When George Lucas first looked into producing Star Wars movies again, he commissioned a series of three novels to help him build up fan interest and determine how well a new series would be received. That series of novels was so successful that more novels were authorized by Lucas.
The Truce at Bakura takes place mere days after the end of Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance has intercepted a communique bound for the Imperials asking for help at Bakura, a planet on the edge of known space. Little is known of Bakura, but the Imperials who rule the planet are begging for help from an unknown invading alien force.
Thinking this is a great opportunity to bring another Imperial-ruled planet into the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia Organa volunteers to lead a force to help the Bakurans and Imperials fend off the invaders. Tired and in need of a healing rest, Luke Skywalker at first is about to stay behind. After a visionary appearance from Ben Kenobi bidding him farewell and urging him to accompany his sister to Bakura, Luke changes his mind. Against doctor’s orders, he boards the Millennium Falcon and makes the trip to the far-off planet along with select ships of the Rebel fleet.
Once there, the Fleet encounters a new race known as the Ssi-ruuk. They are a race of beings that seem to be reptilian-like but with large beaks. Not following the mantra of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” the Rebels learn that this is a race to be dreaded even more than the Imperials. Luke senses living presences all over the place while in battle with Ssi-ruuk ships. This is because the entench human energy – and their souls – in the machines. Their goal is to enslave humans, breeding them only to be used to power their various machines and ships.
Since the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead there appears to be no help forthcoming to the Imperials at Bakura. They broker an uneasy truce with Princess Leia to have cooperation between the Rebels and Imperials in warding off this new threat.
One human is aboard the Ssi-ruuk vessel. Dev Sibwarra was captured by the Ssi-ruuk and has been raised by them for many years, subject to brainwashing when too much of his independent human personality comes to the forefront. Luke senses that The Force is powerful in Dev, and Dev senses the same about Luke in return across the reaches of space.
When the Ssi-ruuk learn of someone so powerful in The Force, they change their plans to capture Skywalker and use him to entench humans into their machine across the reaches of space. He is now caught in a tug-of-war between the Ssi-ruuk and the duplicitous Imperials.
All the while, Leia is trying to use diplomacy to encourage the Bakurans to join the Rebel Alliance. The Imperial Governor, Nereus, has allowed Bakura to have some form of their own government, but Leia knows from experience he is just placating them and will immediately imprison and possibly murder all Bakuran leaders if for a minute they show the slightest inclination toward a government absent Imperial rule.
The novel is a nice read to close in some of the gaps between the destruction of the second Death Star and the three novels written by Timothy Zahn which take place five years later. It’s refreshing to see Leia coping with all of the baggage that was given to her in Return of the Jedi; learning that Luke is her brother and Darth Vader was her father. The fact that she has such a negative reaction to these facts so recently unveiled to her gives a realistic feel to the situation in this novel.
Tyers does a nice job staying away from the Imperials-are-bad, The-Rebellion-is-good attitude that so permeated the three films. All is not black and white, good and evil in this universe. That Bakurans have an inherent mistrust of The Rebllion, as well as religious objection to The Force itself. This puts Luke in a very awkward situation as he tries to help them while at the same time allay their fears and suspicions.
More importantly, Luke finally gets a love interest that is not incestuous, although Gaeriel Captison bears a striking resemblance to Leia. Both are young, headstrong, politically-connected Senators for their planet. Neither fear the Imperials, although Gaeriel is not thinking of rebelling against them when the novel opens. In fact, she is a direct product of their training through the years of control that the Imperial Governor has maintained on Bakura.
However, the Ssi-Ruuk have changed everything. Their direct threat unite the Imperials and Rebels. It is not just the Bakurans that begin questioning their loyalty to the Empire, either.
I found the novel to be a very easy read. The pacing was good as it flowed nicely without getting bogged down in a lot of techno-babble. This is mainly a character-driven story, with action and battle scenes only where truly needed. Tyers does a great job with the characters, both the ones people may be familiar with from the films, as well as introducing new ones. None are one-dimensional characters who seem to fit nicely into their categories. The Imperials, like the Rebels, come across as real beings with thoughts and motivations just like everyone else, although theirs are more self-serving than altruistic. Still, Tyers does a nice job evolving the Bakurans through the novel as they begin to see the truth behind the Imperial rule of their planet. It is not an abrupt change, but small drops in the pond that cause ripples in the trust the Bakurans have placed in the Imperials all these years.
By addressing the new-found relationship between Luke and Leia, as well as Leia’s struggle in learning who her father was, Tyers also touches on a subject that was pretty much glossed over in both the films and previous novels I’d read. If there’s one fault I’d find with the story, it’s that Leia’s resignation to who her biological father is seems to come too abruptly and too easily. It’s something I could have easily seen her struggle with for many years, rather than finding resolution within a few weeks of learning the truth. Her relationship with Luke seems very natural as two sibling who share a connection being twins, while at the same time are missing something having not grown up together.
This is a great story for anyone who was disappointed that the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa ended after Return of the Jedi. It sets the tone that everything is not “happily ever after” once the second Death Star was destroyed at Endor, and that the Rebellion has a lot more work to do to keep the Imperials down in the universe.
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