Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Cynical_Ben, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Feb 17, 2004
    I don't think that it was ever not -- unless you took Vergere literally. But I think it was intended to be established pretty early on that she was speaking from a certain point of view. Katana's essay concludes that Luke is rejecting Vergere by restating her position, for example.
  2. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Can't wait to add to the Vergere discussion later.

    I'm about 150 pages into Remnant and holy hell. I think this one might be at the bottom of my list. The segment I just read, the one with Han and Leia arguing about the mission, read like bad fan fic. I don't know what happened but they both seemed really out of character. Leia with Tahiri in the infirmary seemed out of character as well.

    So Tahiri is going bats, which is understandable in a way but Anakin trying to kill her? Really?

    And WTF is Nom Anor doing? Nice recap from the Edge of Victory duology by the Shamed Ones but I thought Nom Anor would have opened a can of whoop-ass on one of them weeks ago.

    And the Empire is weirding out on Luke and Mara after they had allied in previous books?

    The book opened well--damn, poor Saba--and I'm interested in what happened to Zonama Sekot.

    But right now I feel like I've either missed something or I'm on crazy pills. I'm sure either is possible.
  3. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Feb 17, 2004
    What do you think you missed?

    I think most people feel Force Heretic trilogy is bottom 5 -- if not comprising bottom 3 itself.
  4. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    So I'm not losing my damn mind (any more than I ever was anyway), and I haven't forgotten to read some segment in which the New Republic and the Empire jumped into a Tardis and decided they'd rather fight each other than the Vong.

    Good to know.

    Let's see...3PO is simultaneously dropping **** and trying to be Tahiri's bodyguard. Mmmmkay. Tahiri, take R2 instead.

    Tahiri refers to Han and Leia as "Anakin's mother" and "Anakin's father." For a split second I thought she was seeing Shmi Skywalker and Qui-Gon Plagueis midichlorians with speaking parts. Seriously, Han and Leia don't have names?

    Jag Fel is "tall". LOL, I thought the dude was around 5'7". That's barely considered "tall" even for a woman.

    Luke is now out-of-character too. And he calls Mara "my love", while Jaina calls boy?

    Ready for Zanoma Sekot.
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  5. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Chosen One star 8

    Jul 19, 1999
    He wears platforms.
  6. Trisdin Gheer

    Trisdin Gheer Jedi Knight star 2

    Jun 18, 2013
    He's described as tall in Rebel Dream too. Mind you, Jaina is 'lanky' in that book, so idk...
  7. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    I'd be a ****ing Amazon in the GFFA apparently.
  8. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Feb 17, 2004
    Maybe he's just described as tall from Jaina's POV since she's, what, 4'10"?
  9. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

    Dec 16, 2012
    Luke: But I don't remember Vima-Da-Boda, Empatojayos Brand or Bodo Baas mentioning anything like that. Have you talked with Tionne? Maybe she can find something in what we have been able to save from Ossus.
    kataja likes this.
  10. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    I thought we decided that was an error where she was described that way at sixteen and no one ever thought to have her grow officially. She's probably at least 5' and change, but still shorter than Jag.
  11. AlyxDinas

    AlyxDinas Jedi Knight star 4

    Jul 12, 2010
    As if you could actually tell us anything she said within its proper context.
    Dante1120 likes this.
  12. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

    Dec 16, 2012
    That is not what I am trying to jock about. What I am trying to jock about is that in their discussion they don't mention any of the other old jedi that they have meet through the years or any of the material they have been able to save from Ossus [face_peace]
  13. Cynical_Ben

    Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 12, 2013
    So, I've finished the text review of TUF, and here's a shocker: it's really, really, really long. As in, over ten-thousand words long, a full fifth of all of the review text I've got saved from this thread. This review is more in-depth that most of my other ones, but it is in essence the same. The issue is that so much happens in this book that it takes me an incredibly long time to recap it, and if I gloss things over it gets confusing.

    So, the question is, what would people rather have: a massive wall of text hidden under a quartet or so of spoiler tags, or a ten-odd minute audio/video review? Or both? Because if it's the former, I'll format and post the review tomorrow. If it's the latter, it'll take me another couple days to put things together. But at least, in that case, you'll have a tl;dr version of the review if you don't want to read all of my rambling recap of the plot and my take on the series. Or would you all prefer if I chop my review down and post a more edited/abridged version (which, again, would take more time to put together)?
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  14. Darth_Garak

    Darth_Garak Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 28, 2005
    I am fine with reading 10k words of review.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  15. DarthSanctimonious

    DarthSanctimonious Jedi Knight star 3

    Sep 18, 2006
    Bring on your wall of text.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  16. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Feb 17, 2004
    I have a bad feeling that this is going to degenerate into another Vergere related thing, probably because of me.

    Rereading through some of the scenes in TUF I feel like Luceno did a quasi Vergere retcon of his own, insofar as that he had Luke restate some of her position but at the same time distance himself from her with an ad hominem. Then Luceno has Sekot reexplain Traitor.

    What I find confusing about Luke and Jacen's heart to heart is that Luke makes some declarations about Vergere being influenced by the YV and that her philosophy won't work for Luke and Jacen because they weren't raised from birth to be Jedi, but Luke is ultimately proven wrong by Jacen in the climax as he puts what he learned in Traitor into practice.

    So I'm not really sure if Luceno was trying to detach the meaning of Traitor from Vergere due to negative fan perception of the character, because even if he was Luke is ultimately shown to be wrong in his assertion about her.
    Revanfan1 likes this.
  17. Revanfan1

    Revanfan1 Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 3, 2013
    Wall of text, comin' atcha. :cool:
  18. Cynical_Ben

    Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 12, 2013
    The way I read it, it seems that Luke and Jacen come to the realization that the Force means different things to different people. Luke's speech at the Jedi gathering at the end implies this, where he urges all of the others to seek after the will of the Force in their own ways. Luke had his doubts about Vergere from the beginning, remember. He and Jacen, ultimately, agree to disagree about the specifics and go about their business following the Force's will wherever it might take them, Jacen away from the formal order, and Luke into becoming the Yoda-style wise old mentor.

    Of course, we all know how that winds up, but, still. Luceno isn't retconning it, IMO, so much as he is just further explaining and extrapolating it, likely to make up for the shortcomings of the Force Heretic books, where this discussion really should have taken place.

    I'll post my wall of text review tonight.
  19. Trisdin Gheer

    Trisdin Gheer Jedi Knight star 2

    Jun 18, 2013
    Bring on the wall.
  20. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

    Dec 16, 2012
    :confused:Did he begin to place verbs after the object and subject in his speech? For I remember him as rather "Yoda-style wise old mentor" like in YJK. Or did he lose that in NJO?
  21. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Chosen One star 8

    Jul 19, 1999
    C_B - wall of text but with headings and paragraph breaks!
    Force Smuggler likes this.
  22. DigitalMessiah

    DigitalMessiah Chosen One star 6

    Feb 17, 2004
    Cynical_Ben I'm mostly confused by what Luceno was thinking when he wrote it.

    Maybe it is just my perception of the fandom in general viewing Luke with a sense of infallibility, but in reality it is no different than Obi-Wan and Yoda telling Luke that Vader can't be saved and needs to be put down, and Luke proving them wrong. It is pretty much the same situation here. But Luke has more credibility among fans -- and writers? -- than Jacen, so we can't have nice things.

