Planet of Twilight
By Barbara Hambly
13 years after ANH

* * * **

This book by Barbara Hambly provides the third installment in a loose sort-of-trilogy with Hambly's other EU contribution, Children of the Jedi, and author Kevin J. Anderson's Darksaber.


Planet of Twilight begins with Leia on a secret diplomatic mission that very quickly goes wrong. Leia is kidnapped, and her entourage infected with a deadly plague. As Leia attempts to unravel the intrigues underlying her imprisonment, and tries to figure out a way to escape, Luke unbeknownst to either of them has coincidentally arrived on the planet of her confinement in search of his lost love, Callista. (See the previous books, Children of the Jedi, and Darksaber for more on this relationship). Han, meanwhile, learns of Leia's disappearance, and with Lando and Chewbacca, sets out in search of her. And in a Keystone-Cops-like side story, C3P0 and R2D2, having dodged the destruction of Leia's escort at her abduction, frantically traipse across the now-plague-ridden sector trying to get word out to someone in authority who can affect Leia's…and their…rescue.




Planet of Twilight is another marvelous effort by scribe Barbara Hambly. Hambly's descriptive skills are absolutely peerless. Vistas and characters are delineated by keen, dead-on, perfect images that are at once and the same time beautifully poetic, and succinctly functional. Each environment is rendered distinctly: smells, the color of the light, the feel of the air, the topography and architecture. Unlike in Darksaber where metaphor is over-used and often painfully awkward, here metaphor is graceful and witty. (A favorite: enormous blocks of ice drifting towards the Millennium Falcon "like Bantha's in love with a speeder").

Our much-loved movie folk are also richly portrayed. Leia, especially, comes off well: strong, brave, feminine, full of doubts, but also chock full of guts and determination, wisdom, wiles, and moxy. We can see the residual influences of the pain of Alderaan's destruction, the lingering dread emanating from Vader's legacy to her and to her children, her over-powering sense of responsibility for her family, for the whole galaxy, and her yearning to define herself separately from the weight of all that baggage, and separately from the choices Luke has made regarding inheritance and power. Other characters, too, get dimensioned exposition. Luke's aching emotions at missing Callista, Han's desperate distress at worrying about Leia, and beneath the pain and fear, always an undercurrent of Luke's and Han's native, dry humor. And also in the comic-relief column, we have R2D2 and C3P0, stranded on their own, eluding pirates and thieves and Imperials (OH, MY…), loyally intent on saving their Mistress. They are the Abbott and Costello of the Star Wars Universe, and even they are given a well-rounded poignancy. Such multi-layered depictions make this book wrenchingly emotional, romantic, and yet subtly quite funny. Much like the films' balance of drama and humor, with the added benefit of being able to get inside people's heads, see what's happening, as it's happening, through their eyes and heart.

Hambly again, as with Children of the Jedi, nimbly side-steps the onus of how to deal with Luke's (and Leia's) Force powers, making the restraint of Luke's being able to access his sometimes plot-unwieldy strengths an integral part of this plot and part of the mystery of the very mysterious planet where Luke and Leia are independently struggling. The Force becomes a part of the story, rather than the "third arm" or white elephant that the EU authors must always contend with.

And lest we forget one of the main criteria for rating the SW novels, Planet of Twilight contains one of the most intensely grotesque, frightening bad guys in all of the EU. In fact, there are several nemeses, and this book shows in fascinating progression the terror manifest when rational, pragmatic, expedient or greedy evil becomes intertwined with semi-sentient, biological-imperative-driven evil. Along the way, there are exciting space battles, filmic land fighting, some great lightsaber action…(lightsabers are even used as bug exterminators…do they make house-calls?)…and a fantastically suspenseful final act, with a sweetly sexy denouement.

Planet of Twilight is a highly satisfying work. Barbara Hambly seems to have a deep, organic understanding of the Star Wars universe. Details and nuances are not superficial; they feel like they emanate from living there. It not only occupies an important slot in the timeline and is a lovely addition to the EU, it is a hugely engrossing read. And visions of the characters as evoked by Hambly, and memories of places

© May 9, 2000 by Karen Ross AKA "Queen of the Dweebs"