The Black Fleet Crisis: Before the Storm – Book Review

After a long hiatus, it’s time to return to the Legends timeline.

The Black Fleet Crisis: Before The Storm
Written by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Publication Date: March 1st, 1996.

Timeline: 16-17 ABY (with a flashback to 4 ABY)

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Plot Notes

New Republic President Leia Organa Solo is approached by Nil Spaar, Viceroy of the Duskhan League, a previously isolationist government in the Koornacht Cluster, seeking to open negotiations, with Leia Organa-Solo electing to personally engage with Spaar. These negotiations run for a period of several weeks, with Spaar basically successfully snowing Leia over the course of these negotiations, getting her to continue the negotiations while showing nothing, and also allying her suspicions to enough of a degree that she becomes hostile to worries that are raise by Admiral Ackbar and New Republic Intelligence.

At the conclusion of these “negotiation” on the pretense of storming off in a huff, Spaar has his ship blast off from the Coruscant spaceport without clearance (leading to one other diplomatic vessel being damaged and the deaths and injuries of several ground staff. He then sends an open communication on a galaxy-wide holonet channel (while still being inside the Coruscant planetary shield) lying about having requested clearance and that the ground staff had been replaced by members of New Republic Intelligence trying to keep them on the ground. Leia takes Spaar at his word.

Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker, becoming concerned that his emotional connections with people are taking too much of a toll on him, elects to withdraw to Darth Vader’s former sanctum on Coruscant to meditate, before he is approached by Akanah of the Fallanassi, who tells Luke that she knows Luke & Leia’s mother is alive, and she can take him to her. In spite of Leia’s skepticism, Luke agrees to go.

Meanwhile, Lando Calrissian, along with Lobot, R2-D2, and C-3P0, are investigating a mysterious derelict starship from an unknown alien race and go to investigate with a small group of New Republic ships.

It turns out that the Duskhan League – who were previously occupied by the Empire, and who had a shipyards there – had managed to capture a fleet of Imperial warships when they overthrew their occupiers, and they are actually incredibly genocidal and expansionist and seek to exterminate everyone else in the Koornacht cluster. All these negotiations – meant to stall for time to allow them to get their fleet in place, and to lay the groundwork to sew distrust between Leia and the Republic Navy, and between the executive and the Senate.

And everything went exactly according to plan. The book ends with the Duskhan League launching their genocidal spread throughout the cluster, while sending a message on New Republic emergency channels (which they’ve hacked), claiming that Leia is a psychotic dictator who seeks to follow in Vader’s footsteps and she should be immediately overthrown. All while Luke and Lando are off and nowhere that they can help.

Worldbuilding

We’re introduced to the Korrnacht Cluster, the Duskhan League, and the Yevetha. In particular, we learn that the Yevetha are a previously believed to be isolationist, and are revealed (as part of the twist toward the end of this book) expansionist and genocidal culture with a universal hatred of any cultures that are not their own, and who seek to wipe every other race in the cosmos from the stars, starting with the various other races that have entered into the Koornacht cluster.

Mon Mothma, with the formation of the New Republic, also organized and put in place an ultra-secret intelligence organization that answers to nobody – not even the Republic President – but fortunately defers generally focused exclusively on information gathering.

Character Development

The polite thing to say would be “None.”

I’m not going to be polite.

This book is an absolute character assassination of Princess Leia Organa-Solo. Well, both Leia and Luke, really, but more so Leia. She displays a horrifying level of credulity when it comes to her interactions with Nil Spaar, and an even greater unwillingness to trust her advisors, especially ones like Admiral Ackbar, who, way back when she started this, was willing to go to the mat for when Borsk Fey’lya charged him with embezzlement and treason. She is a purported diplomat, and an agent of the Rebel Alliance, who – in this book – is unable to wrap her brain around the idea of (*steps away from the microphone and yells*) people lying or otherwise withholding information! Also the idea of people not negotiating in good faith. Or that you shouldn’t give complete strangers who have demonstrated their hostility a galaxy wide open microphone.

The fact that it’s Leia, one of the most high profile women in Star Wars, at this point, makes it worse. 

Final Thoughts

I have read Star Wars novels and short stories which are bad. None of them made me angry. None of them made me write “What the actual fuck?!” in the annotations in my e-reader. And that’s all because of what this book does with Leia. Luke? Sure fine. It’s there to write him out of the story so he can’t be a part of the main plot, which is frustrating, but it kinda works. Lando’s plot (which is clearly set up to continue in the rest of this trilogy), would fit to be its own, Lando Calrissian Adventures-style book.

What makes this truly frustrating is the character assassination of Princess Leia is absolutely unnecessary. Have Leia trust her advisors, try to feel out Spaar over the course of the attempted negotiations, while the Scouting service investigates, and then keep the same twist, with Leia’s reaction being not horror at her own incompetence (at a level where Han lampshades it by asking who replaced Leia) – but at underestimating what the Duskhan are capable of.

I’m gonna keep going because I’m in it for the long haul, but man, the rest of y’all can give this a miss. I’ve got a feeling that this is mostly gonna get ignored by subsequent authors.

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