I reviewed the first in the Thrawn trilogy, Heir to the Empire, here, and it’s taken me a while to get around to the rest of the series. But I have finally read Dark Force Rising and The Last Command and you know what? I continued to enjoy them. Such that I do plan on reading more in the expanded universe. Especially since I discovered there’s a Han Solo trilogy set just before the events of episode IV. (!!) What follows is in no way a comprehensive review of the last two books… more just some rambling thoughts. These thoughts do contain spoilers, both for the first book and the later ones.
Look, the first thing I have to say is WILL MARA AND LUKE JUST HURRY UP and get together already?? If they don’t end up having a beautiful Leia/Han relationship, or at least a tempestuous love affair, I will be righteously peeved. Because they are so clearly right for each other.
Oh my, this may be the first really serious case of ‘shipping I’ve ever experienced. It might mean I can never read any of the later books IN CASE I AM WRONG.
It’s really the characters that kept me reading here. I did enjoy the plot – and an enormous amount of kudos goes to Zahn, and I guess Lucas as the owner of the franchise for allowing him to do it: the idea that actually, it might take more than one battle to change the fate of an entire galaxy is brilliant and I am so glad it actually gets explored. Bizarre as it might seem, there wasn’t enough politicking in these books for me. I understand that the focus is on the threat posed by Grand Admiral Thrawn, especially as he keeps showing up, attacking important planets, and then running away again – and that Luke and Han and Leia get to go off and have exciting adventures. And there’s a bit of politicking as Admiral Ackbar is confronted by the weaselly Fey’lya with fraudulent bank accounts, and the occasional discussion about which planets are dispensable. But seriously, people! Where is the tit-for-tat bargaining to get planets on your side? Where is the committee taxed with the task of writing a new constitution? Are we having elections any time soon? These are the questions I want resolved!
Possibly I have been thinking about real-world revolutions too much.
So, characters. While the Mara/Luke thing frustrated me, my greatest surprise on finishing the trilogy was the revelation of who Delta Source – the source of all that oh-so-useful intel Thrawn keeps getting from inside the very bowels of the New Republic – actually was. And this was clever, and nicely played, etc. But I had been reading for 2.5 books absolutely convinced that the source was Winter, Leia’s aide. I do not remember why I thought this – I vaguely recall some scene in the first book that seemed to suggest she was secretly communicating with someone, but maybe my brain invented this as a reason for thinking she was eeevil. Perhaps she’s just too perfect and I am too accustomed to betrayal in my science fiction. Or maybe, maybe, the revelation in this book was a trick and she will still turn out to be a traitor! ha ha!
Luke is slightly less wet than in the films, which is nice. There’s still a lot of ‘oh my goodness what if I’m not good enough?’ which I always imagine in the voice of Annie from the eponymous movie. Still, he’s making advances in understanding and using the Force, so that’s a positive.
Han continues to be awesome, and still struggles somewhat with actually being respectable. I really like that he is cranky about not having time with his wife, and only going off on missions when they are of Direst Importance To Save the Galaxy. And even then he’s not happy about it. Also, he loves his kids. That’s nice. And there’s some good banter with Lando.
Leia is the great revelation for me, in these books. Yes she had some great parts to play in the films, but I was quite concerned – especially as the trilogy opens with her pregnant, with twins – that she would rapidly be sidelined. But oh no. She is on missions, and getting into trouble, and negotiating deals, pretty much until she gives birth. (She would probably get on well with Alexia Tarabotti… although she may not care quite so much about dresses.) Not in a run-around-oops-my-belly-got-in-the-way way, though; she is consciously aware of the twins, and of ensuring their safety – but she faces the difficult question of keeping them physically safe while also safeguarding the new republic she has also helped to birth. (Those metaphors could get a leedle clunky, not to mention questionable.) Anyway, she’s great. And shoots things. And uses the Force. And overrides the men for their own, and her own, good.
Of the lesser characters… Threepio is more annoying than ever. Lando gets a nice amount of page-space, and continues to be banterific. Mara is probably the most intriguing of the new characters, with the gradual revelations about her background – Emperor’s Hand, maybe some sort of access to the Force, an overwhelming desire to kill Luke but actually
wanting to shag him needing him to get things completed. I can see that she will be a big character in later books – or ought to be anyway.
There are of course lots of other new characters introduced in this trilogy… possibly too many, actually. Thrawn and his XO Pellaeon are interesting opponents, and I said in my first review that it’s an intriguing narrative device to give the reader such a clear insight into the ‘enemy’. While it makes Thrawn come across as a definite enemy – cos he’s a bit nuts; no one should be able to gain that sort of insight just from looking at a society’s art – that’s just creepy – Pellaeon is a good follower, a genuine believer in the empire but not a fanatic, delightfully concerned for the welfare of his crew, and basically sympathetic. It’s very sad that he’s on the wrong side, and I wonder if this is an intentional move: make the reader see that people on both sides are (for want of a better word) human? Because the same sort of thing happens, of course, with the alien Noghri – whose entrance into the story is as assassins, and who progress to being allies of the New Republic because of their allegiance to the children of Vader and because the Empire is shown as having screwed them over (…which actually makes their devotion to the children of Vader problematic, unless they’ve transferred their allegiance because of the revealing of the truth…).
And then there’s Talon Karrde, who if I’m not much mistaken will also feature in later books, because he is basically the replacement for Han in the bad-ass but basically good (chaotic good maybe?) stakes. Smuggler, racketeer, but still good to his people and basically honest… yeh. Han replacement. And he’d totally shoot first, too.
There will be more Star Wars in my future. Not sure when, but it will happen.