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Star Wars: Choices of One (Star Wars - Legends)
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on May 17, 2016
When in doubt, pick up a Timothy Zahn book.

After being introduced to the Hand of Judgment in Allegiance, I couldn't wait to get more of them and of course Mara Jade. Choices of One comes through.

Let's start with our heroes. A lot of the antics Luke, Leia, and Han get into are somewhat business as usual. Han and Luke get themselves into pickles, and Leia rolls her eyes at them. Something unique is that Han is in the process of proving himself to the leadership of the rebellion in order to get more responsibility. This storyline gives us a look at another, more serious side of Han which is fun. The rebellion is looking for a new base which is their primary storyline, and as usual in a Zahn book, you can tell something is not quite right. This track starts off a bit slow with a lot of politics talk, but fear not, it takes plenty of turns and keep your fingers turning the pages.

Now, for the villains. Mara Jade is sent to investigate a governor on a remote planet (same as the rebels planet) and enlists the help of the Hand of Judgment. During her investigation she learns things are not as simple as they appeared, and we get to see that Mara is not just an assassin but a shrewd investigator truly trying to do what she thinks is the right thing. All of the personalities in the Hand of Judgment lend to plenty of interesting dialogue and some comic relief as usual. We also get plenty of battle scenes and clever tactics from this group which is a lot of fun.

Lastly, the bad bad guy. Without reveling too much, Nuso Esva turned out to be a pretty interesting bad guy. The events leading up to his arrival, and his tactical prowess lead to an exciting finale to the story. The thought of another mysterious, unknown evil initially felt a bit stale, but turns out to be very compelling.

There was one other thing...hmm...oh yeah. Thrawn is in this book. Enough said.

Bottom Line: Although I enjoyed Allegiance a bit more, Timothy Zahn rarely disappoints, and he did not disappoint here. This book is a great addition the the EU and is well worth a fan's time.
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Mr. Zahn is best known for his eight previous Star Wars books, and I have always found his work to be extremely good, especially the novels with the Imperial officer Thrawn. Choices of One is another excellent effort and is great fun to read. It takes place in the period after A New Hope but before The Empire Strikes Back. We have Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Mara Jade in lead roles. What could be better?

The plot revolves around Rebel efforts to find a new base eight months after the battle of Yavin. Governor Ferrouz of Candoras Sector offers an alliance that would provide the Rebels with sanctuary. In return, the Rebels would offer protection against the alien warlord Nusso Esva. New characters in the Star Wars world. That's a good thing. Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are given the mission of evaluating the deal. This requires a trip to Candoras to see if the alliance is indeed possible.

Of course, very little is simple in Mr. Zahn's books. It turns out that our heroes are not the only ones headed in that direction. Mara Jade, known as the Emperor's Hand, and the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment are headed in the same direction to stop Ferrouz and ambush the Rebels. From there, one betrayal leads to another, and things are not always what they seem to be. Mr. Zahn excels in character development and in descriptions of action scenes. His portrayal of Han Solo back in those days is just classic. Sarcastic, questioning, cocky - but at the same time, extremely capable. The byplay between Han and Leia is great fun as the two strong-willed characters deal with each other.

Timothy Zahn's classic book Heir to the Empire from twenty years ago is given credit for reigniting the world of Star Wars publishing. It is a wonderful book. LucasBooks has now released a 20th Anniversary Edition of Heir to the Empire, complete with annotations by the author, exclusive commentary from Lucasfilm and Del Ray, and a brand-new novella starring Grand Admiral Thrawn. The hardcover edition looks great, and I cannot wait to read it.

Mr. Zahn's books are always worth reading, and Choices of One is no exception.
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VINE VOICEon August 1, 2012
Timothy Zahn's Star Wars books are the only ones I read nowadays. I was excited for Choices of One because the concepts of the Rebellion's search for a new base and Thrawn facing an alien warlord sounded like a surefire combination for a book. Unfortunately, something about this book just didn't gel for me. The two plot threads seem forced together, as if Zahn felt like he couldn't write a book just about the Rebels looking for a new base or just about Thrawn facing an alien warlord. There's too much going on, and as such the book feels shallow.