    Additionally, we know that Luke isn't a fan of Vergere, but just the way he dismisses what she said without actually addressing it, saying she was corrupted and then backing off to say she was influenced, without actually explaining how that affected her view and then more or less agreeing with her in the sense that he says her view works for the prequel Jedi, and then going on some non sequitur tangent about how they are beings of light, really just doesn't make all that much sense.

    It feels like he wanted to write a scene to set up the student (Jacen) surpassing the master (Luke) like Dagobah in Jedi, but he wasn't really sure how to make Luke "wrong" and had him straddle the fence and be wishy washy instead, and fans don't like the idea of Luke being "wrong" with a younger character taking the torch anyway.
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  23. Trisdin Gheer

    Trisdin Gheer Jedi Knight star 2

    Jun 18, 2013
    And not in blue.
    DigitalMessiah likes this.
  24. Gamiel

    Gamiel Force Ghost star 6

    Dec 16, 2012
    Green on the other hand is alright
  25. Cynical_Ben

    Cynical_Ben Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 12, 2013
    So, the final review: The Unifying Force. The final book in the New Jedi Order series, the culmination of so many other books put together by so many other authors. This is going to be the most in-depth review I’ve done since probably Vector Prime, so, per Jedi Ben’s suggestion, I’ll be dividing the actual review up by subheadings to make everything a bit more organized and formal. At the end of the review, I’ll be summing up my thoughts on the series as a whole, and its impact on the larger EU, for better or worse.

    First: Tone and Style. James Luceno has a reputation for being a master of tying continuity together, and this is probably his pinnacle of that, barring maybe Darth Plagueis. As per this book’s title, this book unifies the series that preceded it, embodying everything that the other books did well, and not so well. We have despair, we have joy, we have drama, we have adventure. This book has military and political posturing on par with Stackpole, combat on par with Keyes, philosophy on par with Stover or Tyers, characterization on par with Allston and mystery on par (or better than) Williams and Dix.

    The Unifying Force is not just a title or a plot point, it’s a clue. A clue to how Luceno approached this book when he was writing it. An interview with him noted that, when he was writing the Enemy Lines books, especially Hero’s Trial, he was trying to emulate the style and tone of the Brian Daley Han Solo novels both because of the books’ Han-centric nature and as a tribute to his friend. In this book, Luceno, the one tapped by the editors at Del Ray to flesh out and write up their treatment for this series, concludes his own series, not by trying to bring it back toward the outline he put together, but by crafting a book that sums up the previous books, warts and all, and turns what has to some degree been a scatterbrained and schizophrenic series into a powerful, unified whole.

    This book starts with adventure, moves to drama and uncertainty, desperation, unrest and even a bit of despair. All sorts of different beings have different views and ideas on the war and events as they unfold, even within the same factions. Though unified by creed or by politics, we see just how far the galaxy and the Yuuzhan Vong have come over the course of the war, the former united by circumstances despite their differences and the latter factioning and slowly coming apart despite their previous wholehearted unity. We see the ramifications of the war, both on the large and small scales, personal and impersonal, we see the fruits of the labors of every being we’ve seen through the entire series.

    Second: Plot Recap and Comment. This is the long part, since I’m going scene by scene here.

    Part One: We open with a small group of prisoners on a planet, defiant to the end but still kicking. It gives us a clue as to how far the Yuuzhan Vong have fallen: the sort of defiance the prisoners get away with, jeering and laughing in a warrior’s face, would have met with instantaneous death in previous installments. And even in circumstances like these, where the prisoners are kept alive for a purpose and would not be killed, the prisoners would in no way have the courage or will to even speak to the Yuuzhan Vong, let alone giving them the verbal middle finger and hope to come out on the other side.

    Han and Leia do what Han and Leia do: escape the planet by the skin of their teeth, dragging the single escaped prisoner who manages to actually escape along with them. That prisoner is a … hold on, let me look this up. He’s a Jenet, with a photographic memory that contains a complicated, Givin-written mathematical equation serving as a code, which in turn was fed them by the Ryn network and originates from sources in the Core, likely planted by the Wraiths or other covert ops teams. The information is about the movement of the prisoners on the planet the Jenet just escaped, along with a lot of others, to Yuuzhan’tar for a massive ceremony involving the wholesale slaughter of thousands. Got all that? Because that’s just the first five chapters, all a set-up for the actual plot to the book, covering what little set-up needed for the plot that wasn’t covered in previous books in the series.

    Meanwhile, under a hail of bugs akin to a biblical plague, Shimrra’s giving the kids a pep talk. There’s dissention in the ranks thanks to the heretic movement (thanks, Nom Anor) and to the rumors about Harrar’s disappearance (again, Nom?) and Zonama Sekot (seriously, Nom, bro, you’re your own worst enemy at this point). Shimrra has finally realized that, hey, we’ve got biotechnology on our side, why not bioengineer our own soldiers? Thus, we have the slayers, the most dangerous Yuuzhan Vong troops since the voxyn, and arguably more so, since they’re more than just aggression bottled by flesh. No one’s happy with this because heresy, but they’re willing to abide because, you know, god-king and all.

    Speaking of Nom Anor, he’s prefect Nom Anor, now, a personal confidant of Shimrra, who sees right through him except to the point where he doesn’t realize that’s he’s the one responsible for all of the troubles and unrest currently enveloping their world. Turns out, Shimrra might be a bit crazy, thinking he’s in a fight against the gods themselves rather than just the GA, and he enlists Nom Anor to help, because he’s the only one who knows, the only one he can trust. Not the brightest bulb, god-king thing aside, is he? Nom just shakes his head and says yea, his guts doing backflips in the meanwhile.

    We cut to Zonama Sekot for an eight page recap of the last four books, with Luke, Mara, Corran, Jacen, Tahiri, Danni, Tekli and Saba all wandering around talking deep talks and thinking deep thoughts. They’re lost in space after Nom Anor tried to kill Sekot but only managed to make them jump into hyperspace instead. Whoopsie. And it turns out that Nom wasn’t quite as thorough as he thought and Harrar survived.

    The next cut leaves us in space with Malik Carr, who’s been serving as the warden of the prison planet the Jenet escaped previously. He’s one of the two officers in charge of the prisoner transfer and escort to Yuuzhan’tar, and the one who ultimately takes charge when the inevitable Galactic Alliance ambush turns up. Despite the actual Vong leader being the equivalent of a promoted ground commander, Carr keeps the prisoners under control just long enough for reinforcements to arrive: slayers in specially designed hyperspace capable coralskippers that rock Jaina and her pilots’ worlds. Pash Cracken, who was a prisoner under Malik Carr’s care, spares his captor and leaves him to the tender mercy of his own kind before fleeing with Han and Leia. The Falcon winds up fleeing in a blind jump, and while most of the prisoners are rescued, a few of them escape the ambush and make it to Yuuzhan’tar, just enough to thoroughly infuriate the priests.

    With a short cut back to Zonama Sekot, we see the first formal meeting between Harrar and Luke, Mara and Jacen. It’s a fantastic scene, with the mellowed but still thoroughly Yuuzhan Vong priest and the two foremost philosophers of the Jedi Order meeting and trading their thoughts and ideas on the war and how it’s progressed, especially over the last four books or so. See where this is going?

