Sunday, March 1, 2015

David: Rancor Spotting #37

Force Heretic II: Refugee by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Page 5 - Luke and company being pursued

"With their great rancorlike heads bent low, sniffing for a scent, Luke knew that the smooth- and pink-skinned aliens wouldn't be too far behind, converging from around the ruined palace to join in the hunt for the landing party."

David's Review of Force Heretic II: Refugee

2/5 Rancors - Just so you’ll know where we stand, Refugee is the second book in the Force Heretic trilogy by Sean Williams and Shane Dix and the 16th book in the New Jedi Order series, a series that seems to go on forever. I am determined to read all of the Star Wars books, so I am not giving up now, but I have to admit that I am pleased that I only have three books to go in the New Jedi Order. The publisher should have insisted on some extensive editing in the entire series. I think it is entirely possible that the authors were paid by the word.

In Refugee the story goes slowly. We continually break away from the interesting quest to find the sentient planet Zonoma Sekot to read about other side quests that are going on. We also spend a huge amount of time reading about Nom Anor’s progression into his new role as the prophet Yu’shaa. To add to the book’s lassitude it has no chapter breaks. It just keeps plodding along.

The three Force Heretic storylines continue here. Luke Skywalker along with Mara Jade Skywalker and Jacen Solo continue their search for Zonoma Sekot. The particularly interesting factor now is that they have entered Chiss space. However, don’t get your hopes up for a huge amount of action. Much of their time is spent doing research at a library.

The second storyline is Han and Leia’s efforts to restore communications and diplomatic relations throughout the space that used to be the New Republic with their efforts focused here on Bakura. The third storyline is Nom Anor of the Yuuzhan Vong. We keep reading about him so he must play an important role somewhere down the line.

I will keep reading. Surely at some point soon the good guys will find a way to deal with the Yuuzhan Vong aliens. One can hope.

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."