The fun never ends when your adopted uncle is Lando Calrissian, as evidenced by this… wait. Wait, why does Jacen look like Jonathan Taylor Thomas on the cover of this book? Are we now obligated to watch every episode of Home Improvement? What vile scheme is this?
He really does look exactly like JTT, though. Which might make sense in terms of him being popular when this book came out. But it’s… creepy? Is Jaina based on someone too? Help us out, people.
Anyhow, that was a roundabout way of getting to the reread! Which happens to be the penultimate book, sadly. At least Uncle Lando shows up. It’s time for Trouble on Cloud City!
For Anja Gallandro’s first weeks at the Jedi Praxeum, Jacen and Zekk monopolize all her time. This leads to a splinter in their group of friends as the boys go all doe-eyed for the new recruit. Training with Anja turns out to be dangerous, however: her fighting techniques are over-aggressive and Jacen almost loses a limb. Luke admits that he senses no Force-sensitivity in Gallandro whatsoever, but Jacen and Zekk are reticent to believe.
Lando shows up with an opportunity to get the gang back together; he’s developing an amusement park of sorts on Cloud City and wants the kids to come test it and tell him what they think. The whole crew go (plus Anja, of course, because Jacen insists), but when they arrive it turns out that Lando’s business partner has died. Officials claim it’s a suicide, but Lando doesn’t buy. The kids offer to investigate!
Uncle Lando also points out to the crew that Anja is under the influence of andris spice. Again, Jacen is having a hard time believing it, but he confronts Gallandro. She admits to using, but is angry at his questions and insists she’s not addicted. She rages off Stage Left.
Lando finds out that Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (who were booked to play at his new center) have fled, and goes to investigate with Jaina and Zekk. Jacen, Tenel Ka, and Lowie follow a former employee that Lando’s business partner fired and come into contact with a bunch of Black Sun goons. The kids turn tail and run, but they end up getting dump out a chute. Tenel Ka and Lowie catch an antenna like Luke did back in the day, but Jacen falls through the atmosphere, reaching out through the Force for help. He gets rescued by M’kim, this cool alien guy who rides a Thranta. M’kim tells him that Lando’s partner was killed by Czethros—and old bounty hunter who unsurprisingly takes issue with Han Solo.
Lando, Jaina and Zekk get to Figrin D’an, and find out that the Black Sun was trying to muscle in on their entertainment sector, leading to the death of Lando’s friend. Jacen reveals that he’s not dead to his friends (they were worried), then goes with Tenel Ka and Lowie for a debriefing on their near-assassination. This turns out to be a trick, leading to another chase in cloud cars. They stop their pursuers, then return back to find Lando working hard to get the Black Sun off of Cloud City.
The choice to have Anja addicted to spice is a good mirror for young kids—plenty of teens have a friend or two who might get into some trouble with alcohol or drugs (or something else), and the interactions in this book ring true to those encounters. Jacen has a hard time believing Anja has a problem at all, and when he finally does ask her about it, she is furious. The insistence of the kids in not holding it against her, in trying to help her, is a good lesson. What’s more, the book manages to get into it without being preachy, which is key for morality tales.
The Force is treated weirdly in this book. I mean, if Luke Skywalker says he can’t sense the Force in you, my guess would be that you’re not Force-sensitive? They were never big on the midichlorian count in the EU (since it didn’t exist yet), but there was a device that Luke used to detect students at one point. He should probably keep it and use it? It’s weird that it never comes up. In addition, it’s also weird that everyone thinks Jacen is dead; the Solo kids are pretty powerful in the Force, I’m sure he could have reached out to nudge someone. He eventually decides to let everyone thinks he’s dead for a advantage, but it’s a dubious one plot-wise at best.
I want more thrantas riders! They’re actually a pretty cool idea for a species, but they’re not fleshed out enough. Apparently they only have two toes on each foot? Can you walk with only two toes? These are the things that keep me up at night.
Lando should really just stop trying to be a business man. None of his ventures ever work out. Ever. He’s just pushing his luck every single time, and then it gets blown up or people die, he’s just not good with business, he needs to admit it. Then again, what would Lando do without all those little projects? He’d probably cease to be Lando Calrissian. It’s programmed into him biologically. Be handsome and smooth and make bad business choices.
I understand that we enter some interesting territory with these books, but I can’t help feeling like they shift too much focus onto Jacen. I miss Jaina and Tenel Ka (most of all). It’s like she became the not-as-primary love interest and got completely sidelined as a character. Boo. There were ways in which she and Jaina and Lowie could have continued to feel vital even with the new spotlight on Anja.
Jumping onto Emily’s last point: One failing of this final YJK arc is that we didn’t get to see Jaina and Tenel Ka actually level with Anja. Instead, the authors went a bit more black-and-white with having the boys drool over her and the girls keep their distance. It would have been interesting to see a tad more nuance, where the young women could treat each other as fellow Jedi trainees rather than school or romantic rivals.
Oh, Lando and his unintentionally shady schemes. I have an uncle who, for the duration of my childhood and even still now, has always talked about “that one big deal” that’s going to make him rich and wipe away any of his troubles... except that he never found that deal, and racked up more troubles along the way. Lando reminds me of that, of always grasping for the golden ring. You have to imagine that he got a pretty hefty reward after blowing up the Second Death Star, but that in the decade or so since then, he’s had to return to business to keep Cloud City running. So, I feel for him, but it’s also increasingly ludicrous that every visit to him ends with the Solo kids and their friends playing Mystery, Inc.
Speaking of bad pasts, they’re really playing up the whole “sins of the father” thing—first with Anja and her asteroid-sized daddy issues, and now the Solo twins and dear daddy Han. Turns out Czethros, like all bounty hunters, is doing all this just to get to the famous smuggler. At this point, is there some interest-accruing award for Solo’s head, or are the bounty hunters just going after him for the principle of the thing?
I wonder how Star Wars books written in this day and time would treat Force sensitivity (and the lack thereof). Would it be equated with privilege and other hyper-PC verbiage? Would you have other characters who, like Anja, attempt to “hack” the Jedi lifestyle? Also, I miss the days where we didn’t talk about midichlorian counts.
Natalie Zutter is the editor of all things geek over at Bookish. She is a playwright, foodie, and the co-creator of Leftovers, a webcomic about food trucks in the zombie apocalypse. Her writing has also appeared on Ology and Crushable. You can find her commenting on pop culture on Twitter.