Traitor is the thirteenth volume of the New Jedi Order series. After his capture in Star by Star and vanishing from the Force shortly thereafter, Jacen Solo has been believed dead by his friends and family. But he lives, kept alive by the Yuuzhang Vong who intend to use him and his twin sister in a glorious sacrifice to their twin gods. But they do not want to just kill them but to walk to the altar of their own accord and fight each other to the death; a real warriors sacrifice is in order. For that purpose they set out to break the young Jedi and indoctrinate him with their own True Belief. They torture him almost continuously with the Embrace of Pain, a devious piece of biotechnology that monitors the subject closely, inflicting the maximum amount of pain without damaging it.
During the rare breaks ominous Vergere, her true allegiance still unknown, twists Jacen’s mind around itself, forcing him to readjust his values and view of life. He resists at first but can soon not deny the appearent sense she speaks. From then on he tries to play along while plotting his escape and still learning what he can about life, the Force — and himself.
Traitor is a very untypical Star Wars book. It focuses (almost) solely on Jacen and his ordeals, ignoring all other arcs. This is dangerous but Stover manages to pull it off by digging deep into both Jacen’s psyche and his opinions about the Force. I cannot tell much without giving spoilers; suffice to say that his mind is released from his previous philosophical deadlock. Stover describes this process in a very intriguing and confusing way, mirroring Jacen’s state of mind. This made Traitor an interesting if not satisfying read; it just opens up so many questions we can only hope to see answered as the series progresses. For example: the title gives away that somebody becomes a traitor in this book. But who? And who is betrayed? The answers to this question are never clear throughout the book and not even in retrospect. We will see.
The twelfth volume of The New Jedi Order Rebel Stand continues the story lines begun in its immediate predecessor Rebel Dream. Luke and Mara Skywalker, accompanied by young Jedi Tahiri and elements of Wraith squadron, infiltrate Coruscant in a risky way. They want to find out what causes the strange, dark ripples in the Force and deal with it as well as organise resistance against the Yuuzhan Vong. Old heroes Han and Leia Solo visit yet unconquered worlds in order to inspire local governments not to appease the invadors and, of course, set up resistance cells on their own. In the meanwhile, Wedge Antilles and his subordinates keep defending Borleias from the aggressive Vong attackers that keep probing their way forward. Knowing that eventual defeat is inevitable, Antilles wants to taunt the enemy commander into an all out attack that leaves him open to a clever ploy that might result in a victory for the Resistance while losing the battle.
Rebel Stand is even better than its predecessor. The different storylines are entertaining to read, if for very different reasons. The infiltration of Coruscant is very gloomy and sad to read, with a generous hint of dark humor provided by Wraiths. The Solos’ plot is good old scoundrel style with a lot of goodhearted cheer, even slapstick. Borleias’ defense is less humorous but leaves a grim and determined impression. Therefore, the three parts balance out nicely and underscore facts nicely with fitting atmosphere. So I have to say that Aaron Allston definitely did a good job with this duology; it is a pity that this his only two contributions to The New Jedi Order.
Aaron Allston’s Rebel Dream is the eleventh installment of The New Jedi Order and the first in his duology Enemy Lines. After the fall of Coruscant, Wedge Antilles leads what is left of his command and what troops he can pick up to Borleias. This world is situated close to Coruscant and can be used both as fallback point and staging area for attempts to retake the former capital planet. Due to superior numbers and firepower, Antilles can take Borleias easily and starts to dig in. It soon becomes apparent that what is left of the New Republik is ready to give up and does not care for further aggression against the Yuuzhan Vong; Antilles has to play all his cards not to be stripped from both forces and command. Being under constant Vong pressure he has to find a way to trick the enemy commanders into both underestimating him but also considering Borleias valuable enough to come for it.
Realizing that the New Republic has essentially fallen, Antilles decides to do what he and his friends know best: form a new Rebellion, a resistance movement organised in isolated cells, in order to imploy guerilla tactics on the Yuuzhan Vong. With utmost secrecy, the Insiders prepare to gather material, form cells throughout the galaxy and methodically misinform the enemy using his own spies against him. Meanwhile, Coruscant is vongformed at an amazing pace. Billions of people that were not able to flee die to Vong warriors, falling wreckage and starvation. Luke Skywalker feels through the Force that something Dark is stirring on Coruscant and decides to set out with an intelligence detail to do what he can to prevent an even worse catastrophe than the one that is already happening. Read more »
Elaine Cunningham’s Dark Journey is the tenth volume in long Star Wars series The New Jedi Order. It focuses mainly on Jaina who — after the tragic events at the end of Star by Star — is full of hatred and lust for revenge. She and the remainder of the Jedi strike team barely manage to reach Hapes, Tenel Ka’s home world, with their captured and damaged Yuuzhang Vong ship. While the team dissolves and Jaina tries to learn as much as possible about the foreign biotechnology, the Queen Mother’s predecessor spins a plot that includes both Jaina and a coup.
Jaina threatens to slide more and more to the Dark Side, planing and executing vengeful tricks to take out as many Vong as she can without any regard for human lives. Her friends are at a loss as to what to do with her and back out, leaving only Lowbacca and Kyp Durron at Jaina’s side. In this mess stumbles Chiss-raised fighter pilot and commander Jag Fel who develops a crush on the increasingly cold Jaina. Together, the three Jedi and Fel hurt the Vong quite a bit; Jaina even openly challenges warmaster Tsavong Lah to a battle of minds.
Dark Journey marks yet another weak volume in this series. While Cunningham has a number of interesting ideas she does not use them too well. For one, I do not believe the characters. Most strike team members vanish as suddenly as they showed up in Star by Star. Jaina is supposed to go Dark but buries her emotions instead of using them on one hand but on the other hand lashes out at her friends instead of manipulating them; that does not fit together. That all males around fall to her charms anyway is another thing I don’t buy. Futhermore, I felt not sucked in or thrilled. The tale is just told, not spun; fast pace replaces suspense what is obviously no good idea. I hope the next books, written by veteran Star Wars author Aaron Allston, are more enjoyable.
Troy Denning’s Star by Star is the ninth volume in the long series The New Jedi Order and with over six hundred pages almost double the length of most its predecessors. It also marks the end of the often complained about pattern of engagement, defeat, retreat and betrayel earlier volumes fell victim to. If not the New Republic at least the Jedi finally strike back in force. With the support of their Jedi friends, the Solo kids embark on a mission behind enemy lines in order to eliminate the voxyn production facility. The nasty creatures shaped there are vicious, force aware hunters quite a number of Jedi fall prey to. The book’s focus is centered on the struggles of this dozen-or-so while their mission becomes more and more desperate.
Meanwhile, the New Republic navy can deliver the Vong invaders a number of defeats thanks to new technology and tactics. It is handicapped by the goverments decay, though. Even without enemy infiltration the senate is about to enter a schism over the Jedi question. The Jedi themselves can only sit and watch due to their controversity while they evade forces eager to hand Jedi over to the Yuuzhang Vong — and struggle with their own internal conflicts regarding the philosphy of force use in the face of certain defeat. Read more »