Friday, June 16, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Long Review after the Jump

Timothy Zahn essentially created the old Star Wars Expanded Universe with his Thrawn Trilogy - Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.  The Story introduced three new characters to the Star Wars Universe who would become fan favorites and major influences: Talon Karrde, Mara Jade, and Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Thrawn was the ultimate new Star Wars villain, and really the only new villain in the EU who had any long-term impact on the fanbase, so it was unsurprising that the powers that be would want to reintroduce Thrawn into the new Star Wars Canon. They did so by having him appear in the show Star Wars: Rebels.

I haven't seen Rebels, but was a big fan of the old EU until the Del-Rey took over from Bantam Spectra and started the NJO series.  I have great memories of the Thrawn Trilogy (and it's sequel duology, the Hand of Thrawn), which I still consider actually good genre fiction, not just good Star Wars books.  So I had high hopes for this book, where Zahn returned to his greatest villain creation and put him into the new Star Wars Canon with a fully told origin story, something we never really got in the old EU.

Where Star Wars: Thrawn is an origin story for Thrawn, the book succeeds.  Most of the story deals with the adventures of Thrawn and his human translator, Eli Vanto, as they work their way up the Imperial Hierarchy.  This part of the book works really well, showcasing Thrawn's brilliance and morals as he combats an intelligent mastermind known as Nightswan.

The problem is that about a 1/3 of the story is spent on what is basically an origin story for Arihnda Pryce, who apparently is another character on Star Wars Rebels.  This story does connect with Thrawn's to a small extent, but the two stories don't come together in a satisfactory all.  And Pryce's story is just well....not interesting compared to Thrawn's.  Maybe if you've watched Rebels this works better, but on its own, it's kind of a bore, and it takes up large chunks of the book.  It also starts very slowly.

The end result is a total package that is decent but not particularly great, hence my low score.  Do note I listened to this as an audiobook, which makes this the second Star Wars Audiobook (Aftermath) I've listened to.  Don't listen to these on audiobook - the reader isn't great and the book attempts to shoehorn in music in the dumbest places and it's extremely distracting.  But again, the problem here is really that a 1/3 of the story just isn't as interesting as the rest of it, and never pays off.  And that's hard not to ding.

In short: If you're a star wars fanatic, you'll enjoy this.  But unlike the original Thrawn Trilogy, I can't recommend this to a person new to Star Wars materials outside the films, as it won't really be a great experience.  What a Shame.

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