Monday, June 4, 2012
Tyrant's Test: The Review
I know it might be difficult to follow when we are going to post what on here at this point, but I figured might as well go ahead and post and hopefully some of you are following along!
We now come to the final installment in the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy. When last we left our heroes, everything was a mess and Han had become a prisoner of war. But the book actually opens with Chewbacca who as you remember was back home on Kashyyyk with his family and he is spending some bonding time with his son while he can. This gets cut a little short as Chewie learns of Han's capture and, being the loyal Wookiee he is, decides he needs to leave to go and rescue him.
Then we go to Han who is waking up from his really fun beating, lying on the floor in a dank cell. Again I'd like to refer you to Leia's capture in Planet of Twilight when she is resting on a divan and has a bed and a balcony in her "cell" as compared to what Han goes through when he gets captured. Also sharing his cell is one of his flight engineers named Barth. Han learns that nothing has really happened since he was brought in unconscious, and he wonders if the terrible smell he notices is him. Apparently there are dead bodies in the cell with them as well as no 'fresher, and Barth tells him that he simply "picked a corner." I told you Han doesn't get treated very well in captivity. Although he does at first say that things aren't so bad as he's been beaten up by experts before, but when he tries to move around he decides he'd rather be beaten up by experts.
Barth seems convinced that they are simply going to die there. Han is of course the optimist here, saying they went to a lot of trouble to grab them and for now they just need to give them as much trouble as possible. Barth asks if all they are is a way to control the president, which would be Leia. Han says, "If I thought for a moment that Leia would compromise herself, that she'd compromise the Fleet or the New Republic because of us being prisoners here, I'd find a way to die now, before it could happen." Oh, Han, always willing to do anything for his wife.
Speaking of his wife, she has some of her own problems going on right now. Not only is her husband in the hands of the enemy, but her position as leader is being called into question due to her personal attachment to what's going on and the possibility that it would cloud her judgment. Basically they don't want her to make all of her decisions based on the fact that she wants Han back rather than what might be best for the New Republic.
"Are you asking me to give Han up? I can't believe that you could call yourself my friend and ask me to do that."
With an easy grace, Doman lowered himself back into his chair. "Two other men suffered the same fate as Han--be it capture or death. Do you care as much for their return as you do for his?"
"What an absurd question," Leia snapped. "Han is my husband, the father of my children. I'm sorry for the others, and I want them all safely returned. But I won't sit here and pretend that they mean as much to me as Han does."
Well, that's a relief to hear. She is speaking with this guy Doman and apparently his kind tends to have many wives, so he doesn't quite understand how it is for her. He tells her that unless she can give all of the captured men equal importance then he doesn't think she should sit in that office.
"Look at this room--you may have your favorites, but no one spouse is everything to you, the way Han is to me."
"That has always seemed to me a weakness of the way you choose to live," Doman said.
"We can argue that another day," Leia said. "The point is that you can't understand what it would mean to me to lose him."
Yes, it would certainly be a terrible thing if Leia lost him. I can't stand that she is constantly so torn between her own personal life and the good of the New Republic. Is it wrong to want to save your own husband? Anyway, he continues to tell her that he fears she will risk all of their hard-fought peace for the sake of Han. To which she replies, "Do you think that nothing matters more to me than Han? Do you think I'm that out of control?" Anyway, this is all really frustrating.
Lando is still off doing stuff with Lobot, Threepio and Artoo I didn't quite follow... and didn't really make any effort to follow. And Luke is still with Akanah and I had a very hard time figuring out exactly what their relationship was during all of this, because I'm pretty sure at least once they were spooning. Luke does talk about how he suspects that one reason Leia doesn't want to know more about her mother is because she wants to protect the idyllic memories that she still holds dear. There is also a lot of tactical stuff with the fleet and things that aren't really that interesting to read about.
Leia is still dealing with the senate and their desire to have a vote of no confidence against her. Han is bored to death and lying in his cell with that guy Barth and they are mindlessly passing the time and suffering greatly due to no food or water. They are brought some simple white pants to wear instead of their uniforms, and that's it. Han and Barth are then brought before Nil Spaar where Han first thinks he might be able to escape but they go to a bit more trouble to bind his arms so he's stuck. Spaar tells him to recall the fleet against Leia's orders, so that he and Barth can live. Han refuses. Not enjoying that answer, Nil Spaar takes his nasty claw that he seems to have and basically just rips through Barth in a very gory and graphically depicted execution that mentions lots of blood and pulsing organs spilling out onto the floor. Han is at least spared this time, but now he's alone.
Luke is still off on his random running around and thinking about Force stuff with Akanah and he has his three hundred twenty-seventh annoying thought about Leia and her reluctance to train in the Force:
He knew that Leia had within her extraordinary resources of will and power--resources she had of late become reluctant to draw upon. Luke thought that he was much of the reason, with both his example and his presence creating disincentives. It was important that she find that strength again.
