The Unifying Force - James Luceno "How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?"

And here, at the end of the 19 book long series known as the New Jedi Order, I end with a "Return of the King" quote that seems somewhat fitting, considering all the trials that our characters have had to endure.

As if things weren't bad enough, the war is escalating to a new level. The Galactic Alliance has deployed Alpha Red, a biological weapon that wipe out the Yuuzhan Vong completely, at Caluula. And Shimrra unleashes the full wrath of the Yuuzhan Vong war machine at Zonoma Sekot. It is down to the wire...will our heroes win? What is winning, if it means the decimation of an entire species?

NOTE: Based on novel and audiobook.

WOW. This has been a long, arduous journey, but I'm glad I've made it to the end. And let me tell you, I'm both excited and sad to be at this point. Excited, because Keyes' "The Final Prophecy" was a great setup for the finale, and sad, because who isn't sad at the end of the era (when this comes out, it will be the evening before the release of the final Harry Potter movie and I know many who have that same sense of excitement/sorrow)? I have full intentions to review the series as a whole, but I would prefer to do that in a blog type setting (trust me, it's gonna be novella length). Instead, this is just concerning "The Unifying Force".

Honestly, way, way back when this was first released, when I first found out James Luceno, who wrote the mediocre (in my opinion) "Hero's Trial" and "Jedi Eclipse", I was worried. I didn't particularly like the author, his writing was hugely dense, he spent way too much time on EU-dumping, and overall, I didn't think he could handle the end to such a large series. However, both then and now, at the end of the audiobook, I will admit, I was wrong.

Luceno's heavy writing is definitely still present. We get a recap of the last book (somewhat understandable), a recap of the major events of the ENTIRE series (honestly, if you haven't been keeping up, why bother?), filling in details that the other books left out (such as the deaths of HALF the Jedi, the deaths of over 300 TRILLION people, etc.), the call signs of EACH and EVERY pilot, a description of EACH and EVERY person in EACH and EVERY location (which ends up sounding like a grocery list: "And standing next to Leia, was the furry haired Bothan, the large headed Mon Calamari, a female Barabel, a male Barabel, Jaina, Jacen, Luke, Mara" get what I mean?) just to show that, yes, all the bajillions of characters from the previous books are still here and valid, and tons of details in the middle of the story. This was REALLY bad in the first half, which threatened to grind the entire story to a halt. I found myself constantly bored and finding other things to do than listen to the audiobook. Oh, I have to shuffle papers, can't listen while doing that. Oh, I have to slurp some coffee, better turn off the iPod, might miss something as I'm slurping. Oh, my ears hurt, I don't really want to put the earbuds back in. And so on. And so forth.

Fortunately, the second half saves the book and bumps the rating from the inevitable three stars to four stars. With all the characters, backgrounds, recaps established, Luceno can focus on tying up all the loose threads. And frak, that's what he's best at. Luceno must have this like photographic memory, because he remembers to wrap up pretty much any question a person may have. (And the questions he doesn't wrap up, I am pretty sure he couldn't wrap up because of Lucasfilm or whomever is pulling the strings up there.)

The fight on Zonoma Sekot, with Kyp and Corran, was great. I love how Corran is like, "Why do we have these stupid ships, if they won't fire?! What are we supposed to do, look pretty?" Perfect characterization.

As for the Coruscant battle...WOW! I knew the outcome, I knew the BIG SECRET, but I was STILL impressed with the execution. Jacen gets an AMAZING scene that ties back into "Balance Point"; Luke gets to kick some royal @ss; Mara gets a chance to be something other than stereotypical Kick @ss GirlTM.

And the conclusion was, again, brilliant and well-executed. At the end, Sekot has a "Let's tell the audience what the hell is going on" scene, but for once, I actually appreciated it and wasn't annoyed at all. Nas Choka gets to be a real sentient, instead of a Yuuzhan Vong stereotype, the mystery of Zonoma Sekot revealed, and the galaxy is "set right". But don't think that everything is rosy, posy. Not once did I get the feeling that everything went back to roses and sunshine the day after this book. I get the feeling they would be spending quite some time cleaning up this mess.

Other than Luceno's writing, the only other complaint I have is that there are very few real character moments (other than with Jacen). The characters pretty much just push along the plot to its conclusion. Again, it wasn't bad, you pretty much expected it from the onset, but I did want to warn that this isn't like "Conquest" or "Traitor".

If you have been following the New Jedi Order since "Vector Prime", you definitely DO NOT want to miss out on this. Unlike a lot of other series, this IS a REALLY good conclusion to the series, written by someone who is more than capable of tying up the complicated threads of 19 books.