Book Review: The Truce at Bakura
We’re returning to the Star Wars novels with our first straight-up stand alone book (meaning one that isn’t part of a trilogy or other mini-series.
Writer: Kathy Tyers
Publication Date: January 1994
The Truce at Bakura is available from Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback editions.
A few days after the victory at Endor, an emergency communication drone from the planet Bakura arrives at Endor, with an emergency message for the Emperor – the planet is under attack by an alien race known as the Ssi-Ruuk, an alien race from beyond the outer rim. They have the planet’s defenders out-matched, and they are in desperate need of assistance. Apparently the Emperor had a deal with these aliens, and now that he’s dead, they have determined the deal is off – they have set out to conquer the whole galaxy, leaving no race in their way.
Seeing an opportunity to win some hearts and minds, Luke & Leia persuade the Alliance council that they should send a relief force. At the very least, even if they can’t get the Bakurans to join the Alliance, they need to at least prevent a potentially hostile alien race from getting a foothold that could turn their efforts against the Empire into a two-front war.
Luke, Leia, and Han set out for Bakura, along with an Rebel task force that includes Wedge and Rogue Squadron. On arrival, they negotiate an uneasy truce with the local Imperial Governor and the commander, and learn the truth about the Ssi-Ruuk. The Ssi-Ruuk are reptilian aliens who seek to capture their opponents and “entech” them, by transferring their consciousness into droid fighters – finding that Humans make for better sources of souls for their droids than the other aliens they brought with them do.
Luke works with the commander of the Imperial forces to prepare a defence, while Leia tries to work with the locals. During a diplomatic fete, Luke meets a local politician named Gaeriel Captison, and falls for her. While meeting with her, Luke learns that her grandmother was part of a local Rebel cell, but was captured and suffered brain damage in Imperial captivity. Using the Force, Luke is able to heal her. Luke also learns that Gaerial is part of a local religious group that worships the “Balance”, and felt that the Jedi were responsible for upsetting the balance.
Luke also ends up sensing the presence of a mysterious human among the Ssi-Ruuk: Dev Sibwarra. Dev is force-sensitive, but has received no training, and has been kept alive by the Ssi-Ruuk because her force sensitivity makes him useful. They have been abusing him and subjecting him to frequent brainwashing sessions to keep him pliable. However, when Luke makes contact with Dev’s mind in the heat of battle, it inspires him to try to rebel against the Ssi-Ruuk in various small ways.
Further, the Imperial governor, Wilek Nereus, is in the throes of a conundrum. He absolutely doesn’t want the Ssi-Ruuk to win. However, if the Rebel forces also win, then he’ll lose power. So, he puts plans in motion to betray the Alliance at the moment of victory, including infecting Luke with a virulent parasite and then turning him over to the Ssi-Ruuk, in the hopes that the parasite will kill them all.
Ultimately, Luke is able to heal himself of the parasites while aboard the Ssi-Ruuk ship, and with the assistance of Dev, is able to do enough damage and soe enough confusion that the combined Rebel and Imperial forces can defeat the Ssi-Ruuk. Meanwhile, Han, Leia, Gaerial and her grandmother are able to overthrow Governor Nereus. The Alliance offers Imperial forces the choice to leave to return home (or, for that matter, join the Remnant), or join the Alliance. The commander of the Imperial forces chooses to defect to the Alliance in order to command Bakura’s defense. Gaerial decides to remain on Bakura to help form a new government, and the remainder of the Rebel forces return to the rest of the fleet.
- First appearance in the novels of an “alien race from beyond the Outer Rim” – the Ssi-Ruuk.
- The Alliance captures a Ssi-Ruuk warship, the Sibwarra.
- The introduction of a religious belief outside of The Force – the Balance. Believers in the Balance (Balancers?) hold that the power of the light and dark side must be kept in check. Gaerial was a more… fundamentalist believer, and felt that the Jedi and the Republic threw the balance out of whack, and consequently she was concerned about the presence of even a single Jedi – Luke.
- First introduction of the Imperial HoloNet – a galactic communications network controlled by the Empire, but one which does not have instantaneous communications (like a Subspace Ansible) – the Bakuran garrison couldn’t use the Holonet to call for help from other garrisons, and the Alliance couldn’t use captured Holonet transmitters to access the entirety of Imperial Communications. Presumably this is what the Emperor used to contact Vader.
- On some planets, the Empire permitted local forms of government to exist as a means of controlling and pacifying the populace, provided they basically served to rubber-stamp the decrees of the Imperial Governors.
- First appearance of battle droids in any form, but not in the manner we’d see in the prequel trilogy – not by a long shot.
- Palpatine has had contact with alien races from outside of the galaxy, and has been cutting deals with them, for various reasons.
Luke Skywalker: His first outing commanding a larger Rebel force in battle, not just a smaller group like a fighter squadron. This is now his first canonical attempt to try to teach someone in the force – Dev. Canonically Obi-Wan appears to Luke as a Force Ghost for the last time. Has yet to tell the Alliance of the truth of his parentage.
Princess Leia Organa/Skywalker: Is still in denial over being the daughter of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, but becomes more accepting of this over the course of the book. Anakin Skywalker’s Force Ghost appears to her and a speaks to her, in an attempt to reconcile. Leia rejects his overtures.
Han Solo: Is a little over-protective of Leia. Tends to put his plans together on the fly (much like Indiana Jones, which I think is a deliberate call-out on the writer’s part). Is not quite ready to propose yet.
Chewbacca: We get scenes from his actual point of view for the first time. As has been established in earlier works, he’s incredibly mechanically adept, and he really doesn’t like C-3P0, to the point of having to weigh having to repair 3P0 again, against the fact that he’d really like to smack him around.
C-3P0: Is actually somewhat mechanically dextrous, and can engage in semi-hacking if necessary, though he’s not as proficient as R2-D2. Can also wear Imperial Stormtrooper armor in a just convincing enough fashion to accidentally get shot by Chewbacca. Has a linguistics package strong enough to put together an impromptu Ssi-Ruuk-to-Basic translation package based on intercepted Ssi-Ruuk battle transmissions.
This book pretty much retcons the last portion of the Marvel Star Wars run out of existence – no Nagai, no Tofs, nothing, though part of the material from there will be back.
This book was enjoyable to read, but not exactly great. Seeing Leia in her element as a diplomat was wonderful, though considering we get to see Leia as a general in The Force Awakens, I would mind seeing her in more books as a military commander going forward as well.
Tyers does a great job of capturing the transition in the status quo that we see after Return of the Jedi – the Emperor’s dead, now what? In the comics, the answer to that question is “form a more conventional government”. In here it’s “strike while the iron is hot to foment more open rebellion on fringe Imperial colony worlds, while the Empire is disorganized, power is being concentrated, and the new Imperial government tries to figure out what they’re actually going to try to hold.”
The concept of the Balance as a religion is a little roughly executed. Even Tyers admits that the concept is cosmic dualism taken to an absurd degree. That said, I do kinda feel that the concept is still executed here better than it is in the prequel trilogy.
Next time with these recaps we’re taking on the first book in the Jedi Academy Trilogy with Jedi Search