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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This review is about the digital edition only...

...which was apparently not proofread at all. It has more typos than any ebooks I've ever read, including free public domain works that were compiled through donated time. The ebook sequel to this series (Vision of the Future) is even worse.

Both books read as though the text was scanned in, then converted to electronic text. Periods are misplaced, but the sentence capitalization remains intact. Words are misspelled, replaced with words that look sort of like the proper ones, but aren't. Hon in place of Han, for example, or, as in Vision of the Future, "Entante Venture" instead of "Errant Venture." It's incredibly distracting to have to parse through errors when you're trying to just focus on the story.

The publisher should be ashamed and embarrassed to put out such a product, especially when it's restricting Amazon to a retail price as high as the print version, which shows no signs of these egregious errors.

If I could return all my ebooks in this series from this publisher, I would. But apparently Kindle purchases must be returned with 7 days, and I'm a few days too late. I've never even thought of returning an ebook until now, but this series certainly qualifies.

If you have the choice, stick to a paper version - preferably used, so this lazy publisher doesn't gain any further profit. In my opinion, companies that shortchange customers shouldn't be rewarded.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars trilogy, and finding that it was good, I, being an avid SW fan, set my sights on the dozens of other books written afterward. They. . . weren't so good. In fact, some of them were downright bad, either using a tired device over and over again (superweapon anyone?) or destroying the characters. I began to lose faith in the franchise as literature-worthy.
Then Zahn wrote Specter of the Past, the first of The Hand of Thrawn Duology, and I believed again.
While his Thrawn Trilogy is usually considered best, this is perhaps his most daring work. With his first trilogy, he had no canon material he had to follow, allowing him an essentially clean slate with which to work. However, after five years and over a dozen novels, there was a lot of histroy that he just couldn't ignore. However, once again, Zahn proved to be more than equal to the task, using characters and events from the earlier and inferior novels to further his story or expand his characters. And, being Zahn, it worked.
The story of Specter of the Past is one of galactic conflict on a familiar Star Wars scale, but it also weaves threads intrigue and shadow plots into the play, giving the novel a fresh feel from the usual "The Imperials have a new superweapon!" arc, and it works well. One of the two main threads focuses on the supposed return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who we saw die in The Last Command, in all his strategic genius and glory. The second thread involves the framing of the Bothans for the destruction of a pacifist planet. While Leia tries desperately to hold the New Rupiblic together in the face of a catastrophic backlash, Han and Lando struggle to acertain if Thrawn really has returned.
Meanwhile, on a covert mission, Luke and Mara run into an Imperial style ship manned by clones, which vanishes into deep space. As Mara gives chase, she discovers a strange planet with a mysterious link to Grand Admiral Thrawn. Luke, recieving a disturbing premonition of her possible death, races to join her.
Behind it all is a brilliant mind and a daring con, backed by a ruthless and greedy warlord bent on galactic domination. However, where others have failed, they may very well succeed.
All the characters that Zahn introduced us to are back, and better than ever. Captain Pelleon holds a nominal authoritative position in the Imperial Remnant, struggling to find a way to end the decades-long conflict that has toppled an empire, while also wondering at the possible return of his mentor. Talon Kardde, smuggler and business man, journeys to the edge of the galaxy to meet a man he betrayed to uncover the truth about the Bothans. And Mara Jade is, of course, just as we remember her; smart, sassy, strong, and a perfect foil for Luke. Damn, but they make a great team.
While there's plenty of swashbuckling and space battling in Specter of the Past, the stage is only being set for something much MUCH bigger. Zahn is creating something grand in this volume, something which has ties not only with the SW books by other authors, but also brings back seemingly unimportant details from the Thrawn Trilogy as all too important. It really makes you admire his genius in storytelling and planning, and wonder whether he had planned follow-ups to the Thrawn Trilogy from the very beginning.
Any way you slice it, The Hand of Thrawn Duology is a wonderful addition to the Star Wars franchise, and is a wonderful set-up for a grand finale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
After re-reading Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars trilogy last year, I decided to read his follow up Star Wars duology (Hand of Thrawn) this year. I just recently completed the first book, Specter of the Past.

Zahn's original trilogy was spectacularly good, capturing the flavor and feel of the original movies and reconnecting us with the characters we loved. This means that the Hand of Thrawn duology has a hard road to follow.

Specter of the Past reintroduces us to several characters introduced in the first trilogy: Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and Admiral Pellaeon. Of course, one spends time with Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando, and Zahn's sure grip on these characters keep us engaged, and I think his Han is inspired.

The plot, ten years after the victory of the New Republic at the end of the trilogy, centers around a conspiracy within the Empire, now a poor shadow of its former self. Pellaeon, leader of the Imperial forces, recognizes that a negotiated peace is the only way to preserve the Empire and its New Order, and Pellaeon works to convince the Moffs and military leaders. However, Moff Disra thinks otherwise and forms a conspiracy with a former Emperor's Guard and an actor to undermine Pellaeon's efforts and foster fissures in the New Republic, focusing particularly on a historical destruction of a planet and those seeking retribution. Finally, a mysterious ship appears and transmits a mysterious message. Jade and Luke try to chase this down while Leia, Han, Talon, and Lando work to save the New Republic from tearing itself apart.

