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A novel by James Luceno (2000, Del Rey)
Book 2 in the New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos
25 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

The New Republic military lays a trap for the Yuuzhan Vong, as Han searches for refugees and captives.



1 star

Read January 18th to 23rd, 2002  
    Why was this book written?  Although it does give us a little insight into what is happening on a galactic scale, the book is a complete mess, totally boring except for a few parts, and barely deals with the characters who are integral to the Star Wars story.  And it opens a can of worms much better left sealed.

My next question is why is the book titled the way it is?  What kind of Jedi Eclipse are we seeing?  Is it Wurth Skidder?  He was certainly more of a main character than any other Jedi, but I would hardly say he was eclipsed.  The Jedi in general?  They have a little more blame on them than they did at the start, but not significantly more.  The title doesn't make sense.  I didn't like the covers of this book or the last one, either!

Of course, the whole book is so disjointed that this title is no worse than anything else would have been.  So much of the book was taken from the point of view of miscellaneous non-descript people, who either died or went through some experiences, that we didn't get to see our heroes very much.  And in the end, not much has changed, just a little more "chaos" amongst the good guys.

There are so many plots going on at once that it is easy to get whiplash as the chapters progress.  The chapter divisions seem arbitrary, with smaller divisions within them that are also arbitrary.  Very few of them deal with similar topics.  

The unrelated story takes place from two points of view.  Han and Droma (who should thankfully disappear after this duology) search for his missing clan-mates.  They learn that there are some smugglers who take passengers from a refugee-filled world to other worlds, where they know the Vong will be attacking shortly, so that the people get captured where they narrowly missed capture earlier.  The only surprise is that Droma's clan-mates don't end up on the Millennium Falcon as Han fakes to become involved.  Along the way, Droma gets arrested and Han has to break him out of the manure work station he is placed in.  Han does this with way too much ease, and as an aside, he frees the droid population on the world of Ruan as well.  The droids begin to revolt, and who knows what importance this will have -if any- in future plots.  The only interesting part about this is seeing how the refugee world was starting to prepare for the invasion, by shutting down droids and using manual labor for harvesting.  

Droma's clan-mates are split up. Some of them end up going to Ruan aboard Leia's refugee ship, and through their eyes, we see how terrible conditions are for those waiting for a new world.  They agree to fake documents that will take them and others to another planet, not knowing that they will be dumped at the next stop along the invasion corridor. The way the smugglers go about this does not make sense in the slightest.  They force the people out of their hold onto an abandoned shipbuilding facility around Fondor at gunpoint.  If some of these people survived, they would tell their tale, and the smugglers would go out of business pretty quickly.  The way it was described to Han, I figured they left these people on a planet for a couple of days before the Vong showed up.  Then they would have deniability, and be able to "prove" that it was bad luck that the Vong happened to invade that planet.  The people were supposed to be turned into sacrifices for the Vong, too.  Dumping them on a machine shipbuilding complex is not the way to ensure survival and capture.  

And how come the smugglers got better information than the Hutts?  The Vong actually trusted these people to keep their secret when they couldn't trust the Hutts?  Most smugglers work for the Hutts!

For the Hutts are the next sub-plot in this packed book.  Borga the Hutt, soon to be mother, makes a deal with the Vong, giving up planets for their use and getting temporarily spared from the war in exchange.  Everybody knows that the Vong will destroy all free civilizations, so the Hutts will not be safe for long.  But for the moment, they are able to think they are playing both sides of the war.  Using their spice business to covertly give information to the New Republic, stopping shipments to worlds they are told will be targets, New Republic Intelligence acknowledges that these worlds are potentially at risk.  Observations of one take-over seems to prove the information is reliable.  

Are Intelligence officers that dumb and blind?  The exact same thing happened with Elan and Vergere, with offensive feints and New Republic wins provided to verify her information!  It was exactly the same, just in different clothing!

Convinced that either Bothawui or Corellia would be the next targets, Intelligence puts together two plans that could have been entirely unrelated, both of which prove to be disastrous because of their stupidity.  

