New Jedi Order
Force Heretic III - Reunion
by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
Published by Del Rey
Scott's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Mike's Rating: 4 out of 4
Nick's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
This is the final book in the Force Heretic trilogy.
Luke, Mara, Jacen, Danni, Saba, Tekli, and the Imperials finally discover the legendary planet Zonoma Sekot. Their thrill of finding the planet is short lived, though, as the local inhabitants give them a less than hospitable welcome. After all, the appearance of every other Jedi on their planet has been the forbearer of doom. But this is nothing compared to what the planet itself has in store of our heroes, particularly Luke and Jacen. Will this living planet help them fight the Yuuzhan Vong or continue to hide in the depths of the Unknown Regions?
Meanwhile, Han, Leia, Tahiri, Jag, Jaina, and C-3PO make their way to the planet Esfandia. It is the home base for a relay station that handles all communications between the Core and the Unknown Regions. It has also recently come under attack by the Yuuzhan Vong. The arrival of Grand Admiral Pellaeon and the Imperial Navy turns the planet into a deadly battleground. As Han and our heroes descend onto the planet to rescue the base technicians, they discover even more intrigue and treachery. While all this is happening, Tahiriís inner conflict with her Yuuzhan Vong alter ego comes to a conclusion with the result being a person who is neither Jedi or Yuuzhan Vong, yet formidable in her own right. She may also hold the key to victory for the Imperials and the GFFA.
Finally, Nom Anor continues to foment his heretic rebellion among the slave caste of the Yuuzhan Vong. However, he can only stay ahead of Supreme Overlord Shimrra and his minions for so long.
I definitely think Reunion is the best book in the Force Heretic series. It is much faster paced than any of the others and it gets to the point much quicker. The storylines that have been building for the last two books are finally coming to a resolution and that is satisfying to me as a reader. The other two tales just seemed like nothing more than buildup for this story. (I really think the whole trilogy could have been condensed into one book, but thatís another issue.)
The highlight of the book for me was the final discovery of Zonoma Sekot. This not only adds an exciting new character into the battle with the Yuuzhan Vong, but it adds yet another connection between the prequel universe and the Expanded Universe. Sekot holds more information for Luke about his father before he was Darth Vader. This is the kind of revelation that Iíve been waiting to see for a while. While itís only a brief portion of the plot, I liked it. Iím really looking forward to seeing how this world planet affects the overall plot in the future. I was disappointed, though, that more ties werenít made between it and the origin of the Yuuzhan Vong. Maybe thatís still to come. (It also seems that the existence of another living planet is being overlooked. In the Galaxy Of Fear books, Dívouran was a living planet. Is that story being written off as another Infinities tale?)
I was also glad to see the situation with Tahiri resolved. I wasnít terribly interested in seeing her tormented with mental breakdowns and schizophrenic episodes. However, her emerging character, a cross between a Jedi and Yuuzhan Vong, holds a lot of promise. Itís going to be interesting to see how she is involved in future stories. Her combination of Vong and Jedi battle techniques should prove to be an exciting addition to the action as demonstrated here. Weíve only had a brief taste of it so far.
Speaking of action, this novel is jam packed with it. The space battle between Pellaeon and the Yuuzhan Vong was well choreographed. Itís good to see he retained a few tricks from Thrawn. Jag also reinforces his fighting abilities even without Jaina. A skirmish on the surface of the planet between Tahiri, the Yuuzhan Vong, the Noghri, and Han Solo was one of the highlights of the series as well.
Reunion also offers up several other unique touches. The story starts off with Han Solo in a card game reminiscent of his glory days. Of course he runs into trouble, as usual, thus kicking off the fast paced storyline. Williams and Dix also create a race of unique aliens. Speaking in a strange language and only able to live in harsh, cold conditions, they become the unfortunate casualties in the battle between the Yuuzhan Vong and the galactic forces. I only wish they had been able to play a more key role in the conflict.
Overall, Reunion is a good novel that satisfied me though I wasnít as impressed with the first two books in the trilogy.
