Saturday, February 27, 2016
Vision of the Future: The Review
We begin with.... well, it doesn't begin with Han and Leia, but that's where I'm going to begin. Because before that it begins with lots of bad guys and Karrde and Wedge and stuff and then Luke going to try and find Mara. Do we need details on that? I agree we do not. So WE begin with Han and Leia on that little "vacation" Han suggested at the end of the last book. Remember how in the last book review I joked about the Solo kids being treated like those sitcom babies added late in a show run? You don't really see them or hear from them much? Well this book is an even worse offender in that regard. They only make a very brief appearance at the very end. I'm not really complaining, it was just something that stood out to me. Han and Leia needed their vacation time anyway, and the kids are apparently hanging out on Kashyyyk playing in the trees with Chewie.
They do have to at least pretend to be "working" for part of this trip. But Leia was quite happy with Han's idea of the vacation. "And it had been a good idea, too. In the half day since their arrival Leia had already begun to feel the tension draining out of her. Getting away from Coruscant was exactly what she’d needed, and she’d taken great pains to mention that to her husband at least twice now and to thank him for his thoughtfulness." Oh, good, Leia appreciating Han.
Unfortunately, because this is Han and Leia, someone is planning an attack on them. And while they're on vacation, no less. But first they have to finish sitting through the talks on Pakrik Major, but once those are over they head over to Pakrik Minor, which is quiet and has farms and forests and some cute little inn where Han has booked a room for them. Leia, for once, is very happy about all of this and even feels the tension leaving her. Sadly, those moments of leaving tension are short-lived, as their attackers arrive and start firing on them. Han and Leia at least act as a good team here, working together to try and stop the bad guys, as usual. Han leaves Leia to pilot and goes into the upper gun turret, which she is not happy about because he isn't well protected up there.
Han starts trying to take them out and coaches Leia through some fancy pilot maneuvers that causes one of the ships to collide with them and Leia to bump her head, though not too badly. It doesn't stop Han from being very concerned when he returns to the cockpit and sees the blood on her head. The impact has also caused them to lose the ability to fly, and they start falling toward the planet below.
The Falcon had been with the two of them all their married life, and with Han even longer than that, and Leia knew it would hurt him terribly to let the ship go. But it was the height of foolishness to hold so closely to any possession that it killed you. Grimacing, she keyed for escape pod activation.
"Oh, no," she breathed, keying it again, and again. "No."
But the result didn’t change. The escape pods were inoperative.
And she and Han were trapped in a ruined ship, plummeting toward the ground.
Well, clearly that isn't good. Han remains in the back trying to do whatever he does with his ship while Leia waits up in the cockpit watching the planet get closer. It's not looking good, though.
...if you’ve got any Jedi tricks up your sleeve, it’s about time to give them a try."
"I’m already trying," Leia said, her heart aching within her. She had been trying, in fact, ever since realizing the full extent of the danger they were in.
She’d tried to contact any Force-sensitives in the system, had quieted the distractions in Han’s mind so that he could concentrate better on his work, had stretched out to the Force looking for guidance or inspiration. But none of it seemed to have helped; and with an almost overpowering sense of helplessness she knew there was nothing more she could do. She couldn’t repair the sublight engines with a wave of her hand, or stop the Falcon’s inexorable fall planetward, or call for help where none existed.
We’re doomed. Threepio’s oft-repeated wail echoed through her mind. It was just as well he wasn’t here, she decided. Or the children, safe on Kashyyyk under Chewbacca’s care. Or even their Noghri guards. If it was their time to die, there was no need for anyone else to go with them. Good-bye, Jacen, Jaina, Anakin, she thought toward the stars, knowing that the message would almost certainly not reach them, wishing with a deep regret that she could see them one last time.
Yikes, things are pretty dire here, aren't they? Leia thinking she's never going to see her kids again? As you can probably guess, they don't die. (Remember when they both used to live through stuff?) Some TIE Interceptors slow to their speed and basically catch them with some cables and lower them down safely to the planet. They have no idea who it is, and it turns out to be these clones who were created by the Empire, but really only want to be left alone in peace on their beautiful planet. The only reason they stopped the Falcon from crashing was to save their own landscape from the damage it would've caused. Han and Leia still need to find out which Bothans were responsible for the Camaas attack and decide that since they are from the Empire, they can get them in to find out. So Han volunteers to go.
"Wait a minute," Leia cut in. "Don’t you mean take us out there?"
"Sorry, hon," Han said, shaking his head. "But if there’s one person everyone in the Empire knows by sight, it’s you."
"Oh, really?" Leia countered. "You think you’re any better?"
