Return of the Ack: Meaningless Reviews in a Galaxy Even Further Away

The Vong with Kaleidoscope Eyyyyyes

Before the prequels, before Jar Jar, long before Rey and Kylo Ren, George Lucas kept the nerds satisfied by keeping the story of Luke and Leia and Han going in the pages of books and comics, all of which was negated when Disney purchased the franchise in 2012. This is a meaningless review of one of these stories, itself part of a larger run comprised of nineteen novels. For a full explanation of this review and series, click here. All previous installments can be found here.

In this installment, we’ve got full on paradigm shift, baby!

Number 14, which I’m going to mark as the beginning of the terminal third of the series, Walter John Williams’ standalone entry, Destiny’s Way, published in late 2002.

Game of Thrones comes back on Sunday, July Sixteenth. Over the past six seasons, it’s become pretty clear that there aren’t purely good characters, or characters with entirely pure motivations. Nevertheless, the forces of the characters we’re meant to root for have largely suffered setbacks, corruption, outright ruination, or extended stays in the wilderness. Meanwhile, the antagonistic forces, while not exactly prospering, have managed, through a combination of outright sociopathy and treachery to maintain an upper hand.

The problem with that philosophy is that eventually it eats itself. Last season marked a turning point, with the forces concerned with the future (the unifying factor of the people we’re meant to root for) finally, finally making some inroads against their enemies. While I’m certain there’s going to be some complicating factors involved this season, I think we will see a definite end to the struggle between the two factions.

I bring all of this up because this installment marks a similar turning point in the series, just in time for the last five installments. Also, George R.R. Martin has a shout out in the acknowledgement section of this book, which I (certified geek) thought was pretty fascinating.


The concise plot:

Cast:

This is another installment that features everyone from the series, but I’m going to mention a couple of them here. All the links attached to character names are from Wookiepeedia, as per the usual. Ask yourself before clicking on them if you really have five and half hours today to read about obscure space battles.

The Yuuzhan Vong

Supreme Overlord Shimrra: The big bad. He’s been in several books so far, but never in a big enough way to warrant a mention. From here to the end, Shimrra will be the driving factor behind the war’s prosecution. He’s got rainbow colored eyes, wears the skinsuit of the original foe of the Yuuzhan Vong, and can apparently influence the thoughts and minds of others in his presence.

Onimi: The jester of Shimrra’s court and a member of the caste of Shamed Ones, Onimi has been seen before, most notably as a master of Nen Yim’s several books ago.

The New Republic

Traest Kre’fey: The Bothan admiral that had been largely acting outside of New Republic control prior to the fall of the capital, Kre’fey was one of the three leaders of the fleet groups at the battle of Coruscant. Right after the battle, he bounced to attend the funeral of his cousin, the recently deceased chief of state Borsk Fey’lya, leaving no orders for his fleet group and no plans for reintegration into the larger command structure for the New Republic Military. Upon his return, he states that he has sworn to eliminate every single Yuuzhan Vong in the galaxy, and that his people have declared genocidal war on the aliens.

It’s one of the weirdest arcs in the series, from respected admiral to basically a privateer of sorts and then to genocidal maniac. He’s allowed to maintain control despite his fanaticism because there’s no way he’d actually be able to kill all the Yuuzhan Vong, which is totally valid and fine. It’s fine.

Admiral Ackbar: THE LEGEND

He’s been to this point only high ranking military officer not recalled from retirement to fight the Yuuzhan Vong, partially because Ackbar is super old, partially because he and Borsk had longstanding beef — literally, the first book in the expanded universe makes the rivalry between the two a central plot point.

But Borsk is dead now, and so Ackbar makes a limited return to service. He devises a ruse for his enemies, a clever snare. Hmm, how to put this….

Gif Idea: The flying toaster screensaver instead of the ships in the background

Vergere: Jacen’s mentor and mysterious bird creature. In this one, it is revealed that she was actually a Jedi of the Old Republic, and she was picked up by a Yuuzhan Vong advance force fifty years prior to the events of this series, where she lived among them in secret.

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Events:

Destiny’s Way has a couple of recurring winks to criticisms and inside jokes within the universe. At one point, Han expounds to a member of the Imperial Remnant about the general stupidity of superweapons. Similar nods to Admiral Ackbar and traps, the fact that eight year olds were previously running around the galaxy and running shit, all make this the most self aware material to date.

Han invents a new flying technique whereby one dives towards an artificial singularity and use the insane gravity of that to slingshot away at otherwise impossible angles.

Han explains his maneuver to fleet intelligence

This installment gives us peak Jaina. By this point, she’s been promoted to major, and has developed several lethal technological breakthroughs against the Yuuzhan Vong. In this one, she leads and plans a strike against one of the Yuuzhan Vong bigwigs, executing what is the first significant victory against the aliens in the entire series so far (it’s really not been going well for the New Republic). She also takes out the Warmaster Tsavong Lah in single combat and is promoted again to Lieutenant Colonel. Oh, and she’s named “Sword of the Jedi” by Luke at a knighting ceremony, which is the role once filled by this guy:

Shimrra finally arrives on Coruscant, in what is supposed to be his Palpatine-arriving-on-the-Death-Star scene. Well, like that, except everyone’s all itchy (it’s a long story) and Shimrra’s in a bad mood.

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Nom Anor Hot Seat Ranking:

All he’s wanting is a promotion. 7 indicates the fulfillment of that goal, 1 indicates the opposite

Nom Anor has screwed up a lot so far, but because he belongs to a different caste than the warriors, he’s been more or less untouchable, which is why he’s at a two at the start of this one.

He’s been a valuable spy for the Yuuzhan Vong, but his actual role is that of a bureaucrat, which he is set up for on Coruscant. He accidentally discovers the truth about the Yuuzhan Vong war effort while doing this job. He learns, to his horror, that the Yuuzhan Vong have no new technology to bring to bear, and, due to the religion of the species — it’s heresy to state that the gods didn’t already provide all knowledge to their chosen people — no real way of ever discovering it.

As a result, Nom Anor is spurred into action, and he provides the warmaster with intelligence to bring about what he hopes is the climactic battle before the limits of Yuuzhan Vong knowledge cost them the war. It’s the only time all series that Nom Anor has ever acted for anyone besides himself. Unfortunately, the intelligence he offers only leads the Yuuzhan Vong forces into a trap, costing them a massive battle force and the life of the warmaster. Shimrra calls for his head, but Nom Anor manages to escape for now. We’ll call this turn of events a major set back, and end the hot seat ranking at negative five hundred.

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Final Thoughts : This book caps off a run of stories that have seen the New Republic develop a whole host of strategies and technologies that have slowly been canceling the Yuuzhan Vong advantages on the battlefield and in the espionage department. To this point, those developments have not been enough, but they have caused the Yuuzhan Vong to lose many warriors and ships, putting strain on the aliens’ resources.

This book then, offers a space battle on the order of Trafalgar or Midway, that is to say, a decisive turning point in the war. You’ll want to read it.