When a mass extinction occurs, an old friend of Han’s arrives with a strange message and the Senate is bombed by a mysterious attacker, Luke, Leia and Han go on separate adventures to get to the bottom of a growing threat to the New Republic.
After what I can only describe as a rather dismal run of audio(books), ‘The New Rebellion’ puts an end to the downward slump and sets a course for a solid Star Wars adventure.
On Yavin IV, during a training session, Luke experienced a vision where a man, disguised in a death mask murders the whole population of a planet. Leia experiences the same vision as she is about to address the New Republic Senate, which is about to enter a new term, with a whole swath of new Senators from former Imperial worlds, whom Leia is very suspicious of. The address barely gets started when the chamber is bombed, killing many Senators and their staff and wounding Leia.
At the same time, Han meets with a former smuggling associate, Jarril, who gives Han a cryptic message before disappearing. As Leia heals, Han and Chewie go to Smugglers Run, a smuggling den hidden in an asteroid field. Luke meets with a recuperating Leia and the two discuss their visions. Luke leaves to find a former apprentice, Brakiss, who left Luke’s Academy and turned to the Dark Side. Luke is stalled when his X-Wing is put out of commission for upgrades and takes one of the New Republic’s new X-Wings, that doesn’t need an Astromech, so he leaves R2 with Cole Fardreamer, a mechanic from Tatooine to help fix Luke’s ship.
Lando, searching for Han, finds Jarril’s ship with Jarril dead and a communication with Han’s name on it. After visiting Leia, Lando follows Han to Smugglers Run. At the Run, Han and Chewie find out the smugglers have been dealing in droids, taken from a Droid Factory on Telti, right where Luke is heading to meet Brakiss, who runs the factory. Brakiss sends Luke to the planet Almania, where Kueller, his Master, resides.
The same communication with Han’s name on it reaches a group of Senators (fork former Imperial worlds) who call for Leia to resign from her post as Chief of State. Instead, she hands the title to Mon Mothma so that Leia and Wedge, after finding Kuellor’s location can take the fleet to stop the Dark Jedi from taking over the Galaxy.
Cole and R2, with the help of C-3PO find an old Imperial detonation device installed in Luke’s X-Wing, and after some investigation, in a new group of X-Wings, one of which Luke had taken on his mission. With Leia and Wedge’s help, they take a ship to Telti to find the source of the detonators.
Over Almania, Luke’s X-Wing explodes with the Jedi Master barely able to escape in time. His injuries are tended to by a local before he goes to face Kuellor. Meanwhile on the Smugglers Run, Lando is taken prisoner by a Crime Boss, Nandreeson and is saved by Han and Chewie, who, with Lando, become heroes when the Droids from Telti explode and they manage to save the smugglers.
Cole and the Droids arrive on Telti and whilst Cole distracts Brakiss, R2 and 3PO find that Brakiss is making Droids, with the Imperial detonators for Kuellor who has had them sent all over the Galaxy and Kuellor is the only one who can blow them up.
Luke meets and fights Kuellor when Leia arrives (as the New Republic fleet engages Kuellor’s fleet of Imperial ships) she attempts to take Kuellor on herself but her attempts fail. Han and Chewie arrive after meeting with Talon Karrde and Mara Jade to acquire a pair of Ysalamiri (Force deflecting lizards) which are eaten by a psychic animal that has imprinted on Luke. Luckily before they were eaten, the Ysalamiri Force Deflecting Bubble weakens Kuellor enough for him to turn to Plan B, blow up all the Droids. Luckily, R2 and 3PO are able to shut down the Droids and block the signal. Kuellor is killed by Leia firing on him with Han’s blaster. In space, Wedge is able to lead the fleet to victory by confusing the Droids operating Kuellor’s Star Destroyers long enough to ambush them.
Back on Coruscant, the call for Leia to resign is revoked after Han is found innocent and Leia prepared to make a speech to the Senate to announce tie beginning of the postponed new term.
Where ‘The New Rebellion’ really works well where others haven’t is that it doesn’t have an over complicated plot. Whilst Rusch does fall back onto some EU tropes, former students of Luke going to the Dark Side, rebuilding the Empire and the call for Leia to resign her post, none of them feel out of place here. The use of Droids as bombs all over the Galaxy is one of sheer genius, Droids are just about everywhere in the Galaxy so to use them as weapons (not an army like the Prequels) is great. The idea of Droids being used as weapons was revisited in Daniel José Older’s novel ‘Last Shot’ in which Droids were essentially brain washed into killing humans.
Something that I really enjoyed was Leia using the Force more, it’s her connection to the Force and to Luke that really push the story, with Luke dealing with the Force is a more usual way for his character given his experience by this point in the timeline, granted, Luke doesn’t get much character development in this novel, his role is really to put an end to a Galactic threat that he feels guilty for.
The Han, Chewie and Lando storyline is good fun. We get a look at the underworld of the Star Wars Galaxy and in a great twist, it’s Lando who ends up in deep trouble with Han and Chewie coming to his rescue. And who can beat the run-in at the end which results in Leia defeating the (audio)books villain.
The novel isn’t overloaded with new characters, we get a few but none of huge consequence other than Kuellor, Brakiss and Cole Fardreamer, so the story is mainly focused on the existing heroes, and a couple of appearances from some EU favourites. Rusch really utilises all the characters well, with each of the plot threads coming together nicely at the end for a satisfying ending.
‘The New Rebellion’ is certainly a high point for the 1990’s Star Wars EU run, it packs the same kind of punch that Zahn’s ‘Heir to the Empire’ series did and doesn’t overstay its welcome like ‘The Black Fleet Crisis’ Trilogy and its one I would highly recommend to either read or listen to.
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