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


  1. I do remember enjoying this series of books when they came out. But, ugh, they've been apart for a month and only get one day together? While she's pregnant? That really sucks. Shouldn't he be fawning over her or something? You'd think they wouldn't want to be apart at all.

    I do like the part about Leia remembering Padme. Seems much more fitting than the prequel.

  2. Must admit I am not re-reading The Thrawn Trilogy, just flicking through to good bits, yeah, what good bits as far as this one is concerned. I do remember this one was definitely the most boring of the three.

    Always hated that pic of Leia on the cover. How ironic that her and Han are apparently "together" on the cover but get one second together in the story. Hmph, typical.

    The bit where Leia remembers her mother and the hiding in the trunk etc is certainly consistent with things I had heard about her backstory back in the 80s. The hiding in a trunk is something I definitely remember reading from somewhere ages and ages ago, wish I knew where now, but something was put out that referred to this. Might be the ROTJ novel come to think of it. I think most fans were always lead to believe that her biological mother went with her to live on Alderaan, and she was killed later on. That idea makes a lot more sense to me. And then of course Uncle George totally lost the plot with his prequels, but that's another story.

    Just using the movies as reference I had always thought Han WAS an official member of the Alliance in ESB. He and Luke are referred to as Captain and Commander respectively, so I thought they had both signed up and had proper ranks. Plus I believe Han has a rank insignia on his Hoth snow gear? Then in ROTJ they made him a general.

    The comic adaptation of this novel has some really nice artwork though, and pics of Han and Leia hugging and holding hands if nothing else.

  3. And yeah, Han and Leia apart for a month whilst she's pregnant? I really can't see that either. Would it have been that difficult to have Han and Leia together and let Lando go off and see to all that other crap?

  4. That's interesting. I didn't have the same impression from the movies about Han. He did refer to himself as captain of the Falcon in ANH and I always thought that's where he got the title from. But I think I did see something on Wookiepedia that indicated he picked up a rank with the Alliance after Yavin. It might make sense that they would promote him and not just suddenly make him a general (although it seems they did that with Lando).

  5. Excellent review! I reread this book back in November and you captured all the highlights. I think it is pretty neat from an author perspective to have given birth to so many characters that show up again down the road. Zahn even created Coruscant. I really like the character of Senator Garm Bel Iblis. I like how Han is in awe of him. Upon Bel Iblis welcoming Han to Peregrine’s Nest (which I am assuming is Garm’s secret batcave), Garm tells Han, “I’m flattered you still remember me.” “It’d be hard for any Corellian to forget you sir,” Han said, his numbed brain noting vaguely in passing that there were very few people in the galaxy who rated an automatic sir from him.
    The passage continues as Bel Iblis is telling his story to Han. Everybody thought the Emperor killed Bel Iblis. Bel Iblis goes on and says “.......He (the Emperor) forced me outside the law I’d worked so hard to create and maintain.” The smile returned, like a hint of sunshine around the edge of a dark cloud. “Forced me to become a rebel. I imagine you understand the feeling.” “Pretty well, yeah,” Han said, grinning lopsidedly in return.
    I like how the legacy of Garm Bel Iblis left such a lasting impression upon Han. It appears that Bel Iblis was just as impressed with Han as a youth and kept loose tabs on Han life.
    Another passage: Bel Iblis is talking to Han “Right now, I see you standing there trying to figure out exactly when it was we met.” Han replies “Tell you the truth, I haven’t got a clue.” Garm replies “I’ll give you a hint: you were all of eleven at the time.” Han blinked. “Eleven?” he echoed. “you mean in school?” (See Han wasn’t a complete juvenile delinquent that he often is portrayed as.) The passage goes on.......
    “Correct,” Bel Iblis nodded. “Literally correct, in fact. It was at a convocation at your school, where you were being forced to listen to a group of us old fossils talk about politics.” Han felt his face warming. The specific memory was still a blank, but that was how he’d felt about politicians at that time in his life. Though come to think of it, the opinion hadn’t changed all that much over the years. (Leia is obviously not the typical politician). Bel Iblis goes on to refresh Han’s memory..... “I, on the other hand, remember the incident quite well. During the question period after the talk you asked two irreverently phrased yet highly pointed questions: the first regarding the ethics of the anti-alien bias starting to creep into the legal structure of the Republic, the second about some very specific instances of corruption involving my colleagues in the Senate.” “Yeah, I remember now,” Han said slowly. “I think one of my friends dared me to throw those questions at you. He probably figured I’d get in trouble for not being polite. I was in trouble enough that it didn’t bother me.”
    “Setting your life pattern early, were you?” Bel Iblis suggested dryly. (OK so maybe he was a delinquent, but for an eleven year old, those were very thought-provoking deep questions)

    There is some more but this comment went way to long. Most of the above dialogue can be found on pages 164-167 of the paperback.

