Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Bantam Spectra

As I continue on with finally getting around to reading the Star Wars novels that I’ve had on my shelves for well over a decade now, due to having been given them by a friend who was cleaning out his apartment, I went ahead with the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy, by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. Because everything about Star Wars has to be a trilogy of some sort, right? Anyway, once again, I decided to review all of them in one shot, rather than giving them all their own individual review. You’re welcome. Here we go, then:

black fleet 1Part 1: Before The Storm
Sixteen years (give or take) since the whole kerfuffel in A New Hope, the New Republic is experiencing a bit of a lull due to peace. Princess Leia (I’m certain, by now, it’s merely an honorary title) is President of the Republic, while Han is all domesticated with watching the kids and stuff. Chewbacca decides now’s a good time to go back home to Kashyyyk for his son’s coming-of-age ceremonies and various other hang-time with his own family. And Luke decides to go on a hermitage on Coruscant, something about deeper Jedi enlightenments of some sort, so he builds up some impressive digs on the beach. Leia’s under a lot of stress, mostly from talks with the Viceroy of the Yevethan Protectorate, one Nil Spaar, who seems a bit shady about his intentions. A fact that every one else seems to realize, except for Leia. And Lando takes Lobot, C3PO and R2D2 along to check out a mysterious ghost ship that may be an artifact from a long-dead world. And then Nil Spaar declares war on the Republic, because reasons. Fade out…

black fleet 2Part 2: Shield Of Lies
Lando, Lobot, C-3PO and R2-D2 are all stranded on the mysterious ghost ship; they have no idea how long they’ve been there, where the ship is jumping at, and trying to navigate around inside the thing is about as simple as trying to describe a David Lynch movie in one sentence. Lando and Lobot’s space suits are beginning to get kinda funky, while tensions mount as the hours go by, everyone still clinging to hope that rescue is on the way. Meantime, the Republic officials have called off all rescue teams. Whoops. In Plot B, Luke is off with that mysterious lady that he met in the previous book, hopping around the galaxy to track down his mother. The mysterious lady has intriguing clues, yes, but she’s also annoyingly passive aggressive and elusive about everything. Which seems about par for the course. And in Plot C, Leia is still contending with the douchenozzels of the Republic Senate while the Yevethan continues to commit their own wacky style of galactic genocide in the name of xenophobic purity. And then Han is captured by the Yevethan. Fade out…

black fleet 3Part 3: Tyrant’s Test
Things are coming to a head, as the Senate is calling for a recall of Princess Leia as President of the New Republic, and Leia is kinda sorta thinking maybe she should…but then she experiences a spontaneous stiffening of the upper lip and doesn’t. Luke is still playing courier to the mysterious passive aggressive bent who won’t give him a straight answer about anything, and ends up being found out that she had SECRETS and LIES!!! when they wind up finding the group of women who can wield something that’s TOTALLY not the Force…even though it has the same properties and stuff. The leader of this galactic Lilith Fair explains to Luke that they have never heard of this mother of his, but then reluctantly agrees to help ward off the Nazi Yevethan threat. Meanwhile, Chewie and a bunch of other Wookies storm the ship Han is being held captive on, and manage to lay the smackdown on the Yevethans on board and escape with a tenderized Han due to the help of one of those ladies using the Force her magic that’s totally not the Force. Meanwhile, Lando (remember him? He’s part of the story, too) manages to make a bit of headway into discovering what the mystery deralect ship is, which is to say not much, when they’re attacked by space pirates (the single most awesome thing I’ve typed during this entire review); C3PO has the droid equivalent of an existential crisis, and Lobot hooks himself up to the ship to discover not only where they’re headed, but that the ship itself is some kind of mechanized sperm bent on fertilizing the egg that is the dead, frozen-over planet it originated from. Believe me, that’s the simplest way I can put that. And since Nil Spaar is now a power-crazed jerk who can only think about sex and how great his species is, he doesn’t notice when the Imperial slaves they took back at the beginning of the trilogy series Order 66 their butts and take control of most of the fleet, helping to stem off this Black Fleet crisis for the next threat to pop up in another novel. The end.

Overall, like a lot of the other Star Wars books that end up as trilogies, The Black Fleet Crisis could have been told in one shot; in this case, there’s a lot of exposition involving political positioning and military strategy, like if someone took that pre-Death Star run briefing scene from A New Hope and stretched that out into a bit over half of the movie. I’d make a similar riff on the political exposition, but Lucas already did the job for me by way of The Phantom Menace. You get the idea. I understand there are many out there who really get into that kind of detailed minuet with their fiction. I really don’t. At least, not in my space opera.

The parts I rather enjoyed were the bits involving Lando, Lobot, and everyone’s favorite droids trying to find out the mystery behind the ghost vessel that’s been eluding everyone who tried to get even close enough to take a look. There was some much-needed character development for Lobot, there, that I enjoyed. And C3PO getting rather philosophical as to what exactly made one sentient was fun. Otherwise, I found the side plot where Luke goes off with a complete stranger to “find his mother” rather pointless. I mean, sure, this was written before the prequel trilogy was even a twinkle in George Lucas’ brain, but I don’t think anyone was fooled into thinking he was going to find his mother, especially in an Expanded Universe novel. The whole time, I kept wanting to shout at the book, “WHY ARE YOU PUTTING UP WITH THAT MANIPULATIVE WHINER?!?” But, then I’d have everyone around me further question my already shaky grasp at sanity. I can see it now: “Come on, we’ll take you where the books won’t bother you anymore…” Can’t have that. I like the voices. They’re very soothing.

Anyway, to end this review, I’ll give The Black Fleet Crisis trilogy of books a “worth a read” recommendation; it was well-written and did maintain a decent clip despite delving a bit into exposition territory.