"I wasn’t ever president of the New Republic," Han pointed out. "Besides, one of us has to
"Why?" Leia demanded, a dull ache around her heart. Han had done a lot of crazy things in his life; but walking into the heart of the Empire was beyond even his old smuggler’s rashness. "The New Republic has other people they could send."
"Yeah, but which ones can we trust?" Han asked. "Besides, we don’t have time to go back and hunt up a team. The whole New Republic’s balanced on a blade edge right now."
"But you can’t go alone," Leia insisted. "And don’t forget I’m a Jedi. Any trouble you get into?"
I do like the way Zahn writes them. He doesn't get too crazy with things getting mushy, but it is so clear how much they care about one another, and how well they worked together. There is some more discussion on Han going and he decides he's going to take Lando with him. Leia is not happy about any of it, but she reluctantly agrees that it is all the right way to do things.
Under the table, Leia caught Han’s hand. "So much for our little vacation," she said, forcing a smile that probably looked as unconvincing as it felt.
The look that flickered across Han’s face made her wish she hadn’t said that. "I’m sorry, Leia," he said in a low voice. "We never seem to get a break from all this, do we?"
"Not very often," she agreed with a sigh. "If I’d realized at the beginning how much all of this was going to cost... I don’t know."
"I do," Han said. "You’d have died on Alderaan, Palpatine would still be running the Empire, and I’d still be shipping spice for slimetails like Jabba. All that by itself makes it worth it."
"You’re right," Leia said, feeling slightly ashamed of her moment of self-pity.
Very good points, Han. Then the conversation continues.
"When were you and Carib planning to leave?"
"Well, let’s see," Han said consideringly, an unexpected glint of roguishness touching the somber tone of his emotions. "I’ve got to get a transmission across to Lando, and Carib’s got to roll their freighter out and run a check on it. And he’s a family man, too, so he’s going to need time to say good-bye to his wife and kids. So let’s say... tomorrow morning?"
Translation: he’d told Carib they weren’t leaving till morning, with whatever excuses he’d needed to make it stick. "Thank you," she said quietly, squeezing his hand and trying the smile again. It felt much better this time.
"It’s not what I was looking for," Han said. "But I guess it’s better than nothing."
"Much better," she assured him. "But do you think all these crises can wait an extra night?"
"I don’t know," Han said, sliding out of his seat and offering her his arm in one of those old Royal Alderaanian gestures he too rarely used. "But I guess they’ll have to."
End Chapter. Good for you, Han. Making sure you and Leia get at least one night together before you take off. I'd say this could be a good spot for a missing moment, because we all know what they spent most of that night doing.
I'll mention here that Luke and Mara spend the majority of this book together. Uh, falling in love, I guess? I mean, I remembered thinking at the time I first read this one that it seemed to come out of nowhere, and my feelings on that were confirmed. There is like one tiny moment where Luke notices her hair or something and that is pretty much it. I'll talk more about that later though. They spend the whole book trudging through some primitive planet.
Anyway, Han and Lando are off on Bastian and Leia actually takes the Falcon and goes to meet with Admiral Palleon about potential peace treaties. She finds out that Bastian isn't the safest place to be:
Except that for once that source had failed her. Or perhaps more correctly, she had failed it. No matter how hard she stretched out to the Force, all she could see was the turmoil of her own fears for Han’s safety. Fears that she’d managed to suppress until now; guilt that she’d allowed him, even encouraged him, to step onto a hostile world in the first place; resentment and anger that after all their years of sacrifice she and Han were still the ones who always seemed to be called on to risk everything for others.
Blinking back tears, she tried to push back the sudden surge of emotion. But it remained a restless churning pool washing across her mind and spirit.
Aw, poor Leia, worried about Han and hating that they are always the ones putting their lives on the line.
Han and Lando are busy looking through Imperial archives on their little mission and Lando at one point mentions how Han still has some standing with the New Republic and people know Leia and:
"....Especially if they know how Leia reacts when one of her family gets in trouble."
"You mean like when one of the kids gets kidnapped or her husband gets beaten to a pulp or something?" Han growled, feeling his face warm.
Ah, referencing other books. No, Leia doesn't like it when either of those things happen. I should mention that Han and Leia spend the majority of the middle of this book apart, but they do seem to think of each other often.
Han and Lando of course encountered some complications on their little mission, though they did get what they went for. So we actually get a call from Han to Leia. It's so weird in these books how sometimes I swear it's like they can't really talk to each other.
"It’s so good to hear your voice again, Han," Leia’s voice came over the Lady Luck’s speaker, and there was no mistaking the relief in her tone. "I’ve been so worried about you."
