of people didn't make it out. Wedge hopes they can resolve the crisis before the next star is destroyed -there is no way they could evacuate the millions of people there.

I quite enjoyed this novel, especially the way it managed to ramp up the tension yet again. There is a mystery here that we didn't even know existed. The author is not very good at giving a recap of what went on before, bringing the story to a standstill in order to do so, as if it was added in later. But we got less and less of that as the book went on. I also noticed quite a few grammatical errors, which I didn't see in the first book (I assume the Dracmus was taking Han to Selonia, not Dracmus, near the end of the book...) Despite going on for pages about crawling through tunnels and climbing down walls, the characters seemed to be well focused. The children were rather subdued, and I liked the Drall observations on those three -hard to handle!

It's nice to return to the simpler days of Star Wars. I can see here the beginning of characters second-guessing themselves for pages, which has become the unfortunate norm in recent books. But there were no plots trying to subtly make things dark by having the good guys turn dark or other shades of grey. Decisions had consequences, and those consequences were well defined. This is more reminiscent of a movie, and I'm enjoying that.



4 stars

Also read September 26th to 29th, 1995  
    Review not yet available.  

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