Feb 22, 2011

[Books] Star Wars: The Truce At Bakura

Star Wars The Truce At BakuraThe Expanded Star Wars universe as documented mainly by the official books released under the brand have created a pretty rich and fulfilling world beyond the six major movies - and no, I don't want to think about the Holiday Special or the one with the Ewoks.

What always impressed me about the Star Wars books is how there's a pretty consistent timeline that they try to follow regardless of the author. It speaks of a strong effort to keep the continuity of the books in line even with everyone jumping all around the history of the series in order to figure out what stories they want to try telling. This naturally presented a bit of an advantage for the books that came along earlier in the publication history such as the often referenced Thrawn Trilogy written by Timothy Zahn. Those books were among the very first to be written outside of the official novelizations and established many characters such as Mara Jade, who have gone on to much larger roles in the Star Wars universe at large.

For one reason or another, I never got around to reading this particular book, which is also another often referenced title amongst Star Wars novels. After years of absentminded searching, I now actually have three copies of this book and only read it this month. What fun.

Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura is a book set immediately after the events of the last movie as written by Kathy Tyers.

To illustrate the logo of the Rebel Alliance i...Image via WikipediaRight after the festivities on Endor have ended, the Rebels find themselves the recipients of an Imperial drone meant for the now-dead Emperor Palpatine. The probe was used as in a desperate plea for help from the far-flung Rim world of Bakura. With little other Imperial forces in the area, the Rebel Alliance leader decide its a perfect opportunity for potentially gaining a new ally should they be able to offer aid to the Bakurans in time. With little more than the vague notion that the Bakurans are being attacked by some unknown force, Luke and his small fleet are dispatched to Bakura together with Leia, Han and of course Chewbacca to fight off the invaders and negotiate some sort of a truce with the Imperial forces still present.

They discover that invaders do indeed come from beyond known space. The strange reptilian race are called the Ssi-ruuk and their goal is to capture as many humans as possible to use as batteries of some sort for their own technology. Part of the invading force is a brainwashed human Force sensitive named Dev Sibwarra who helps his masters in whatever way he can without realizing what they're really doing. And this force is just the beginning, an advanced force hoping to establish a beachhead of sorts before the rest of their forces. Thus our Rebel friends are faced with the challenge of getting past old hostilities with the Imperials and to figure out how to beat back such a powerful and unfamiliar foe.

The book starts off pretty interesting given Tyers really wanted to give the reader a clear sense of just how immediately these events took place after the credits rolled in the last movie. Luke initially has to deal with the fact that he has suffered significant internal injuries because of his fight with the Emperor in the form of calcification of his bones due to repeated exposure to high voltage electric shocks. So yeah, the kind you get from Force lighting. It wasn't a bit plot point, but it was an interesting touch that married the story with the end of the movie quite well.

Now given the Ssi-ruuk are often referenced in later Star Wars books, I have to admit I was expecting a lot from them. These were supposed to be one of the most feared races that the Alliance ever faces and for the rest of the timeline they talk about how they narrowly missed a full invasion, especially during the events of the New Jedi Order books. And may that affected how I received them as "villains" of sorts in this book given they didn't see all that scary. Perhaps Tyers could have spent more time describing what they looked like and perhaps add in some of the menacing things they did apart from entechment.

Now there was a weird concept - the whole entechment thing. I mentioned in my synopsis that humans were being used as power sources and I wasn't at all kidding about that. The book really does try to take some time to describe how people are drained of their "life energies" somehow and this essence is used to charge up fighters, engines and other technological components. It was a very weird concept that could have been more menacing if it didn't come out being kind of silly in the way that it did in the book. Maybe this is just me, so I'll put that aside for now.

I did appreciate the complex political maneuvering on Bakura itself given the Imperial government was still in power and yet they needed the Rebel Alliance to survive this attack given their severely limited forces. Here the book really shined and it's clear that Tyers was most comfortable writing this aspect of the story. Plus her creation of the deliberately mysterious yet alluring Gaeriel Captison, who is one of the many women paraded in front of Luke Skywalker and yet denied to him by the Star Wars expanded universe. It does seem rather cruel, I know, but that's the way the life of Jedi goes, I suppose.

Besides, it's clear Timothy Zahn called dibs!

The book felt weak during the space battle sequences and I suppose the author needed more time to get used to that sort of thing to write it well. Sure, there were some attempts at describing the kinds of maneuvers they were executing in space but nothing to the level of detail that other Star Wars writers like Michael A. Stackpole managed in the X-Wing books, but that wasn't a big thing. Each author has his or her strengths and clearly Tyers was best at directing the political action on the ground.

The Truce at Bakura is a nice Star Wars book but not quite as epic as I had expected - or perhaps hoped. I guess all the references made it all see a heck of a lot more important than how it actually turned out and so the book lost a bit of its thunder. It gets 3.5 pretty strong female characters in this book out of a possible 5. The book is still available online in case you want a copy or just check out your local retailer.



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