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Thrawn (Star Wars) Hardcover – April 11, 2017
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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“The origin story of one of the greatest Star Wars villains . . . a book that fans have wanted for decades.”—The Verge
“A satisfying tale of political intrigue . . . Thrawn’s observations and tactical thinking are utterly captivating.”—New York Daily News
“Quite the page-turner.”—Flickering Myth
About the Author
Timothy Zahn is the author of more than forty novels, nearly ninety short stories and novellas, and four short-fiction collections. In 1984, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novella. Zahn is best known for his Star Wars novels (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, Specter of the Past, Vision of the Future, Survivor’s Quest, Outbound Flight, Allegiance, Choices of One, and Scoundrels), with more than four million copies of his books in print. Other books include the Cobra series, the Quadrail series, and the young adult Dragonback series. Zahn has a B.S. in physics from Michigan State University and an M.S. from the University of Illinois. He lives with his family on the Oregon coast.
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"Thrawn" rectifies that.
From a only-barely modified origin story that will be very familiar to those who read the short "Mist Encounter" to bringing Thrawn days before his debut in "Rebels", we see the journey an alien has to take to rise to the pinnacle of military rank in the xenophobic Empire. There are familiar notes including character and ship names readers of Zahn's Legends material, new material including Thrawn's young protege, and for those who require an Imperial villain, we have Arhinda Pryce and her ruthless climb to political power that also explains a great deal about her character on Rebels and how she and Thrawn became allies of a sort. There's also a surprise twist to Thrawn's backstory that should catch even longtime readers off guard. And for the first time ever, we're permitted a glimpse into Thrawn's mind rather than seeing him filtered through a human POV.
New-canon only fans may find things like the explanation of the "civilian casualties" on Batonn strange or not in keeping with the so-far almost simple-minded insistence in new canon on black and white morality, but readers familiar with Zahn's work recognize this is a design feature, not a bug. If the book had any real flaws, it was a somewhat underwhelming antagonist in "Nightswan", and some of the battle sequences get VERY long-winded as Eli (the narrator) talks through analyzing them. But overall the book is the high quality and characterization we have come to expect from Zahn. Other than Catalyst this is, thus far the only must read new Star Wars thus far, and the only one which is a must read for its own sake.
Why? Why do we love this guy, this "bad guy" that the general Star Wars fan should be rooting AGAINST since we should want the Rebels to win?
Because he isn't like ANY other villain in the SW universe. He is not evil for the sake of being evil, like we have gotten used to seeing. He is not in it to simply increase the Empire's power because he is power-hungry, and he's not manipulating or scheming his way up the military ladder to Lord power and influence over others. He has earned every promotion, and sought none of them. He believes in justice, in the rule of right and in this book we see him openly criticize the policies that keep his aide, Eli Vanto, from achieving the rank he deserves. And while he does feel anger and frustration, he does not allow these negative emotions to overrule his judgment or drive him to reckless actions. He does not over-commit his resources or throw large forces at impossible targets just for the sake of being able to say he succeeded where others failed. He is not afraid to concede a battle as lost. He rarely has to do so, since he is a master tactician, and he spends a great deal of time learning about his opponents' strengths and weaknesses in order to minimize his potential losses. Not because he wants credit for succeeding with higher marks than someone else, but because--and this is important--he cannot abide the wasteful loss of life so prevalent under the command of other high ranking officials. He will take a life if he thinks it is needed, particularly as an object lesson that will prevent future deaths, but that is a rare occurrence. He prefers to teach, to inspire his crew, and is open to suggestions. He is not afraid to accept a suggestion just because he didn't think of it himself.
Thrawn was basically swept away along with the rest of expanded universe characters after the new Star Wars movies came to life and changed the last 25 years of "history", much to the grief of many a fan. However, with this book, which ties in to the “Star Wars: Rebels" animated series, Thrawn has come back to the SW universe. His origin has been slightly tweaked in order to tie him more fully into the canon, but under Mr. Zahn's deft craftsmanship, he is still the brilliant, thoughtful, resourceful Imperial officer we have come to admire. This time around, we get a glimpse into how he managed in Imperial Academy training, his early service under other officers (most of whom are not superior to him in tactical planning and execution), and how his sense of honor and justice sometimes gets in his way in a fleet which does not necessarily live by the same rules.
Even better, with the journal entries at the start of each chapter, we get a glimpse into his thoughts in a direct way for the first time.
The character of Ahrinda Pryce, from the animated series, is better understood if you watch that series since she is not a Zahn creation, but he manages to make her sympathetic enough in the beginning that by the end you can and should be revolted by the path she took as opposed to the one Thrawn takes.
I highly recommend this one for anyone who knows and lives Thrawn, and ask those who want to know what all the fuss is about.