: Welcome back, dear readers, to The Truce at Bakura, which I can’t deny keeps falling in my estimation with each chapter. Seriously, I know it’s been a while since I read this one, and I don’t regret deciding to give this the full treatment instead of the slightly less detailed version we have planned for some other books, but…this one definitely feels like it was visited by, if not the Suck Fairy, a pixie of disappointment.
: It’s been a similar while for me, probably, but…let’s just say that the first few weeks we took with this book weren’t happy weeks elsewhere, so I was concerned that my reactions to the book were tinged overmuch with that. It seems not.
: Anyway. If you’re reading this and you’re in the Chicagoland area, next weekend (Presidents’ Day 2017), I will be at Capricon in Wheeling, IL. I have a handful of panels, mostly about either conventions themselves, or else about myth, fiction, transformation, and IP rights–and yes, there is one that will probably be me talking a lot about Campbell and Kurosawa.
: The Falcon gets a pledge of safe conduct, and Leia says that “now we can get to work.” Han wonders about that–they’ve been plenty busy, as he sees it. He is, however, thankful that she’s “thinking sensibly” about their next steps–now, he says, they can decide whether to stay at all.
Leia says that wasn’t her point, but it’s got some truth to it.
Wow, that’s a lot of miscommunication in about four paragraphs.
: And it would be okay…but it’s almost as if every page has the footnote “Leia and Han are going to need to learn to be a couple so we must show evolution” on it, so in conclusion, :/.
: Anyway. Luke asks if Leia is feeling OK, and she says she’s “starting to think more like Han” and feels worried about the whole thing.
Han gets a great aside:
[M]aybe she was picking up a sense of self-preservation. Skywalkers seemed to be born without it.
Heh! Though Han thinking of Leia as “a Skywalker” is a bit…quick.
: That is one good thing about the book: Tyers has a good comedic voice and timing sometimes.
: Luke cuts into the reverie, saying he needs to stay, and offers Leia the Flurry‘s dedicated landing craft.
Han says no way in hell, they’re taking the Falcon; Leia worries about “the impression we’ll create,” Han is offended, calling it camo, Leia repeats that she wants to make a good first impression, and I’m still amazed at this. Ahem.
: I think what’s bothering both of us most is that it’s Leia that’s a bit off. Han seems… mostly fine. Leia’s thinking and actions feel too studied.
: Luke settles the argument that they can’t store the Falcon anyway–so, why offer the shuttle anyway, Luke?–and Leia says as long as everybody dresses formally. Except Han, she adds with “an evil gleam in her eye,” he needs to look the part of the Falcon‘s pilot.
I’m just going to move on.
: Thank you. I didn’t even know what to do with that line.
: We’re riding in Leia’s head now. Luke has taken a shower after getting Leia’s story about their attempt to hide, and tried to raise Commander Thanas. Han grumbles that this is a trap, making the Alliance divide its forces–the Rebels have been asked to pick up some of the Bakuran defensive envelope, which Luke and Leia see as a positive PR move–and they get Thanas. Leia leans over Luke’s shoulder, and notes that “his hair caught dim cabin lights like an aureole.” That’s not as dirty as I first read it; it means “like a halo.” Which isn’t subtle, either.
I knew what aureole meant, for the record.
I still agree about the subtlety, though.
: As the Falcon descends, Han tells Luke that the latter will have to reveal his identity soon enough. Leia is shocked, but calms down when she realizes Han just mean his name, not that he’s Vader’s son. I admit I like this inasmuch as it gives us some more reminders that Leia is…let’s go with, grappling with this all. But then, we also get it spelled out. Leia and Luke agree that they’ll reveal who Luke is in person, and we get a nice overview of Bakura from space (saucer shaped repair station, blindingly white rocks, civilian and military spaceports with standard road and traffic patterns, parks, and Imperial garrisons–Threepio freaks out at that) as Han takes the ship in for a landing. Luke unbuckles before they touch down, and Han gets defensive about how, see, Luke trusts the Falcon, the landing is smooth, and Chewie points out a welcoming party. Leia, by the way, is wearing a freshly-made copy of her A New Hope white senatorial gown, which is described as “threadbare.”
Well, who knows how many washings it needed after that trash compactor.
: Oh good, I’m not the only one who got stuck at that word. Threadbare is…Kenobi’s Jedi robes in A New Hope, in my personal connotation dictionary. What Leia’s gown is, is “simple,” “stark,” maybe.
But point taken about the washings and what that might have done to any piece of clothing.
And okay, Han getting defensive about how Luke trusts the Falcon is a bit funny, except that he’s telling Leia off with that defensiveness, and we’re right back to “um.”
