Sunday, March 11, 2012
Planet of Twilight: The Review
Push asked me before we started reading this book if I remembered if it was any good or not. I'm assuming that I, like most of you being Han and Leia fans, remember pretty much exactly one specific thing about it. We'll get to that, though.
The book was written by Barbara Hambly, who you all of course remember from our recent review of Children of the Jedi. So given the wonderful Han and Leia moments we got from that one, there was some hope we'd see more of the same here. Unfortunately, that's kind of difficult when they pretty much never see each other in the entire book.
We begin with Leia, who has gone to meet with Seti Ashgad, the leader of the Rationalist Party. I don't know, already that doesn't sound too good. This guy holds no official position with Nam Chorios, who he has his own strong opinions on, but that doesn't stop him from acting on their behalf. I'm sorry, mostly I just get distracted while reading this because all I can think about are Cheerios. Anyway, he wants technology and to trade with the New Republic even though the planet is quite devoid of technology and most of its inhabitants like it that way.
The talks are difficult and it shows Leia's growth as a politician as they are arguing for something that fundamentally seems right, but the people just don't want it. It causes Leia to remember an incident from when she had been much younger:
Leia straightened her shoulders under the velvet weight of her robe, seeing, in the flare of Ashgad's anger, the reflection of what her own reactions would have been at eighteen. But it shouldn't be that way-She remembered crying to her father, when after a complicated and emotional court case concerning vampiric Garhoons and their prey, the prey had elected to return to their vampires. It had taken her a long time to understand and respect her father's decision to pursue the matter no further.
I can see Leia having gone through something like that and having a hard time understanding that there were some things you just couldn't fix, because no matter how wrong you thought they were, sometimes people just didn't want them fixed. Poor Leia, always looking out for others and sometimes they don't even want her help!
Luke gets a message from Callista, who he is still pining for on a nauseating level, that is a warning about not going to the Meridian Sector, which just happens to be where Leia is. He hurt with wanting her. Missing her. Needing her. Gag. Was Callista ever given an actual personality or was it just that she had the Force and was female that attracted him to her? I'm so glad that Han and Leia were never that mushy. In spite of the warning not to go near there, Luke decides to go to Nam Chorios to find Callista.
He says his goodbyes to Leia, and says something about how he needs Callista, I don't know, I almost puked again, and they briefly discuss that there is some leak getting information out from the New Republic and the Moffs, which obviously has to stop. Then he gets annoying and tells Leia how she has to keep up with her lightsaber practice. Seriously, if my brother ever tried to boss me around like that I would not be happy! She just kind of brushes it off by saying mockingly, "To hear is to obey, Master." It's a good thing she was joking. In spite of her joking, she does feel guilty that she hasn't been training.
For some reason Leia gets called Her Excellency all the time in this book, including by Threepio, who encounters her when she finally settles into her office and suddenly doesn't feel very well. She basically passes out and Ashgad kidnaps her. Well, things aren't looking good for Leia to start this one off. Even worse, the entire crew of her ship is killed by the Death Seed plague, and poor Artoo and Threepio are left on board with a bunch of corpses.
Leia realizes she is dreaming, and she is back on Alderaan, showing her children to her father, Bail. They're teenagers in the dream in spite of the fact that they are still quite young in reality. Bail tells her that she has done well and she tells him how she has taught them justice, but Anakin says, "But we know better." They talk of how being Jedi gives them power, and he slices Bail in half.
"We're Jedi, Mother," Jaina said. "There's no Law for us. We can do whatever we want."
Anakin said, "That's your gift to us. We're Jedi because you're Jedi, too. We are what you are." He turned to look back at the pieces of Bail Organa's body, the eyes open and staring in shock, the outstretched hand with its golden ring. "And anyway he wasn't really your father."
Well, that was a pretty rough nightmare, wasn't it? She then hears a voice telling her that she has to learn to use the Force. Basically she fears that if she doesn't learn to use the Force, then she can't be an adequate role model for her children and they could wind up misguided or, in this case, murderous Sith. She awakens feeling as though she was drugged and then as she is lying on a divan she is approached by Dzym, who was with Ashgad, and he steps forward and drugs her with something else. She feels as though she's dying, and thinks of Han and then... she's out again.
