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New Jedi Order
Force Heretic I - Remnant
by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Published by Del Rey


Scott's Rating:   2.5 out of 4
Nick's Rating:   3.5 out of 4
Michael's Rating:   3.5 out of 4
Mike's Rating:   3.8 out of 4


This is the first part of the Force Heretic trilogy.

As the Galactic Alliance stands at a turning point in the war, they face two major tasks. The first is to re-establish contact with systems that have thus far been isolated by the Yuuzhan Vong. There are many worlds who have been totally cut off from communications and nobody knows their fate. Han Solo, Leia, Jaina, Jag, and the Twin Suns Squadron agree to conduct a mission to investigate those worlds and see how they are faring. Their first stop is the planet Galantos. Tahiri, recently haunted by her Yuuzhan Vong brainwashing, goes along for the mission, but can she be trusted?

The second task is to find the world Zonama Sekot. Vergere revealed its existence before her death as well as the possibility that it may hold the key to defeating the alien invaders. However, it is believed to be deep within the Unknown Regions and even then a myth. Luke, Mara, Jacen, Danni Quee, Tekli, and Saba Sebatyne volunteer for the quest to find the world. Saba particularly needs the distraction after seeing her world annihilated by the Yuuzhan Vong. She also feels guilty for accidentally killing the only survivors of her race who were taken as slaves. As Luke and the Jedi make their way into the Unknown Regions, they make a stop in the Empire to look for clues. However, the Empire has been threatened by the Yuuzhan Vong directly. Will the Jedi find a new ally for the Galactic Alliance in fighting the invaders?

Meanwhile, Nom Anor hides in the depths of Coruscant among the Shamed Ones. As he hears rumors of the outcasts worshipping the Jedi, he looks for a way to turn the heresy to his advantage.



Scott:

    I particularly like it when authors do a lot of research into the Expanded Universe when they write their books. It becomes apparent that Williams and Dix have done just that from the opening page of their book where they use a quote from an obscure RPG manual. They continue to throw in the references and tie everything together throughout the novel. It's a nice touch that I think fans appreciate.

Going along with that, I like the fact that this book revisits some of the worlds we've seen in previous novels. It's cool to see how they've fared against the Yuuzhan Vong. The ultimate fate of the Yevetha from the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy is a bit surprising. The second book in this series should prove to be interesting as our heroes return to Bakura. It's going to be cool to see how a race that despises machines will interact with a race that uses life to power machines.

I'm also glad to see the Empire enter the picture again. It's quite interesting to not only see how the Empire will handle the Yuuzhan Vong in battle, but how they will fight alongside Jedi. Dix and Williams also provide a memorable moment when we see Grand Admiral Pellaeon command a battle from inside a bacta tank. That's certainly a first. Pellaeon also delivers probably my favorite line in the whole series: "You may win the occasional battle against us, Vorrik, but the Empire will always strike back." Too cool.

I enjoy seeing more of the secondary characters taking center stage. Jacen, Tahiri, Saba, Jag, and Nom Anor all share the spotlight and their characters further develop in the story. I was particularly interested in Nom Anor's transformation. Everyone has pretty much written him off as an evil villain, but Williams and Dix show a side of him we haven't seen before. Could Nom Anor possibly have a conscience?

Finally, I like the idea of Luke and the gang going on a quest. Not only does it allow the authors to break away from the typical battle with Yuuzhan Vong for worlds, but it hearkens back to mythology which is the foundation of the Star Wars Universe. A grand quest after a mythical object reminds me a lot of Jason and the Argonauts (or should that be Jacen?). Hopefully this will provide a nice side adventure in the following books. And hopefully the payoff will be worth it.


Nick:

    It's been too long since Nom Anor last had such a detailed role in the New Jedi Order. While his actions in Remnant have gone largely unnoticed by the denizens of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, the reader is given a detailed account of his escapades in the depths of Yuuzhan'tar's underworld. His romp through the ruins of Coruscant gives us a chance to explore his innermost thoughts, and the battle waging between his conscience and his more ambitious, power-hungry nature. Fans are trying to say he was characterized poorly in Remnant, when in fact it has been quite the opposite. We finally see the true Nom Anor come to light. In most previous novels he has had to live amongst the infidels, forced to immerse himself in their technology. While this time has led him to turn his back on the Yuuzhan Vong religion, it hasn't altered his cultural perspective. He is still very much a Yuuzhan Vong - he hates machines and those that willingly use them without a proper reason. Every time he has used infidel technology was either to gather intelligence or for his own personal gains. In Rebirth, his ambitions drove him to shoot his comrades with an infidel blaster, merely to conceal his refusal of an honor duel, something the warriors hold sacred.

