Colleen’s Book Corner: New Jedi Order: Dark Tide I: Onslaught
Author: Michael A. Stackpole
Published: February 2000
Set: 25 ABY
Meet the Latest Author!
Whew! After last book’s emotional turmoil, it was great to get a more action-focused narrative. There was still a lot of emotional work happening, but Stackpole’s excellent handling of both space and ground warfare shaped the focus. That’s where he particularly shined, giving the reader multiple unique battle sequences from many POVs. He chose to write shorter, punchier chapters than Salvatore, keeping the pace moving at a nice clip. He was less adept at dialogue - though Corran Horn’s voice was fully realized - especially with our lady characters. I just couldn’t hear Leia or Mara when they were speaking. Which was fine. It was a minor nitpick for an enjoyable read.
Stackpole was Better with Newer Characters
Stackpole was better off when he focused on characters like the Solo kid trio or less established characters like Jedi Ganner Rhysode. It probably didn’t help that I had been main-lining Timothy Zahn’s work for most of this year, because I loved his ability to capture the Original Trilogy characters. And Zahn created Mara Jade, so she most likely wouldn’t be written as well by other authors. Either way, whenever Stackpole pivoted to the kiddos, I felt much more invested.
Damn Bothans and the New Republic
He also established the inner New Republic confrontations and politics well, making me hate Borsk Fey’lya even more, which I didn’t think was possible. Then he introduced another Bothan character and tried to get me to like him...which I did..grudgingly. Where Fey’lya was sly and conniving, his cousin Traest Kre’fey was even-tempered and a true warrior for the New Republic. I hoped that we get even more from him in this series.
The internal conflicts within the New Republic are almost as dangerous as the Yuuzhan Vong themselves. It was interesting that Stackpole chose not to give them any viewpoint chapters until the book's end. Instead, our protagonists interacted with various Vong representatives, learning that their cruelty and ingenuity stretches further than they imagined. They were a captivating foe, mainly because no one knew how to read them or engage with them. They’d better be formidable if this series is supposed to last 19 books!
More Insight on the Vong
Stackpole also did a great job expanding on the Vong’s “technology,” adding some Starship Trooper-style insectoid cooperative species. I wondered how long it took the Vong to establish this kind of biotech and whether there was ever an uprising from the various creatures.
It will be interesting to move from one author to another, getting their differing styles. Stackpole wrote part two of this duology, so at least they will be cohesive. What an undertaking, attempting to keep the main storyline together while also making it your own!
Final Thoughts: 7/10 Lightsabers
If you’re a completionist and want to read the entire New Jedi Order series, you will definitely want to read this book. I don’t think it’s one I would revisit on a reread, but it was a quick, intense, action-packed read.