The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide (Part 1) – Onslaught by Michael A. Stackpole

I’ve finally gotten around to reading this after finishing ‘Vector Prime‘ months ago. It’s not because it’s taken me months to read (it’s barely 300 pages) but the mass amount of Star Wars content we have had since has kept me busy.

‘Dark Tide: Onslaught’ was the first book from ‘The New Jedi Order’ series that I read, when I got it to read on the train from London to home with my Grandparents. Needless to say I was very confused, Chewie was dead? What were the Yuuzhan Vong? Luckily, Michael A. Stackpole took Stan Lee’s rule that every comic was someone’s first and so Stackpole gives us just enough information to get us up to speed.

Following on from the events of ‘Vector Prime’, the Jedi and New Republic are in a state of panic, with the threat of the Yuuzhan Vong lingering. Although defeated they will be back.

After an attack on Lando’s mobile mining city on Dubrillion, the facility is in ruins and the survivors need to be evacuated. Leia, Jaina and Danni Quee help on the ground whilst Gavin Darklighter and Rogue Squadron help from above. After losing pilots in skirmishes with the Vong, Jaina joins Rogue Squadron at Leia’s request to Darklighter.

Luke and Jacen go to Belkadan to investigate the ExGal facility after the Vong reformed the planet. They find that the Vong are using the planet to grow their technology using slaves. In an attempt to free the slaves after having a vision, Jacen goes to the Vong’s farm(?) but is captured and later saved by Luke. The two leave Belkadan to join Mara Jade and Anakin on Dantooine.

Anakin, after feeling guilty over Chewie’s death and Han’s attitude led towards him, is sent to care for the ailing Mara Jade on Dantooine where Anakin is taught how to not rely heavily on the Force for everyday tasks. They meet a tribe of locals who become allies until the tribe is attacked by a Yuuzhan Vong group. Anakin defeats the Vong soldiers and takes Mara into the mountains where they are pursued by more Vong attackers until they are saved by Luke and Jacen.

The evacuation of Dubrillion is foiled by the Vong, using their gravity-based shields as makeshift gravity wells, stopping the refugees going to their destination, luckily they are able to plot a new course, to Dantooine.

Meanwhile, Corran Horn and Ganner Rhysolde are sent to Bimmiel to rescue a group of scientists, who it turns out have found remains of a Yuuzhan Vong scout, dating back fifty years. After a pair of scientists go missing, Corran and Ganner find a Yuuzhan Vong settlement, and after some planning, evacuate the scientists and rescue the captured pair. In the escape, Corran battles two Vong warriors, killing both but mortally wounded in doing so.

On Dantooine, the Refugees and the Jedi join forces where they await the Bothan Capital Ship ‘The Ralroost’ to return with enough supplies to take them on the rest of their journey, but they are attacked by Yuuzhan Vong ground forces. Luke, Anakin and Jacen help the soldiers on the ground whilst Leia, Danni, Lando and Mara hunt for Vong infiltrators in disguise. Rogue Squadron keep the Coral Skippers at bay whilst destroying as much of the Ground Forces as possible.once the refugees evacuate, their escape is once again blocked by a Warship but they are saved when the Ralroost returns with aid and destroys the Warship.

Corran, it seems, was saved at the last minute by Ganner and placed in a Bacta Tank in time before his wounds took their toll.

Despite the victory, half of the Refugees are killed in the battle, and when a report is brought to the New Republic High Council’s attention, it is almost laughed out of the office. Only with Leia’s help and the threat of the military breaking away from the Republic does Borsk Fey’lya concede, with the New Republic now at war with the Yuuzhan Vong.

Stackpole fills this book with some great action sequences. From dogfights to melee combat, each fight feels like it could be the last for any of the characters, something Stackpole is good at, given that he would kill off pilots in each of his X-Wing novels, outlining the perils of combat.

The Yuuzhan Vong expansion into the Galaxy is slowly becoming a larger threat and in these early days. These new villains aren’t given much of the spotlight here, but this adds some mystery to their ways. Rather than have things dictated to us, here we learn about them and their ways as the main characters do.

The main characters from the films take a step back in this book, even though they are integral to the plot, we get more focus on the EU characters, for example, the scenes with Luke and Jacen are told from Jacen’s perspective which is refreshing and allows the newer characters to shine more. The same could be said for the Corran and Ganner storyline, but Corran has already held his own as protagonist in Stackpole’s X-Wing series. It was quite enjoyable for me reading this as I had been listening to the X-Wing audiobooks so I got to see Corran Horn and Gavin Darklighter at different points in their lives.

‘Dark Tide: Onslaught’ is (for me) a much more digestible introduction to the series that ‘Vector Prime’. It doesn’t rely on the shock value from the previous novel but instead slams us back in our seats for a Galaxy-changing adventure and gives enough time to the old and new characters.

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