New Jedi Order - Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
by Greg Keyes
Published by Del Ray
Chris's Rating: 3 out of 4
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
Michael's Rating: 4 out of 4
Time is running out for the Jedi Knights as the Yuuzhan Vong and the traitorous Peace Brigade step up their efforts to exterminate them, with the corrupt New Republic government's tacit approval.
Luke Skywalker and his wife Mara Jade are days away from becoming parents, as Han, Leia, their children and other friends work to establish an underground network for Jedi to flee to safety, and to find a new base world for the Jedi.
Elsewhere, in the remains of the Sernpidal system, a mammoth Vong construction project is nearing completion - one that could make the crucial difference in which side wins the war?
Those grumbling about the lack of our main heroes in the previous chapter, "Conquest," will have cause to celebrate here. Keyes brings back all the usual suspects (or mentions them), and does so in a way that recaptures the feel of the movie era while acknowledging and building upon the characters' maturity since.
The story has a lot of twists and turns, and manages to blindside the reader at times (especially with the shocking climax). Keyes plays with readers' expectations from previous chapters, and satisfies some while taking others in unexpected directions. You're definitely coming away from this viewing a few characters in a new light. The pace is fast and furious, but also slows down at just the right places.
Of special note is the restraint and sensitivity Keyes uses in some of the character threads. Luke and Mara's situation brings tears to your eyes without jerking them out of you, Han and Leia dealing with the growing up (and growing distance) of their kids is touching without being melodramatic, and Anakin and Tahiri's budding romance brings chuckles and aww's without the discomfort one would expect of such a young pairing.
I think Keyes is more in touch with the Star Wars mythos than some of the other authors. His stories are full of action, adventure, romance, and humor just like the original films. In the end, it's a satisfying read for me. All of the characters act in line with their movie personas while the new characters develop on their own. I'm also happy to see many of the deep philosophical discussions clipped short, especially with Jacen.
I personally was happy to see the separate storylines develop. It was a great twist to see Han Solo revert back to his smuggler days with Jacen and Leia by his side. It's great to see Corran Horn return to a prominent role in the novels. Anakin and Tahiri have a fun romance start to develop. Finally, and most notably, the birth of Luke's son takes place. This is what this book will be known for. It was cool to see Luke be such an integral part of the birth of his son.
I was interested by the sub-plot of the Yuuzhan Vong slaves and forsaken ones becoming enraptured by the Jedi. It's going to be interesting to see how they factor into the eventual fall of the invaders.
As with nearly all of the duologies so far in the New Jedi Order, book number two focus's on the main ensemble cast, after the first book mainly devotes itself to a few individuals. While the first book in the series focus's on character development, the second pushes the story further. I think it is an even balance.
It was great to see some of the peripheral characters back in action - Talon Karrde, Booster Terrik, Corran Horn, Shada D'ukal, etc . . . this added to the epic scope of the novel, a departure focusing on a small group. The actions of Borsk Fey'lya are featured again, it is enjoyable, yet frustrating to see the influences of him playing the political game. The Peace Brigade are brought into focus again, acting as the continual foil for the hero's. It is interesting to watch how their influence in the galaxy is increasing novel by novel - this is adding a third dimension to the war, not just one side versus another, now, the collaborationists are playing an increasing role in the outcome of the war.
There are many sub-plots to the book, however, the stand out to me, although my fellow reviewer Chris did not like it, was the sub-plot of Nem Yim. Her sub-plot was really the only event that drove the story (the NJO as a whole) further. Sure, we have the big event of the birth of Luke and Mara's son, Ben Skywalker, but with the heretical acceptance of Supreme Overlord Shimmra, Nem Yim has had her leash let loose, and is free to create whatever unimaginable horrors to plague the New Republic. This could be one of the major events of the war, and for now, could be overlooked at its importance.
The main character growth in this novel, was the developing relationship between Anakin and Tahiri - what was close friendship is developing into something more, something more intimate. Great development in the characters, showing their human side, and signs of growing up and maturity.
Kyp Durron is one of the protagonists of the book, helping push the story along, encouraging Jaina to join him in a mission against a Vong 'superweapon'. However, Jaina is later horrified to learn that she has been used and manipulated into roping in Rogue Squadron to fight against something less sinister, a growing Worldship. Greg Keyes handled Kyp well in this book, showing the reader how desperate Kyp is for forward momentum in the war, at whatever cost. The interesting outcome will be the effect on Jaina - will this make her less trusting or cynical? Another moment showing the growing up process of the Solo children.
Vergere - I disagree with Scott, I really like how she is handled, makes the reader think - what is her agenda? I think her role will snowball in the rest of the series, and her true intentions revealed. At the moment, she is an enigma, yet a satisfying one. One of the mysteries keeping the series alive.
Lastly, I really enjoyed yet another glimpse into the psyche of Nom Anor, this time is cowardly and selfish motivations that ultimately lead him to kill his own people to protect his image to his superiors.
The big problem here (that prevents me from giving a higher rating) is that this is really four separate plot threads that could almost be read independently of the others. And one of them (Nen Yim's struggles to save her worldship) seems like it doesn't even belong in the book, that it would be better served as a SW Gamer short story or an ebook. I wish there'd been a way to better integrate that into the story.
A couple of things bothered me. The first is the fact that Mara Jade is so snippy. Any time anyone offers to help her out, she bites their head off. This was her character in the Zahn novels, but by now she's been married to Luke for several years. You'd think she'd be over that by now.
The other thing was Vergere. First she is a prequel era Jedi, then a supposed slave of the Yuuzhan Vong, now she nearly gets Han Solo and Jacen killed by helping give spy information. So what is she? I know this is part of the intended intrigue of the character, but either more time needs to be given to this character or they need to stop throwing such small, confusing bits of storyline devoted to her.
Once again, I feel that the novel was too short, just under 290 pages. I realise that page count does not mean anything, as long as the words within add up to quality, but I believe that elements and scenes could have been expanded upon. I think at least 350 - 400 pages are needed for a Star Wars novel.
Apart from the birth, not really much happened, the main story drive was Nem Yim and her acceptance by Supreme Overlord Shimmra - giving her charge to continue her heretical work.
Nom Anor - his character is not really going anyway, blundering along. It is an all too similar and predictable pattern - achieve something, set back, grovel to masters, achieve something. Although a new dimension was revealed in the book, more needs to be done with this character in future books, as he seems to be the main focus of the Vong throughout the series, it would be a shame to see him go to waste.
Several people in this book die (or nearly die) by being exposed to the vacuum of open space. That's truly an ugly way to go.
Anakin beheads a Yuuzhan Vong. Atta boy!
Nom Anor slaughtering his own people, to cover up his cowardice. Adds another ugly dimension to the character.