Wednesday, August 13, 2014

David: Rancor Spottings #34 and 35

Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand by Aaron Allston

Page 53 - Interesting description of a female character

"A crew chief, a black-haired Corellian woman whose build suggested that there might be a rancor or two in her ancestry, waved frantically at the other members of her unit."

Pages 234/235 - A great rancor scene. Even the Yuuzhan Vong recognize their usefulness.

"A snuffling noise emerged from the gap, then something like a low, muted roar.
Then something emerged.
Like a Yuuzhan Vong, it had two arms, two legs. But its stance was low, crouching, animalistic. It had tremendous muscles, hard and corded enough to support its tremendous weight, for it was as tall as the gap through which it emerged. Its face was tusked, its teeth were huge, and its head swiveled as it spotted the Yuuzhan Vong on the chamber floor. Its eyes followed these small creatures with the avidity of a hungry beast.
"This is a rancor," Tsavong Lah said. "A beast of this galaxy..."
Through the gap emerged another rancor, then a third, and a fourth. They spread out from the gap, moving along the walls of the chamber, circling their tiny prey."

David's Review of Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand

5/5 Rancors - Rebel Stand by Aaron Allston is book #12 of the 19 in the New Jedi Order and is the second book in the Enemy Lines duology. I have struggled at times making my way through NJO, but I believe that the tide has begun to turn. There may be hope after all in the battle against the Yuuzhan Vong, and the books are beginning to spend more time with action and accomplishments than with Jedi philosophy questions. I applaud that.

The story in Rebel Stand picks up where Rebel Dream left off. You can easily finish the first book and then go right into the second. You will immediately recognize that the good guys are still defending Borleias and trying quietly with a small team to do some things on Coruscant. Luke, Mara, and company (including some members of Wraith Squadron) are moving around Coruscant trying to gather information about the alien invaders. The planet is a mess. The Vong tend to change things when they move in.

It turns out that Coruscant has more dangers than one would expect. An unknown evil power is in evidence, and Luke must figure out how to get rid of it. The surprise evil turns out to be Lord Nyax, a horrible creature who has made previous appearances in other books. This element makes for an interesting turn away from just having to deal with the Vong.

Other characters make return appearances as well. The traitor Viqi Shesh is back, and they must deal with her. The author gives us a large battle scene involving the Dark Side with Luke seeming to be in extremely perilous situations. Mr. Allston is good at describing action scenes when he decides to do it. In a different story, Wedge is still leading the defense of Borleias. The manipulations and trickery involved here are extremely interesting. Some fine space battles. The Super Star Destroyer Lusankya even plays a role.

I have enjoyed the Enemy Lines duology. There hasn’t been quite as much agony about deciding on appropriate courses of action, and the New Republic heroes finally seem to be making some headway against the Vong.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

David: Rancor Spotting #33

Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston

Page 251 - Han speaking to Corran Horn's son Valin in his usual Han Solo style.

"You do that. Scoot, kid. Go beat up a rancor or something."

David's Review of Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream

5/5 Rancors - Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston is book #11 of the 19 in the New Jedi Order and is the first book in the Enemy Lines duology. I admit that I am still struggling somewhat to wade through the New Jedi Order. Many of the books could benefit from some severe editing. However, I had my hopes up for Mr. Allston’s book, and he did not let me down. This is more like it. More action and less philosophizing. I believe the seriousness of the threat posed by the Yuuzhan Vong has finally sunk in. Heroic deeds are being done.

Coruscant has fallen. That is a sentence I never expected to write. However, it’s true. The cityworld is in ruins in many places, and the invading aliens are in control. The New Republic is falling apart. Things look grim.

In an effort to fight back, Wedge Antilles leads a force to retake Borleais from the Vong. Once this is accomplished, he works with high-level friends of his such as Luke Skywalker to see what kind of damage they can inflict on the Vong. His plans are not received favorably by some erstwhile leaders of the Republic. A group of politicians holding themselves out as the New Republic Advisory Council comes to Borleais, meets with Wedge and the other leaders, and tries to order them to accept a suicidal plan. Through some deft maneuvering, Wedge manages to refuse their plan and send them packing. This was a very clever section of the book.

