The Black Fleet Crisis is a trilogy in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, consisting of Before the Storm, Shield of Lies, and Tyrant's Test. Written by Michael P. Kube-McDowell, this is known to be one of the more Military Science-Fiction books in the SWEU, with great attention paid to ships and their positioning.Luke Skywalker shirks his responsibilities to go on a wild bantha chase to find his mother, and meets an all-female group of Force users. Han Solo and Leia, meanwhile, have to deal with the bigoted Yevetha. At the same time, Lando heads off on an even wilder bantha hunt, chasing after a wandering ship called the Teljlkon Vagabond which ends up being as essential to the plot as Luke's mother.
Tropes featured in this work include:
Absolute Xenophobe: The Yevetha are a pretty textbook example. Only a few ambassadors like Nil Spaar will permit themselves to be in the same room as 'vermin' (any other race) and immediately afterwards they will burn their clothes and submit themselves to painful water needle-spray cleansing showers.
Action Prologue: Before the Storm opens with Gen. Etahn A'baht leading the Fifth Battle Group on a live-fire exercise.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Yevetha, who have no consideration for other species concepts of civilians, kill everyone else living in a star cluster they consider theirs, and use captured prisoners as living shields. It's to the point where the first formal declaration of war ever issued by the New Republic was against them rather than an Imperial faction (who, granted, they were never not at war with).
Bizarre Alien Biology: Yevetha apparently have their brains in their chests. Though this is based on Nil Spaar tapping his chest when referring to his mind, so it might just be that they poetically place the seat of the mind there, like humans refer to the heart as the seat of emotions.
Boring, but Practical: In the prologue A'baht's K-Wings are armed with unguided freefall bombs that are nonetheless extremely effective.
And the Intimidator, a modified version of the Executor-Class Star Dreadnaught.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The Yevethan Genocide. The Yevethan fleet utterly obliterates the populations of over a dozen worlds in one swift attack, losing only one starfighter in the process. Reversed at the end, see Hoist by His Own Petard below.
For its release date it was pretty dark and edgier than any previous EU works- the language is rougher (Han gets to drop both a "son of a bitch" and a "bastard" on the Yevetha's leadership, and neither expression had been used in the EU before this), the violence is more graphic (the first EU decapitation that actually contained blood, as well as a very descriptive evisceration), and Akanah is asked whether she ever had sex in hyperspace (the first use of the word "sex" in the EU that was referring to action rather than gender).
Two words: Castration knife.
A Day in the Limelight: Chewbacca vanishes for the second book and the reader might think McDowell was simply quietly getting rid of him due to not knowing how to write him, the way many other EU authors do. But then he returns to have a major role in the last book, bringing his whole family with him to save Han, and even gets dialogue!
Deus Exit Machina: Luke. And the Droids go off with Lando on their own storyline. Subverted with Chewbacca as previously noted.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite being an unredeemable asshole in every other respect Nil Spaar demonstrates genuine affection for his first consort, even going so far as to order her chambers kept forever unoccupied in her memory.
Fate Worse than Death: Some of the Imperial troops manning the Yevetha-based shipyards (and later counter-enslaved by the Yevetha) were working on advanced research projects to do with hyperspace, to see if it were possible to launch a weapon pod into hyperspace and have it come out on its own. They concluded it was impossible and the pod would be lost in hyperspace forever. So guess where they fire Nil Spaar in a pod when they regain control of their ships at the end of the third book.
Four-Star Badass: Etahn A'baht, the newly appointed leader of the Fifth Fleet. Even Admiral Ackbar admits A'baht is a better strategist at conventional warfare than he is, as most Rebel commanders were used to guerilla tactics, but A'baht was used to fighting.
Then there's a small scene where A'baht, waiting for court martial, whiles away time by doing extremely difficult callisthenics in his quarters.
Frictionless Reentry: Averted, leading to a Red Shirt Moment in Before the Storm. During the live-fire exercise in chapter one, one of the Fifth Battle Group's fleet tenders drops out of hyperspace too late to decelerate and breaks up upon striking a planet's atmosphere, killing its crew of six.
Gadgeteer Genius: Aside from their obsession with honour and blood purity, this is the Yevetha's other hat, with them presented as being capable of duplicating and improving the Imperial technology they were exposed to when they were slave workers in the shipyards. An interesting Foil to the Yuuzhan Vong.
Guy in Back: The K-Wings are configured as such in this series. This was among the details that was retconned; the final design ended up with the pilot and bombardier side by side and added a pair of defensive gunners.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In the prologue, Nil Spaar captures the Imperial Garrison at N'Zoth when they were ordered to evacuate. During the final battle, the last remnants of that garrison use a slave routine to complete the evacuation mid-battle... taking the Flagship and Nil Spaar with them!