"Hey, hon, it was no big deal," Han assured her, only fudging the truth a little.
There would be plenty of time to tell her the whole story of their little trip to Bastion when he could hold her hand while he did it.
Aw, Leia worried about Han. And Zahn seems to like having Han call Leia "hon" which is cute. The real reason Han isn't telling her more is for security, but I like that he knows he doesn't want to tell her the real danger he was in unless he is there to reassure her. Then Leia starts telling him about what she has been doing and it starts to sound like something bad happened and there is mention of Han's hands curling into fists at the thought that someone tried to hurt her, but luckily she was fine. Then we come to the end of the call:
"I’m just glad you’re safe. I’ll call Gavrisom right away and give him the good news about your mission."
"And tell him I’m not going to give it to him unless he promises you some real vacation time when this is over," Han warned.
"Absolutely," she agreed.
"Okay. I love you, Leia."
He could almost hear her smile. "I know," she said in their private joke. "I’ll see you soon."
I'm such a sucker for this. I of course write it in my own stories but I totally think they would often go back to that line with one another and I just love the line about how he could almost hear her smile. And then, fortunately, finally, they are reunited again:
And as he and Lando ducked aboard through the Lady Luck’s docking hatch, and the waiting Leia melted into his arms, the whole annoying hassle suddenly seemed worth it.
"I’m so glad you’re back," Leia murmured, her voice muffled by his chest as she clung to him. "I was so worried about you."
"Hey, hon, you know me," Han said, trying for a casual tone but hanging on to her as tightly as she was to him. Suddenly, now that it was all over, it was as if he was finally able to admit to himself what their reckless jaunt to Bastion might have cost. What he might have lost...
"Yes, I know you," Leia said, looking up at him and trying a smile that didn’t fool him for a second. Maybe she was seeing what they’d almost lost, too. "And I know you’ve never been able to stay out of trouble in your life. I’m just so glad you got through this one."
"Me, too," Han said honestly, giving her a closer look. "You look tired."
"I’m just up a little early," she explained. "Gavrisom has us on Drev’starn time, and it’s just after dawn down there."
"Oh," Han said. It hadn’t even occurred to him to ask the duty officer what ship’s time was. "Sorry."
"No problem," she said. "Believe me, this was well worth getting up early for."
Aw, so much sweetness in this little passage. This to me is close to perfect for Han and Leia reunions. No hesitation, she "melted" into his arms, they're both clinging to each other and worried but trying for the other one's sake to act like everything is no big deal and there was nothing to worry about. And Leia doesn't care that she had to get up way too early to greet her husband. Such nice, warm fuzzies.
I'm going to quote kind of a long passage now. A lot of the stuff in the middle isn't that important but it seemed a little choppy so I'm just going to quote the whole thing. Before I do, I'll mention that while Leia had the Falcon, she took a lightsaber to part of it to purposely disable it in order to get another ship to bring them in, knowing very well that Han was probably going to kill her for messing with his beloved ship.
"What about me?" Han asked. "What do I do?"
"You give me another hug," Leia said, standing up and moving close to him. "No, seriously, you’d better stay completely out of it," she added soberly. "You’re the one holding the Caamas Document, the one standing on the high moral ground. You can’t be seen dealing directly with either side."
"Yeah," Han said, grimacing. "I always like standing on the high ground? you make such a good target up there. Come on, Leia, I can’t just sit around and do nothing."
Pressed against him, he felt her body stiffen a little. "Well, actually... the Falcon does need a little work," she said carefully. "We lost the starboard power converters and ion flux stabilizer on the way into the system. "
"That’s okay, I’ve got spares for both," Han said. "Any idea what happened to them?"
He could almost feel her wince. "They ran into a lightsaber."
He twisted his neck to look down at the top of her head. "Oh," he said. "Really."
"It was for a good cause," she hastened to add. "Really it was."
Han smiled, stroking her hair. "I believe you, sweetheart," he assured her. "Okay, I’ll get right on it. You’re docked over on the other side, right?"
"Yes." Leia drew partway away from him. "One other thing. There’s a passenger aboard, who we’re also sort of keeping out of local politics for the moment. Elegos A’kla, a Trustant of the Caamasi Remnant."
Han lifted his eyebrows, then shook his head. "I can’t leave you for a minute, can I?" he said. "I take off from Pakrik Minor on a simple little trip; and the next thing you know you’re consorting with high-level Caamasi."
Leia smiled up at him. But the smile had a disturbing brittleness to it. "You don’t know the half of it," she said, reaching up to stroke his cheek.
"So tell me."
