New Jedi Order
Star by Star
by Troy Denning
Published by Del Ray
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
Chris's Rating: 4 out of 4
Michael's Rating: 4 out of 4
This review contains spoilers, so be warned!!
The Yuuzhan Vong invasion continues while the Jedi Knights regroup to battle them. As Luke tries to strengthen ties with the Senate and learn more about Vong bio-technology, a new threat has emerged. The invaders have created a creature specifically for hunting Jedi called a voxyn. Force sensitive and packed with claws, poison, and acid, the creatures have been successful in wiping out many Jedi. After tracing the origin of the creatures, Anakin Solo proposes a mission to destroy the Yuuzhan Vong source producing them. Reluctantly, Luke, Han, and Leia agree on allowing Anakin to lead the mission, and 17 Jedi join the suicidal endeavor. Jacen, Jaina, Lowbacca, Tahiri, and others from the Young Jedi Knights crew go along, and many of them won't be coming back. Their quest will bring them face to face with Nom Anor, the queen voxyn, and the mysterious Vergere.
Meanwhile, the Jedi reorganize into a formal fighting force and start doing serious damage to the Yuuzhan Vong fleet. Events culminate when the New Republic, under the leadership of Borsk Fey'lya, formally endorse the use of the Jedi in military operations. This prompts the Yuuzhan Vong to make their final push toward their ultimate destination - Coruscant. But how can the New Republic stand when their own senators are traitors?
First of all, I gotta say I love the page count. 606 pages long. Wow! I certainly feel I got my money's worth. I'd rather have a book this size than two separate books or a trilogy. This was great and I hope they do it again. If Harry Potter can have a 700+ page book, then Star Wars should, too.
This story has more of what I'd been hoping to see in the rest of the series. The Jedi re-organize and live up to their true potential as guardians of the universe. Luke is back in dogfights with R2 in his X-Wing. Han and Leia have a strong relationship again. It all comes together nicely. I was glad to see Lando play a significant role, and C-3PO has a wonderful, and extremely important role to play with Ben Skywalker. It's great to see him involved with another generation of Skywalkers.
Denning makes some great new additions. There are a group of Terminator/Robocop/ED-209 war droids built by Lando for the specific purpose of killing Yuuzhan Vong. They were a great new creation for the New Republic technology, and they'll make even more sense after you see some new droids in Episode II. Surprisingly, they even begin to develop a personality towards the end. They're great for some good battles.
Troy Denning's space battles are very exciting, and the final invasion of Coruscant is as nail-biting and action packed as I had hoped it would be. The Jedi battles with the new voxyn are also somewhat reminiscent of Aliens and were a lot of fun to read.
I was glad to see some of the older characters make appearances. I was a fan of the Young Jedi Knight series, so I was glad to see all those old character make appearances in this novel. In fact, this whole book is almost a Young Jedi Knights sequel! Danni Quee from Vector Prime also reappears with a significant role. Finally, Vergere is revealed a little bit more. It looks like the coming novels are going to explain her a bit more.
Overall, Star by Star was an exciting read and a very satisfying Star Wars novel.
I'm not sure who I'm writing this review for. Those who are fans of the Expanded Star Wars Universe have likely already read this book and are crying their eyes out right now; Those who aren't likely won't be swayed by my words. But I'll try anyway.
This book contains, by far, the most earth-shaking, heart-rending events to hit the SW galaxy perhaps since the birth of the Empire. It contains more than a fair share of shockers (I'm trying my best to be spoiler-free here), and unfortunately came out at perhaps the worst time imaginable, a time when its' events VERY closely parallel current events and national emotions; a time when its' events (especially in the fiery climax over Coruscant) will rub salt - no, tabasco sauce - in our slowly healing wounds.
So why did I give this book such a high rating? And why am I recommending you buy it?
Because it also does something I didn't expect it would do - it gives you hope. Our heroes are beaten down almost to their foundations, but they keep on fighting. They face almost unimaginable loss, but they keep going - and that touched me deeply. A speech one of them gives near the end, after losing someone very dear to them, brought tears to my eyes. The timing in this case was perfect - I felt like that character was speaking to me. Never have the SW characters seemed so real, or so heroic.
Everyone holds "The Empire Strikes Back" as the pinnacle of the SW saga - well, this is the novel equivalent, as it holds that impending doom feel and definitely ends on a cliffhanger note and will lead readers fearing for our old friends as never before.
Troy Denning is one of the elder statesmen of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, having helped create material for the WEG RPG in the early nineties, even before Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" was released. It is a pity that it has taken more than a decade for Troy to be given the chance to write a full length novel, because his new book, "Star by Star", the third hardcover in the NJO saga, is nothing short of brilliant.
