Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Last Command: The Review
So now we’ve come to the final installment of the infamous Thrawn Trilogy, the series that started out the whole EU. I’ll have to say it did get a promising start, it’s just too bad that it didn’t keep going.
So what happens in this book? Quite a bit. After the previous book, Thrawn is once again anxious to take out the New Republic, and there is a battle for authority going on between him and Jorus C’baoth, who is a few steps past the boarder of Crazy Town as he enjoys screaming like a mad man that he is the one in charge. He wants Leia and the twins, as he had been promised.
Luke is busy trying to find the cloning facility while Mara is recovering from the injuries she sustained at the end of the last book. She is slowly coming to terms with the fact that Luke had gone back to save her, which doesn’t sit well with her because it’s a real pain when the person you are trying so hard to hate and kill starts being nice to you.
Pretty early in the book we get what I would certainly consider one of the first “moments” for Han and Leia, which is the birth of their twins, Jacen and Jaina. You can imagine this was not drawn out in the sort of way that many of us would write it as fanfic writers, but it was still very sweet. There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Han is right there for her the entire time, but the bad news is that I did not love the insinuation that Leia thinks about how there is so much of their lives that she will not get to share in, but Han would be able to share even less. Why does it require the Force in order for someone to bond with his children? Yes, there are parts of their lives he won’t be as involved in, but that’s true of any parent. Let’s not forget that there’s a lot that he WILL be a part of.
It’s very sweet when Leia is trying to soothe them while they are awaiting their birth, and she thinks,
Though to be perfectly fair, their father wasn't in much better shape.
"You all right?" Han asked for the umpteenth time since they'd come in here. He squeezed her hand a little more tightly, also for the umpteenth time, in sympathetic tension with her hunching shoulders.
"I'm still fine," Leia assured him. Her shoulders relaxed as the contraction ended, and she gave his hand a squeeze in return. "You don't look so good, though."
Han made a face at her. "It's past my bedtime," he said dryly.
"That must be it," Leia agreed. Han had been as nervous as a tauntaun on ball bearings ever since the labor started in earnest, but he was making a manly effort not to show it. More for her sake, Leia suspected, than for any damage such an admission might do to his image. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it." Han threw a look to the side, where the medic and two Emdee droids were hovering around the business end of the birth bed.
"Looks like we're getting close, sweetheart."
"Count on it," Leia agreed, the last word strangled off as another contraction took her attention. "Oh . . ."
Han's anxiety level jumped another notch. "You all right?"
Leia nodded, throat muscles momentarily too tight to speak through. "Hold me, Han," she breathed when she could talk again. "Just hold me."
"I'm right here," he said quietly, sliding his free hand into a comfortable grip under her shoulder.
I like this a lot. It doesn’t cross into any annoying clichés about Leia screaming in pain and hating Han for doing this to her, it doesn’t really get overly mushy, it’s just them being there for each other, Han offering and Leia accepting his comfort. It’s all quite sweet.
Then we get the births, and Han is the proud papa we would all imagine.
And then, seemingly without warning, the first part was suddenly over. "Got one," Han told her, his voice sounding strangely breathless. "It's—" He craned his neck. "It's our daughter." He looked back at Leia, the tension in his face plastered over with the lopsided grin she knew so well. "Jaina."
Once they are both out and in their parents arms, things quiet down:
They laid the twins in her arms a few minutes later . . . and as she looked first at them and then up at Han, she felt a sense of utter peace settle over her. Out among the stars there might be a war going on; but for here, and for now, all was right with the universe.
Later on we get a nice, quiet moment between Leia, the twins and Han. Leia is sitting on her bed nursing the twins when Han comes in. Leia was marveling at the lives that she and Han had created, and Han sits down and lets Jacen grab his finger with his little fist while Jaina continues nursing and Han comments how they eat like starving Wookiees.
