Tag Archives: Timothy Zahn

Thrawn – Review

thrawn12f-2-webThis review originally appeared at The Star Wars Report.

It is said that to create a compelling villain an author must make them sympathetic in some way. Villains never see themselves as such, as with the rest of us, they believe they are doing the right thing. Timothy Zahn, in his new book Thrawn, has given us just that; a villain that believes he’s doing what he must to save his people and possibly the galaxy itself from an evil worse that the Empire. Thrawn is a masterpiece in subverting the readers expectations, especially in light of Star Wars Rebels. Many readers will come in expecting the ruthless, cold and calculating character they know from the show, yet that is only one side of the multifaceted Chiss. Zahn has created the most nuanced Imperial to date allowing readers a both, insider and outsider’s look at the Empire.

Breaking the Mold

One of the true highlights of the book is this theme. Both Thrawn and Arihnda Pryce (who fans will recognize as the Governor of Lothal in Star Wars Rebels) must overcome the prejudices of the Empire throughout the story. The Empire is one of the most elitist and xenophobic places you will read about in literature. The Core systems in the galaxy have very little regard for aliens or people from the Outer Rim or beyond. Each of these characters has at least one of these strikes against them and Thrawn has both. Thrawn and Arihnda must overcome these prejudices. They never feel sorry for themselves or blame the system they are apart of, they simply overcome the obstacles in their own way, though determination, hard work and in Arihnda’s case, foul play.

It’s actually incredible to watch Thrawn continually prove his naysayers wrong and obliterate their preconceptions about him, time and time again. He uses all of his talents and skills to his advantage, making himself invaluable to the Emperor and the Imperial Navy. Strange to think one could learn a valuable life lesson from Thrawn, but he never allows anyone else to define his worth, value or to be held back from completing his objectives. Of course, full disclosure, Thrawn is not a perfect role model, but this was a great theme to see play out in the book.

Thrawn_&_Pryce

The Story

Thrawn is an expansive novel that covers a lot of time. It also allows us to get that look inside the Empire, but from the outsider’s perspective. Because Thrawn is not human, he does not always see things the same way and this sheds light on much of the corruption in the Empire as well as the inefficiencies. The story does a good job of sucking the reader in and created a subtle enough character with Thrawn that you are on his side during the book.

Zahn also creates, for this book, a new person to be at Thrawn’s side, his name is Eli Vanto. Think of him as the Watson to Thrawn’s Sherlock. This is a really fascinating character that, by the end of the book you’ll be begging Zahn for more.

As is mentioned above, the story features Arihnda Pryce. The book is set up to parallel her rise to power and Thrawn’s, seeing the different ways they overcome the obstacles to get where we see them in Rebels. She is not to be trifled with and her story is every bit as interesting as the title character. There are many familiar faces in the book, that fans would come to expect from a story tied in with Star Wars Rebels as Yularan, Grand Moff Tarkin, the Emperor and a few more are sprinkled in .

Conclusion

This review is not meant to be expansive and in many areas I wanted to be vague because it’s a book that just needs to be read and experience. Zahn has done exactly what I hoped for and written the definitive, canon book of Thrawn. It ranks up there with the very best of the new canon and is rated 5 out of 5 turbo laser blasts.

This review was completed using a copy of Thrawn provided by Del Rey.

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Star Wars: Aftermath – Review

star-wars-aftermath-cover-625x951As Return of the Jedi faded from theaters in late 1983, Star Wars fans entered what would become known as the “Dark Times”. Toys began disappearing from the shelves and slowly Star Wars faded into the cultural zeitgeist. Before faint whispers about Special Editions and Prequels, Heir to the Empire awakened a hunger for Star Wars that had been just under the geek surface for years. It was the first book to be licensed by Lucasfilm to continue the story after Return of the Jedi. Bringing back Luke, Leia and Han as well as introducing us to Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Talon Karrde and a plethora of others who would become staples of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Timothy Zahn cemented himself as the second coming of George Lucas for fans. The SWEU flourished with varied success over the 23 years it ran, ending when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced that the EU would be reorganized in the Legends line and a new official run of canon books and comics would be forthcoming.

This history has lead us to the weekend of September 4th, 2015 when the first official book about what happened after Return of the Jedi was released. Star Wars: Aftermath replaces Heir to the Empire as Star Wars gospel, giving fans their first taste of the aftereffects of the Rebel victory at Endor and the state of the universe in the wake of Vader and the Emperor’s death. For many fans, even though there have been other books in the new canon, this is the one they have been looking to as the “official” start since it begins them on the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Can the book live up to these expectations?