Reluctantly, Leia shook her head. "We don’t have time right now. Maybe after Gavrisom and I get back from the Predominance, I can tell you the whole story."
"Okay," Han said. "Sure. I’ll just get to work on the Falcon, then, okay?"
"Okay." Leia hugged him again and gave him a quick kiss. "I’ll see you later."
Of course a few good things there. Han wants to help and Leia just wants him to hold her. Even though of course the Falcon is Han's baby, he doesn't get mad that Leia sliced into it with her lightsaber. He strokes her hair and some cute banter and then Zahn even lets them kiss, which we know is rare. (there were 2 hand squeezes and an arm squeeze in a passage just before this that I didn't quote) I don't know, I just like this interaction, it's very cute, very much like how I'd see them with each other.
Unfortunately, once they separate, there is an attack and Han knows that Leia is on the ship being attacked and goes to bring the Falcon in closer.
"We’re under attack," Leia said, her voice tense. "Three Diamalan ships have joined up against us, one of them sitting between us and the planet in case we try to fire on Drev’starn again. No serious damage yet, I don’t think, to either side. But that can’t last."
"Didn’t you tell them what happened?" Han asked.
"I told them, the Predominance’s captain told them, Gavrisom told them," Leia said. "They’re not listening."
"Or else don’t care," Han said, clenching his teeth hard enough to hurt. Leia, trapped aboard a ship under massive attack... "Look, I’m going to try to get over there," he told her. "Maybe I can at least get you and Gavrisom off."
"No, stay away," Leia said sharply. "Please. You’d never make it."
Han gazed bitterly out at the swirling battle. She was right, of course; from his new vantage point he could see the Predominance now and the storm of turbolaser fire raking across it, and he knew full well the Falcon’s shields wouldn’t stand a chance in there. But he couldn’t just sit out here and do nothing. "Look, I’ve outfought Star Destroyers before," he said.
"You’ve outmaneuvered them," Leia corrected him. "There’s a big difference. Please, Han, don’t try to-"
There was a squawk, and suddenly she was cut off. "Leia!" Han shouted, his chest tightening as he looked back at the Ishori war cruiser. It still seemed intact; but all it would take would be a single lucky shot into the bridge area.
This is why they should never, ever separate. It is never a good sign. Leia is all right though, the communications are simply being jammed. So Leia isn't in contact with him anymore either and is busy with fighting her own little battle. Han and the Falcon are grabbed by the enemy's tractor beam and it isn't good. Leia isn't even close enough to see this happen, but even from afar:
But in that sudden, heart-stopping moment, none of that mattered; not the battle, not her own life, not even the terrible threat of civil war. With that flicker of distant emotion, that sudden tremor in the Force, one thing alone had surged to overriding importance for her.
Somewhere out there, Han was in deadly danger.
This was always something I had sort of wondered about, whether Leia could really sense what was going on with her husband when he was in trouble or in pain. I really like the idea that she would know, and I'm glad it was included. And also that the simple fact that he is in danger becomes more important than anything to her at that moment. She can only sense that he is in danger though, and it mentions how she can't get past his emotions to get to his thoughts. I guess it could be nice, but also sort of creepy that at times she can get into his thoughts. At times like these though it's probably a good thing.
So Leia is going after Han and next we get what I think may be the most reckless thinking we ever get from Leia:
A blast of turbolaser fire shot past, burning a scorch line in the Predominance’s bridge canopy. It was like an omen, Leia thought darkly as she stepped past the outer monitor ring and into the central control cluster: an omen of her own impending downfall. What she was about to do, she knew, would most likely be the end of her political career. It could possibly send her to a penal colony. It could even cost her her life.
But Han’s own life was hanging in the balance. Against that, nothing else mattered.
I mean how many instances before did we have Leia thinking about the good of the Republic or whatever even before her own husband? And now it seems as though she is willing to sacrifice anything in order to help him. Leia moves forward and uses the Force to take control of the ship she's on, and then she actually uses some Jedi skills to take some blasters away from people and her lightsaber to block some shots taken at her. Then she says some words you probably wouldn't expect to hear her say:
"I hearby resign from the High Council, and the Senate, and the Presidency. I am no longer anything but a private citizen."
Whoa. Go, Leia. But the ship's captain decides to go with Leia, understanding what she is doing is important, and turns out she won't be shot or taken into custody or anything. As you might expect, Han doesn't die. They get to him and Leia can finally call him:
"Han?" Leia’s voice cut in, sounding breathless and relieved and tense all at the same time. "Han, are you all right?"
"I’m fine, hon," he assured her.
Again calling her "hon." It's apparently his new favorite term of endearment.
