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A novel by Barbara Hambly (1995, Bantam Spectra)
12 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

An Imperial fortress, hiding the essence of the Jedi who stopped it 30 years earlier, traps Luke, while Leia follows rumors of Jedi offspring.



3 stars

Read August 8th to 16th, 2002, for the second time  
    While the book was very well written, and quite engaging in some spots, I never bought enough into the aristocratic houses for Leia's part of the story, or the tremendous Force-powers that Luke, Cray and Callista needed on their side of the story.

I had trouble with quite a bit of this novel, but mostly in isolated chunks. In between, I thought it was very well written, and the author was very descriptive, with many analogies that were fun, but not intrusive. The atmosphere of both stories were extremely well visualized by the author, though at times I had trouble with the garden gondolas, and I got lost more than Luke on the Eye of Palpatine. It is obvious that the author likes creepy tunnels. Between Han and Chewie's flight in the Well and Leia's escape through the tunnels, and Luke's travels through the dark corridors of the ship, we get our fill of them, here. And that's not to mention Leia's path through the tunnel full of Drochs in Planet of Twilight, by the same author!

I also like to see my characters grow through a story. Unfortunately, it took half the book for Luke to do any growing. Once taken aboard the battle-ship, still suffering from a concussion he suffered on approach to it, he suffers a crippling leg injury, which keeps him from top performance. But he somehow manages to complete everything on time, despite the author's protests that he is at the limits of his powers. Considering the healing we saw in The Courtship of Princess Leia, I wonder why Luke couldn't heal himself better here.

I can't help but wonder what kind of cat-and-mouse game we could have had between all the occupants of the ship, the Will, and a fully functional Luke. Ah, well. The only growth that Luke saw was his inability to let go of Callista, when he didn't even really know her to begin with.

The rest of the action on the Eye of Palpatine, sent to wipe out a Jedi settlement thirty years ago and mysteriously stopped before it could fulfill its secret mission, was mainly humorous, even while it was being desperate.

The conditioning of the gamorreans and affytechans can only be taken as a comedic note, in the midst of the "real" dangers that Luke and his apprentice Cray, faced. The kitonaks, talz and tripods were not well conditioned, and mostly stayed out of the way, and were used as more comedy, especially from C3PO ("trading recipes"? HA!). The jawas came out of their conditioning very quickly, and continued to scavenge around the ship, effectively disassembling it from the inside. I liked the author's dig at species that damage their environment without noticing that they are dooming their future. And the sand people were used as foils for Luke's plans, who didn't seem to be conditioned, either.

I guess most of those species were not suited to the Empire's indoctrination. My biggest question in this regard, however, is why there were only three humans on board? Luke, Cray and the former stormtrooper Triv could not have been the only humans in the vicinity of the lander -and they were all picked up on the same planet! How did the lander get jawas and sand people at the same time? They don't normally mix, any more than sand people and humans would. But I suppose it made it easier for Luke to get his job done that way.

We see how well the indoctrination can take hold with the gamorreans. The two tribes that started fighting each other before the ship captured them continued to do so afterwards. But this time, they think the others are Rebel spies or saboteurs. So when Cray is captured, and seems unable to use the Force even after the indoctrination wears off (why is that?), Triv also disappears, and seems to change sides in the struggle when he reappears at the end of the book. Why didn't they think he was a Rebel, since he was having lunch with Cray?

There was a lot of confusion in this book on that spaceship, especially with regards to where the characters were at any given time. Luke had to levitate himself up the laundry chutes to get to the upper levels. But the gamorreans had their base of operations there, and they managed to come to the mess hall (one of several, I have to assume), capture Cray, and return. I'm sure they didn't use the laundry chute. Surely they patrolled the ship, like their rivals did? After the incident in the mess hall, they are never seen on the main level again. And what about all the other species? Luke met them on all different levels. The kitonaks were even on a different level when Luke first met them, and they could barely move. Luke was even injured on an upper level by the Tuskin Raiders, but C3PO managed to haul him over to sick bay.

