Monday, January 28, 2013
Assault at Selonia - The Review
Okay, get ready and don't blink. This may be the shortest review I have ever written. I have only two things 'marked' to share with you guys from this book. It's not that it was BAD, just that basically nothing really happens and it was a fairly boring read. Oh, and Han spends the majority of the book crawling on his hands and knees through the underground of Corellia. Alright, now that I've got your primed and excited to find out more, let's get going.
We start off with Han in custody. Remember? He helped Belindi Kalenda (the NRI agent) escape Corellia by sacrificing himself to being caught in the process. Han is brought in front of his evil cousin, Thracken Sal-Solo. After some words, in which Han does say that his wife, Leia Organa Solo, doesn't care for people that hurt her family, Sal-Solo forces Han into a fighting ring with a female Selonian - Dracmus. Able to speak a little bit of the Selonian language, Han and Dracmus agree to make the fight look real but not kill each other. After getting knocked around quite a bit, Han finally falls unconscious.
We then move over to Luke and Lando who are arriving on Coruscant with news of the interdiction field and the overall Corellian situation. We get some of Lando worrying about his newfound girlfriend, Tendra, and this entire sequence where Luke and Lando have to travel underground and fight these weird creatures before getting to the underground New Republic bunker where they meet with the likes of Ackbar and Mon Mothma. For some reason, the New Republic has no Navy to send to Corellia. Reasons are given, although I really didn't find them believable. In the end, the New Republic asks Luke to call in a favor from an old female acquaintance, Gaeriel Captison from Bakura (see Truce at Bakura for more details) to borrow the Bakuran fleet.
Luke and Lando prepare to depart on the Lady Luck with Luke's X-wing in tow. We then get a very lengthy look into Luke's feelings on Gaeriel and the time that has passed since he had seen her. There is a lot of 'might-have-beens' and regrets and basically, Luke's love life once again gets more introspection than Han and Leia's relationship ever has or does. This really bothers me. I don't begrudge Luke a love life, but why does Han and Leia's always get the shaft in comparison? Anyway, Luke finds that Gaeriel has married (her husband now deceased), has a child (little girl) and has risen to political power on Bakura and fallen since the time that he has seen her. By the end of the chapter, just as Luke and Lando are preparing to leave the Coruscant system, Belindi Kalenda arrives and they make a u-turn to meet up with her and get news of Corellia.
Chewbacca, the Solo kids, Ebrihim (the children's Drall tutor) and his droid, Q9 are all on the Millennium Falcon and landing on Ebrihim's family farm on Drall where we meet his Aunt Marcha and get more confusing news of uprisings on Drall.
Let's get back to Han, who is recovering from his fight with Dracmus in a tiny cell. A drunk Sal-Solo comes to visit him and tells Han that he wants him alive and close so as to keep the New Republic from blowing him up (thinking the New Republic wouldn't bomb anywhere that the Chief-of-State's husband was being held). Han tells Sal-Solo that his plan is flawed. Sal-Solo gives a recount of why he feels he rightfully should be Diktat of Corellia and admits that he has been telling 'some lies' but doesn't 'fess up to what those lies might be. As Sal-Solo leaves, he throws Dracmus, the Selonian Han had just fought, into the cell with Han.
Move over to the awkward meeting between Luke and Gaeriel, both apparently sharing some unresolved feelings for the other. As Luke tells Gaeriel the reason for his visit (while sitting in close proximity to Gaeriel's deceased husband's gravesite - ::shrugs::), she begins to call a council together to discuss loaning the Bakuran fleet to the New Republic.
Han converses with his new cell mate (Dracmus the female Selonian) who is very interested in Han's relationship with his cousin Thracken Sal-Solo. Apparently, it is hard for the Selonian to understand how Han could be so different from his close relative. Han does his best to explain human relations and family dynamics. Dracmus promises not to rip out Han's throat while Han sleeps and tries to recuperate. In the morning, the pair continue to discuss humans and Han realizes that Dracmus is having a hard time trying to trust Han when Han proudly admits to being a fairly convincing liar. The pair discuss their ideas of who is behind the starbuster plot. Dracmus and Han agree that Sal-Solo probably didn't have the funds, intelligence or technology to supernova a star. Han states that he is distrustful of Mara Jade's role in the plot. Dracmus, having dealt with Mara as an honest and fair trader, argues for her innocence and blames the plot on ex-Imperial Navy.
