I’ve been having a delightful time in recent months, revisiting “a galaxy far, far away.” For the Sci Fi Experience this year, I decided to revisit the Callista Trilogy. The first book is Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly. This book seems to get very little love from reviewers (based on some brief Googling) but while I don’t claim it’s perfect, I did have a wonderful time with it.
As usual for me, I remembered some details with absolute precision, while most of the book was full of surprises in things I’ve forgotten. The story follows two plotlines that link up at the end. And despite the title, it’s not at all about Han and Leia’s children.
Luke, C-3PO and two other friends set out to investigate a disturbance in the Force, ending up aboard the Eye of Palpatine. It’s a massive battleship that has been hibernating in deep space for thirty years, and now has been mysteriously reactivated, intent on following its original programming to attack the planet of Belsavis. Part of its programming involves picking up groups of Stormtroopers that were supposed to be waiting–but failing to find Stormtroopers, the ship picks up any sentient lifeforms it encounters, including Jawas, Tusken Raiders, a pig-like warrior race, and some even stranger creatures. But the Eye of Palpatine also has another inhabitant–the spirit of a long-dead Jedi named Callista.
Meanwhile, Leia and Han are pursuing a rumor about a community where Jedi children were raised in the past. It just happens to be on the planet of Belsavis…and there’s also intrigue and plots afoot.
This book has just about everything I could want in a Star Wars novel. There are crazy-weird aliens–including a group that apparently resemble flowers, but have been indoctrinated to think they’re Stormtroopers, with hilarious consequences. There’s an interesting enemy to fight–and in this case, mopping up traces of the Empire works, because it’s made personal and intriguing. Leia gets to be awesome. And Luke gets a girl!
We all know things really didn’t work out for Luke romantically in the movie trilogy, and most of the books seem not to have gone the direction of giving him much romance. I actually like that–I think a “girl of the week” direction would have become old very fast. So I think it makes it meaningful when there’s a romance here. I don’t normally like stories where people fall in love very quickly, but somehow this one worked for me. We get enough details on Callista and enough reflection from Luke that I felt fine with it.
I picked this one up again because I remembered the Luke-storyline, but I also found myself really enjoying Han and Leia. Their storyline is good, but it’s mostly the two of them being together that I enjoy. They’re a happily married romantic couple–how often do you see that in a book? It seems like authors more often write about people who are falling in love, or people who are experiencing marital problems. I love that there’s conflict in the story, but not between Han and Leia.
I’m very glad that the Star Wars novel universe at some point made the decision to have Han and Leia be together. My guess is I have Timothy Zahn to thank for this, considering his landmark Thrawn trilogy has them married and expecting twins. Of course the original film trilogy shows them falling in love–but it would have been so easy (maybe easier than not) to complicate things in the books, in order to create endless plotlines of falling in and out of love, bringing in triangles, and so on. You know, the soap opera route. The novels do have occasional bumps in the road (The Courtship of Princess Leia comes to mind), but on the whole, they seem to just be together. And if they break up at some point later in the chronology than I’ve read, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know!
Besides the Han and Leia pairing…every so often, I have these revelatory moments where it strikes me anew just how awesome Leia really is. It’s not that I ever forget exactly–but now and then it just comes to me all over again. It happened here when she had an opportunity to trail an enemy…and sets off to do it. There’s no hesitation, there’s no moment of thinking maybe she should get one of the guys. She just handles the situation. Trouble ensues and, at the risk of a slight spoiler (but it’s not something surprising), Han and Chewie do eventually show up, more or less intending a rescue. But when Han tells Leia to run, instead she comes up and hits the guy Han’s fighting with over the head.
There are other strong women in sci fi–but maybe I particularly love Leia in part because I love that she’s a cultural icon. And she’s amazing. She’s not amazing because she can hit a villain over the head. She’s amazing because she’s married with three kids, leads the New Republic, doesn’t run around in revealing clothing most of the time (occasionally), can use the Force, is smart, capable and confident–and she can hit a villain over the head. This is a fantastic woman to have as a cultural icon. Love it.
This book also gives us some hints and bits about Leia’s life before the Rebellion, and now I want to read a prequel about Leia growing up.
If I have a criticism of the book, it’s that Luke is injured early on, and spends a lot of time dragging around fighting pain and fatigue. The point gets a bit belabored. I want to mentioned one other criticism I’ve seen elsewhere, which I would consider completely invalid–some of the references to the pre-trilogy time aren’t consistent with the new movie prequels. But the book was written first, so you can’t blame the author for that. And I’d just as soon pretend the prequels never happened, so I’m really not going to be bothered by something contradicting them.
One other fun and random note: a planet is referenced here named Neelgaimon. I actually looked up the timeline on Neil Gaiman’s career, and while there was plenty he hadn’t done yet when this was written, he was active in some areas… Coincidence? Or incredibly cool tribute?
So all in all, I look forward to finishing the rest of the Callista trilogy. And then I need to finally track down the books where Luke gets together with Mara Jade…because I’m intrigued by that too!