First, the plot of the Rebels looking for a base. Ideally this could have been a great chance to explore the characters of key Rebel characters in between ANH and ESB. Zahn handled Han, Luke, and Leia so beautifully in the Heir to the Empire series and I loved some of the character development in Allegiance, particularly the early flirtation between Han and Leia. Allegiance also used General Carlist Rieekan to good effect.

Choices of One started off well in this regard. We see Han feeling left out of command decisions and wanting to take a greater role in the Rebellion. Zahn handles Han's motives deftly, throwing in a combination of impressing Leia, wanting the respect of his officers, and pure inertia. Han really does grow in this book and I feel like I finally understand why he stuck around with the Rebels after the Battle of Yavin. Also, the dynamic between Rieekan and Han is wonderful, something I wish Zahn explored a bit further.

Unfortunately, the other characters don't get their due. Leia and Chewbacca are almost non-entities in this book. At least in Allegiance, Leia was used as the chief negotiator. Here, that role is taken up by a professional diplomat. There's a good reason for this - which I won't spoil here - but it means Leia's thrown into a bunch of odd situations, including as gunner for a snowspeeder, where she doesn't quite fit.

Luke really suffers in this novel. I know he isn't yet the confident Jedi Master we see after ROTJ, but even so he comes across as naive and almost doddering. He barely knows how to use a lightsaber and doesn't even seem to be able to use the force to improve his accuracy with a blaster. In several scenes he practically just stands around unsure of what to do. The Hand of Judgement stormtroopers and Mara both even comment on his apparent ineptitude. Fans of Luke will be sorely disappointed with this book.

Perhaps even more surprising, Zahn's very own Mara Jade has several moments of ineptitude and silliness as well. Mara and Luke are in the same room fighting a bunch of thugs, but Mara doesn't seem to sense that Luke is Force sensitive. Moreover, she knows his last name is Skywalker, but doesn't even think to check if this is the same Force sensitive Skywalker who blew up the Death Star. For the Empire, Luke around this time was like Osama bin Laden in October 2001 and to think that Mara would not have even checked into his identity, much less do everything possible to capture him, strains belief.

The other part of the story focuses on a confrontation against an alien warlord, Nuso Esva. Nuso Esva is the Moriarty to Thrawn's Sherlock Holmes. I love the idea of Thrawn nearly meeting his match in an alien warlord. Nuso Esva does remind me of Moriarty, resorting to kidnapping, extortion, and bribes to get others to do his bidding. Zahn plays off our expectations with Thrawn to good effect and around three-quarters of the way into the novel we get an absolutely brilliant plot twist.

While I generally enjoyed this part of the book, the motivations of some of Nuso Esva's underlings are a bit unclear. Despite the title of the book, many of the characters seems to make foolish choices, trusting the vague promises of an alien warlord. I can't say more without spoiling the plot, but I'll just say that there are one or two points where the plot doesn't seem well thought out.

Unlike a lot of fans, I thought the Hand of Judgment in the first book brought a fun new dimension to Star Wars. Getting to know the stormtroopers made the Empire seem more real and the Empire's treatment of loyal men with a conscious shows the roots of its corruption. Choices of One gives the Hand of Judgment an even larger and more interesting role. We see the stormtroopers grow to respect aliens. I also love Zahn's depiction of the team during the heat of battle. Because we don't know the fate of these men, readers can actually worry about the fate of these characters. It's refreshing.

I've been a bit harsh on this novel partly because I still have faith in Zahn as the best writer in Star Wars. I absolutely love his willingness to explore the years in between ANH and ESB. Zahn also writes the best Han Solo of anybody in the EU. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Choices of One suffers from uneven characterization and overly complicated plot with not enough payoff. Despite that, the book is still worth reading for fans of the Original Trilogy and Mara Jade. There are some fun moments. Just don't expect a classic.

