||This book holds up a lot better than I
remember. This was the author's first foray into the Star Wars universe,
and this trilogy is, in my mind, unquestionably the best of his work.
Even so, I don't really like his writing style, and I can't quite figure
out why. I'm reminded of James Luceno's work, which I thought was
horrible in Hero's Trial, but wonderful by the time he got to
Unifying Force. Kevin J. Anderson's work, unfortunately, didn't get any
better. Darksaber I remember as being mediocre, and the Young Jedi
Knights, though they started off well, became mediocre as well.
On the other hand, the story is very
strong, and the characters are in-character. The various stories were
intertwined reasonably well, and I enjoyed much of the book.
Unfortunately, Luke's portion was probably the weakest. He addresses the
Senate, which seems very small compared to what we later found out the
old senate looked like, asking for permission to start a Jedi academy.
The senate is ruled by all the former heroes of the Rebellion, which
seems also rather weak, but is characteristic of the whole novel. He
then travels to a double planet that will tear itself apart in a
millennium, where he has heard that a descendent of a Jedi might live.
He finds Gantoris, who puts him through various tests before he agrees
to follow Luke back to Coruscant. The tests were rather primitive, but
probably all the primitive people could come up with, but I was a little
embarrassed with Luke while reading. Fortunately, Luke is confident and
does pass the tests rather easily, but he doesn't really require much
use of the Force to do it, except to walk on lava, which was impressive.
Luke promises to find a suitable planet to relocate Gantoris' people.
Luke and Gantoris then go to find
Streen, who lives alone on the abandoned cloud city. Strange to
see the city is such disorder, that it is slightly tilted from
repulsorlift neglect, its walls are corroding, and its buildings are
crumbling. I don't recall hearing more about this city until
Cloud City, where the place has been completely restored. How many
credits did that take, given what we learn here? And that book was
written by the same author! Anyway, they find Streen and easily convince
him to leave, where Luke can teach him to close his mind to the myriad
thoughts of all the people around him.
C3PO and R2D2, back on Coruscant, find
another potential Jedi candidate, an extremely lucky gambler, in their
search through various records. Just at that moment, Lando pays Leia a
visit, and is offered this mission. Lando is stuck with the two droids,
but enjoys himself nonetheless, especially since he is watching a race
with other gamblers. The man, Tymmo, is not Jedi material, however,
cheats at the races, trying to win enough money to get offworld where
his mistress, a royal duchess, won't find him. Instead, Lando captures
him and gets the reward for his return. I thought that this story was
more filler than anything else, but at least it was in a different kind
of setting than we're used to.
Leia is waiting on the Ambassador from
Carida, an Imperial training facility she really wants to join the New
Republic. Ambassador Furgan is openly hostile to Leia and all she
represents. I don't know why they insisted on bringing him to Coruscant
at all. He makes the pilgrimage to see his former Emperor's palace, but
it is all a ruse, so he can throw a drink in Mon Mothma's face. He makes
a grand scene, but even though my first thought was that he should have
been detained, throwing a drink in somebody's face, even the chief of
state, is a sign of disrespect, not a criminal act -though it should be.
Especially since that was no mere drink. We'll find out in one of the
two later novels that
this was a poison. Leia is taking on more and more duties since the New
Republic started growing, but this is where she starts to get even
busier, something she regrets, now that her twins are returning from
their hidden planet.
I always found the scenes with the very
young Jacen and Jaina to be too juvenile to be entertaining. Now that I
have kids of my own, I see where the author borrowed from reality, but I
still find them to be superficial, and without real consequences.
And yet we haven't even met the real,
non-Force using villain of the trilogy. Han Solo will be the first to do
this, but not until very late in the book. I think the buildup to
finding Admiral Daala was perfectly pitched. The Force-using villain,
Exar Kun, won't make his debut until the second book. So the pacing
allows us to get to know the character situations, get them into
trouble, and out again, only to get into worse trouble, before finally
revealing Daala. It's a very nice return to good pacing, compared with
the more recent series, which have been plodding around and doing
nothing much over the course of way too many books.
