Sunday, December 20, 2015

Retro Review: The Thrawn Trilogy Part 3: The Last Command

In a way, The Last Command has it the easiest of the Thrawn trilogy - the entire plot is setup quite nicely by the prior two books.  No new characters of importance are introduced (a few named smugglers would be introduced, but in this book they're basically all interchangeable) and the bad guys' schemes are nearly all perfectly clear from the outset.  Hell, none of the new worlds introduced are of any relevance whatsoever, either.  Contrast this with Return of the Jedi, which has to introduce a new Death Star not seen previously, as well as the new area of Jabba's Palace - Command doesn't need to do this at all - the setup is already complete.

The plot of course is this (think of this as your text scroll):

The New Republic is suddenly on the defensive, due to the actions of the Empire's new commander, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Having obtained a lost fleet of warships and thousands of cloning cylinders to man them, the Empire launches its new final offensive into Republic territory.  The Grand Admiral comes armed with two special advantages: A cloaking shield and an insane Dark Jedi, Joruus C'baoth, with whom he can take advantage of the shield in previously unthought of ways.  

Meanwhile, Leia Organa Solo is pregnant with Jedi Twins, whom the Empire and the Dark Jedi want to take for their own twisted purposes.  Luke and the Smuggler Chief Talon Karrde independently each attempt to track down where the Empire's new clones are coming from, in order to restore the balance of power.  And recovering from a brush with death on Coruscant is Mara Jade, the woman once known as the Emperor's Hand, who has sworn to kill Luke Skywalker....

This is not of course, to say, that the action of this book is predictable.  The book has interesting subplots involving a spy "network" inside the New Republic headquarters, a fascinating new siege weapon used by Thrawn involving cloaked asteroids, and the smuggler meetups are pretty fun as well.  And again, the characters are terrific - Mara Jade finishes off her arc in this book in such a way as to be satisfying but still allowing her to be used in future Star Wars stories; same with Karrde and even Captain Pellaeon.  Thrawn and C'baoth's downfalls could very easily have been done poorly, as both characters are written as incredibly overpowered (overly omniscient in Thrawn's case) at times, but neither character's defeat requires a Deus Ex Machina.

The book culminates like Return of the Jedi in fact, with a space battle taking place simultaneously with a confrontation with the Dark Jedi.  That said, this isn't a retread.  C'baoth is a Dark Jedi, but his mindwarping modus operandi is not anything like that of the Emperor and the space battle has nothing to do with some planet destroying superweapon.  This is its own epic storyline, and the book succeeds the more for it.

On that last confrontation with C'baoth, I know some people have considered it really cheesy that it involves a clone of Luke named "Luuke" whom he has to battle - particularly the name.  The thing is, that if you ignore the name, the book sets it up so it makes perfect sense, so it's not really a thing.  It is kind of interesting that the book involves the lightsaber that Luke loses at Bespin (and that was originally Anakin's), just as in The Force Awakens (as you all should've seen in the trailer, so that's not a spoiler).  I guess it's a really fertile idea for the lightsaber of Anakin to be passed down - here it's passed down to Mara Jade at the end (although oddly enough, it's basically never mentioned again and it's replaced later in the EU).  

There's so much content here (this is the largest of the three books by about 40 pages) that it's hard to see this being done in one movie, but a split into two ala Harry Potter/Hunger-Games actually would work here really well (figure you'd split right after the Empire's assault on Coruscant, with Coruscant besieged and the main characters having broken out Mara to go after Wayland).  But this book would still be very adaptable to the screen and very enjoyable for the public - no silly political squabbles and slow parts (except I guess the Delta Source subplot, but that's easily excised).

Again, the good guys triumph in epic battles, some of which involve space battle while other parts of which involve blasters, lightsabers and of course force powers.  This is Star Wars at its finest, and easily the most cinematic of the trilogy, with everything following through from start to end.

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