I have to agree with Scott, I really appreciated the length of the novel, being 600+ pages long. The only other lengthy Star Wars book that I can recall is Zahn's "Vision of the Future." As always, I stick to the old rule, quality not content, however, I do enjoy reading long drawn out epics, and I do believe that "Star by Star" espouses quality.
I enjoyed that with this novel, the NJO series has followed the thematic style of the classic trilogy, with this novel in the ambiguous vein of "The Empire Strikes Back." The ending leaves the reader dying to know what will happen next on a multiple of story arcs, ie: Coruscant, the Jedi, and Jaina. I found the novel more satisfying that it delved into a bigger scope, unlike the previous hardcover, "Balance Point" which centred on one location. Again, this book followed the structure of the films, with space and land battles.
The ensemble cast was used very effectively, with focus equally shared between generations. It was heart-warming to see continuity referenced, with the characters from the "Young Jedi Knights" series of books featuring prominently.
Finally, the character that we all love to hate, Borsk Fey'lya is now backing the Jedi with their fight against the Yuuzhan Vong. One of the highlights of the book for me, were the political battles on the Senate floor with Borsk and Nom Anor, I loved how Borsk stood up to him... I think Borsk found redemption in my eyes... redemption being one of the major themes of Star Wars.
I, unlike many, many people, congratulate the creative move brought about by Anakin's death. Unlike with Scott's thoughts on this event, I would disagree with every one. Anakin's death was unexpected. Youth was cut down before there prime, one of the tragic consequences of war. This has shattered the romance apart with Tahiri, like splintering shards of glass. A Romeo & Juliet type tragedy. Anakin will become a martyr. Anakin's image will become a rallying point in the war. This event has unfolded many interesting story arcs. Where does Jacen go from here... will he take center stage, against his personality? How will Jaina cope with the grief? How will Han cope with another loss? Yes, Anakin was a very interesting character, but his death opens up many interesting circumstances. This is the reality of war. In war, the unexpected happens and tragedy occurs.
There's one thing this book will be remembered for - the death of Anakin Solo. I understand why it was done. It added weight to the situation of the Jedi and made the Yuuzhan Vong much more of a legitimate threat. It helped push Jacen into a more interesting role and it pushed Jaina into the Dark Side for an interesting story arc. It also underlined that the death of Chewbacca wasn't a one time stunt and that things weren't going back to pre-New Jedi Order status where the characters were invincible. For these reasons I understand why it was done. However, Anakin Skywalker isn't the one I would have killed. First of all, it negates Chewbacca's sacrifice. He died to save Han Solo's son, now he dies, too. It made the one thing I liked about Chewbacca's death meaningless. Second, Anakin helped bridge the gap in ages between Ben Skywalker and Jacen and Jaina. Now that is gone. There is a huge gap in age between the second generation of Star Wars heroes. Also, Anakin was one of the few characters that has a fun romance in the works, something the movies had that the books have lacked. Anakin was, quite frankly, a more interesting character and had more potential than almost any of the other non-movie characters in this series. I would have preferred to see Jacen kick the bucket because I didn't care for his constant moral dilemmas and, after all, you always have an emergency backup twin.
I also thought it was ridiculous that Han Solo grieved for several novels when Chewbacca died, yet he's cracking jokes 100 pages after the death of his own son. I certainly didn't want to see Han brooding through several more novels, but I have a hard time buying the way his reaction was written in this story.
I thought the sequences with the Jedi strike team hunting the voxyn were well done, but I occasionally found myself disoriented when the surroundings were described. Maybe it was only my poor reading comprehension, but I often lost track of where they were and what their surroundings were.
Earlier I was annoyed that Lando's wife and marriage were totally ignored in previous books. Denning gives her a little more attention in Star by Star, but not much. You'd think the marriage of one of the major characters would warrant something more than a passing line or two in a novel.
Finally, I am really disappointed that Boba Fett has not been used in this series. With the hype of the Fetts in Episode II, you'd think Boba Fett would make some sort of appearance. After all, they are invading his galaxy. I think there's a lot of storytelling potential there that has been ignored by every novel so far.
The only real problem I found is that there's almost TOO MUCH story in this book. It runs about 600 pages, longer than most SW hardcovers, but it still felt cluttered. It could have used a little tightening up.
Honestly, I could not find that much wrong with this novel. I do agree however with Scott's thoughts of becoming disoriented on the planet Myrkr... at times I wasn't sure if the characters and the action were taking place in the open, or enclosed indoors, etc...
I also agree with Scott that Han's reaction was strange to the news of the death of Anakin, unless he is burying his emotions?
Gotta give credit to the appropriately ugly (and cool looking!) Yuuzhan Vong on the cover.
The situation the SW galaxy is in right now. And ours.
The Voxyn... I imagine them as terrifying creatures.