Colleen’s Book Corner: New Jedi Order: Balance Point
Author: Kathy Tyers
Published October 2000
Set 26 ABY
A New Villain Rises
I feel like so much has already happened in this series, and I’m only on book 6 out of 19. Characters have been lost as the Yuuzhan Vong march slowly but methodically across the galaxy, and there appears to be no way to stop them. A Vong villain takes a huge offensive step forward, just as the Jedi must fall back yet again. Indeed, this is the first Vong since Nom Anor who has lasted long enough to make an impression. The other principal Vong villains intrigued me at first, but they quickly met their ends, so I was waiting for this guy to croak too. NOPE! Here’s hoping he hangs out longer.
The Solo Kids Are(n’t) All Right
About a year has passed, and the Solo kids are 17 (twins Jaina and Jacen) and 16 (Anakin), those prime ages when young people are trying to find themselves and their places in the world. After a devastating injury, Jaina’s fury at her mother comes out in full force. Anakin is chock full of piss and vinegar, and Jacen is...Well, Jacen has a lot of Holden Caulfield angst in him at the moment. He’s always been my least favorite of the Solo kids, and in this book he finally decides to stop using the Force, as he’s been pondering for the past five books. It’s an interesting choice to make, but it also doesn’t make for the most enjoyable read. He’s a very realistic teenager in that he doesn’t know his way and is at odds with his hormones, but he’s also falling prey to that ever-present youthful instinct: pride. He’s both sure of himself completely and yet doubtful, and there seems to be a voice whispering to him. Is it the Force or something more sinister?
We Stan Mara Jade!
Mara also finally has more things to do in this book! Understandably, she was sick for the first part of the series, which had her sidelined from the narrative, but I was itching to hear her distinct voice again. And Tyers is a great writer for lady characters. Her Mara, Jaina, and Leia are the best yet of the series. The other authors have done passably well with their characters, but this book finally made me worry for them and become even more attached to Mara and Jaina.
What Is Everyone Else Doing?
I found while reading that I’m constantly wondering what other characters are up to. Why is Karrde only a bit player so far? Where is Booster Terrick? What’s up with those matriarchs in the Hapes Cluster? Will we see Corran and Mirax before series’s end? Can we please get more Jagged Fel and the Empire of the Hand? I’m sure they’ll pop back up as the series goes on, but my mind keeps wandering away from the main narrative when my favorite secondary characters aren’t there. I enjoy the Solo kids, but they’re just not as compelling for me yet. Unless they’re accompanied by someone they spark against. The stakes are high for these books, but I’m never nervous for the central trio - Luke, Leia, and Han - so if they’re a chapter’s focus, I’m aware of their plot armor.
Always, the Refugees Suffer Most
The book’s plot really drives home the point that the refugee crisis is reaching critical mass. This part of the series is really hitting home for me, particularly with all that’s going on in the world. The galaxy’s refugees are shuttled from planet to planet, forced from their destroyed homes to new worlds who grudgingly accept them or have their own selfish reasons for admitting them. I finally got to visit the planet Duro, and it’s a polluted wasteland orbited by floating cities, an exact opposite of lush Ithor, but still a prime target for the Vong. The Duros could give two shits about the refugees, yet they’re fine putting them on the surface to make the planet habitable again. The exploitation of and hatred for the refugees is abhorrent. Yes, everyone is frightened of the invaders, but couldn’t someone reach out and help these people? But that’s not usually how it works. The refugees are seen as a burden as well as a draw for the Vong, so no one wants them. The Ryn in particular are seen as a menace - compatible to the Romani people in our world - when in fact they’re industrious and savvy.
Final Thoughts: 7/10 Lightsabers
While the refugee storyline is compelling, this novel felt like a pit-stop in the narrative. There was a lot of lateral movement by our heroes as they tried to scrape along defensively, which was frustrating. I don’t believe in Kyp Durron’s philosophy, but something needs to be done. The fight must be brought to the Vong, or they’ll take over everything.