As Han continues to argue, Dracmus drops this bombshell:
"To make conspiracy is to draw many together. Perhaps one plot pulls in Jade, Imperial Navy fragment, Human League, and others, too. But I hope you are all wrong, honored Solo. I truly do."
"It is not obvious? If she is behind this plot, she has quite deliberately arranged things so she is where she is right now, to be where she can do the plot the most good."
"What's your point?" Han asked.
"Right now," she said, "Mara Jade is in same place with your wife."
Poor Han. As long as it was only his hide on the line, he seemed fine. But as soon as he thought that Leia might be in danger he was ready to start talking about escape. Han shared an idea that involved throwing their dinners in the faces of their guards. Dracmus had other ideas in mind which quickly became a better option as his den-mates cut through the floor of their cell and freed Han and Dracmus.
Meanwhile, Lando's would-be girlfriend, Tendra has been watching the skies through macro binoculars. She senses something is afoot and decides to throw some money around and get herself a ship and gets off planet and headed to Corellia in hopes of finding Lando. She uses an old radionic frequency that Lando had taught her to send a repeating message for Lando to hopefully intercept as she traveled closer and closer to where he was supposed to be.
At this point, we finally get to see Leia, who is being held captive by the Human League in the old governor's mansion. There's a brief scene of Leia arguing with her guard and as he leaves, he tells her that she is going to be getting a 'cell mate'. Leia prepares to meet her new fellow prisoner and guess who it was? Yep, Mara Jade. The two women get right to hashing out all the reasons that they have NOT to trust each other. But they finally decide that at the moment they both have the same goal in mind - escaping. Mara confesses that she has a slave controller for her ship (basically a remote control device that will bring her ship - unmanned - to her location. The controller is a few floors down and the pair agree to work together to escape and work out the rest later. Leia is reticent about trusting and working with Mara, but decides it is the only path she has to pursue at that moment.
Um, I guess I should say here that each and everyone of the characters here have all discussed theories and ideas on what the hell is going on in the Corellian System and who might be behind it. Honestly, I have no idea what's going on and found it hard to follow all the speculating. Consensus seemed to be that Sal-Solo couldn't be working this elaborate plot alone. Other than that, we really don't know who could be pulling all these strings.
We get back to Mara and Leia, who are trying to escape. They crafted a rope made out of ripped sheets and repelled down the building several stories to the floor that Leia had shared with her children before the bombing. As she and Mara navigate through the rubble that used to be her quarters, Leia comes across one of Anakin's playthings on the ground and stops to pick it up. This is the first part of the book that I marked to share with you guys, keep in mind we are 144 pages in to a 300 page book. Ugh. But here it is:
Leia stopped just short of the door, and Mara nearly walked up her back.
"What's wrong?" Mara asked. "What is it?"
Leia knelt down and picked up the small object she had spotted.
How she had seen it in the virtual darkness, she could not say.
It was a little model hover car, one of Anakin's toys. Suddenly it all hit her hard. Her child's toy. Had he dropped it there himself in the midst of the frantic escape during the attack? Or had the Human League's thugs seen fit to root through the children's toy chest in their search for loot? What had happened to her children? Where were they? Were they safe? Could Chewbacca protect them?
Stop. Stop. She had a job to do. For them, as much as anyone.
She had to get free, and set about organizing some sort of resistance to the monsters who had scattered her family. Nor did it escape her that it was a member of her family who was responsible for all this.
Thrackan Sal-Solo would pay.
Leia wrapped her hand around Anakin's toy, around the bit of plastic and metal that was suddenly all she had of her son. She slipped it into her pocket and then moved on without explaining to Mara what had made her stop. How could she expect Mara to understand?
She stepped into the apartment that had been her home not so long ago. The furniture had been thrown about, and the windows smashed to bits. She smelled the damp, cold smell of a long-dead fire mixed with rain, but forced herself not to think of home and family. in all probability the League thugs were already searching for them. There was no time.
She went straight to the kitchen and knelt down by the main cooking unit. There was a storage cabinet under its heating compartment. She opened it up and pulled the pots and pans out as quietly as she could, though every unavoidable clatter and rattle seemed deafeningly loud. She reached into the rear of the compartment and found what she was looking for. Two cloth-wrapped packages. She pulled them out.
One package was covered with the finest black velvet and tied with a silver ribbon. That one she opened first. Her lightsaber, a gift from her brother Luke. He had given it to her just before she had set off on this trip.
She rolled the velvet up and shoved it in a pocket, suddenly unwilling to leave anything more behind. She clipped the lightsaber to her belt. The other object was wrapped in much plainer cloth, a scrap from one of Han's old shirts.
