Dark Tide 2Michael A. Stackpole
Del Rey

The alien Yuuzhan Vong have launched an attack on the worlds of the Outer Rim. They are merciless, without regard for life—and they stand utterly outside the Force. Their ever-changing tactics stump the New Republic military. Even the Jedi, once the greatest guardians of peace in the galaxy, are rendered helpless by this impervious foe—and their solidarity has begun to unravel. While Luke struggles to keep the Jedi together, Knights Jacen Solo and Corran Horn set off on a reconnaissance mission to the planet Garqi, an occupied world. There, at last, they uncover a secret that might be used to undermine the enemy—if only they can stay alive long enough to use it!

I mentioned to a coworker the other day that while the Bothans were somewhat nobel-sounding from their very brief mention in The Return Of The Jedi (the “Many Bothans died to bring us this information” line by Mon Mothma, remember?), in the expanded Star Wars universe, the Bothans are generally portrayed as intergalactic douche nozzles. In the New Republic era, they play a prominent role in politics, and with very few exceptions, are opportunistic, power-hungry and duplicitous, not above employing any means to achieve their ends. Which goes to show that politics suck no matter what galaxy you live in.

I mention this because, in this second part of the two-book Dark Tide storyline in the New Jedi Order maxi-series, the New republic is currently headed by the Bothan Borsk Fey’lya, a politician that somehow has never had a love for the Jedi, and has done everything in his power to turn the public opinion against the galactic peace-keepers, not to mention effectively plugging his ears and shutting his eyes against proof of the new and deadly threat that is invading the galaxy. And it’s going to be a war that will make the war against the Empire seem like a minor playground skirmish by comparison.

In Dark Tide II: Ruin, as the saying goes, the slang term for excrement gets real, as the intergalactic Luddites known as the Yuuzhan Vong begin invading the Outer Rim, enslaving planets and literally growing their conquering force. We’re given a glimpse into the Yuuzhan Vong culture, what makes them tick, their religious and theology…and it truly chilling.

Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is struggling to keep his Jedi from splintering, attend to his ailing wife, and try to find a way to effectively fight the very powerful enemy invasion. The death tolls are high, the psychological scars are even higher, an attempt at sending a diplomat for peaceful negotiations doesn’t end well, the remnant of the Empire is called upon to help defend the universe, and in the end a planet that could have helped turn the tide, was decimated and the Jedi vilified by their own Republic.

Fantastic stuff, really; so far, this has been a crackling good saga in the ongoing expanded Star Wars universe. The story is dark, doesn’t take the shiny happy route, and gives some depth to the Vong beyond just “they’re the bad guys.” So far so good with my enjoyment of the New Jedi Order series. Bring on the next in the list…