Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Vector PrimePosted: June 12, 2012
Set 25 years after the Battle of Yavin 4 (ABY, if you will), Vector Prime is an excellent introduction into The New Jedi Order, a series which is essentially the old Star Wars universe gang handing off the torch to the next. Vector Prime begins as most Star Wars novels do: the Skywalker and Solo families deciding to take a vacation when everything seems calm. Unbeknownst to them, the Yuuzhan Vong, an ancient and so far unknown race from outside the galaxy have begun their invasion. They’ve begun so subtly, by having insurgents and the like on various planets pretending to be rebels themselves and upsetting the balance, but they’ve yet to do anything concrete; that’s where we begin.
The novel presents both the best and the worst sides of the Skywalker and Solo gang, with the characterizations of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo being the strongest. Both are definitely showing their age, but they’re both handling it differently. Skywalker has now radiates a quiet confidence; he’s no longer the arrogant Jedi Master from Return of the Jedi onwards, but truly has embraced the role of Jedi master. He has embraced its neutrality and has learned that action is not always necessary in order to accomplish something. This is especially apparent when he is contrasted with Jedi Master Kyp Durron with his Dozen-and-Two X-Wing Avengers Squadron, a ragtag bunch of X-Wing fighters that practically embody the arrogant side of the light side. They’re young and brash and feel, quite truly, that the light side needs to enforce itself. While things definitely change for Kyp Durron and his Avengers, they serve as an interesting foil for Luke Skywalker and the New Republic: it’s time for them all (Luke, Han, Leia, etc) to move on, but every time they try something — whether it be an outer faction or an inner faction — threatens the peace.
Han’s portrayal is probably the strongest part of the entire book, and R. A. Salvatore (yes, of Drizzt fame) deserves a ton of props for this. Han is, of course, the cocksure, hotshot, renegade pilot with a heart of gold. The problem with a lot of Han Solo Expanded Universe stuff (and of course, Han Solo fanfiction) is that that is pretty much the only way to portray Han: he has to have the witty one-liners, the brashness, the arrogance, and more importantly, the skill to back it all up. Solo changes a bit in some novels, most notably in some of Timothy Zahn’s work, but nowhere is it more evident than here (and maybe later NJO stuff). Han finds his skills challenged and his age catching up with him, and it’s pretty fascinating to read. Han’s main challenge, I think, has always been trying to fight the Force, in a way. Here he is with all these Force-sensitive friends and these Jedi masters and he has had, for his entire life essentially, to compete with that. Some fanfiction I know has reimagined Han Solo as a Jedi, and I do think that some EU stuff has hinted at him being Force sensitive, but the general consensus is that he really isn’t.
The challenge for Han then is obvious: their kids will inherit both Han’s natural reflexes and skill at flying and Leia’s obvious Force talents (and natural talents with diplomacy, etc), making them at the very least a double-threat. This issue comes up at one point when Han and Chewie and his kids participate in a flying challenge: though Han and Chewie do incredibly well, they’re almost killed, and part of that at least is due to their age and the degradation of their talents. His kids all do spectacularly, and one of them blows Han and Chewie’s time out of the water. It also happens that the person with the best time going into the competition is a Jedi anyway: for Han, it has always been his natural skill and even pluckiness that has helped him best Jedi, but with age he is less and less able to do that. Towards the end of the book, there is a particularly traumatic event (for which Salvatore received a ton of flack, despite it being at the direction of George Lucas personally — and this was either just before or just after The Phantom Menace, back when we trusted George) which shakes Han’s belief in himself and even makes him question how much he loves his kids.
The book does many things very well too, many things which Salvatore is well known for. The descriptions are vivid and crystal clear, the action is well thought out and described, and the book is more or less thrilling. Salvatore did an amazing job of bringing in the Yuuzhan Vong, an incredibly alien race (these guys are completely biological warriors: their weapons, ships, communications devices, all of them are living beings), which present a threat unlike anything the New Republic has had to deal with. It’s awesome. The book also introduces several new characters and elaborates on many old ones. It’s an excellent introduction into a new era of Star Wars, and I strongly recommend it.