Justified Title: The trilogy's title refers to Black Sword Command, the Imperial fleet assigned to the Koornacht Cluster which was not accounted for by New Republic Intelligence at the start of the series. The Yevetha had captured it during their uprising and made it the core of their navy.
In the live-fire exercise in the intro, the Fifth Battle Group face a moon-mounted hypervelocity gun, a weapon that fires super-accelerated solid ammunition rather than the more common energy weapons in Star Wars.
One of the attack missions during the war also sees the K-wings outfitted with kinetic weapons rather than lasers.
Last of His Kind: Plat Mallar is the only known survivor from Polneye, the largest of the worlds that fell victim to the Yevethan Genocide and the only one able to put up a fight, but still utterly annihilated.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: The books were written in 1996, so anybody reading the trilogy today knows that Luke's search for his mother really is a wild bantha chase from the moment her supposed name is revealed.
Luke, I Am Your Father: Replace father with mother, and deconstruct. Though Nashira exists, she was only a passing teacher to Akanahnote who later abandoned her who lost a son and a daughter to the Emperornote ; which makes her just as likely to be Mara Jade's mother as to be Luke's. Akanah just put a wrong pair of two together.
Mauve Shirt: McDowell loves to do this with his soldiers, particularly Tuketu and Skids, the trilogy's equivalent of Wedge.
Mighty Glacier: The K-Wing, a two-man heavy bomber introduced in this series and designed to replace the obsolete Y-Wing and aging B-Wing. Slower than the E-Wing or X-Wing, but in the words of one of their pilots in The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels:
Miranda Doni: We're the heavy hitters. When you need a command bridge leveled or a convoy of tanks wiped out, the K-wings get the call.
McDowell gave Luke super-construction powers (with intense concentration and lots of meditation). Not only was he able to find the shattered, scattered, buried remains of his father's fortress and reassemble them in midair with the Force, he was able to make broken edges fuse and shuffle the mineral content to build a tower out of those remains, and then he was able to resculpt the stone at will and play with light and gravity inside. All other EU material tends to ignore this power.
Another example of this is Luke using the Force to mess with people's perceptions when he wants to disguise himself, in an example of We Will Not Use Stage Makeup In The Future. Timothy Zahn delivered a direct Take That to both of these powers in Hand of Thrawn and came up with an in-universe Retcon for why Luke was stupid to use them and Yoda never would (basically, they're so unnecessarily showy and power-consuming that they drown out your deeper perceptions of the Force and cut you off from your sense of morality).
No Such Agency: These books introduce Alpha Blue, the New Republic's super-secret intelligence group that goes above and beyond the official military New Republic Intelligence (NRI). It would later reappear in the New Jedi Order books.
Planet Looters: The stated reason for the Yevethan genocide is so they can have the depopulated planets for their own use.
Nil Spaar: Your wars are decided by the death of a tenth of a population, a third of an army. Then the defeated surrender their honor and the victors surrender their advantage. This is called being civilized. The Yevetha are not civilized, General. It would be a mistake to deal with us as though we were.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Admiral Ackbar gives a memorable one to an Obstructive Bureaucratand his supervisor regarding Plat Mallar's application to join the New Republic military. The bureaucrats are reluctant to approve it because Polneye was legally an Imperial planet, so Mallar is an Imperial citizen despite the Imperial Remnant having completely ignored his homeworld for years.
Supervisor: Admiral, we could certainly reconsider the application if you could just give us the context for your concern— Ackbar: The context. It's not enough that a man is willing to put on a uniform and fight alongside people he's never met, just because he shares an ideal with them—no, his offer must come from the right context, and his school papers must be in order, and his arms not too long, and his blood type stocked in the combat medivacs. How things have changed. I can remember when we were glad for anyone willing to fight beside us. Supervisor: Admiral—there have to be standards— Ackbar: Major, ask yourself how many of the everyday heroes of the Rebellion—not just the names everyone knows—would have qualified to fight for their freedom under your rules. And then ask yourself if that answer doesn't make you look just a bit like a dewback's cloaca.
Just for reference, among the heroes Ackbar speaks of are Biggs Darklighternote Luke's old friend from Tatooine, an Imperial Military Academy graduate who jumped ship to join up, and died covering Luke during the trench run, Tycho Celchunote an Alderaanian pilot who defected after Alderaan and, at the time of BFC, is the commanding officer of Rogue Squadron, and Crix Madinenote an Imperial Intelligence officer who defected to the Rebels and helped mastermind the theft of the shuttle Tydirium for the Endor operation.