    The break doesn’t last long, though. The next chapter has Han, Leia and Pash emerging in an out-of-the-way place Han assures them should be safe due to its out-of-the-wayness. Of course, Caluula is under siege and they just managed to slip past the Yuuzhan Vong fleet and into the orbital space station that serves as the main defensive bulwark. The slayers followed them into hyperspace, see, and they dog them all the way to their docking point, one of them slamming right into the defensive shield of the station. Remember what I said about them being more than just aggression on legs? Forget it. Elsewhere, Jaina lands aboard the Ralroost at Mon Calamari, then promptly takes off again when she realizes that the Falcon never arrived.

    On Yuuzhan’tar, the survivors of the ambush arrive, and the commander of the Vong forces give Malik Carr the credit for any of them surviving, since his actions alerted the slayers and preserved what little of the convoy got away, which means that, rather than being executed for failures, he’s promoted and given another command over a place where there’s an ongoing battle, and where the Nas Choka suggests they try to pick up some more captives to make up for the ones they lost: Caluula. A place he intimates to Shimrra as being essential to their ultimate designs. Dun dun dun.

    Han and Leia discover that the station above Caluula is pretty much the only defense they’ve got, and they’ve been fighting the Vong off for a long time without help. They also discover that the redoubled forces sent against the planet include an yncha, the same sort of dread weapon they deployed on Duro that eat space stations for breakfast and then burp out their defensive shields. Yeah, they’re screwed. But he does note that there’s a familiar voice, if not face, among the mish-mash of mercenaries, soldiers and pirates aboard the station. Hmm.

    Nom Anor is then charged by his superior to hunt down and destroy the heretic movement on Yuuzhan’tar, the irony of which is not lost on him. He built this movement from small groups of clustered rumors, hearsay and babbling crazy people into a juggernaut of power, where the oppressed are given hope in a future beyond their pitiful and pathetic existence. He’s managed to create his own demons. Again, aside from the Jedi, Nom Anor’s worst enemy is himself.

    Han, Leia and 3PO run across Caluula station, fighting here and hiding there, using 3PO’s translation abilities to good use for once, before getting lost and being saved by the familiar voice from before: Boba Fett and a team of Mandalorian warriors. Allow me a sidebar, for a moment.
    I love Luceno for putting Fett in here, it lets us know that he’s reemerged from hiding while still giving an excuse for why he hasn’t been seen in the series to this point: he’s been working under the radar, lying low until he’s in a position to fight on his own terms. However, one thing I emphatically do not like is the prequel-ization of Boba’s dialogue. The line about him having a face that used to be familiar feels forced though technically true, and the only other line he has, as he and his forces lead the Falcon in their escape, it that his quarrel has always been with the Jedi and Han was nothing more than cargo, just another job. While it might be in-character in some sense, for Boba to not hold anything resembling a personal grudge against Han and co for their repeated encounters over the years, hearkening back to A Barve Like That where Boba is nothing but an emotionless machine revolving around his work, it’s also fundamentally out of character in a lot of other ways, and misses the target on what it’s trying to do: tie prequel kid Boba to the OT Boba.

    Boba Fett, before the occurrence of the Prequels, never had a single thing against the Jedi. I looked it up. Prior to this story, Boba had only alluded to fighting Jedi three times, in a Tales story, in Jedi Academy, and against Mace Windu in the finale of the young adult series. All of these were years before the events of TUF. And just saying that it might not have been “on screen” isn’t enough justification. He’s fought Darth Vader himself, mano e mano, at least as many times, and comparatively, he’s met up with, chased, fought, or been dispatched by Han and the others in his party over a dozen times, both canon and ambiguously canon. And even now, post-TCW and Traviss, Boba has never had hatred for any Jedi other than Mace Windu, the man who killed his father. He’s fought other Jedi, true, but his goal pre-RotS was always Windu, and any encounters post-RotS are just another job he takes, including capturing some alive and turning them over to the Empire. By the time we get to the NJO era, he’s been keeping out of the way of the galaxy’s mainstream, out of the way of the Jedi, and out of the way of Han Solo. Whether or not he holds a grudge against Solo, they keep running into each other. Maybe he’s buried whatever hatchet he had post Last Man Standing, but saying that he’s never had anything against Solo, and his goal has always been the Jedi, goes not only against established characterizations and stories all across canon, but also his portrayal in Empire Strikes Back.

    In short: a misstep by Luceno. A minor one, considering how little Fett actually affects the overall plot, but a misstep nonetheless. As much as I love the fact that the Mandalorians are shown to thoroughly kick Vong backside, to the point where the warriors consider them worthy despite their usage of technology to fight by and large, Boba’s characterization is fundamentally off to the point where, even years later, it sticks out like a sore thumb and forces most of the post-NJO characterization of him to warp around it. Not that I expected Traviss’s portrayal to be friendly to the Jedi, but, whatever. It’s time to get back to the story.
    Nom Anor decides that the best way to destroy the heretics is to try to make them stand down, which he does by donning the Yu’shaa persona again. He doesn’t so much as get a few words in sideways as Kunra, his formerly loyal subordinate, uses them to even further inflame the crowds that come to see him. Once again, Nom Anor tries desperately to dig himself out of the grave he sees himself in, only to make it even deeper.

    Jaina, still missing her parents, is comforted by both Jag and Kyp in their own ways, Jag by telling her he’s got to go do a mission but that they’ll have to talk later, and Kyp by showing how much he’s grown as a character, promising to follow her lead and support her as best as he can. He’s really come a long way from the beginning of the series when I despised him, a calm, mediating presence in Jaina’s often mercurial life. Han and Leia, despite her worries, escape Caluula with Boba’s help but leave Pash behind for no other reason than because he wants to stay. And Kenth, Kyp, Cilghal and the remaining Jedi not elsewhere deign to put together a possible mission to Yuuzhan’tar to capture the Prophet upon his reemergence, looking for information on what befell Luke, Jacen and the others, since he returned without them or Zonama Sekot.

    Talking about Zonama Sekot, we cut to Luke and the others on said planet, in transit through a cold part of the atmosphere where the rain has finally stopped. Luke ponders on Harrar, on how he can’t sense the Yuuzhan Vong yet sits right next to him, and what that means for the Force and how he perceives it. Harrar actually cries over the fate of the planet, over the fact that his presence, along with Nom Anor and Nen Yim, might have meant the death of a world he has come to see as the culmination of everything he believes in. He and Luke ponder the past, about how the Yuuzhan Vong came to be, before they land and go to meet with Sekot in a place where Jabitha knows the Force is naturally strong. Sekot meets with them, expresses puzzlement at Harrar, and they finally come to the conclusion NenYim likely came to before: that they share some relationship with Sekot, not only in ideology, but in history, and they collectively come to another conclusion: that the Yuuzhan Vong don’t exist outside of the Force, they were stripped of the Force, and their obsession with pain is an attempt to climb back toward the symbiosis with life, and the Force, their homeworld once offered.

