- "I felt bad about not being able to do more with Han Solo in my novels, but the two books that follow mine focus on him, so my job was help him to mark time until Jim Luceno can roar back with a pair of Han Solo novels. I can't wait for them."
- ―Michael A. Stackpole, on the Dark Tide and Agents of Chaos Duologies
The Agents of Chaos Duology is a pair of novels that were written by James Luceno in the year 2000. The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial and The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse are respectively the fourth and fifth volumes of the multi-author book series known as The New Jedi Order, and they cover the latter half of the first year of the Yuuzhan Vong War, an invasion of the galaxy by an extra-galactic species of religious zealots known as the Yuuzhan Vong. As the New Republic battles back against the bloodthirsty invaders, its former Chief of State Leia Organa Solo works to relocate refugees who have been displaced by the war. Concurrently, members of the Yuuzhan Vong Priest caste plot to destroy Master Luke Skywalker's Jedi Order, and the pilot Han Solo, stricken with grief over the death of his long-time friend and co-pilot Chewbacca, travels across the galaxy to help both old and new friends in their times of need, hoping to find a way to come to terms with his loss.
James Luceno was originally hired as a consultant and continuity advisor for The New Jedi Order, but he was eventually contracted to write a single novel called Agents of Chaos. However, when the preceding Dark Tide Trilogy by Michael A. Stackpole was reduced to a duology, Agents of Chaos was expanded into two books. Luceno wrote the duology as a tribute to his late friend Brian Daley, who had penned a series of Han Solo–centric novels over twenty years prior. Luceno intended for Hero's Trial to be a "Han Solo, this is your life" novel, and he also hoped to take Solo through a heroic journey that recalled the original Star Wars trilogy. The two volumes of Agents of Chaos were released in paperback and audio cassette in August and October 2000, respectively, and although reception was mixed, several characters and other elements introduced in the duology played important roles throughout the remainder of The New Jedi Order. Luceno later went on to write the series' finale, 2003's The New Jedi Order: The Unifying Force.
- "I'll deal with this in my own way."
- ―Han Solo, on Chewbacca's death
Twenty-one years after the Battle of Endor and the death of Galactic Emperor Palpatine, the galaxy has been invaded by an extra-galactic species of religious zealots known as the Yuuzhan Vong. Both the New Republic and Master Luke Skywalker's New Jedi Order have been attempting to repel the bloodthirsty invaders, but Han Solo, Skywalker's brother-in-law, has slipped into alcoholism and depression following the death of his long-time friend and co-pilot Chewbacca. After attending a funeral for the fallen warrior, he pushes his family away and vows to avenge his friend's death without their help. He is soon greeted by his old friend Roa, who informs him that a former acquaintance of theirs, Reck Desh, has joined a group called the Peace Brigade and is cooperating with the Yuuzhan Vong. Actions taken by the Peace Brigade resulted in the death of Roa's wife Lwyll, and he asks for Solo's help in tracking down Desh and preventing the organization from costing any more innocent lives. Solo agrees, and leaves the galactic capital of Coruscant without informing his family where he is going.
As the Yuuzhan Vong continue to conquer planets along their invasion corridor, the priest Harrar learns of the Jedi and the Force and decides that the invasion is a holy war between the Yuuzhan Vong's True Gods and the "False God" of the Force. He and the Executor Nom Anor devise a plan to turn the priestess Elan over to the New Republic as a bogus defector, arming her with poisonous and deadly bo'tous spores. Elan and her familiar, the Fosh Vergere, are delivered to the New Republic and are debriefed by New Republic Intelligence.
Solo and Roa travel to Ord Mantell in Roa's ship, the Happy Dagger, to the orbiting space station known as the Jubilee Wheel. There, they are provided with information on Desh from Big Bunji, the Jubilee Wheel's owner and an old associate of Solo's, as well as from the young Human Fasgo. The Yuuzhan Vong soon arrive in-system, however, and attack Ord Mantell. The New Republic is quick to respond, having been tipped off by Elan. Anor and Harrar intend for the attack to fail in an effort to further their ruse, but they yet use the opportunity to gather slaves by attacking the Wheel with a qworlth skaal creature, which begins ripping away the station's exterior bulkheads and inhaling the passengers into its gaping mouth. Roa and Fasgo are pulled into the maw, but Solo holds steadfastly onto a torn bulkhead. He then teams up with a member of the Ryn species to close the corridor's blast shield.
