star wars star by starTroy Denning
Del Rey

It is a solemn time for the New Republic, as the merciless Yuuzhan Vong continue their campaign of destruction. The brutal enemy has unleashed a savage creature capable of finding—and killing—Jedi Knights. Now Leia Organa Solo faces a terrible ultimatum. If the location of the secret Jedi base is not revealed within one week, the Yuuzhan Vong will blast millions of refugee ships into oblivion. As the battered but still unbroken Jedi scramble to deal with the newest onslaught, Leia’s son Anakin lays out a daring plan. He will lead a Jedi strike force into the heart of enemy territory in order to sabotage the Yuuzhan Vong’s deadliest weapons. There, with his brother and sister at his side, he will come face-to-face with his destiny—as the New Republic, still fighting the good fight, will come face-to-face with theirs…

Okay, remember how, in the review of the previous novel in the New Jedi Order series, I mentioned near the end that things could turn dark for our protagonists between now and the end of the series? Well…here we go. Within the 600+ some pages of Star By Star (which makes this entry the longest overall in the series), events transpire that make The Empire Strikes Back seem like Happy Frolic Time with the giant mutant tick-cows on the fields of Naboo. I’m sure Wookieepedia would know what those things Anakin Skywalker rides around on to impress Amadala in Episode II are known as, but for lack of an internet connection as I jot this down, “giant mutant tick-cows”works for me. But I digress.

Star By Star starts off with the unveiling of the Yuuzhan Vong’s latest weapon bioengineered to hunt down and eradicate the Jedi: the voxyn, a nasty, multi-legged lizard thing with a nasty bite (among several other things) that was developed from vornskr, which you may remember being the beasties Grand Admiral Thrawn employed to sniff out Jedi. These things literally sense-sniff out those Force sensitive types like an acid-spitting mutant lizard bloodhound with an addiction to peanut butter. Anakin Solo and his two older siblings decide to gather a bunch of their fellow Jedi comrades to do something incredibly stupid: “surrender” to a Yuuzhan Vong, abduct their ship (with the help of some rather effective battle droids developed by Land Calrissian) and make it to the Worldship to take out the voxyn queen, thereby taking out any more voxyn clones. Only, things don’t go exactly as planned (naturally), and heavy losses happen on both sides as they battle through insurmountable odds on the Yuuzhan Vong’s home turf.

Meanwhile, on Corruscant, the government of the New Republic is further fractured within as the traitorous motives of a Senator is brought to light, Borsk Fey’lya pulls a Severus Snape (yes, I’m well aware I’m mixing my geek metaphors) as he literally gives his life defending Coruscant, an attempt at kidnapping little Ben Skywalker is made, and by the time the book ends, nearly half of the Jedi who went on the mission are dead, including one of the Solos, Jacen has been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong, and Coruscant falls. Yeah, things have gotten pretty dark, pretty fast.

Yeah, Star By Star is a pretty massive, and not entirely by the physical size of the book itself. I’m liking how things aren’t just cut and dried, black and white, merely spelled out throughout; there are casualties on each side, and not everything is really as it seems, like any good space opera, and the story’s doing a rather good job in fleshing out not only the protagonists, but also the antagonists as well. I have the hardcover edition, and even then the story kept me engrossed until the end, when I felt a bit punched in the gut. Nicely done, methinks.