New Jedi Order
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
by Aaron Allston
Published by Del Ray
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
This review discusses spoilers from Rebel Stand, so turn back now if you haven't read the book yet.
Our heroes are separated into several groups as the New Jedi Order continues. Luke, Mara, Tahiri, Face, and the other infiltrators make their way through the ruins of Coruscant. The Yuuzhan Vong now dominate the planet and have begun reshaping it to their own needs. However, our Jedi friends feel a dark disturbance in the Force. The Yuuzhan Vong invasion has awakened a new Dark Jedi deep within the planet. Previously believed to be urban legend, Lord Nyax starts unfolding plans to not only destroy the intergalactic invaders, but to take over the galaxy for himself as well.
Meanwhile, Han and Leia begin forming rebel cells on planets next in line to be invaded by the Yuuzhan Vong. Besides inserting rebel agents, they also use their influence to oppose leaders who would try to bargain with the invaders rather than fight them. It ends up being just like old times as the princess and the scoundrel run from enemies hot on their heels.
Finally, Wedge, Jaina, Kyp, and Jag find themselves blockaded by the Yuuzhan Vong. Fortunately, this is a situation they planned to be in. The remnants of the New Republic begin to unfold their plots against the Yuuzhan Vong in a battle that deals a heavy blow the invaders both physically and psychologically.
This book was one of my favorite in the series not only because it was a fun story, but because it featured a lot of the things I wanted to see in the New Jedi Order.
First off, it featured the return of the Dark Side to the Expanded Universe. I always wanted to see how a Dark Jedi would hold up against the Yuuzhan Vong, and this delivers. Lord Nyax is a great, freakish, evil Dark Jedi. I loved how he was introduced first as an urban legend among the survivors on Coruscant. When he is finally revealed, he's an incredibly powerful and deadly creature. Lord Nyax has an interesting type of weaponry that utilizes multiple lightsabers. Quite a unique twist on the dark side weapons. His origin is even creepier. He's a mix of Frankenstein and Norman Bates. The added fact that he's a cyborg was cool, too. (You don't see many cyborgs in the Expanded Universe despite the fact that C-3PO always reminds us that he's programmed for human / cyborg relations.) That makes him even more of an abomination to the alien invaders. It was very cool to see both the Yuuzhan Vong and the Jedi unable to stop him. The fact that his appearance ties in with the old Jedi Temple is a nice touch, too.
This book also makes the deaths of Chewbacca and Anakin pay off. The authors killed those characters to make the reader believe that the movie characters were no longer invincible. You didn't know if they were going to live or die. Well, in this book I totally believed that Aaron Allston was about to kill off Wedge Antilles. I just knew he was about to buy it. The only reason I really thought it was the end for him was because I knew they killed off bigger characters than Wedge in the past. So I flew through the last pages of the book to see if he'd make it. (Thankfully, he did.) That made the story more entertaining for me.
One of the things that bugged me about the early New Jedi Order books were all the scenes where characters sat brooding or had long philosophical discussions about fighting the Yuuzhan Vong. All that is gone here. We finally have Han and Leia back in all their glory. This is the Leia that blasted her way out of the Death Star and choked Jabba the Hutt to death while wearing a gold bikini. :) She is the Leia of the Rebellion era and doesn't take any garbage in order to win the fight. I loved how she was willing to take out a political rival through trickery without the slightest bit of remorse. It was vindication for all those books where she just had to take the abuse from Borsk. Han is also in top form as he makes his way out of close calls by the skin of his teeth.
Aaron Allston is one of my favorite Star Wars authors for a couple of reasons. First is that he brings much needed humor to his stories. His characters have some great dialogue and he always sets up funny situations even in the worst of circumstances. Allston's other talent is making secondary characters interesting. He makes a Yuuzhan Vong pilot an interesting character as he pursues Jaina Solo. He makes the former Yuuzhan Vong slave Tam Elgrin into one of the more intriguing characters of the series. Tam is the everyman like you or I who becomes the hero when thrown into extraordinary circumstances. You actually care about his fate beyond this novel. Allston also manages to make Face and the other Wraith Squadron members more entertaining than Luke or Mara. He also manages to elevate R2-D2 from a beeping, voiceless droid into a key character with actual dialogue. It's easier to see why he was able to survive all the way from Episode I till now and save our heroes repeatedly in the process.
Finally, it's nice to see the Republic turn the tables on the Yuuzhan Vong and win a decisive victory for once. I personally enjoyed Rebel Stand and I think it's one of the highlights of the New Jedi Order.
I only have one major problem with this book - all the cool bad guys are killed off. Allston must have gone to the George Lucas school of villainy because, like Darth Maul and Jango Fett, he kills off all the cool bad guys that appear in this book. Lord Nyax makes an impressive and deadly debut only to be killed 3/4 of the way through the story. We barely got a taste of what he was capable of before he was destroyed. I'm really hoping that Luke was mistaken and that he's not really dead. Maybe he'll return later. The other cool character to meet his end is Czulkan Lah, the father of warmaster Tsavong Lah. Allston wove a rich history for the character only to kill him in this book. His death is a definitive and personal blow to Tsavong and integral to the story, but I still would have liked to have seen more of this guy. However, unlike Lord Nyax, there's no way this guy is coming back.
My only other problem is with the store of Force energy at the site of the old Jedi Temple. This is really only glossed over without any real explanation or time spent on it. I would have thought that the return to a site so well documented in Episode I and II would have warranted a bit more coverage, especially if there was a previously unknown source of the Force underneath it. Maybe this will be revisited in the future.
Nothing to add here.