The Ryn saves Solo's life in the process, and their partnership continues as they lead a group of refugees to a shuttle in the station's launching bays. They pilot it down to the surface of Ord Mantell before parting ways, and Solo runs into his wife, Leia Organa Solo, who has been sent to Ord Mantell by the New Republic Senate to help care for refugees displaced by the invaders. He refuses to return to Coruscant with her, and then gets tipped off by Bunji's lieutenant that Reck Desh has an operation planned in the Bilbringi system. He arranges passage there on the luxury liner Queen of Empire, where he again encounters the Ryn, who introduces himself as Droma and shares Solo's quarters for the night.
In an attempt to covertly bring the defectors to Coruscant, Major Showolter of New Republic Intelligence boards the luxury liner with Elan and Vergere, but is attacked by members of the Peace Brigade who hope to return the defectors to the Yuuzhan Vong. Injured, Showolter spots Solo and assumes that he has been sent by the New Republic. He turns the defectors over to Solo and Droma while he heads to sick bay. Nom Anor, meanwhile, brings a fleet to Bilbringi in order to co-opt the bothersome actions of the ignorant Peace Brigade, and stages a mock attack on the Queen of Empire. As forces of the New Republic arrive, Organa Solo brings Solo's ship, the Millennium Falcon, to the Queen of Empire, where it is quickly commandeered by her husband after he loses the defectors to Desh. Solo and Droma find their quarry's shuttle drifting in space, and Solo boards it to discover everyone save for the defectors lying dead.
After he brings Elan and Vergere aboard the Millennium Falcon, Solo realizes that the Yuuzhan Vong warship firing on them is deliberately missing, and suspects a trap. He confronts Elan while Droma takes the ship's controls, and the priestess, realizing that her deception has been discovered, releases the poisonous spores into the air, committing suicide by swallowing some. Solo's life is saved when Droma abandons his post on a hunch and opens a door to the rear hold, providing Solo with some air. Vergere flees in an escape pod after giving Solo a vial of her tears, and Anor's warship is chased out of the system. Back on Coruscant, Master Skywalker uses the tears to help control a Yuuzhan Vong illness contracted by his wife Mara Jade, and Solo, grateful for Droma having saved his life several times, vows to help the Ryn find his family members who have been displaced by the Yuuzhan Vong. With their plan having failed, Harrar and Nom Anor are berated by the Yuuzhan Vong Supreme Commander Nas Choka as they prepare to redeploy their fleet to Hutt Space and ally with the Hutts.
- "We are not simply standing by, waiting for the Yuuzhan Vong to strike."
- ―New Republic Admiral Sien Sovv
One month later, Organa Solo is on Gyndine evacuating refugees as the Yuuzhan Vong attack the planet. The Jedi Knight Wurth Skidder is fighting on the front lines and intentionally remains on-world, letting himself be captured by the invaders so that he might learn more about their war-coordinating yammosk creatures. On Coruscant, several high-ranking officers of the New Republic military learn of Gyndine's fall and begin making plans to halt the invading war machine. They convince Organa Solo to travel to the Hapes Cluster and request assistance from the ruling Hapes Consortium, and devise a strategy to lure the Yuuzhan Vong to the Corellian system where the ancient superweapon Centerpoint Station, once operational, can use its destructive power to devastate an attacking Yuuzhan Vong fleet.
Nom Anor and Commander Malik Carr of the Yuuzhan Vong travel to Hutt Space and ally with the ruling Hutt kajidics, hoping to manipulate them into passing false intelligence to the New Republic. The greedy Hutts do just that, spreading news of the Yuuzhan Vong's supposed upcoming targets to the information broker Talon Karrde, who shares it with both New Republic Intelligence and with the New Jedi Order. As an old friend of Skywalker's, he hopes that the Jedi can use the information to keep their relationship with the New Republic strong.
In the newly-painted matte-black Millennium Falcon, Solo and Droma begin searching for Droma's family while hoping to uncover information on Roa's whereabouts in the process. On Tholatin, they learn that a contractor is paying freelancers to transport refugees to planets that the Yuuzhan Vong plan to attack, and that a group of refugees is soon due to be transported off of Ruan. They arrive on Ruan too late to stop Droma's clanmates from fleeing with the freelancers, and Droma, mistaken for one of his family members, is arrested for forgery of official documents. He is forced into labor at a product enhancement facility, but is quickly rescued by Solo. The two flee in a landspeeder, but Bow, a sentry at the facility, manipulates weather control and sends a tidal wave after them. They are picked up by a Scout Collector controlled by the BFL-series droid Baffle, who has befriended Solo, and who tells them of a refugee ship headed for Fondor.
