Before the Storm by Michael P. Kube McDowell Audiobook Review

When I was younger I bought this book, and as much as I tried, I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t think I ever made it past the first chapter. Something just didn’t click with me and it ended up in a box until I gave the majority of me EU collection to charity in 2015.

I later came across it a few years ago, going for a relatively low price along with the third part of the ‘Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy’ (of which this is the first part), and as I was just about to finish the Corellia Trilogy I went for it.

I got through about 90 pages, and that took me a really long time, and this was at a time before having a child where I would sit in the bath EVERY NIGHT (our shower was broken) and read as a way of winding down before going to bed. But around page 90 I just about had enough, I read something else and tried to go back to it but it just wasn’t happening.

So imagine my trepidation when, in my Post-ROTJ, Bantam Era Legends binge when I got to this one. I was not looking forward to it, especially after listening to four less than spectacular books in a row.

Thankfully, for the most part, the abridgement really worked for me. I still had issues with the story at times but I was able to finish it, where I never managed it with the book.

Set twelve years after the Battle of Endor, Chief of State Leia Organa welcomes Nil Spaar, the Viceroy of the Dushkan League, representing a vast number of systems with great wealth and advanced technology, to a meeting in regards to the New Republic and the Leagues future together. Over many meetings, it becomes apparent that the Yevetha (the species that forms the League) just wants to be left alone, with no interference from the New Republic.

Many of Leia’s key members of staff distrust the Yevethans and send the newly established ‘Fifth Fleet’ to Dushkan League space to scout for any trouble. Han Solo ends up in charge of the Fleet after his predecessor is fired by Leia after he disobeys her orders, Han continues the mission.

Nil Spaar launches attacks on all the planets in the Dushkan League and kills all non-Yevethan people in a mass genocide, blaming Leia for instigating war between the New Republic and the Yevethan people.

Meanwhile, a bored Lando Calrissian gets entangled in a search party for a missing ship, often considered a myth. The fleet he is with, as well as his own team consisting of himself, Lobot, C-3PO and R2-D2 join the mission that locates the ship, ‘The Teljkon Vagabond’ and Lando’s task force manage to crack the code to get access to the ship where the rest of the fleet cannot. Before they know it the Vagabond jumps into hyperspace and the team has no idea where it’s going.

Luke is on his own journey, after stepping away from the Jedi Academy, believing that he should go into exile like Obi-Wan and Yoda before him, he takes up residence in Darth Vader’s palace on Coruscant. After asking Han to tell Leia to leave him alone, a mysterious woman who claims to have ties to Luke and Leia’s mother arrives and Luke joins her to find a key to his past.

And, Chewie takes the Millennium Falcon to Kashyyyk for Lumpy’s coming-of-age ceremony and only appears in the book briefly.

Personally, I really could have just taken Luke’s storyline from this (audio)book and cut it out completely. I’m not sure if it’s because I just don’t like it, or that it is completely contradictory to when we got in the Prequel Trilogy (but Luke going off into exile is kind of like ‘The Last Jedi’, in a really loose way) about Padmé. If I were ever to jump on the #NotMyLukeSkywalker movement it would be about Luke in this (audio)book.

I’m guessing McDowell didn’t quite know what to do with Chewie here because the Wookiee is written out of the story very early on. I can understand why, writing a companion that doesn’t exactly speak can be a bit tedious, how many different ways can you describe the vocalisations of a Wookiee? But it does leave Han without a companion, so Solo is shipped off on a military mission to try and find answers on the Dushkan League. Of course, it all goes a bit wrong for them when their presence gives the Yevethans an opportunity to commit their abhorrent acts and proclaim it to be in defence of the New Republic people attacking the Yevethans.

However, it’s Leia’s storyline that I found to be the most interesting, with her slow descent into uncertainty at how she is performing in her role as Chief-of-State. She becomes erratic towards her colleagues, even accusing Ackbar, one of her strongest supporter, of working against her and against her best wishes, even though her meetings with Nil Spaar and becoming increasingly more and more pointless as very little gets achieved beyond their first couple of interactions. It all comes to a head when Nil Spaar announces to the Galaxy that the Yevethans have fought and defeated the New Republic citizens living within the Dushkan League. And it’s that storyline that makes me want to listen to the next one.

As I said before, I really could have done without Luke’s storyline in this novel, but I’m sure that by the end of the third part of the trilogy, Luke, Leia, Han and Lando will reunite with each of their storylines merging together for a good old team-up.

The Yevethans are an interesting species. After years of slavery under the Empire, the Yevethans become incredibly xenophobic, considering any other races to be ‘vermin’. My one issue with them however, it seems like McDowell has made them to be quite overpowered from the start, incredibly intelligent, quick, strong, amazing ship builders and a retractable needle like blade that comes out of their wrists.

The (audio)book focuses heavily on intergalactic politics, which in the abridged version is palatable, however, given my ongoing struggles with reading the book I wonder how it would have come across. I quite enjoy the galactic politics in Star Wars, one of my favourite canon novels is ‘Bloodline’ which gives a great look at the politics of the New Republic, and ‘Before the Storm’ gives us an interesting political tête-à-tête between Leia and Nil Spaar. It’s interesting seeing how Spaar uses and twists things to his own gains, leaving Leia and her people struggling to find out what they have done wrong to offend the Yevethans whilst Spaar puts his plan in motion. In terms of villains, it’s great to see one who works more on Leia’s level than another Pirate or Dark Jedi which are on Han and Luke’s levels respectively.

Much more palatable as an audiobook, the main story is interesting and for the most part, the characters feel like the on-screen versions than some of the previous (audio)books I have reviewed recently, except for Luke… which may or not play out later in the trilogy, but so far it’s not my cup of tea.

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