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A novel by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam Spectra)
Book 3 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy
3992 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Luke and the Jedi battle the evil spirit of Exar Kun, while Leia tries to protect her youngest son and Han searches for a way to stop his friend from using the Sun Crusher again.




  Read April 8th to 19th, 2012, in a Trilogy Hardcover  
      A good conclusion to an uneven trilogy. The author managed to nicely wrap up all of his story plots in a way that was satisfying. I only wish he had kept his history lessons (citing what happened in previous books and reminding people what happened in the movies) shorter.

Spoiler review:

I've read all of the Star Wars novels by this author. My biggest complaints about him are usually two-fold: that he writes about a lot of frivolous (or irrelevant) stuff, and that he spends a lot of time recapping what's happened in previous books, or sometimes earlier in the same book.

I guess Dragonflight spoiled me, as there, the author assumes the reader has been paying attention, because even from the first page, it is assumed the reader is familiar with the world and knows as much as the main character. It's a lot of fun playing catch-up and learning things as the main character does. This author does the exact opposite. Whenever we come across a situation, he has to stop the action, sometimes for a short paragraph, often for almost half a page, to remind us what happened to get the characters here. It's very annoying, especially when reading the trilogy back-to-back-to-back. I've read other books where an author uses a happy medium that also works, where he or she might have a character think back interactively about previous events and pass judgment, or something like that. There are certainly ways to recap better than what this author uses.

Honestly, there is not much frivolity in this book, fortunately. There isn't a lot of room for it, in all that this book has to do. It is a very busy book, wrapping up all of the major and minor plotlines.

The most exciting part of the book comes right at the beginning, when Kyp Durron travels to Carida to blow up its sun with the Sun Crusher. He gives the Imperial Academy a couple of chances to find his brother, and avoid their fate, but they stall, as would any sane person given the absurdity of the threat (who knew he really could blow up their sun?). Finally, they lie to him, so he launches the torpedo, which starts a chain reaction. I don't know how realistic it is for a star to blow up in only a few minutes, but in a story like this, it has to be a short time. And it only takes a couple of hours for the shockwave to reach Carida (which does seem plausible). When Ambassador Furgan discovers the sun is going to blow up, he evacuates and does actually find Kyp's brother, Zeth. But by then it's too late. Carida has very few ships, but Furgan is preparing an assault force on Anoth, the planet where Anakin is hidden, so he launches in that ship, and the planet launches all the rest of the ships it has. Kyp tries unsuccessfully to rescue his brother, which makes him even angrier.

When Han discovers what Kyp has done to Luke, he follows the trail of supernovae to the Sun Crusher. This part I don't really understand. Kyp has fallen to the Dark Side of the Force, but it seems that he is only under the shadow of Exar Kun, because he returns to the Light immediately after Kun is banished, which doesn't make any sense. Kun's reach should not be so vast, or else he could contact anybody. And falling under the influence of a Sith doesn't make a person dependent on continuing to receive their influence like a flow of energy. If he's fallen to the Dark Side, let him FALL, and not give the excuse that he was "under the influence". Here, the author implies both, but once Kun's curtain is removed, turning back to the Light is easy for Kyp.

Kun, of course, is defeated by Luke's students on Yavin IV. This story gave Jacen and Jaina a much better chance to be real and have an adventure than in Dark Apprentice. It turns out that they are the only ones who can see Luke, probably just by their lack of filters to their minds -the adults probably can't see him because they can't believe they would see him. So Luke is able to warn the children of the attacks Kun makes on his physical body, which gets everybody there in time to save him. He is even able to take control of Jacen's body to guide him with the lightsaber to deflect an attack from an evil beast. This was good storytelling. Eventually, the students lay a trap for him, in the student Streen, who seems susceptible to the Dark Side. They combine their powers and banish him from the spirit world, presumably into true death.

While the death of Exar Kun frees Kyp, the destruction of Carida frees Turpfin from his enforced slavery, due to his implants. He decides to steal a ship while he is free and travel all the way to Yavin IV to see Leia and confess his crimes. I really hope during that time he wrote his confession down, because he had no way of knowing if Furgan's influence would return or not, during that long journey. Leia races back to Calamari to find Ackbar (he and Luke are the only ones who know the location of Anoth), and they go to rescue Anakin and Winter.

Winter, for her part, defends the establishment admirably. The defenses Ackbar and Luke set up were pretty cool, especially the kraken-like thing that grabbed the mountain walkers off the walls. Furgan, of course, splits up his forces, with almost all of it chasing Winter, while he takes one trooper to search for Anakin, whom he plans to raise as the next Emperor. Winter, Luke and Ackbar planned very poorly for the contingency that enemies would enter the facility. While they always planned to lead their enemies to the room disguised as a computer core, but was really a bunch of assassin droids, why didn't they have a secured hiding spot for Anakin and the enhanced nanny droid? At the first sign of trouble, the nanny droid should have taken the baby to a closet with meter-thick, shielded, steel walls. The nanny droid did a poor job as well, being shot to pieces by a simple blaster held by an incompetent administrator. And what if Winter had been killed in the initial assault? She wouldn't be alive to lead the troopers all the way down to the disguised assassin droids. Did she send a coded distress call to Luke and Ackbar? How else would they know she was in trouble? 

