[Grittiness Intensifies]: Meaningless Reviews in a Galaxy Even Further Away

Rust World: For all your Rusty Needs

Before Disney rebooted the Star Wars Universe, there were a bunch of dog-eared paperbacks describing the adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, etc in the years following the events of the movies. This is a review of one of these stories, which is itself one of nineteen in a series. For the rationale behind such an ill-advised quest, click here. For the previous entry in the series, follow this link here. In this edition, things take a serious turn for the serious…..

A note regarding the links I use for these posts: They’re all from the wiki, which is called — deep sigh — Wookiepeedia. Be warned before clicking on any of them. Partially for the length, partially for the spoilers, mostly out of the undying sense of geekery that will descend upon you.

The third book in the New Jedi Order is called Dark Tide II: Ruin. It’s the second half of the first duology in the series, and was published in 2000.

More than five years before the Christopher Nolan reboot of the Batman movies, and ten years before the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the forces behind what became the New Jedi Order sat down and storyboarded the whole arc of the saga. The involvement of twelve different authors with differing styles presaged the creation of cinematic universes with different directors (with many of the same headaches that arose from trying to keep the story, both in terms of plot and in tone, congruent). As the third book in the series demonstrates, the New Jedi Order was an opening salvo in the darkening of American culture that occurred in the years between the end of the nineties and into the post 9/11 decade, a darkening that is still arguably ongoing, for better or for worse (It’s for worse).

All of this is to say that Dark Tide II: Ruin is as good as an example as any of where American culture was headed, and that it is therefore just an important piece in a larger puzzle, and also that it’s bleak, brutal, and casually violent with only a smattering of relief anywhere in the work. Let’s get down to it.

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Here’s your tweet length (140 characters) summary of the third book in the New Jedi Order:

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Notable players in this story: Characters I’ve already described are noted by an asterisk. My notes on these characters can be found here:

The Jedi:

Anakin Solo*

Jaina Solo*

Jacen Solo* (Still reliably the worst!)

Luke Skywalker (look him up)

Ganner Rhysode*

Corran Horn*

Daeshara’cor: A Twi’lek Jedi who goes rogue over her concerns that Luke isn’t doing anything to combat the Yuuzhan Vong (which is pretty much true) and goes on a hunt for old superweapons the Emperor may have left lying around.

The New Republic:

Elegos A’Kla*

Traest Kre’fey*

Gavin Darklighter*

The Yuuzhan Vong

Shedao Shai*

The Imperial Remnant:

Gilad Pellaeon: Imperial Grand Admiral and highest ranking member of what’s left of the Imperial Military following the twenty odd years of war with the Rebellion/New Republic. Proud, reasonable, and well versed in politics as well as warfare.

Jagged Fel: Captain of a Chiss expeditionary unit (the Chiss are aliens allied with the Empire, don’t worry about it) and scion of two of the best starfighter pilot dynasties. He’s an exceptional pilot, and he knows it. He’s also described repeatedly as being attractive, and it’s clear he knows that too. It’s almost like he’s modeled after someone…but who could it be?

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Developments: The main thread of Ruin concerns the discovery of a weakness in the invading aliens to the spores of a particular tree native to one specific plant. It’s an update of sorts to the trope established by War of the Worlds, in which the nigh invincible invaders are felled by lowly bacteria. The Jedi are the first to discover the secret of the spores, but though they try to disguise their find, it isn’t too long before the Yuuzhan Vong piece together what happened and race off to the planet the tree is from, which is an Eden like place full of sacred gardens, called Ithor.

The leader of the Yuuzhan Vong force to this point has been Shedao Shai. In the first part of the duology, the Jedi Corran Horn slew two of Shai’s kinsmen. The revelation of this information causes Shai to flip out and murder the New Republic Senator Elegos A’Kla, who had journeyed to the Yuuzhan Vong as an emissary of peace (as one does). He then mails the body back to Corran Horn, the bones encrusted with jewels. This causes Corran to flip out (as one does).

After an intense bout of warfare over the planet, Shai proposes a cease fire and offers a single combat duel for the entirety of Ithor to Corran Horn, who accepts, after a lot of macho posturing by both individuals.