It seemed to Luke that Leia had neglected, even abandoned, her own training, and that her training of the children had become unbalanced, with the disciplines of warrior and weapon excised as if they were dispensable. Luke had not spoken of it with her, but from what he had seen, it was almost as though Leia hoped to delay, training the children as Jedi clerics rather than as Jedi Knights--as if the path before her, the path he had followed, promised to take her somewhere she did not want to go.
It was her choice to make. Her destiny was no more clear to him than it was to her. But whatever that destiny was, it seemed that she was fighting it rather than following it.
Seriously, let your sister live her own life! Anyway, back to Han, who is being moved from one cell to another by some guards who he is of course giving a very hard time since that's the kind of guy he is. One of them asks him a question: "I have an interesting question for you, Han Solo--do you think that your mate would be willing to fire through your body to kill my master?" I'm kind of curious to know the answer to that question, myself. Instead of answering the question, Han remains confident that these smug enemies will soon meet their end, and he is left in a large cell with a bunch of other random prisoners.
We learn that Han's capture has not made the news first so that people aren't aware of the turmoil in the senate but more so because Leia does not want the children to know that their father is a prisoner of war. Leia spends a lot of time fighting with these guys but at one point finally goes home and just spends some time gardening because it is about the only thing she has control over at this point. It is then that she receives a visitor who had been working as a spy for the Yevetha but he claims he was never really on their side and to Leia it seems apparent that whatever it is that he did is the reason that Han was captured. So we get a brief, kick-ass Leia moment:
With a single quick stride, Leia closed the distance between them. "You took my husband away from me," she said, and dropped into a Jedi fighting stance.
"Princess, surely--" It took only one blow to silence him, one more to bring him to his knees, and one last to send him sprawling, unconscious. Releasing her breath in a satisfied sigh, Leia stood straight and looked to a startled Tarrick.
"Thank you for that," Leia said lightly, flexing her hands in front of her. "I just might be able to sleep a little tonight."
I do kind of love Leia just dropping the guy who could be responsible for what happened to Han. Of course she later learns that the guy probably wasn't the one who was responsible, but she doesn't seem to care. She also soon gets a message from Spaar that they have decided to become allies with the Empire, whom they previously despised, so that their odds in battle increase dramatically. They don't believe the alliance and continue their offensive, resulting in some serious damage done to the Yevethan fleet, which does not make Nil Spaar happy. So he decides to be a bit less subtle:
For once, there was no craft or subtlety in a transmission from Nil Spaar and for once, there was absolute silence in the conference room.
Leia watched it with her arms wrapped tight against her body, one hand covering her mouth. When it was over, she left the room, her face white, her eyes dead.
Ackbar was little better off, despite having looked away through the worst of it. Alole was weeping silently, fat tears painting her round cheeks. Behn-Kihl-Nahm wore a scowl of ultimate contempt.
Alone in his office, Drayson wore a mask of cold rage.
They had seen Nil Spaar savagely beating a bound Han for nearly twenty minutes--not just beating him, but kicking and hurling him about an empty compartment in an animal rage. The beating went on until Han was bleeding freely from his mouth, his nose, from gashes on his face and arms, his chest, his calf. The beating went on until Han's blood was smeared on the bulkheads, the deck, and halfway up Nil Spaar's powerful forearms. The beating went on until Han could no longer stand when the viceroy dragged him to his feet, not even with a wall to support him.
For long seconds, Nil Spaar had stood in a half crouch over Han's crumpled form. The viceroy was partly turned away from the lens, and they could not see his face. But they could see his thorax plates rise and fall, and one hand flexing menacingly as a great claw appeared, vanished, appeared, and vanished again.
Then Nil Spaar had straightened and turned to face them. They saw that he was bleeding as well--tiny rivulets running from the two enlarged scarlet crests at his temples. Staring into the holocam, he had wiped at the blood with the back of one hand, then sucked his hand clean.
Finally, he had made his message explicit, though with unusual economy of words--the only words spoken throughout the entire horror, delivered in a dark, angry growl: "Leave Koornacht now."
Yikes. That is not a good day for Han. Or Leia, really, as you can only imagine what is going through her head as she views it. And I literally mean you can only imagine it because we never really delve into how she is emotionally affected by what she sees. The next we see of her, she is going to visit Mon Mothma. Now, knowing how she is, I bet you all can pretty much tell how this visit is going to turn out. She at least asks how the children are handling it, since she had to tell them as the message was public and she knew they'd find out anyway. "Jaina is angry. Jacen is afraid," Leia said. "Anakin is mostly confused--he can't understand why anyone would want to hurt his daddy." It has to be heartbreaking to tell your kids something like that happened to their father.