    On Yuuzhan’tar, Nom Anor is a witness to the sacrificial ceremony, restocked with the survivors taken from Caluula, as it gets underway, fretting all the while about the Shamed Ones he thoroughly managed to not in any way stop. In fact, all his stint as the Prophet did was inflame them to try even harder to save as many captives as possible at the ceremony rather than simply disrupt it. This they do, despite being under the eyes of every major Yuuzhan Vong officer or dignitary of every caste, including Shimrra himself. Nom’s superior naturally blames him, not an incorrect conclusion, but Shimrra turns their infighting away for the moment, pointing them toward the heretics and demanding the heads of everyone who had or has aided or abetted the Prophet, the sort of open call for blood that will make the entire caste system crack open. He’s put open season out on the Shamed Ones, and there’s a lot of inexperienced Yuuzhan Vong warriors out there willing to go hunt wabbits.

    Han and Leia arrived back at Mon Calamari, and we realize that the entire first part of this book was just a set-up for what’s to come. A fleet sits in-system that dwarfs any seen in the galaxy since, perhaps, the Clone Wars, or even before. Everyone’s here, the Remnant, the Hutts, the Chiss, the GA and almost every other group we’ve seen throughout the series. The pair also reunites with Jaina, who tells them that Kre’fey wants them at the briefing. What briefing? The one where he gathers literally all of the leaders and officers we’ve seen in the series, and then drops the bombshell that the Yuuzhan Vong’s massive sacrifice was meant as a lead-up to the main event: a knock-out blow assault on Mon Cal with every Yuuzhan Vong ship that they can spare from their outlying regions. Shimrra and Nas Choka plan to end the war, definitively, with a single, smashing blow. Kre’fey then drops another bombshell. The plan to counter this assault isn’t solely to defend Mon Calamari, but also to counter-attack while the Yuuzhan Vong fleet isn’t at home. The goal? Coruscant.

    The wholesale slaughter of Shamed Ones on Yuuzhan’tar gets underway, in a filthy pit where livestock are sent to die. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them are slaughtered without fighting, without protesting, eerily chanting the praises of the Prophet as they’re slaughtered by warriors with amphistaffs, coufees, even bare hands. The crowd summons no praise of the act, no cheering beyond ritual amounts prodded by circulating warriors, and Nom Anor wallows in self-doubt, knowing that with one misstep, he’d be in the pit along with his followers, but unable to tear the fact that his actions led to the slaughter of those he had come to sympathize with and who follow him with wholehearted enthusiasm. And in his corner, watching it all, Shimrra laughs.

    Kre’fey breaks the mission silence on Mon Cal, giving the fleet officers the lowdown on their plans. The intel the Wraiths made possible on Yuuzhan’tar/Coruscant mean they know exactly what the Yuuzhan Vong’s battle formation will be (shaped like a yammosk) to the point where they can form half of their overall strategy in how to combat it with around half of their fleet, but not where their attack will be staged from or whether the Yuuzhan Vong will leave any substantial part of their fleet at home. Kre’fey assumes that the Yuuzhan Vong will stand and fight until word comes that Yuuzhan’tar is under attack, and then withdraw along hyperspace lanes by Toong’l and Caluula, explaining the previous interest in the latter.

    Han points out that, if Caluula had been defended by more than a space station and some scattered mercs in the first place, the Yuuzhan Vong would not have it to use as a staging ground now. Something isn’t adding up. Kre’fey isn’t telling them the whole plan. Smelling the dead womp rat, Han volunteers himself and Leia to be a part of an infiltration team to go to Caluula and kill the planet-based yammosk so the enemy fleet won’t be able to coordinate as effectively as they fall back. Leia protests, but Han has a hunch, so they just roll with it.

    Nas Choka pleads for more time to prepare their attack on Mon Cal, using logic that Shimrra acknowledges, but tosses aside anyway. He knows that, with the Remnant, Chiss, Hapans and other factions pretty much untouched, if this attack against the GA goes awry, they’ve basically lost the war. But Shimrra, grinning like an idiot the entire time, shoots him down. Nas Choka has no idea about Zonama Sekot, and Shimrra is unwilling to delay the attack in case the living planet shows up to throw a wrench in their plans. Nas isn’t happy, conspiring with the dread lord’s seers to delay the attack as long as possible and discussing the probably outcome of the fight with his tacticians. He knows that the GA leaders have probably puzzled out his intent, and the fact that they’re likely planning to counter him somewhere else entirely. He ponders Yuuzhan’tar for a moment, but dismisses a possible attach there because the damage will be negligible due to the array of defenses in place. What concerns him more is the idea that the GA fleet will scatter and lead him a merry chase through the Core.

    Part Two of the book opens with Luke and R2 taking stellar readings to try and divine where Zonama Sekot’s latest jump has taken them. They’re in the Mid Rim, not close, but not terribly far from the Core. They try the HoloNet, but it’s still down following the events of TFP, and they’re not getting any bars. Mara suggests taking the Jade Shadow and just flying home, she’s worrying about Ben of course, but Luke doesn’t want to betray Sekot’s trust. They promise each other that, if either one of them dies, the other will love Ben with their whole heart they same way they do each other. Aww. Pardon me while I retch.

    Nas Choka comes back to his tacticians and reports that they’ll be moving out in three days. His intel is reporting that the GA fleet is scattering, just as he feared. And without the HoloNet to listen in on, he’s forced to rely on unreliable agents planted by Nom Anor for information on enemy movements. Toong’l and Caluula both fell almost without fighting, the latter asking for special privileges, scientists to study a natural spectacle that only happens every few hundred years, in exchange. Nas isn’t happy that his suppordinate agreed to the terms, and less that he can’t figure out exactly what Kre’fey and Sovv are playing at. But he knows that he can’t deny Shimrra, and he give the attack the go-ahead.

    Cut to Han, Leia and co, including a Ho’din who, thankfully, doesn’t speak in rhyme, infiltrating the emplaced defenses around Caluula. The co part includes Kyp, Judder Page, and a Bothan Intelligence agent named Wraw, all of whom make it past security despite their credentials literally being crap. They’re ostensibly there to study the space-cicadas the truce allowed for, but their plan is killing the yammosk. Han and the Bothan trade verbal abuse, Kyp mind-tricks the Peace Brigadiers to ignore the lightsabers hiding in their bags and they meet their contacts, a Rodian and a Ryn. Nice to see a heroic Rodian, to be honest. They start an overland trek to the yammosk compound.

    Three days later, as the armada moves out, Nom Anor fears not for their victory, but about the heretics still just out of their reach. Han and the others are still on the trail, the Ho’din noting that the phenomena they’re ostensibly there to observe doesn’t seem to be happening properly. They ambush a Yuuzhan Vong patrol, killing the lot of them, weapons and animals included, without much trouble, shooting straight through some of their armor. The voduun crab armor is cracked and dead, and the soldiers reacted slowly, too slowly for Han’s liking. He and Kyp figure something odd is going on, but can’t decide exactly what it is.

    Jaina scouts out the enemy fleet as it makes its way toward Mon Cal, apparently taking all of the back roads and side streets instead of the main highway. She scurries back to the rally point and forms up with Gavin, Wedge and the others just in time for the fleet to make it there. There are more Yuuzhan Vong vessels than there have been in any single battle in the way to that point, except perhaps the invasion of Coruscant itself.

