Book Review: Jedi Search
We’re returning to the Star Wars expanded universe with the beginning of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, with Jedi Search.
Author: Kevin J. Anderson.
Publication Date: February, 1994
In the wake of the Emperor Reborn’s failed attempt to conquer Coruscant and the galaxy, the New Republic is in the midst of repairing the damage and attempting to rebuild the city. During this, Luke Skywalker comes forward to the Republic Council with a request for approval to start a new Jedi Academy. The council votes for approval, and Leia is tasked with finding a world for them to set up shop.
Around this time, a construction droid uncovers a hidden Imperial facility that contains portable sensors that can be used to measure a person’s Force Sensitivity. Luke also discovers a way using just the Force to find out of a person is Force-sensitive – by probing a specific portion of a person’s mind, one can tell if the person being probed has the ability to use the force. After some research by R2-D2 puts together a list of possible candidates for Jedi training, Luke and Lando go out to find possible future Jedi.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are traveling to Kessel on a diplomatic mission in the hopes of opening diplomatic relations with the prison planet, on Leia’s request. On arrival, he finds himself shot down and captured by Moruth Doole, a former inmate who has now taken over the planet. Doole, it turns out, was responsible for betraying Solo to the Empire and leading him to dump the shipment of Spice that put him on Jabba’s bad side. Doole sends Solo
Luke successfully finds two candidates. The first is Gantoris, from the failed colony world of Eol Sha. His force sensitivity had allowed him to help keep the people of his world alive in the face of the hazards of living on their unstable world. The second was Streen – a gas miner and hermit on Bespin, whose telepathic sensitivity had lead him to a life of isolation. Lando was less successful, only spotting a cheater in the blob races on planet Umgul.
On returning to Coruscant, Luke and Lando learn about Han being overdue, and set out to Kessel themselves to investigate. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie engineer their escape, with a young inmate who shows a degree of precognition, named Kyp Durron. During their escape, they learn that Vima Da Boda (from Dark Empire) had spent time there, and had provided Durron some tutelage in the ways of the Force.
When Han and company’s escape leads them into the clutches of the Maw, a cluster of Black Holes near Kessel, they discover an Imperial outpost lurking at the core of it – the research outpost where the Death Star and its Superlaser was researched and designed. The outpost, commanded by Admiral Daala, the only woman to reach flag rank in the Imperial Navy, has been incommunicado since before the Battle of Endor, and whose existence was apparently only known to Tarkin himself. Further, they learn that the outpost was not only responsible for the design of the Death Star and it’s super laser, but also the World Devastators from Dark Empire, and they have a new weapon that has approached completion – the Sun Crusher, a ship that is impervious to any weapon, and which can cause stars to go supernova.
Back on Coruscant, Leia ends up organizing and hosting a visit of the Imperial governor of Carida, the world that plays host to the Imperial Academy. Carida rebuffs the New Republic as rebels, and even goes so far as to throw a drink into Mon Mothma’s face.
On Kessel, Lando and Luke arrive, and posing as investors, take a tour of the facility. Finding the Falcon among the outpost’s fleet, and discovering that Han and Chewie are absent, the two steal it back. Meanwhile, at the Maw, Han has persuaded one of the alien scientists at the facility, Qwi Xux, that the technology she has been designing has been for weapons of mass destruction. She agrees to spring Han, Chewie, and Kyp, and for the four of them to steal the Sun Crusher and escape.
Han and company manage to emerge from the Maw and almost run into Luke and Lando in the Falcon, and the two groups return to Coruscant, while Doole and Daala slug it out. Returning to Coruscant, they learn that Leia has selected a world for Luke’s Jedi Academy – Yavin IV – the outpost from where the attack that destroyed the Death Star was launched. It’s quiet and out of the way… what could possibly go wrong?
- The Nightsisters of Dathomir are mentioned here for the first time – they will have a proper appearance in The Courtship of Princess Leia, which was published a few months later.
- We learn that there are different kinds of spice – Glitterstim, which must be mined in total darkness, and which has effects similar to the Spice from Dune, and Ryll spice, which can be found on more worlds, and which we learn later is used in the production of Bacta.
