Sunday, July 31, 2011

Star Wars: Hand of Thrawn 01--Spectre of the Past (Zahn, Timothy)

Rating: 4/5
Year: 1997
Genre: Sci-Fi / Star Wars
Read again? Yes

It's been 10 years since the events of the Thrawn trilogy, about 15 since "Return of the Jedi."

The New Republic is still mopping up from the various crises that pop up every time someone writes another "Star Wars" book. The Imperial Remnant is still causing trouble, even at vastly reduced strength and reach.

Princess Leia is President, but taking a leave of absence to spend time with the family. Acting President Space Horse has everything firmly in hoof.

Admiral Pellaeon is in charge of the Imperial Remnant's military; it's grown obvious to him that the Empire's boundaries are shrinking, its power fading, and he's making the rounds to various government leaders to discuss declaring a truce with the New Republic.

One of the men he meets with--Moff Disra--has his own agenda; he's working with a former Imperial Guardsman and a con man who impersonates the long-dead Grand Admiral Thrawn. The three of them devise a scheme intended to lure worlds back into the Empire. Before long, there are rumors--some hopeful, some fearful--spreading across the galaxy that Thrawn is very much alive and is embarking on a new mission to destroy the New Republic.

Disra is also in under-the-table business with a pirate band working as privateers, hitting Republic shipping on behalf of the Empire. There's a lot of money to be made--and business is good.

The story's Big Controversy centers on the Empire's crushing of Caamas; a document has surfaced linking a small number of Bothans to the genocide. Before long, the New Republic is brought to a near-standstill as its people break into factions, with some demanding justice for the genocide and looking to punish all Bothans for it, others taking up the Bothans' defense and insisting that the actual criminals be brought to trial. President Space Horse is hock-deep in trying to hold things together. It's up to Leia, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian to find the truth about the Caamas document.

Meanwhile, mysterious small ships have been seen in various places around the galaxy. Luke Skywalker's old ex-enemy/sometimes Jedi student Mara Jade goes off after one of them and disappears. Luke--guided by a vision from the Force--goes to find her....

Only two books in this story arc; Zahn turns in another tightly-written, well-paced book with good characterization and several plotlines to keep us wondering what'll happen next.

The only annoyance is the same one I've had with Brian Daley's "Star Wars" books, where common words aren't spacey enough. In place of bridges, we have sky-arches; birds are "avians," spies indulge in "cloak-and-blade" behavior. Bleah. Gonna take a point off for it this time, since Zahn does it more in this pair of books than in the previous trilogy.

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