Monday, March 28, 2016

Dark Tide I: Onslaught: The Review

Time for another book review! Yay, you say? No, not really. You are going to have to put your yay away for a while, because you won't be needing it. Of course any of us who read the New Jedi Order series in the past remember that the first few books after Chewie's death are.... rough, to say the least. I knew this going in. Now we are just going to be reminded of exactly how much.

In the very beginning of the book, we are reminded that in every single version of this universe, no matter who writes it, it sucks to be Leia. I think that is part of why I at least so much enjoy her happy relationship with Han, because it is just about all she really has. Although in this book that isn't going so well either. Leia goes to see Chief of State Borsk Fey'lya and ask for help, but they don't seem to think the Vong are a particularly legitimate threat. They are all looking at her with contempt, and one of the senators even says to her:

"Leia, as one who has looked up to you in the past, I beg you, please, stop now. You cannot know how pathetic you appear to be. You chose to leave public life. For you to come here now, with this story, in such a bald attempt to take back control from our hands, is a pitiful thing." 

Yikes, dude, why don't you tell us what you really think? He continues:

"Leia, please, do what Mon Mothma has done." Pwoe's voice filled with pity. "Fade away quietly. The government is ours now. Let us remember you fondly, as someone who transcended her humanity." 

Needless to say, they aren't going to allocate her any resources to help. This is only chapter 1. Oh, but things are always better when Han and Leia have scenes together, right? Right!?!? Uh, maybe not always. Leia goes home to pack and she has a senator with her, and Han is there....

She turned and found her husband, Han, hanging there in the doorway, his hands on either side of the jamb. She shivered because the haggard look on his face and the position of his hands reminded her far too much of when he had been frozen in carbonite. She wanted to believe the darkness under his eyes was just shadow, but she couldn't deceive herself that way.

Oh, right. Chewie's death did mess Han up. Well, this isn't so bad yet, is it?

Han staggered forward and almost fell down the stairs. He caught himself on the banister, made it down a couple more steps, then slid his way around the curve. He got his feet under him again, leapt the last few steps to the floor, and strode past Leia. With a grunt, he flopped down almost boneless into one of the chairs opposite Elegos. In the viewport's light, the rainbow of stains on Han's once-white tunic was evident, as was the grime at cuffs, collar, and elbows. His boots were badly scuffed, his trousers wrinkled, and his hair utterly unkempt. He ran a hand over beard stubble, flashing dirty fingernails as he did so.

Ok, so apparently he is drunk and has given up bathing or changing his clothes. That's just... great. I think it's even more great that he doesn't even try to hide this from some random guy who is there with Leia. Apparently this guy's species can do things like transfer memories, so Han wants to ask him a question about it.

"So what I want to know is this: How do you get rid of them? How do you get them out of your head?"  

The tortured tone of Han's voice drove a vibroblade through Leia's heart. "Oh, Han..." 

He held up a hand to keep her back. His expression sharpened. "How do you do it, Elegos?"  

The Caamasi lifted his chin. "We cannot get rid of them, Captain Solo. By sharing them we share the burden of them, but we can never be rid of them."  

Han snarled, then curled forward in the chair, grinding the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I'd tear them out if that would stop me from seeing, you know, I would, I really would. I can't stop seeing it, seeing him, seeing him die..."  

The man's voice sank to a bass rumble; rough, raw, and ragged as broken ferrocrete. "There he was, standing there. He'd saved my son. He'd saved Anakin. He tossed him up into my arms. Then, when I saw him again, a gust of wind knocked him down and collapsed a building on top of him. But he got up. He was bloody and torn up, but he got up again. On his feet, he got up and he raised his arms toward me. He raised his arms toward me, so I could save him, the way he'd saved Anakin."  

Han's voice squeaked to silence. His larynx bobbed up and down.  

"I saw him, don't you get it? I saw him standing there as the moon hit Sernpidal. The air just combusted. He was standing there, roaring, screaming. The light turned him black. Just a silhouette. Then it ate into him. I saw his bones. They turned black, too, then white, so white I couldn't watch. Then nothing." Han swiped at his nose with a hand. "My best friend, my only true friend, and I let him die. How am I supposed to live with that? How do I get that out of my head? Tell me."

Han might need some therapy. I'm not entirely clear on how long it has been since it happened. At the end of the last book I was thinking, oh, this isn't as bad as I remember. And then this is what we get in the next book. One of my problems with this scene here is how open Han is about this with this guy he barely knows. But then he is apparently drunk and a dirty mess, so maybe we shouldn't be expecting him to act much like himself. Anyway, Han overshares some more:

"Chewie was my friend. He counted on me, and I failed him." 