Another problem I had with the plot is Luke's inability to think of using his lightsaber at any time except in desperate need. I assume he didn't use it in front of the gamorreans because of their indoctrination against the Jedi. But that is only an assumption- it's never mentioned, and Luke's lightsaber is clipped back on his belt after the mess hall battle, anyways.  But it seems like the lightsaber would have been much more effective in everything he did, even to the point of cutting through the blast doors. Yes, it would have cost time, but it would have been worth it if he found Cray there.

Cray Mingla seemed, at first, to be the outlet for the author's rage against the female stereotype. She is the "impossible" woman, brought down to size. She wears "impractical shoes", and all the make-up. I do wonder why the author thinks it should be an impressive feat to create a braid without a mirror -Joanne can do it easily and in no time. Even though she is a Jedi, and has enough Force ability to complete the destruction of the ship at the end, Cray doesn't seem to have the ability to rescue herself from her captors.

But it is Cray who grows the most in this part of the story. Being a computer expert, she was able to transfer the memories from her lover's dying body into a droid one, and fully expected him to be able to reacquire his use of the Force sometime soon. By the end, seeing him beside her the entire time in her captivity, but unable to do anything because of a restraining bolt, she realizes that he is no longer human. Nichos makes the same discovery, and stays with Cray to destroy the ship. I really wonder why he was able to produce the coordinates for the Eye of Palpatine, though, when he was just a child when he lived at Plett's Well (or Plawal), and nobody knew of the battleship. It is never explained how he knew this, which is a major fault in the beginning of the book.

Callista is also a mixed bag, mainly because of her lack of definition. She seems a lot like Ben's spirit, but still inhabits the computer, to open doors and such. I wondered how she could suddenly speak, after being part of the computer for so long and having to talk initially using only the screen. But she is not recognized as such, so I don't know.

I don't really have much to say about her as a spirit form. I don't really understand Luke's love for her, except that he has been awfully lonely. He had a love interest that he wasn't allowed to keep in The Truce at Bakura. Here, I like the price they had to pay for their love. Of course, knowing what happens in Darksaber and Planet of Twilight, Luke doesn't get to keep Callista, either. But this time, it is because of her inadequacies -when transferring into Cray's body, she lost her ability to manipulate the Force. The transfer itself was a bit of a stretch, but is made up for by the sacrifice.

It really seems strange that Leia is the one who goes in search of the children of the Jedi, instead of Luke. At any other time, in every other story, any hint of a potential Force-sensitive would have had Luke on a spaceship as fast as he could get there.

But here it is Leia, with Han, R2D2 and Chewbacca in her wake. The search takes them to the worthless planet of Belsavis, where an old Jedi named Plett had built a safe house for the Jedi thirty years ago. Of course, the timetable means that the Eye of Palpatine was going to destroy this place, so the suspense of it is how (not if) Luke will destroy it before it gets there.

This part of the plot revolves around Leia's incredible memory. She is able to recall the face of somebody she met for a brief instant in the "Emperor's court" eleven years ago. Is she really that good?

Even if she is, I have trouble with the idea of Palpatine taking concubines, or even holding court at all, in the way that it is described here. It looks as if we have gone back to the Middle Ages. Especially after Attack of the Clones, I cannot see Palpatine as a sexual predator. But every aspect of Leia's experience, after being caught by Roganda Ismaren and her son Irek, deals with the court, of the Ancient Houses as if they were from the Dune universe. Leia is able to play upon the haughtiness the Senex Lords feel to her advantage. I don't really think it is necessary, either. It just seems out of place in this universe, and in the book.

However, one other aspect that doesn't really fit with the rest of the Star Wars continuity works very well, here. That is how Leia comes to grips with the designers of the Death Star. It's a wonder that they are still alive at all, but one by one they are disappearing, or showing up dead. And of course Leia is not sad about that. She would bring them to justice if she could. She wants to send vigilantes after them, but that would be a misuse of her power as head of state. But just as she came to terms with Vader being her father in The Truce at Bakura, she does the same here with those people, even though many of them are dead now. She even gets to read the lengthy apology by one of them in her cell. I just wonder how they are related to the Geonosians... or to the man Tarkin destroyed in Rogue Planet...