The first plan, which transpires over the second third of the book, requires Leia going to the Hapes Consortium and asking for the use of their fleet in the war effort.  Leia gives a good speech, but this is followed by an honor duel between Isolder and another man, in protection of Leia's honor.  I was dismayed by the fight between them, a sign that males always wish to extend their protection and will over the women.  In the end, they vote, by a margin of one vote, to enter the war.  I know that this is what a democracy does, but I maintain that one vote is not sufficient to instigate change -this means that half (possibly more, if there are undecided) has voted against change.  In that case, a new plea should be made, so that a true grand majority is found.  One vote is on the border of majority (of course, I don't have a solution as to what constitutes a grand majority...).

It is trite that the authors introduce a problem into the marriage of Isolder and Tenenial Djo just at the moment when Leia is having marital problems as well.  He even seems to court her again, and she avoids him because she might be tempted!

So the Hapan fleet is sent to a system near Corellia.  When the true Vong target is revealed to be not Corellia but Fondor, the Hapan fleet is sent there (pretty darn quickly, compared to other transit times).

In the Corellian system, Anakin and Jacen are preparing to reactivate Centerpoint Station, the one that created an interdiction field across the system and caused some stars to go nova in Ambush at Corellia and its sequels.  It takes Anakin one page to decide to do this, and a paragraph to achieve it.  When he decides not to fire, Han's cousin, Thrackan Sal-Solo (from that same series) takes the controls and fires at the Vong fleet, destroying half of it, but also decimating three quarters of the Hapan fleet at the same time!

After spending so much time telling us that only Anakin could operate Centerpoint Station (as well as being the only one who could reactivate it), how did Sal-Solo manage to take control?  This opens a can of worms that I don't think should have been touched.  It looks like Corellia is ready to separate from the New Republic again, now that Sal-Solo is a hero, but how can the authors justify not using the station again in the future, even if they do separate?  I sure would have liked to see Corran Horn's opinions on this.

I don't understand Jacen's reluctance to fight the Vong.  He advocates not using Centerpoint, and doesn't want the Jedi to take up the New Republic's cause.  What would he have them do?  Anakin would not have been even close to touching the Dark Side if he had shot the station's powerful beam, and he is sure that he could do it with so much more accuracy, sparing the Hapan fleet.  He would have been a hero, brought public opinion over to the Jedi, and allowed the New Republic to route the Vong invasion without any more death.  Instead, he listens to Jacen, and somehow believes that Luke, Leia and Han would be angry if he did shoot the thing.  He seems to have learned a lesson, though.  Let's hope that he uses that knowledge in the future.  

Another plot is related to the Intelligence-gathering.  A defense commodore tells Senator Viqi Shesh of Kuat about the trap laying in wait at Corellia, hoping to lure the Vong to that station to be trapped by Centerpoint.  However, instead of laying the trap, she tells the Hutts about the trap, thus alerting the Vong, and making sure that they don't attack.  It is pretty certain that she is the one who tried to get Elan rescued in Hero's Trial, and she gives this information to "right a wrong" for her mistake earlier.  By the end of the book, she is in a high council seat, and doing business with a disguised Nom Anor.  

The Yuuzhan Vong point of view is pretty much wasted here. We are introduced to the new Supreme Commander Choka, who is preparing the way for Warmaster Lah (seen last in Ruin).  Various gross things happen, and they scheme against the New Republic and the Hutts, but none of these are worth mentioning.  The Vong seem to have created dragons, yet another invincible vehicle...  I hate seeing so-called invincible weapons, from the Sun Crusher, all the way back to that AT-AT on Hoth which was unaffected by a powerful laser strike to the knee in The Empire Strikes Back, or seeing not a scratch on Dominion ships in Deep Space Nine's "The Search".  It makes the enemy seem too powerful, which usually means that we have to resort to magical cures like Centerpoint in order to defeat them.  Finally, why are the female Vong attendants veiled?  It was put in as a side note in Borga's palace, but it doesn't make sense.  Just as it doesn't make sense that all the Vong warriors that we see are male.  