Organa Solo travels to the world of Hapes and appeals to the Hapan Queen Mother, Teneniel Djo, to aid the New Republic. The Queen Mother's husband, Prince Isolder, sways the Consortium's vote in Organa Solo's favor, but she receives a Force vision predicting disaster and too late warns Isolder to reconsider. Her son Anakin, meanwhile, has been recruited by the New Republic military to help reactivate Centerpoint Station, seven years after imparting his imprint on the station's firing controls.
The refugees left behind on Gyndine are brought aboard the Yuuzhan Vong clustership Crèche and enslaved, forced to tend to a developing yammosk. Skidder encounters Roa, Fasgo, and Droma's sister Sapha, and begins telepathically conversing with the yammosk. He attempts to convince it that the Hutts will betray the Yuuzhan Vong, but the yammosk reacts angrily and kills Fasgo. Chine-kal, the commander of the vessel, discovers that Skidder is a Jedi and prepares to offer him to the Yuuzhan Vong Warmaster Tsavong Lah. He begins to slowly torture the Jedi.
Karrde identifies Tynna, Bothawui, and Corellia as upcoming targets of the Yuuzhan Vong, and when Tynna falls, Commodore Brand of the New Republic military manipulates the Senate's Advisory Council into voting to withdraw ships to Bothawui so that Corellia may remain open for attack. Although they are unaware of Centerpoint, Carr and Anor capture Tynna in an effort to mislead the New Republic, actually intending to strike at the shipyards of Fondor. They do not, however, anticipate the Hutts spreading information that Crèche is headed for Kalarba with a Jedi Knight aboard. Karrde informs the Jedi Knights Kyp Durron and Ganner Rhysode, who bring Durron's starfighter squadron, Kyp's Dozen, to Kalarba and then chase Crèche to Fondor. The Dozen arrives in the Fondor system at the same time as the Millennium Falcon and a Yuuzhan Vong armada, which is forced to strike earlier than anticipated and begins attacking the New Republic First Battle Group. Durron assigns two of his craft to aid the Millennium Falcon in pursuing the refugee ship they are chasing, and the outgunned freelancers agree to turn their prisoners over to Droma and Solo. Durron and Rhysode board Crèche, and although a weak and exhausted Skidder dies before they can rescue him, Rhysode kills the yammosk, and the two Jedi bring the prisoners aboard the Millennium Falcon.
The Hapes Consortium sends over 100 of their capital ships to aid the New Republic, and join Brand's flagship, the Yald, in traveling to Fondorian space after learning of the attack. Anakin's brother Jacen is heavily against the re-enabling of Centerpoint, and goes with Anakin to the station. Within, they find their father's cousin Thrackan Sal-Solo, who has joined the effort to get the station operational. Anakin is able to reactivate Centerpoint's systems, but, influenced by Jacen, decides not to fire the weapon. Sal-Solo seizes the controls and fires the station's powerful repulsor weapon into Fondorian space, but, without the accuracy that Anakin would have commanded, destroys three quarters of the Hapan fleet in addition to half of the Yuuzhan Vong armada. Anor and Carr are shocked and retreat, and the severely weakened Hapans abandon the war to return to their consortium. Nom Anor discovers that the New Republic Senator Viqi Shesh attempted to warn the Yuuzhan Vong about Centerpoint, and travels to Coruscant in disguise to establish a working relationship with her.
New Republic legend Han Solo has been drowning his sorrows in cantinas while his friends and family have been fighting to hold off the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. He rejects his family's attempts to help him deal with Chewbacca's death, but he finally joins the fight by trekking across the galaxy with Roa in pursuit of an old comrade who has thrown his lot in with the invaders. After his life is saved by the spacer Droma, Solo dedicates himself to paying Droma back by helping the spacer locate his missing family. The bitter captain of the Millennium Falcon finds his new companion irritating but is committed to repaying his debt, and it is Droma's companionship that helps Solo realize he can not run from his loss or from his loved ones.
