Heir to the Empire
A spoiler-free informational pseudo-review
Author: Timothy Zahn
Date Published: 1991
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Volume 1 of the Thrawn trilogy
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It is five years after the second Death Star has been destroyed by the brave Rebel Alliance. The former heroes of the Rebellion have become the senators, ambassadors and negotiators of the New Republic, determined to bring peace and order to the galaxy. Meanwhile, not too far away, trouble is brewing...
With the Emperor gone, The Empire is beheaded but not destroyed. The Imperial Remnant still consists of significant military forces, under the command of a forgotten Grand Admiral: Thrawn. Sent to the Imperial backwaters because of his criticism of the vulnerabilities of the Death Stars, Thrawn's tactical genius knows no bounds. But help can come from unexpected new friends ...
Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker, the only remaining Jedi Knight in the galaxy, is troubled by thoughts of training his sister. He knows that she must become aware of her Jedi potential, but at the same time knows that she, a hero of the Rebellion, must devote her time to holding the Republic together. During an ambassadorial mission which brings old friends together again, he receives a disturbing message ...
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So begins the first of the first post-Lucas trilogies, finally tackling what was taboo and untouched for so long (Dark Empire, while conceived in 1988 was actually published in 1995, and can be considered a stand alone episode).
This isn't high literature. This is Star Wars.
Unlike later dillettantes and literary butchers, Timothy Zahn had under his belt some halfway decent teen fiction/space opera/easy readin', which often included grand universes, some military strategy, and well-defined heroes. All this served him well when it was time to pick up the commissioned Gauntlet of Lucas. For his debut, he carefully researched what was known about Star Wars history and extrapolated. That galaxy far, far away is obviously a big one, so there was virtually no limit to what he could do.
So! Let's throw in a calculating (and cool looking with that blue skin and glowing red eyes) tactical genius on the Empire's side, an insane Dark Jedi, a lost fleet of 200 Dreadnaughts up for grabs in a time where both Rebellion and Empire are recovering from the costly war ... and oh, some clones, since that worked so well last time. Keep in mind this is all before Phantom Menace ...
You end up with an enjoyable, easy-reading yarn that fits very well into the Star Wars universe (and that would make a great movie, too). Familiar warriors, new and dark enemies, last minute saves, reluctant heroes, impossible odds (never tell me the odds!), touch of the mystic and the noble, and of course the classic one-liners; all of this adds up to Star Wars through and through.
If I had one nitpick, it would be that for all his Sherlockian intuition, the Grand Admiral loses entirely too often. Zahn, while picking up the atmosphere quite well, seems to have created a slightly overly powerful villain - since this is Star Wars, you know he will lose anyway, however. The losses are just about as credible as a massive, world destroying space station having one blatant and fatal flaw...oh.
So really, there's nothing to gripe about. Ok, one thing. A Katana is a word from our universe, not theirs.
Heir to the Empire | Dark Force Rising | Last Command