So easy to read, such a terrific
characterization of the Yuuzhan Vong agents, but it starts to fade back
into standard Star Wars fare about halfway through, and ends on a
Before I even start this review, I want to comment on two things.
First, the covers -stunning, absolutely beautiful! I think the
art work that has gone into the covers of every New Jedi Order book
has been fabulous. There is so much detail, especially on this
one. I could study it for a long time!
The second item concerns the map at the front of each book -I hate
it, and I don't think they should have tried to do something like
that. Those planets are not situated in two-dimensional space.
If there are space lanes, they are not straight curving arcs. As
listed, even the closest planets are thousands of light-years away
from each other, necessitated by being able to see individual dots on
the size of two pages. As it is, there is barely room to mention
the rest of the planets that are to be mentioned in future books.
I don't think they should have tried to do this kind of thing.
But at least they put the location of Hutt Space near Tatooine...
though Naboo is nowhere to be seen.
The first half of Vector Prime could probably be read within a
single day. It is so well written, with such deep
characterization, especially of the "bad guys", that I was expecting
to give out another five star rating, the first for a Star Wars novel
in a long time. But when the author has Jacen, Jaina and Anakin
jump into an asteroid endurance game, I wondered where the
aforementioned author had gone to. It was obvious that this was
setup for something down the line, and I wasn't surprised to see it
happen again. Having Jacen and Jaina steal the ice boring
machine and rescue the two human prisoners was almost stretching it,
like the authors of the Correllian
The Crystal Star did. But here, they are much older, teenagers,
and they are trained Jedi. I guess that is excusable.
Although the author was easy to read, he did use long sentences,
and Vong language, both of which interrupted the smooth flow of the
story. I guess I got used to it, though, because it ceased to
intrude a few chapters in.
I wonder if Nom Anor will be featured in any future books. He
is the Yuuzhan Vong Executor, the person who initiates their plans for
this invasion, and whom everybody seems to report to. He wears a
human disguise, so that he can blend in with the galactic citizens and
cause unrest, judging and measuring the New Republic's strength.
When the Vong advanced force is defeated at the end of the book, he
doesn't seem worried. Although it is not explicitly stated, I
think more and more ships are on their way. Otherwise, the New
Jedi Order would quickly be over. However, the way he states it,
that his people can send over many more ships, really insinuates that
he is in constant contact with his people, and that they could be on
their way over in a matter of days or weeks. Even distances
within the galaxy take days to travel. Going between the
galaxies should take years in hyperspace.
But Nom Anor is not discovered. He instigates a civil war on
a double planet, and cripples a Mon Calamari cruiser with a single
explosive-packed ship. And he is not discovered to be a Yuuzhan
Yommin Carr is a different story. He has infiltrated an
organization that studies the galactic rim for signs of extra-galactic
transits, and is posted at a station where he can observe the Vong
invasion fleet entering the galaxy. It is through him that we
get a terrific view of Vong culture, as he kills his colleagues and
transforms the planet into a chemical mess.
War is life for the Yuuzhan Vong. Status is shown by the
number of scars they have on their person, having survived many
battles. It seems to me, though, that the best person would have
only a few scars, if he managed to avoid his enemy's blade. But
I guess standard procedure would be to inflict a wound on himself,
then. They also tattoo their bodies, making them apparently
gruesome to look at (for humans, but probably not for many other
species). They remind me of the species we met in the
Black Fleet Crisis in their culture.
One huge difference, however, is the use of completely
non-mechanical devices. Organic beings are trained as weapons,
starships, and personal gear. There is no mechanical or
electronic creation at all. This is terrific. I loved the
descriptions of the various organisms that had been adapted for the
multitude of uses. We had spacesuits, breathing symbionts,
worldships, starfighters, tube-like passageways, projectile weapons,
sticky living goo, a semi-rigid staff that seemed to be able to hold
onto a lightsaber blade, and hyperspace-capable creatures that could
lock onto a gravity well. Pretty neat stuff.
What I don't like is the war coordinator. A giant monster
with tentacles that can coordinate the war, and link vessels together
with a power akin to the Force (but is not the Force -I wish it was,
for it would make more sense). It seems to command obedience
from the military it is guiding, and the Yuuzhan Vong follow it
blindly, and when it dies, they are disrupted completely. But
Vong like Nom Anor seem to be better suited for this kind of command.
It doesn't make sense, and I don't think it is necessary (except for
the questionable ending) for this creature to exist. A council
would be better suited. As it is, although it isn't mentioned, I
believe the war coordinator has spawned, and future war
coordinators may lead the continuing war in future books. I also
object to the characterization of the war coordinator. Nom Anor
says that it would be disastrous for their war effort if the creature
was destroyed. That sends alerts into my mind when I read
a book. Some other characters seem to have read his mind, too,
because in the end, they decide it must be destroyed.