The main plot is very much that of a Tom Clancy-style political/military techno-thriller IN SPACE!. Arguably a lot of the continuity issues with the books stem from the fact that this didn't mesh well with the status quo of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
In particular, the Yevetha are reminiscent of how the Imperial Japanese were viewed by American eyes in WW2: their obsession with honour, refusal to surrender, and their ability to rapidly understand and copy technology from a more technologically advanced enemy (in this case the Empire).
Retcon: Quite a lot of the books were obsoleted by later decisions in ordering the Expanded Universe chronology, though this mostly isn't Kube-McDowell's fault as it was still very vague when he wrote the books:
There is said to be no single Imperial government anymore, only minor warlords, and the Republic has been officially at peace for nearly three years. Darksabernote Set four years prior to this series and published in 1995 (versus Before The Storm's 1996) introduced the idea of a continuing Imperial Remnant and later books have the Republic still fighting it throughout the timeframe of this book. Ironically enough, the formation of the controversial Fifth Fleet would have been justified better by a unified Imperium. And in a Double-Irony, the Yevetha actually create the fiction of a "Grand Imperial Union" to justify the presence of the (by-then discovered) Imperial Ships in Tyrant's Test.
When the Yevetha are revealed to have an Executor-class star dreadnaught, it's said that the Republic has nothing of the same size to counter it with. The later X-Wing Series introduced the SSD Lusankya, which the Republic captured in The Bacta War and had combat-ready by the end of the war with Grand Admiral Thrawn.
The government of the New Republic is described in detail, but bears no resemblance to what appears in books either before or since. In fairness, this is a problem with pretty much every EU book from this era. An example from the Movie Canon: the latter-released The Phantom Menace has Senators representing multi-world hegemonies similar to the Duskhan League, the recognition of which versus its twelve constituent worlds individually was seen as a major diplomatic concern for The Republic.note Granted, several of said multi-world hegemonies banded together to oppose the Republic in the laterprequels, which might have inspired a policy change on that point.
The depiction of the K-Wing bomber is very different from its finalized design in The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels. Among other things it is stated to have no armaments apart from its ordnance hardpoints. The Essential Guide added a pair of light turbolaser turrets.
Robosexual: Sex droids are briefly mentioned. This is apparently a common thing with Kube-McDowell.
Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The SWEU tends to have three broad categories which enemies fall into: 1) Imperials, 2) Sith, and 3) evil alien hordes. Guess which one this is. The Yevetha specifically fall under the Nazi Aliens variety.
Sequel Hook: The slave-rigged Imperial fleet at the end automatically flees into hyperspace towards Byss. Unfortunately, this was never followed up on (the most it gets is a footnote in The New Essential Chronology about the SSD Intimidator being found destroyed at one point, and the rest of the fleet either defecting to the Republic or joining the Imperial Remnant.
Spheroid Dropship: The Yevetha's thrustships are spherical, based on the surface area argument quoted on the trope page.
Status Quo Is God: These books attempt to move on from the status quo by suggesting technological evolution, saying X-wings have become outdated and even Luke now flies an E-wing, and introducing a whole host of new ships. This is ignored by later books, though there are sometimes justifications used, like an upgraded model of X-wing being produced so it regains supremacy.
Super Drowning Skills: Ayddar Nylykerka, being a Tammarian, a race from a planet with no surface water and who have a fear of being immersed in it. Despite this he attempts to swim through the water surrounding Admiral Ackbar's dwelling to get in, which convinces Ackbar that what he's telling him must be of vital importance.
Theme Naming: The Yevetha rename all the Imperial ships to "X of Yevetha", such as Purity, Pride, Beauty, etc.
Third Line, Some Waiting: In the second installment, each of the main plots occupy their own third of the book with no real interaction, so, e.g., you don't know why Lando's group is getting ships recalled to Coruscant until you read Leia's third near the end. In fact, Lando's plotline becomes so disconnected from the main events that the third book labels his chapters as "Interludes", with one Interlude following two mainline chapters.
Time Capsule: The Teljkon Vagabond turns out to be this for the extinct Qella and so much more.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Chewbacca's son Lumpy accompanies the crew of the Millennium Falcon so he can prove himself to his father.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: The Yevethans do this in order to throw off suspicion of them while allowing them to purge a number of Deep Core systems of their native populations when they destroy an unarmed survey ship but accuse Leia of warmongering to make the New Republic turn inward to deal with this "issue". Fortunately soon the galaxy sees their true colors.
X Days Since: The Republic has a counter saying how many days the galaxy has been at peace. In a poignant scene, they are ordered to take it down when the fight with the Yevetha begins. This doesn't fit with the later timescale of the Expanded Universe, but it's a nice idea.