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A novel by Aaron Allston (2002, Del Rey)
1 in the New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines Duology
27 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Abandoned by the New Republic government, Wedge Antilles leads a remnant of the fleet in an attempt to hold onto a strategic planet near Coruscant.



3+ stars+

Read January 23rd to 28th, 2003  
    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 Wraith 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 new.

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 it with.

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 normal.

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 leader.

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 very interesting.

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.


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