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A novel by Troy Denning (2013, Del Rey)
45 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

While investigating a series of pirate attacks against Lando's new operation, Luke, Han and Leia are drawn into a plot to take over the galactic economy, Sith treachery, genetic manipulation, and an artifact that contains a powerful Force font.




Read October 27th to November 6th, 2013, in hardcover  
    As usual with this author, the book was action-packed and fun and easy to read. The characters were true to themselves, and the plot was very concentrated, with a believable enemy for once, and I am happy to report that it is not a Sith (though a Sith character does appear). Also as usual for this author, there was a very strange location that did very strange things to the characters, which I am not a big fan of. The "big change" that is alluded to on the cover takes place over such a short time that I thought it strained credibility -more of the book could have been used to expand on that.

Spoiler review:

If this was to be the final active adventure of the big three heros in the Star Wars universe, it was a pretty good one. The main problem with this idea, as I've mentioned often before, is that the authors have not done a good job of developing the next generation. Many of the characters of Jaina's generation (about thirty to thirty five years old) have been killed off in the last couple of series. And there are even fewer of Ben's generation. In hindsight, the authors should have given Han and Leia many more kids, who should have had grandchildren of their own by now.

That is not the focus of this story. In fact, the effects that warrant that discussion only occur in the last few pages of the novel, which is much too short a timeframe and amount of space to give such an important shift of focus. All the justification we get is that Luke and Leia learned a great deal about the Force while inside the monolith, when it flooded through them, and they pretty much became one with the Force, then returned to the living. So they decided to retire.

I agree that they've been through enough, and that they deserve to retire, but I don't know if their conscience would allow them to do so during the next big crisis, especially given how powerful Luke is -which makes him the biggest link in the Jedi chain, no matter how much he believes the others can get by without him. But it is the crises that made his so powerful, so maybe he's right -he could be hindering his students' progress. I only wish we had been given several chapters, instead of mere pages, to come to that conclusion.

The story that leads to this conclusion starts off small, in that Han and Leia decide to help out Lando, who has set up a mining facility in the Chiloon Rift, a place so dense with anomalies that it requires sensor beacons for an experienced pilot to navigate it. The essence of this is that communications is difficult, such that Luke, Han and Leia are out of touch for the weeks that they are in the Rift.

The bad guys in this story are Mavid and Craitheus Qreph, an alien species with big heads called Columi. I had never heard of this alien before, but they were interesting, and the characters seemed to know all about them. Apparently it is pointless to try and outthink a Columi, because they are always two steps ahead of normal beings. In this case, they have been experimenting with biots, flesh grown over fiber optic nerves and steel exoskeletons. Humanoid biots have infiltrated all the major organizations in the Galactic Alliance, so they can perform an economic takeover, and rule the Galactic Alliance. They figure if a mere human like Palpatine could do it, they could do it better...

They've hired Mandalorians to oversee their biot Nargon security force, which gives us a chance to revisit Mirta Gev, who is of course Boba Fett's granddaughter. She thinks only the Columi can produce an antidote to the genetically engineered poison that was released into Mandalore's atmosphere back in Invincible. Although she does escape with her life, she is made to look rather foolish in letting so many things happen, even though she stood no chance against the Jedi.

The other interesting person is Savara Raine, who turns out to be Vestara Khai. She is looking for redemption so she can re-integrate with her Tribe. I think it was a blown opportunity for the authors of the Fate of the Jedi series to have Vestara betray Luke and Ben. She could have been a useful ally, especially since she is Ben's age. Here, she helps the Columi, mainly offering advice on how to avoid the Jedi, and not fighting them. Ben only sees her for a moment before she disappears, and Marvid almost kills her, after revealing that he created a biot of her -who can access the Force, as well.

The author takes the situations to the brink of being "too far". It seems like every chapter where Luke and Leia are injured so seriously that they need bacta treatment, or Force healing trances, that their hair has fallen out due to the damage to their bodies, and they can barely walk. They are incredibly fast healers, but it really bordered on ludicrous the way they were injured. After being similarly injured, Vestara escapes with Mirta Gev.

The author has always liked big scenes of destruction. He's pretty much destroyed Coruscant twice (Star By Star during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and in pretty much the entire conclusion to the Fate of the Jedi, Apocalypse). Here, he drops an asteroid on Lando's mining station, to kill almost thirty thousand people all at once. Not quite as bad as the Death Star, but somehow it seems worse, possibly because there were still ruins to sift through afterward.

Lando and Han do try to outwit the Qreph brothers by playing sabaac, but Mirta Gev joins the game, and even though Luke and Leia are disguised, they can't prevent Han from being captured and brought to their base on an enigmatic monolith. Luke and Leia track the Columi to a space station, but when they attack the brothers take Han to the monolith base, while the Jedi nearly kill themselves crashing their ship to get aboard. After a long healing trance, they fight their way to the medical bay, finally taking two Mandalorians' armor to make their escape on a transport.

Fortunately, Lando, Ben and Tahiri are there to help them make their escape. Then they go into the timeless bubble, where they attack the base in full force, with help from Lando's YVH battle droids. Han, meanwhile, is stuck playing sabaac with the Qrephs, as they probe his brain to record his responses to various stimuli. They are obviously creating a biot of Han, and want the mind to be as real-life as possible. He manages to escape when the Qrephs are drawn away due to Luke and Leia's attack, and finds himself on the doorstep to the gateway to the monolith.

Eventually the Qrephs, Luke and Leia make their way there, too, and they all enter the monolith. This is another of Troy Denning's strange Force-manifestations. It is unknown if this was ever the Mortis monolith, but Luke concludes that if it was, it no longer is -and it probably was never Mortis, anyway. The the raw Force power allows them to come back to life (all of them), either through the light or by accepting the help of various dark spirits who would give the non-Jedi some Force abilities. It is this raw Force energy that brings Luke and Leia to the conclusion that they must retire, which made me scratch my head in wonder. We never got to see the development of this idea; it was just presented to us as a fact. I think I'm getting tired of Denning's strange Force wells, but typically they don't last too long, so I can live with them every once in a while.

A few things from the Fate of the Jedi series are touched on, giving the Star Wars universe some progression even though this semi-independent story. Luke and the Council are ready to fail out any student who does not show the true Jedi way -selflessness. One trainee has to restart his training, or fail out, because they don't want to train their enemies any more. Jaina and Jag make a brief appearance; their wedding is mentioned, as is Allanah. And the author digs up memories of Chewbacca and Anakin's deaths.

It looks like the next generation is ready to take charge; I only hope the authors can continue on without the Big Three and do a good job. So far, they have been killing off the characters that I hoped would take over. I hope now they start developing them, instead.


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