Rebel Dream (Enemy Lines, #1) - Aaron Allston The Return of the Rebel Alliance

The New Republic forces have taken Borleias as a staging area for the evacuation of the Inner Core. Self-appointed Chief of State, Pwoe, orders Wedge Antilles and gang to set up a defense for evacuees. But Wedge, Luke, and Mara have other plans...the plans for a new way of fighting. Meanwhile, Jaina the Trickster Goddess explodes onto the scene with the help of some old Wraiths.

NOTE: Based on audiobook and novel.

If I had to mark a book that began the turning of the tide for the Good Guys (Hint Hint: Note how I didn't say "New Republic"), it is this book. Aaron Allston's return to Star Wars marks a few things: 1) a veteran Star Wars writer returning, the first since Tyers/Stackpole, 2) a shift in the battle, and 3) a shift in tone. Allston had written many of the X-Wing books, so he was familiar with the landscape, and from his writing, it's obvious he is more than capable of writing Wedge, Luke, Mara, and even Jaina. Also, he is allowed to write the Good Guys kicking Yuuzhan Vong tail and this change makes the book far less dark than its predecessors.

Allston has a great grasp on characters. Wedge, Luke, Mara, and Jaina are all brilliantly written. I loved the reunion scene with Wedge and his family (watch out! You might get teary eyed!). Luke and Mara were decently done (they seem to be a tough pair for some authors to "get"), but Jaina, in my opinion, really shines. I thought Allston wrote her much better than even Cunningham (impressive, as she is a woman!!). As for new characters, there aren't many, but Tsavong Lah's father (sorry, I don't know how to spell his name!) was very interesting and well done. And kudos to Allston for the touching father-son scene between the Yuuzhan Vong. It's nice to see they aren't mindless, uncaring killing machines.

A lot of the events in this book are definitely setup for the next book, Rebel Stand. There is not much, if any, resolution in this book. But while that could be annoying, I liked it. It truly felt like a spanning novel, not a one-shot that happened to be tucked into the NJO (not that all the other NJO books have felt awkward or bad because they resolve their primary conflict by the end of the novel). I liked seeing the further devolution of the New Republic, a realigning of who is "bad" and who is "good" and who is just plain making matters worse.

The exploits of the Trickster Goddess finally make an appearance here, which I am glad (though it would have been so much more interesting to have Dark Jaina play all these pranks). I couldn't believe a teenager (or barely out of her teens) would get command of her own squadron, even if it were part of the ploy (why couldn't they do like Anakin-Ganner from Star by Star? Jaina acts as the leader, but someone more experienced is the leader). However, I did like how Kyp, Jag, and the Wraiths (Piggy and one guy I forgot) did support her and not all of the trickery was from her own mind.

The Coruscant mission seems to be starting great, though I am still perturbed that our heroes don't care about dumping their child on the nearest nanny droid. The Borleias campaign is also one of the most memorable campaigns for me, and I remember fondly drawing pictures of the space battle. I didn't even do that for the movies!

If there was one plotline that did make me groan, it was the Viqi Shesh-Tam-Danni Quee story. While I love the idea of a plant/a spy, I get tired of all these guys who are oh, so honest that are coerced into spying. I would have thought Viqi Shesh' time as Bad Guy would have been over. And for once, I'd love to see something like the following: Danni sees that Tam is all awkward around her and she thinks he is hitting on her, though terribly, when in fact, he is plagued by his coersion spying. And while that does somewhat crop up, Danni is way too easy to penetrate through Tam's facade, even though she doesn't know him from Bail.

After the tepid "Dark Journey" and the tearjerker, "Star by Star", "Rebel Dream" returns us to a Star Wars that many of us who read through the Bantam books are familiar with. There is humor; there are characters we love and enjoy; there are big events beginning. My biggest complaints are the obvious setup for the sequel, some shaky characterization, a regurgitation of plot points we've "Been there and done that", and just not having that mind-blown feeling when I finished. Otherwise, it's fun reading and definitely one of the better books of the NJO.