||Exciting, thoughtful, with excellent
characters and situations. However, it seems to be little more than a
gathering of old heroes and minor skirmishes.
It's nice to see the New Jedi Order return
to form after a disappointing Dark Journey. In fact, it is only where
Rebel Dream tries to focus on things that happened in the preceding book
that it starts to suffer.
I literally devoured every word on
every page in the first half of the book. I guess I hungered for more
classic Star Wars, with the characters that I know and love (and some
that I love to hate).
Right from the beginning, which starts
"a month ago", meaning before Dark Journey ended, the action starts up,
a great way to start a book. Wedge and the remains of his fleet decide
to take up residence on Borleias, a planet that was lost to the Yuuzhan
Vong just before they decided to take Coruscant, in
Star by Star. The
rest of the book takes place on and around that planet, after they
quickly destroy the Vong forces there.
The book is much smaller scale than
Star by Star, dealing only with this group of people, which includes all
the major characters, like Luke and Mara, Han and Leia, and eventually,
Jaina, Kyp and Jag Fel. Contrived that all these people would end up in
the same place? I don't think so, once they've found out that Wedge is
commanding. Because we are dealing with the author who created
Squadron, we get to see some of their faces, as well, and deal with some
of their jokes, like the flying Ewok!
For the most part, the humor worked
well in this book. I don't recall any other New Jedi Order book with
this kind of successful humor. A lot was tried in the
Agents of Chaos
duology, but most of that failed miserably. Wedge and Tycho had the best
lines, since they know each other so well. Tycho's line about Wedge not
being able to fail, even when he tries to, was hilarious! It was
inevitable that Wedge come out of retirement once things started getting
bad, since he is still able, and is a natural leader. He's probably too
old, but so are Han and Lando!
Speaking of Lando, his humor only
worked somewhat. The banter between him and his battle droid seemed like
an inside joke, and I assume it is, because it reminded me so much of
his relationship with the droid in the
Lando Calrissian Adventures,
which I did not really enjoy.
Once Wedge takes command of the base,
the government tries to take control, as well. The new leader is a
Quarren, and though it makes a show of caring, it is obvious that all it
wants to do is appease the Yuuzhan Vong. They leave Wedge with enough
forces to make Borleias look important, but not enough to properly
defend it. Then they leave!
This is where the title of the book
comes in, as Wedge and all the old heroes form a secret Rebel Alliance.
They declare the New Republic to be dead, and plan to start something
It appears that this is what the
editors of this series are after. A brand new beginning for the next
step after the New Republic, without even Coruscant to be used as a
symbol. Throughout the book, we are informed that Coruscant is being
reshaped, the planet formed anew, though slowly, and that there may be
something wrong with the shaping process. Since the New Republic seemed
to bring back all the corruption of the Old Republic in such a short
time, it obviously didn't work. I just wonder what they plan to replace
Through the first half of the book, we
get to go inside the heads of the major players. The banter between Luke
and Mara, Wedge and Iella, and the rest of the pilots and advisors was
really neat, but getting inside their heads, reading their thoughts,
made the book even more exciting. I loved the introspection we got from
Luke, especially. His thoughts, the vision of a Dark Force on Coruscant
(the Dark Jedi who escaped the worldship in Star by Star?), and his insights really
flowed, showing why we still love to read about the character even if he
is aging. He even gets to fly his x-wing and drop Force-guided shadow
bombs. Apparently he still has the battle instinct!
In fact, all of the character aspects of this book were dead
on. Wedge moves through the book like he is
still part of the Wraiths. His most important ally is deception. He lays
traps and waits for the Vong to jump into them. He manipulates them so
well, that even after they fail, they don't realize they have been
manipulated. My favorite part, however, was when Wedge's plans went
wrong. As he said to Jaina at the end of the book, sometimes his forces
did their jobs too well! When setting up the look of a vulnerable base,
in spite of the Senate, the super Star Destroyer Lusankya and the
Millennium Falcon appear right in the middle of the Vong fleet,
decimating it! It made the battles worse in the long run, but it was a
major victory at the wrong time, when setting up a trap!
