Aug 30, 2011

[Books] Star Wars: Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand (The New Jedi Order Book 12)

Star Wars: Rebel StandI had started reading the New Jedi Order series of Star Wars books some time ago, but never found time to finish it for one reason or another. Thus years alter with all of the core 19 books along with some of the eBooks already in my possession, I decided to address this open chapter in my geek life. So yes, I have actually read the other books prior to this one (along with a few of the ones that followed), but this marks my starting point as I pick up where I left off.

The New Jedi Order was a highly ambitious multi-author project, one that I greatly appreciated. As much as the Star Wars Expanded Universe has been rather diverse, rich in characters and generally good while more or less maintaining consistency and continuity, this series was particularly focused on telling a single story across a number of years in Star Wars Galactic History. And that's quite a challenge given the number of authors involved and the sheer amount of material that had to work with.

Now this book is actually the second half of a duology - a format that the NJO books seemed to favor heavily. I have to admit, it did present some nice storytelling options for the various writers. A duology means that one can map out fairly extensive events and control the character actions and development quite well. Plus it doesn't quite have the cumbersome nature of a full trilogy. At the same time, it also means that it has some of the challenges of a narrative going on a bit too long, at least in terms of bad writers. Thankfully they made sure to have a pretty solid team handling the entire experience in NJO for the most part.

Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand is the 12th full novel in the Star Wars New Jedi Order series of books. It was written by Aaron Allston whose previous Star Wars novels prior to NJO included the Wraith Squadron books as part of the X-wing series.

Luke, Mara, Tahiri and a few of the Wraiths are now on Coruscant, or at least what's left of the planet. With the planet securely in Yuuzhan Vong hands, their terraforming efforts have already begun to reshape the planet into their own image. While their initial mission was to determine if a resistance cell can be created on the planet to pave the way for its eventual liberation, Luke is surprised to discover a strong Force presence also active on the planet. Thus their mission becomes two-fold - to continue their assessment of the planet while hunting down this mysterious individual.

Meanwhile back on Borleias, Wedge Antilles continues to oversee the last lines of defense against the Yuuzhan Vong while the remaining refugees from Coruscant exit the system. The highly elaborate Starlancer project is also in full swing and thus presents the system as a prime target for the nearby Yuuzhan Vong fleet under the command of Czulkang Lah - Tsavong Lah's father and renowned Yuuzhan Vong tactician. And Jaina Solo continues to play the role of the physical manifestation of the Yuuzhan Vong trickster goddess Yun-Harla in order to distract their enemies and disrupt their fleets as best as possible.

Cover of "Wraith Squadron (Star Wars: X-W...Cover via AmazonWhile I have a stronger affinity with the X-wing books written by Michael Stackpole, who started the series, I also maintained an appreciation for Allston's efforts with Wraith Squadron. He maintained a somewhat lighter, more relaxed style in terms of how he depicted the Wraiths and it was nice to see that same style applied here. While the overall tone of the NJO books has always been a rather somber and even grim one, this book presented a nice shift to slightly more motivated times without become unrealistically happy or jovial.

And the fact that the whole book was built around a fairly elaborate stratagem, this being Starlancer among other things, the style that Allston used in Wraith Squadron fairly fit this book's narrative structure. The same goes for the insertion of the Wraith team on Coruscant and their intelligence-gathering efforts as well.

If anything, the aspect of the book that felt most weird or ill-fitting was the whole Force user on Coruscant sub-plot, which took up a fair amount of time in terms of the book. While it could have presented an interesting angle to be sure, given everything else going on in the galaxy, it ended up feeling more like a distraction. I mean seriously, once it was resolved, how did it help the overall plot? Did this lead to some new insight for Luke to use in future books? Did the discovery of this Force user change the war in any way? Probably not, at least in my opinion. And for a book to spend so much time on this which a terribly significant meta-plot all around, this really felt weird to me.

Still, Rebel Stand is a solid adventure and one that presents a lot more hope for the future of the Republic than previous books have. In that sense it still deserves 3.5 cheesy quips between the Wraiths out of a possible 5.

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