Leia Organa SoloEdit
Former New Republic Chief of State Leia Organa Solo's efforts to find residence for the many refugees displaced from their homes by the invasion are not made any easier by her husband's disappearance and sojourn. She locates the wayward Solo several times, but to her disappointment, all of her attempts to reach out to him are rebuffed. Organa Solo is sent by the New Republic to the Hapes Cluster in order to enlist the military might of the ruling Hapes Consortium in the fight against the Yuuzhan Vong, but she experiences a Force vision of mass destruction and too late attempts to warn the Hapans against committing their forces. The Hapan fleet is devastated at the Battle of Fondor, and the Consortium withdraws to the isolation of their star cluster once again.
The spacer Droma is a rogue and a drifter, addicted to adventure. He meets Solo aboard the Jubilee Wheel while it is under attack by the Yuuzhan Vong, and he teams up with the pilot to safely evacuate a group of refugees. Although their partnership is a temporary and hostile one, they cross paths again aboard the Queen of Empire and become entangled in foiling a Yuuzhan Vong plot to wipe out the Jedi Order. Droma saves Solo's life several times in the process, and he is repaid when Solo travels the galaxy with him in search of his missing clanmates. Droma's sarcasm and bitterness toward Solo vex the captain to no end, but their partnership turns out to be a sobering experience for Solo, who comes to terms with his own loss.
As the leader of the Jedi Order, Luke Skywalker is struggling with the idea of actively fighting the Yuuzhan Vong but remaining committed to upholding peace and justice. His wife, Mara Jade, has been afflicted by an illness and is growing weaker, and when he learns that supposed defectors from the Yuuzhan Vong may have a cure, it is an opportunity he cannot pass up. The cure helps keep the malady at bay, but more woes come in the form of the Jedi's crumbling relationship with the New Republic government. Talon Karrde offers Skywalker a chance to improve it, and Skywalker sends several of his Jedi Knights on an investigation with Karrde that has the potential to save innocent lives from the invaders. Unlike Karrde, Skywalker does not believe that the end justifies the means, and he opposes the idea of his Jedi fighting the Yuuzhan Vong if they are motivated by vengeance.
The young Jedi Anakin Solo blames himself for Chewbacca's death, and he hopes to repair his relationship with his father. Han Solo further distances himself from his son, however, and disappears, but he later returns home and quickly makes amends with a confused Anakin before leaving yet again. Anakin is later recruited by Admiral Sien Sovv of the New Republic military to help re-enable Centerpoint Station, an ancient superweapon in the Corellian system that Anakin was able to activate by imparting a biological imprint on the firing controls seven years earlier. Unsure of how to proceed, Anakin travels to Centerpoint with his brother Jacen, who convinces him that firing the weapon would be an act of the dark side of the Force. However, their cousin once-removed, Thrackan Sal-Solo, seizes the controls and fires, defeating the Yuuzhan Vong at Fondor while inadvertently wiping out three quarters of the Hapan fleet.
The smuggler Roa's wife Lwyll has been claimed as an early casualty of the war. Her death was caused by the actions of the Peace Brigade, an organization that is cooperating with the Yuuzhan Vong. Solo and Roa's old comrade Reck Desh has thrown in with the Brigade, and Roa thus recruits Solo to help track him down in order to save others from Lwyll's fate. However, he is swallowed by a Yuuzhan Vong dread weapon and is taken prisoner aboard the clustership Crèche, where he works at tending a Yuuzhan Vong war-coordinating yammosk. Roa befriends his fellow prisoners and laments the death of Fasgo, whom he believes could have been a friend. He is eventually rescued by Solo, Droma, and two Jedi Knights.
While accompanying Organa Solo across the galaxy, the protocol droid C-3PO finds himself in the midst of a metaphysical conundrum. In the wake of Chewbacca's death and in light of the Yuuzhan Vong's harsh treatment of droids, he begins worrying about deactivation, immortality, and the thought of memory erasure. He seeks a method of indefinitely sustaining his awareness, and is told by Han Solo that his memory could potentially be downloaded to a data storage facility. Ultimately, he is able to detach himself from his aspirations for uninterrupted deactivation, and his fears disappear. C-3PO continues to accompany Organa Solo, traveling with her to Gyndine and Hapes.