If anyone out there actually pays enough attention to my reviews to notice patterns, you may have realized a common element of my reviews lately. Starting with Destiny's Way, I've given all the NJO Books 3.8s; better than 3.5, but not quite 4. The reason for this is my rating for Traitor: 4. I figured it to be pretty much a perfect Star Wars book, and so from then on, if a book wasn't as good as Traitor, I couldn't in good faith give it the same grade as Traitor. Then somewhere around the middle of Refugee, I thought to myself, "self, this Force Heretic trilogy is shaping up to be pretty darn good. Maybe not quite as enjoyable as Traitor, but mostly flawless nevertheless". As a result, I decided that if, at the conclusion of Reunion, I hadn't found anything downright objectionable to report, I would give the book a 4, thereby giving the whole trilogy a sort of unofficial 4. And that's what happened. This trilogy wasn't as good as Traitor, but it's solid, consistently entertaining, occasionally spectacular, and to paraphrase Carolyn Burnham, it didn't screw up once. Moving on to Reunion in particular...
Zonama Sekot: the best thing about this whole part of the book was the great lengths it went to to say "So, you fans don't know what Sekot's supposed to contribute to the war? Funny, neither does Luke." The idea was always simply that Vergere said it was the key, and Luke and Co. were going on her word, without specifically saying what its purpose would be. Unfortunately, some people never quite got that, and spent the entire trilogy asking what the point of their quest was. Finally, that very question gets some real coverage. Granted, we still don't know what Sekot's purpose will ultimately be, but we're in the same place our heroes are, and isn't it more fun that way? Seeing Jabitha again and getting a refresher course in the events of Rogue Planet was nice, too, as I'd pretty much forgotten the entire story beyond "Hey, didn't they have the Death Star in there somewhere?" Funny that Lucas ended up having the same idea.
Esfandia: for starters, I loved the Cold Ones. Williams and Dix have given us one of the most unique and interesting cultures in the history of the GFFA. Here's hoping leia was right about the battle triggering an outward surge in their culture. I can see it now: Tales of the Brrbrlpp Commandos, coming in 2006!!
As always, Pellaeon was great. His little chat with Vorrik in Remnant was easily my second favorite moment in the trilogy, and it was cool to see he'd still been screwing with the poor guy. The concept of gaining an advantage over the Vong by, essentially, pissing them off is a very entertaining one to witness, and I do believe this is the first time we've seen it since Lando's droids at the beginning of Rebel Dream ("We are machines! We are greater than the Yuuzhan Vong!"). Alas, Vorrik's rantings will be missed.
Nom Anor: great at always. Although his role in Refugee did include my favorite moment in the trilogy, overall he didn't have nearly as much going on then as he did in Remnant, and does again in Reunion. While they didn't take him in quite the direction I was expecting at the conclusion of Remnant, Williams and Dix do probably the best rendition of Nom since Greg Keyes. While I saw Ngaaluh's death coming, it was a shame to see her go so soon, especially after her fantastic introduction in Refugee.
Another thing I saw coming: Droma being in charge of the Ryn network. Very cool idea.
All in all, this has been a great trilogy; taking the characters beyond what we've seen before (Tahiri and Nom in particular), yet meshing flawlessly with the rest of the universe, and with the Star Wars feel. We've seen some great new cultures, learned about pre-existing yet lesser-known cultures, and gotten updates on cultures we just haven't seen in a while. We've visited the boundaries of morality, conduct, and ethics, from the points of view of the Jedi and others, and we've had some moments that just plain kick ass. We've also had three unique and powerful covers by Jon Foster, despite what Scott says. Just goes to show you; you may score the occasional victory against it, but the NJO will always strike back.
Williams and Dix write have written several trilogies together now, and of those that Iíve read, the final books have always been the best of the lot. The Force Heretic trilogy continues this pattern, with Reunion taking the award for best novel. There were several plot threads to be wrapped up in this book, and the authors do that while opening up a few more for the reader.
Zonama Sekot is finally discovered, or rather rediscovered near the beginning of the book. It is obvious this planet has a major role to play, but the reader, much like the characters is left asking, ďWhat?Ē Williams and Dix did a good job recounting Rogue Planet without being redundant as well as setting the stage for future revelations about the living worldís connect to the Yuuzhan Vong.