Nom Anor took a gamble when he advised Supreme Overlord Shimrra to send Warmaster Tsavong Lah's forces to the Ebaq system. When the information led Tsavong Lah's fleet right into a trap, and the warmaster himself was killed, Nom Anor knew that his time was up. He fled into the depths of Yuuzhan'tar and began plotting against his former leaders.

With all his previous trappings out of the picture, Nom Anor is free to contemplate who he is, what he is going to do, and how he is going to do it. His first instinct is to that which he is most familiar with, which of course is his devious nature. For the majority of the novel this is indeed what we see, but beneath it all their are glimmers of doubt. Perhaps Nom Anor is not completely self-centered, not completely the Yuuzhan Vong we thought him to be, or for that matter, the Yuuzhan Vong that he thinks himself to be. In the remaining two books of the Force Heretic trilogy I think Nom Anor will undergo an intense personal transformation. Although he is currently maintaining his treacherous ambitions, I think we see Nom Anor move to become the savior of his people, and not solely for personal gain.

The remaining novel was somewhat less satisfying, but enjoyable nonetheless. The Yuuzhan Vong invasion and subsequent expulsion from Imperial space is an interesting venture, but I felt the characters downplayed the significance of the events. Han and Leia's Galantos excursion was a bit slow, but I think it is just a precursor of things to come. If these events were not as exciting as many others in the New Jedi Order that have come before, they did provide much needed character development with Tahiri Veila and Saba Sebatyne. Both characters underwent their own very different transformations, with Tahiri struggling with Anakin's death and Saba with that of her people, the Barabel. In the first few pages we see Saba destroy a Yuuzhan Vong slaveship, unwittingly killing thousands of Barabels. Another enjoyable character comes in the form of Admiral Pellaeon. We haven't spent much time with the rugged admiral in the New Jedi Order, and in Remnant we finally get to see him in his element. His showdown with the Yuuzhan Vong commander was refreshing and well written.

Remnant is not a fast-paced, pulse-pounding adventure. It is more of a taste of things to come; an adventure that sets up the great journey that is to come. Much like how The Fellowship of the Ring sets up the journey to Mordor, so too does Remnant set up the journey to find Zonama Sekot. And much like The Two Towers, Refugee will up the pace. All in all, Remnant is an enjoyable novel that teases us with things to come.


Michael:

    I have been looking forward to the Force Heretic series for a long time, as I have been reading over the past few years, the majority of books published by my fellow countrymen, Sean Williams & Shane Dix. Greatly pleased to see that they have kept with their traditional format by including a quote at the start of the novel. For those who don't know, the obscure quote is from the old West End Games Star Wars Roleplaying 'Imperial Sourcebook'.

I liked how Williams & Dix structured the novel into 4 parts (plus a prologue and an epilogue), it forces the reader not to put the book down at a chapter break, thus the book flows at a fast pace. I hope that the remaining two novels in the trilogy use the same style. It was also great to have a longer NJO paperback for a change. Most of the others are around the 290 page mark, and I believe that they are just to quick. However, there is the golden rule, quality over quantity... just glad that in this case the book is quality and well as quantity. I liked how the book gave the impression that it was the first act in a three act structure, like a trilogy should be... again, keeping consistent with the films... Williams & Dix are experts at this anyway, with all of their trilogies that they have written.

I was pleased that the novel opening with a space battle, following the same format as the films, which open with a ship in space. The epilogue sets up the character progression of Saba, who has been briefly featured in previous books. It was a heart wrenching scene, knowing that her entire kind have been killed.