While fighting on the front lines as the Yuuzhan Vong attack Gyndine, Jedi Knight Wurth Skidder allows himself to be captured by the enemy in order to learn more about their yammosks. He is also driven, however, by a desire for glory and vengeance for his friend Miko Reglia, who was the first Jedi victim of the war. Taken aboard Crèche, he begins using the Force to communicate with the telepathic yammosk, and he attempts to convince it that the Yuuzhan Vong will be betrayed by their Hutt allies. The yammosk calls his bluff, however, and the Yuuzhan Vong begin torturing him. Kyp Durron and Ganner Rhysode attempt to rescue Skidder, but he is seconds away from dying when they arrive. Aware that the Hutts have in fact broken their alliance with the Yuuzhan Vong, Skidder uses his last breath to request that Durron and Rhysode spare the life of the Hutt Randa Besadii Diori, who has been imprisoned aboard Crèche.
Belindi Kalenda is an agent of New Republic Intelligence, and, along with fellow agent Major Showolter, is assigned to debrief Elan and Vergere, two defectors from the Yuuzhan Vong. The debriefing on Wayland is interrupted by an attacking Yuuzhan Vong warrior, prompting Kalenda and Showolter to discreetly transfer their charges to Coruscant by way of the Queen of Empire. Aboard, Solo and Droma discover that the defectors are plotting to use an airborne poison to wipe out the Jedi Order, and Kalenda and Showolter fall into disgrace. Talon Karrde helps them restore their reputations by passing information their way concerning upcoming Yuuzhan Vong targets, which they relay to the New Republic's Commodore Brand.
A Commodore in the New Republic military, Brand stands alone among his command staff in believing that fleets should be withdrawn to the Core Worlds in order to protect vital shipyards from the Yuuzhan Vong. He and the rest of command hatch plans to reactivate Centerpoint Station and to bring the Hapes Consortium into the war, hoping to lure the Yuuzhan Vong to Corellia and use the combined might of the superweapon and the Hapan fleet to wipe them out. After learning from Kalenda and Showolter that the Yuuzhan Vong plan to attack Tynna, Bothawui, and Corellia, he convinces Senator Viqi Shesh to vote at a meeting of the New Republic Advisory Council in favor of protecting Bothawui, leaving Corellia undefended and ripe for a strike from the enemy. The Yuuzhan Vong strike at Fondor, however, and Thrackan Sal-Solo's clumsy firing of Centerpoint wipes out most of the Hapan fleet.
The tide of the invaders has displaced many Ryn, and after being separated from their clanmate Droma, Melisma and a few more of her clan end up on Gyndine. They are evacuated by Organa Solo as the planet falls to the invaders and are taken to a refugee settlement on Ruan. There, a group of mercenaries offers to transport them to Abregado-rae if they can forge travel documents. The Ryn accept the offer, but are instead taken to Kalarba to become prisoners aboard Crèche, as the mercenaries are in fact working for the Peace Brigade. A Jedi starfighter squadron chases their refugee ship to Fondor, however, where Melisma and her kin are rescued by Droma and Solo.
The ever-scheming Nom Anor, Executor of the Yuuzhan Vong, devises a plot to turn false defectors over to the New Republic and wipe out the Jedi Order with an airborne toxin. He, Commander Tla, and Harrar organize several attacks on the New Republic that are intended to further the ruse, allowing Yuuzhan Vong forces to be defeated multiple times. The ruse ultimately fails, but Anor escapes punishment and participates in the Yuuzhan Vong's next project: allying with the Hutts and manipulating them into spreading misinformation to the New Republic. A surprise attack on Fondor that Anor helps devise is ruined by the firing of Centerpoint Station, and although Commander Malik Carr is consequently demoted, Anor again dodges blame.
A member of the Yuuzhan Vong Priest caste, Harrar learns of the Jedi and the Force from a captured H'kig priest following the fall of Obroa-skai. He decides that the invasion is a holy war between the Yuuzhan Vong's True Gods and the "False God" of the Force, and he works closely with Nom Anor and Commander Tla to organize the false defection of Elan and Vergere. When Elan dies and the plan fails, the trio are chastised by Supreme Commander Nas Choka, and while Anor is able to dodge blame, Harrar and Tla are recalled to the Outer Rim Territories.