    The GA sends in drone ships loaded with probe droids first, giving them data on where the enemy firepower is strongest and weakest. Then they sweep in with fast fighters, bombers and TIEs, decimating arm after arm of the enemy’s formation. Then they pull back, letting an SSD and heavy Mon Cal cruiser take potshots at the formation’s center, before sending the second wave of fighters in. Jaina and the other X-wing squadrons, along with a few B-wing groups and TIE defenders, head in to clean up the lanes even more, only for Nas to reverse the Imperial-style tactics on them and open fire along the depleted lanes with all of their capital ships massed in the center. Then the enemy shifts formation to clean up the decimated fighter squadrons, including Jaina’s.

    Jacen, on Zonama Sekot, feels that she’s in danger, and the result is him dropping his lightsaber and ignites a philosophical discussion between him and the planetary intelligence. They debate the roles they both may play in ending the war, the line they walk between the light and the dark, and how Vergere affected them both in the formative stages of their growth. Both of them decide that the best course of action is a swift end to the war with as few lives lost as possible. Luke, apparently, has a plan to bring the war to an end, one that might mean titanic forces to a planet they’ll basically drop out of hyperspace on top of, but goes unnamed for now. I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t Mon Calamari.

    On Caluula, Han and co come across a downed coralskipper with no signs of external damage and with all internal and external systems dead before the crash. The Ho’din likewise comes across the space-cicadas, also very dead. Despite Leia getting the Force-siren that is Jaina’s “I’m in danger” signal, they press on. Shortly after making to the yammosk compound, they’re ambushed by slayers, their guides are killed, and everyone else is captured and taken inside. Han is bitten by one of the amphistaffs and goes into a coma, to Leia’s absolute horror.

    Nas Choka, meanwhile, is being an absolute pimp, slapping the starfighter squads out of the air with massed firepower, taking casualties no greater or less than expected, and having an overly-confident subaltern escorted out. He deduces that the battle is a feint, and orders a full half of his fleet into hyperspace, not to Toong’l and Caluula, but to Contruum, where the GA fleet intent on retaking Coruscant just happens to be sitting in wait for the orders to move. His time in Hutt space was apparently very well spent. Jaina and what’s left of her squad are rescued by Jag, just in time to see the fleet split in half and peace out.

    Leia and the others on Caluula are taken before the commander of the forces there, Malik (remember me?) Carr, while the slayers and their leader, a shaper, decide to head back to Yuuzhan’tar. The entire Vong contingent on the planet has caught a nasty case of the dyings, you see, all of their warriors, weapons and buildings are slowly rotting right in front of everyone’s eyes. Even the amphistaff poison is breaking down, to the point where Han pulls through with just a bit of numbness and a headache. Carr accuses them of poisoning the world somehow, concedes the feud to Page, and dies, along with just about everything else in their makeshift prison, including the yammosk itself. And surprisingly enough, it doesn’t have anything to do with Lando, Talon and Shada showing up out of nowhere to rescue them. Why, you ask? Well because cliffhanger that’s why!

    The party on Zonama Sekot senses the unleashing of a great evil, not by the Yuuzhan Vong, but by the dark side itself. Luke and Jacen then have a discussion about Vergere and her teachings on the Force, about how Luke’s vision is limited, but so was the vision of the Old Republic Jedi. Luke says that the dark side does exist and is not the natural state of the Force, either. It’s a fault of all sentient beings that have brought evil into the galaxy, and now the balance than exists in nature has to be maintained rather than simply existing. He claims that the Jedi have been searching for the Unifying nature of the Force for centuries, possibly millennia, and that on Zonama Sekot, they’re closer than ever to finding it.

    Too bad none of this speculation or discussion will ever actually go anywhere, eh?

    Kyp has finally put the pieces together. The GA intel group put together another batch of Alpha Red on the sly, and their first large-scale testing ground is Caluula. Han and co were never meant to kill the yammosk, only to observe the bioagent’s effectiveness and whether it might affect humans in any way. Let me point this out: Dif Scaur, the head of GA Intel, used Han, Leia and Kyp, along with the entire population of Caluula, as testing beds for an experiment for a biological agent that could, in all likelihood, have wiped them out the same way it did the Vong. It worked against the space-cicadas, an unintentional casualty, it might have worked against them, too. They were willing to have some of the heroes of the New Republic and Galactic Alliance killed in a horrifying way if it meant they could end the war via their bio-agent.

    See why Alpha Red is a bad idea? Once you decide to use it, you’re already in a dangerous place, an ends-justify-means place, a place where Han and Leia Solo become pawns, where an entire planet becomes expendable. Then the question isn’t: how far is too far? It becomes: how far is necessary?

    Han is understandably upset, as are Leia and Kyp, but the Ho’din scientist is completely crushed, accusing the Bothan Intel agent, who was in on the plan, of being a worse murderer than the Vong are. She also notes that the slayers and shaper are still alive and on their way to Yuuzhan’tar, the single vessel, it turns out, that Booster and the Errant Venture missed in their casing of the enemy forces in orbit. Alpha Red has escaped containment, and from Yuuzhan’tar it might spread further, across the Core, perhaps even the entire galaxy.

    At Mon Cal, Kre’fey notes that, with half of the enemy fleet gone, the rest are fighting twice as hard to make up the difference. He realizes that he’s been tricked, that Caluula and Toong’l were both diversions, and he has no idea where the rest of the fleet might have gone, since he discounts that they’re falling back to Coruscant or know about what happened on Caluula. He orders the fleet at Contruum scattered on the off-change that Nas will swing by there, and then reacts in utter shock when the entire rest of the enemy fleet breaks formation, withdraws its coralskippers, and goes into hyperspace, headed Coreward, even though they were winning the battle.

    The reason is soon seen as we switch to Yuuzhan’tar, just in time for the last of Nom Anor’s prophecies to come true: Zonama Sekot appears in orbit around the planet, shattering the rainbow bridge made of destroyed moon, causing groundquakes and generally tearing everything apart. Nom and his superior square off, the latter only just realizing that the former came to his station by trying, and failing, to kill the same living world that just appeared in the sky above them. Nom tells him to pray that the planet has come in peace, even as the Shamed Ones outside shout praises to the Prophet. Nas has withdrawn his entire fleet, including all of the forces on outlying worlds and sectors, to deal with Zonama Sekot, setting things up for the final showdown.

    Part Three opens a week later, with Han and Leia on their way to Zonama Sekot after hearing at long last from Luke and the others. Turns out that Cal Omas ordered the deployment of Alpha Red, calling it a “tough decision”. Jerk. Worse than Palpatine, I swear. For a week, the Yuuzhan Vong armada sat on its hands, giving Kre’fey and Sovv time to mass the entire GA fleet at Contruum, and now the two sides are busily waiting for the other to make their move. Going with Han and Leia are pretty much all of the other Jedi, some in the Falcon, others in the Errant Venture, and a few, like Jaina, by starfighter. I’m not sure why they went by starfighter when there’s a perfectly good Star Destroyer going along, but oh well.

    They make their landing, the Falcon and other vessels remaining in orbit since Sekot doesn’t like ships with guns, even though it’s perfectly fine with the Jade Shadow. Huh. Anyway, they both gawk over how awesome the planet is, reunite with Luke and Mara and Jacen, noting how old Jacen looks now, and watch and the entirety of what’s left of the New Jedi Order comes together, plus Talon, Lando, Tendra, Booster and others. They also meet Jabitha and Harrar, and everyone gets caught up on Luke and Sekot’s plan to end the war.

