Title: Star Wars Dark Force Rising
Author: Timothy Zahn
Publication Date: Feb 1993
Classification: Adult Novel
Summary from Goodreads:
The dying Empire’s most cunning and ruthless warlord–Grand Admiral Thrawn–has taken command of the remnants of the Imperial fleet and launched a massive campaign aimed at the New Republic’s destruction. With the aid of unimaginable weapons long hidden away by the Emperor on a backwater planet, Thrawn plans to turn the tide of battle, overwhelm the New Republic, and impose his iron rule throughout the galaxy. Meanwhile, Han and Lando Calrissian race against time to find proof of treason inside the highest Republican Council–only to discover instead a ghostly fleet of warships that could bring doom to their friends and victory to their enemies. Yet most dangerous of all is a new Dark Jedi, risen from the ashes of a shrouded past, consumed by bitterness… and scheming to corrupt Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side.
The second act of any trilogy is usually when things begin to break down for the heroes. This is very true in regards to the Star Wars mythos (Empire Strikes Back is a prime example of this). I had lofty expectations for this book, due to the stellar performance of ‘Heir to the Empire’, and I have to admit, I was a bit let down with Dark Force Rising. This is not to say it was a bad book, but I suppose its so difficult to follow up such a grand book such as Heir.
I did mention in my review for Heir that Luke Skywalker’s overall characterization suffered a bit as he was described to be somewhat of a sissy, for lack of a better word. I take great pleasure in stating this has been rectified. Luke Skywalker is supposed to be this riveting hero, capable of incredible power but it is not the power which defines him; it is his nobility and honor towards friends. His heroic deeds are highlighted in the Star Wars movies as well as in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars (in which this book takes place). In Heir he seemed weak and inefficient. His reluctance to accept his destiny as the first of the New Jedi was a bit annoying, as was his groveling about the final death of Obi Wan Kenobi. In ‘Dark Force Rising’, it would seem Luke snapped out of this funk and once again became the Jedi we all know and love. His confidence was restored, and the timing couldn’t have been better. With how ‘Heir’ ended, Luke would need to call upon all his mastery of the Force in order to assist his friends in their most troubling of times.
I did express how Dark Force Rising was a letdown to me compared to Heir but again, that is only because Heir was such a masterful work. It is a classic Star Wars Novel and following up such a grand piece is a hard, if not insurmountable task. What Dark Force Rising is, is essentially more of the same as Heir. It kept a consistent tone and pace which was established in Heir, while also throwing in a little more intrigue (the mystery of the Katana/Dark Force fleet, the role of the Bothan’s in possible Imperial involvment of Admiral Ackbar’s arrest, the clone dangers presented by Thrawn’s control of the Emperor’s cloning facilities on Wayland, and the increasing presence of the crazed clone Jedi Master Joruus C’Baoth). I do enjoy a bit of mystery, suspense and intrigue in my books and in that regards, Dark Force Rising delivered. However, just something about this particular book seemed off to me. A bit forced even. I believe I can place a lot of my problems with this book is the minimal appearances of Grand Admiral Thrawn. He was ‘there’ but just not ‘THERE’. He didn’t have as much of an explosive performance this time around. Although he appeared in plenty of chapters and pages throghout, he just did not seem to have much to do. He was scheming and plotting but overall, he was relagated to the sidelines. As with my issue with Luke in Heir, this too happened to be rectified in its climax, ‘The Last Command’.
A lot of this book was politics. Leia being delegated to seek peace and aid of the Noghri people whilst Han and Lando were venturing off trying to call upon old Corellian War Hero and former Republic Senator, Garm Bel Iblis to fight against Thrawn’s Empire. A lot of talk with minimal action until the climax of this book, which was indeed very shocking and left powerful and lasting ramifications for the New Republic.
I will say that Mara Jade was expanded upon quite nicely and her character began to come together and the situation with the Noghri and their relationship with the Republic and Empire was interesting. I was very much inclined to hear what the Noghri had to say to the Lady Vader. Their reasons for serving the Empire with unflinching loyalty were flawed and it was a powerful moment when the truth as to why they ‘owed’ a life debt to the Empire was revealed.
Dark Force Rising was my least favorite book of the trilogy only because Heir set everything up and The Last Command put everything to rest; Dark Force Rising was just filler. It wasn’t bad filler. It was something akin to a store bought cake. If Heir and Last Command were cakes made by an actual bakery and during the middle of it all for Dark Force Rising, somehow you decided to buy a cake from the store; it just isn’t the same. Dark Force Rising left me wanting more of everything which is not necessarily a bad thing as it bode well for the Last Command. I believe that the powerful cliffhanger to Zahn’s books are his speciality as this book in particular leaves the reader hanging. Is the New Republic on the verge of collapse? Has Grand Admiral Thrawn succeeded when the Emperor and Darth Vader failed? These are some of the things the reader is left wondering upon the climax of this book.