Waru Express: New Jedi Order Part 4

At long last, we’ve reached the end of our journey through the New Jedi Order and the Vong War.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as I reread these 19 books and at the end of the day, I really do enjoy this series.  Sure, it’s really long and sure, there are definitely some low points but there are also a lot of high points and overall?  I just really like the story that it tells.  A lot of people have used the Battlestar Galactica comparison in regards to this series and it’s often used in a negative way.  I agree with that comparison but for me, it’s a positive.  I like a story that’s willing to take characters to dark places and put them through hell.  I like getting to sit back and watch and see who emerges stronger than before and who never does.  I like a story that has lasting consequences for the universe but we’ll get to more of that later.  So while it has its flaws, I think the story works and I like the series a fair bit.

On a note not related to the New Jedi Order specifically, I just wanted to mention that despite all of my snark and bemoaning about my loss of sanity, I really do love the Expanded Universe.  Some bits of it might drive me up the wall or make me want to bash my head against a table but as a whole, I adore it.  There are probably only a handful of things about it that I truly dislike and I wouldn’t be working my way through this challenge if I didn’t love it.

With that lengthy introduction out of the way, let’s cover the last five books of the series!

Force Heretic I: Remnant
I have a few problems with these books in general and I’m going to start with some of them here.  The biggest one is that this did not need to be a trilogy and that I would’ve enjoyed the books much more had their plots been condensed into two books instead.  The other problem I have is that this feels like a travel through the Bantam Era’s “greatest” hits.  Sean Williams and Shane Dix take us back to the Yevetha and the Fia in this book and then Bakura in the next.  By the end of this book, I’m really not sure what exactly Han and Leia’s mission is supposed to be.  I was also rolling my eyes at this secret Ryn spy network.  (Editor’s Note: I’m still amused that the Ryn are now canon again.)

Also, I thought Jag’s second in command was Shawnkyr?  I’m confused as to why Williams and Dix introduce another character named Eprill to fill the same role.

On the other hand, any time we get to see Gilad Pellaeon being awesome is a good one.  The speeches where he yells “EMPTY” at the Vong commander and then says how the Empire will always strike back and also the one where he essentially bullies the entire Moff Council into doing what he wants are great Pellaeon moments.  It reminds me why I love his character so much.  It does feel off though when numerous characters refer to him by his first name especially when they’re subordinate officers but Pellaeon is awesome enough to make up for it.

The book itself is an okay read.  It’s just not one of the high points of the series.

Force Heretic II: Refugee
Even though the previous book basically announced that this was going to happen, I recall making high-pitched noises when I first read this book and saw the name ‘Soontir Fel’ on the list of main characters.  That man will always be a badass.  Also, his daughter Wyn is adorable and she should be in more books.  She and her cousin Myri would be good friends if only… you know the drill by now: SYAL AND WEDGE COULD BE REUNITED IN CANON.  (Editor’s Note: STILL BITTER.)

Again, the books could’ve used some serious editing.  The ‘travel to a new planet for each book’ thing got old very quickly.  I don’t mind going back to Bakura and I like Malinza Thanas well enough but the book just doesn’t make me want to read about it for 400 pages.  It’s nice to see Jaina actually get to do something this book though.  I do also rather like Captain Yage of the Widowmaker.

This is probably a good time for my rant about Tahiri.  I like the plot line of her having this personality conflict with Riina and the two of them needing to find peace with each other BUT I don’t like where it was placed in the series.  This should’ve taken place ages ago.  Remember the Allston books?  Tahiri was a perfectly capable and functional person.  I don’t get why this didn’t happen months if not years ago in the chronology.  It just doesn’t feel like this is when it was supposed to happen.  (But then again, apparently some other authors never got the memo that Tahiri’s entire life and characterization isn’t defined by the events of the first three NJO books she appeared in…)

Force Heretic III: Reunion
Hey Skywalkers and company?  If you continue to explore the Unknown Regions, we’re going to have to call them something else.

Until now, I’ve neglected to discuss one of my favorite parts of these books: Nom Anor.  He’s by far one of the best Yuuzhan Vong characters and no one plots and schemes like him.  I love how he decides that he’s going to get his revenge and his power back so he ends up starting a heresy and rebellion amongst the Shamed Ones.  He’s now the Prophet and has thousands of Vong who believe in him and in the Jedi.  Only Nom Anor could end up doing something like this and it’s why you just have to love (or love to hate) him.

Despite my rant above, I do actually really appreciate how well written Tahiri/Riina’s story is in this book.  It’s solidly written and I love reading it every time.  It’s a nice resolution to that story arc that Greg Keyes began several books ago.

Aside from all this, I feel very underwhelmed by Zonama Sekot and it’s mostly because we spent the two books looking for it and then an entire book waiting for Sekot to decide if it likes them enough to help them.   While I know that the planet itself makes sense for the storyline with the Vong, the search for it just doesn’t enthrall me especially since it apparently took a year.