    On Yuuzhan’tar, Nom Anor has been put into the job of overseeing the execution of Shamed Ones who are now, in light of Zonama Sekot’s arrival, gathering in the open. He reflects on the fact that Coruscant will never truly be Yuuzhan’tar, and a lot of the other previously-loyal workers know it as well. All of the work they have put into terraforming the world has been by and large undone by the living planet’s arrival, the only structure largely untouched being Shimrra’s citadel. After seeing a raid upon a gathering of heretics, he hurries to Shimrra’s side, hoping to have the little faith he has left in his leaders restored by his god-king. All he hears, though, is the ranting of a madman, about how the gods have betrayed them, and how Shimrra wants to play them off against each other, allowing the Yuuzhan Vong to win the war against both them and the GA and leaving him, Shimrra, the sole power in the galaxy. Nom understandably balks, and resolves to fight against everyone if need be to ensure his own survival.

    Han, Luke, Mara and Leia head to Caluula and meet with the heads of the GA fleet. They spend a long time talking about Zonama Sekot and what it means for the war effort. They aren’t willing to give Luke the benefit of the doubt as to Sekot’s nature or what benefit it might have toward the end of the war, even though Luke assures them that he, Sekot and Harrar have worked out a plan that might take the Yuuzhan Vong down from inside. This isn’t enough for the varying leaders and admirals, though, and they plan to launch an all-out assault on Coruscant in three days. Luke brings up Alpha Red, and they promptly change the subject. A compromise between the two plans is reached, where Zonama Sekot will provide a diversion while the GA fleet moves in. The meeting is concluded with the news that Admiral Ackbar has died, off-screen, of course.

    On Zonama, Jaina’s ticked off because none of the seed-partners bonded with her even though she’s the best pilot there. Aside from Corran. And maybe Kyp. And Saba. Whatever. She and Jacen discuss this, Jacen saying that’s she’s probably meant for something else. Jaina asks what the Yuuzhan Vong are meant for, which Jacen doesn’t have an answer for, only that he’s determined not to exterminate them the way everyone else seems to want to.

    Shimrra rallies the troops, giving a speech to the high-ranking caste members where he actually comes somewhat clean about Zonama Sekot and what it has meant for the war since the beginning. But he then takes it in a different direction, claiming to have been given a prophetic riddle by Yun-Harla, the trickster goddess, which fortold of this event and means the final crucible for the Yuuzhan Vong to endure before their ultimate victory is at hand. Utter hogwash, of course, but it provides him without enough of an explanation to unite most of the leaders behind his plan to poison the living planet with the same vessel that escaped Caluula.

    Jacen spends some time meditating on the nature of the Force, the understanding of it used by both the old and new Jedi Orders, and how far he has come since his vision on Duro. Sekot speaks with him, and tells him that, in order to fulfill what the Force would have him do, he must be willing to do whatever is necessary and let the Force guide him to his destiny, no matter who or what stands in his way.

    Meanwhile, in preparation for the Coruscant move, Wedge and his battle group, along with Farlander and Tycho and their groups, assault Corulag to use as a staging area. Wedge reflects on his career and what’s happened to him and his comrades since the war began and he came out of retirement. He understands that the Jedi and the GA are fighting different wars, one to defeat an enemy, the other to end a cycle of violence and aggression. Corulag falls amidst heavy fighting, both in orbit and on the ground, with resistance fighters dragging their former captors and oppressors through the streets. Kre’fey calls him to tell him that he’s been noticed and has to continue his push into the Coruscant system ASAP, since Nas Choka and his armada are on the move. Wedge notes that Kre’fey has written off Zonama Sekot, orbiting right where Wedge’s group will jump into the system, as a Jedi concern, and alerts the other Insiders.

    Luke and Mara return to Zonama Sekot, where he makes clear his plan: send in a Jedi strike force, a la the Mykr mission, to take Shimrra down and hopefully stop him from using the World Brain to utterly destroy Coruscant before the GA can take it back. Kenth arrives to inform them of Wedge’s move, which will put the planet on the front lines. They deduce, with Harrar’s help, that Shimrra has made Sekot a target, not just Wedge, and they’ll need to be ready to repel an attack when the time comes.

    Nas Choka commands his armada to hyperspace, forced to sacrifice another warship so the infected slayer ship, now unable to do much but fly straight ahead with most of the crew dead, can make the trip. He has misgivings about the mission, but resolves to follow the orders of the Supreme Overlord. Wedge and his group are between the Yuuzhan Vong and Zonama Sekot, so Nas orders basically his entire fleet to act as bait so the poisoned vessel will make the trip intact. He knows that the battle will be rough, but relishes the chance for an open fight on even ground for once.

    Jag enters the battle above Yuuzhan’tar along with the combined Twin Suns and Vanguard squadrons, along with the Right to Rule and a few other cruisers, who demolish what’s left of the planetary ring and let the rocks fall into the planetary dovin basals to aid in overwhelming them. Jag and his group, along with a few other groups, escort troop shuttles down through the defenses and to the planet’s still-unstable surface. Jag gets shot down after the transport he’s escorting, what I suspect from the description is an AotC-era Rothana troop transport, gets pulled in half by dovin basals. Whoopsie.

    Lando, Talon and the other smugglers and assorted Jedi allies spot Nas Choka’s flanking force breaking off and go after them. On the planet, the seed-bonded pilots scramble, along with most of the others with fightercraft in orbit. Harrar suggests that both Jacen and Jaina go with the strike team, while Cilghal, Tekli and Danni stay on the planet.

    Shimrra, meanwhile, is starting to break down. He goes into a tirade at his subordinates when summoned to give a report on the progress of the battle, and the appearance of the living ships Zonama Sekot brings to bear against them shocks him to silence. When he asks his seers for advice on what the gods want, the answers they give him, that the gods may be aligned with the Jeedai, prompts him to have the lot of them executed on the spot. When questions by others as the to nature of the living ships, he passes the buck to Nom Anor, who tries to shrug it off as a Jedi trick, only to be shot down by Shimrra, who again blames the gods. Shimrra’s entire focus is now on the destruction of the heretics, and even Onimi is shouted down when he brings up the invaders already making groundfall. Nom is given charge of hunting the heretics down yet again, this time in the company of half of the citadel’s complement of warriors, leaving it virtually defenseless aside from the slayers and Shimrra himself.

    Jag regains consciousness in time to join Page, Face, Kell and a commando team as they meet up with the Wraiths left behind previously, as well as Pash Cracken. They see the fires being set as Shimrra sets about killing the world, fires brought to the attention of the Jedi on Zonama Sekot, who resolve to do whatever it takes to save both worlds. Han and Leia, along with Harrar and the droids, resolve to persuade the World Brain to cut it out, while Luke, Mara, Tahiri, Kenth, Jacen and Jaina go to the citadel to try and take Shimrra down.

