||Another great book in the New Jedi
Order series, with a little bit of everything, from politics, battles
and Jedi. It is not as well written as Star By Star was, but it is just
as broad in scope.
Star, this book tells a complex story, and has a rousing conclusion. The
plot is interweaved between politics, war and people, with none of these
taking more of the spotlight than any other. Compared to other authors,
who would propose an idea and take it as a logical progression, this
author would have his characters present many ideas, involving many
people, and debate the various merits, choosing the best one, rejecting
others logically. The only exception was the formation and style of the
Jedi Council, which was decided upon very quickly.
The early part of this book is mainly
discussion, with a few skirmishes to appease the people who enjoy battle
scenes. Most of the book takes advantage of a lull in the action, where
both sides of the war are regrouping. The Yuuzhan Vong are much more
overextended than we thought they were, and barely have the resources to
hold onto those planets that they occupy. The skirmishes that the New
Republic military engages in help to put this on display.
The human side of the story is well
told. Luke is the focus of this story, since he is trying to put
together a new Jedi Council. His relationship with Mara also brings a
new element into the Star Wars universe: sex. The authors are playing it
as much as they can, since they seem to have missed out on Han and
Leia's sex life. I like Mara's purr, and the way she turns an anxious
Luke has to convince the potential new
Heads of State that the Jedi Council is necessary. I like the way Rodan
put Luke in his place, because he was absolutely right. The Jedi under
Luke have never been part of the New Republic, yet they act like the
government should sponsor their activities. While Rodan might have been
a little too harsh on Luke himself, he at least he was right in saying
that the Jedi should get jobs of their own. In Jedi Search, Mon Mothma
said that the Jedi were from all walks of life, and while that ended up
being wrong, it certainly makes sense. They should, however, be loyal to
the Jedi first. That is one thing they could take from the Empire: a
clear chain of command.
As for the new Jedi Council, I don't
know if it will really work the way it was formulated. It seems too
cumbersome, and I don't really know what it is supposed to do. They had
two meetings, and one vote, but it was shown that their voting was
irrelevant. So just what policies do they have a say in?
I find it amazing how I could enjoy a
book so much when Han and Leia are barely in it at all. Han gets a cool
battle sequence at the very beginning, and they retrieved some maps from
the former Empire, as well as having some very interesting discussions
about whether they really want the help of the Empire, because of what
it would want in return. However, the author really seemed to be
stretching things to figure out where to put them. As I said after
reading Jedi Eclipse, I really don't mind if the next generation takes
over the stories in these books, because they are the more interesting
The Chief of State is elected in a very
shady way, with the bribes and blackmail by Lando and Talon Karrde. I
wonder if this will come back into the public eye, the way Luke and Mara
imply it will. Cal Omas is, of course, pro-Jedi, and single-handedly
turns the opinions of everybody that we hear about concerning the Jedi.
I'm not sure the military had any misguided notions about what the good
the Jedi were doing, but it was good to present it to the press. Mara
even got to do some spy work, feeding misinformation to the Yuuzhan
Vong spies and thwarting an assassination attempt on Cal Omas himself.
More politics come from the Yuuzhan
Vong side of the story. I loved the way we got to see their leaders
function, with more time on Overlord Shimra than we've had up until now. Shimra doesn't seem to be completely Yuuzhan Vong. He is overly large,
with some form of telepathy -would he be a Vong form of Jedi, able to
influence their minds? He seems to be a real sham, something that didn't
take Nom Anor long to find out. I anticipate that he will be the real
downfall of the Vong. If their religion and devotion to the gods was
shaken because Shimra is revealed as a fake, or if they take a new
leader who advocates peace, then they might fall apart all at once. It's
about time that we learned some real history behind the Yuuzhan Vong.
What I've seen so far has some small contradictions in it, but they
could easily be explained if we were to be given a concrete history.
The last passage of the book indicates
that Shimra has at least a dual-personality. I don't really know what to
make of this yet. However, I do think that Nom Anor will contribute to
the downfall of the Yuuzhan Vong, in revealing the truth about their
leader. He was never enamoured of the principles of pain, and always
looked out for himself. He could easily take refuge among the Shamed
Ones who worship the Jedi, and even come to control them.
One thing that I want to stress that I
do not want to see happen, is for Shimra's Shamed One jester, Onimi (who
last appeared in disguise as a shaper in Rebirth) to end it all. If he
ends up being part of the cult of the Shamed Ones, and kills Shimra, it
would be way too reminiscent of The Last Command with the noghri killing
Thrawn. Please, no.
This is a good time to point out that
the author has a strange narrative style at times. Most of the book is
extremely well-written, but I really wonder if the Yuuzhan Vong can say
things like the word "duped". The phrase "she knew which option she would bet on"
comes up in the thoughts of at least two characters. Similar strange
colloquialisms turn up among the New Republic pilots and politicians,
and I wonder why. The narrative also seemed out of place whenever the author is describing large
events, like the destruction of the Vong fleet in the minefield at the
end, or the defection of the senators in the election of the Head of
State, as if these things had to be
told, but they were getting in the way of the rest of the story the author wanted to
tell. They were not bad, just not as tight as the rest of the book, and
felt out of place.