When Mon Mothma asks Leia how she's handling it she mostly just talks about the conflict in the New Republic and how she doesn't know what to do, whether to recall the fleet or keep fighting. She at least concedes that her first instinct was to give them what they wanted as long as she could have Han home safe. She doesn't know how to choose between what she wants for herself and her family and what the New Republic needs. This is the same woman who abandoned the Rebellion to go save that guy who hadn't even yet said he loved her when he was frozen in carbonite. And now she's having a hard time justifying saving the father of her children. Although admittedly the Rebellion didn't really lose much when she went to save him on Tatooine. But I don't know about this decision and I still can't figure out if this is what she would really do.
Because what does she do? She decides to fight and she announces that regardless of her personal involvement in what's going on, they can't just let the Yevetha go. She says all of this being pretty much positive that she has just killed her husband. Yikes.
This is when you get to say thank the gods for Chewie, because he is going to get Han no matter what it takes. Han, as you can imagine, is in terrible shape but Chewie kicks ass and blasts his way in to save him, carrying him off to the Falcon so they can get him away and to some medical attention. About this same time Luke has come back and met up with the fleet and winds up in the same place. Han is brought in on a stretcher and once again it's a good thing the guy has a Wookiee with a life debt:
And even if Han had been conscious, there was Chewbacca to contend with-- the Wookiee hovered over Han so protectively that he got in the way of the doctor and the medical droid, and ultimately had to be dragged back from the triage table by two of his companions.
At least Chewie is being all protective of Han because Leia isn't really doing such a good job with that here. Chewie also sees Luke and is not happy that he wasn't around to help save Han, either, but we can't really blame him, because he had no idea. Or maybe we can blame him because he abandoned his family to go off in search of his mother. We do get one humorous bit from a droid who mentions that they need to get Han in bacta but he had apparently told them that he likes scarring because he finds it "socially desirable." Leave it to Han. But come on, he really can't get any more socially desirable.
A while later, after Han undergoes some extensive treatment, he is finally out and awake just long enough to talk with Luke and Chewie briefly. Luke and Han have a brotherly conversation where they joke basically about how they haven't seen each other in so long. And Han laments at having to sit out the battle. He tells Luke to get the doctors to let him talk to Leia and wonders if anyone has told her, which apparently they had. He's told it's all set up for him and then he has to spend another five days in the tank. But we get a very "Han" line first: "...make sure you mention I was bothering the lady doctors---otherwise she'll worry,"
Han needs to be taken away but before he goes he asks Luke if he would've come for him if he had known, and Luke says he would've. So Chewie and Luke would... but Leia wouldn't. Ugh. Then there are a lot more space battles and fighting and stuff as the New Republic proceeds to take out the Yevethan fleet. Luke finally learns that Akanah knew nothing about his mother and made up the whole story as a way to get him to work with her. She's not a bad person, she just needed some help and manipulated him to get it.
Yadda, yadda, yadda... Lando does whatever he's doing, Spaar dies, good guys beat the bad guys.
Finally at the end of all of the turmoil Luke goes to Leia, who had not sent any communication to him. She had just come home from visiting Han in the hospital, apparently the first time she'd been able to take the children since he's out of the tank and looking more like himself. Luke basically says that he wants to be part of the family again and help train the children, who are of course very happy to see their uncle. Leia welcomes him with open arms. The end.
If this book was a movie, there would be a lot of scenes of government officials sitting around conference tables talking, a lot of scenes with Lando and Lobot off doing whatever they're doing, and a lot of scenes with New Republic fleets fighting with officers we don't really know or care about. It seems like a good portion of this could've been condensed, yet it wasn't.
I was also left incredibly frustrated that we really never see Leia's reaction to what happened to Han and we never get to see them reunited or even just talking after or her hearing the news. There are a lot of spots I'd like filled in here as far as missing moments are concerned. Leia's reaction to what happened, telling the kids what happened, Leia hearing that Han has been rescued, telling the kids that Daddy is coming home, getting to talk to him, finally getting to see him, going through his recovery... I could go on. Seriously, Leia makes the decision to go to war and we don't hear from her again in the book until the very end when she brings the kids home and sees Luke.
And, man, Leia is frustrating in this book. Again, it seems everyone important in Han's life is willing to drop everything to go get him except his own wife. I know I've never been in that position before, but I feel like this feisty Leia who shows a bit more of herself when she just punches out that spy she thought was the reason Han had been captured would just hop on her ship and go get him herself. Or call Chewie and tell him to pick her up on the way. She just... leaves him.
So, what can I give this book as a rating? I think Han is very in character here but again, I can't really decide about Leia, especially since we never really get to delve into what she's thinking, we only see the outcome of the decisions she makes. I might only be able to go 2.5 here, because they aren't featured enough really and even though Han is himself and makes some nice comments about how strong his wife is, I don't know that Leia would so easily give him up like that. Especially when they have the kids and I know she's mad at Luke, but she wouldn't have contacted him to ask for help? Or Chewie? She seems to give up too easily, to me. But you can argue otherwise because my opinion waivers on this book.