||This was a difficult book to get through, especially at the
beginning. This author can write some good stuff, and is great at the
details. Unfortunately, at least for getting into the story, the details
were just too alien for me.
My favorite parts of the book are those
that take place outside the collective hives, especially the moments
between Luke and Mara. I still can't believe how well these two
characters are written. Their love for each other really shines through.
The authors also use subtle sexual references between them, which never
happened with Han and Leia.
There is a gap between the end of the
New Jedi Order series and this one. Suddenly, Ben Skywalker is eight
years old! And he's quite rebellious, even shying away from the Force.
The author uses the story to showcase
what the New Jedi Order has actually become, and how Luke is coming to
terms with it -or not. He uses the Light and Dark sides of the Force,
including Force Lightning. He condones the torture of one of the
insects. He does not like what he and the other Jedi have become. They
are also becoming servants to the Galactic Alliance, which none of them
like. I enjoy all of this questioning, and I am genuinely interested in
where it is going. I wondered if George Lucas took exception to the new
view of the Force, and asked the authors to bring it back in line with
The plot of the story revolves around a
border dispute between the insect Killiks and the Chiss. I think it's
funny that everybody calls them bugs or Kind, until the Killik Twilight
painting is shown, after which everybody calls them Killiks -even the
people who weren't there when the painting was discussed. The painting,
of course, is the one Han and Leia went to so much trouble obtaining in
Tatooine Ghost, written by the same author. It depicts an insectile
nesting structure that predated human colonization of Alderaan. Through
the story, the Killiks claim to have spanned the galaxy, and build
Centerpoint Station and the Maw black hole cluster. The narration,
though, tells us that they were there when those things were built, and
probably swept away to this dark corner of the galaxy by those same
creators. Their collective memory is rather fluid.
We also get some hints of the mysteries
left behind by other books. The Empire of the Hand from
Vision of the
Future was gone in the New Jedi Order book Refugee. Apparently, it
is important that Baron Fel had an unknown, secret, son. The big
question is whether it actually means anything.
The insect hives are important because
the young Jedi who survived the mission from Star by Star are
mysteriously called to the colony, and all but Tenel Ka actually go.
Jaina and Zekk are most susceptible, but Tahiri leaves Zonoma Sekot (we
get a small glimpse of the humiliated Vong), and Jacen leaves the
Fallassani to go. Jacen has certainly grown even more powerful in the
Force. He has learned to communicate across time and to do things the
other Jedi cannot do. He has been exploring all the various ways the
Force is used in the galaxy.
It is Raynar Thul, who disappeared in
Star by Star, who has summoned them. He was mortally wounded in a crash
when the fighter the dark Jedi stole with him on it entered the colony.
The insects managed to heal him, but he joined with them, as a hybrid.
The colony, which has a hive mind, adopted his Jedi principles, suddenly
starting to care for their wounded and the wounded of their enemies. The
various hives joined together, and he became the leader, the UnuThul.
Like the Tribbles, as described by Worf in Trials and Tribbillations,
the Colony suddenly began devastating its landscape in order to survive,
as its population exploded. The Chiss don't like the colony on their
back doorstep, and have poisoned the nearest colonies.
All throughout, there is the sense that
something is very wrong. The young Jedi, with the exception of Jacen,
become Joiners, humanoids who are seriously influenced by the hive
minds. Luke, Mara, Han and Leia go to investigate the disappearance of
the Jedi, and are impeded throughout their search. But we learn a lot
about the hives in the process. There was so much detail, however, and
it was so alien a society, that it was difficult to become interested
enough in it to really care about it. Especially when we learned about
what it did with the Jedi, and how they deny the very reality that
someone is out to kill Luke and the others.
I like the way Han draws the conclusion
that Jaina and the others are looking for a cause, much as Leia had led
the Rebel Alliance against the Empire, so she is more easily influenced
by the plight of the colony. A true Jedi, as Luke explains, should look
at both sides of a conflict dispassionately.
In the end, they discover a Dark Nest,
which took on the attitudes of the two dark Jedi, Welk and Lomi Plo. In
a battle reminiscent in scale and detail of Star by Star,
but not as momentous, Luke and the
others enter the dark nest and kill probably thousands of dark blue Killiks, and Welk. Lomi Plo escapes as does the Twilek Jedi
Alema Rar, who
appears to have gone over to the Dark Side. When Raynar finally arrives,
he is furious, and incoherent. Leia has to guide him through a series of
illogical conclusions to get him to agree to her plan of relocation, as
far from the Chiss border as she can get him (Since he chooses not to
remember rescuing the dark Jedi from the crash, she convinces him that when a nest
absorbs too many Chiss joiners, it becomes a Dark Nest -ha!).
It is pretty clear, from the beginning
of the story, that the Galactic Alliance is crumbling. It didn't even
last as long as the New Republic. Through his journey, Han decides that
Leia is in her element back doing diplomatic tasks like making peace
between battling enemies. But the best part of this: Leia finally
decides to become a full-fledged Jedi, giving up her co-pilot duties of
the Millennium Falcon, and diplomacy. It's about time! The next question
is what Luke will do with the Jedi Order. I love the way the Academy has
been relocated to Ossus! Very appropriate.
There is another tiny plot in this
book, which I hope will become larger in the next book. The title,
Unseen Queen, most likely applies to Lomi Plo, but could also apply to
Padmé Amidala. Luke and Leia still don't know their mother's identity,
but Luke has stumbled on a memory of R2D2's that contains her image, and
of her speaking to Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, presumably from
Revenge of the Sith.
There are so many little elements like
this in the book, that it is hard not to like, if it wasn't for the main
plot. The character touches were amazing. I think Saba Sebatyne is my
new favorite expanded universe character. I love the way she can embrace
her violent nature without even coming close to the Dark Side.
Other things really bugged me, mostly
with the main plot. I didn't like all the swearing, even if it uses
different words than we consider to be swears. The writing style seemed
much too contemporary, using so many slang terms and phrases that are
used now, but will not survive the test of time ("stop that
chest-heaving thing..." and so on). Most of all, I don't like the idea
of Jedi being brainwashed like these so easily were, nor that Raynar,
through the will of the hive, is stronger in the Force than Luke (I
wonder if Jacen is stronger).
So I'm really torn about this book. I
think all of the small points are going to be important, and they were
really well written. I only wish the main plot was
a little less mixed up (the collective mind is one thing, but the
conscious/ subconsious hive/ dark nest concept is weird). Regardless,
the book had enough really good points that it is worth
recommending. Plus, it is undoubtedly essential reading before moving
into the Legacy of the Force series.