I now understand Sean Williams analogy of Nom Anor to Grima Wormtongue (as per TFN Interview with Williams and Dix)... although I still would say that there is an element of Gollum in the character. Gollum's need for the ring of power is an analogy of a drug addiction. The addiction for Nom Anor is power, status and prestige, which I felt was portrayed in this book. He has a desire to return to his former position, and will use the Shamed Ones and the Heresy to further his own ends, in an endeavour to return to Shimrra's good books.

I loved all of the little continuity nods, such as the mention of Kyle Katarn (finally gets a mention in an EU mainstream novel), Melida/Daan, Admiral Screed, Warlord Zinsj, Governor Beltane's SD Droids (I love the line near the end of the novel where it is mentioned that the droid brains volunteer to serve with Jacen again!).

I was pleased with one of the plot threads that dealt with fixing the communication links in the galaxy. This is one of the effects of war that hasn't been dealt with yet in the series. I wonder when the war is finally over, how long the reconstruction phase of the galaxy will take?

I really enjoyed the plot thread of Tahiri... she is an intriguing character, and can understand why you had so much fun with her. She really is going through some troubled times... the novel asks the reader the question: is she the Force Heretic?

I liked how the book set up certain elements for the next two books: Finding Zonama Sekot (I have always liked how it is an anagram of Amazon), Tahiri... is she the Force Heretic?, Nom Anor planting seeds of revolt and heresy all the while trying to gain a foothold back in the good books with Shimmra, Bakura and the Ssi-Ruuk, etc...

The plot of the Shamed Ones has been interesting throughout the whole series. My gut feeling is that they are going to play a large role in the resolution of the war. I wonder if the title of Greg Keyes novel, which follows your trilogy, called 'The Final Prophecy' has anything to do with this? I wonder if it is a Yuuzhan Vong prophecy or a Jedi prophecy... perhaps a combination of the two. Loved how the story of Vua Rapuung was incorporated, how there were different versions of the story, rumours, etc... fuelling the heresy.

Leia & Han - loved their banter. Great to see that their relationship has fully mended, after what Han went through with the death of Chewbacca. I believe that the death of Anakin has brought the two of them even closer.

Mystery character, the Ryn... great to see their species and storyline return from the earlier NJO novels... I thought it may have been forgotten. At this stage of the NJO storyline, story arcs should start to come full circle, so glad to see the Ryn again. Just hope that Droma makes an appearance!

I liked the ending of the novel, it has a really great Star Wars feel, in a way, reminds me of the end of TESB, (Luke & Leia communicating to Lando & Chewie)... could almost hear John Williams music! :)


Mike:

    I knew it was coming. Ever since Ithor --and in many ways, since Thrawn-- I’d been waiting for Pellaeon’s shining moment, and it finally came. Single-handedly lighting a fire under the Remnant’s collective rear, he at long last gets to put some Moffs in their place, unite the entire Empire under one leader for the first time since Palpatine’s “resurrection”, and displays a tactical competence not usually seen in Imperial fleet officers. Even in Hand of Thrawn, ol’ Gilad never really got to show just how hardcore he can be. And few things are as hardcore as directing a battle from inside a bacta tank. Just imagine what things might’ve been like if this guy had been on the other side of the Galactic Civil War (although it remains to be seen just how much of who Pellaeon is today is owed to Thrawn’s influence). Here’s hoping he plays a much larger part in the war effort now that the Empire’s officially a part of the GFFA.

Nom Anor, Nom Anor, Nom Anor. As depressed as I was to see him abandoned on Yuuzhan’tar in Traitor, now that Shimrra himself is on Nom’s tattooed tail, he’s finally free to develop beyond the develop-plan-that-fails, apologize-and-start-over rut that he’d been stuck in since Vector Prime. And develop he does. Even I never really thought Nom had much chance of redemption as a character; the most I’d hoped for was that he would survive the NJO and become a pirate or something. But true to his nature, he’s surprised everyone and gone in a brand-new direction, the ultimate result of which I can’t wait to see. Something tells me he’s still not likely to survive the conflict, but could he possibly be headed for martyrdom instead of prosecution? Or at the very least, could he be responsible for the defeat of the Vong from within, as foreshadowed (in my estimation) by that quote at the start of the book? I’m giddy just thinking about it.