After discovering that Nom Anor has begun to negotiate with the Hutt kajidics, Commander Malik Carr arrives at Anor and Harrar's fleet, eager to conquer Hutt Space. His allies are in the midst of their scheme to wipe out the Jedi, and Carr sees the plan as a ludicrous error. When Harrar and Tla are disgraced by Nas Choka, Carr remains with Anor and travels to Hutt Space to solidify the alliance. The Hutt Grand Council offers Carr and Anor free passage through their territories in return for sparing most of Hutt Space from invasion. Carr and Anor are manipulating the Hutts, however, and intentionally pass on information that they plan to attack Tynna, Bothawui, and Corellia, believing that the Hutts will sell the information to the New Republic. Carr informs his superiors, Nas Choka and Tsavong Lah, of his plans, which are soon foiled by the firing of Centerpoint Station at Fondor. Carr is subsequently demoted.
Elan is a priestess of the deception sect, and is eager to participate in Harrar's plot, hoping to bring glory to her domain. She and Vergere pose as defectors from the Yuuzhan Vong seeking political asylum in the New Republic, and after boarding a vessel of the New Republic Defense Fleet in the Meridian sector, they are brought to Wayland for debriefing by New Republic Intelligence. An attack is staged by a Yuuzhan Vong warrior, and the two are brought aboard the Queen of Empire, where they are passed onto Han Solo by Major Showolter after he is injured by members of the Peace Brigade. Aboard Solo's ship, the Millennium Falcon, Solo and Droma catch on to the deception, and Elan attempts to release her bioweapon into an escape pod. She dies after becoming trapped in the pod with the airborne toxin.
Borga Besadii DioriEdit
Borga Besadii Diori is the leader of the Hutt Besadii clan, and is the liasion between the Hutt Grand Council and the Yuuzhan Vong. She welcomes Malik Carr and Nom Anor, offering them safe passage through Hutt Space, but secretly plots with her fellow Hutts to sell their intel to the New Republic. Through a series of Hutt contacts including Talon Karrde and the crime lord Crev Bombaasa, they inform Kyp Durron of Crèche's position at Kalarba. Durron's attack on the slave ship forces Malik Carr and Nas Choka to accelerate their plans to attack Fondor.
An ambitious senator from Kuat, Viqi Shesh believes that the New Republic cannot defeat the Yuuzhan Vong, and begins planning for her future accordingly. After learning about the Peace Brigade, she meets with Reck Desh in Kuat City in the hope of contacting the invaders through his organization. She passes on information regarding the route that Elan and Vergere will take to get to Coruscant, allowing the Peace Brigade to attack the Queen of Empire at Bilbringi and forcing Nom Anor to stage a battle there. She is soon after elected to the New Republic Advisory Council, and after being tipped off by Brand, attempts to warn the Yuuzhan Vong about Centerpoint Station's destructive capabilities, using the Hutts as intermediaries. The message is garbled along the way, and the invaders are devastated at Fondor. Nom Anor catches wind of her intentions, however, and visits her on Coruscant, establishing a collaborative relationship between the two.
- "His credentials are impeccable."
- ―Author R. A. Salvatore, on James Luceno joining the writing team of The New Jedi Order
In the late 1970s, James Luceno was traveling the world with his friend Brian Daley, who was plotting the storyline of The Han Solo Adventures, three Star Wars novels that he was writing for Del Rey Books. Daley used Luceno as a sounding board while crafting the plot, and later consulted him again when writing the radio dramatizations of the original Star Wars trilogy. Luceno's official involvement in the Star Wars Expanded Universe began in the late 1990s when he was hired by Del Rey and Lucasfilm Ltd. as a consultant during the planning of The New Jedi Order book series. The New Jedi Order was a multi-author series that was going to take several years to publish, and Luceno was brought in to help coordinate the project due to his experience overseeing and co-writing a multibook saga in the Robotech universe.
Luceno attended several planning meetings for the series at Skywalker Ranch, and joined a continuity team that also included author Dan Wallace. The two expanded a map of the Star Wars galaxy, and Luceno wrote a "series bible" to coordinate all of the story arcs. He also helped draft and refine the original outline of the series that was submitted to George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars; Luceno additionally read and commented on the manuscripts submitted by The New Jedi Order's various authors. It was initially undecided if he would be contributing any books to the series, but he was eventually contracted to write a single novel entitled Agents of Chaos in 2000, which would be the fifth book of the series. It was set to take place after Michael A. Stackpole's Dark Tide Trilogy, but changes made to The New Jedi Order's storyline necessitated that Dark Tide be compressed into a duology. Agents of Chaos was thus expanded to two books: Agents of Chaos I: Hero's Trial and Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse. Their working titles were Solo Crusade and The Crooked Sky.
