Sunday, January 15, 2012
Dark Force Rising: The Review
Okay, so there isn’t much to write home about when it comes to this book. Even the plot barely moves across the 439 pages, in my opinion. Or maybe I’m just bitter because Han and Leia are together for about a total of 2 maybe 3 times during the whole thing. Either way, here goes:
So, there are three basic storylines throughout this book.
First, we have Talon Kardde. Remember him? He was the smuggler king that really pissed off Thrawn in the last book by hiding Luke Skywalker from him. Well, Thrawn is after Kardde and eventually catches him by tricking Mara Jade into leading him to Kardde’s hideout. Mara feels awful, especially when Kardde thinks that Mara betrayed him when he finds out that she was an Emperor’s Hand. Having no one else to turn to, Mara decides to find Luke Skywalker (put off killing him for a little longer) and ask him to help her rescue Kardde.
Second, we have Leia. She promised to meet that Noghri guy (Khabarakh) near Endor so that he could bring her to his planet (Honoghr) and speak to his people. Well she does that and Chewbacca goes along with her. She and Han do get to see each other while they are on Coruscant for about 1 day together. There was a cute part as Han is approaching Coruscant alone in the Falcon with Threepio in tow. Apparently the two hadn’t gotten along:
He’d tried. He really had, if for no other reason than that Leia rather liked Threepio and would have wanted them to get along. The first day out from Sluis Van he’d let Threepio sit up front in the cockpit with him, enduring the droid’s prissy voice and trying valiantly to hold something resembling a real conversation with him. The second day, he’d let Threepio do most of the talking, and had spent a lot of his time working in maintenance crawlways where there wasn’t room for two. Threepio had accepted the limitation with typical mechanical cheerfulness, and had chattered at him from outside the crawlway access hatches.
By the afternoon of the third day, he’d banned the droid from his presence entirely.
I thought this was really cute and the fact that Han tried to get along with Threepio for Leia’s sake showed the extent of his love for her. Which is very convenient, since he doesn’t express it in any physical way throughout this entire book.
When he arrived on Coruscant, Leia was waiting for him which was really nice and he hugged her and was ‘careful not to press too hard against the increasingly prominent bulge of her belly’. Then Leia said, “Come on – we’ve got to go.” And that was it.
So, Leia’s really up-in-arms about Ackbar’s arrest, of course. And a really interesting little side note happened as Han was trying to remember what the protocol was for visiting military prisoners, thinking that it entailed ‘minor amounts of bureaucratic datawork’:
Though he could easily be wrong about that. They’d made him learn all that stuff back when he’d first let them slap an officer’s rank on him after the Battle of Yavin.
Okay, that’s weird. Does anyone else remember the end of ‘Choices of One’ where Zahn has Han tell Rieekan that he is ready to join up? That was confusing enough, but this puts it way back to the Battle of Yavin. I tried to talk about this to Zyra, but she said that if we tried to start making sense of all of the inconsistencies in the EU that we would drive ourselves crazy, so we moved on.
So, the third storyline is about Han trying to track down that security leak ‘Delta Source’ while also trying to find evidence to free Ackbar. During all of this, Han finds out about Leia’s promise to the Noghri and he is not too happy. They have a few words and then end in a stalemate and as they are staring each other down, Han thinks this:
For a long minute he gazed at her, his eyes searching the features of that face he’d grown to love so deeply over the years, his memory bringing up images of the past as he did so. The young determination in her face as, in the middle of a blazing firefight, she’d grabbed Luke’s blaster rifle away from him and shot them an escape route into the Death Star’s detention-level garbage chute. The sound of her voice in the middle of a deadly danger at Jabba’s, helping him through the blindness and tremor and disorientation of hibernation sickness. The wiser, more mature determination visible through the pain in her eyes as, lying wounded outside the Endor bunker, she had nevertheless summoned the skill and control to coolly shoot two stormtroopers off Han’s back.
And he remembered, too, the wrenching realization he’d had at that same time: that no matter how much he tried, he would never be able to totally protect her from the dangers and risks of the universe. Because no matter how much he might love her – no matter how much he might give himself to her – she could never be content with that alone. Her vision extended beyond him, just as it extended beyond herself, to all the beings of the galaxy.