Of course, everyone winds up being ok. I think I had mentioned before that one of the elements of these books is the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who they previously thought was dead. Well, this being a Zahn book, of course it's just a clone.
I also need to mention Luke and Mara in this book. I said before they spend the whole time alone together on this weird planet. Someone mentioned in the comments on some other post that they claimed that Mara "waited" for Luke. Well, while at least in this book it doesn't outright say she waited for him, it does mention that apparently her being with Lando was all just a ruse for a mission. Oh, yeah, right. Seriously, that is one of the dumbest retcons I've ever heard. It even specifically mentions her wearing his shirt was part of the game, referencing a moment from another book where she is on a holocall wearing Lando's shirt. Sorry, just, really?
And the moment Luke asks her to marry him? They hadn't even so much as kissed. There is like one time where he thinks to himself that her hair is pretty and then suddenly out of the blue he looks at her and she is the most important thing ever and he asks her to marry him, and she totally immediately accepts. Because that makes sense. Seriously, there is like no lead-up to that at all. It almost makes you want to smack your head, it's like poor Luke is that guy who has never had a girlfriend and proposes to the first woman who talks to him for more than five minutes. But whatever.
Anyway, the point of this book and the conclusion of what we now refer to as the Bantam era of the EU, is the signing of peace treaties between the Empire and the New Republic. This is, as you would imagine, quite the occasion.
Fifteen days later, in the secondary command room of the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera, the peace accords between the Empire and New Republic were signed.
"I still say you should have been the one over there," Han groused as he and Leia watched from the back of the room while Pellaeon and Gavrisom performed the ceremony amid the crowd of assembled dignitaries. "You did way more on this than he did."
"It’s all right, Han," Leia said, surreptitiously wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. Peace. After all the years, after all the sacrifice and destruction and death.
Finally, they had peace.
"Yeah?" Han countered suspiciously. "Then how come you’re crying?"
She smiled at him. "Memories," she said. "Just memories."
He found her hand, took it comfortingly. "Alderaan?" he asked quietly.
"Alderaan, the Death Stars?" She squeezed his hand. "You."
"Nice to know I’m in the top three, anyway," he said, looking around the room. "Speaking of old memories, where’s Lando? I thought he was going to be here."
"He changed his mind," Leia said. "I guess Tendra wasn’t very happy with him heading out to Bastion with you without at least telling her about it. He’s taken her art shopping on Celanon to make it up to her."
Han shook his head. "Strong women," he said, mock sadly. "They’ll get you every time."
"Watch that," Leia warned, digging her elbow into his side. "You’ve always liked strong women. Admit it."
"Well, not always," Han said. "Ow-okay, okay. I like strong women."
Very cute. Yes, Han certainly does like strong women. One in particular. There is very brief mention that the kids are finally back, and they are playing with Chewie. Having a Wookiee babysitter on call must be great for busy parents. The treaties are still being signed and Han is talking with Karrde:
"You know, I asked you once what it would take to get you to join the New Republic. Remember?
You asked what it had taken to get me to join up?"
"Yes, I remember," Karrde cut him off, an uncharacteristic note of embarrassment coloring his voice. "Kindly bear in mind that I have not joined the New Republic. And my relationship with Shada is nothing like that."
"Neither was mine," Han said smugly, putting his arm around Leia. "That’s okay. Give it time."
"It’s not going to happen," Karrde insisted.
"Yeah," Han said. "I know."
I thought this was cute, too. And I can just picture Han smiling and putting his arm around Leia and of course while it isn't stated, I can picture Leia smiling as well. Then the book ends with more talk about how totally connected Luke and Mara are and they're like the same person and the Force and whatever.
Phew, ok, like I said, VERY long book! I'm going to give this one another 4 for Han and Leia. I think they are very much in character. They are, annoyingly, separated for a large portion of the middle of the book. But in a rare change, while they are apart, they are thinking of each other often. And any time they do spend together I think is done well. None of that annoying stuff where Leia undermines him, good banter, nothing overly mushy but clearly there is lots of love there and they are quite bonded given what each feels whenever they think the other is in danger. I mean, aside from more kissing or outright sex scenes, we couldn't really ask for much better in this case. Especially in such a plot-heavy book. Oh, yeah, it was plot-heavy. Just ignore the fact that I left most of the plot out. This book was like 650 pages and I can't spend weeks writing reviews.
And thus concludes the Bantam run of EU books. Rare attempts at a cohesive story, jumping around in the timeline, stories where nothing overall really changes and usually you end up about where you started by the time each book is over, so whatever book comes next they won't have to know what happened before. Of course this all changes when we get to the New Jedi Order, which we will be reviewing next.