New Jedi Order - Edge of Victory I: Conquest
by Greg Keyes
Published by Del Ray
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
Chris's Rating: 3 out of 4
Michael's Rating: 3 out of 4
The Second Jedi Purge has begun. With the corrupt New Republic standing on the brink of total annihilation by the savage Yuuzhan Vong, the people of the Republic have leapt at the Vong’s offer of peace – in return for the lives of all the Jedi. Luke Skywalker and his newly-pregnant wife Mara find the loyalty of the Jedi Order slipping through their fingers, as more and more of the hunted Jedi become swayed by Kyp Durron’s violent “Jedi for Jedi” philosophy.
But as the galaxy crumbles before Luke’s horrified eyes, the most crucial struggle of all is occurring in the soul of Anakin Solo. Driven by a vision from the Force, Anakin defies Luke’s orders and travels to the Jedi Academy of Yavin IV, convinced the students there (especially his old friends Master Ikrit and Tahiri Veila from “Junior Jedi Knights”) are in mortal danger. Sure enough, the traitorous Peace Brigade is at work serving the Jedi Academy to the Vong as a sacrifice. Despite the best efforts of Anakin and Talon Karrde, the Academy is destroyed, another Jedi hero falls – and Tahiri is captured by the Vong.
Now, with the aid of a disgraced former Vong commander named Vua Rapuung, Anakin must race against time to save Tahiri from a fate truly worse than death – being brainwashed and mutilated into a Force-using Vong warrior. With the odds overwhelmingly against him, and the ghosts of the recent past haunting him, will Anakin be forced – finally – to embrace his infamous grandfather and namesake’s dark legacy?
I always loved the Junior Jedi Knight books, so it was a lot of fun to see the characters from that book series get the attention they finally deserve. Their inclusion also seems to tie everything in together and give all the books the feel of telling one story.
Tahiri was a fun character in those early books and she still is here. She has a special bond with Anakin and we see it developed here in Conquest. Young Jedi in love...aww. :) And the fact that she's kind of a secondary character makes her situation much more dire. There's a sense that she's really in jeopardy unlike some of the other characters. The death of Master Ikrit underlines that fact.
Speaking of Ikrit, he's a character that could have been easily written off and ignored by the Star Wars continuity. In fact, he was up until this point. However, his presence and comments before his dramatic death add quite a bit of weight to the events. I also love the foreshadowing he gives.
We get quite a bit more insight into the Yuuzhan Vong in this book. This is mainly because of the renegade Yuuzhan Vong known as Vua Rapuung. It's difficult to imagine one of these aliens ever becoming an ally to a Jedi, but Keyes is able to pull it off in a convincing way.
The seeds of the Yuuzhan Vong defeat seem to be sown in this book as both Anakin and Tahiri gain valuable insight into the invaders. We also get hints that the Shamed Ones will be key players in defeating their masters.
Overall this was an enjoyable story for me. It had a great combination of action and adventure. It had interesting old and new characters. I was originally feeling like I didn't want to see more stories in the New Jedi Order storyline, but this kept things interesting.
That this book is as good as it is, considering how fast it was written (virtually a last-minute replacement for Michael Jan Friedman’s cancelled Knightfall Trilogy), is incredible and speaks very high of Greg Keyes’ abilities. The characterization of our familiar characters is dead-on, the new characters presented here are very interesting indeed, and the tale moves with a speed-of-light pace strongly reminiscent of the films themselves.
What this book basically serves as is a “course correction” mandated by Lucasfilm. The NJO saga to date was getting TOO dark, and the authors had done TOO good a job of presenting the Yuuzhan Vong as virtually invincible. In this book, their Achilles’ Heel is finally exposed. Thankfully, it’s not a bit of technobabble (“Star Trek,” anyone?) or a case of overconfidence and ego (The Emperor), but an intriguing piece of the Vong’s rapidly deepening culture.
This book also sets up some surprising plot threads for the rest of the series, as the very heart of the SW saga – the Force – is called into question as never before. While the G word is never mentioned (thankfully), it is revealed that the Force may be merely part of something even greater, even more powerful. I’m surprised Lucas let this through. It is presented with restraint, however, and I am very interested in seeing where it leads.
Initially, I was hesitant of another NJO novel centring on one of the Solo kids, but I was quite pleased with the result that J. Gregory Keyes produced. Throughout the series, Anakin has started to emerge from the shadow of his two older siblings, progressing as a character, one from boyhood into growing manhood. Like the family Jedi before him, he is headstrong, however reckless, yet forever loyal to his friends. This trait sets up the general movement of the story, whereby Anakin sets upon himself the task of going to the aid of the Jedi Praxeum on Yavin IV, who are under attack by the Peace Brigade.