From there Wedge and the other leaders on Borleais form what they refer to as the Inner Circle to spearhead resistance against the Yuuzhan Vong. We are back to the days of the Rebel Alliance and it is fun to read about. Skywalkers, Solos, etc. – all the big names are involved and seem enthusiastic about it. Their plan is to go into action against the Vong without having to put up with the paralyzing bureaucracy that has been so prevalent so far in the New Jedi Order. It makes you want to offer a round of applause.

The author has included a couple of new twists in the Yuuzhan Vong. Ex-Senator Viqi Shesh is now physically with the Vong and is trying to prove her worth to them. She is truly a Machiavellian character and cannot be trusted by anyone. I will not miss her when she is gone. We also are introduced to Czulkang Lah, the father of Warmaster Tsavong Lah. The older Lah is a warrior with a legendary record, and he is an interesting character in the book. On the whole, the Vong are still extremely disgusting and very difficult to understand.

Wedge Antilles plays a huge role in Rebel Dream as does Jaina Solo. It is interesting to watch both in action. I especially enjoyed watching Jaina create havoc among the Vong in her role as the Trickster while at the same time resolving some of her own issues and developing into a very worthwhile character. At the end, Mr. Allston does a good job of setting up the next book, Rebel Stand. Wedge has led his forces to an important victory while Luke has led a team back to Coruscant. There may be hope for the remaining books in the New Jedi Order.

Monday, May 5, 2014

David: Rancor Spotting #32

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham

A new rancor term in Dark Journey

Page 212
Three men slumped in the prison cell, awaiting Hapan justice in glum silence. They were still wearing the red garments they'd had on the day they brought that she-rancor princess aboard their ship. An assortment of bruises and bumps gave painful testament to the Jedi woman's unexpectedly strong resistance.

David's Review of Dark Journey

3/5 Rancors - For several years now, I have been engaged in trying to read and review all of the books in the Expanded Universe. I suspect many of you saw the recent news saying that Disney and LucasFilm have implemented their own Order 66 and purged the Expanded Universe from the official Star Wars canon. So, here I am with Elaine Cunningham’s Dark Journey, the tenth book in the New Jedi Order series. I am just over halfway through NJO, and I will push on through the remaining books despite the corporate effort to tell me that these books don’t matter any more.

Many of the NJO books have had way too much discussion about Jedi philosophy, the proper use of the Force, and what should a real Jedi do. They are faced with an apparently overwhelming enemy in the Yuuzhan Vong, and they worry about whether or not to use the Force. I thought the previous book Star by Star might have been a turning point, but Dark Journey turned out to be another story that would have benefited from some judicious editing.

Jaina Solo makes my point very well on page 21 of the book when she tells her fellow Jedi Zekk "Oh, come on. You were there. You heard Jacen obsessing over Anakin's motives and methods, trying to make him question himself at every step and turn. You saw what happens when Jedi stop focusing on what we're doing to quibble about how and why." Exactly.

The focus in Dark Journey is on Jaina Solo as she struggles with anger and despair after the adventures described in Star by Star. She is also trying to come to grips with the death of her brother Anakin. That mission ended successfully but at a tremendous cost. Jaina’s getaway involved the theft of an enemy ship which she intends to use against the Yuuzhan Vong as she takes on a new role, that of the Trickster.

Most of the action takes place in the Hapes Cluster, so there is of course much political intrigue and backstabbing among the royal family. Jaina has to deal with that while modifying her ship enough to mislead the Yuuzhan Vong while at the same time staying out of the enemy’s clutches. The Yuuzhan Vong are desperate to capture her with their ultimate goal being to sacrifice her to the glory of their gods. 

Dark Journey is a fairly mediocre book but it does get us a step closer to the end of the New Jedi Order.

Monday, April 7, 2014

David: Rancor Spottings #30 and 31

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Star by Star by Troy Denning

Star by Star is a major book in the Star Wars genre, so it naturally contains more than one reference to a rancor.

Page 170
Anakin expresses his concerns in the middle of a battle with the Yuuzhan Vong. "Not good," Anakin groaned. "Really not good. Uncle Luke will like that about as much as rancor fighting."

Page 293
In the midst of a board game that includes rancors. "Tsavong Lah turned away from the viewing lens and, finding the rancor alone on the mat, nodded."