The villain, the one who has restarted up the mission of the Eye of Palpatine, is Irek. He has a brain implant that allows him to use his own Force-sensitivity to affect mechanicals. I don't know where it has ever said that the Force could not affect mechanicals, but apparently Irek is an anomaly. He causes all sorts of droid malfunctions on Belsavis, most notably instructing R2D2 to kill Han and Leia as they slept. And he thinks he can control the Eye when it arrives. He notices his control slipping when R2 escapes after Leia is caught -because Chewie rewired him after the attack. And that proves to be his undoing. Because the jawas have done such damage to the wiring and layout of the Eye of Palpatine, he has no control.

Leia has an out-of-body experience that seems to be magical, rather than Star Wars based. But I expect that the drug they used on her, combined with her Force-sensitivity, allowed this to happen. Without it, she would not have gathered all the information she needed. But I wonder what happens to the Senex Lords after this book? Are they part of the New Republic or not? Did they fall, later, to the Yuuzhan Vong?

In any case, Leia provides many new Jedi toys from the old fortress, which are also never used again, even though they should be. But Roganda and Irek disappear, escaping in the confusion of the arrival of the battleship. The chase and fight between Leia and Irek, among a couple of others, was very well written. It was exciting, and an effective way to bring together two enemies, one who has trained in the Force, and one who has just barely a grip on it. It really tied up the end of the book, which looked like it was about to unravel.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of swearing in this book. While others, notably the Rogue Squadron books, have used "sithspawn" as their swear (I dislike that, as well), this author creates her own. For a time, everything is listed in the soldiers' language as "festering". We all know what they are really saying, and I disagree with its use at all in the Star Wars universe.

There is also a lot of technobabble at the beginning. Since most of the rest of the book reads like a fantasy, with magic popping up in the guise of the Force, this looks more like an attempt to create some science in this science fiction. But I wonder if we really need to know all the droid types and the different medicines and their properties? We could have easily been simply told that Luke was trying to access the computers, instead of wondering why he was using DOS or UNIX commands on these computers...

A lot of Star Wars authors don't know what to do with the Solo kids. After reading about their toddler years in other books, I am glad that this author decided to do away with them for most of this story. But I wonder why Winter gets to be the baby sitter. I guess it's a high-tech security service, but what a waste of her skills. She used to be a  great intelligence gathering unit all by herself -one that kept the Empire at bay. I  think she would start to feel underused at some point. Fortunately, we were spared any baby-sitting by C3PO, who is used only for comedy in those instances. He gets the better deal in this book. Even so, he is not used as well as he could have been. But "Mrs. Biggs"? Everybody -especially C3PO, knows that Biggs' last name is Darklighter! That's almost as bad as the droid asking what Chewbacca says in the Return of the Jedi radio drama!

Even though there were many questionable plot points, and a confusing array of things happening, the book was very well written, as I keep mentioning. The climax was especially well done. Normally, when I was getting bored with the way Luke was being handled, Leia's part of the story was better-written, and vice-versa. For the most part, the book was entertaining. Many authors don't know quite what to do with the Force, and overuse it. That applies here, too, especially where the author's favorite art of levitation takes place. However, the rest of it is moderately well used, and I wonder if Luke didn't underuse it.

This was one of the first books to allow the enemy to live after it was all over, and it was refreshing back then. We also got some insight into how the Jedi might have been, and a few toys and an expert from that time. It is unfortunate that none of these have been used since then. And aside from the Head of State being missing for days, all of the main characters were well used, also. Since Thrawn's comment to Mara Jade that she was simply "one of the Emperor's Hands", we have wondered if he was just trying to get to her or if he knew something. It appears that he was right.  Mara, what was she doing sleeping in Lando's shirts, with him in the same room? Is that ever explained?)

I enjoyed revisiting this jaunt into the first generation of Star Wars books after the originals, and it seems to be up to the same caliber as the new generation, or even a little better. But it wasn't great, and I can see how somebody could get a little bored with it. That almost happened to me, but the writing would improve to snatch me back at just those moments. That's a good thing.



4 stars

Read August 12th to 20th, 1996  
    An amazing concept -a long dead dreadnaught come to life suddenly.  Really well written, and fun to read.  Watching the gamorreans and jawas treat the ship like home was both hilarious and engaging.  Luke finally gets a love interest!  

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