Among our heroes, I really enjoyed the banter between Han and
Chewbacca, and between them and Luke, especially when Anakin has
damaged the Millennium Falcon landing on Coruscant. But the best
chatter comes between the two boys, Anakin and Jacen. I guess
the publishers have given up on Jacen being a person who is best with
animals, and his sister with technical elements. Jaina has
retained her ace flying skills, but I wonder if Jacen would be well
served to do the communicating with the living Vong creatures.
The Vong seem to be Force-immune, but their creatures are not.
Which brings me to another questionable observation. The Vong
are not readable by the Force. This is fine, because we have
precedent, the ysalamiri from Heir to
the Empire and subsequent books. I wonder if we will discover that
they have a Force-sensitive enemy who was vanquished eons ago, so that
they could evolve this way, as the ysalamiri's predators did.
But even if this is true, Mara's trick of using the Force to push him
should have worked, because he is a physical object. If she
could still move a chair with the Force, she could throw him, too.
This is a delicate matter, and I hope they don't botch it in future
books. In light of
The Phantom Menace, which was not
entirely available when this book was written, I wonder if these
creatures could exist at all, without midi-chlorians. Only time
But back to the twins and their brother, Jacen and Anakin have
completely different views of the Force. I absolutely loved the
way they argued, each with a perfectly reasonable opinion.
Personally, I think they are both right, that the Force is something
to be used for self-perfecting, and for external use, to help people
with their gifts. Jacen is against the idea of the Jedi Council,
because it would regulate the Jedi, forcing them to help out in
external situations. He argues with Anakin, and he argues it
with Luke. His arguments are very well written.
But Luke feels the Jedi Council is necessary, mainly because his
Jedi are deciding for themselves what is required of them. For
example, Kyp Durron and his apprentice Miko are constantly dealing
with smugglers, taking the law into their own hands, and forming a
ridiculous squadron that he calls the Dozen and Two Avengers. He
even hopes Jacen and Jaina would join!
He is the excuse to get Luke, Mara, Han, Leia, Chewie, the kids and
the droids out to the Outer Rim, where Lando leads a legitimate
business. One other element that seems to be thrown out is
Lando's girlfriend, whom I expected him to marry before now. She
was first seen in Ambush at Corellia, and then in
Specter of the Past, she was given even more importance. I
guess she disappeared from the scene later.
Lando's operation is, of course, just a few planets over (in 2D
space, according to the map) from Belkadan, where Yommin Carr is
waiting, and from Helska (isn't that Swedish for "Sweden"?), where the
war coordinator is living. On a distress signal sent out by Kyp,
Luke and Mara go to Belkadan, discover the planet, the living
communicators, the dead crewmen, and the worldship that went out to
the Helska system. Mara fights Yommin Carr and kills him, but
she is weakened to the point where she can barely keep her disease at
bay. (The disease was created by Nom Anor to test the resiliency of
the people in this galaxy -all other tests have been fatal, but this
is the first test on a Jedi.)
Jacen, Jaina and Anakin each take turns flying into an asteroid in
a modified TIE fighter, which is superfluous, except to show how good
a pilot Jaina is. When the battle comes back to Lando's planet,
most of the Vong fleet follows the teens into the asteroid field, and
Anakin joins the three of them into a single fighting unit.
Quite remarkable, except that they never mention even the fact that in
Dark Force Rising and
The Last Command, Joruus C'boath
connected dozens of battleships together, and it was believed that the
Emperor did so as well. The three pilots destroy all of that
host, enough so that the Vong attack is sent into retreat. We're
bordering on superhuman now, and I wonder where it will lead.
Jacen is obviously rethinking his part of the debate, since he could
never achieve the control that Anakin did.
The New Republic sends in a Star Destroyer to deal with the threat
of the "smugglers", not believing the invasion is real. I knew
from the start that the Destroyer would be destroyed, and that Han and
Luke would be the best pilots there. Jacen uses the ice-boring
machine to enter the war coordinator's world and rescue a scientist
captured from Belkadan, who was conveniently told all about the
Yuuzhan Vong invasion fleet, and more.
After the New Republic fleet is destroyed, Luke, Han and the
stragglers regroup, grab some of Lando's shieldships (from
Dark Force Rising) and go in again, using those huge ships to
evaporate enough of the planet that it freezes, thus destroying the
war coordinator. The plan works, and the Yuuzhan Vong force is
destroyed or disoriented.