"I do not believe he would see it that way." 

Han snarled. "You didn't know him. How would you know?" 

Elegos laid a hand on the man's knee. "I didn't know him, but I have known of him for decades. Even what you just told me now, that he saved your son, tells me how much he loved you." 

"He couldn't love me. Chewie died hating me. I abandoned him, I left him there to die. His last thoughts were filled with hatred for me." 

"No, Han, no." Leia dropped to her knees beside Han's chair and clutched his left forearm. "You can't believe that." 

"I was there, Leia. I was close to saving Chewie, and I failed. I left him there to die."

"Regardless of what you believe, Captain Solo, Chewbacca did not share that view." 

"What? How can you know what he was thinking?"  

"The same way you will." The Caamasi blinked his violet eyes. "He saved your son. In Chewbacca's eyes, Anakin saved you by piloting the Millennium Falcon to safety. Yet one more time Chewbacca saved you, this time through your son. You don't know that now, but you will come to see that is the truth. When you relive this memory, think about that. As noble a hero as Chewbacca was, he could not have had anything but joy at knowing you survived. To think anything less demeans him." 

Han shot to his feet, pitching the chair over backward. "How dare you? How dare you come into my home and tell me I'm demeaning my friend? What gives you the right?"  

Ok, Han. All this wallowing in self pity is not attractive, pull yourself together! I feel like maybe 15 years ago when I first read this I was a little more sympathetic, but now it just seems utterly ridiculous. Would Han really believe that Chewie died hating him? Of course he would be disappointed and sad that he wasn't able to save him, but I don't know that he would really think that about Chewie. Oh, but apparently he is going to take a break from the wallowing and go out and find trouble instead:

"Threepio, find out from Coruscant's constabulary which tapcafs lead the list for incident reports. Comlink me the list." 

Leia got up. "Han, don't go. I'm going to be leaving soon." 

"I know. Off to save the galaxy again, that's my Leia." He didn't turn to face her, just hunched his shoulders. "I hope you have better luck. I failed to save even one person." 

The suite's closing door eclipsed Han Solo's back. 

C-3PO, his head cocked at an angle, looked at Leia. "Mistress? What do I do?" 

Leia closed her eyes and sighed. "Get the list, give it to him. Maybe call Wedge or any of the other retired Rogues. Hobbie or Janson or someone ought to be at loose ends and could keep an eye on him. And when he comes back, take good care of him." 

She felt a hand on her shoulder. "Leia, I can head out to the Rim on my own. You can stay here to care for your husband. I can report to you." 

She opened her eyes, then covered Elegos's hand with her own. "No, Elegos, I need to go. Even that deep in grief, Han's right. I want to stay, all of me wants to stay, but I have to go. Others can't, so it is up to us to rescue them. Han can take care of himself-he'll have to." 

That is the end of Chapter 4, and the last we hear from Han in this book. Which is probably a good thing. It's just a little... too much. I think when I first read this I wanted Leia to try harder to bring him back from his grief. But now, I can kind of see why she doesn't. Does he seem like he'd be easy to deal with right now? She also has an awful lot to deal with right now without worrying about her husband who is acting like a child.

Let's go now to hear from some actual children. Luke is with the Solo kids and sending all of his Jedi off on assignments, and decides that Anakin will be keeping an eye on Mara, who if you remember is still sick from a mysterious disease.

"You don't trust me." Anakin looked down at his dust-smeared fingertips and whispered hoarsely

"You don't trust me because I killed Chewbacca." 

The mournful tone of the boy's voice sent a shiver down Luke's spine. Regret and hurt poured off Anakin, underscoring the turmoil he felt over the Wookiee's death. Anakin has always wanted to be a hero, has always wanted to redeem his name, and suddenly finds himself drowning in a tragedy.

"There is something you must understand, Anakin, first and foremost: You did not kill Chewbacca." Luke walked over to his nephew and rested his hands on the boy's shoulders. Using his thumbs, he tipped the boy's face up until their gazes met. "The Yuuzhan Vong caused Sernpidal's moon to come crashing down into the planet, not you. For you to accept blame for Chewbacca's death absolves them of his murder and the murder of all those you couldn't save. You can't do that." 

Anakin swallowed hard. "It sounds logical when you say it, but, in my heart, what I feel... What I see in my father's eyes." 

Luke lowered his face to a level with Anakin's. "Don't be reading something into your father's eyes that isn't there. He's a good man, with a good heart. He'd never blame you for Chewie's death."