Luceno's duology was to focus heavily on the character of Han Solo, who had first appeared in the original Star Wars film in 1977. Solo had played a major role in Star Wars novels published by Bantam Spectra throughout the 1990s, but Shelly Shapiro, Del Rey Editor and one of the primary planners of The New Jedi Order, felt that many of Bantam's authors had not known what to do with him. In Dark Tide, Stackpole wrote Solo as slipping into depression and alcoholism after the death of Chewbacca, and he regretted not being able to do more with the character. However, he took comfort in the fact that Luceno was due to write a pair of Solo-centric novels immediately thereafter.
- "Nice handoff, Bob; here's the baton for you, Jim."
- ―Michael A. Stackpole passes writing duties for The New Jedi Order to James Luceno
Having been directly involved in creating the storyline of the series, Luceno did not find it difficult to step into a writing role. He did, however, spend a good deal of time learning the rules and regulations of the Star Wars franchise, even after having read many of the Bantam-issued novels in the 1990s. He saw the opportunity to focus on Solo as a fortuitous one, as it allowed him to pay homage to Brian Daley, who had passed away in 1996. Feeling that Daley had captured Solo's character excellently in The Han Solo Adventures, Luceno was able to pay tribute to his friend. Citing Daley as a mentor of his, Luceno claimed to have felt his friend's presence on his shoulder while writing the Agents of Chaos Duology, and was glad for the opportunity to honor him.
Luceno's eagerness to write about Solo also stemmed from his hope that he could take the character through a heroic journey reminiscent of the original Star Wars trilogy. He did find sweet-and-sour irony in his writing subject, however, having shared a friendship with Daley that he saw as akin to Solo's and Chewbacca's for twenty-five years. His aim was to approach Solo's grief in a very adult way, and to push the character away from his wife so that he could find himself. Luceno found writing Solo as older, isolated, and grief-stricken to be a challenge, but he has identified Solo as one of his favorite characters to write, citing the humanness of the character and the fact that he has not been able to grow and evolve in the same way as his Force-using family. Hero's Trial, to be a "Han Solo, this is your life" novel. Several characters from Daley's novels reappear within the pages of the book. Many of the characters in the duology are of Luceno's own creation, however, including Droma, who becomes Chewbacca's replacement as the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon in Jedi Eclipse. Luceno also created Droma's species, the Ryn, and modeled them after the Romany people.
Big Bunji's role in Hero's Trial was initially going to be filled by the character of Boba Fett, but Fett was written out of the story due to concerns that too many characters were being added. Roa was originally going to die during the attack on the Jubilee Wheel, but his fate was altered as Luceno further developed the story. The refugee plotline that runs through the Agents of Chaos Duology was part of The New Jedi Order's initial story outline, designed to give a point of view to the galaxy's lowest classes, echoing the role played by C-3PO and R2-D2 in the original Star Wars film.
Hero's Trial was released in paperback and audio cassette on August 1, 2000. Jedi Eclipse was released in the same formats respectively on October 1 and October 3 of the same year. Narration for the audiobooks was provided by Anthony Heald. The covers of both novels were drawn by Artist Rick Berry, whose initial cover of Hero's Trial featured a visibly different drawing of the character Elan than that which appeared on the final product. For the books' Japanese releases, Tsuyoshi Nagano provided art for both covers.
- "I'm fond of the Jubilee Wheel as a reconstructed Marvel Wheel."
- ―Daniel Wallace, on attempting to introduce a retcon regarding the Jubilee Wheel
Before signing on as a consultant during the planning of The New Jedi Order, James Luceno had read many of the Star Wars novels published by Bantam-Spectra during the 1990s. The Agents of Chaos Duology features a large number of returning characters from several of those novels in large roles, minor roles, and cameos, and also makes reference to events and situations that occurred within their pages. Hero's Trial sees the return of several characters from Brian Daley's The Han Solo Adventures, as Luceno wanted to pay tribute to his deceased friend.
