Vector Prime - R.A. Salvatore "I had built this bubble around us...Nothing could hurt us—could really hurt us."

Twenty-five years have past since Luke Skywalker went from a farm boy on Tatooine to destroyer of the Death Star. Han and Leia are married with three teenagers, Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin. Luke has married once-enemy, Mara Jade. But things are never easy for our heroes. Mara is inflicted with a strange illness. And on a far away scientific station on Belkadan, Danni Quee receives the first hint of a menace about to invade the galaxy.

NOTE: Based on audiobook and novel.

The year is 1999. The Phantom Menace is in theaters, the first Star Wars movie in over fifteen years. Del Rey has acquired the license for Star Wars novels. And The Powers That Be knew that there had to be changes. Readers complained about the lack of a cohesive storyline, about the invulnerability of our major characters, about the lack of a decent threat. And thus, "Vector Prime" was born.

For me, "Vector Prime" isn't much different than the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. The stories both tell are very similar: the impending doom of a nation/galaxy. Neither know what is about to come, both are pretty contented (even if peace is constantly just barely out of reach for the New Republic), and both have enemies they don't know/understand.

The Yuuzhan Vong threat was wonderfully executed. Salvatore nicely introduces (but not TOO much) this strange and foreign culture and begins laying the foundation for novels to come. Yammosks. Dovin basals. Ooglith masquers. The blankness in the Force (though exacty what this means still remains a mystery to me). I personally like the new "darker" edge, and I like the movement back to an epic war and story. Many of the Bantam novels were one shots or trilogies; there was little overall story and enemies appeared suddenly in one novel, only to be killed off or arrested by the end. Furthermore, many of these enemies (such as Admiral Daala) lacked the punch to make them ominous villains. What villains could be more scary than ones you don't know and ones who are invulnerable to your greatest asset?

Salvatore did a fair job with the recurring characters. Han, Luke, Leia, and Mara were well done for the most part, and these aren't the easiest characters to recreate (trust me, I've read loads of poor attempts). Many could criticize Han for his actions, but given what happens in the course of the novel (no spoilers, although it has been 11+ years so you probably know already), I thought it was believable. A real, major character dies in the novel, and his death was well done and poignant. I even liked how Salvatore brought Jacen out of the "goofy, animal dork" that the Young Jedi Knight novels painted him as.

But that doesn't mean the characters were perfect. I honestly groaned when I read about "battle hardened" Jaina at the ripe old age of 16. Really? I get she's been through those YJK adventures, but to go so far and say she's battle-hardened and a superbly wonderful pilot able to outbeat Kyp Durron in a pointless scene at Lando's Folly is just over-the-top. Anakin and Jacen are slightly annoying in the same regards. I liked how they bickered about the Force and what it means, as that does feel like something teenagers would do, but please, stop treating the kids like they are 20-year olds.

The worst was Danni Quee. I can't imagine a then-18 year-old being allowed on such an uber special mission, nor can I imagine a now-21 year-old being an "inspiration" for the entire team. Unless she is the Littlest Cancer Patient. Then she can be an inspiration.

There are some nice action scenes in the novels, particularly the one between Mara and Corr (Mara gets the first YV kill! WOOHOO!). I also like the introduction of the Battle Meld. But the way that the Helska Yammosk is dealt with is more goofy science (melting ice can make a planet EXPLODE??? Gosh, maybe I was a bit harsh on my Rule of Two review!). Not to mention, probably because I listened most recently to an audiobook, not everything goes from A to B to C. For example, Sernpidal's moon is about to impact, so Han takes off only to return in the next section. Talk about Huh? factor!

If you haven't been following the Star Wars novels, this is an excellent place to start. There is little backstory you need that isn't already given. Even with goofy science, some extreme characters, a skippity-do-da plot and a highly controversial character death (that I think was well-done and appropriate, but not everyone will agree with me), this is a decent novel, a nice entrance to the rest of the series, but also a decent "standalone" should you decide you just don't care for the rest of the series.