: Luke is wearing a white shipsuit, without insignia, along with a belt for blaster, saber, and utility pouches. (Ah, GFFA fashion, again.) Leia says she guesses that’s how a Jedi dresses (though myself, I’d assume black over white, just on history, or else homespun robes, monk style), while wishing in her head that he looked older. Luke checks with Han, who shrugs, and Leia says, “what does it matter what he thinks?”
I may need alcohol here.
: I’ve got an unopened bottle of aged port…
: This is what I’m seeing as the biggest flaw. It’s not just that this doesn’t stack up against Zahn, who was able to invent five more years of history, but…you remember everything we said about Zahn knowing how these three interact? Tyers just hasn’t got it.
: And it feels like I’m trying too hard to get exactly what is it that she hasn’t got. I kind of have homed in on “Leia’s off,” as stated above. YMMV.
: Anyway. Chewie elects to come along, the optics of the interspecies Alliance and the advantages of more eyes, and out they go.
Han snarks about white stormtrooper armor, and that puts Leia on a tangent of her days as a Senator and a Rebel, and her father–her real father.
“Bail Organa, who had raised and trained her and nurtured her sense of self-worth and self-sacrifice. Regardless of biology, she would never own another man by that title. Period. Enter data. End program.”
: See, this I have no problem with. If anything, I’m surprised that she doesn’t have the thought “first chance we get, I’ll have to sit down and have a loooooong talk with Luke.”
: We see Nereus, who is “absolutely In Charge,” and Leia lets him receive her formally; he welcomes her “in the name of the emperor,” and she drops her first bomb: the Emperor is dead. Nereus, of course, calls it rumors and lies; she doubles down, saying Vader killed him, and Nereus says that the Emperor “should never have trusted a Sith lord”–I guess Palpatine himself being Sith was a secret, that I can believe–and she finishes that Vader is dead.
And Luke, amazingly, clearly wants her to add that he died a hero.
: Yes, that got a huge side-eye from me too.
: Luke, time and place. This is neither. But Leia is more concerned with the “not enough of a hero” factor, instead of the “don’t antagonize these people” one.
: That is to say, she refuses to add that, mentally thinking that Vader’s “ten minutes of contrition” wouldn’t be enough. The trained diplomat would at least have added a “not a good idea anyway.”
: She introduces Han, who is completely impolite; Chewie, who bows but grumbles; and “Commander Skywalker of Tatooine, Jedi Knight.”
Luke bows as she’d coached him, and Nereus is taken aback. Luke doesn’t respond, instead letting Leia say that the Alliance plans to restore the Jedi Order, and Luke is the head of it.
And Leia figures that Luke wants her to add “and only member,” which she thinks is the dumbest thing ever, and I agree, and I can’t really believe Luke would want that.
: But I think that’s what I feel as part of the wrongness. I can’t believe Luke would want that, I can’t believe Leia would believe it either. Even Han still thinks of Luke as naive, you know, “the kid,” eternally wet behind the ears–but not stupid, and Leia has never had cause to think that.
: It clicks for Nereus, who says that it’s a good thing Bakura’s economy is solid, because there’s “an astronomical reward” for his capture, alive only.
Luke says he’s aware, and Leia thinks that’s nothing new, they’re all Imperial Most Wanted. Yeah, but I imagine this is also the Emperor/Vader angle.
: The “alive” was almost certainly Vader.
: Nereus adds that Threepio and Artoo will need to be restraining-bolted, Leia agrees (it’s standard procedure), and gives her speech:
“The Imperial Fleet is no longer a presence in this part of the galaxy. We are here to assist you in repelling the invaders. Once that is accomplished, we will leave you. Bakura must choose its own destiny. We will not attempt to impose ours upon your… on the Bakuran people.”
Nereus half-smiles, and we jump to Luke’s head. Nereus is a power-hungry standard imperial governor (he’s explained to be lot more malicious than we were shown last chapter, certainly), but under that, he’s terrified. Luke recognizes that the terror is probably of the Ssi-ruuk, and wonders if the semihuman presences he’d sensed in the battle were captives. He also notes that Nereus might well jump to the Alliance if it saved him.
We shift scene a bit, and Luke has filled in Han on that detail–in a civilian shuttle supplied by the Bakurans.
What. Did you even sweep for bugs?
: I don’t know, I couldn’t see through the facepalm.
: At any rate. Bakura’s a wet enough world that Luke is damp-legged, and they’re off to an emergency session of the Bakuran senate. Leia asks Threepio about Bakuran protocol, he’s clueless, Artoo has the probe data, they bicker, and Threepio explains the nominal-government structure we got last chapter. Han is unsurprised,
: With my eyebrows trying to escape under my hairline, I feel the need to point out that Will meant “his clothing is getting damp because apparently the moisture is at Maryland-at-August levels.”
…which, if you have never experienced that–the nicest months here are late September and October. Try to visit then. That’s all I’m going to say.
