Title: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
Author: Timothy Zahn
Publisher: Lucas Books
Publication Date: Sept 2011
Classification: Adult Novel
Summary from Goodreads:
Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights.
But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords—the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn—has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.
The explosive confrontation that results is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale—in short, a story worthy of the name Star Wars.
It has become increasingly evident that I am in love with all things Star Wars. Star Wars happened to be one of the first movies I have ever seen and it is rumored to have been on in the background the day I was brought home from the hospital. Whether this is true or just something which is cute to say is not known but what is known is how Star Wars has affected my life.
Star Wars trancends all forms of fiction as it incorporates different genres; romance, action/adventure, thriller, and of course, science fiction. If you were to walk about the streets and tell someone to ‘use the force’, they would most likely know where that came from. Star Wars is forever engrained in the lores of pop culture and thanks to Disney’s recent acquisition of LucasFilm, it shall be reintroduced to the next generation with a new set of films to be released in 2015. This is probably what has caused me to get on this Star Wars novel kick and I guess I owe a bit of thanks to the House of the Mouse. And to Timothy Zahn.
Timothy Zahn was a name only slightly familiar to me but only for his work on the Star Wars novels. The man has a Masters in Physics and would not necessarily be a person I would think of as being a great writer because of that background; I was wrong. He took these ideas incorporating the familiar faces of the Star Wars universe and introduced a few new faces as well and the world is a better place for it.
I have to discuss what this story meant to the overall scheme of the Star Wars universe and I must highlight perhaps one of the most interesting and fascinating of characters in the Star Wars universe, one which was introduced in this novel; Grand Admiral Thrawn. First things first…the story itself.
Instead of giving away details about the plot itself, I believe it would be more beneficial to focus on the significance of this book and how it helped to repopularize the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars has been and always will be a lucrative franchise but its popularity seemed to wain a bit during the early 90’s. LucasFilm realized this and sought out to make a Star Wars novel which would reinvigorate the brand; they succeeded on all levels and perhaps on a scale they never before imagined. The success of Heir the Empire would lead to two follow up novels which would comprise what is now called the Thrawn Trilogy. The story itself played out as a Star Wars movie would, complete with grand scale action, fascinating detective work, quick wit and humor and an unparalled level of excitement. All of the major characters were in play; now Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo (yes, Han and Leia got married, and Leia is pregnant with twins), Chewbacca, C-3P0, R2-D2, and Lando Calrissian. Timothy Zahn must be an adamant fan of the Star Wars Universe as he was able to accurately depict each character, to a point. Zahn also realized that Star Wars cannot rest on its laurels and on that notion, decided to introduce some ‘new blood’ into the Star Wars expanded universe. One of these characters was Mara Jade
Mara Jade was a character that I wish existed in real life; she is strong and stubborn but has some sort of enigmatic mystique to her that permeates through the pages in which she is a part of. Come to find out *SPOILER ALERT* she is the Emperor’s Hand, carrying out some of his deeds that Darth Vader himself could not as it would jeopardize his standing in the Empire. I should refer to Emperor Palpatine in the past tense since it was Luke Skywalker who brought about his downfall (even though a redeemed Anakain Skywalker killed him by hurling him down a chasm on the second Death Star). During the Emperor’s final moments, he projected his thoughts to Mara and called for her to avenge his death and kill Luke Skywalker. This element added a whole new level of depth and suspense to the story as a whole, one which would carry through the rest of the Thrawn Trilogy.
But my absolute favorite character of this story is one that reminds me so much of some of the great generals throughout human history; militaristic genuises that do not punish their subordinates for thinking outside the box but instead rewards them with praise and promotion. Grand Admiral Thrawn is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most fascinating and intricately detailed characters in all the Star Wars Universe. His tactics are unconventional but masterful in their execution and he is seemingly three steps ahead of his opponents. Thrawn is the newly appointed leader of the Empire, which may come to a shock to some as Emperor Palpatine was adamantly against aliens serving in the Empire. His prejudice seemed to have limits as he was made aware of Thrawn’s abilities after their initial encounter. Thrawn is from the Chiss race, blue in skin and fire red eyes. If you are familiar at all with the Star Wars movies (notably Empire Strikes Back), you might understand how the Empire used to be run; with an iron fist and no room for error. Darth Vader was quick to punish his subordinates with swift and deadly consequences and anyone that served under his command aboard a Star Destroyer usually had a quick trip through promotions and a short term at the top. Any slight mistake and they were terminated, literally. Under the command of Grand Admiral Thrawn, those under his command are encouraged to think outside the box and are rewarded for doing just such a thing. For example, when Luke Skywalker alluded capture, Thrawn was most displeased but instead of killing those that failed him, he asked questions and found out a certain crew member was not properly trained. One of the most fascinating things about Grand Admiral Thrawn is how he learned his opponent; he studied their art. It was his sumation that through studying the artwork of their culture, he would be able to understand the intricacies of their nature. Certain aspects of Thrawn reminded me so much of Generals throughout history such as Patton, Romell and even Napoleon. Their were complex characters living in a complex time but they defined the era in which they lived.
I took issue with only a very few things in this book. One happens to be how Luke Skywalker is presented to be somewhat of a whiny person in this story. Is he not the first of the new age of Jedi’s? Instead he seems to be whine about how much he misses Ben (Obi Wan Kenobi) and Yoda. He also seems to become pacified when he is around Mara Jade and I initially had little hope for him in this story. Since I have now moved on to read the follow up to this book, ‘Dark Force Rising’, my faith in Master Luke is renewed.
One of the things that offset whiny Luke was how Timothy Zahn employed the use of cliffhangers for a lot of the chapters and the very end of the book you are left with feeling so inclined to read the follow up to this novel. His usage of cliffhangers made every chapter and the book itself feel like something special.
This book was impressive to say the least and with the news of a new Star Wars film on the horizon, I would not mind if this was to be adapted into a feature film. I can overlook whiny baby Luke and give this book a near perfect score. Some of the time I was left wanting to read more about a few particular characters (namely Thrawn and Mara Jade), but Zahn focused more in on characters which have already been established in the films. That is perhaps my biggest complaint. I was irritated at times because the introduction of new characters really left me wanting more of them, but I suppose since this is book one of a trilogy, I will get my fill of the characters in the follow up books.