Overall, 3.5 stars. That's low for a Zahn book, but still better than 90% of the Star Wars books out there.
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on June 8, 2017
Without a doubt for me Timothy Zahn writes the best Star Wars novels. I instantly feel transported back to the good years of Episode IV-VI, the true Star Wars movies. And while I already read quite a few of his novels this one is even better than all the others so far. But well, I'm quite happy that there are still a few more novels by Zahn waiting for me.
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on October 15, 2014
I am a fan of Timothy Zahn's previous work, but I did not enjoy this book very much. It may be that this story takes place between EPIV and EPV, and Luke is (correctly so) next to useless. Thrawn is here, but nowhere near enough for my liking and no great strategic exploits transpire. The main antagonist is shrouded in mystery, and is a disappointment when finally revealed. Mara Jade and the rogue squadron play roles . . . maybe that was the problem, Mr. Zahn may have tried to involve too many characters so we just get little tidbits from all of them, each playing out their sub-plots and mini dramas in the story. Also, the one sub-plot involving Palleon and a Star Destroyer suffers from a lack of believability. Overall this book fell flat for me, no real challenges or surprises. Unlike much of his previous work, this work contributes nothing to the expanded universe.
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on June 3, 2013
With Choices of One, Timothy Zahn delivers yet another outstanding Star Wars novel and offers some of his most intricate plotting and characterization to date. There are many twists to this tale of an Imperial Governor making overtures towards the Rebel Alliance. The setting (eight months after the Battle of Yavin) permits Mr. Zahn to make full use of the primary original trilogy film characters alongside his creations such as Mara Jade, Thrawn (here a Senior Captain), and the Hand of Judgment stormtroopers introduced in Allegiance. Mr. Zahn has a remarkable ability to capture the vibe of a Star Wars movie with the written word, using quick scene cuts, snappy dialogue, and relying as much on characters interacting via conversation as via combat.

Imperial Governor Ferrouz has begun making overtures to the Rebel Alliance. Since the uncovering of their secret base on Yavin IV, the Rebels have been in desperate need of a new center of operations. The dual system of Poln Major and Poln Minor appears to be an excellent candidate, especially with the clandestine support of the local Imperial leader. The Rebels send several representatives to investigate the offer further, including Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, the droids, and various other staff. One new character along for the journey is Axlon, who will take point on negotiations with Ferrouz. I wasn't that intrigued by Axlon initially but his presence really ramps as the story progresses. There are twists to his actions that make the reader question what he's really on Poln Major to accomplish and Mr. Zahn does a superb job of not making him into another cookie-cutter Rebel leader.

Mara Jade is brought into play as well: the Emperor has gotten wind of Ferrouz's traitorous actions and wants him dealt with. With both storylines, Mr. Zahn also brings in alien warlord Nuso Esva. He's treated as if he's been part of the universe and these stories all along, which is very much in the spirit of how the films introduce characters. What's also impressive is the exact nature of the relationship between Esva, Ferrouz, and the Rebellion is presented differently to the different characters sent to investigate. It sets up a nice little mystery which maintains its momentum throughout the story.

In a welcome reappearance, Mara brings along the rogue stormtrooper unit the Hand of Judgment, introduced in Mr. Zahn's Allegiance. The Star Wars Expanded Universe has made remarkable strides in diversifying the personalities of the prequel-era clone troopers and it's pleasing to see the same sort of differentiation of morals and outlook applied to the classic stormtroopers of the Empire. I find it a bit difficult to differentiate the five troopers in this unit but they make solid enough characters and certainly an interesting group. Speaking of Imperials, this era has Mara at the height of her powers working for the Emperor, but the book manages to portray her as a somewhat nuanced individual despite her service to evil.

Governor Ferrouz's motivations are kept quite murky for much of Choices of One. Even when it seems we as readers learn the truth, there is still plenty of doubt in the picture to keep things interesting. The multiple players involved and the difficulty for the Rebels to sift out the truth paints a stark portrait of how hard it would be for all these soldiers with their equipment and materials to find a new base in the galaxy. It would be no small matter for the Rebellion to finance and secretly carve out an entire base of operations, especially when the Empire might find it and shut it down at any moment, and Choices of One very much underscores what a gigantic task the Rebellion was posed after losing their Yavin base.