Later, after Luke feels the deaths of so many from the Death Seed but feels Leia is still alive, Leia awakens again, still on the divan, but this time it has been moved out to a terrace. Now, I think I've mentioned this before but I find it kind of humorous the differences between what tends to happen to Han when he is captured and what happens to Leia. Han is usually thrown in a cold, dank, empty cell usually after being beaten or tortured or some combination. Leia, as evidenced in this case, is held captive in what seems like a quaint inn or something, given a comfortable place to sleep and even a terrace. Plus, she practically has servants.
She is given some water by Ashgad's pilot, Liegeus Vorn, who actually treats her pretty nicely and also refers to her as Her Excellency. That title just makes me shiver because it's like making Leia the new Emperor and I don't like it.
Han, she thought. Han will be worried sick. The children... Yep, that is definitely true. Or I think it is, because it takes a really long time for Han to make an appearance in this book.
Finally, like eighty pages in, we see Han. He has a bunch of messages from Leia marked urgent and he thinks to himself he hopes they might read: DON'T WORRY ABOUT A THING, WE'RE 50 HOURS LATE BECAUSE THE ENTIRE DIPLOMATIC MISSION JUST STOPPED OFF ON CYBLOC XI1 SO I COULD BUY MYSELF A PAIR OF SHOES. HOME SOON. LOVE, L. I thought that was very cute and I could see them sometimes sort of poking fun at their importance and how they could make ridiculous requests if they wanted to, but of course they probably don't.
Han knows that Leia is incredibly late. Of course this worries him tremendously, much different from when she experienced the same thing and just assumed he was being irresponsible. In a way this sets a nice little scene because Han is outside his house and the kids are swimming with Winter and even Chewie. Apparently Jaina has taken a liking to braiding random sections of Chewie's fur. The only downside to this is that they're swimming with Winter. The whole description of their house is quite nice, like some rustic design and the pool but at the same time it feels like where they live is described very differently throughout these books. Whatever it really is, I do like this particular version of their home.
This little family scene is interrupted when Mon Mothma comes to visit and tell Han that everyone on Leia's mission has disappeared. This whole thing is kind of weird because it describes in great length how Han has always been in awe of her and how beautiful she is. I just don't recall any other instance in which Han held that high regard for her. Not that I don't think he at least respects her on some level, but given what she put him through in the past I just don't think he would think of her like that.
But you forget about that quick because in this passage, Han is thinking about how Winter had taken the children up to the nursery and it makes him think this: Han remembered with a sudden pang making love to Leia on the rug of milk-white stohl fur, the night before her departure. I'm pretty sure I read that at least five times when I came across it the first time I read this book as a teenager. So they do have sex sometimes! It's a miracle! Also, for those of you who are reading and don't seem to be paying attention to these challenges anymore, that is definitely a great opportunity for a missing moment!
Anyway, Han finds out about the plague and of course is deathly afraid that Leia also contracted it. He obviously decides that he is going right out to try and find her. So we get this:
Thinking about Leia.
Five years since they'd married. Thirteen since they'd met, in the Death Star's corridors with blaster fire zapping around them. If he couldn't find her...
There was no conclusion to that sentence. No conclusion to the thought. Only a darkness as deep as the nightmare of disorientation in realtime space, with no starcharts, no navicomputer, no spectroscope, no clue as to which of those tiny, infinitely distant lights to aim for.
This is definitely a man who loves his wife. Don't worry, Han, she'll be okay. Speaking of Leia, she is of course still being held prisoner. But she gets her terrace and a bed with a nice quilt and plenty of sunlight. The downside is that they are trying to drug her with sweetblossom, but she figures out that they are putting it in her water so whenever they bring it to her she winds up secretly dumping it all out so they think she's still drugged. This leaves her pretty dehydrated but at least her head is somewhat clear. Also, she discovers she has her lightsaber. It all just seems to be another way to make her think about how she needs to prioritize her Jedi training, not only for herself, but for her children.
Han, Lando and Chewie are on their way to try and find her. Han whispers to himself, "Hang on, Leia. Don't check out on me now." Then: She couldn't die, he thought. He had literally no idea-none-of what he would do, what would become of him, if she should die.
He couldn't imagine life without her.
You think maybe he misses her and desperately wants to save her? I think so, too.