Another strange occurrence is the
missing chapter that became the e-book Ylesia. I know exactly where it
fits, because it looks like a giant chunk of the book is missing. Was it
cut simply to make an e-book out of it? It doesn't make sense. Jaina
references it as a debacle, so I have to assume that their intelligence
went wrong somewhere.
I was very happy to see the
continuation of Vergere's philosophical discussions from
this time, most of it takes place between her and Luke. It was a unique
discussion, one that had to take place, because of the difference in the
philosophy between the new and the old Jedi. It implies, though, that
Luke has not been in touch with the other Jedi from the old order, like
Brand (from Dark Empire II), or Ikrit (from
The Golden Globe). More
importantly, however, it brings the books in line with the latest movie,
Attack of the Clones. Up until now, the books have been written in a
vacuum, not knowing how the Jedi used to live. The concept of Jedi
marriage and children had a very interesting (though way too brief)
discussion. The author is able to present Vergere's way of life, and
weave that into the continuity of the movies.
Like Luke, I never quite figured out
where Vergere's loyalties lay. Her journey is now over, and I can
honestly say that even despite Traitor, she didn't live up to her
potential. The authors made her so enigmatic that they couldn't manage
to reconcile her. Why did she change loyalties so often? She should have
asked to see Luke right away, when she found out about him. She seemed
to actively plot against the New Republic. Did she think the New
Republic defeated the Old? Was she so uncertain about the state of
affairs that she sought refuge with the Vong because they were familiar?
Looking back, I suppose she was at least consistent in that she was
always after Jacen, even when she was chasing the Millennium Falcon in
Rebirth. I wondered if the Force sent her a vision of Jacen.
At least we now know what happened at
Zonama Sekot, back in the mess that was
Rogue Planet. I wouldn't say
that Vergere's story was anticlimactic, as it follows a logical
progression. I would say that it had about as much interest to me as
Rogue Planet did. I was confused at how she could blame herself for the
war, especially considering her actions in previous books.
Vergere's openness on her discussion of
her past seems out of character, but I suppose it was the only way to
finally hear it. On Zonama Sekot, the Vong attacked as
they usually do, but the living planet fought them back, explaining the
large scars that were seen in Rogue Planet. She tried to be an
ambassador to the Vong, but ended up giving them what little information
she knew about the strength of the Republic. She tried to influence
policy, hiding her Force abilities, but when the person to whom she had
been assigned had died, she became the familiar of Elan, who had no rank
to enforce policy. In my review of Rogue Planet, I wondered why nobody
had heard from each of the adversaries. I still wonder about that. How
could the Vong have been hanging around outside the galaxy, and only
have Nom Anor for information -and he was only there long after the
Civil War had ended.
The battle at the end of the book is
reminiscent of the Battle for Coruscant at the end of
Star By Star, but
it lacks the rich detail present in that book. This author focused too
much on counting ships, especially in the initial battle with the
Millennium Falcon, and then with Jaina's attack on the high commander at Obroa-Skai.
I wonder if the author was trying to be more like Michael Stackpole in
giving so many (too many) technical details on the ships.
Once again, I must express my displeasure at cutting back
and forth between characters, like we were watching a movie. We could
have done without Ackbar's shrill of despair that he hadn't foreseen
Tsavong Lah's attack on the moon, or cutting back and forth to Jacen and
Luke, and the others. That being said, the battle was really exciting.
The return of Ackbar, probably the only time we will see him in the New
Jedi Order, was well-played. The characters were realistic, and even
though Ackbar is quite old, his mind is as sharp as ever.
Using the maps of the Deep Core that
Han and Leia retrieved from the Empire, Ackbar found the perfect place
to lay a trap, in an isolated star system with only one entrance or exit
hyperspace lane. (I do think that the authors have been treating the
hyperspace lanes too much like highways; I don't think they are that
rigid. However, it seems to work, as long as they are given the
flexibility for future stories.) The spies that Mara found are given
scraps of information, the government goes into hiding, and the Vong
jump at the chance to destroy the Chief of State as well as a whole lot
of Jedi, including Jacen and Jaina Solo.
Although many of the New Republic
forces are destroyed, they have an overwhelming number of ships, thanks
to a lull in the war and an increase in production. The only thing they
really needed was trained personnel, which seemed to come a little too
quickly -but I guess the people of the New Republic did what was needed
and used what they had. They did a good job, too, as the Vong forces
were decimated. Their military is now in tatters, and I wonder how long
it will be before the New Republic is able to take back some of their
The only thing missing from this big
battle was the presence of Wedge and Tycho. Where were they, since their
big victory in Rebel Dream and
Rebel Stand? Their unusual tactics could
have helped the New Republic from losing even the low number of
casualties they did.