Zahn, as always, has a great grasp of character, plot, and pacing, and he has the feel of the Star Wars universe, and for a Star Wars fan, this is just about perfect anyways. But...one thing is lacking in Specter of the Past that was not in the first trilogy: Thrawn. Zahn's Grand Admiral of the first trilogy is so fascinating, so well conceived that his character is what turns out to be difficult to beat in Specter of the Past, where Disra and his co-conspirators simply don't measure up to Thrawn.

Still, a good read and I'll be moving on to Vision of the Future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is one of my favorite books of the Star Wars expanded universe. It is written by the forerunner in SW fiction, Timothy Zahn (check out his first Star Wars trilogy, Heir to the Empire). Zahn continues on from the strained relationship between Luke Skywalker and the Emperor's (Former) Hand, Mara Jade. This story is wrought with the fall of the Empire, the rocky state of the New Republic, and the tensions between everyone involved. What I love most about this book is that this is the culmination of the relationship between Luke and Mara. Without giving spoilers away, this is their story. :)
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The entire book is rising action (first act in dramatic terms), which makes it feel very slow and tedious. I haven't read Vision of the Future yet (just finished this one), but this entire book feels like it's just setting up for that. Unlike the 3 separate installments of the Thrawn Trilogy, which all work as independent books with their own conflicts being resolved (while also creating a full narrative over the three books), there's no resolution. It jumps back and forth between characters and plots, and 2/3 of the way through the book the reader still doesn't know where it's all leading. Bottom line: they should have released the 2 as one big book, but they probably wouldn't have made as much money or sold as many books. Zahn is one the best writers to handle the Star Wars universe, but I give it 3 stars due to publishing decisions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I got the distinct feeling that this was half or even a third of a book, having much less content then a single book from Zahn's Star Wars trilogy. Theme after theme was introduced and then dropped, with none of the richness of his previous work. It felt tremendously unfinished and unsatisfying. I can't think of any reason to publish a book this way other then pure greed. Even when the second book is published, if it continues in this mold, I doubt if the two books together will equal one of the original Zahn Star Wars books.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I admit right up front I am a firm believer that Timothy Zahn is THE Best Star Wars author out there -- bar none. Simply put, he has NO equal -- PERIOD. At least not that I have read. Anyway, after reading Zahn's original trilogy (which are the standard by which ALL Star Wars novels ought to be judged, by the way), I rekindled my interest and love in that Galaxy Far, Far Away and anxiously started to read as many other novels that came after as I could find -- only to be disappointed each and every time (with 2 or 3 possible exceptions...). Suddenly I see 'Specter of the Past' with Zahn's name on it, and my interest goes back UP again. The challenge facing him this time around wasn't so much to write a story of his choosing, but now he must incorporate into his novels events that have happened following his Trilogy by authors who have all but ruined the Star Wars name. In this effort, Zahn proves he us up to the task yet again. Many feel deprived that he chose not to explore several avenues established by other authors (such as what is going on at the Jedi Academy) but I for one am glad that he ignored these and instead developed an original story that built upon his original 3 novels and continued to expand his characterization of some of the greatest Star Wars creations to date, namely Mara Jade, Talon Karrde and Captain Pellaeon.
I was one of the many who was genuinely upset when Thrawn bit the dust in Zahn's 'The Last Command'. He was in every way a better bad guy than the Emperor or Vader combined. Sure, they were more evil, but Thrawn was a far superior military strategist. Where Vader & the Emperor ruled through fear, Thrawn ruled through brilliance and gained the respect and allegiance of his army by treating them fair and providing them with results, sometimes against impossible odds. So, when Zahn hints of Thrawns return in 'Specter' I was absolutely thrilled. But is it in fact the REAL Thrawn, or a clever impersonator? In many of the previous and following SW novels, the conflicts have been larger than life and having the tiny remnants of the Empire developing Super Weapon after Super Weapon is lame and totally boring. With Zahn's careful writing, Star Wars begins to delve into what I feel to be a much more realistic setting for this series: internal conflict within the New Republic, and continuing threats from those within the Empire who wish to derail the upcoming possible treaty with the New Republic. I think that because the plot is more character driven it becomes instantly more interesting and overall more entertaining. While not as overall satisfying as his original Thrawn Trilogy, I give VERY high marks to Zahn for being able to thread together this story, and meshing it with the plot-lines established by other authors in this series. If you count yourself a fan of the Star Wars Universe, it ought to be required reading to pick up anything written by Timothy Zahn, but you should decide for yourself. In my personal opinion, he is the best author in the Star Wars Universe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Once again, Zahn returns with a novel about the Grand Admiral Thrawn, justifiably described as 'the greatest leader the Empire has ever known'. Once again his characters are top-class, and once again he proves his ability to keep the reader rivetted to the chair, eye-deep in a Galaxy far away...
However. The same problems I stumbled across in his earlier SW trilogy are present here, most noticeably that of power decline. Firstly, Zahn had to combine two characters (Thrawn and Joruus) in his trilogy to present a baddie with remotely the same power as Darth Vader. Now, after both of those are dead, Zahn has brought the Grand Admiral back to life...under a shaky alliance of THREE people, trying to fill the Grand Admiral's shoes.
Simply put, the power of the adversary characters is roughly one-sixth that of Lucas' Darth Vader. This shows through in the petty squabblings which Zahn's Empire (admittedly weakened by the writings of previous SW writers, who inflicted defeat after defeat on the Empire to such an extent that one almost feels sorry for them) engages in. We have three people, fighting amongst themselves, trying to live up to the greatness of one person...who had to have help from another in order to live up to Vader's power.
Fair enough, Zahn has to pick up the shattered pieces of the SW galaxy after the remorseless and talentless injuries inflicted upon it by earlier authors, but that does not disguise the fact which Zahn himself grudgingly acknowledges in this book: 'the Empire is dying'.
If you like sci-fi, then read this book. If you really really like sci-fi, then don't read this or any Star Wars book (the rules of physics are broken too often - stick with Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov).
Also, if you like Star Wars, then read this book. But, if you really really like Star Wars, then don't. You may start to wonder troubling thoughts. Thoughts like: what will we do when all the baddies are dead?
You can't kill off the Empire. Do so, and you totally destroy any possibility of future stories, because nothing will ever be as fearsome or as powerful without also breaking the 'feel' of Star Wars. Yet, that is what is happening in varying increments, in these stories. I wonder what Zahn will write about when this batch of nasties (as they will eventually have to do) die.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Of all the Star Wars Expanded Universe books, this one and its sequel Vision of the Future (known as the Thrawn Duology) are second only to Timothy Zahn's original Heir to the Empire Trilogy. The political intrigue in this book is riveting, with a brilliant plot twist - the discovery of a document implicating Bothan spies in mass murder - that throws the New Republic into chaos.