- Our first actual visit to Kessel.
- Ssi-Ruuk territory is still unmapped, and the Republic has had no further major dealings with them, peaceful or otherwise.
- The Imperial Academy now has a world – Carida.
- We learn where the Death Star was designed – the Maw installation, with the project sponsored by Grand Moff Tarkin. This would be heavily retconned in the New Expanded Universe, as we see in Rogue One.
- Bevel Leminsk is first mentioned as the lead designer of the Death Star.
Luke Skywalker: Is moving forward with his plan to build a Jedi Academy. Is somewhat apprehensive (due to what happened with Obi-Wan and Anakin), but knows this needs to be done.
Leia Organa-Solo: Has not had regular contact with her kids for 2 years, as they’ve been raised off Coruscant, and she now gets to live with them for the first time. This is in turn rather negatively affecting her diplomatic patience.
Han Solo: Used to have a business relationship with Moruth Doole – which ended when Doole betrayed Solo over the spice shipment that lead to the events of A New Hope.
Kyp Durron: Was raised in the tunnels of Kessel, and having briefly gotten some training in the Force from Vima Da Boda. Is very powerful in the force.
Gantoris: Protector of the people of Eol Sha, and was very reluctant to leave. Has had a precient dream that a dark man would offer to teach him great power, and then would destroy him.
Streen: Gas miner from Bespin. His telepathic sensitivity can allow him to, unwillingly, pick up ambient thoughts from people miles away.
Grand Moff Tarkin: Mastermind of the Death Star Project, as a means of using Fear to impose the will of the Empire and to quell any rebellion. Was romantically involved with Daala.
Admiral Daala: First woman to reach the rank of Admiral in the Imperial Navy, a significant feat as the Empire (in addition to being Xenophobic had some significant institutional sexism). Tricked Tarkin into recognizing her talents by posting tactical papers under a pseudonym. Tarkin picked her to lead the Maw Installation. Has been unaware of the state of Galactic politics for the past 11 years.
Winter: Moved to full-time nanny and caretaker for Leia and Han’s twins, to the point that they think of her as their surrogate mother.
Jaina & Jacen Solo: Have moved to Coruscant again, and have not seen their parents on a regular basis for several years.
This is basically the point where the Star Wars Expanded Universe kicks straight into high gear. Over the course of this year we’re going to get a bunch of Star Wars novels, with stand-alone books becoming intermingled with the Jedi Academy, along with several more comics series.
The size of the expanded universe hasn’t gotten so big that we need a dedicated office – the Keeper of the Holocron, to keep track of everything, but you can see already how we get there from here.
The Jedi Academy Trilogy gets a bad rap, for several reasons, but as far as the first book is concerned, it’s got some good moments. Luke and some of his other friends traveling the Galaxy, looking for candidates for the Academy, is a really strong concept for a book. Similarly, Han and Chewie getting stuck on Kessel, having to engineer a jail break, and escaping with the help of a Force-sensitive prisoner who will become a recurring character in the trilogy is also a really strong concept.
I also like how Anderson writes the banality of evil. Moruth Doole is a gangster out to make some quick bucks, and he doesn’t worry too much about who gets burned in the process. Consequently, Doole’s downfall is entirely the fault of his own greed – he shoots down the Falcon because he wants to take down Solo once and for all, without considering the current state of the Galaxy (and politics). When he discovers that Solo is there in a diplomatic mission, Doole doesn’t think about how Solo is married to one of the most politically powerful people in the New Republic – he tries to think of ways to cover up the attack by shoving Solo into the mines and hoping he gets killed by a monster. When Solo escapes, he desperately tries to shoot him down because he assumes that killing Solo will prevent a Republic fleet from coming down on him like the wrath of an angry God.
It’s just the right kind of banal corporate evil lack of foresight. In the 90s, I remember reading people saying that this seemed unrealistic and stupid, because no one would be that dumb when it came to making a buck. The current state of the economy and corporate America, and possibly President Donald Trump, actually makes that element of the plot feel weirdly precient.
Because of how the publication calendar comes up, the next work I’ll be covering will be the Star Wars: Droids comic from Dark Horse.