Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambly (1997, Bantam)
If you’re expecting jokes about the title of this book, you’re in for a disappointment. Every Twilight joke possible has already been made, I think, and such jokes are past their expiration date. Although, I did read part of Planet of Twilight in a room full of people who were watching Breaking Dawn.
The majority of this novel’s action takes place on Nam Chorios, a planet where an anti-technology religious sect known as the Therans are fighting with a small minority of settlers for the right to dictate policy and decide whether the planet will join the New Republic.
The situation, it turns out, is nowhere close to being as simple as that, and Barbara Hambly treats us to a number of twists as the plot is unfolds and reveals itself to be a tangled web of petty rivalries, grand schemes for galactic domination, and corporate espionage. A deadly plague with the potential to spread throughout the galaxy is the primary threat here. This is a welcome change from “yet another planet-destroying laser/spaceship/missile.”
Antagonists involved include an Imperial Moff, two former Jedi who have grown petty and self-absorbed, and a truly disturbing mastermind. He turns out to be an evolved bug, but despite my distaste for bug people, I thought that Dzym, a parasitic creature feeding on his minions’ life force, was effective in his creepy-crawliness, owing to some graphic and disturbing passages from Hambly describing his many mouths and the pleasure he took from draining his victims.
As in her previous Star Wars book, Children of the Jedi, Hambly writes Leia very well, giving her way more to do than most authors tend to. Early in the novel, she is captured and held prisoner by Dzym and his underlings, but she escapes on her own and plays a crucial role in the book’s climax. Hambly explores Leia’s daddy issues and her fears about becoming another Vader if she learns the ways of the Force. It’s very rewarding to see her finally confront these issues after so many other books that have dealt with them only fleetingly.
The highlight of the book, though, is its ending. Luke has also come to the planet of Nam Chorios, looking for Callista, the Jedi-out-of-time he fell in love with in Children of the Jedi. Callista had left on a journey of self-discovery after realizing that she wasn’t getting anywhere with trying to reawaken her ability with the Force. When Luke finds her in this book, it’s only to realize that the two of them are now on separate paths and can’t be together. The last chapter of this book is very emotionally effective, leaving the reader with a wonderfully bittersweet feeling on the last page.
From what I can gather by flitting around the internet and reading discussion boards and comment threads, most fans really don’t like Hambly’s Star Wars work. They mostly cite a lack of coherence in the plots and some ill-defined distaste for her writing style. I’ll agree that Children of the Jedi and Planet of Twilight aren’t the greatest Star Wars books ever written, and her plotting can be a little difficult to follow in places (and sure, a Hutt with a lightsaber is a little silly). Still, I think that she gets the emotional center of each of the main Star Wars characters (including even C-3PO and R2-D2) just right, and for me, that’s what’s most important.