    Nom Anor watches as the Shamed Ones flock out into the open, willingly going to the slaughter as the warriors he commands kill them without so much as a battle cry. He’s lost control of the butchery, the warriors engrossed in the slaughter, and the Shamed Ones enraptured by their redemptive deaths. Then, he sees fire-beasts, sent by Shimrra, setting fire to buildings all around them. The last straw finally reached, Nom proceeds to karate-chop his way into the center of the melee, grab an amphistaff, and fully embraces his identity as Yu’shaa, rallying the Shamed Ones to fight back. Freedom and all that jazz, I suppose.

    Han, Leia and their two children reminisce about how long it’s been since they last saw Coruscant. Han and Leia last saw it during the battle that lost it, a time when Jacen and Jaina were on a worldship over Mykr, having a barbeque of dead brother. Ooh, too soon? Anyway, the Falcon heads down to link up with the commandos and set about storming the castle. Han, Leia, the Noghiri, Harrar and the droids head to the World Brain after saying goodbye to the others, while Luke and co link up with the commandos.
    Above, in Zonama Sekot airspace, the Jedi are fighting well, holding off basically an entire Yuuzhan Vong battle group by themselves. But Kyp is uneasy, since it seems that the ships are the ones dictating the battle, not the pilots.

    Luke, his group and the commandos make their way across the landscape being torn apart by the battle, eventually splitting up so some of them can link up with the Shamed Ones and rally them against their former master. Mara, Kenth and Tahiri go with them, leaving Jacen, Jaina and Luke to attack the citadel. Han and Leia try to force their way past the defenses around the World Brain, but get trapped in the hedges. What is this, the battle of Normandy? Mara and the others get to the Shamed Ones, who happen to be the same group led by Nom Anor. He slips Tahiri and makes a break for it. Near Zonama Sekot, Lando, Talon and Booster are busy killing stuff when they spot the ship holding Alpha Red on a collision course with the planet.

    Jag is given an X-wing to fly in support of the ground forces, teaming up with some of his pilots and the Rogues as they try to crack the citadel open. To no avail, of course. The ground forces get pinned down by massive Yuuzhan Vong creatures, Beater and Biter from Duro in fact, along with some ranges similar to those on Borleias. Jacen tries his animal-fu on them, and has to compete with a very confused and very angry Ted for their attention. Han and co try to escape, but they’re caught and brought before one of the high priests, Jakan, who confronts Harrar. Nas Choka, confident in his success, orders additional forces to the assault on Zonama Sekot, diverting them from the battle against the GA fleet, despite reports of the destruction on the planet behind him.

    Mara goes for a parkour run through half-ruined apartment complexes in pursuit of Nom, smashing down doors, breaking windows, dodging debris before confronting him and beating him down. He appeals for mercy fall on deaf ears, but Mara spares him anyway, in the hopes that he might still prove useful. And he does, alerting her to the threat of Alpha Red looming against Zonama Sekot. Shimrra receives the reports of all that’s happening without even bothering to make any more plans than letting the Jedi come to him.

    A group of Shamed Ones, led by Nom Anor and Mara, rescues Han and Leia, to be sacrificed on Shimrra’s order. However, they’re up against a hundred+ warriors, and might have been slaughtered except for the arrival of another group of warriors, who fall on their comrades without a moment’s hesitation. Nom Anor strangles his former superior Drathul, and Harrar, Han and Leia capture the shaper in charge of the Well. Jacen successfully persuades the creatures to let them by, allowing the commandos to secure the entrance into the citadel while he, Jaina and Luke head inside. All three of them slaughter the few warriors left to oppose them without much trouble. Jacen tries to calm Ted down so that his parents won’t kill it, which he manages, just in time, stopping the groundquakes and fires from getting too out of hand. It seems too late, though, as Kyp and the other Jedi start falling from Zonama Sekot’s sky, their ships shutting down without warning. An effect of Alpha Red?

    Luke, Jacen and Jaina confront Shimrra. He sends his slayers against them first, like a good final boss, and they give all three a hard time, until the citadel sprouts rockets and takes off into the sky. Nas Choka, having decimated Wedge’s group and confident that Alpha Red has killed Zonama Sekot, turns at last and heads after Kre’fey, who is moving to support Pellaeon and the others in orbit above Yuuzhan’tar. He brushes off reports of what’s happening at the citadel and elsewhere, confident in his gods and in Shimrra. Eh, hate to break it to you, bro, but Shimrra’s not exactly the best place to put your faith in.

    Jaina moves through the battle against the slayers and goes after Onimi as he flees, leaving Jacen and Luke to handle the Supreme Overlord. Not a bad move, considering that the slayers had keyed on her as the weakest of the three. Except that Onimi takes her down with a paralyzing poison and, just before she blacks out, Jaina senses him sense her in the Force. Dun dun dun. Danni and the other Jedi, reunited on the surface, group up and discuss what’s going on. Alpha Red isn’t on the planet yet, Sekot shut their ships down and turned off their defenses on purpose, but for an unknown reason. All they know is that they don’t know, until Sekot asks through Jabitha to speak with Danni directly.

    Jacen and Luke, meanwhile, are hard-pressed against the slayers, Jacen having to center himself within the Force to even stand the pain, let alone fight. He and Luke, mostly Luke, kill the rest of the slayers, before Shimrra himself enters the fray directly. He knocks Jacen out and goes for Luke, wrapping him in his amphistaff and intent on crushing him to death. Then he whips out Anakin’s lightsaber and aims to decapitate Luke, who catches the amphistaff’s poison in his side while defending himself. Luke’s just too boss to die, though, and decapitates Shimrra with his own lightsaber and Anakin’s together. Did George Lucas read this book? Jacen, still relatively intact, goes after Jaina but leave his lightsaber behind.

    Nom Anor, still trying to get leniency, leads Han and the others, along with Mara, Page and pretty much everyone else still alive on the surface, into the citadel. Shimrra, he sees, is dead, and Luke is there, poisoned and terribly weak. Before they can go after Jacen and Jaina, the vessel begins to lift off, prompting Mara and Tahiri to remove Luke and leave Han, Leia and Nom to search for Onimi and the twins.

    Kre’fey, now above Coruscant/Yuuzhan’tar, reflects that, despite the report of Shimrra’s death, the Yuuzhan Vong are still fighting just as vigorously as they had been before. The war, he notes, has to end there, or else it might go on for years more to come. Then Nas Choka and his fleet arrive to kick him in the backside.

    Onimi taunts Jaina, calling her Yun-Harla, the same goddess persona she took on previously, and raves about the mockery the gods placed on him, a former shaper who delved too greedily and too deep. Able to use and feel the Force in both humans and his own species, Onimi had been controlling the Supreme Overlord for years, at first subtly, then gradually overwhelming the massive warrior’s mind until it was simple, primal urges and little more. All of the strategies, all of the insight and talk of the gods, all of it came from Onimi, who wants nothing less than the utter destruction of all life in the galaxy, a middle-finger to the gods who created it. He knows that Jacen will come for him, and waits, lifting the escape pod-esque citadel into space to separate them from the destruction below. As the ship lifts off, Han and Leia pull some of the other Jedi not taking care of Luke to the Falcon and take off in pursuit, followed by Mara, Luke and the rest in the Jade Shadow.

    Jacen confronts Onimi, who’s strapped up Jaina and intends to duel him for the privilege of living and shaping the galaxy. Jacen realizes that the modifications Onimi made to his brain with yammosk tissue somehow allowed him to regain the Force, but doesn’t really have time to ponder it as the real Supreme Overlord attacks.

