Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chiss Space is Opened in Refugee

The New Jedi Order was my first passion in Star Wars literature. Soon after seeing the movies for the first time, I got caught up in this ongoing story about Jedi fighting aliens. About ten years later, I’m re-reading the series with a fresh perspective. 

Oh, Refugee, in which Luke gives a species a religious crisis, entechment begins to look like a good idea and Mara is very confused by books. This installment gave me one of my favorite scenes in the Expanded Universe but was, unfortunately, pretty boring on the re-read.

The opening scene features Jedi being attacked by reptilian aliens, which cannot be boring. However, I feel very differently about the Krizlaws now than I did when I read the series last. Luke should never have told them that their religion could be explained by science, really. They aren’t dinosaurs; they’re a culture he disrupted.

Refugee follows Han, Leia, Tahiri, Jaina and Jag as they check out a fragile, deceptive peace on Bakura, and Luke, Mara, Jacen and Danni researching on Csilla. Tahiri and Jaina remain my favorites: I love the scene where Jaina gets let into a jail on pure chutzpah (although, whoops, that was a trap) and Tahiri continues to work through her issues.

I like that her story isn’t really about Anakin, too. His death jarred her, but the reason Riina is on the rise is because the Yuuzhan Vong are losing the war, not because of Tahiri’s sadness. Tahiri doesn’t seem to understand that sneaking into someone’s bedroom to destroy evidence is not a good way to get them to trust her, which both made me laugh and is up there with most things in Dark Disciple in the list of Bad Decisions in Star Wars. In a very moving moment, she hides her self-inflicted scars from a friend.

I can’t help but think of Malinza Thanas as the daughter Luke never had, even though his relationship with Gaeriel ended mutually. It isn’t that I think that Gaeriel and Luke should have ended up together, but simply that Malinza is an interesting artifact from Truce at Bakura, a loose end that could have been ignored. I understand Jaina’s jealousy toward her, too.

I can’t get over how well the New Jedi Order uses its female characters. Of course, the series has so many to draw from, but it’s nice to see Saba, Tahiri, Jaina, and others in focus here. Wyn Antilles is great, and Danni Quee gets to use her astronomy skills again. When a lot of varied female characters are present, no single one has to be representative.

Also included in the Chiss library section is my new favorite character, the Prophetess, an expat from the Star Wars Roleplaying game who served as a philosopher-Jedi on her home planet and "never took a mate.”

On the villainy side of things, we learn that Yuuzhan Vong can now disguise themselves as non-human species, and that the Ssi-Ruuk are still using entechment. This was probably not the lesson I was supposed to take away from the superhuman cyborg villain, but voluntary entechment actually sounds like a very good way to create intelligent battle coordinators and extend people's lives. If this was another sci-fi series, that might have been addressed further and become something the good guys actually use.

In other regards, though, I can’t recommend the Force Heretic series. The prose and dialogue are awkward, especially when it comes to transitions. The characters talk stiffly and ask obvious questions, but ones that help move the plot along or answer readers’ questions about the location. At one point Tahiri’s scars are described as being on her temple, at others on her forehead.

In all the talk about slavery and freedom, there isn’t much attention paid to the Kurtzen, the native species of Bakura. I would think that there would be more to them, as there was probably more to the Krizlaws. It isn’t Refugee’s fault that it can’t address everything in the massive Star Wars universe, but a bit more insight into those species might have given a unique element to a mediocre book.

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