New Jedi Order - Dark Tide II: Ruin
by Michael A. Stackpole
Published by Del Ray
Helen's Rating: 4 out of 4
Paula's Rating: 4 out of 4
Scott's Rating: 3 out of 4
The alien Yuuzhan Vong have launched an attack on the worlds of the Outer Rim. They are merciless, without regard for life - and they stand utterly outside the Force. Their ever-changing tactics stump the new Republic military. Even the Jedi, once the greatest guardians of peace in the galaxy, are rendered helpless by this impervious foe - and their solidairy has begun to unravel.
While Luke struggles to keep the Jedi together, Knights Jacen Solo and Corran Horn set off on a reconnaissance mission to the planet Garqi, an occupied world. There, at last, they uncover a secret that might be used to determine the enemy - if only the can stay alive long enough to use it!
NOTE!! - This review does contain spoilers from the novel. If you have not read it, you may want to think twice before proceeding.
In a way, coming up with a rating for Ruin was a difficult decision. Personally, prefer to leave a little room at the top, just in case that perfect novel comes along. However, with the thought in mind that to judge something fairly it should be judged on it's own merits as compared to what has gone before and not by what may never come, I have given Ruin a rating of 4 out of 4. Why? Because I believe Ruin is as perfect a Star Wars novel as any are ever going to get.
Do I say this because Ruin has what everyone wants? No. While many will be pleased at Ruin's seamless fit with the Bantam novels and use of that history, there are characters that some are going to say should have been included. There were characters that I would have liked to see again (paging Wraith Squadron), but they weren't there. There are events in the story that will make some shudder, and they should. There is one criteria of interest here: Did the story succeed?
So, did Ruin achieve what it should have? If we accept that one purpose of the New Jedi Order is to return to the feel of the movies, in my opinion, it did. In reading Ruin I heard echoes of the desperation of the original trilogy (particularly The Empire Strikes Back), felt the same sense of humor that came through when Princess Leia first called Han a scruffy nerf herder, and was impressed with the same sense of life in the characters. If we are supposed to have the sense that this is the impervious foe the New Republic may just lose to, we certainly have that. On a character level, to varying degrees, each character has to face themselves, and must question themselves, in order to succeed. Some of these lessons are a course of life, and some aren't pleasant. But each faces those circumstances, and is left changed for the experience.
Onto the specifics...
We are introduced to Soontir and Syal Antilles Fel's 18 year old son Jagged Fel (often called Jag for short) who commands a Chiss Squadron and is clearly a love-interest for Jaina Solo. Although Fel and his squadron are not featured in as prominent a role as some would like, that door is left wide-open at the end of the novel (Elaine Cunningham's upcoming Jaina stand-alone novel just got a lot more interesting). Jag Fel is going to be someone to watch. Moreover, Gilad Pellaeon returns, now as an Admiral and in command of the Imperial Remnant. I loved seeing Pellaeon again, and believe we will again before New Jedi Order is done. However, I wasn't sure what Pellaeon's rank really was. He is repeatedly refered to as Admiral but described as wearing a Grand Admiral's white uniform.
On the subject of characters, there are two occurrences in Ruin that gave me pause. One, Anakin Solo gets to use two lightsabers. However, this was not given the same amount of description as Luke's two lightsaber scene in Onslaught, and he wasn't described as being fatigued by the experience. Hmmm... Two, a female Twi'leki Jedi named Daeshara'cor figures into the plot, and into Anakin's overall arc. What made me sit up and take notice was that she disappeared at her death. Another hmmm... Luke and Mara behave as married couple would. They kiss, they hug, they disagree, all the while taking great comfort in each other. Moreover, Corran and Mirax are described in a similar fashion. Thank you Mike. Throughout Ruin, I was moved by the plight of, and then death of, Elegos A'Kla. A character of great strength and great nobility, he demonstrated what is key to the events unfolding in the New Jedi Order - there is no periphery. This is a battle that will be fought by all, won and lost by some, in each their own way.
Ruin culminates with the painful and ultimately futile showdown between Corran Horn and Shedao Shai, in which no one really wins. The outcome of the duel leads to the Yuuzhan Vong destruction of yet another world. It seems that the Vong don't really care as much about honoring life as they profess that they do. It is as if their actions are to say: "If it gets in our way, kill it." Pure and simple. And thoroughly evil.
