Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn

October 30, 2010 at 13:47 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Star Wars Saturday!) (, , , , , , )


It is unfortunate that the expanded Star Wars universe is so often passed off as a step above fanfiction, the result of cold pizza, mothers’ basements and too many video games. It is even more unfortunate that this depiction of the expanded universe is so often richly deserved. When Timothy Zahn launched the first Star Wars novel a few years after Return of the Jedi half-heartedly wrapped up the film franchise,  this was not the case. His books were forced to stand on their own, and the fact that they succeeded, and that his characters were more than a sugary shell in which to wrap the celebrity characters we knew from the movies, ultimately earned his trilogy the right to lift up its head, and proclaim itself something different. These aren’t “Star Wars books”. They are Star Wars literature.

Expertly told and actually containing booky things like “themes” and “characters” and “a plot”, Heir to the Empire set a high water mark that could have been surpassed, bettered and respected. It wasn’t. But that is not Timothy Zahn’s fault. It is perpetually amusing that he returned to the scene a decade later to bulldoze through a maze of unlikely villains, tepid heroes and milquetoast life-or-death-or-boredom struggles – and set the story straight, momentarily returning the Star Wars expanded universe to the straight and narrow.

Zahn does have his issues, as all science fiction writers do. The temptation to find hilariously futuristic words for everyday objects, and his not-so-subtle quotations of the Star Wars movies, or the love affair he has with his characters, each of whom is the paragon of whatever particular discipline Zahn has assigned to him (Thrawn, the infallible strategist; Karrde, the unerring gentleman pirate; Jade, the invincible sexy assassin; Drayson, second-to-none at being an inept commander). His failings, however, are few and far between, and pale before his ability to write reasonably well, his fertile imagination when it comes to creating characters and creatures, and his respect for his reader’s intelligence. This book is to be recommended even to those who aren’t diehard fans of the Star Wars saga, and to any affecionado of science fiction.

Related reviews:
Specter (sic) of the Past

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