In short, I don’t mind reading these three books.  They’re not painful but I just really wish that they’d been edited down to two more compact books.  1200 pages was a bit much.  (Editor’s Note: They’re more painful every time I think about them.)

The Final Prophecy
Do you know what’s great about Greg Keyes?  He knows how to write a fun Star Wars book even when the galaxy is falling to pieces.  He’s also one of the few authors who really understand how to write Tahiri Veila.  I’d ask other Expanded Universe authors to take note but it might be too late for that.

Every time I read this series, I forget about this book and every time, it’s a very pleasant surprise.  I love that we get round two of Grumpy Old Corran and Tahiri’s Excellent Adventure.  I know that Tahiri was knighted but I think it’s a shame that we never really got to see more of these two together, traveling the galaxy and kicking butt.

Nen Yim’s death also made me get a little bit emotional especially since it comes almost immediately on the heels of Tahiri learning that her Riina memories were taken from Nen Yim.  It’s too bad that Nom Anor kills her because I would’ve liked to see the relationship between these two develop further.

Speaking of the Yuuzhan Vong, I’ve never had any feelings one way or the other about Harrar but he certainly gets some lines in this book that make me chuckle.  Actually, I appreciated all of the interactions amongst Harrar, Nen Yim, Nom Anor, Corran, and Tahiri.  It’s not something that we’ve really gotten to see before both in regards to the human-Vong interaction and with the interactions between the Vong themselves.

Of course, we can’t forget about good old General Antilles who has to be so sick of Bilbringi by now.  I like to imagine that every time he has to go fight yet another stupid war over the same handful of planets that he just sighs and bashes his head against the wall for a minute before going out and doing his job.  Keyes writes a great Wedge and he also writes a good Pash Cracken during his brief appearances.  I mentioned this on Twitter but I would certainly be happy to read an X-Wing book written by Keyes or really any Star Wars book for that matter because he has such a good grip on how to write them.  It’s refreshing.

Have we gotten the memo that I liked this book yet?  We have?  Okay, good.  Moving on to the final NJO book then!

The Unifying Force
This is how you end a series and I really can’t think of a more perfect author than James Luceno to have written this book.  Luceno certainly had a tall order before him when it came to wrapping things up because it really didn’t look like the war was going to end anytime soon.  That, however, isn’t his fault and I wish that the books had been better spaced to reflect this.  On the other hand, he definitely makes the most of these 530 pages.  Actually, it feels like more happened in this book than in the entirety of the Force Heretic trilogy.

Before we dive into the ending, I have to say how much I love that Pash Cracken and Juddar Page get to have leading roles in this book.  They are excellent characters who should be used more.  My only question is why Pash is a Major in this book when he was a General the last one.  And, of course, we do get a brief glimpse of the Wraiths.  Honestly, I wish we could get more about the Intelligence teams and the good work they did during the war.

I love that we get a final battle worthy of this epic series.  I would’ve been disappointed with anything less.  From the plotted space battle to the fight on Coruscant to the final duel between Luke and Shimrra, I love it all.

The reveal with Onimi throws me for a loop every single time.  I know it’s coming but I subconsciously just forget about it until I’m reading the book again and WHOA HE’S BEEN CONTROLLING SHIMRRA THE ENTIRE TIME.  I never saw it coming when I read the series for the first time and it remains a wicked cool plot twist ten years later.

Another thing that I really like about this book is that it actually takes the time to wind down and wrap things up.  I really think that any series longer than a trilogy needs to take more than 10 pages to end the story and after 19 books?  Readers would’ve felt cheated if we hadn’t gotten the chance to check in with all the major players.  My personal favorite was the meeting of the old folks generals and smugglers crew but you probably already knew that.

Honestly, I just really like this entire book.  It’s well written and it’s a great finale to the book.  I feel like it’s a book that’s hard to really describe but it really just works well in the context and is an enjoyable read all together.

In case anyone is morbid like I am and interested, I kept a body count while I was reading the books although it’s entirely possible that I missed some deaths.
Jedi: 20
Other Major Characters: 4
Noghri: 7

And that’s it!  I’ve now passed another major milestone in my Expanded Universe reread and boy does it feel good.  Or at least it does until Brian and Nanci remind me that the Dark Nest Trilogy awaits me.  Would anyone care to read it in solidarity with me?  Anyone?  Anyone? Bueller?  Please?  Oh well.  If you’d like to watch me inevitably resort to alcoholism via Twitter as I read them or if you’d simply like to keep an eye on my reading progress in something vaguely resembling real time, you can follow me on Twitter @chaosbria or the hashtag #WaruExpress.

Originally posted to Tosche Station on April 30, 2013.

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