Liegeus is taking a liking to Leia and often is talking with her. He tells her he has the ability to manipulate holo images from others on record to make them say whatever he wants, basically. He asks Leia if she wants him to show her something of her husband or children, but Leia decides it would hurt too much. Aw.
Han, Lando and Chewie had encountered a whole bunch of people with severe radiation sickness who they had to hurry to get to some medical attention. Han spent some frantic time looking at everyone to make sure that no one among the dead was Leia. There's a bunch of craziness and a lot of the time we're stuck with Threepio and Artoo who are desperately trying to get to anyone to tell them who Leia was kidnapped by so they can save her, and they actually get close to Han in the midst of battle but he takes off before they can get to him, never having seen them.
Leia is working on an escape with the help of Liegeus, who doesn't exactly lead her out, but he changes door security and tells her what's going on so she can do what she needs to do. And Leia is still thinking a lot about her possible path as a Jedi:
The shadows of the future she feared, when Anakin, Jacen, Jaina-those three incalculable fragments of her body and her life came to the age when they would choose either the light or the dark.
Scary things to consider, for sure, and certainly something she'd have to give a lot of consideration to. It kind of sucks to be her, so much responsibility! The only thing that kind of annoys me is that she never really seems to think about the fact that she misses her kids, but maybe we are just supposed to assume that's obvious. While she is attempting to escape she winds up getting attacked by parasites or something and she feels like she is dying, to the point she'd almost rather die.
She basically winds up an exhausted, bleeding mess. She's dehydrated from dumping all that drugged water, although Liegeus had at least brought her a couple that were clean so she's not on the edge of death, and she has to find her way through the planet and scale walls and is just in pretty rough shape. At one of her weakest moments she suddenly realizes she's approaching someone and worries she'll have to fight but it turns out to be Callista, which is a great relief.
Callista is a lot like Luke in that she seems to patronize Leia with her all-knowing Jedi knowledge. I'm not saying she doesn't have a point sometimes, but it would get tiresome to have people talk to you like this all the time:
"I've seen how hard you try to teach Jacen and Jaina to listen to their own hearts, to have a sense of fairness, of justice. So they won't be pawns. So they won't be twisted.
"But for a long time they'll be weak, because they're children, and it's easy to influence children by love and hate and lies."...
...""I want them to be happy," she said, and leaned her cheek on the wind-scoured metal of the beam. "I want them to be children, to have the birthright of their innocence. But at the same time, I know they can't just follow any path they want. With their powers in the Force, i have to teach them to distinguish lies from truth, to seek justice the way my father... the way Bail Organa sought justice. I have to... to protect the next generation from them. The way I have to protect the present generation from myself."
To go along with all of this Jedi contemplation, Leia has a vision where she encounters two images of herself: one, herself as the slave girl from Jabba's palace in that infamous bikini, and the other herself basically as an evil Empress, her own children behind her almost Sith-like, though much older. She is told she must draw her lightsaber and give it to one of them, the Empress being quite authoritative and the slave acting completely hopeless, basically just curled up on the ground and weeping. Basically this is her own version of the cave Luke went into on Dagobah. And she realizes that she doesn't have to give it to anyone, rather she can do with it what she chooses.
I don't really understand why Callista is suddenly as masterful as Yoda in teaching the Force, but whatever. They spend some time sparring and Callista shares more of her infinite wisdom when Leia expresses her fears of hurting someone she shouldn't hurt.
"I don't want to be another..." The words froze in her throat.
"Another Palpatine?" asked Callista. "Another Vader? You aren't. You're not even another Bail Organa. You're Leia."
These are definitely profound statements but for some reason it bothers me that it is Callista who is saying all of these things. Why is Luke's girlfriend smarter than everyone? Anyway, Han and Lando are still in the midst of some crazy battle and Luke had actually come across Liegeus who tells him of Leia and who apparently even knew Callista. Luke and Leia eventually find each other, Leia being a complete mess still.
They encounter Beldorian, who I should've mentioned earlier as one of Leia's captors, a Hutt with Force sensitivity and a lightsaber, and they wind up in a duel. Leia vs. Hutt in a lightsaber duel? It is mentioned that the guy is much trimmer than Jabba, but still. Leia being the bad-ass that she is, slices him in half, bringing her track record with the Hutts to Leia: 2, Hutts: 0. She sure does know how to kill those guys. It is her first lightsaber victory and she considers it a huge one.
