Monday, December 8, 2014

David's Review of Force Heretic I: Remnant

3/5 Rancors - Well, in Force Heretic I: Remnant by Sean Williams and Shane Dix, the New Jedi Order has become sluggish once more. I have had problems with many of the books in the first half of the series because too much time was spent worrying about Jedi philosophy, arguing about the most appropriate way of doing things, and describing exotic things about the Yuuzhan Vong that I am incapable of visualizing. We very much need a pictorial guide to the Yuuzhan Vong.

Remnant is a long book without the usual chapter breaks. I kept looking for a good place to stop. Show some action. Keep things moving along. You are not being paid by the word.

A few interesting things happen. The Yevetha, a skeletal, death-centered species are back. Admiral Pellaeon has returned with the Imperial Remnant and is a welcome character. Other connections to the past happen as well. Our plot basically focuses on a group led by Luke that is going to the Imperial Remnant, a second group led by the Solos that is trying to improve diplomacy and communications everywhere, and a third story involving Nom Anor’s attempts to survive on the Yuuzhan Vong capital world (used to be Coruscant). The story also sets the stage for Luke’s future attempts to find the sentient planet Zonama Sekot. That effort may turn out to be the solution to the ongoing war, but it does not happen in this book.

Remnant is a stepping-stone to the next books, so it needs to be read. Plus, I think the concept of Zonama Sekot will pique your interest.

David's Review of Ylesia

3/5 Rancors - Ylesia is an e-book novella by Walter Jon Williams. In it Mr. Williams is adding story to his previous book Destiny’s Way. I suggest that you read Ylesia right after Destiny’s Way because the two are closely tied together.

Basically the novella has to do with a New Republic mission to Ylesia as an attempt to gain some more support in the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. The planet is also the Peace Brigade’s capital. The Peace Brigade wants to give in to the Vong in the misguided hope that everyone will live happily ever after. We all know that’s not going to happen.

Thracken Sal-Solo has been forcibly placed in the position of President of the Peace Brigade. Of course, he is Han Solo’s cousin and we have read about him before. He is ambitious and devious and certainly not to be trusted. He does take after his cousin when it comes to survival skills.

Ylesia is a lightweight story that really doesn’t add a whole lot to the New Jedi Order, but it’s entertaining. You might as well read it.

David's Review of Destiny's Way

4/5 Rancors - Walter Jon Williams has given us Destiny's Way as one of the major hardback books in the New Jedi Order. These five books are supposed to tell the overall story of the war against the Yuuzhan Vong with a bunch of paperbacks filling in where necessary. In my previous reviews in this series, I pointed out a number of instances in the books where I thought entirely too much time was spent worrying about Jedi philosophy, obscure facts about the Vong, and what was the appropriate course to take next. My overall impression was that the Republic and the Jedi would lose the war due to a bad case of lethargy.

However, Mr. Williams pretty well put my fears to rest in Destiny's Way. He keeps the story moving along and shows the Republic forces actually making some progress. Most of our favorite characters are in the story. The New Republic forces have regrouped on Mon Calamari, are attempting to reestablish a functioning government, and finding ways to increase cooperation among all of the varied military forces. Part of this includes an election of a new president for the Republic, and Cal Omas manages to win that. He and Luke then get into a major squabble with Dif Scaur, head of Intelligence, concerning the development and potential use of a devastating bioweapon. Even though the weapon could probably end the war, is it the right thing to do? It's a major question.

Vergere continues to play an important, but mysterious role. Everything about her is basically speculation. Apparently it is true that she is an ancient Jedi who has established a relationship with Jacen Solo. Her ideas are quite different from those of Luke Skywalker, and her agenda is a mystery. However, you can tell that she is important.

Destiny's Way is a key part of the New Jedi Order. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Andrew's Review of Maul: Lockdown

3/5 Rancors - I confess to not being terribly excited when I cracked open the covers of Joe Schreiber’s Maul: Lockdown. His first Star Wars contribution, Death Troopers, was not my cup of tea with its bringing zombies and light horror into the galaxy far, far away but it was a brisk enough read. Red Harvest was another matter entirely, featuring completely cardboard characters and a story with absolutely no one to root for or care about.

That aside, Darth Maul in a prison sounded like a reasonably tight premise for a horror Star Wars novel and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story and the brisk pace it kept. The prison setting of Cog Hive Seven was an engaging environment with its regularly scheduled arena battles and ever-shifting walls. Mr. Schreiber writes the multiple one-on-one fights Maul gets into with vivid detail and the amount of gore is appropriate to the story being told. Beyond the battles, we get to see Maul using his intellect and cunning to bluff and lie through situations as he muddles through his cryptic assignment to locate arms dealer Iram Radique. Radique’s part of the plot adds a mystery element to what otherwise might have been a very straightforward action/horror tale.

Being set before The Phantom Menace means Maul’s master Darth Sidious still has a master of his own and we get a few tantalizing scenes with Darth Plagueis. I would love to have read more of the Sidious/Plagueis intrigue: James Luceno’s novel about Plagueis gave us a chunk of that but here there is a unique opportunity to see the differing perspectives Plagueis and Sidious have concerning Maul’s role in their plans.

Maul: Lockdown is a big step up in quality from Red Harvest and it’s worthwhile to get into Maul’s perspective for a bit of time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

David: Rancor Spotting #36

Traitor by Matthew Stover

Page 109 - Sound of a wounded rancor

"He heard a low, feral growling like a wounded rancor cornered in its den."

David's Review of Traitor

5/5 Rancors - Well, I am making progress in reading all of The New Jedi Order books. Over halfway now, and I admit that I have struggled to maintain interest through part of the series. We seem to have had a huge amount of emphasis on Jedi philosophy and the appropriate way of doing things. In the meantime, the Yuuzhan Vong have been sweeping through the worlds of the New Republic.

The tide has now begun to turn. Traitor by Matthew Stover is a particularly unusual book. Yes, there is still a lot of discussion about the nonphysical aspects of fighting a war against the Vong and why things must be done in certain ways, but there is also progress. The book really has two main characters – Jacen Solo and Vergere. Jacen has been out of action for a while and most people were afraid he was dead. It turns out that he has been in the care (captivity?) of Vegere. We really don’t know much about Vergere. She is a fascinating, powerful creature, but we don’t know what she really wants. Is she cruel towards Jacen or is she truly trying to teach him a new way of experiencing the force? Arguments could be made either way.

By the end of the book Jacen is a powerful figure and one bound to have a huge role in dealing with the Yuuzhan Vong. Vergere remains a mystery. However, at least at this point, some hope exists that the Vong can be defeated.

Traitor is the first Star Wars book in a while that really forces the reader to pay attention, read, and think. It is not always easy to understand, but it is an extremely important book in The New Jedi Order. Matthew Stover deserves credit for that.

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."