She hesitated before opening it. But there was no point in not going the whole way at this point. If Mara had wanted to kill her, all she would have needed to do was cut the rope when leia was dangling out over nothing at all. She unwrapped the scrap of cloth. Han's spare blaster was inside.
"Take it," Leia whispered.
Mara looked at Leia, her expression unreadable in the dim light from the shattered windows, she made no move to take the weapon. "Are you sure you want me at your back with this thing?" she whispered back.
"No more than you want me at your back with my lightsaber. But we can get back to not trusting each other later. Right now isn't the time. Take it."
Mara took the weapon - but Leia hung on to the scrap of cloth and stuffed it in the same pocket with the velvet and Anakin's toy. Her husband was gone, too. That little bit of torn shirt might be the last she would have of him. But there was no time.
I liked Leia hanging onto to the toy and then the scrap of fabric from Han's shirt. Still, kinda feel like I'm grasping at straws just a little bit. But it was nice to read that passage.
Leia and Mara work together to escape. Leia uses her lightsaber to light the way and I wonder how she ended up with a red blade? Isn't that color relegated to the Dark Side? Anyway, that also got me wondering what happened to the fabulous Mara Jade? I mean, I seem to remember reading about her doing some pretty fantastic things with the Force and lightsabers in previous books, right? She seemed oddly normal here. I guess there might've been something about her losing some of her abilities when she broke from the Emperor or whatever? Am I remembering that right? Oh well. Maybe Mara's abilities come and go like Leia's do?
Shortly following the above passage, there was a part where Mara had to kill one of their pursuers and the two women had this conversation:
"He dropped the handlight and broke it," Mara said, clearly irritated with the dead man, as if he had broken the light on purpose. "We could have used that. The fool didn't even have a blaster."
"That's all you've got to say?"
"That's all there's time for, if we want to live through this," Mara said. "If it helps, I was going to try and knock him out, not shoot him, until he claimed to have a gun."
"It doesn't help much," Leia said, staring at the dead man. He was their enemy. If he had managed to raise the alarm, or caught them himself, or if he had had a blaster, things would look very bad. But telling herself those things didn't make him any less dead. And there was no time. "We have to move," she said, coming out of it. "If there was one of them sleeping here, there might be more. And someone might have heard or this one might have called it in before he came out for a look."
I don't know why, but I liked that little exchange between Mara and Leia. The way it portrayed how different they are and would be. I like reading the two of them together and find it easy to believe that they would become friends later.
There was a small, somewhat related part that happened shortly after that exchange with Leia and Mara that I liked as well. I'll share it since I have so little to share anyway:
Leia shoved a little harder with her foot, then with her hip, forcing the opening wider.
Lightsaber at guard, she stepped onto the landing and forced herself to repress the impulse to jump back when she saw what had blocked the doorway.
It was a body, the dead body of a young man, wearing the uniform of the Governor-General's tech staff. The corpse was lying on its back, and had a neat hole between its open eyes. The shifting red shadows cast by the lightblade made the dead man seem a strange and alien thing. Leia recognized him, though she did not know his name. He had been the one who told her about the interdiction field, just after Han had vanished.
How long ago was that? Just a few days? Half a lifetime? He had seemed a nice young man. Now here he was, shot dead and left to rot in a stairwell for some trivial and unknown offense. The Human League made itself awfully easy to hate.
I like this side of Leia. The one that remembers each and everyone of the dozens of people that work with her day after day and values their lives and happiness. I don't know, I just thought that passage was very Leia.
The rest of the girls' escape was pretty hairy and fairly fun to read through. In the end, they board Mara's ship, The Jade's Fire, and hi-tail it outta Corellia.
Back to Luke and Lando and that Bakuran fleet. Apparently the Bakurans have developed some technology that would allow them, for a brief amount of time, to travel through hyperspace even in the interdiction field. The tech is costly and not easily equipped, so it is only with a four ship fleet that the group leaves Bakura and heads to the Corellian system.
Meanwhile we have pages and pages and pages of Han crawling through tunnels following Dracmus around. I mean, pages and pages of this and Han is of course, battering his body to a pulp in the process as faster moving Selonians actually crawl over him and such. Poor Han, I sure hope he has Aflac or some Star Wars equivalent. Anyway, they finally arrive at their destination, where Han and Dracmus get into a small cone-shaped ship with another Selonian pilot and fly off towards Selonia. The ship, which wasn't built very well, ends up floating dead in space as Han does his best to repair it without much hope. Although there is mention of Han taking a quick sponge bath during this down time. So there is that....