  6. The second book of the EU trilogies always drag on plot, it's like there's rarely enough to get them through three books so they have to draaaaaaaaaaaaaag it out when two would have sufficed.

    I agree that not much happens in this one except Han and Leia managed to be apart for the entire freaking book. Zahn continues to give Han all the best lines, but aside from that, there's not a lot for a Han/Leia fan here.

    I have a few items highlighted in my copy though.

    I loved the whole scene where Han and Lando find Garm Bel Iblis, whom everyone thought was dead. And Bel Iblis says that it isn't the first time they met and Han can't remember when it was. I loved that Bel Iblis remembered Han after all this time. And this line always stuck with me: "It'd be hard for any Corellian to forget you, sir." Han said, his numbed brain noting vaguely, in passing, that there were very few people in the galxay who rated an automatic 'sir' from him.

    I also loved that Leia remembers Garm Bel Iblis too and it's pretty cool when he shows up out of nowhere to help, just because Han asked. And this bit, where Garm is assuming that Leia was in on it too:

    "Han's memory sort of slips sometimes" she said "Though to be honest, we haven't had much time since we got back to compare notes"

    You can say that again, Leia.

  7. You two are totally right in pointing that part out. I dropped the ball in not delving into that more. It was a really cool meeting between bel Iblis and Han. And I did wonder how Han was in school while supposedly living on Shrike's ship...

  8. Seams2Be I think we were both commenting at the same moment, on the same quote. great minds!

    re Han going to school in one of the Han Solo books it's mentioned that sometimes Shrike would send the kids "undercover" to go to school and get friendly with rich kids so Shrike could rip off their folks. Han's encoounter with Garm Bel Iblis is mentioned just in passing and not by name, just says a visiting senator I think.

  9. Oh, I think I do remember that, JZ.

  10. JZ, That is so funny that we were writing about the same thing at the same time. I never read any of the Han Solo trilogy books, so I wondered if Bel Iblis showed up in those books. Didn't Bel Iblis also work with Bail Organa? I'll have to research that sometime.

  11. How did the second EU book ever make Leia look like an old grandma or something? Oh, this book did not hold my attention so much as the first one. I did like the little bit that Han and Leia were together, and that Leia seemed genuinely touched that Han wanted to come with her, and of course that they do miss each other and hate how things are going. Man, you'd think they had no control over their own lives.

    I'm glad we're doing this though and it made me reread these books because I hadn't read them in so long and just didn't have any inclination to read them again even though I did enjoy them to some degree. Han and Leia are back to their hand-squeezing ways here. Poor Leia, all pregnant and no husband to send out for ice cream in the middle of the night. I didn't quite get the whole, Han can't go because she promised she'd go alone but somehow Chewie and Threepio get to go anyway.

    Also, what is with this whole idea that apparently Jedi are supposed to intervene in disputes with random strangers and arbitrate their cases? Huh? And it's some sort of Jedi obligation? Because to me it just seems like they're sticking their noses where they don't belong.

  12. Wow, the EU books and the prequels confuse me so much. I think, in my mind, everything that isn't the OT is optional. Life is way simpler that way.

    I LOVE that whole bit where Han was thinking about why he's in love with Leia! Also, it's nice to see that they didn't totally forget about each other when that were separated.

    LOL, I've wondered that about the Jedi too, Zyra.

  13. Aww, poor darlings, if only Han and Leia knew that their time apart is gonna get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. Leia keeps saying how she's going to make things up to Han in a few more months etc. I'd really like to know when this actually happened and they spent a decent amount of time together. I am sure it did, somewhere, it's just they probably didn't think it would interesting enough to write about. Shame, cos I would gladly read an entire book on just Han and Leia lounging on the sofa, talking and maybe doing....other stuff. Think there's definitely a market for that :)

    GoldDragon - the EU and prequels contradict each other to a ridiculous extent sometimes. I have a little theory that Lucas purposely decided to undermine the EU with several aspects of the prequels because he suddenly decided he didn't like other writers playing around in his universe. Which doesn't make sense because he makes a shed load of money from the EU, but then a lot of things Uncle George has done over the years don't make sense.

    If only I could pretend the prequels don't exist, if only....but the damage is done. Hey wait, maybe I should go to hypnotherapy, and they can put me in a trance and I'll wake up and know nothing about them....

  14. That's actually quite a good idea... Maybe I could get them to make me forget about COPL and the christmas specials while they're at it?

  15. a friend of mine is always saying she wants to get a relationship lobotomy to erase all the really bad first dates she's been on.

    I'd like to get one to be able to forget COPL.