Monday, December 10, 2012

recent read; Star Wars - Heir to the Empire

Heir to the Empire (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn

I was in the mood for some space opera.  This was my first foray into a Star Wars novel.

I'll preface by saying that Star Wars was the blockbuster of my generation.  I enjoyed it at the time.  But by the time the novels were rolling out, I just wasn't enraptured of a wider Star Wars universe.   I had (and have) other fandoms - nothing against Star Wars at all.

This was written before the prequel movies arrived - it was the first novel after the Return of the Jedi movie.  So, even though sanctioned by Lucasfilm, some of the canonicity is shaky.  I've seen some readers complain, but that's not being fair to Zahn.  Like many of my generation, I don't care for the prequels, anyway.

Enough prefacing.

The story takes place five years after Return of the Jedi.  The New Republic is shakily holding its own, attempting to bring more worlds into the fold while battling their own internal political struggles.  Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Thrawn, a blue-skinned, red-eyed alien attempts to turn around the fading Empire's misfortunes.  In the middle of it all are the heroes of Star Wars - Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Lando and the droids.

I didn't think this novel was bad, but neither did it excite me or rekindle any Star Wars flame.  While there are some decent action scenes, there was also a lot of talking and setup.  Early on in the story, it felt like Zahn wasn't sure what to do with the internal thoughts of these iconic characters.  He was feeling his way without violating any Star Wars rules but it also felt like he had to use his imagination without distinct rules and myths of Jedi being laid down for him.  And there was a ridiculous amount of squeezing - shoulders, hands, lightsaber hilts.  Reassurance, assuagement, frustration - everything was calmed with a squeeze.

By the time the action was finally holding my interest, the novel ended on a very minor key complete with "To Be Continued..."

I guess I am looking for a bit more blood & thunder.  Or at least, the derring-do Flash Gordon excitement of the first movie.  Sometime I will return to the trilogy because I own the other two books, too, and I'm slightly curious.  But I am more likely to read some classic Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, or Edmond Hamilton space opera tales before I get back to the Thrawn trilogy.


  1. I liked all three of these, but then I am a SW FANATIC. I also read them when they were first published, long before the "expanded universe" books.

    You might want to try "I, Jedi" by Michael Stackpole. It's one of the best ones, IMHO.

  2. I read this one, and the sequel right after, but I found them kind of like you. Relatively slow moving and without the sheer flow of imagination I was kind of hoping for. Decent reads but I haven't bothered to start the third one and don't know if I ever will.

  3. I'd also add that the Jedi Academy trilogy is pretty good too. It's about Luke's efforts to revive the old Jedi Order. He sets up an academy in the ruins of Yavin IV (the rebel base from the end of A New Hope).

  4. Paul, your feelings and thoughts about the original Star Wars trilogy, the novels, and the prequels mirror my own. Maybe a generational thing.

    However, back in the day I did read the Brian Daley novels about Han, and Alan Dean Foster's "Splinter of the Mind's Eye." Seems I even read the first of the Lando Calrissian novels, but lost interest. Just never got into the expanded universe material, though I have read one or two short story collections.

    Then again, I've never been a big fan of media-tie-in novels. Not real sure why. They always feel diluted to me.