This kind of sad guilt makes sense coming from a 15-year-old boy, but not from Han. Han is in his 50s, for crying out loud. I do feel bad for Anakin. And Luke is telling Anakin that Han doesn't blame him, but I'm still not sure that ever really got resolved. Luke reassures him some, especially that he would never send him with Mara if he didn't trust him. Speaking of Mara, what could rub some more salt on these wounds of the Solo family falling apart? Oh, of course, let's have some sweet, nice Luke and Mara scenes. Ew. Something about Luke reaching out to her in the Force and she is so vibrant and amazing and a bunch of other crap I'm just not even going to quote. We get it, Luke, you think your wife is super amazing. Oh and she calls him "my love." I'm so glad that Han and Leia never called each other anything like that, because it makes me want to puke. Wait it gets worse, she calls him "husband mine" and they kiss a lot and stuff. Gross. Oh good, that chapter is over...

Oh, crap, so now it's time for Jaina to be all disappointed in her mother. I keep being reminded of things I'd forgotten annoyed me when reading these books so long ago. It wasn't until re-reading these books that I remembered what some of you had mentioned about there being a lot of contradictions about how trained Leia is. In the NJO Leia is barely trained at all. Yet in the last Tim Zahn book, she is floating lightsabers down to Han and being pretty bad-ass.

Jaina's voice sank into a whisper. "Mother, you are good at this sort of thing, but if you'd completed your Jedi training, you'd be more effective." 

"I worked hard at developing my skills." 

"Mother..." Jaina faltered for a second. "Mother, you don't even wear your lightsaber." 

The disappointment in Jaina's voice drilled through Leia. For years she had wanted to work more at becoming a Jedi. She saw it as a way to get to know her brother, Luke, and to help him with his dream of reversing the evil their father had done by destroying the Jedi. She'd practiced as much as she could, but other demands on her, demands born of her training as a politician and diplomat, always pulled her away. 

I told myself I was doing my best by helping to create the government, then to run it. I let Luke train my children so they could reach their full potential, or so I thought. Did I also let them become Jedi to ease my guilt over having failed to realize my potential with the Force? 

Jaina reached out with her left hand and settled it on her mother's shoulder. "I didn't mean it to sound the way it did. I... I know you didn't get to make some choices..." 

"The choices I made, Jaina, were choices made to help others. They came first. Your father. You. Your brothers. The New Republic." 

"I know that, and I'm proud of you, Mom, for being who you are." Jaina shrugged. "It's just that you're not a Jedi, not really, and, you know, it's just, well, weird when you play around with the Force." 

"I see." Leia caught a flash of horror in her daughter's eyes, and that gratified her.At least she knows there are boundaries she shouldn't overstep yet.

While it irritates me that Jaina would look down on her mother somewhat, and I'm sure this infuriated me when I read it the first time, I think now that I'm older and I think of the relationship I have with my own mother, I'm a little more understanding. Something about mothers and daughters, it can be.... challenging. There can often be tenseness there, especially if they are somewhat similar. Of course there was no such tension whenever I spent any time with my father, that was easy! But, still, another example of how it sucks to be Leia. Even her own daughter is disappointed in her.

Now let's briefly talk about Jacen. Jacen has decided he isn't going to use the Force anymore. Not just not be a Jedi, but not use the Force. I thought based on my memories of these books that he didn't start to get weird until he was kidnapped and brainwashed, but apparently he started turning into a weirdo all on his own before that happened. But the good news is, for once, someone has a nice thought about their parents:

Despite having to deal with the problems of others, his parents had always done their best to nurture their children. There might have been times when official business kept his mother away, but she always managed to make up for it not by bringing some gift from a faraway world, but by sharing time with him and his siblings. And his father had gone from being protector to good friend and confidant. Luke had been friend and mentor, and all of them meant more to Jacen than he knew he would ever be able to express. 

Oh, good, so at least one of their kids seems to appreciate them and have some fond memories.

Speaking of children thinking about their parents, Jaina is talking with Danni about her parents, and wanting to emerge from their shadows and forge her own identity. This does make some sense. She mentions that it's actually kind of nice that Leia didn't become a Jedi because then it is something Jaina gets to be that is unlike her mother. Though of course being a pilot is taking after her father. She is forced to admit to herself that while some of her mother's traits annoy her, they are actually quite admirable.

Let's check in on Anakin and Mara now, shall we?

He flashed for a moment on the fact that his father, in his grief, had scarcely drawn a sober breath. Why can't you be more like Aunt Mara, Father? 

