A novel by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
(1996, Bantam Spectra)
Book 2 of The Black Fleet Crisis
16 years after Star Wars: A New Hope
War erupts on both the political and military fronts, as Luke
searches for his mother, and Lando and the droids chase after a vagabond ship.
Read January 1st to
Once again, I enjoyed the writing style of
this author. Unfortunately, two thirds of this book were forgettable.
The part that dealt with the politics almost made up for it, as it was
very interesting, and we can feel that something is going to change,
This book was frustrating in that I didn’t find that there was enough of
anything. It pushed all three stories forward, but only marginally. Luke
and Lando’s stories are not memorable, even though they involve
scenarios that could have been good opportunities for character
development. It’s only Leia’s story that really has some urgency to it,
and it backfires on her, though not as badly as it seems by the end of
In the Lando section of the book, he, Lobot, R2D2 and
C3PO try to figure out the ship they have boarded. It’s basically a
bunch of speculations about how to communicate with it, and how to get
inside. Eventually, they find a way to burn through the self-healing
walls and get into another chamber, but that one becomes dangerous. When
the ship stops, Lando burns through a bunch more walls to activate an
antenna to the outside. The room he finds himself in contains a history
of the Qella species (including one exhibit that spouts fire to show how
they destroyed themselves, nearly destroying the watchers). The story
barely progressed, and once again was distracting because I knew that it
had zero impact on the overall arc of the trilogy. There are a couple of
external viewpoints that I appreciated, one from the researchers who go
to explore the Qella homeworld, most of whom die and are encased in the
ice, as well as the discovery of the Vagabond by an Imperial patrol near
the Core, which shows how frontier the Empire is by this point in the
Luke’s story didn’t fare that much better, but at least he
discovers something about himself. Unfortunately, this is the book that
really starts the discussion of how much Dark Side energy Luke carries
within him, which continues into the future of the novels as far as they
go. Akanah tried once again to convince him that he does not need his
lightsaber, that he could protect himself using the White, even from
those who try to kill him –and they wouldn’t be harmed. Luke doesn’t
bring up the obvious counter-argument, which is to fight for others, as
the people who want to kill him would certainly go after others
afterwards. But Akanah feels the shame and guilt of any life that is
lost (I wonder how she feels about animals), and so refuses to kill, and
doesn’t want Luke to kill, either.
They travel to a couple more
planets, one to collect information from a former contact who left many
years ago, and another which Akanah lies to Luke about, as she goes to
find her father, not the Fallassani. It’s sad that her father doesn’t
remember her, having traded long-term memory for blissful drugs. But it
allows her to open up to Luke finally, and they become more trusting.
Still, they haven’t found anything, and the search is not actually all
that interesting. Fortunately, the author’s writing skills help out
here, making the story pass quickly. Luke, for his part, does a search
on Akanah, her people, and the ship they were supposed to have purchased
to get offworld. There are some interesting prospects, but for the
moment, it only leads to more searches.
When we finally get to
Leia’s section, it’s like a breath of fresh air. The characters are no
longer isolated, with almost nothing to do. Here, Leia’s actions have
consequences. The opening scenes are a little forced, but who hasn’t
wanted to take an attention-grabbing cell-phone off a loved one and
throw it into the ocean? Han has always been very down-to-earth.
Leia is still reeling from the humiliation she received from Nil
Spaar in Before the Storm, who is
currently basking on his homeworld as the glorious Yevethan leader, with
women offering to mate with him and men offering their blood. Leia still
has to fend off the senate and deal somehow with a response to what the
Yevethans did within their cluster –wiping out all non-Yevethan life so
that they could settle there.
The fleet is sent to ensure that
the Yevethans don’t try to move into other sectors, and Admiral Drayson
shows Abhat how to find independent intelligence. Still, when they try
to send robotic and human scouts through every inhabited system in the
Koornacht cluster, only about half of them survive, yet they still get a
good picture of what is happening there.
Leia then allows the
military to plan a daring strike, a feint to draw out the Yevethan
forces, followed by an all-out attack. Unfortunately, the Yevethans have
already prepared for that, so their defending ships send out
communications from prisoners on board, asking the New Republic to stop
the attack, otherwise they will be killed. So many of the New Republic
forces refuse to fire on the ships that the attack is a total failure.
The only thing left for her to do is send in another strategist,
and she decides to send Han. Unfortunately, one of the disgruntled
senators takes that moment to send intelligence information to Nil
Spaar, so that the Yevethan forces capture Han. With that, the senate
now thinks the situation has become too personal for Leia, and sets up a
vote of no confidence.
Admiral Ackbar has taken a personal
interest in the young pilot who escaped from one of the planets attacked
by the Yevethans. He tries unsuccessfully to get him into the fighter
corps -he is ineligible due to the fact that his homeworld is not in the
New Republic. Ackbar pleads with Leia, who brilliantly signs a petition
to allow his world to join. He is part of the mission to deliver Han,
but will have to arrive at his destination without his leader. Even
Ackbar, who mourns the old days, has to learn to play by the new, more
civilized, rules than existed back in the days of the rebellion.
The book ends with Han being interrogated by Nil Spaar, who obviously
doesn’t realize how much Han has been through in the last thirty years.
It’s nice to see Han’s sarcastic wit taking center stage here, even
though he is undoubtedly frightened.
For the middle book in a
trilogy, this one moved the story forward, but not much more than that.
I think dividing the book into the three main sections was a poor
choice, as I would have probably been more forgiving had the different
points of view been integrated, as in the first book. As it stands, I
was impatient to get out of Lando’s section, then Luke’s, hoping that
Leia’s would be worth it, otherwise the book would have been a bust. But
the third part really elevates the story, enough to make the book
Read September 24th to 28th, 1998
Still an excellent book, to continue the series. I found
switching between the different plotlines was distracting, though.
I don't know how they are going to dig themselves out of this mess, but
I think Luke will be the key. I just hope this magic "white"
doesn't do it. I think there's too much magic being used in the
Star Wars universe already. I don't think it's necessary.
And I seriously think whatever is revealed about Luke's mother (Amidala -I know that much
about the Prequels), will not be consistent with what we discover in The
Phantom Menace. I also think this ship that Lando's chasing is
going to be part of the key to winning. An unknown force that could
suddenly change the tide of the war. That would be better than magic.