: The copilot, who is also staring at Chewie in semishock, explains that they’re at the Bakur complex, the planetary seat of government; especially under the old Bakur Corporation, before the planet was conquered.
: The full scope I read into that may have been unintentional, but that’s a nice touch anyway. Luke thinks the pilot must have never seen a Wookiee. Which is fair enough, it’s a big galaxy, but then you wonder how many other aliens she would have seen except for the one native species they have on the planet, and from there, if she’s ever been off-world, probably not, and we’re right back to “Bakura is fairly provincial.”
: They land, and Luke and Han do a quick security check, Leia pointing out that “if they mean to hurt us, the entire mission has already failed.” Which isn’t exactly a reason not to be secure…
OK, OK. Think positive.
The party comes to a red-marble-ceilinged room and a white stone arch, with “scanners hovering on silent repulsorlifts.” (Nice touch–we’ll get it later, but with Bakura’s repulsorlift industry, they’re everywhere.)
And there are four stormtroopers. And Leia says:
“They’re here illegally. We are the galaxy’s rightful envoy to Bakura.”
I cannot parse that sentence. Leia is treating Bakura like it’s an independent world picking between the two sides. It’s not, and Leia should know that the mere fact that the Emperor is dead isn’t making every world independent. I just…what.
: Yep. Leia reacting to Imperial presence that way makes no sense, but also making no sense: Leia reacting to Imperial presence that way only now, even granted that she would have that reaction. Which I do not grant, to be absolutely clear.
: OK…there’s a weapons check, and Luke checks his blaster, Han same, and then Leia clears her throat. Finally, a scene I like:
Han shot her a look that might’ve fried lead, then pulled out his boot knife, the pocket blaster from his wrist sheath, and his favorite vibroknife.
Yay for extended disarming!
: This is good comedic timing.
Also, note that it’s “his favorite vibroknife.” One wonders where the ones that he doesn’t like as much are stashed.
: Chewie’s about to check his bowcaster and bandolier, when Luke has an idea, and tells him and Artoo to hang back. Chewie doesn’t mind. Artoo probably doesn’t care–and he’s bolted anyway.
They head back to the door, and a stormtrooper points out that a lightsaber is a weapon.
Luke extended a tendril of Force energy and answered soberly, “This is a symbol of honor. Not an offensive weapon. Let it pass.”
“Let it pass,” echoed the stormtrooper in the same sober tone.
: *opens mouth, reaches for keyboard, eyes big as teacups, he just did what*
: We’ll save comment on this for the next chapter, since the first thing that happens is Luke wondering if this was the right call. I will say he wonders about the absolute wrong thing.
: *pulls hands back, closes mouth, eyes return to normal size and she nods emphatically*
: The stormtrooper recovers enough to advise Threepio be left outside–seems Bakura has a bias against droids based on history–droid malfunctions almost wiped out the first colony ship.
And now they’re being menaced by a race that uses humans as droid batteries! This, children, is what we call “not subtle.” But that’s also Star Wars, so eh.
: Well, there’s not subtle and not subtle. Entechment is Nightmare Fuel (TVTM) enough that I didn’t think Bakura needed an extra reason to be extremely frightened and creeped out.
: At any rate, Threepio starts to talk, but Leia cuts him off and says he’ll wait inside (a protocol droid being kept out of a formal meeting being useless; but distance would also be good).
And finally, they are announced, as “Senator Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, and escorts.”
And we’re out.
I was about to say I don’t dislike this book as much as it may seem, but I have to retract that statement in light of the fact that I really don’t know. It’s…suffering a lot from my own greater sophistication than when I was a teenager, both in terms of books overall and Star Wars awareness. The latter is excused by a relative lack of stuff to draw on. The former…isn’t.
I almost find myself mentally rewriting things, taking the parts that work (the concept of the Ssi-ruuk, the idea of an Enemy Mine situation not days after Endor…) and putting in characterization that feels truer, more fleshed out. That’s the weak point, as I’m sure I’ll say over and over again.
But I’ve talked enough now; Z, care to weigh in?
: At the risk of harping on the same string too many times, I wish Tyers had gotten Han wrong instead of Leia, if she had to get someone that wrong. Other than that, I believe Will’s analysis right above here is spot-on.
There’s a bit in there which also goes into my “fictional places I want to visit” file; apparently the white stone outcropping on which the city is placed is entirely quartz, which would be gorgeous.
The other thing I started to notice, seeing as how this was Chapter 6 already, is that we are moving a bit slowly. Don’t ask me to do it right off the top of my head, but I have a strong sense that these 16 pages in my paperback could have been 10, 11 pages instead.
And I don’t have much else to say either. Next week, meetings, in two senses of the word. In the meantime, may the Force be with you.