Regardless, Leia, Ackbar and Turpfin arrive as the assault team is on the surface. They destroy the assault craft, and land, themselves. They find only Furgan alive, with Anakin in his arms. Somehow, Furgan gets past them and back into his walker -didn't Ackbar leave anybody to guard their own ships and those of the enemy, in case somebody worked their way back? Doesn't that make strategic sense for a master strategist? While the adults are afraid Furgan will kill Anakin if they try to capture him, Anakin takes matters into his own hands. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he probably understands that he wants to be with his mother much more than with this man who makes him cry. So he uses the Force to have the mouse droid in the hallway give the ambassador a shock, after which Anakin is dropped, and saved by the good guys.

Furgan does escape, but not for long. Turpfin chases him, pushing him off the cliff to his death. Ackbar prevents the Mon Calamari from leaping to his own death, calling his punishment having to live, and realizing that he, too, was running away.

Lando doesn't get to date Mara, but he does go into business with her, ready to invest in the spice mines of Kessel. They first get rid of Moruth Doole, who locked himself in the prison to prevent being captured by Daala (who did a good job of wrecking the planet's surface) and then from the Smuggler's Alliance. His harem finally turns on him, so he flees into the tunnels and is eaten by a Light Spider.

Kevin J. Anderson took inept management to the extreme in Darksaber, where it was not enjoyable at all. Here, Tol Sivron is much better written, and though he was annoying to the others in the Maw installation, I thought he was pretty funny, especially in his lengthy meetings, his devotion to the user and emergency manual for the complex and the Death Star prototype, and for his subordinates' ability to sway his decisions, especially by quoting the manual, or turning it to their advantage.

When Wedge and Chewbacca arrive at the complex to free the Wookie slaves and download the weapons data, Sivron flees on the prototype, setting the asteroid reactors to blow up. He then takes the Death Star out of the maw cluster to Kessel, and proceeds to blow up the moon (which mysteriously reappeared in Outcast lately). When attacked, he backs off, letting the main battery recharge, and ends up back in the Maw. Han, Mara and Lando, by that time, have made their way into the superstructure of the prototype, and latch on inside the power core. Damaged, they can't do as Lando did in Return of the Jedi, so Lando and Mara set charges, most of which are disarmed by space-troopers. One, at least, ruptures the core slightly, but again, space-troopers fix it, losing their lives to the fatal doses of radiation in the process.

Kyp, meanwhile, has been instructed to face his fears, so he re-enters the Dark temple on Yavin IV and faces a ghost claiming to be Kun, and then this brother. Luke is convinced then that if Kyp can destroy the Sun Crusher, by sending it into a black hole, then his return to the Light Side will be complete. So they enter the fray at the Maw, as well. Luke doesn't actually do much, but C3PO and Chewie get to fly around destroying TIE fighters and most of Daala's guns on her remaining Star Destroyer. Daala destroys the complex, once again letting everyone think she has been killed. But she uses the explosion to mask her departure. I seem to remember in one of the last Legacy of the Force novels (Revelation?) that it is stated she has an impressive repertoire of special weapons stored somewhere secret. They must come from here, as she manages to download all of the secret files before she leaves, some even that Wedge couldn't retrieve.

Kyp ends up destroying the Death Star prototype, not using the Sun Crusher's torpedoes (though he tries that, too), but by luring them too close to the black holes, where they are destroyed by the tidal forces. So is the Sun Crusher, but Kyp manages to get himself, body broken, inside a message canister, which the Falcon picks up.

Finally, Cilghal, who has shown an aptitude for healing, sets a new record for removing poison from a person's body when she sits for hours on end removing the Empire's poison from Mon Mothma's body. Mothma will survive for many stories to come, giving good advice, but it is Leia who remains Chief of State of the New Republic.

I've probably criticized this author's style in various books, from Darksaber to Shadow Academy and so on, and justly so, I think. But the stories he writes are at least interesting, and partially make up for the rough style (or lack of). In this case, the story takes precedence, providing a good conclusion to the trilogy. It is pivotal in changing the Star Wars galaxy from this point on, from Leia's role to Luke's academy, to marking Anakin's importance. Among Star Wars novels, this trilogy is one of the most important, so I'm glad it ends this way, in a satisfactory manner.



4 stars

  Read September 14th to 18th, 1994, in Paperback  
      Review not yet available.  

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