I think the plan is questionable, in the least. I could be
wrong, but let me lay out my reasoning. Yes, evaporation takes a
lot of energy. Yes, if they focus enough energy onto the planet
it would evaporate. But to say that focusing external energy on
the planet would freeze its center is something I am not sure is
physically possible. The key word is external energy.
Even if that energy comes from the war coordinator, it is external,
because it is not coming from the ice. If the ice gave up energy
to the war coordinator to use, which was focused back onto the
surface, it might work, but then the war coordinator would be full of
energy, and so would not freeze. Conundrum? I could be
missing a fact or two, but either way, it makes for a poor resolution,
because it takes a lot of speculation to figure out what they mean.
Most people will likely be with Han and Lando, who had no idea what
they were trying to do. It is as if the author said, "well,
people won't understand it, but like Han and Lando, they will just
move on to the next chapter and forget about it. Don't sit there
analyzing it..." And that is not a good way to finish a book.
Of course, there is one more thing that I have avoided mentioning
so far: the death of a main character. To avoid being spoiled
about this, stop here.
**** MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD****
I was spoiled to the fact that Chewie is killed by the Star Wars
Insider, a magazine that typically avoids telling the huge plot
secrets of Star Wars, even when the publishers know these secrets.
They talked about it as if it was common knowledge, even though the
book was just barely released in hardcover. What about those
fans who would wait until the book appeared in softcover? What
about those who wouldn't read it for years to come (I guess that's
not fair, as it's the readers' fault if they wait that
I thought his death was treated fairly well, but only after
he was dead. The Vong have those creatures that can lock onto a
gravity well. They normally use it to travel between the stars,
but it can also be used to strip a vessel of its shields (which is why
the Star Destroyer and its fleet was ravaged as it was -but Luke's
sudden intuition was way too easy), and it can latch onto a
moon and a planet, and pull the two together. Lando convinces
Han, Chewie and Anakin to take a trip to this planet (they don't know
this is happening) to deliver some supplies. Of course, they
arrive just as the moon is dropping. Anakin finds the creature
(and a strange old man jumps into a volcanic crater on top of it with
a thermal detonator), and it is destroyed (Anakin uses the Force to
tell that the creature is dead, which is why I said earlier that the
Vong creatures can be sensed with the Force).
But it is too late for this planet. That they actually have
enough ships to evacuate ten thousand people from the planet is hard
to believe, when the Falcon was probably the largest ship in the area.
Han is selfless in taking so many people on board, but he is able to
travel from the cockpit to the landing ramp several times while off
the ground, so he couldn't have had too many people.
Anakin is even less selfish, as when they are about to take off, he
jumps down from the Falcon to rescue others. However, it got
tedious reading about him nearly getting onto the ship, then jumping
off again, and again, and again... All the while, Chewie follows
him, making sure he is safe. I don't believe the Falcon could
hold position by itself, either high in the atmosphere and especially
meters off the ground. But Han finally requires Anakin to take
the controls, and he reaches a hand to Chewie. But the ship is
blown aside, and finally, Anakin sees the moon coming crashing down,
and has to leave... and Chewie is left behind.
Is this heroic? Yes, but it was boring to read!
However, the aftermath was really interesting. Anakin is so full
of guilt that I'm surprised he is able to operate in the later battle.
Han is so angry that I'm surprised he didn't kill Anakin on the spot.
It was really interesting to see how the two of them interacted.
They made second-guesses, decided to turn around, but were forced back
to guard duty by pursuing vessels and by the sudden appearance of
Kyp's nearly destroyed ship. They couldn't do anything, and it
will take a long while for Han to get used to this.
I was near tears myself when Anakin describes the scene to his
siblings. I felt foolish and guilty myself when I was mourning
Chewie the next day, and saw an airplane smash into the World Trade
Center in New York. My grief was for a fictional character.
To say it was eclipsed is a gross understatement. I had to
reread the eulogy again afterwards, because my mind was not on
Chewie's death the day I first read it. Other images were
haunting my thoughts.
But it was a nice eulogy, especially with regards to Han's hat,
which Chewie used to steal... and would never steal again...
This book was not about events, really, except to establish the
Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and to provide a satisfactory conclusion to a
self-contained novel. The missions were satisfactory, but the
resolution was not. The beginning of the book worked so well
because it was almost exclusively about characters. I wish it
would have continued that way all the way to its conclusion.
Such an easy book to read; the style of this author is terrific.
But he had to resort to strange and questionable tactics to conclude
it. That, is disappointing. But overall, the book was a
success. I really enjoyed it, and it is a pretty good kick-start
to the New Jedi Order. I look forward to the continuing story
with interest and just a little trepidation. I hope they can
tread the fine lines they have drawn here with a good balance.