New Jedi Order
by Troy Denning
Published by Del Ray
Mike's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
In a short story taking place just after the fall of Duro, Han and Leia's relationship continues to heal (along with Leia's legs). They return to Coruscant alongside with some familiar characters from Star by Star, and start to wonder about that Shesh person...
Denning did a great job of taking a couple little important bits of necessary plot and merging them into a coherent, and enjoyable, story. Here we get to witness the continuation of Han and Leia's reconciliation, which should be a big treat for the reams of fans who were more upset about this infamous bit of fallout from Chewie's death than about the death itself. Denning's definitely one of the better NJO authors when it comes to Han and Leia, so it was good to see him tackle this.
Moving on, Recovery also introduces us to Saba, Tesar, Krasov, and Bela, the Barabel Bunch who go on to play a big part in Star by Star and the rest of the NJO (oh yeah, and Izal Waz is there, too). One problem that can arise easily in a story arc like this is the quick introduction and departure of secondary characters as the author changes. Luckily, letting Denning fill in a story that happens way before SBS gives him a chance to prove that these people didn't just appear out of thin air a year later. In the same vein, this story is, I believe, the only time we've actually gotten to see Eelysa, the Master whom we discover trained the Barabel Bunch years ago. The whole bit with them convincing Thrackan that she's Jaina was pretty amusing (and helped to set up his role in Ylesia later on).
Come to think of it, handling large casts seems to be one of Denning's best characteristics. SBS had pretty much the most plot and characters of any single NJO book to date, and this story proves he was the guy for the job. Even throwaway characters like the merc group at the beginning are fleshed out and made memorable characters in their own right. As many times as people have been hired to kill/assault/kidnap a Solo, making one stand out is definitely a praiseworthy feat.
Our heroes' arrival on Coruscant serves as the bulk of the story's action, and it's surprising how much trouble they had to go through just to get home unnoticed. The whole sequence actually had a kind of eerie parallel to the post-invasion insertion of Luke's team in Edge of Victory (and the insertion of Corran's team on Garqi waaay back in Dark Tide).
I really liked seeing all the stuff with Leia's recuperation toward the end. Too often in the NJO a character is dealt a horrifying injury for the sake of drama, only to have the story skip months ahead to when they're fine again. Seeing everything Leia had to go through in order to walk again, with Han at her side, was very touching and gave us a level of intimacy we don't get often enough in the NJO.
I know better than to expect spectacular covers from an NJO eBook (oddly enough, Saboteur's and A Forest Apart's were pretty decent), but this thing is just hideous. There are probably fifty redone color schemes they could've used that would've been better than this. There's a reason comic books only use green and purple for villains. In fact, the overall assembly of this thing is just awful. I've seen fan book covers Photoshopped from scratch that came out better. The fact that this is all I have to point out, however, speaks well for the story. The only real issue I have with it is the overall utilitarian feel things of this nature tend to have. Though Denning did quite well, it's hard to completely convince myself that Del Rey didn't just hand him a list of plot points and say "tie these up for us."
Dirty bacta. Not a fun concept.