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Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Paperback – March 26, 2002
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In this book it is five years after the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star and defeated Darth Vader. Princess Leia and Hans Solo are married and are expecting Jedi twins. Luke has become first in a long line of Jedi Knights.
Even though the Death Star was destroyed the dark side is actively organizing itself to again dominate the galaxy. I never like to give away too much information when reviewing a novel because it may spoil it for the reader; however, if you are a Star Wars fan this is a must read book.
Rating: 5 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Practicing Combatives Alone on Amazon kindle).
If you haven't read it before, or if you're coming back to an old favorite like I did - enjoy it. This is some of the best writing in Star Wars. In any format, by anyone.
Once they received approval from George Lucas and the other higher-ups, they searched for a writer to pen this new trilogy, and decided to offer the contract for the trilogy to then-rising science-fiction writer Timothy Zahn. Thus, what would become known as The Thrawn Trilogy was born.
The first book, Heir to the Empire outsold the modest hopes that had been held out for the books, and much more. It was a run-away best-seller that proved that there was still a HUGE market for SW stories. Timothy Zahn went on to become, for many fans, the definitive author of the EU (Expanded Universe) of SW stories.
Twenty years after the initial release of Heir, Timothy Zahn released a special annotated version of the novel, with helpful notes, observations, and explanations from himself and (every once in a while) Betsy Mitchell, his editor at Random House.
Of course the story is terrific fun. It takes us five years after the end of Jedi, where the Rebel Alliance has made huge gains since their victory over the Emperor at the Battle of Endor. In those five years, the Rebellion have established a formal government (called the "New Republic" as a continuation of the Old Republic Palpatine ended in his Sith plot), pushed back the Imperials from many star systems, and reached a slight military superiority to the heavily-armed Imperial forces.
All of this success is threatened by a brilliant military commander, and last of the Imperial Grand Admirals, named Thrawn. For his own reasons, which are inscrutable (he seems to have no respect for the late Emperor and his "New Order") to all but himself, he believes the Empire must rise again and the "Rebellion" - he steadfastly refuses to call it the New Republic - must be destroyed. To this end, he has found an insane clone of an Old Republic era Jedi Master, Joruus C'baoth, and is using him to perform carefully-planned attacks to drive the Republic to it's knees.
What's more, he has agreed to the madman clone's price for his help: Leia Organa Solo and her and Han's twin children she is pregnant with, to be kidnapped and handed over to C'baoth.
So began the resurgence in the now truly massive Star Wars franchise. The plot is interesting, but what made this work truly compelling are the characters. Along with the favorites from the movies (such as Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, so on), you have new characters to enjoy. You find yourself both cheering for and against the bad guys, for instance. This is because, though Thrawn is more polished and refined than the Emperor and Vader, is a genius to boot, and has some good motives for some of his actions, there is little doubt that he is still evil. After all, he is fine with killing incompetent subordinates, kidnapping innocents and handing them over to a homicidal maniac, among other lovely things. There is also no doubt that, though insane, C'baoth is the every bit the clone of his template, one of the more powerful pre-Empire Jedi. All in all, this is quite a challenge for the heroes.
Part of the difficulty for the good guys is that Thrawn is careful and smart. He analyzes his enemies, unlike the Emperor and Vader he will retreat from a fight he can't win, and he plans his strategies so that, even when he does lose, he still either gets something, hurts the Republic, or both.
One area that Zahn deserves both praise and some slight critique (but mostly praise) is in the area of how "hard" his SW books are. In science-fiction circles, there is a scale of "hardness" and "softness" in regards to the genre. For instance, how much does the story adhere to scientific fact (hard), or just use science jargon or vague ideas to give a template or justification for story elements (soft). Zahn was limited in how much "hardness" he could put in the Star Wars books due to the fantastical nature of the series. He still tried. Sometimes this could pull you out of the fantastical elements due to the explanations, which obviously was not a good thing. All in all, this is a tiny criticism, because his keeping the characters grounded made the story more compelling and believable than the truly ridiculous paths many other authors have taken stories down since then. While he is a bit long on explanations and science at times, his grounded approach really has been shown to be for the best.
This novel also introduced three characters that would go on to influence future books, and be wildly popular with fans, despite not appearing in any of the films. Said characters are Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and Imperial Captain Gilad Pellaeon. It's a testament to the story-telling and world-building skills of Tim Zahn that he was able to create characters that consistently are fan-favorites, even sometimes over movie characters.
Of course, this edition of Heir being annotated offers added goodies. As I already stated, there are numerous notes from Zahn and Mitchell about the process of writing the trilogy. These tidbits open a window to the reader about how the tales developed, including what ideas were accepted, rejected, or fine-tuned by the folks at Lucasfilm. To get into the heads of Zahn and Mitchell in some ways helped to almost complete the book, as some questions fans have had about Heir and the rest of The Thrawn Trilogy are answered in the notes.
For the Star Wars fan, and really science-fiction fans in general, this is a must-read.