Mara stared at him and through him. "There are times, Anakin, when things overwhelm us. There are times when you can't fight." 

"But you are still fighting. You're being brave." 

"It's because I know what I'm fighting. Others may not be able to identify their enemy, so they can't fight." 

My father's enemy is me. That thought sent a shiver through Anakin, but another thought followed on its heels.Or, perhaps, his enemy is the guilt that he's assumed. If only things had happened another way.

Ok, never mind, why did I want to check in on Anakin and Mara? So, Anakin knows his father has just been drinking himself into oblivion, and wishes that he was more like the most flawless character in all of literature, Mara Jade. Great. At least she tries to defend Han and knows he is going through some tough stuff. I'm not sure Han deserves much defending right now, though.

Leia later is with Gavin Darklighter, who is deciding who will fly with Rogue Squadron, and she is not happy to see that Jaina is not among the pilots listed. Now, this is a little more than just a mom being upset that their kid isn't getting enough playing time in Little League, Leia knows Jaina belongs with them, and Gavin says she is too young. Leia knows though that even Gavin was just as young when he started flying with them and these are desperate times. I think this is kind of good of her, putting aside her selfish side of being a mom who doesn't want her daughter to be harmed, and knowing Jaina is an incredibly capable pilot and would love to fly with them. Gavin concedes, and even better, Leia doesn't want to be the one to tell Jaina because she thinks it would feel somehow tarnished if the news came from her mother. Hey, look, a tiny section of the book that isn't entirely terrible. And Jaina, for once, is grateful:

While she loved her family and cherished being a Jedi Knight, being asked to join the squadron was something that she'd earned, not something granted to her by her ability with the Force or the reputations of her parents. 

This is good, and makes sense. I'm sure it's nice for these kids to feel like they really earned something due to their abilities, not because of where they came from. Later on we get a brief Leia and Jaina moment:

Jaina's casual use of the phrasevape some skips sent a shiver through Leia and made her regard her daughter differently. It felt to Leia almost as if she'd been looking at one holograph of her daughter, all pretty and prim and young, and then someone had switched it for this new image. 

Jaina had a touch of dirt on her face, and salt rings from sweat marked her flight suit's armpits. Her hair had been pulled back into a braid and lacked the sheen of clean hair. Leia could tell her daughter was tired, but there was an energy in her eyes that Leia recognized all too well. Her own father-her adopted father-had remarked on it in her eyes, when Leia became involved with the Rebellion. 

She's more grown than any parent wants to admit.Leia reached out to stroke her daughter's cheek, but caught a flash of wariness in Jaina's eyes. She shifted her hand to land on Jaina's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

I did think that was kind of a nice little passage, Leia realizing more and more that her daughter is grown up, and thinking of her own father realizing the same thing about her when she was that age.

Remember Danni Quee? Well, Jacen kind of has a crush on her and they share a little conversation, and there is a cute little line in there:

He'd entertained his fantasies about her, but also realized they were as much tied up with the traditional romance of a hero saving a damsel in distress as they were anything else. Reliving how my father met my mother...

I thought that was kind of cute, thinking that his father had saved his "damsel in distress" mother. I do wonder if they told him how Leia had been integral to that rescue once they got that door open.

Later on Leia and Mara wind up in a fight with some Vong and there is a brief mention of how out of nowhere an image of her husband pops into Leia's mind before she shoots a couple of them. That is the only moment Leia ever thinks about him, it seems. Oh and this book also marks the beginning of the weird and overused phrase "Emperor's black bones!" and it is annoying every single time.

The only final sort of notable thing is after all of the chaos is temporarily over, and the Solos are back home in their apartment, there is a brief scene with Jacen and Anakin and neither one of them have seen their father yet. Threepio says he is "inspecting" cantinas and they think that he is probably more like "inspecting" the bottoms of glasses. So yeah, he is still being a drunken mess. Still better than the movie that shall not be named.

So that is pretty much it. Han and Leia factor? Uh, 1 maybe? Really, there is almost nothing good about this book from a Han and Leia perspective. The Solo kids are getting interesting and becoming their own people, but Han is just... pathetic. And poor Leia is just, like usual, working so hard and fighting and she really has nobody to turn to as even her own husband is completely useless at the moment. This is going to be a rough few books.


  1. I don't think the entire arc was well thought out in this regard. The grief for Chewie was so overwhelming but that event is eclipsed by a later one where grief appeared to be lesser. However, I actually dont have a problem with Han and Leia experiencing marital difficulties as long as they are given reasonable chances to work through it and we get to see a natural reconciliation.