And to take that away from her, whether by force or even by persuasion, would be to diminish her soul. And to take away part of what he’d fallen in love with in the first place.
I really liked all of that. Loved him going back through the years he had known her and then realizing that making her change would take away all that he had fallen in love with. Sweet.
So Han goes off to find evidence of Delta Source with Lando and Leia goes to Honoghr. There is a point when Leia is on Honoghr that she is preparing to go and rescue Khabarakh and is fairly sure that she and Chewbacca might die in the process.
Chewbacca didn’t like any of this; she could tell that much from his sense and the stiff way he stood at her side. But he would go along, driven by his own sense of honor and the life-debt he had sworn to Han.
She blinked back sudden tears, her hand going to the bulge of her belly. Han would understand. He would argue against the risk, but down deep he would understand. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have let her come here in the first place.
If she didn’t return, he would almost certainly blame himself.
After everything that Han had just thought about in letting her go, she is probably right. He would still blame himself. Seriously, where can I get me one of those? (just kidding)
Moving on…Mara Jade does find Luke. Luke had answered the call from that insane Jedi, remember? Well, Mara tracked him down there. It seemed that Luke knew the guy was insane, yet was still trying to stick around and help him while unknowingly being lulled into the Dark Side or something. Anyway, Jade rescues him and they both set off to rescue Kardde on the Chimaera (Thrawn’s ship).
While Leia is on Honoghr, Thrawn shows up to pay them a visit and frighten the bejesus out of the Noghri people since they have been screwing up in their missions to capture Leia and/or Luke. Leia avoids detection and when Thrawn finally leaves he hides a spy droid in one of the decon droids. Apparently, during a huge space battle (that Leia assumes was during the Rebellion) the planet of Honoghr was devastated by falling debris. That was when Darth Vader showed up and vowed to help them. He gave them these decontamination droids and this grass began to grow. The decon droids work very slowly but they work and they are able to plant on the soil that is decontaminated.
Basically, Leia soon discovers that the decon droids and the grass that is growing is all a trick by the Empire to keep the people of Honoghr in the Empire’s debt. During that discovery, she figures out that the great battle had not been during the Rebellion but during the Clone Wars, some 30 years earlier. She is able to expose the trickery and the Noghri people are swayed to the side of the New Republic.
Meanwhile, Han and Lando are still trying to find that Delta Source leak. After blazing out of the same spaceport twice in a very short period of time, Han says that he hopes they won’t have to go back there, that they have probably ‘worn out their welcome’.
Lando threw him a sideways glance. “Well, well. Since when did you start caring about what other people thought about you?”
"Since I married a princess and started carrying a government ID,” Han growled back.
Nothing really to do with the plot, I just liked that little line of Han’s. In regards to the plot, Han and Lando find themselves chasing a Bothan right into some homemade army base. It turns out to be run by Garm bel Iblis, a legendary, Corellian Senator that split with the Rebellion due to a rift with Mon Mothma. While at his base, Han and Lando discover that Bel Iblis has a few Dreadnaughts from the Katana fleet, about 200 warships that were lost to space and that (coincidentally) Talon Kardde knows the whereabouts of (and possibly some gambler captain he was with).
So now it becomes a race between Han and Lando and this Niles Ferrier (who is hired by Thrawn) to find this gambler captain guy who has been selling off the Dreadnaughts for credits. All the while, Thrawn is going after Kardde to get the coordinates from him. At one point, when Han and Lando are trying to get rid of a homing beacon that Ferrier’s people planted on them, Han wants to try something dangerous by tossing the beacon onto a passing ship.
“We’re not going to try it, Han,” Lando said firmly. “Get that look out of your eye.”
“Oh, all right,” Han grumbled. “That’d get him off our backs, though.”
“And might get you killed in the process,” Lando retorted. “And then I’d have to go back and explain it to Leia. Forget it.”
Han gritted his teeth. Leia. “Yeah,” he said with a sigh.
Lando looked at him again. “Come on, buddy, relax. Ferrier hasn’t got a hope of beating us. Trust me – we’re going to win this one.”
Han nodded. He hadn’t been thinking about Ferrier, actually. Or about the Katana fleet. “I know,” he said.