My favorite parts of the book are those dealing the Imperials. I really appreciate that Zahn cares about his villains as much (if not more so) than the heroes. Gilad Pelleon in particular has some thoughtful dialogue as he tries to convince the Empire that peace is the only alternative. I also thought Zahn treated Mara Jade and Luke with great respect, subtly moving their relationship from awkwardness to romance. It's very nicely done and never anything abrupt. In terms of character development, Zahn is the master in the Star Wars universe.

As much as I liked the plot twist, I thought the book just spread itself a bit too thin and tried to cover too much. For example, it throws a lot of Expanded Universe names out there, like Corran Horn and Kueller. I've read the books involving those characters, but don't remember the details, and so lost some of the references Zahn made. At some points, Zahn seemed to want to cram some of his favorite characters into the plot, even when they don't advance the story much at all. Shada the Mistryl for example has some points to add to the story, but often just seems like an unrealistically omnipotent bodyguard (she can even take out Noghri!). Meanwhile, some characters are sent on side quests that just seem to be worth following all that much. I would have preferred if Zahn had consolidated the plot threats and focused more on the tensions within the New Republic.

Overall, I definitely recommend reading this book and its sequel if you like the original Heir to the Empire Trilogy. It wraps a lot of the plot threads up very well and sets the Star Wars universe up for the next chapter (the invasion of the Yuzhan Vong).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
All I can say is, even if you have hated every single Star Wars book written before this one, I gaurentee you won't be able to put this one down! None of the other writers quite measure up to Zahn, and he has obviosly developed as a writer since the original Thrawn trilogy. Anyway, this book takes place about 15 years after Return of the Jedi, and ten years after Thrawn's campaign. New reports and rumers are surfacing that it was a group of bothans who were working for the Emperor who destroyed the planet of Camaas nearly half a century earlier, and the Camaasi (and about a thousand other peoples using Camaas as an excuse to revive and act on their own grudges) are out for blood, and the entire New Republic is ready to explode into civil war. The reports also mention that Thrawn could be back, which altogether spells disaster. Luke meanwhile, has a strange and disturbing vision of his long time friend Mara Jade in trouble on a certain mission, and he rushes off to rescue her, much to Mara's annoyance. Anyway, this is a really great book, and I guarentee you'll be screaming for the sequel once you finish it (I was lucky enough to be have bought Vision of the Future at the same time, hee hee). With all the millions of subplots it does get pretty confusing at some points, and to understand Leia's section of the plot you have to have a basic understanding of politics, but as long as you have a decent number of braincells I doubt anyone would have any problems with it. The Luke/Mara plot is fascinating as well; I can't wait to find out what the fortress is and what goes on there, and I also wonder what is going to happen between them in general, since this seems to be the first book since The Last Command that has added on to the theme of them possibly becoming "more" than friends. I have always felt that they belong together, and I can't wait to see what happens in Vision of the Future.
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