Events from the duology were later referenced in other Star Wars media. The New Jedi Order Sourcebook, published in 2002, includes a chapter titled "Agents of Chaos" that summarizes the events of both novels and gives roleplaying game statistics on characters such as Droma. Droma and Vergere also received an entry in 2002's The New Essential Guide to Characters, and the events of Agents of Chaos were again summarized in 2005's The New Essential Chronology and 2012's The Essential Reader's Companion.
When Dan Wallace was writing 2006's The New Essential Guide to Droids, he implied that the Jubilee Wheel, despite differences in structure and location, was the same space station as The Wheel, a station first seen in the 1978 comic book Star Wars 18: The Empire Strikes. However, the Jubilee Wheel is destroyed in Hero's Trial, and The Wheel went on to appear in the 2007 comic book Legacy 9: Trust Issues, Part 1, set more than 100 years later. It was not until 2013 that authors Abel G. Peña and Rich Handley, writing the article Viva Space Vegas! The History of the Marvelous Wheel for the StarWars.com blog, established that The Wheel and the Jubilee Wheel existed concurrently as competitors.
- "On a personal note, conflicting fan reaction to my books kept me from knowing just what I was doing right, or wrong."
- ―James Luceno, on the Agents of Chaos Duology
Luceno has indicated that Agents of Chaos received mixed fan reaction, with some of the negative feedback stemming from his decision to separate Han and Leia Organa Solo. Reviews on Amazon.com for both entries are generally positive, however, with Hero's Trial receiving more favorable reviews than Jedi Eclipse. On the website GalaxyFarAway.com, reviewer "DevanJedi" gave the duology a rating of four stars, praising the characterization of Han Solo and claiming that the books displayed a glimmer of the energy and suspense that the best Expanded Universe novels before it had similarly shown. Reviews on TheForce.net were similarly positive, with three reviews of Hero's Trial averaging a score of 3.17/4, and one review of Jedi Eclipse giving a score of 3/4. Star Wars author Jason Fry has called Hero's Trial one of the best five installments of The New Jedi Order, referring to Luceno's portrayal of Han Solo as a "moving portrait".
Sue Rostoni, Executive Editor of Lucas Licensing, has stated that all nineteen books of The New Jedi Order sold fairly equally, surprising the planning team with their consistently strong showing. Although she was unable to reveal specific sales figures, other novels of the series have had strong showings on the New York Times Best Seller list.
- "Because I had been with the series since its inception, and had the advantage of having been privy to just about every idea that had been tossed around, I emerged as the sort of default choice."
- ―James Luceno, on being chosen to write The Unifying Force
Plots and characters from Agents of Chaos, such as Droma, the refugee problem, and Han Solo's estrangement from his family, went on to play large roles in the following entry of The New Jedi Order, Balance Point. Some elements that were originally intended to carry on into the rest of the series were ultimately dropped, however. Hero's Trial established a metaphysical conundrum on the part of C-3PO regarding sentience and the fear of deactivation, realized in the wake of Chewbacca's death and the Yuuzhan Vong's harsh treatment of droids. However, this plotline was jettisoned when the series' planning team decided to focus more on Anakin Solo during the buildup to his death, which occurred in the series' ninth installment, The New Jedi Order: Star by Star.
Luceno also hoped for Droma to remain as Solo's partner and co-pilot for several additional books, but when reader response indicated that fans wanted Solo's wife to join him in the Millennium Falcon, Droma began to fade into the background. Droma did resurface, however, in the series' seventeenth entry, The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic III: Reunion. He appeared as the head of an organization called the Ryn Network, which itself played a large role throughout the entire Force Heretic Trilogy. Harrar and Vergere, both creations of Luceno's, went on to play significant roles in the second half of The New Jedi Order.
Luceno was later chosen to write the nineteenth and final entry in The New Jedi Order, 2003's The New Jedi Order: The Unifying Force. Having been privy to nearly every idea that had been floated for the series, and knowledgable about the story arc and characters, he was a natural choice to the planning team to wrap up the series. He has written five additional Star Wars novels, one novella, two short stories, and two reference books. In 2007, he was identified by Sue Rostoni as an author that Lucasfilm Ltd. was not willing to lose.
- The New Jedi Order Sourcebook
- "Novel Approach"—Star Wars Insider 66
- "Bookshelf"—Star Wars Insider 72
- "The New Jedi Order in 100 Easy Lessons"—Star Wars Insider 74
- Star Wars: New Jedi Order Round-Robin Interview
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Essential Reader's Companion
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