Of course we know who he was thinking of.
Alright. So I forgot to mention that Thrawn swung by Endor and impounded the Falcon that Chewie and Leia had left there after their rendezvous with Khabarakh. Don’t worry. It worked out really well for Mara Jade and Luke when they finally sprung Kardde and the ship they arrived on was cut off and they just happened to run across the Falcon and bust out of the Chimaera with it.
But Thrawn beats Han and Lando to the gambler pilot and everyone is headed back for Coruscant.
One more thing that was just an inconsistency note. This came from Leia on one of her last days on Honoghr:
One of the twins kicked. She paused, reaching out to gently touch the two tiny beings within her; and as she did so, fragments of memory flooded in on her. Her mother’s face, taut and sad, lifting her from the darkness of the trunk where she’d lain hidden from prying eyes. Unfamiliar faces leaning over her, while her mother spoke to them in a tone that had frightened her and set her to crying. Crying again when her mother died, holding tightly to the man she’d learned to call Father.
Pain and misery and fear…and all of it because of her true father, the man who had renounced the name Anakin Skywalker to call himself Darth Vader.
More memories from Leia regarding her Mother, this time with a memory of an escape of some kind. Just goes to show you that Padme didn’t die because ‘she lost the will to live’. Or whatever.
Once everyone was back on Coruscant it became a race to get the Katana fleet. Fey’lya wanted to wait for the next day to send a crew to find the fleet. Kardde, who was the one who knew the location had other ideas, and utilizing Leia’s authority, the Rogues and the Falcon left in the middle of the night with Kardde. Meanwhile, Mara Jade had a crew that Kardde had secretly called for.
Han does have a moment upon leaving where Luke asks if he is alright. Han replies:
“Oh, sure. Fine.” The lines tightened a little further. “But just once I’d like them to find someone else to go off on these little jaunts across the galaxy. You know Leia and I didn’t even get a day together? We didn’t even see each other for a whole month; and we didn’t even get a day.”
He also remarks that she looks ‘twice as pregnant’ as she had when she left. Overall, it made you feel pretty bad for him. But at least we know he actually misses her!
In the morning, Fey’lya is less-than-pleased that his orders had been ignored and he suggests that Han and Luke be arrested. Mon Mothma tries to smooth things over and Leia eventually accompanies Fey’lya on a ship to rendezvous with the Katana fleet. When they arrive, much to Leia’s surprise, Fey’lya orders the arrest of Han and Luke.
During all of this, both Jade’s people and Thrawn eventually show up and it’s a big firefight. Fey’lya then wants to turn tail and leave so as not to get killed. Leia is not too happy with that scenario and argues with him. He argues back that he has the authority to call the retreat and leave the Rogues and her husband and brother to their fates. To which Leia responds:
“To blazes with your authority,” Leia snapped. For a handful of heartbeats she had the almost overwhelming urge to snatch her lightsaber from her belt and send it slicing through that bland face…
She doesn’t though. And when tricked by Kardde and Leia to announce over the open comm how little Fey’lya actually cares about the average soldier, his people eventually turn on him and join in on the fight against the Imperials.
Using some of his infamous ingenuity, Han figures out a way to ram one of the Dreadnaughts into the Imperial fleet and they turn the tide of the battle. When Garm bel Iblis shows up (via a covert invitation from Han) with his Dreadnaughts, they eventually win. The win is a bittersweet one when they learn that only about 15 of the original 200 ships are left in the fleet. At first they aren’t so worried, because of the manpower it takes to run the ancient craft. But soon after they find out that the troopers they had been fighting were clones and they realize that the Empire is in the business of cloning again and could easily man the ships if that is the case.
One more thing, if you are a Luke/Mara fan. Mara has to eject during battle and is left out in space with a malfunctioned life support system and no homing beacon for anyone to find her so Luke goes out and, using the Force, rescues her from certain death.
Overall, on a purely Han and Leia scale, this book is really lacking. They are hardly ever together and even when they are, it is all strategy talk. Compared with the first book, I found this book slow-moving and maybe a little boring at times. Leia was on that planet FOREVER and nothing much really happened. Overall, I guess I’ll give it a 3 star rating.
Up next: The Last Command