What happens when you give a Hutt a lightsaber? Does anyone still care about Luke’s romance subplot with that Callista lady? And what new spore of madness has the heedless pursuit of the ultimate appetizer unleashed upon an unsuspecting galaxy? All these questions and more will be answered in Star Wars: Planet of Twilight, by Barbara Hambly.
New York Times bestselling author Barbara Hambly returns to the Star Wars universe to tell a breathtaking tale of a mysterious world where the battle between the New Republic and the Empire takes a shocking new twist….
Nam Chorios is a barren backwater world – once a dreaded prison colony, now home to a fanatic religious cult. It is here that Princess Leia has been taken captive by a ruthless and charismatic warlord bent on destroying the New Republic. Meanwhile, Luke lands on a mysterious planet in search of his lost love, Callista, only to discover the Force is his own worst enemy. But worst of all, as Han, Chewie, and Lando leave Coruscant on a desperate rescue mission, a strange life-form, unlike any the galaxy has ever seen, awakens…a life-form so malevolent it will destroy everything – both Empire and New Republic – on its path to domination.
I went into Planet of Twilight knowing that it had a reputation as being one of the bottom-tier Star Wars novels. And it did not exactly fill me with confidence when there was a malapropism on the very first page:
One of his fellow crewmembers on the New Republic escort cruiser Adamantine found him slumped across the table in the deck-nine break room, where he’d repaired half an hour previously for a cup of coffeine.
– Planet of Twilight, page 1
I think the word you’re looking for there is “retreated”, “retired”, or possibly “prepared”, but certainly not “repaired”. (I’ll give “coffeine” the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s an intentional sci-fi word substitution for coffee, though… “coffeine”? Really?) But, while I feel this is significant because it set the tone for me reading the book, I should really be focusing on major plot and character elements rather than minor (if in-your-face) questionable word choice. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about Beldorian: Hutt crime boss, Dark Force-user, and former Jedi of the Old Republic.
I am of a split mind on the concept of a Hutt being a Jedi. On the one hand, the Force is, in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “an energy field created by all living things”. It therefore make sense that any sentient living species would be capable of producing Jedi. On the other hand, however, it’s undeniable that the idea of a Hutt Jedi just feels viscerally wrong. The simple fact is, Hutts have been portrayed as universally evil. Every single Hutt ever to appear in the Expanded Universe has been some form of gangster, crime lord, drug kingpin, or just general scumbag. (Unless maybe you count Rotta the Hutt, aka “Stinky”, from the Clone Wars movie – but do you really want to remember that?) The point is, since they are generally known for the complete absence of any of the wisdom, charity, nobility, and just general goodness typical of a Jedi, it is pretty much a no-brainer that any Hutt who tapped into it would instantly fall to the Dark Side. But that then raises some uncomfortable fundamental questions about the Force: if it is inherently a good and positive power, would it really allow itself to be used by those of inherently evil nature? One could go with the Unifying Force philosophy – that the Force itself is neither good nor evil, and does not discern between good and evil; that all beings are equal before the Force, and that the Light and Dark exist not in the Force but in the people who use it. Under that philosophy, there is no contradiction: even a wholly malicious race which would use the Force for nothing but evil could still produce Jedi, because they are alive and the Force flows through all life. Just one problem: the Legacy of the Force series states that the Unifying Force is a Sith philosophy, and thus bad and wrong. The “correct” philosophy is that the Force has a living will and that it is good; that the Dark Side is inherently an imbalance, a corruption of what the Force should be used for. One could see a good, living Force granting its power to those with the potential for both good and evil, since the ability to choose evil over good is inherent to free will; but it makes no sense for such a Force to grant its power to those only capable of using it for evil.
Wow, that was a long tangent. I’ll just cut to the chase: the Legacy of the Force series is utter shit, so I have no problem disregarding it. In my view, the Force permeates all life; therefore, it can potentially be used even by beings who are evil from the start, not just those who start off good and fall to evil. So, a Force-using Hutt: fine by me.
Not fine, however, is that he was accepted into the Jedi Order and trained. You’d think they’d have been able to tell that it would lead to nothing but trouble.
Now let’s talk about the main villain, the bug behind the man: Dzym. I found him incredibly creepy and intimidating, the more so the more I learned about him: an overgrown bug masquerading as a man, a hideous vampiric parasite hungering to consume life and even the Force itself, a sentient embodiment of plague… and then I learned his origins.
“It was Beldorion’s greed – or I suppose one could say his gourmandism – that was his downfall. That Kubazi chef of his, Zubindi, was always experimenting with enzymatically enhancing and gene-splicing new types of insects so they’d be tastier, jucier, more fun for Beldorion to eat. Hutts like to eat sentient things, you know. They like the game of chasing them around the plate for a bit. Vile things.
Well, Zubindi finally got the idea of enzymatically enhancing, feeding, raising a droch, mutating it in the dark, far longer than its normal lifespan. Before anyone realized what was going on, the droch had grown, and achieved intelligence, to the point where it enslaved Zubindi. It drained energy from him, but at the same time gave him back strength and energy – which goodness knows he needed, in dealing with Beldorion – in a sort of double vampirism. And in the end, of course, the droch Dzym enslaved Beldorion as well.
It’s certainly a lesson to us all, though I’m not sure about what.”
Yes, the main villain of the novel is a genetically engineered insect that was created to be Hutt-food. The entire galaxy is imperiled by a sentient appetizer. I’m sorry, but it is simply impossible to take Dzym seriously after that point. For the love of all that is good and holy, the novel is trying to create drama around evil sentient food! It’s the Cowboy Bebop episode “Toys In The Attic”, but not intended as a comedy! It Came From The Fridge!
Excuse me while I take a few deep breaths and try to stop giggling.
This novel also has to awkwardly work around the problem of Jedi Power Creep. You see, in the original movie trilogy, the biggest use of the Force we saw was Yoda raising Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp on Dagobah, and he was a 900-year-old Old Republic Jedi Master. But in each book of the Expanded Universe, Jedi Force abilities have been made stronger and stronger; to the point that in Darksaber, Luke’s trainees were capable of flinging Star Destroyers around! Of course, since having such absurd abilities makes maintaining suspense rather difficult (imagine how quickly the original Star Wars would have been over if Luke could have just Force-pushed the Death Star into the sun), authors are constantly having to come up with new obstacles to explain why he can’t just solve matters with the Force. First it was Force-repelling ysalamiri, then a Force-distorting Crystal Star, and now it’s Force Storms that ravage the surface of Renat Chorios. If it feels kind of contrived… well, that’s because it is.
A few final things that struck me as wrong: Apparently, sex droids exist in the Star Wars universe. I could have gone without knowing that. And Daala calls Moff Getelles a catamite. No, bad author, bad. And, as you can probably tell by the fact I haven’t mentioned her at all: no, no one does care about Callista anymore.
Still, a Star Wars novel with a sentient appetizer for a villain. What will they think up next? Maybe they’ll combine a Dungeons & Dragons Aboleth and the Smoke Monster from Lost and have the Jedi fight that!
Ah ha, ha ha, ha… it’s funny because I’m dying inside.
Final Rating: 2/5