    1. It's not that I don't think Han could've had serious issues dealing with Chewie's death. I just think this entire situation could've been handled better. I do agree that if you compare it to how he handles his own son's death in the not too distant future it is even harder to figure out what was going on in his head. In fact, in my re-reading of the book Crucible, there is a guy who is trying to emotionally torment Han and asks him outright why he grieved for the loss of Chewie more than he did for his sons. We don't really get an answer to that one. Though I do think largely Han held it together for Leia's sake in that case.

  2. I commend you for getting through these books! I'm not sure I could stick with it, reading about Drunk! Han and several instances of him being out of character - well, my vision of what him being in character is like, at least. (I can't bring myself to read COPL because of your review... just no thank you, but thank you for taking one for the team on that so I can now avoid it!) I'm also in the camp that doesn't mind marital problems between Han and Leia as long as they're realistic. I totally think Chewie dying would have triggered some major issues, but I can't really take Drunk! Han very seriously. I mean, for awhile, yes, but it sounds like he's Drunk! for a very, very, long time. Maybe I just don't get why Han would push everyone else away when he had just a loving family to turn to. Maybe at first, but for a whole bunch of books worth of pushing his loved ones further from him? It just screams "plot device!"

    1. You've never read COPL? Wow are you lucky!!

    2. I've ignored most of the EU until only recently. My fan love of H&L has only been recently resurrected by the movie that shall not be named.

    3. Never, ever read COPL. It's "The Star Wars Holiday Special" of the EU: it sucks the will to live right on out of your soul like a dementor in book form.

      I'm kidding, but it's just not a good book at all. The characters are so out of character you wonder who the heck they are.

  3. I remember loathing the entire NJO and flat out gave up on the EU for a long while because it was all just NOT STAR WARS anymore. I therefore concur with your H\L factor of 1. H\L is basically all I wanted in my profic and there wasn't enough to make this one worth the read to me.

  4. I remember loathing the entire NJO and flat out gave up on the EU for a long while because it was all just NOT STAR WARS anymore. I therefore concur with your H\L factor of 1. H\L is basically all I wanted in my profic and there wasn't enough to make this one worth the read to me.

  5. I would support a Han and Leia factor of ZERO for this book. I hated it even more the second time around. I know that Han would grieve the loss of Chewbacca fiercely, but I just don't see it playing out like that. I can even see him retreating in some way, but I don't see him as a drunken louse. I hated the treatment Leia got in this book, as well. I hated the book all around, really. What a waste of ink...

  6. Ugh, this whole Han/Leia estrangement arc was stupid and pointless. If you're going to break them up, at least have them properly reconcile. Instead they just get back together in like two pages, then immediately Leia gets tortured and injured so severely she almost dies. Great. They did finally resolve the storyline but wasn't it like two years later?

    I remember reading an interview with Michael Stackpole and he actually said "the most important thing for me in this book was to get the Luke/Mara relationship right". What?! How is the Luke/Mara relationship more important than characterization or a decent plotline? I never got why Del Rey was so enamored with the Luke/Mara relationship. Did they think it would sell them a lot of books or something?

    Okay, so two related rants. One, Leia very clearly completed her training at the end of the Bantam books. She refers to herself as a Jedi several times in VOTF, as does Han, Luke, and various members of the New Republic. Then suddenly there's this retcon that she "neglected her training and deeply regrets it". Great, so she's a failure as a wife, mother, politician, and Jedi. Hooray!

    Second, ALL the Solo kids being closer to their Aunt Mara than their own parents. Mara wasn't your typical aunt situation where the kids grew up with her, Luke didn't marry her until they were in their teens and then she was off with Mirax while the twins and Anakin were at the Jedi Academy. How is she suddenly more bonded to them than they are to their own parents? Oh, and nice to see Anakin worshipping the ground Mara walked on, only to have Mara not even shed a tear when he bites the dust in Star by Star.

    All right, rant over. Can you tell I really didn't like the New Jedi Order series?

  7. I've got to go back and read the whole NJO - we should have an EU reading club, starting from the beginning and going right on thru. :)

    I'm reading Crucible right now, and I just have to say: now THESE are my Han, Luke, and Leia.

    1. I re-read Crucible and urged Push to read it for the first time (she hadn't read it) after TFA just to make us feel better. It totally worked.

  8. I remember the NJO was what got me into fanfic in the first place, and this book in particular spawned some dramatic fic back in the day. There was like a Leia-cide epidemic right around this time, too. People were just reacting to this unbelievable change in characterization. Things got better around Recovery, but still. Rough waters ahead. Ugh.