Vector Prime (Star Wars) by R. A. Salvatore
Hardcover - 387 pages (October 5, 1999) Del Rey; ISBN: 0345428447
Review by Thomas Seay
Vector Prime is something of a new beginning for Star Wars novels. Twenty-five years after A New Hope, the Empire is dead. There are no TIE fighters trying to kill our friendly Jedi Knights, and no deadly Sith warriors coming to unleash mass destruction upon the Star Wars galaxy.
Almost all past plot lines have been terminated - but the Lucas folks couldn't leave Skywalker and company alone for too long. Now, a grand new threat settles upon the Star Wars universe, this time in the form of the Yuuzhan Vong.
Vector Prime is the launch novel for the New Jedi Order, a thirty-book long series which is going to span the next five years. The entire plotline has already been planned out (though that document is probably hidden away in some secret vault at Skywalker Ranch); we'll just have to wait to find out what happens. It's a hugely ambitious project, almost unparalleled in the history of science fiction. Vector Prime is the first indication we have of how successful the New Jedi Order series might turn out to be.
In Vector Prime, a new species of alien warriors comes in from outside the galaxy. These aliens, the Yuuzhan Vong, live for the very act of war; violence seems to be almost religious in nature to them. Possessing previously unknown technology, and using life forms rather than electronic gadgets to achieve almost all of their technical miracles, the Yuuzhan Vong manage to be very threatening bad guys... almost.
Why only almost? Well, their sole motivation seems to be the concept of destruction. Imagine reading through a mystery novel, getting to that climactic final scene where the detective is ready to reveal the murderer... and then finding out that the reason for the homicide was simply that the murderer wanted to see a great big bloodstain on the wall. That may be an overstatement of the situation, but as of right now, the Yuuzhan Vong aren't developed enough to be too threatening. (I'll openly admit that the Empire was never known for its complex motivations, and yet the Yuuzhan Vong fall short of even that.)
Complaint number two: the introduction of the Yuuzhan Vong makes Vector Prime seem less like Star Wars. The scenes that don't involve the Vong are wonderful, making it feel almost as if John Williams's soundtrack is playing in the background... but once the Yuuzhan Vong come into play, though the scenes may still be quite good, that sensation of intense Star Wars-ness just disappears.
Beyond that, Vector Prime is, quite simply, a hell of a novel. A main character from the original Star Wars trilogy is killed off, which will disappoint many, but which felt long overdue to me. The feeling of a rising tide of danger is presented extremely well, aptly setting up the next 29 novels. The characters have been very well-developed since we last met up with them, and some of them are starting to seem like genuine individuals for the first time ever.
It's likely that most fans will either love or hate this novel, and will defend their positions vehemently. Count me in the first category.