Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide I: Onslaught

The New Jedi Order series continues with Dark Tide I: Onslaught, which happens to be one of the longest titles for a Star Wars book and certainly one with the most colons. Onslaught resumes where Vector Prime left off.  The New Republic has dismissed the Yuuzhan Vong threat as having been dealt with and finished with their loss at Helska, but obviously the Original Trilogy gang know that that is not the case.

Luke gathers the Jedi together to send them out on various missions,  and again the cracks in the New Jedi Order appear: there is bickering and infighting, with Jedi accusing Luke of giving out the juiciest missions to his supporters and the boring ones to those who don’t. Luke defends his decisions, saying that he is giving the missions to those who are qualified to do them: Luke’s defense is not spirited, but reasoned, and we are again seeing less of the passionate Jedi from Return of the Jedi and onwards and more of the grown-up Jedi from later books.

Skywalker and Jacen Solo depart for Belkaden, which is still recovering from Yomin Carr’s treachery there. Leia Organa-Solo, Jaina Solo, and Danni Quee meanwhile work to gather some kind of resistance force with the Outer Rim planets that have always been ambivalent towards the New Republic, knowing that they’re more likely to take heed than the New Republic itself. Anakin Solo is dispatched with Mara Jade-Skywalker to Dantooine in order to find a cure for the disease ravaging her body; Anakin is clearly upset at this order, assuming that he is being put on this caretaker mission because he isn’t capable enough to handle a real one. Luke defends the decision, saying that he is best suited for the job and that Jade-Skywalker, in her weakened state, clearly needs the assistance. Mara trains the boy in the ways of the Force on Dantooine. Finally, Jedi Corran Horn and Ganner Rhysode are sent to Bimmel to investigate some missing scientists.

Michael A. Stackpole, one of the best Star Wars authors around, is certainly at his best with Onslaught: the book is fast-paced and does keep you guessing. Stackpole seems to focus more on the “technology” of the Yuuzhan Vong, which remains pretty cool and very spectacular. Their culture and “religion” get built up to, and we do get better insight into who these aliens are. A little, anyway. The writing manages to keep them fairly mysterious; that’s how “alien” these guys are. Even when they are explained to us perfectly, their dedication and so on manages to keep them a mystery, to us and to the characters, which further separates our humanity and their alienness. I think that sometimes authors do this unintentionally, but I think that Stackpole handles this so deftly in Onslaught that it’s obviously intentional. In terms of action, this book is action-packed — everything is leading up to something, and what it does is pretty amazing.

In terms of character development, I’m torn. What R. A. Salvatore put Han (and us) through in Vector Prime remains unmatched in any Star Wars book, so obviously Onslaught has a lot to live up to. I feel there is some development, with the furthering of Luke’s Jedi Master-ness and the clear divide and fracture happening within the Jedi order… along with Luke’s beginning suspicions that maybe the Jedi Order of the Republic pre-Empire was doomed to failure anyway, and that some new path is needed. Much of the focus is on the Solo children (and some on Han, especially with his heartbreaking decline and the way he treats a certain character), and call me jaded, but it feels like the typical Star Wars young Jedi development. “No, anger isn’t the way, no, being a Jedi doesn’t make us better than people,” etcetera. While it is “typical”, it is also necessary, and it is nice to see it tackled somewhat differently by Jade-Skywalker and Anakin Solo.

All in all, Onslaught is a very well written book and, combined with Ruin, the sequel and second book in the Dark Tide duology (soon to be reviewed), it is a very great read.

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