And once again, evil visits upon one of our own. Elegos has been murdered by Shai, leading Corran Horn to cross the line to the Dark Side. Elegos's death made that brush possible and will make Corran's climb back all the more difficult. However, this also takes Corran out of the action for a while. With the blame for the destruction of the planet placed unfairly on Corran's shoulders, he and Mirax go into exile. Hopefully, Corran will return, and the author(s) who undertake his return will put as much thought into Corran as Stackpole has.
In sum, Ruin has to be the best Star Wars novel thus far. I can't say more than that. On its own merits, Ruin is a non-stop action ride, from start to finish. It grabs you and doesn't let go.
The best thing about reading a Star Wars book by Michael Stackpole is that it feels like you're going home to visit old friends. His long experience with the people and aliens of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, and his ability to relate the thoughts of those characters, makes you feel like you're having an intimate conversation with friends over a tapcaf in a cantina somewhere.
There's plenty of the kind of gallows humor that many fans, myself included, enjoy. Also, there are some wonderfully realistic and tender moments between some of the couples in the story. And every character stays true to its personality and history. While new authors might bring some interesting insight into the characters, Stackpole's familiarity with them only serves to make them more vibrant and to make the reader more invested in the story.
For those fans who have been a bit frustrated by the inaccessibility of the Vong, you will be pleased to see a deeper exploration of their culture in this book. And there are even some surprise appearances by characters you'd never expect.
The action is intense, the twists and turns shocking...and those of you prone to tears may wish to have some tissues standing by.
All in all, it's one fantastic read! I recommend that you take the phone off the hook, make yourself a tall pitcher of your favorite cool drink, grab a plate of snacks and spend the day reading a great adventure.
This book is a great addition to the series and adds even more insight into the Yuuzhan Vong invaders. We also see the Jedi Knights struggle to establish themselves as the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy.
Stackpole continues to bring the expanded universe characters (such as Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin) to life and make them interesting. He also adds the unique twist of bringing in the Imperial Remnant into the battle. The addition of a new elite Imperial squadron was truly incredible and I would have liked to have seen more of them.
Stackpole also addresses another question of mine - why not crank out another Death Star and show the Yuuzhan Vong who is boss? I'm glad it was touched on.
There's one glaring bad thing about Ruin. It's Michael Stackpole's last Star Wars novel.
I can't say as I found anything bad I'd want to say about this book. The continually frustrating dangling ends that you'll find in it are there for a reason, as the New Jedi Order series continues to unfold its story. So we fans must have patience.
I love a lot of action in Star Wars novels, but that is not the primary focus of this novel. It is first a foremost a character drama that happens to have a few very good action scenes in it. Not that a character drama is a bad thing, but it is not my preference. It took about 100 pages before some major action took place. Yes, yes, I sound like a barbarian, but I know what I like. :)
I understood the need for the Jedi to delve into the reasons behind why they must kill, why they must fight, and why they can't save everyone. But at times their speeches sounded like either preaching or whining. Corran Horn was always right. He was never wrong, and he always had to explain why he was right. Other characters continue to beat themselves because they feel they caused someone to die. I recognize that it is necessary for character development, but it wore on me.
I also felt there was a missed opportunity with the Noghri. They are constantly praised as stealthy, skilled fighters, but we never learn more about them. When Corran and Jacen go on a mission with a group of Noghri, they are treated as little more than cannon fodder. We don't learn who they are, why they choose to be there, or explore what they are capable of against the Yuuzhan Vong.
Overall this is a truly well done Star Wars novel, but it just wasn't to my tastes. That's why I rated it 3 out of 4.
Page 277? Egress was used when I think entrance was meant, in the third full paragraph. Really... there wasn't any ugly for Ruin. Other than to reiterate the bad.
I am truly sad that this is the last Star Wars novel contribution from Michael Stackpole. (Hopefully not forever!) And while I look forward to more of his Dark Glory War novels, the Galaxy Far, Far Away just won't be the same without him. I only hope that the new authors joining us will be able to uphold his example as they continue to take us into this interesting story.
I have to give the ugly award this time to the Jedi whose face met the business end of an amphistaff and the resulting first aid. Ouch, that's gotta hurt!