With Edge of Victory II: Rebirth, Greg Keyes continues his salvation of the New Jedi Order series of Star Wars books. Keyes manages to create situations and characters that entice the reader to keep moving, to plow through his books as if there were nothing else in the world you could possibly conceive of doing. While Rebirth isn't quite as good as Conquest, it more than holds its own with the other books in the series. Unfortunately, Keyes bites off just a little too much and, with the limited page count, the book feels a little cramped.
I have just one word to say about the ending of Rebirth. Hallelujah!!! While I do have some issues with how many separate plots Keyes jammed into this 290 page book, I am very pleased to say that he avoids having them all end up in one place! He avoided it last book, too, but that was mainly because there was only one main plot. This time, there are several, and Keyes avoids the coincidence. On the other hand, because there are so few pages, the book is kind of hindered by them ending separately, as they feel a little diffuse. Still, I was thrilled to see it.
Surprisingly, even none of the plot lines feel like their neglected too badly, other than the Luke/Mara one. Keyes mainly avoids this by having the assault on the Vong world ship not take up too much room in the narrative. As much as other authors would use this as a high point, with a lot of space ship action, juking and jinking, explosions, and the like, Keyes makes this more about the relationship between Kyp Durron and Jaina Solo, as well as his relationship with the rest of the Jedi. There is still plenty of action, but there aren't a hundred pages of it, which was refreshing. As for the rest of the threads, Keyes is the master of making a small amount of space go a long way, making each thread feel like it's taking up more space than it actually is.
Even with all of this going on, we get a lot of wonderful characterization. There's the return of the old Han and Leia, with the banter between them back to the sarcasm hiding deep affection that characterized their relationship for so long before Chewbacca. They're still a little unsure of each other, and the hurts between them have not disappeared, but both realize that they love each other and they are stronger together than apart. They even have some bonding time with their son, Jacen. The scenes between all of them are wonderful, especially the one between Jacen and his mother in the docking bay, where she's wondering if he's going to leave them. There are deep philosophical differences between the two male Solos, but both are able to put them aside to do what they know they have to do.
It was also nice to see the return of Corran Horn, even if Michael Stackpole wasn't writing him. I've wondered about him since Ruin and I was hoping we'd see him again. He does a great job of mentoring Anakin, trying to curb some of his impulses. Anakin appears to have learned some from his experience on Yavin 4 (in Conquest), but he's still liable to go off half-cocked. The relationship between Anakin and Tahiri also takes an interesting turn, and with her feeling like a Vong at times, this should be fascinating to watch develop. I have my ideas on where this might go, but I'm probably wrong. The interaction between the three of them was almost perfect. As for the rest of the characters, I can't go on forever, but again there is not a hint of mischaracterization anywhere in this book. Greg Keyes, I bow down to you.
On the other hand, there were a couple of faults in this one, bringing it down from the stellar heights of Conquest. First, I am getting a bit tired of our heroes stumbling upon Vong plans. The attack on the world ship is perfect, because the information comes from intelligence gathered by Kyp. However, Corran and the others just randomly find the Vong attack on Yag'Dhul in a desperate hyperspace jump. So while Keyes avoids the coincidental ending, there's still just a bit too much happenstance for my book.
Secondly, the Luke/Mara plot is very truncated and almost deserved its own book. The birth of a Skywalker child, especially with all of the things happening to Mara, should have developed more. Luke and Mara do have some scenes, but they mainly consist of Mara denying she needs help or finally allowing Luke to help her, and then WHAM! The baby's born. Keyes could have made an entire book (or at least half of one) about Luke and Mara running from the New Republic government, which has just put an order out for their arrest, having the situation worsen in stages as Mara gets sicker, and then go on from there. What we got was fine, but it didn't seem to be enough. At the very least, the book could have used a few more pages to do something more interesting with these two.
That being said, Edge of Victory II: Rebirth is yet another standout Star Wars book. The series really seems to be moving into high gear, with authors like Keyes. With Keyes having written the penultimate book in the series, I feel a lot better about James Luceno writing the finale.