They are talking about the issues the New Republic is facing, but there are still some nice little things sprinkled in there, such as,
"Yeah, he and Bel Iblis are still talking to Admiral Drayson," Han said, reaching over to rest his free hand on Leia's shoulder. The warmth felt good through her thin dressing gown. Almost as good as the warmth of his thoughts against her mind.
They also share some of their trademark banter:
"You know, you thought I was pretty handy to have around before the kids showed up. Now you don't need me anymore, huh? Just go ahead and toss me aside."
"Of course I need you," Leia soothed him. "As long as most of the droids are out on defense duty and there are two babies who have to be changed, you'll always have a place here."
"Oh, great," Han growled. "I think I'd rather get tossed aside."
"It's way too late for that," Leia assured him, stroking his hand and turning serious again. "I know you want to help, Han, and I really do appreciate it. I just feel guilty."
"Well, don't," Han told her, taking her hand and squeezing it. "We old-time smugglers are used to strange hours, remember."
Later on, of all people, Mara senses that someone is going to attack Leia, Han and the twins. Amazingly, Han and Leia are together and asleep when Leia is awakened by Mara sort of speaking to her through the Force that someone is coming to get her. She gets out of bed and heads for the front door, oddly without maybe mentioning something to Han or asking for help or anything, but since they’re at least sleeping in the same bed, we’ll let it slide. They are pretty much under an ambush, Winter is with the twins and Han and Leia are huddled and wondering how to get out of this mess.
Mara, Lando and Bel Iblis make their way to the Solo apartment to try and stop their attackers.
Leia took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart. Ever since the first of these kidnapping attempts on Bimmisaari, she'd been able to think of it as the Imperials gunning for her and her alone—not an especially pleasant thought, but one that she'd become more or less accustomed to after years of warfare.
This time it was different. This time, instead of being after her and her unborn twins, they were after her babies. Babies they could physically take from her arms and hide away where she might never see them again.
This is a very scary thought, that their children could be taken away from them. Mara gets into Leia’s head again and tells her to surrender, which she does much to Han’s disbelief. But it is enough to render their attackers stunned enough for Mara to come in and stop them.
Luke had finally returned and I’m guessing gets to meet his new niece and nephew, it’s never really mentioned. Almost immediately it is decided that Han, Luke, Mara and Lando are going to be heading for Wayland. Han is not happy to be leaving so quickly, but he does at least think to himself that he’ll leave, but only after he says goodbye to his wife in private. I sense another missing moment there…
They decide that they need Mara in order to infiltrate the cloning facility since she has been there. Except some people seem to think that Mara is still working for the Empire, and she is placed under house arrest. But our old Rebels may not really be Rebels anymore, but they aren't so much into authority, and they help her escape so she can help them find the cloning facility.
Remember Ghent? Well, he managed to fairly quickly crack the code that had been used by Delta Source, and he gives the information to Leia who keeps it to herself but goes to Garm Bel Iblis to help her figure out what Delta Source is. They suspect maybe a droid but they can’t seem to figure it out.
Mara gets them to Wayland where they embark on a little excursion that seems a lot like crossing Endor when they were headed for the shield generator. Walking through the woods and doing some camping. As they make their way toward Mount Tantiss, where the cloning facility is, Mara asks Luke about the Emperor’s final moments. She had no idea that in the end Vader had turned to good and been the one to kill the Emperor. Once again, this is not what she wants to hear when she so desperately wants so many reasons to hate and kill Luke aside from just the voice in her head. She had no idea that Vader was Luke’s father and decides that her reasons for killing Luke have to be her own and not just because the Emperor wanted revenge on his murderer.
As they get closer to Mount Tantiss Luke realizes that he can’t sense it in the Force. Elsewhere, Leia realizes why it is that the clones they are growing are being made so much more quickly than any other clones. Apparently the Force actually inhibits them from growing at a faster rate, and by surrounding them with ysalamiri, the clones can grow at an incredible rate, and Leia realizes that for this reason, Luke isn’t safe because he can’t sense the danger surrounding the mountain and she knows she has to go and save them. Leia also manages to figure out that Delta Source is actually inside a tree in the Grand Corridor of the Imperial Palace and it is destroyed.
