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A novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1996, Bantam Spectra)
17 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

A Dark Force user attempts to subvert the New Republic, while Leia deals with former Imperials becoming new members of the senate.



2+ stars+

Read February 11th to 18th, 2003 for the second time  
    There was a really good story here, unfortunately, the author couldn't quite get it out.

I have three main issues with this book. The first is the author's writing style, which was very annoying. She seems to use short, clipped sentences and three word paragraphs to try and increase tension. It seems juvenile, and in order to get a sense of what she was saying, I strung many sentences together at a time, which took additional effort.

My second issue concerns the plot, and the way the characters reacted to it. There were so many little things that didn't make any sense. Han never changed the codes on the Falcon -ever? I don't believe Lando is in such good shape to tread water for an entire day, either. Would the fire created inside a Glotalphib actually be hot enough, and sustainable enough to cause a metal floor to scorch? Or lasers to boil a pond of water? Luke is not one to pick up irritable habits, like Leia. He would not have to reassure himself that his lightsaber was on his hip, especially in a physical manner.

I had more and more concerns as the climax of the book drew nearer. Since when does one person's hatred or fear fuel another person's Dark Side Force, not to mention pain from across the galaxy? To top it all off, however, I dropped the rating of this book by half a star when Wedge blew up a Star Destroyer with a single short-range blaster shot! I know that those ships have a weak spot, but it still takes a lot of firepower or missiles when the shields are down before it can be exploited, as evidenced by the X-Wing video game.

With all the continuity-grabbing this author did, I wonder why Han didn't remember the trick he used in the Corporate Sector before Star's End to get out of a tractor beam -stretching it and then suddenly changing direction. I actually enjoyed most of the stuff mentioned from other books, except when it stopped the plot to explain them. It treated so many of the previous books consistently, which is to be commended.

My third complaint regards the ease with which people accept information as true. This happens everywhere throughout the book, from Han on Smuggler's Run to Wedge, Leia and Mon Mothma with regards to Luke's (R2's) anonymous message. However, the accusation about Han bombing the Senate Chamber has to be the worst case documented in this book. The author only presented one view, and then Leia's. Why were so many people swayed by such an obvious fake? As Leia points out, anybody could have sent such a message. That evidence doesn't hold up to any kind of law. We needed another voice of reason. Instead, we got a threat to Leia's Presidency, which felt very contrived.

This is unfortunate, because I loved Leia's reaction to the election of so many former Imperials. Leia professes that this is not the old Imperial Senate, but proves through her reactions that it really is. The New Republic doesn't work by this point! Leia was being treated exactly the way she was planning to treat the former Imperials. She was holding back progress as much as they were, with her attitudes. No wonder the publishers decided to shake things up with an alien invasion.

The stories in this book, which don't converge until the very end, for the most part, were interwoven quite well. I never had the sense that we would be left too long away from a character, nor that the points of view switched too often or by rote.

The bombing creates nice sub-plots for everybody from the Classic Trilogy, something that hasn't been done often. R2D2 and C3PO get to be hilarious with their own adventure, after R2 discovers that there are detonation devices in all the upgraded X-Wings. There were many clichéd moments, with so much dialog taken from the movies, but still, I rather enjoyed it, with the droids getting imprisoned, then R2 helping Cole fix Luke's fighter (though I for confused about the geometry -how did R2 look down into an X-Wing from the ground?). After some private investigation of his own, R2 discovers that the bombs were in the droids the Senators had at their sides, and so sets off to Telti, where the droids were manufactured!

What I have the most trouble believing in this book is the "fact" that millions of people on millions of worlds, had these droids, enough to wipe of significant populations, all in two years of construction. Surely they couldn't track down every Jawa who had a droid of theirs, knowing exactly where they went, or that nobody traded waith others from another planet.

As noted in my short review from the first time I read this book, I found R2's journey through the droid factory to be a little much, as well, especially when he deactivates the signals at the last second, and it even appears that he did so after the event was initialized!

Han got a lead about the Senate bombing being related to Smuggler's Run, so he and Chewbacca got to have an adventure of their own, as well. The storyline seems serious enough, but after the droids, these two get the most humor of the story. It is played for as many laughs as possible, with and without dialog, with some simple shocked expressions that made it feel like a visual medium.

Han and Chewie get to move into and out of danger, but they get to do something useful when the discover Lando has been taken prisoner by somebody he upset decades ago, Nandreeson. The only reason Lando was on the Run was to warn Han about being set up, but that message had to wait until the end of the book. I liked the Nandreeson story, as well as the Glotalphib aliens. These are creatures we have not seen before (or again, I think), being able to breathe fire out of their snouts! I do think they were overwhelmed too easily, though.

Finally, there is the Force part of the story. Luke goes in search of Brakiss, from a vision he had after the Senate bombing. He is severely injured (by floating bubble-creatures!), but rescued by Brakiss' mother, who sends him to Telti, where he confronts his former student. Luke defeats Brakiss, but lets him go (something that will haunt him later, in Shadow Academy). I liked seeing a backstory for this character, who we grew to hate (in a good way) in the Young Jedi Knights series.

Luke is then sent to Almania, where Kueller waits for him. Kueller is angry that the New Republic allowed a massacre to take place on Almania a couple of years ago; he believes it to be ineffective, and wants to lead it himself- with an iron fist. Although I agree about the ineffectiveness, the New Republic was busy with the Black Fleet Crisis at the time.

