The Star Wars Expanded Universe (now known as the Legends Canon) contains many stories that are full of emotional depth. But few of them reach the height of Vector Prime.
Set approximately twenty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Vector Prime is the first book in The New Jedi Order series. Luke has trained several new jedi at his academy, the New Republic is blossoming, and Han and Leia’s three children are all jedi knights. Aside from a few minor spats, the galaxy seems at peace.
But outside of the galaxy, trouble is brewing. An alien race named the Yuuzhan Vong is prepping to invade the galaxy, with a methodical and brutal strategy. They serve a vicious war god, mutilate themselves to show higher warrior class, and abhor machines, using living beings in their place. They’re barbians in every sense of the word, with no respect for life, valuing violence and power above all else. And that’s not even the most interesting thing about them. The interesting thing is that the Force has no effect on them.
There’s a philosophical dichotomy here that’s even more stark than that between the Jedi and the Sith. Whereas the Jedi and the Sith use the same power to different ends, the Yuuzhan Vong don’t even acknowledge that power, while taking the values of hate and power to even greater extremes. In every sense, they are the opposite of the Jedi.
And the Jedi, meanwhile, have adopted a position on the Force that is, on some ways, more theologically sound that what we’re used to in Star Wars. Luke has disavowed the prohibition of love that previously characterized the Jedi, even taking a Jedi wife (Mara Jade, who some readers will remember from the Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels). Two of the Solo children, Jacen and Anakin, debate whether the Force is meant for self-improvement or a tool for good; never, however, do they assert that it is meant to drain emotion and attachment.
In fact, attachment is exactly the thing that makes up the best part of this book: its emotional punch. The plot is structured the way most ensemble high fantasy stories are, by following multiple storylines simultaneously. For that reason, the main character isn’t immediately clear. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that R.A. Salvatore’s primary focus is on the Solo family. Conflict between the Solo brothers, in stark contrast with the deep connection between Jacen and his twin Jaina, forms a large thrust of the book. This is especially true when Anakin also butts heads with his father. In fact, the strongest part of this book comes when Han Solo’s angry and gruff exterior clouds his dealings with his children. Salvatore writes Han in particular with a nuanced development that reflects his deep care for his family without ever completely leaving behind his ruffian persona.
Through all of this, family is the glue that keeps the protagonists together. In fact, Salvatore hardly even bothers to answer the philosophical differences with regards to the Force, because it really isn’t that important. The characters are what’s important, and they get the bulk of the focus here, much to the story’s benefit.
By the book’s end, it becomes very difficult to put down. This is one of the best Expanded Universe stories you’ll find, with a level of plotting and character development that is immensely satisfying. Salvatore’s prose itself isn’t particularly impressive – he tells more than he shows, and his writing is overflowing in superfluous adverbs. But the story is good enough that it overcomes those distractions, and winds up a very engaging book, and one that downplays the aspects of Star Wars theology that are particularly troubling.
Thus comes the title. I’m not going tock that The Force Awakens is a bad film.