The duel happens, and Corran Horn wins, but the new Yuuzhan Vong commander doesn’t abide by the terms of the deal and instead deploys a bioweapon on the planet. See below for how that turns out.

Important to note that there was absolutely no mention of basically anything in this picture happening in the book

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Death Star Watch:

Because it isn’t Star Wars unless a planet is destroyed.

So far in the series (three books) there have already been two planets destroyed. In the last review, I was able to subtract a planet. Well, in this one, there’s an addition to the count, and it’s definitely not coming back.

First, the Yuuzhan Vong deploy a biological weapon on the planet Ithor that turns everything organic into goop, a side effect of which is the atmosphere becomes highly oxygenized. Stick with me here, we aren’t done yet.

Second, the New Republic Military manages to destroy one of the giant Yuuzhan Vong command ships by manipulating the gravity around the ship and trapping it in the gravity well of Ithor. As it falls, the massive engines ignite the super oxygenated atmosphere, basically doing this to the surface of the world:

Pictured: The New Republic Military wins the battle of Ithor

Death Star Count for Ruin: 1

Death Star Count for The New Jedi Order: 3

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Jar Jar Binks Award for worst new addition to the Galaxy:

A reminder that there isn’t anything as bad as bad Star Wars

This is not a fault of the author, Michael Stackpole, but the ship I mentioned above, the big Yuuzhan Vong one? It’s called Legacy of Torment, which sounds badass, until I realized that it apparently looks like this:

ah yes, space mushrooms

Christ. How does that thing even move around? What’s with all those straight lines? Is the legacy of torment to be inflicted on the family of whatever blind architect designed that thing?

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Look at all this grittiness: As I mentioned above, the book is grim. The destruction of Ithor especially so, and in the immediate aftermath, Corran Horn and the Jedi are made into scapegoats for the disaster.

Daeshara’cor, the young Jedi who goes rogue, is brought back into the fold by Anakin and Luke, just in time for the battle of Ithor, where she is promptly mortally wounded defending Anakin. By this point in the series, Anakin is fifteen and now feels directly responsible for the deaths of two individuals, as well as indirectly responsible for a whole host of others he couldn’t save. It’s brutal.

Jaina Solo loses her best friend and flying mate over Ithor, beginning (SPOILER ALERT) her long descent into misery over much of the rest of the series.

A whole friggin’ planet is destroyed.

Once more for the cheap seats, Shedao Shai sends Corran Horn the jewel encrusted bones of a close personal friend as an act of revenge which is admittedly very metal, but…woof.

What’s left of the Empire’s navy briefly shows up to help at Ithor, but after the disaster, they are recalled back to imperial space, breaking the fragile alliance.

There is one brief moment of levity in the whole thing, when Jaina meets Jagged Fel and a small exchange of Empire Strikes Back-style sexual tension plays itself out, but it’s gone pretty quickly.

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Final Thoughts/Recommendation:

The issue with the series (and the issue with expanded universes in general, from Star Wars to Star Trek to the Marvel Cinematic universe) is that the characters tend to develop slowly or not at all. How many times has an audience watched Tony Stark develop and grow as a person, only to have that change blunted or basically voided by the next movie in the series? In the New Jedi Order, the character that best exemplifies this issue is Jacen.

He’s always making these vague resolutions and then nothing comes of them, and they are rarely mentioned again, if at all, leaving him once again at that same intersection of passivity and self righteousness. It happens toward the end of Ruin, in a scene where the Jedi have to go through a purification ritual in order to be allowed onto the sacred surface of Ithor. To complete the ritual, they have to name something they were holding back and renounce it, sort of like a terrible reverse Lent. Jacen gives up the need to know his future, which theoretically removes his self-righteousness, only it creates EVEN MORE passivity, status quo intact. He’s still the worst. So is Tony Stark, for that matter.

As far as the recommendation, the book is the first one in the series that finally feels like more than just setting the pieces up. The Yuuzhan Vong are starting to arrive, and the whole thing is breaking open. The destruction of Ithor and the blaming of the Jedi in particular will be important threads of the stories to come, as well as the retreat of the imperial forces from the fray. I’d say read it.

This has been Meaningless Reviews in a Galaxy Even Further away, In which I read through the entirety of The New Jedi Order and write about it.

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