Han and Leia have great bickering, Thrawn makes some bold moves as always, Luke continues to struggle with his fledgling Jedi powers, and Darth Vader puts in an appearance at the climax. We even get a choice bit of information underlining exactly why Vader is so sure they've found the Rebels based on a fragmentary report in The Empire Strikes Back. Choices of One is a wonderful Star Wars story and showcases Mr. Zahn's firm grasp on the setting, the rapid-fire editing of sequences, and the necessity for proper characterization to accompany the expected battles. It is very highly recommended indeed.
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on August 16, 2012
I haven't read a Star Wars book by Timothy Zahn since his Thrawn Trilogy came out about 20 years ago and after reading this I'm left wondering why that is. I haven't been avoiding his contributions to the Expanded Universe per se, I'm just very picky when it comes to deciding what SW novels to read, and I don't read post-RotJ except for the aforementioned TT. With that out of the way, I rather enjoyed Choices of One for the most part, despite it being a sort-of sequel to Allegiance (which I haven't read) and not being advertised as such. There's also the big final plot-twist that I thought predictable due to the use of a popular Star Trek name, who's meaning gave the reveal away from the beginning.

The story was well-conceived and the writing consistent-enough to follow without having read the previous book or knowing a great deal about the main characters, and by that I mean Zahn's main characters not the actual ones. There are quite a bit of people and places that seem to come and go without much (if any) significance, and there are several plot threads that are too loosely connected throughout the story, but if you realize this early on it's not difficult to stay involved in the story and they're tied together fairly well at the end. Zahn could also benefit from a thesaurus, because there are several words he overuses, but I marginally prefer that over using big or rare words like some authors do.

Having said all that, I don't really care for Zahn's way of promoting 'his' characters at the expense of the bona fide main characters. Thrawn and Mara Jade (a teenager mind you) are not very believable due to their magical prestige and lack imperfections; also there's no way Mara wouldn't recognize the name Skywalker. And the Hand of Judgement, while an interesting group, doesn't seem very plausible considering they volunteered for Imperial duty and wouldn't last a week using the equipment they had when they deserted or being compelled to intervene in situations they shouldn't (chapter 8). In this book Thrawn and Mara are favored over Vader by the Emperor and that simply isn't the case, but this isn't out of the ordinary for Zahn. I'm not saying Thrawn can't be a brilliant tactician, and that Mara can't be Palpatine's personal assassin, but Vader is the Emperor's second in command for a reason, and all this plotting without him doesn't follow established characterization. Speaking of the Emperor, in the first chapter he became inexplicably irritated upon learning that a possible threat to the Empire was an 'alien' group, with an alien (Thrawn) in the room. It's well known that Palps is quite racist but the guy has been around non-humans most of his life so that reaction didn't make much sense.

It may sound that I'm being a bit harsh on this book but I really enjoyed the story and would rate it 3-4 stars (rounding up); plus the cover has the most appealing image of Mara IMO. Despite the character and writing quirks that Zahn's books usually have I think both SW and Zahn fans will enjoy it a good deal. However, if you haven't read many SW novels and are unfamiliar with Zahn's characters I would recommend starting elsewhere, such as his acclaimed Thrawn Trilogy.
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on June 21, 2012
Well, I've been a Mara Jade fan since Zahn's first Star Wars foray, "Heir To The Empire", the first part of the Thrawn Trilogy (That equals Episodes 7, 8, & 9, in my not-so-humble opinion.)

Since then, the other authors that Lucas unwittingly allowed into the fold have butchered this character, and furthermore the integrity of Star Wars itself. After all, one has to admit, that trying to pair Luke Skywalker up with anyone other than the most popular non-movie character of all time, is not only an effort in futility;, but is also a rather pungent insult to the fans, and an insult to Timothy Zahn, who all but conceived our post-"Return Of The Jedi" Star Wars, paving the way for all the other Jedi-wannabes that followed him. So, for my own sake, (and I recommend this for anyone who truly loves Star Wars as the deep and worthy work of art that it is), I discount anything that takes place after Zahn's "The Last Command". In MY Galaxy, Luke & Mara connect through the force (as depicted in Zahn's salvaging attempt "Vision of the Future") during their battle with C'Baoth, and Mara's subsequent release from Palpatine's curse. Therefore, they come together very shortly after. "The will of the Force this is!"

Fortunately, "Choices Of One" takes place before "The Empire Strikes Back", and even with my strict ruling, it's safe to read.

