18 March 2014

Return of the New Jedi Order, Episode II: Vector Prime by R. A. Salvatore

Hardcover, 387 pages
Published 1999

Acquired 1999(?)
Reread February 2014
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime
by R. A. Salvatore

Year One of the Invasion (Month 1)
For a Star Wars novel, especially one designed to relaunch Star Wars for a new audience, Vector Prime begins very slowly and very inconsequentially, with boring (and irrelevant) political scenes, and the characters all spread out from one another-- not to mention, totally separated from the actual plot of the story. It's an odd choice, and not a very effective one; I found myself getting bored. Even worse, the way our heroes get involved in the story is solely on the basis of coincidence; they want to check out some rumors about smugglers, apparently talking to Lando Calrissian is the only possible way to do that, and Lando's new base of operations just happens to be the invasion corridor of the Yuuzhan Vong. Surely there was a more elegant way to pull this all together?

If I had written Vector Prime, I'd have led off with the "Running the Belt" chapter (about a third of the way in); that's where the book comes to life, in terms of action, character, and that good old Star Wars feel. It's a great chapter, with cool action, Force powers, and it shows off the Solo kids as Jedi as legitimate as the previous generation. From there, the book is generally pretty successful; I love the chapters where Luke and Mara investigate the Yuuzhan Vong infection on Belkadan. There's a real sense that they've encountered something new, something entirely unlike the Empire or any other threat they've encountered before.

This is all driven home quite pointedly when Chewbacca dies, in what is undoubtedly one of the most epic sequences in Star Wars. They drop on moon him. Yes, that's right, it takes a whole moon to kill Chewbacca. It's a tight, chilling action sequence. Even better (which I'd forgotten), Salvatore puts it about a third before the end of the novel, giving its remainder a real heightened sense of threat, something the Expanded Universe certainly hadn't seen in a long, long time, not since the days of Thrawn or the Clone Emperor. Vector Prime isn't always successful on its own merits, but it definitely bodes well for what's to come.

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