Following previous set trend of the NJO, the novel provides many past continuity links, especially this time with the “Young Jedi Knights” and “Junior Jedi Knights” series of books. It is not necessary to have read those previous books, however, it does add that fundamental extra to the enjoyment of the book if you understand more of the back-story to the characters. Characters such as Uldir, Tahiri, Qorl and Ikrit make an appearance, the latter unfortunately meeting his demise, he was one of the major influences in Anakin’s young life. Fans wishes are fulfilled also, as Kam Solusar finally gets increased ‘screen time’.
One of the most pleasing and intriguing aspects of Keyes book is that he delves into the realm of Yuuzhan Vong culture and society, more so than previous authors. He introduces the Shaper sect, whose main goal in the book is to produce a Vong / Jedi hybrid – the unfortunate guinea pig – Tahiri.
This book I feel, marks a breaking point within the Jedi order, and in my opinion I feel that this is a good move. For so long, they have been portrayed as inactive, ineffective and confused, and sadly lacking genuine leadership. Keyes brings this to a satisfactory head with a conference of the Jedi, in which the opinions of Luke and Kyp yet again clash. From here, the Jedi will either ultimately split, or both sides will find the positives in each other’s ‘certain point of view’ and unite – but I feel that the decision has been laid upon the table in this book. Personally, I will be frustrated if this storyline continues, where the Jedi cannot find a united front – it is becoming stale.
Keyes, through his character Vua Rapuung, presents a sympathetic side to the Vong, giving an insight into the mindset of their culture, revealing their intents and purposes, in their own unique twisted perspective. They are no longer mindless villains, they have personality.
I really loved Keyes biblical analogy to Jonah and the Whale, with Anakin receiving transport in the belly of the fish to the Shaper’s compound.
Many story threads are laid down in this book, which I feel excited about, if you look for their future story possibilities – Luke’s vision around who will finally win the war, subtle hints pointing to Anakin, Anakin’s relationship with Tahiri, and the state of the Jedi order. Perhaps with Tahiri new implanted memories, and with the eventual return of Vergere, perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Jedi / Republic . . .
This book takes place over a rather long time frame. It seems to take place over a couple of weeks. If the Jedi children were in as much jeopardy as was believed, you'd have thought that help would have arrived MUCH faster. If the Jedi themselves didn't jump into action to help the totally undefended children, you would have thought the parents of the children would have arrived. I mean, if my child was at the Jedi Academy and I heard the Yuuzhan Vong placed a bounty on their head, I would have been there in a heartbeat to get the kid out. Yet that wasn't the case. However, you can't fault Keyes for that. He only had X amount of pages to tell the story and there wasn't room to explore every implication of the situation.
The long time frame of the story also didn't seem Star Wars-like. Between one chapter and the next, Keyes will say that three days have past. Or possibly a week. Attacking ships will approach and it is announced they will arrive in three hours. Half an hour. While these time frames are certainly more realistic, the Star Wars movies and novels always seemed to ignore them. If a ship attacks, it pops out of nowhere and attacks you. It is also almost never acknowledged that it would take a character multiple days to stomp through a jungle. Just a minor gripe, but something that never would have occurred to me until I saw it in this book.
If there is anything really wrong with this book, it can be traced back to one simple fact – the book was written very quickly. The space battle scenes were very short and not too detailed. The characterization, while (as I said before) accurate, was not very in-depth. This book could have really used a month or two for some polishing.
Count your blessings, though -- the last time a SW book was written under those circumstances, we got “The Crystal Star.”
Keyes continuous use of the word ‘fellow’. Something just didn’t sit right with me with that word. I imagined some pompous English aristocrat using that word, not with Anakin. A minor personal fault. However great it is that the series is continuing to center around different characters, I have noticed an alarming trend that the focus of those characters is decreasing in age, this time being a central shift towards 14 – 16 year old characters. Gladly, ‘Rebirth’ will once again be more focused on the ensemble cast of characters. I was left dissatisfied with the reintroduction of Corran Horn, and felt that this should have been made into more of a major event. There is also the trend of the books being localised on one setting, ie: Balance Point with Duro, now Conquest on Yavin IV. Star Wars has always been about epic multiple settings, I hope that future novels return to that set precedent.
Lastly, I was a little disappointed by the death of Vua. This series has yet to provide continuous Yuuzhan Vong characters apart from two – Tsavong Lah, the occasional appearance by Nom Anor, and only the mentioning of Supreme Overlord Shimmra. First Shedao Shai and now Vua’s characters are gone, lost opportunity I believe. Hopefully this can be rectified.
This book relies heavily on the old Junior Jedi Knights series for back story. Many fans are going to have a hard time finding them if they want copies. It could get ugly.
You think the Yuuzhan Vong are ugly? Imagine being a Vong whose physical appearance has been ruined by a artificial disease. Now THAT’S ugly. :)
The Shaper Adepts progression in the sect, receiving the Maker’s hand. The process made me cringe!