Having said that, I will admit that "Choices Of One"; a follow up to "Allegiance"; is a bit more lacking in excitement than its predecessor, and neither holds up to the intrigues of the Thrawn Trilogy. The lack of physical description for the many characters and other oddities in the story make it hard to visualize; and the convoluted plots within plots seem to be more mess than sense, even after the book's conclusion, leaving me with a feeling of, "What in blazes just happened?!"

However, it is still an entertaining, albeit confusing read. Highlights includ the fact that Luke, Han, and Leia are very well depicted in their Rebellion Era personas, Zahn maintained them very well, complete with Han and Leia's timelessly amusing bickering, and Luke's deer-in-the-headlights innocence.

The aforementioned Grand Admiral Thrawn appears as well, meeting for perhaps the first time his future subordinate, Pellaeon. And, naturally, the highlight of it all, and the main heroine of this tale, Mara Jade is in central focus for much of this novel.

For most people, I would recommend getting a soft-cover version of this book, though I went with hard-cover, mainly because the cover-art was, in my opinion, the best depiction of this vastly underrated, but much beloved character; Mara Jade.
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on February 16, 2013
Mara Jade, the deserter storm troopers from Allegiance, and Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie run into each other in a border star system where larger plots by the Empire and its external enemies are coming to a head.
When I read Zahn's Thrawn trilogy back in middle school it hit me like a bolt of lightning, such that I then read his 'Conquerors' trilogy as it came out. I enjoyed them all immensely at the time. But now, having read 'Choices of One' 15 years older, the constraints of writing for the star wars universe in between a couple of the films are glaring. Putting aside the Clancy-esque fetish for citing the model number of a piece of equipment (E-11, T-47) which I am sure is mandated by the marketing department for all the Mattel tie-ins, the whole thing just seems forced. It has also always bothered me that in the movies an armored stormtrooper can be brought down with a single pistol shot, whereas in the books their armor is significantly stronger and more capable.
I know Zahn is an excellent writer and inventive in both his planet-based and space based combat scenarios and tactics in other books, but everything about this novel seemed constrained, too pat, almost phoned-in. The Star Wars universe must be divided up into six week chunks by now with the number of books, and comics covering the time. I also felt that the narration for Mara Jade as she investigated sounded exactly like that of the spy from the USA show "Burn Notice"- always making generalized statements about things that surely must be different from planet to planet such as Imperial Governor's escape tunnel layouts. Overall I give it 3 out of 5 stars- it felt like Zahn did an outline and then some intern fleshed it out with bits from wookiepedia.

Pros:
- A little more Thrawn and Palleon
- Opens possibilities for more Thrawn material in the Unknown regions, hopefully without Han, Luke, Leia etc as main characters (Please!?)

Cons:
- Blah plot
- Forced by the context to constantly reference material from the prior movie/book/comic in the canon or foreshadow the next movie/book/comic
- Written in 90 days, and it shows
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on July 26, 2011
When an Outer Rim governor offers the Rebel Alliance a full-fledged base in return for help defending against an alien warlord the Rebels are left wondering if this is a genuine offer or an elaborate trap. Meanwhile, Mara Jade - the Emperor's Hand - is sent to the same sector to deal with its traitor governor.

I haven't truly enjoyed a Star Wars novel since the New Jedi Order series began and the only thought I had after reading the latest Fate of the Jedi book was "OK, I'm ready for a reboot" so, leave it to Timothy Zahn to make Star Wars fun for me again. Zahn has a grasp on Star Wars and its characters that no other author can compare to. This is a book about choices and how a choice made by a single individual affects the lives of others.

It was fun reading about naïve, inexperienced Luke opposed to the super-ultra-mega Jedi Luke of recent years. And it was nice to see Han making the not-so-smooth transition from smuggler to officer in Rebel Alliance. It wasn't until after I'd finished the book that I realized there wasn't any mentions of R2 or 3P0. And, even though it would've fit into the timeframe this novel takes place in, there is no Luke/Leia/Han love triangle to be seen. I've been quite bitter over Mara Jade's fate in the Legacy of the Force series so, as far as I'm concerned, the more Mara the better.

All in all, 'Choices of One' is a solid Star Wars story and makes me even more excited for the re-release of 'Heir to the Empire'. 4.5 Stars.
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