Han Solo and Chewbacca go to Kessel, on
the idea that this former prison planet should also join the New
Republic. The pacing is fast in this story, but seems rather naive and
straightforward in execution. This was a time when Star Wars could get
through books like they were movies, so the dialog is snappy, though
somewhat cloying, and action defines many of the sequences. Han is
attacked immediately, and the Falcon is crashed on Kessel. The planet
itself becomes a character, with its escaping atmosphere and mining
shafts. Moruth Doole used to sell spice to smugglers like Han, before
Jabba learned Han dumped his load -because Doole tipped off the picket
ships. Doole sends Han to the spice mines, where he meets a young man
named Kyp Durron. Kyp shows off some amazing feats, but Han brushes them
off as luck. It's only as they try to escape the tunnels after being
attacked by a light spider, and their shift boss is killed, that Kyp
reveals that he has Force potential. He was even trained a little by
Vima da Boda, the crazy old Jedi woman Han and Leia met in
So they manage to escape, and steal a
shuttle, but Doole attacks them with all his fleet, so they make a run
for the Maw, the cluster of black holes near Kessel, and source of the
Kessel Run. I like the way the author explains Han's apparent misstep
about the Kessel Run in A New Hope, as a distance skimming the black
holes, rather than Han's ignorance. It does, however, seem unlikely that Kessel could be within range of a non-hyperspace capable ship of the
black hole cluster. Both Han and Chewie, and Luke and Lando (who go
searching for their missing friends), make a run for the black holes as
they've barely edged out of range of the planet, never mind the edge of
the solar system!
But it's fun anyway. And when Kyp
guides them through the safe corridor between the black holes, they find
four Imperial Star Destroyers and an asteroid research facility. There
is way too much explanation about how Admiral Daala defeated the
anti-female prejudice to become a secret Admiral, even though she was
also Grand Moff Tarkin's lover, which diminishes the worth of her
promotion. Daala interrogates both Han and Kyp, and
based on the information Han gives her, decides to mobilize against the
New Republic, attacking with her own new Sun Crusher.
Qui Xux is the main scientist on the
asteroid, chief designer of various superweapons, but completely naive
of what the Empire was using them for. She designed the Death Star as
something to break through uninhabited planets to access rare metals.
The World Devastators from Dark Empire were supposed to be manufacturing
centers. Han explains how they were used, and can't believe how she
deceived herself, given the names of these devices. So when Daala tells
Qui that the sun crusher will be used to destroy the New Republic, Qui
rescues Han, Kyp and Chewie, and they all escape in the Sun Crusher.
I liked the scene where Han crashes
through the bridge of a Star Destroyer, causing it to be completely
destroyed, as the Sun Crusher has nearly invincible hull plating. It
does seem to be a major weakness of Star Destroyers that if they lose
the primary bridge, the whole ship will be destroyed. This happened in
Return of the Jedi, too, but there at least there it might have
sustained other damage beforehand to explain the result.
Daala chases the Sun Crusher out of the
Maw, into a maelstrom of fighters around Kessel, which are trying to
prevent Luke and Lando from escaping in the Millennium Falcon. This
shows how close the black holes are to Kessel -impossibly close! The two
New Republic ships disappear, allowing the two fleets to destroy
themselves. Daala actually loses another Star Destroyer in this battle
-not the best commander, is she?
Unlike the Force-headache theory of a Jedi among clones proposed in
Force Rising by Timothy Zahn, the two techniques described here for
finding a Force-sensitive person does not contradict what came much
later in the movies, though they are a little strange. The place in the
brain that physically throws Luke backward could actually complement the
midi-chlorians. And the paddles used to show a Force-aura might have
been developed later. Wedge finds the latter while using a forty story
robot to clean up the colossal damage caused by the war in
Part of my problem with the author's
writing style has to do with his frequent references to the movies,
mirroring them as closely as possible, but in a different light. I love
the cross-references from all the aspects of the Star Wars novels, but
this one seemed to have way too many frivolous and unsubtle references
to the movies and the few books that had been published to this time. I
prefer subtle references, while these were way too obvious, often using
the titles of the novels in the references! Statements like "Han's
courtship of Princess Leia", or "after
the truce at Bakura..." show
little imagination. But maybe that's what the author was after.
Regardless, this novel was enjoyable,
and I had fun especially with Han's part. It is building to a climax
that has not yet been reached, through a gentle buildup that feels a lot
like Star Wars, though more innocent.