In yet another subplot, Wurth Skidder allows himself to be captured by the Vong, and ends up on the same ship as Roa and more of Droma's clan-mates, including his sister.  There, they are made to fondle a war-coordinator (a yammosk) so that it grows.  Pretty boring stuff, until Skidder decides to communicate with the yammosk.  He had the Ryn tell a young Randa the Hutt his fortune, that the Vong would betray him, and then tried to tell the yammosk the same thing.  But the yammosk recognized the Jedi, being spawned from the one in Vector Prime.  So it alerts the Vong and breaks him the same way the other yammosk did to Miko.  I was genuinely pleased how Skidder's plan backfired, but it was still for nothing.  

The Hutts let the Jedi know that Skidder was on board a ship headed for Kalarba (!), so that Kyp and others mounted a rescue.  They manage to rescue the prisoners and destroy the yammosk's ship when it arrives at Fondor, so that Roa greets Han and Droma meets his sister again, but Skidder dies!  Why go to all the trouble of putting Skidder through that when it doesn't amount to anything?  They get no special intelligence either way (I would have been happy if the Vong got information from Skidder, too).  Perhaps they can autopsy Skidder and find out how the yammosk defeated him.  But I doubt that will happen.  So we get the death of a character who was just beginning to get interesting after a short cameo in the other books.

What was the war coordinator doing at Fondor, anyway?  It wasn't coordinating the spaceships, which seemed to do just fine without it.  These guys were nothing compared to the fighters in Vector Prime.  If the yammosk was as important as it was made out to be, why didn't the fighters come to protect it until after it was killed?  The ship was disabled for a long time, and the boarding party was only protected by three X-Wings!  

This book could not have been written without the existence of the rest of the expanded universe books -and it relies on them to the exclusion of a real plot.  It's as if the author tried to insert every single thing possible from other books, even to inserting a possibly memory-wiped Bollux, Han's annoying droid that he picked up at Star's End, this time called Baffle!  Without The Courtship of Princess Leia or Showdown at Centerpoint, two thirds of this book would have disappeared.  And the rest was occupied by minor characters who won't likely be seen again.  

At some points, the author stops the whole story to tell us the backstory of these events.  At other times, he assumes we have an intimate knowledge of what happened, such as barely giving a description of the relationship between the Corellian system's three species. There were way too many things happening, and the book didn't seem to know where it wanted to go.

I was beginning to feel tension building when the trap was laid at Corellia, so close to the end, and I wondered if the battle that was obviously coming up was going to be worth it.  Unfortunately, it was not.  

All this book managed to do was further fraction the galaxy; the Hapan fleet is decimated (though they have vowed to fight harder now for vengeance), the defence and intelligence forces are discredited, as are the politicians, the Jedi (who also supplied poor information, but were not really part of it) are further ridiculed.  But none of this happened in a believable or interesting way.

Han's part was the worst!  It was so dull that I almost found myself skipping pages.  His split from Leia is not believable, and even by the end, they are bickering.  More human?  Perhaps.  But these are not the people we know.  Han has always been a dedicated man, and his family has always come first -even before Chewbacca.  To have him give them up is more than disappointing; it's frustrating, and it feels false.  I am so happy that his relationship with Droma is ended.  How could every second person in this book recognize what a Ryn is, but Han didn't know in the last book?  He has traveled more of the galaxy than most people! Droma was no replacement for Chewie, and I hated the character, anyway.  

So what did this book give us?  Not much.  The New Republic seems to be in more chaos than before we started, thus the title of the duology.  Han and Leia are even more estranged. We don't know if Mara is fully or only temporarily healed, Talon Karrde was completely wasted, and we didn't hear anything about Vergere.  Except for a few more worlds fallen to the Yuuzhan Vong, nothing much happened here.  As in all the other books, the Vong were defeated in the final showdown, but at an incredible price to the good guys.  Are we ever going to see a one-sided victory, on either side?  

After re-reading The Truce at Bakura, I am really looking forward to reading Balance Point by the same author, Kathy Tyers.  I have not been impressed by the New Jedi Order since the first half of Vector Prime.  All I have for this book are complaints.  Here's hoping that she can turn the series around.


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