The New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1996, Bantam)
The New Rebellion is a stand-alone novel set in 17 ABY (that’s seventeen years after the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope, or thirteen years after Return of the Jedi). When a bombing of the Senate building on Coruscant claims the lives of hundreds of senators, Han is accused of being involved in the plot, mostly as a ploy by former Imperial members of the senate to push for a vote of no confidence in Leia.
Han, following a lead provided by an old acquaintance from his smuggling days, heads to Smuggler’s Run, an asteroid field providing a (relatively) safe haven for smugglers and their ilk. There he encounters a number of old friends and business partners, who are, of course, immediately distrustful of Han. A number of passages in which Han reflects on how much he and his circumstances have changed are the best the novel has to offer.
Luke also attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery, and his investigations ultimately lead him to two former students of his Jedi Academy that left before completing their training.
The first is Brakiss, a one-time Imperial infiltrator in the Academy. Despite Luke’s initial success in converting him, Brakiss left after a vaguely described ritual in which, like Luke in the Dagobah cave in Empire, he had to face the darkness within himself. It was, apparently, too much for him. When Luke meets him again, Brakiss is conflicted and cannot bring himself to carry out his master’s bidding and kill Luke. Passages dealing with Luke and Brakiss are pretty solid; the Dark Jedi is an interesting character, and would be more interesting if he weren’t playing second banana to The New Rebellion’s primary antagonist.
“Kueller” is the mastermind of the novel’s plot, which involves detonators installed in thousands upon thousands of common droid models—the true cause of the disaster at the beginning of the novel. Kueller is also a former student of Luke’s, whose original name is Dolph, a fact that, despite description to the contrary, forced me to imagine him looking exactly like Ivan Drago.
Most of the time, however, Kueller wears a mask. This is described in the novel as a “skull-like mask that adhered to his face.” Several passages describe the mask moving with Kueller’s facial movements. In the official artwork depicting Kueller, the mask looks much different than this description—as though Buzz Lightyear, rather than Luke Skywalker, is Kueller’s arch nemesis.
Apart from his resemblance to the evil Emperor Zurg, there isn’t much of interest to say about Kueller. He is a bland, color-by-numbers villain who meets his end in an appropriately unspectacular fashion.
The New Rebellion is, from what I can gather, one of the most poorly regarded Star Wars books among fans. I don’t think it’s completely deserving of the amount of contempt I’ve seen heaped upon it on forums and comment pages. There are some very fun passages, mostly involving Han revisiting his old life and Lando’s botched and unnecessary attempt to rescue Han from Smuggler’s Run. Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a competent style that moves along at a quick pace despite the novel’s length, which is slightly longer than average for a Star Wars book. Most commendable is that the characterizations ring very true, without the excessive somberness often ascribed to Luke or the myriad mischaracterizations of something like The Crystal Star.
Still, the story of The New Rebellion and its antagonist are thoroughly middle-of-the-road. The New Rebellion isn’t an unpleasant read, but it is, for the most part, unremarkable and unessential.