Karrde, meanwhile, really wants to talk to Mara and tells Leia that if he can talk to her he will give them some valuable information. Leia agrees to this without mentioning to him that Mara is no longer in custody. Upon the realization that Luke and Han would need her help, Leia knows that the New Republic lacks the resources to help them and asks Karrde to take her.
Knowing that Mount Tantiss is blocked in the Force, Luke thinks it is in order to confine C’Baoth rather than anything to do with clones. Mara and Luke go to the throne room because she suspects there is a self destruct there, but Han and Lando stay back to rig up some explosives just in case.
Upon reaching the throne room, C’baoth is there and has had the ysalamiri destroyed so they have use of the Force, and he wants Mara and Luke to join his side, though of course he also still wants Leia and the twins. C’Baoth has another weapon though, Luuke Skywalker, a clone of Luke himself built from the hand Luke had lost and carrying the very lightsaber he first fought Vader with.
While all of this is going on, Leia arrives on planet and stumbles upon Han. They get beyond hand-squeezing here and share a “quick, tense hug.” To be fair, there were lives at stake, so no time for making out. They all make it up to the throne room and let’s just say that chaos ensues. Han is thrown back with some Force lightning, Leia is taken out by falling debris, poor Han then keeps going after a blaster that C’baoth just keeps pushing further and further away from him while he is fighting.
Luke offers C’baoth himself if he will let everyone else go, yet again making Mara annoyed that he is sacrificing himself not just for his friends, but for someone who was not shy about expressing her desire to kill him. In the end, Mara winds up killing the clone Luuke, feeling a great sense of relief that she has carried out the Emperor’s wish that she kill Luke Skywalker, even though technically it is not the right one. Enraged, C’baoth tries to take out the entire complex, but Mara kills him with Luke’s old lightsaber.
While all of this had been going on, there was a battle going on between the New Republic and Bilbringi with Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Chimera and Rougue Squadron. Thrawn had a bodyguard, a Noghri named Rukh, who betrays and kills him for what the Empire had done to the Noghri. Once the Grand Admiral is dead, Palleon is in charge and orders them to retreat as the Thrawn campaign has ended.
The book ends with Luke and Mara on Coruscant, Mara thinking about how she never got to be there without being at the Emperor’s side. Luke is about to head off to some negotiations with the Smuggler’s Alliance and asks for Mara’s help, and she is resistant at first. He gives her his old lightsaber, which shocks her though she accepts and then decides to go with him. I have to say, I’m not sure I can see him giving away that lightsaber given its sentimental value, but since this is his future wife, I guess we can let it slide.
Okay, there was a lot more to this book but I wanted to focus on the stuff that we are usually most interested in. Overall, it was quite an enjoyable read and it moved fast. There was a lot of action, but there was also a lot of good character interaction. Not just Han and Leia, but Luke and Mara as well. I'm under the impression that it was not always in the grand plan for her to be his wife.
Han and Leia share some nice little moments as parents, although it's not quite as much as we might have hoped, especially since they still seem to be against kissing each other for some reason. Also, there are times when they don't really seem to be thinking about the twins that much when they're not with them and Winter is always in charge of them.
But even with those little gripes, I'm going to have to give this book a 4 on the Han and Leia factor. Their babies are born, they're both there and happy and share some nice moments as first-time parents and they even say I love you. Honestly, when we started this whole thing I was thinking we'd never get a 4 because there are a few great books, a lot of horribly crappy books, and even more mediocre books, but this one seemed to be a 4 for me. While the second book in this trilogy may have dragged a bit, this one was definitely a fun, fitting end to the series and the beginning of fun things to come.
Funny, nobody mentions in this book that the twins are going to have to be taken away from Han and Leia and raised somewhere else...