Review: The Truce at Bakura
This book came out in 1993, following The Last Command by about six months. There’s an argument to be made that if I can’t tell from the text itself whether Kathy Tyers had time to read the last Thrawn book or not, that it really doesn’t matter.
Chronologically, this book occurs in 01142 (until such time as I edit the timeline, which I plan to do sometime soon) — the very next morning after the events of Return of the Jedi. It was one of the first books I read — looks like about the seventh one; February 1998, I borrowed it from “my Star Wars friend” when we met at our homeschool co-op electricity class.
Almost certainly, we all started wondering what would happen the next day almost before the credits were finished rolling. And there are a few things about this book I have liked since the first time I read it — I love how Luke suffers repercussions from the lightning blast in the Emperor’s throne room. Even though the Star Wars are about wars, the violence always seems underplayed and nobody seems to have consequences.
Leia is dealing with some violent repercussions of her own: trying to process being the daughter of Darth Vader. She doesn’t mind acquiring a brother, but she already had a perfectly good father and doesn’t want to replace him with the man who tortured her three years ago. There’s a bit where she shouts at Luke that she wants nothing to do with Vader, and he replies, “But I came from Vader.” And he doesn’t add that she did, too. Leia actually gets a Force ghost vision of her own about Anakin Skywalker.
However, those segments aside, I noticed a lot of shortcomings this time around. The plot is that a truly alien race of saurians has invaded the furthest reach of the galaxy, a system called Bakura only brought under Imperial control in the last few years. This system has reached out for help from the Emperor, and the rebel alliance, teetering on the brink of becoming the new galactic government, decides to help to start turning imperial allies. Our three heroes go with a strike force to aid the unfriendly and desperate Bakurans, not knowing that there is a Force-sensitive young man in thrall to the Ssi-ruuk who is a danger to Luke personally.
This is all well and good, but Kathy Tyers took the military racism hinted at in Thrawn’s novel and ran with it to such a level that the Imperials on Bakura mindlessly attack Mon Calamarians because they aren’t human. Ignoring the fact that the Death Star II’s explosion would wipe out life on the Sanctuary Moon within months, if not days, is one thing because everyone does ignore it — but the distress beacon that the Bakurans send is an antique, slow-moving model that has taken weeks to arrive. This was of necessity, since the invaders have knocked out every other means of communication, but then how did they know to send it to the Emperor in the Endor system? He’d only been there a few days, and since Bothan spies were required to find out about his trip, my guess is it wasn’t announced on the 11 o’clock news.
After reading Zahn and Stackpole, I just found this book very two-dimensional. In that way, I suppose it’s very much in keeping with the films, but I think a film can get away with more than a book can. Imperials are mindlessly bad, rebels are mindlessly good, and there are no really complex characters. Also, sex is an awful preoccupation with everyone. Luke has just gained and lost his father in a matter of hours, but he can’t stop obsessing over the young Bakuran senator who can’t stand the sight of him. Han spends every waking moment trying to get intimate with Leia, who still squawks like an 11th grader nonstop.
There are some truly chilling elements. The Imperial governor is ice cold and a collector of teeth, which would be interesting if all the lesser-quality Star Wars books didn’t include a frosty Tarkin cosplayer with a weird obsession. The Ssi-ruuvi are an innovative villain, and their technology that harnesses the life-forces of prisoners to power their fighter ships and droids is nightmarish. There’s a disturbing helplessness to Dev’s scenes, where he tries to and literally is incapable of doing the right thing.
On the whole, the good elements of Tyers’ attempt are enough to pull up the weak parts. I always thought this book was enjoyable, not a favorite, but all right. The frustration I experience now with the unrealism of the early canon is not any fault of Kathy Tyers’. (It’s just that this is not how revolutions set up provisional governments; it’s not how empires give in; and you can’t blow up a 100-mile-in-diameter nuclear-powered battle station in the orbit of a small moon without it having some effect on the Ewoks living down there . . . but Idigress.) It’s not a bad adventure, on the whole.