I read my first Star Wars book. AND I LIKED IT.
Set a few years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, Han and Leia are married and expecting twins, while Luke is trying to figure out how to be the best Jedi he can. All three – but especially Leia – are trying to figure out how you go from being rebels to being politicians and actually make a galactic empire work, which any revolutionary will tell you is damn hard work. The story here is partly about that, which could make for a rather dreary story of political machinations, but is largely driven by the fact that not everyone is happy with the overthrow of the Emperor, OH NO PRECIOUS THEY’RE NOT. Grand Admiral Thrawn is devoted to the idea that he is a fitting heir to the Emperor, and he’s got some spaceships and a bunch of soldiers and some rather tricksy plans to try and accomplish just that.
Look, it’s no Ursula le Guin or Gwyneth Jones. But it is, surprisingly to me, really quite enjoyable. I think Zahn captured Han and Luke’s personas and dialogue quirks quite nicely – Leia felt a bit ‘newer’, mostly because I think she actually got a bit more air time as a real human being here than she did in any of the films. So that’s nice. I did enjoy the interplay between Han and Leia as they continue to adjust to married life; Han is accepting and generally supportive of Leia’s political role, if frequently concerned that she’s pushing herself far too hard.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this as a novel is that it takes full advantage of being in third person, and carries on the tradition of the films, by showing the actions of the villains as well as the heroes (and various apparently chaotic-neutral characters) in rather surprising detail. So while the reader doesn’t know exactly all of Thrawn’s devious schemes, we get to read about his attempts to find and recruit his own Jedi dude; plus there’s Talon Karrde, who I’d never heard of before but kinda fills the slightly-dubious-businessman-cum-smuggler that Han no longer has, thanks to going completely straight, and many of whose machinations the reader is privy to.
I don’t have the sequels yet, but I do intend to read them. I’m not in a screaming hurry, but I am dead keen. I’ve heard these are the best of the expanded universe, but I admit that I’ll probably seek out more, at some stage. Trying to balance a desire for adventure with the requirement to be a serious politician is intriguing.
Did I mention that I think this counts as my first media tie-in novel? How exciting.