Wow, that one took forever to get through. Not because it was a bad book but because it was so freaking dense. I think the first-person narrative had a lot to do with it, and to date it’s the only novel in the expanded universe to utilize the format. I suppose it took a while to get into because it effectively retells major parts of the last three books that I just read over the course of the first half and while the different perspective is enough to keep it fresh, there’s just not enough new information to make it a real page turner until our protagonist leaves the Jedi Academy and strikes out on his own.
The book is effectively an unofficial X-Wing novel, centering around Corran Horn and his quest to rescue his kidnapped wife. Over the course of nearly 600 pages he joins Skywalker’s Jedi Academy, leaves for Corellia and learns of his family’s history, joins up with a gang of pirates and works his way up the chain of command ultimately landing him a potential position as the female Admiral’s sexual consort, launches a terrorist campaign as a “ghost” jedi, and stages a daring rescue attempt in the denoument. There is a LOT going on in this novel and it takes a while to cover it. The French version of the book splits it in to two separate novels which I think may have been a wise choice for the American version as you begin to wonder if they couldn’t have edited this thing down a little bit around page 300.
The last half of the book is thoroughly enjoyable and reads a lot better than the Jedi Academy stuff does, mainly because the Jedi Academy stuff didn’t work too terribly well for me the first time around. The last half of the book does feel a little bit like familiar territory if you’ve read the X-Wing novels but then again when it’s the same author and you’re utilizing the same character it’s hard to avoid such problems. But considering that I liked those books and I like this character it seems unfair to use the term “problem” anyway.
Honestly I’m just glad I was able to finish the thing because the first few hundred pages felt like a real slog. Hopefully the next entry will be a little bit more breezy.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 19 : The Last Command
I was really amped up to finish this trilogy. The second installment was just amazing and so I was more than ready to see how everything wrapped up. While I think the book was an admirable effort, it just wasn’t as good as the second book. Still better than the first, I think. But I may be alone in that line of thought. I can’t be sure. I’m avoiding reviews on any of these books while I write my own so as not to be influenced by outside thought. All of this bullshit is entirely of my own design.
This installment seemed to hit the peak as far as the “Thrawn is an unstoppable infallible force” trope where things seem to go in his favor every single time. Of course it all falls apart in the third act, but for the most part the book seems to throw as much of Thrawn being the epitome of the unbeatable villain as they could possible manage. It can get a little overbearing sometimes. I’m not going to lie, the repetitive nature of Thrawn gets grating after three books. He’s still a more interesting villain than say, Zsinj, but I still think that Isard was a better antagonist simply because she didn’t fall into the same pattern that Thrawn tends to in each and every book.
The climax of the book dealing with C’Baoth is a little fan-ficcy as well. Before the prequels delved into what exactly happened with the Clone Wars, every fan fiction had a clone jedi running around and the fact that this book decided to go in that direction is a little disappointing. The eventual ending does a good job of wrapping up the Mara Jade sub-plot, and the star battle that accompanies the denouement is actually quite well written. But compared to the climax of the last book it didn’t impress me all that much.
Next we return to the X-Wing series with Isard’s Revenge.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 18 : Dark Force Rising
I know that Heir To The Empire gets a lot of attention for its contribution to the expanded universe, but after reading the followup installment Dark Force Rising I can say that the first book in the series was nowhere near as good as the sequel. Dark Force Rising truly is like The Empire Strikes Back to Heir‘s New Hope, as just about every element present in book number two is an improvement on its predecessor. I’m not trying to say that Heir wasn’t a good book, because it was, but Dark Force Rising was a faster paced, better constructed, more impactful entry into the canon than Heir was.
In my review for Heir to the Empire, my major complaint was that of pacing and that plot points could have been saved for later installments and suffered no ill effects. The problem with that is that Dark Force Rising has NONE of those problems specifically because they were all handled in the first book. The structure of Dark Force is superbly executed and whatever bumps Heir might have suffered in that department frees up book two to do it’s own thing without having to deal with much in the way of setup. The characters are all developed and maneuvered into position in a manner that allows for the reader to blow through the novel with all the speed of an x-wing fighter. The thing really is a breeze to read even at 400+ pages.
The most satisfying thing about Dark Force Rising is the way that the narrative really only has an A & B plot structure. There’s Leia’s story interacting diplomatically with the Noghri and Han and Lando’s story in their search for the Katana Fleet. Han and Lando’s story is subdivided into several smaller parts because the crux of the story revolves around everyone looking for those lost ships. The intertwining of multiple castmembers towards that end is what makes the books so much fun. There is some really crafty plot work going on in this novel.
The book ends on a massive cliffhanger, as one would expect the second book in a trilogy to do, and further links it to Empire Strikes Back in structure, but it doesn’t leave you feeling incomplete the way that something like the end of Solo Command did. And that’s enough to prove that the story was fulfilling if you ask me.
The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 17 : Heir to the Empire
This is THE definitive book of the expanded universe. There’s no real way to get around that. This is the book more than any other that proved the viability of the Star Wars universe outside of the films. Moreso than Shadows of the Empire or any other entry that I can think of. I don’t mean to say that it is the best entry in the canon, I’m not even sure it’ll rank in the top ten when all is said and done. I just mean to say that it’s one of the most important especially since the majority of the stories in the canon evolve from the ideas presented in this book, ie. Han and Leia’s offspring, Mara Jade and Luke’s relationship, etc.
The book’s main shortcoming is that it is most definitely part of a larger story. It’s the first chapter of a trilogy revolving around Admiral Thrawn, and while the story resolves itself well enough to stand on its own, several plot threads are left dangling to be picked up on in the second installment, not the least of which being the importance of Joruus C’baoth who is thrown into the mix in the beginning of the story and never really dealt with. He’s a plot point that seems written with the intent of being strung out over the course of a few books. One gets the feeling that he easily could have been introduced in another book so that the main narrative of this novel could have felt a bit more focused.
The book is really better remembered for its legacy over its own literary merit. This is the book that gave us the name Coruscant, after all. Zahn is a decent enough writer but I feel about this book the way I did about The Courtship of Princess Leia, in that the prose doesn’t have the refined quality of the later books that it spawned. But I think that may just be a direct result of writers inspired by this book trying to prove they could do it better.