Talking Folksy in Space: Meaningless Reviews in a Galaxy Even Further Away

That feeling when you accidentally turn up the Keanu Reeves filter on your Harrison Ford photoshop.

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, Han goes Solo…kind of.

A note regarding the links I use for these posts: most are 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.

Up to number four now, part one of a new duology in the series. The book itself is called Hero’s Trial. The duology is Agents of Chaos. Published in 2000.

The writers of these novels were, for the most part, different every one or two books. James Luceno, one of the driving forces behind the series as a whole, wrote this one, the next one, and one more after that.

One of Luceno’s quirks as a writer is that he leans heavily on folksy idioms. But because this is Star Wars, and takes place in a different galaxy, none of those idioms can transfer perfectly without changing some part of it. In other words, you can’t buy the farm in this galaxy, but you sure as shit can buy the moisture farm (and people do, a lot).

There’s a lot of these in the next two novels. There was one that made me laugh out loud, where Luceno has Han literally say the Star Wars equivalent of a line from Harrison Ford’s other famous role:

The Star Wars Equivalent: “It’s not the years, it’s the parsecs”

That said, I don’t really enjoy this style. It’s supposed to make the world feel lived in, but instead it has a mostly dissonant effect, as my brain is used to hearing or seeing these phrases but then there’s a note added that doesn’t ring true or even make sense, which pulled me out of the story. Luceno isn’t the only writer to do this, I just happen to be reading through his novels at the moment.

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Here’s the plot in tweet form:

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Your Cast of Characters — Characters I’ve already described are noted by an asterisk. My notes on these characters can be found here:

The Jedi:

Mara Jade Skywalker:* She’s in all of two scenes

Anakin Solo:* Ditto.

The New Republic:

Leia Organa Solo: ‘nuff said.

Han Solo: He’s the main character of this one, which is pretty neat.

Roa: A seemingly ageless smuggler friend of Han’s, Roa gets the party moving in this installment.

Major Showolter: New Republic Intelligence officer. Pretty nondescript fellow.

Viqi Shesh: A powerful New Republic senator, and one serving on the intelligence committee.

Droma: A Ryn male, Droma is a resourceful survivor and gets swept up in the path of Han.

The Yuuzhan Vong

Nom Anor:* The triumphant return of my favorite character, who hasn’t been seen in two books.

Harrar: A member of the Yuuzhan Vong clergy. A priest, but one with large ambitions.

Elan: Another member of the clergy, Elan is (as is very often pointed out) extremely beautiful. She is chosen to lead an assassination attempt on the Jedi, which is a thing that happens in this one.

Vergere: Not a Yuuzhan Vong, but one of the aliens that Yuuzhan Vong agents picked up in their initial reconnaissance of the galaxy something like fifty years prior to the events of the story. Is half pet, half servant to Elan. Or is she???

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The Happenings:

The story of Hero’s Trial is rather streamlined, especially compared to some of these novels — there’s one down the line that keeps me up sometimes when I think what a recap/review is going to look like, but I suppose that’s my problem, dear reader, and not yours. There are really only two plotlines.

Han Solo, last seen losing his beloved co-pilot and friend Chewbacca, spins out of control and goes on a revenge quest with one of his fellow smugglers out of grief and misery.

Earlier in the series, Nom Anor managed to poison a number of individuals, including Mara Jade Skywalker, Luke’s wife. Everyone else but her died shortly after the poisoning, but she’s been limping along with help from the Force. Well, Harrar and Nom Anor set in motion a plot to deal with the rest of the Jedi using Mara Jade’s illness as leverage. Basically, Elan swallows a bunch of poisonous bugs (it’s always bugs with these people) and then she stages a defection to the New Republic and arranges to meet the Jedi by saying she knows what’s causing the illness of Mara Jade. Once Elan has them there, she’ll just sort of burp on the assembled Jedi and everyone will die.

The story is the first real mention of the characters Viqi Shesh and Vergere, two of the most important characters in the whole series, though for vastly different reasons. Call them the Terrible V’s.

The story also introduces the group of smugglers, mercenaries, and other unsavory sort who have thrown their lot in with the Yuuzhan Vong. They call themselves The Peace Brigade, and are responsible for much of the anti-Jedi violence and refugee roundups from here to about the middle of the series. Han and his friend Roa are hunting down a member of this group. The group was created by none other than Nom Anor, as part of his general mission to disorder the operations of the New Republic in whatever way possible. Anor’s visionary talent for disruption would qualify him for any number of positions in Silicon Valley, now that I think about it.

The book features that rarest of all things Star Wars: parts of it are told from C-3P0’s point of view, as he struggles to make sense of anything he’s looking at.

There are large sections of this thing that feel like a buddy cop/noir movie. It’s full of depressing dive bars and their inhabitants, implausible vehicle chases, snappy banter, more than a few loose cannons, and ultimately, a man seeking redemption. It’s fun.

Following her “defection,” Elan is put under the charge of Major Showolter, who seems very taken with the beauty of the alien priestess, which like, good for you dude, let your Captain Kirk/Commander Shepard flag fly, you know?

Han and Anakin make up, kind of, which is big because Han really seemed to imply he blamed Anakin for Chewbacca’s death earlier in the series.

Leia flits in and out of this novel, as she works to manage the ever- worsening refugee crisis. A large number of refugees are picked up by a corporate overlord in charge of several planets. Leia suspects ulterior motives but really has no other choice in the matter.

Han manages to (spoiler alert) get his revenge and foil the plot of the Yuuzhan Vong, which means that Nom Anor has now failed twice, which draws the ire of his superiors. Han also manages to lose Roa to captivity and make the acquaintance of Droma, who was separated from his kinsmen. Han vows to find Roa and Droma’s people, setting us up nicely for the second half of this duology.

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Death Star Watch: Because it’s not Star Wars unless a planet gets destroyed

I guess this one isn’t Star Wars, as no planets were destroyed in this one. Enjoy this brief video instead.

Death Star Count for Hero’s Trial: 0

Death Star Count for The New Jedi Order: 3

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

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

Vergere, as I mentioned above, is perhaps the most important character in the entire New Jedi Order. She’s a mystery, her motives are a mystery, her origins are a mystery, her plans are a mystery. All of that is well and good, and the writing for Vergere was never really an issue, as all the authors knew how important she was to the arc. That said, Vergere looks like this:

Can’t wait for the Dark n’ Gritty reboot of Sesame Street

Also, she’s got magical tears, because why not. She uses them to help Mara Jade begin to heal against her mysterious ailment, putting us on the road to tying up the most annoying of all the plotlines in the series.

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Final Thoughts/recommendation:

This one has its moments, including several rather elegiac passages where Han reminisces over his friendship with Chewie. There’s also a thoughtful meditation by C-3P0 on the nature of mortality.

That said, it’s not an especially consequential entry into the series. Most of the characters and groups introduced in this one, including the entire New Republic Intelligence apparatus and the Peace Brigade, will be rehashed or expanded upon in other entries.

Droma is a member of a species called the Ryn, who are modeled after the Romani people. While the book is sympathetic to the plights and stereotypes faced by the Romani people, it also engages in more than a few of them, including a scene in which Han has his tarot read by Droma. It’s a little borderline for me.

There are also a million of those idioms.

I’d say skip it, but know the buddy cop stuff is pretty righteous.

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.