Luke's X-Wing explodes above Almania's moon Pydyr, so he is even more injured. Is this the only way the author could have an even match between Luke and Kueller? The same thing happened in Children of the Jedi. At this point in the timeline, I would have loved to see a fully functional Luke in action. Thankfully the New Jedi Order shows us some of that.

I don't know why the deaths on the worlds where the droids exploded affected the people the way they did. The idea that all Force-sensitives could feel massive disturbances in the Force all the time seems foolish. I am glad the author pointed out that some of Luke's students didn't feel it. As I said in Star By Star, I think it's absurd that a Force catastrophe could incapacitate people, making Leia collapse to the floor, or Luke tumble over physically. Why didn't it cause Kueller to collapse? Not because he was ready for it, and not because he was feeding off it, either.

The timing was also off a little on some of the events. Kueller says he took the wealth from a planet that was just destroyed days ago, to spend on his rebellion. The blast that destroyed the droids in Smuggler's Run blew up before Leia got R2's message (from "Luke") to turn off the droids, before she warned Wedge. That is certain, for she felt the death, then checked her mail. It is not possible that all of the fleet's droids were stolen, either.

Once Leia resigned her Presidency, I thought we would get to see some more interesting politics, as Mon Mothma took control and brought the Council to bear. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. Instead, we follow Leia as she goes to try and rescue Luke. She takes Wedge along for good measure, where he gets to blow up droid-controlled Star Destroyers. I did like his tactics against the droids, though; pretend friends are enemies, and they protected him. I also loved the moment when Leia and Wedge are interrogating Cole! Never get on the wrong side of those two!

The Thernbee that allows Luke to escape seemed a little contrived. I feel that most large creatures now are all sedate and misunderstood things. The rancor in Jabba's Palace took runs in the desert, the Wampa organized a band of protection on Hoth in Darksaber, and now this giant has enough intelligence to guide Luke around.

In the anticlimactic ending, Han and Mara Jade bring a ysalamiri to stop Kueller, who battles Luke and Leia. I did like the way the Thernbee kept the ysalamiri alive in its stomach long enough to disrupt Kueller and Luke, so that even though Han felt helpless, he actually saved Luke's life!

Mara was barely in this book, and for all of that time, she was completely out of character. Personally, I think she was worried about Luke, a prelude to their relationship to come. However, I kept wondering why Han or Mara didn't shoot Kueller. Han might not have known his plan worked, but Mara should have. Similarly, if Kueller was close enough to be about to kill Luke, the Jedi Master should have been close enough to slice through his opponent as well, especially when the remote was being activated.

Thankfully, Leia figured it out, but too late. It's a good thing R2 was about to turn off the signal from Telti at that moment. I really wonder what the fuss was about with Leia shooting Kueller. They seemed concerned that she would turn down the Dark path because of it, but that was the only way to save billions of lives -worth the risk, if it was a risk (which I disagree).

There was really no resolution to this book, either, other than Kueller being killed. We get about a sentence each concerning R2, Cole, and the political situation. After all the time spent setting the situations up, we should have at least heard an apology to Han, and for Leia to face her attitude towards and from the Imperials. This is sorely missing from the book.

I am surprised that nobody in the New Jedi Order has mentioned the droid incidents in regards to the Yuuzhan Vong, especially since droids are being removed from many societies in anticipation of a Vong victory. Certainly some planets removed all droids after this incident...

Finally, the entire beginning of the book, regarding the Senate, had me amazed at how the imagination of George Lucas eclipses so many of these authors. There was no way to link this Senate chamber to the one that we saw in Episode I. This, of course, can be forgiven, since no details of that movie were available. However, it was frustrating to see the author's description of Coruscant, since that planet has been well-described in the past. The bar that Han visits cannot be underground and still allow the Senate chamber to be visible. I doubt anything is underground on Coruscant. There is definitely no space for a lawn around Coruscant, even for the Senate. It sounded more like a description of Washington, D.C.

After all that, I did enjoy the story, though it could have used a lot of work. The author's writing style did nothing for me, with clipped sentences that made the chapters tedious, and other sentences that read like "Han went to check on Lando, to see if Lando was okay." repeating names so often, probably trying to avoid confusion, but sewing it, instead.

There were a lot of strange plot notes, and the ending lacked a resolution, however the individual stories were interesting in their own right. Leia's political situation was very absorbing until it fizzled out. Luke's search was mysterious until we learned that Kueller was one of his students. Lando and Han got to have their fun on the Run, and even R2 and C3PO got to travel the galaxy. That is unusual in most books, and was greatly appreciated. They were very well intertwined, but could have been so much more if they had been handled better.

As contrast to what I wrote below, this is definitely not one of the best Star Wars books.



4 stars

Read November 5th to 17th, 1997  
    The best SW novel I've read since the Thrawn trilogy!  (Do I keep saying that?)  It set up the mystery right from the start, and I had no idea who was doing it, or what it was about.  As things happened, I got a sense of knowing, figuring out what was going on as the characters did, or sometimes before them.  The ending was fairly predictable, but still very well done.  The one thing that brings this book down was the use of R2D2 as such a completely resourceful droid.  To take down an entire factory by rallying a bunch of droids?  Sounds too contrived, especially when he prevents millions of deaths at the last moment.  

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