Back on Drall, Ebrihim tells his Aunt Marcha of the starbuster plot and they find out that the kids already knew about it. Aunt Marcha is very interested in the story and especially about the mysterious room/thing that the kids had found at the archeological dig on Corellia. There is similar digging there on Drall and of course they all head there to check it out. Anakin does his magic and gets the thing to come alive as it had done on Corellia and Aunt Marcha immediately knows that it is a planetary repulsor, stating that each planet in the Corellian system has one and it was how the system was formed. How she knows this when it seems no one else does is not really explained.
Once in space, Mara and Leia are unable to agree where to go from there. Mara wants to go back to Corellia because it seems to be the center of the action. Leia wants to go to Drall since that is where she suspects Chewbacca would've taken her kids. In the end the women agree to go to a neutral point and head for Selonia, which just so happens to be where Han is headed and where the Bakuran fleet is due to show up, oh and where Tendra Risant is floating through space sending messages for Lando to intercept.
The second to last chapter is aptly named: All Together Now, as all of these players do, in fact, come together over Selonia.
First, the Bakurans arrive approaching Selonia where one of their ships is damaged during the hyperspace run through the interdiction field. Analyzing a very badly organized attack by the Corellians, Selonians and Drall (groups that are supposedly fighting each other, yet coming together to fight against the arriving Bakurans - another mystery that may eventually mean something...) the Bakuran Admiral decides to sacrifice the damaged ship and play into the hands of the defending Corellian fighters. As the damaged ship approaches the point in space that the Corellians were obviously baiting it towards, the ship is inexplicably 'smashed' to bits by an unseen fist. The Bakuran crew identifies the 'fist' as a planetary repulsor, a new, deadly weapon apparently in the hands of the Corellians. Duhn, duhn, duhn....
Lando finally intercepts the message from Tendra and replies, telling her he has arrived but is going bravely off to battle. Tendra gets his reply and worries that she has probably lost Lando even before she had the opportunity to truly fall in love with him. Even Lando gets some sappy love time...
Luke and Leia feel each other in the Force and then both feel another similar being in the same system. Han! Leia has Mara guide her ship towards the derelict cone ship and Han and Leia are reunited. This is the second and last tabby that I marked on this book:
"That's the Jade's Fire that just latched herself to our hull," Han said. "Mara Jade's ship. Your swell friend has just tracked me - or you - or us, halfway across the Corellian system. And I can tell you right now, I am not giving her any more benefit of the doubt. She had better do a damned good job of convincing me she's on our side or-" The inner airlock door slid open, and Han stopped talking. He just stood there, open mouthed and in shock, for a full five seconds. And then, somehow, suddenly, they were in each others' arms, seemingly without either of them crossing the distance between them. "Leia," he said. "Leia, how did you-"
Leia Organa Solo wrapped her arms around Han and hugged her husband. "Hello, Han," she said. "I missed you."
Not very lengthy as far as reunions go, but at least they are back together and they are in each others' arms!
Mara, Han, Dracmus and Leia all compare notes and find out that each planet may have one of the repulsor weapons and that someone has found at least one and is controlling it apparently from Centerpoint Station. A space station that sits in the middle of the double worlds, Tallus and Tralus.
The last chapter, we meet up with Wedge and the Rogues as they scramble to evacuate the next star that is due to mysteriously explode according to Sal-Solo and the message that Leia received. They are having a hard time of convincing everyone to leave and have to eventually call the rescue squads off as the star does begin to heat up and finally explode. Wedge mourns the people that refused to leave and worries about the next star on the list that has millions of more people to evacuate than this star did.
All-in-all this book was pretty dull, uneventful and boring, in my opinion. Not a lot happens and it really just seems like a bad bridge between the first and last book. Like, could this have been a duology instead of trilogy? It feels intentionally drawn out. I had a hard time with the score here. At first I wanted to score it pretty low because this is supposed to be a "Han and Leia factor" rating and the Han and Leia factor would be pretty low. One reminiscing scene and one reunion does not a good Han and Leia book make. BUT, it wasn't a BAD book per se, like no one tried to marry someone else or act really out of character or anything, so I eventually landed on a 2.5 star rating. I don't remember much about the last book, but after reading it, I wonder if I'll find that you could skip this book entirely and still get the gist of the trilogy's plot? Stay tuned and we'll see....