Only the introduction of the characters
seemed to be a little stilted at the beginning of the book. They were
kept short, giving us a description of the characters with short
sentences before finally telling us "she was Viqi Shesh" or somebody
else. Once the characters were introduced, everything went back to
Yes, Viqi Shesh is in this book, now on
the worldship of Tsavong Lah. She sows descent there, as well, creating
distrust between Lah and the shapers who attached his new arm implant,
which is not healing well. This is a bad sign from the gods, until it is
discovered (by the shaper Nen Yim from Rebirth) that it is a very
strange implant, not normal, and there may be a plot among the shapers
to remove him, after all!
Shesh also controls a human spy, Tam
Elgrin, who is
discovered by the very efficient Iella and put to good use by Danni
Quee. Because some of Wedge's plans didn't work out, they fed him
information on a potential new weapon, similar to the crystal that
Anakin used in his lightsaber in Conquest, which would be capable of
firing massive laser bursts from Borleias to the worldship at Coruscant.
This causes the Vong to react in a premature and hasty attack that puts their ground
troops at the mercy of an orbital bombardment from the Star Destroyers!
Wedge might not like the Empire's tactics, but he has to admire how they
would work when properly executed.
On this same topic, I admired the very
minor subplot about the commander of the Lusankya. Davip managed to seem
very rule-happy at the beginning, which made his desire to be useful at
the end much more entertaining. I loved his transformation into a true
We also get to know a little more about
the Yuuzhan Vong social structure. I really liked the fact that Tsavong
Lah's father opposed the invasion of this galaxy. Dissent is always
good. It begs the question of how long the Vong have been traveling
between galaxies, though, if he was a great warmaster in the past. I
figured it had to be several generations since they left their natural
space, but unless they have lifespans longer than Wookies, I guess
that's not the case.
On the other hand, I was disappointed
to learn that the Yuuzhan Vong seem to have a familiar family structure.
Why does Tsavong Lah have to have a father? And why wasn't it his mother
who was the great warmaster? Do the females not join the warrior caste
-if not, why not?
The only person left to cover is Jaina.
Once she arrives in the Pyria system, the book really starts to slow
down. The author of Dark Journey couldn't make her interesting in her
self-pity and death-wish, at least as far as I'm concerned, and Allston
seemed to have a similar trouble. She continues her psychological
warfare with the Vong, pretending to be their trickster goddess while
leading a fighter squadron.
Some of Jaina's tactics were neat, but
I think part of the problem is that she thinks in technical terms, and
the authors write all of her stuff in those same terms. The "love"
triangle between her, Kyp and Jag didn't seem to be stressed too much,
and it certainly did not feel false as in the previous book, to the
point where I felt it was natural for her to fall in love with Jag.
There were two really nice scenes
involving Jaina. The first was after a mission where Tahiri approaches
her and inquires as to her relationship with her mother, indicating that
she never knows when they will speak their last words. Having just lost
Anakin, Tahiri really brought some much needed emotion to Jaina's
scenes. I also loved the change that came over Jaina once she decided
(and Kyp followed) to
rescue Jag, using some cool techniques that we've seen in other books as
well as some new ones.
She let go, and decided to let people in, forgiving her mother,
understanding how Mara could leave Ben so he could live in a peaceful
galaxy, and becoming an item with Jag. It was really well written, and
Although I despised his last
installment in the Star Wars saga, the
Starfighters of Adumar, Allston
was a really good X-Wing writer, and with this excellent effort, I must
welcome him back. The end of the book felt rushed, and was not as
dramatic as it should have been, for the climax to a cliff-hanger (I
think the problem lies with having too many viewpoints at a time), the
rest of the book was very well written, the characters almost perfectly
in character, and the plot well-established.
I understand some of the complaints
that have come about this series, from a very vocal on-line community,
but I disagree with most of them. I think these authors are doing a
great job, for the most part. I felt the New Jedi Order took a long time
to get started, tripping up as soon as it was out of the gate after a
great start. My reasons for
disliking the early novels were not because they were dark, but because
they were not well written. I liked the dark nature, and I liked it a
lot that they took almost a dozen novels before the New Republic got
their act together, and by then it was too late. Overall, I love the
plot. It was the individuals that I had trouble with.
Although the broad strokes are
necessary, it's nice to have smaller viewpoints every once in a while,
because that's how we get a better feel for the characters involved,
which is the most important part of the story. My only real question
about this book is: did anything really happen here? I expect that we'll hear
a lot more about what is happening in the galaxy in the next hardcover
novel, so I am content with this for now.