    Wedge gets the message from Lando and Booster about what’s happening on Zonama Sekot, even as he and his forces, in conjuction with the Hapans, try to defend a planet that has apparently given up. He finally says kark it and jumps into an X-wing to head down to join the defense himself. Nas Choka is unwilling to believe the reports of Shimrra’s death, and the sight of the citadel heading toward him, with the Falcon, Jag and a wingmate in pursuit, tells him that it has to be a trick.

    Onimi sends a Darth Vader special at Jacen, surrounding him with a whirlwind of debris, but Jacen stands firm and uses the same debris as a shield around him, an impenetrable defense. They blast each other with electricity, Onimi’s poisons are turned to water, Jacen gives himself entirely to the Force and, just as the others reach the room and find him, melts the Shamed One with a blast of raw, pure energy. The ship starts to break up, Nom Anor leads them to an escape ship and then tries to kill Jacen, who shrugs the plaeryin bol off like Nickelodeon Gack, then chooses to stay behind and die with the ship rather than return with them and face a trial and probable execution for his numerous crimes.

    Nas Choka sees the citadel/ship break up and, knowing for sure now that the Supreme Overlord is dead, deigns to surrender his forces to the mercy of the GA and the gods rather than fighting to the end. Doesn’t stop his subordinates from all killing themselves, though, including thousands of ships who kamikaze into GA forces and into the planet. Still, remarkably forward-thinking for a Yuuzhan Vong, even if he does expect to be executed in the end.

    Lando, Talon, Booster and the rest are right on the edge of being overwhelmed, and the Alpha Red-infected vessel is about to make landfall, when Sekot’s plan springs into action: use hundreds of ships and assorted dovin basals to bring everyone engaged in combat down to the surface, Alliance and Yuuzhan Vong alike. The Yuuzhan Vong’s weapons all desert them as they land, and the pilots and crews surrender. Jacen, meanwhile, saves Luke from the amphistaff poison after the Falcon picks up their escape ship. The battle is over at last.

    Part Four is the wrap-up. Kre’fey realizes some of what the war has cost them as he surveys the now-uninhabitable surface of Coruscant, before sitting on the board of officers to accept the Yuuzhan Vong surrender. The Yuuzhan Vong fully expect to be killed by the victorious GA, but they are turned over to Zonama Sekot instead, who has decided to serve as their new home and teacher, to help them find their way back to the Force. Luke calls together all of the Jedi once again, giving a short speech about how their loyalties are not to the Alliance, but to the Force, and each Jedi is to seek out the Force’s will in their own ways and times.

    Jacen decides to go and study more of the Force among other Force-sensitive groups of the galaxy, Jaina and Jag break up but resolve to get back together once lasting peace has been won, Han, Lando, Wedge, Booster, Tycho, Talon and Crev Bombassa meet up, drink, discuss politics and the future, Pellaeon gives Leia Killik Twilight as a memento, Tahiri, Danni and Tekli stay on Zonama Sekot to help to study the Force and the Yuuzhan Vong more, and Luke embeds Anakin’s lightsaber into the same worshrr tree Chewie’s memorial was carved into, as both a memento and in hope that, if it ever needs to be drawn again, it will be by a warrior to equal the both of them. Then everyone laughs at the wookiees and their silly life debt business, the end.

    Thoughts, well, I have a few. This is, by far, one of the best Star Wars books I have ever read, in terms of prose crafting, characterization (with one exception), plotting, continuity, and sense of both tragedy and triumph. This is the finale book to end all finale books, the ultimate end to a long and winding road that manages to feel not only final, but also completely satisfying, without leaving glaring holes or loose ends. This is a bittersweet book as we look back over just how far events have transpired through the series, over how the characters, both friend and enemy, have progressed, over how things have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same. And through it all, it manages to be fully and completely Star Wars.

    The Unifying Force is a Must Read, not only for those reading this series, but for anyone who has read the EU. This book should be the goal, the point which a reader strives for while making their way through however many books in the NJO they choose to read. The only blemish it might have on it, personal preference and continuity niggles aside, is how little of the EU that occurs later has been affected and changed by what this book leaves us with. LotF and FotJ are both far, far worse series in light of this book than they might be if they’re read standing alone. I understand now the outrage so many felt when those series hit shelves and ignored so many of the consequences this series had on the GFFA at large.

    I have no idea what went through the heads of those responsible for the editing and writing of LotF, especially. I hate to lay blame on any one person, but it does seem like Troy Denning was largely responsible for what happened in between, through Dark Nest especially. Between the two of them, Dark Nest and LotF largely erased, ignored or overrode all but a few of the footprints TUF, and the NJO as a whole, left on the EU, returning everything back to as close to the movies as possible, where the Jedi are the good guys and politicians and Sith are the bad guys. After the quality, if dark work he did on Star By Star, I wonder just what has been running through his head in the years since that book made copy. Ill intent is easy to perceive where none exists, and the last thing I want to do is dump the entire mess in the lap of a person I don’t know and have never met.

    But the first question I would have to ask him if I ever met him, after formalities of course, is why he took the post-NJO in the direction he did. I’d then ask him for James Luceno’s number and politely bid him good day.

    Overall Thoughts on the series have to be mixed. Yes, this series contains some of the best books in the EU, and is the series with the widest spectrum of authors, tones, styles and stories that somehow manages to coalesce around a unified, cohesive plot, and a pretty good one at that. The New Jedi Order series may not be perfect, but it is good, good enough that I recommend it be read by any EU fan. In all likelihood, the events of it will either be re-written or ignored in the oncoming continuity storm as Episode VII makes its debut, but the story itself is good enough that, even if the worst-case scenario happens and the entire series is rendered AU, it’s still worth reading. The books aren’t going anywhere, and neither is the continuity around it. Official or not, the stories still exist and still work as they did when they were written.

    I’ve said it before on these boards, but I might as well say it again here: continuity is of second importance to me when it comes to the Star Wars EU. It is important, I do rigorous research for my own fanfic for a reason. But my first and foremost concern is whether the story is good enough to be worth the time it takes to read it. If it’s not, then I usually ignore the fact that it exists, as I do with Dark Nest and the rest of the post-NJO. They aren’t good enough stories to justify their own existence. The NJO, on the other hand, is. Whether it’s still canon or not doesn’t matter to me because the books are worth the time it takes to read and enjoy them (certain ones excepted). This isn’t the way things work for everyone, and I understand that. Some people value how a book works within continuity more highly than anything else about it. But for me, if a story exists and is good enough without being blatantly AU stuff, I’ll make the continuity work itself out in my head and leave me with the stories I think are worth remembering.

    I’m glad those here on the boards recommended that I read this series. And I’m grateful to have Digital Messiah, Revanfan1, Jedi Ben, Gamiel, Havac, anakinfansince1983 and all of the rest of you to discuss these books in an intelligence and (mostly) rational manner. I know we don’t all agree about everything about this series, but I think we can all agree that Star Wars is awesome, or else we wouldn’t be here. Maybe I’ll make another thread about a different series in the future; what, I don’t know. But this one was a lot of fun and very informative and engaging, so thank you all again, and here’s to next time.