Somewhere else in the midst of all of this craziness, Threepio and Artoo - and eventually Han - find Admiral Daala. I believe she was previously presumed dead, having thought to be sucked into the Maw, but she escaped. She actually stepped in to help Han and instigates some negotiations between her people and the New Republic. But, good news: Han and Leia are finally reunited! Just in time for the end of the book!
Battered, dusty, blotched with grime and smoke and blood, Han realized it was Luke and Leia. Leia cried, "Han!" and threw herself into his arms, crushed against him, face pressed to his shirt and leaving an enormous smutch of slime-dried dust there. Looking down into her face, he realized that he himself was unshaven and smutted with soot from that last burn-through of the defensive shielding that had almost accounted for the Falcon in the last moments before Daala and her fleet had made their appearance.
"Leia!" They were hugging like schoolkids, rocking in each other's arms-Han felt an idiotic urge to whirl her in his arms and dance.
Well, at least it was a nice little reunion. I can definitely see Leia "flinging" herself into his arms under these circumstances. Also weird in this situation is that Daala and Liegeus meet and apparently they had a little somethin' goin' on way back when and are quite happy to see each other. Luke once again has to come to terms with not being with Callista - hopefully for the last time, and we are left with one final little notable Han and Leia moment:
Leia sighed and laid her head against his shoulder, weary beyond words. "I guess we will." His arms were around her, strong and rock hard under the rough linen of his shirt. He smelled of salt sweat and burned insulation; his chin was sandpaper against her temple and his breath living warmth on her skin. She wanted more than anything simply to remain there, and drift into sleep.
I definitely enjoy little moments like that, implying that basically she is completely comfortable and safe just being there with him, which is nice.
And basically, that's it. All right, a lot of other random stuff happened with Luke and his looking for Callista and stuff, and Han and Lando and Chewie and their battles and whatever, but I just don't have the attention span to get into it or summarize because frankly, I didn't care as I was reading it so I doubt you all care for me to write it up here, even shortened up.
This book just doesn't have the "fun" that it seems like a Star Wars book should have. there is very little humor, and a lot of non-action and long stretches where I was just bored. Do we really need entire chapters of just Artoo and Threepio? Maybe some people enjoy that, and I suppose there was a touch of humor there, but really, that just doesn't do it for me.
As for good things, again the decisions Leia faces as far as her Jedi path and training partly for the sake of her children are certainly apt and I think that at least makes things a bit more interesting from a character growth perspective. The poor woman just has so much to deal with! Also, as mentioned above, I did like the little family scene of them all at their house by the pool... except of course that it was Winter there instead of Leia. I'd also like to mention I'm thankful we've done away with Callista.
As for just Han and Leia in general, it's obviously nice to see that Han will stop at nothing to save her, and she thinks of him fairly often, knowing he'll be looking for her and even at times worries he also may have been a victim of the plague. Poor Han having to wonder what he'd do without her. And once again, you really can't top a memory of him making love to Leia on a white fur rug. You all get to work on how that one happened, won't you? I do know of one story that fills in this blank and also includes the pool...
So, what the heck do I give it for a Han and Leia factor? I guess a 3, only because of some very specific references and the fact that they definitely worry about one another and we are given some hard evidence that they care for each other deeply. But, well, once again they're only together for a couple of pages, which is incredibly annoying. I will also say though that it would've been nice to hear them talk about their kids. It's like in a sitcom when a new baby comes along and yet conveniently the kid just hardly ever makes an appearance. It's really almost like they don't even have them. I guess aside from the fact that Leia is stuck having horrible visions of her children becoming Sith.
I definitely wouldn't run out and buy this one. Just re-read the good parts I pointed out and you're not missing much.
Also, as a reminder, there will be no EU book club review next Sunday as your blog hosts will be consumed with reading Apocalypse. This little EU book club break may extend another week, depending on how long we take to get through it. We must give ourselves adequate time to get through it without feeling like we are under a dealine and apparently this bad boy is 500 pages. Don't worry, The Crystal Star is next anyway and any of you who have read that one know that there is no rush to get to that weirdness.