Friday, August 11, 2006

Book 64: Assault at Selonia

Friday, August 11, 2006
Ambush at Corellia was a surprisingly good Star Wars novel. It was set in the timeline at a place where quite a few of the surrounding novels were sub-par. The set up has Han, Leia, their children, Chewbacca, and the droids on a diplomatic mission to Corellia, Han's homeworld. Corella is a star system and planet which is coming apart at the seams and rife with factions sowing the seeds of rebellion and revolution and uprising. The novel did something fairly remarkable for a part of a trilogy: It told a complete story while broadening the overall story of the trilogy. I was impressed and I enjoyed reading the novel. I anticipated reading the second volume, Assault at Selonia, and hoped for the same level of quality and storytelling.

I was let down and satisfied at the same time. Roger MacBride Allen is a capable writer and he has an easy to read style that moves forward at a good pace. I had hopes that he would be able to avoid Middle Book Syndrome, a condition where an otherwise good novel does very little to tell an independent story and serves only as a link between Books One and Three. Unfortunately, Assault at Selonia caught a nasty case of M.B.S. There is quite a bit going on, but very little narrative advancement. I will give a brief overview: Han has been captured by his cousin Thracken Sal-Solo, the presumed leader of the Human League. Sal-Solo is threatening the peace of Corellia and has something that can cause a planet to explode. Another superweapon, sure, but this one is less the point of the story than in previous novels. Leia is also held captive, though in a different location. Luke is with Lando trying to decide how to get information to the Republic to help the situation as Sal-Solo has caused Hyperspace flight into the system to be impossible. Throughout the novel we learn more of what is going on behind the scenes and the characters are moved around the board so that every character is in a different place at the end than he/she was in the beginning, but there was no story thread here.

This novel would be completely lost if it wasn't tying itself to Book Three. There is no resolution, no real narrative advancement. Pad a few chapters into the first and third novels and this book could be completely absorbed with nobody being the wiser. That's what I mean by Middle Book Syndrome. It is a bridge between two books, but doesn't advance much and doesn't add essential story points that couldn't be covered elsewhere. This is a common problem with trilogies.

Though I may be coming off as being negative, I did like the book. When I finish the trilogy I expect that it will be one of the better Star Wars stories that have been written. MacBride Allen is doing a very good job here and taken as a three book cycle I think the work will be strong. Taking the second book alone, it doesn't hold up as a single novel. Other second volumes may have the same story flaws, but in this instance there was a certain obviousness about it, that Assault at Selonia could have been more and failed to live up to its promise. Still, it is worth reading the trilogy even if volume two is mostly filler.


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