Esfandia is another world of importance, and the authors deserve applause for creating a unique ice world instead of the typical Hoth-clone. The reader is introduced to the Brrbrlpp - ĎCold Onesí Ė the most bizarre alien addition to the Star Wars universe in quite some time. The battle in the skies and on the ground of Esfandia was one of the more memorable of the series, especially Jag Felís maneuver inside the husk of a dying Yuuzhan Vong vessel. The highlight, however, was Pellaeonís second showdown with Vorrik, including the Yuuzhan Vong commanderís explosive death. On a side note, Iíd love to see Pellaeon and Ackbar commanding their respective fleets side by side against the enemy, but I have the nagging suspicion that one or both of them wonít survive the series.
I canít conclude this portion of the review without commenting on Tahiri and Nom Anor. Tahiriís storyline went where I expected it to go, but I was satisfied with itís conclusion. I canít wait to see what kinds of havoc the new Tahiri will unleash upon the Yuuzhan Vong. Nom Anor, on the other hand, took a direction that I hadnít expected him to take. I thought, or rather hoped that Nom Anor might have a dramatic crisis of conscience, but Williams and Dix stayed true to his core character. Nom Anor works for no one; all others are merely pawns in his climb to the top. Weíll just have to see how far he gets...
The storyline with Nom Anor and the heretics really didnít interest me at all. A lot of time was devoted to it though it ultimately didnít go anywhere. The character and the situation wasnít advanced much further than it was at the beginning of the trilogy. While Iím sure it sows the seeds for future storylines, it wasnít terribly exciting here. These portions of the novel were the slowest and most tedious of the plot and they dragged the pace down.
Speaking of unchanged characters, Jacen and Jaina seem to have reverted to their earlier incarnations. Thereís absolutely no evidence that Jaina had turned to the Dark Side and come back. Sheís still the perky Jedi she was before. Nothing in her character reveals any change in behavior or decision-making. And Jacen doesnít seem like someone who had been tortured for months on end by the Yuuzhan Vong. By the end of this book he has reverted to his anti-war rhetoric again. I thought he had come to the realization that some fighting was necessary, yet he ultimately tells Zonoma Sekot he doesnít want it to fight. It seemed like a major step backward in his characterís development. Killing off Chewbacca at the beginning of the New Jedi Order promised epic, life changing situations for our heroes. So far Iím not seeing that for anyone besides those killed. They seem to generally be the same characters they were at the beginning of the series.
Finally, this whole business with the Ryn spy network still has me puzzled. They are portrayed as an incredibly knowledgeable secret organization. The book sets them up as if they are going to be major players in the future, yet they really only get side mentions in the battles and their whole involvement in the overall storyline is only vaguely described. Despite this set up, it certainly seems like they are going to be cast aside in future stories. I guess weíll find out more later, but I still donít see any reason for their addition.
Luke and Mara sure do say "my love" a lot.
I was disappointed to see Ngaaluh die. What? I mentioned that already? Oh, yeah. Um...I think I saw a typo somewhere toward the end...
I hate Ugnaughts. I donít have much of a reason to, but Iíve held a certain disdain for the creatures since I first saw the ugly critters in The Empire Strikes Back. To use a line from Keanu Reeves in The Devilís Advocate, Ugnaughts are little more than ďdisgusting hog beasts.Ē What does that have to do with Reunion? A fairly important character in the book just happens to be an Ugnaught, but this isnít a failing of the authors, nor does it detract from the story Ė I just thought it was time I came clean about my unbridled hatred of Ugnaughts.
On another note, there are times, usually once per book, when I just want to throttle a character for an irritating remark of action. In Reunion, Jacen Solo claimed this honor for his efforts to undo Lukeís work and convince Zonama Sekot to stay out of the war. Bravo, Jacen. Bravo.
Iíve still got to complain about the covers of these books by Jon Foster. They are rather unimpressive and a bit abstract for my taste. Iím not even sure which scene from the novel the image is supposed to be portraying. I suppose itís Jacen and Danni Quee, but itís not a great rendition.
Wonder who had to clean the Brrbrlpp remains off the Falcon...