The discussions with Vergere allowed
Luke to grow in this book. Because of her, he was able to hold onto his
definition of the Force, at least for the time being. He is also able to
start an aggressive fight against the Yuuzhan Vong for the first time,
dedicating himself to the fight. I only wish he would learn from Han and
Leia's experiences in child-rearing. That couple didn't see much of
their children's formative years. It seems that Luke and Mara are doing
the exact same thing with Ben, because the authors don't know how to
weave the infants into the stories. I don't know how to rectify this,
but I think it needs to be dealt with.
Hopefully the novels that follow the
end of the New Jedi Order will have political overtones, rather than
action plots, so we can see how the galactic union is rebuilt. The
Galaxy has been through so many wars over the last twenty-five years
(and more, with the Clone Wars), that it really needs a break.
Jacen as a character didn't have much
time to delve into his philosophy from Traitor, but the author still did
a good job in keeping us in his mind, about his ideas, his beliefs, and
his actions. Only his choice at the end of the book, his futile attempt
to save his sister, seemed strange -but typical, given that she is his
twin sister. As he says later, it was an emotional choice, but one that Vergere warned was dangerous. His superior Force abilities allowed him
to coordinate a battle the way Joruus C'boath did in the Thrawn Trilogy.
The meld was neat, and a further growth of the Jedi.
Jacen's Vongsense allowed him to sense
the Yuuzhan Vong, but didn't really help him out. The only really
interesting part of that was his continuing connection to the world
brain on what used to be Coruscant. Even that seems to be wasted. I
expected that the Vong would really "learn some lessons", as Jacen said
in Traitor, but if the extent of their lessons is to adapt to an itching
fungus and a flood of waste, I'll be quite disappointed. That being
said, the world-brain really is developing Jacen's sense of humor,
something we haven't seen in him since the Young Jedi Knights ended,
with Crisis at Crystal Reef.
Jaina continues her death-wish tactics
in the fighter, but she is so darn good at snub-fighter fighting, that
it is a joy to "watch" her. Since her decent into darkness in
Journey, she has never come truly back into the light of her friends and
family. Hopefully the devotion of her new squadron, as well as the warm
reception after she was rescued from the moon, will bring some of her
Vergere made a choice that was not
devoid of emotion, as well. Diving a stolen snub-fighter into the little
moon to incinerate the Vong and deprive them of air, she sacrificed
herself to save Jacen. I guess she discovered the way to survive the
afterlife, something that was unknown to the Jedi in the time of
Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones -except to Qui-Gon Jinn.
Tsavong Lah meets his end in this book.
Leading his ground forces with Voxyn to kill as many Jedi as he could
was the only way to redeem himself in the eyes of the gods once he
realized that Nom Anor's data had led him into a trap. I think he should
have died a more anonymous death from Vergere's sacrifice, rather than
the implausible and uninteresting duel with Jaina. There is no way he
should have lost that duel, with her trapped that way.
I was very happy to see that the
secondary characters are getting a lot of time in these books,
especially this one. General Farlander was (I had to look the name up in
the Encyclopedia to be sure) the pilot that we all played in the X-Wing
video game. Tesar the barabel was a very welcome character, and I liked
the expanded role the Wookie senator played.
The most touching part of the book was
surprisingly the Jedi Knighting ceremony. Luke's statements to each Jedi
were really written from the heart, as a tribute to the survivors of the
Myrkr mission in Star By Star. The actual ceremony was rather cheesy,
but what political functions aren't?!?
We are nearing the conclusion of the
New Jedi Order, and I can see many possibilities for how it can end.
This book was not just a collection of plots, which would have been good
enough. It also had a lot of setup for continuing the story. I hope that
many of the leads we get here are followed through (though I won't be
surprised if many of them are not).
The most threatening of these plots is
Alpha Red, the virus that could wipe out the Yuuzhan Vong like the
Emperor's Plagues would have done to numerous species not too long ago.
The most interesting is the rewriting of the constitution of the New
Republic, which would give it a new name, and a style of government that
is less paralyzing. Thus, when a threat like the invasion of Naboo, the
Separatists, Palpatine, the implication of the Chief of State, or the
invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong came along, the forces of this new
commonwealth could be quickly mobilized. The creators of this series
obviously think that the New Republic was at its end because of the
bickering it was able to do through the last ten years worth of novels.
I tend to agree with them.
It is time for a change, and that may come in the next few books.
Finally, I don't think I've commented
on the covers of the novels since Dark Journey. I thought this cover, so
busy in contrast, was really great. It portrayed so much that went on,
with the terrific X-Wing fighters (I guess the new designs just didn't
compare!), Luke, Jaina, and even a bearded Jacen! I'd like more of these
covers, compared to the Force Heretic ones.
Instead of sacrificing a big character
on the side of the New Republic, this author instead chose to sacrifice
one of the enemy, though I was wondering if Lowbacca was going to get it
at the end. The author also did a lot of manoeuvring, creating
governments and the Jedi Council, as well as describing a huge battle at
the climax. These types of books are very necessary, and I love the
broadness of the plots. I just hope that the characters are not
sacrificed in order to further the plots. Stories like
Traitor are very
necessary, and I hope the writers remember that. This book, however, was
an excellent continuation of the series. I look forward to the next