Finally, and though it probably wasn’t even the authors’ decision, I’m thrilled to finally see a NJO tale told in the most perfectly crafted of all story structures – the trilogy. Not that an enjoyable story can’t be told in two parts (or four, even), but there’s just something about having a distinguishable beginning, middle, and end that makes things flow better and seem so much more epic. Take, oh, the Classic Trilogy for example. Or the Thrawn Trilogy; which most consider the best EU story ever.



Scott:

    As much as I like the authors and their overall writing style, Remnant suffers from two major problems. It very much feels like only the first part of the story and it is very slowly paced. Two thirds of the book involves the characters simply being moved into new situations and there's almost no action throughout it. I have to agree with Nick that showing the Yevetha battle would have picked up the story pace considerably. The book doesn't really get going until near the end even then there's about 50 pages of wrap up when things are concluded. I couldn't help but feel that the next book in the series held more promise. All of this made it rather difficult to get through. I do, however, look forward to what they'll come up with in the second book. I hate to rate this one so low, but this was my impression after reading the book.


Nick:

    As much as I loved Nom Anor's role in Remnant, there was a problem with how he ended up amongst the Shamed Ones. He seems to have forgotten that he has already witnessed the heresy that is occurring on Yuuzhan'tar. Nom Anor's encounters with the heretics formed the basis of his story in Destiny's Way, but it also plays a major part in his story in Remnant. I was under the impression that a first discovery only happens once, but apparently not. In the overall scheme of things, this error won't damage the New Jedi Order storyline, and in fact, I liked the authors' depiction of Nom Anor's initial encounter with the Shamed Ones more enjoyable than that in Destiny's Way.

Another thing that bugged me was the offscreen killing of the Yevetha. Many fans are complaining that they wouldn't have been so easy to kill off. The Yevetha had never encountered the Yuuzhan Vong before the Battle of N'zoth, and their xenophobic nature would have kept them from obtaining any of the technological advances that the Galactic Alliance has devised. Add to these things the fact that the Yuuzhan Vong had access to highly detailed intelligence about the Yevetha and their defenses and you can see that even the aliens' pure ferocity couldn't have saved them from the Yuuzhan Vong. However, the actual destruction of the Yevetha isn't my gripe. I have a problem with the way it was presented. Even though the Yevetha were doomed to lose the battle, it still would have been a glorious conflict, one worthy of an epic story. Yet, we see the destruction of the Yevetha as an afterthought - a quick glimpse of N'zoth's ruinous surface and the shattered remnants of the Yevetha's dead fleet. I would have loved to have seen this battle. Maybe we'll see a short story in Insider detailing this battle. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.


Michael:

    I like the concept of the Galactic Alliance, but so far, I can't really see any discernible difference between the GFFA and the New Republic. I assume that will change in later books when more nation-states have joined the Alliance, such as the Imperial Remnant, Chiss (?), Hapan Cluster (?), etc...

One thing that I didn't like was Han and the Yevetha... he seemed to scared to me. Han always seemed pretty fearless to me... although I suppose he did cop a bit of a beating by the Yevetha!


Mike:

    As is often the case with the NJO, I have but minor nits to pick. A rare thing for Star Wars authors (to the best of my knowledge), the originators of this particular drama are from outside the United States; Australia to be precise. They make a laudable effort to write for American ears, but I nevertheless spotted a few instances where the language seemed off to me (most notably the frequent usage of the expression “get on”). I clearly can’t fault them for this, as it’s very much a personal issue (“get on” might even be used in some parts of America for all I know), but it was worth bringing up for the sake of Americanized readers.



Scott:

    It must really stink to be a Noghri bodyguard for Leia. Lots of standing around and not doing much.


Nick:

    The Galaxy Far, Far Away is having some hard times in this book. Barab I, Bastion, Belderone, Firrereo, and N'zoth all get torched within the course of this book. That's a lot of planets. The Firrereo and Yevetha are, for all intents and purposes, extinct. Man, nothing ruins your day than being wiped to the brink of extinction.


Michael:

    I thought that Primate was a weird title...


Mike:

    The chuk’a. Think, anatomically speaking, about just where Nom Anor had been living. Better yet, don’t think about it.


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