JTTFA-1536x864Plot

The plot is relatively simple. As the Empire scrambles to hold on to systems in the aftermath of the destruction of the second Death Star, a secret meeting is held on the outer rim world of Akiva. Wedge Antillies, on a reconecesne vacation, stumbles upon the meeting and is captured. At the same time Rebel pilot Norra Wexley has retured to Akiva to bring her son back with her to Chandrila, the home of the Senate of the New Republic. Mayhem ensues as Norra, her son Temmin, a former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir and bounty hunter named Jas Emari join forces to rescue Wedge and destroy the Imperials. The book also features interludes that give glimpses to the state of the galaxy on different worlds, plus what can only be called miniscule cameos of Leia, Han, Chewie, Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar.


The Jedi

One of the strongest points of this novel is its unification of the Star Wars universe from the Prequels to the Originals. Wendig deftly weaves the two parts of the Saga together seemlesly. So for fans worried that the Prequels would be forgotten, at least here, they play a wonderful supporting role for character back stories as well as the feel of the universe. It’s nice to have the Prequels feel respected and important in the new canon.

Wendig tries to capture the ambiance of Star Wars in the dialogue and in the characters. Sometimes he captures it and sometimes he does not. There may be too many instances of Imperial officers yelling at Rebels, “scum” but that’s to be forgiven. On a whole, the new characters are good and they all feel like they fit right alongside any of the characters from any part of Star Wars.

Star Wars VII-Force Awakens-Teaser 2-Star Destroyer Jakku

The Sith

The major issue with the story is that it feels like the background to what should be the main story. The interludes hurt the book by the reminding you that the story you want to read with Leia, Han, Chewie and Mon Mothma is happening, just not in this book (Poor Luke is only a reference). Honestly there is just no excuse to not be following the major characters from the Orginal trilogy at this point. Star Wars has always been from the point of view from the main characters and any side character (on screen that is) has a relationship with a major character to help you understand their place in the Saga. A prime example of this is Star Wars Rebels and the way it has used, Tarkin, Vader and Ahsoka to give us a context for why characters like Kanan, Hera and Ezra are important to the overall story of Star Wars. In Aftermath, there is none of that. We’re never left with any other feeling other than this is a minor story that amounts to little more than a footnote in galactic history. SPOILERS: The very end of the book does tease us with a shadowy Imperial admiral that feels similar to a Thrawn-type character.

It’s clear from this story that there were some serious reigns on the author from the story group as to what he can cover. With The Force Awakens a little over 3 months away, the history of Luke, Leia and Han is being kept a closely guarded secret and their absence from this book is glaring. Honestly it might have been better to have this book come out after the movie so that the “surprise” of where the trinity is would not have to be kept anymore. Aftermath is a trilogy, so the next two books, coming out after The Force Awakens may offer more of these characters since the release date for number two is not till sometime in 2016. Author Chuck Wendig did an interview with Grantland.com where he said

“There was a great article about Age of Ultron, and that it felt like a highway with a bunch of off-ramps to other Marvel properties,” Wendig says. ‘I don’t want this book to feel like that. I don’t want it to feel like, ‘Well, it’s just a trip down memory lane, and don’t forget to buy these other great books, or other games, or other movies.’ It needs to still stand on its own, while still speaking to the fans and other properties and other stories that are out there.”

Unfortunately this is exactly what has happened. With the “it’s all connected” mentality, the story has become a mere side road to the main road we all really want to be on. The book, though well written feels like staging for the big show, never feeling truly needed or essential. I wrote in my review of A New Dawn, the first book of the new Star Wars canon that,

If you are going to have the books, comics and games be canon they need to have weight. People need a reason to read or play, so make the stories important and not just filler. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has suffered with this very issue, so please be careful to not allow this to happen with the these Star Wars properties. The fun of the now Legends line, were the big, galaxy altering events that took place. Just because there are new films or shows does not mean readers and gamers don’t want meat to the stories, something that matters.

Aftermath, like Tarkin and Heir to the Jedi all fail this test. Sadly the book never rises above feeling like filler, the light beer of Star Wars books. The real saving grace with Aftermath is that Wendig is a decent writer who is able to transcend the material enough to make this a weak recommend.  Aftermath is rate 2.5 out of 5 lost A-Wings.