Max Nocerino gives us his latest book review, this time on the newly released Thrawn from Timothy Zahn.
Thrawn was a very interesting read. Timothy Zahn wrote it and he is regarded as the father of sorts of the Star Wars literature world. He first introduced Thrawn to the audience of the 90’s and now, over 20 years later, re-introduces us to the beginnings of Thrawn and Thrawn’s career within the Empire.
The two main characters are, obviously Thrawn and an Imperial cadet named Eli Vanto (his first name is very “Earth” sounding). Anyway, Eli is paired with Thrawn and serves as his translator, to help him learn the harder grammar, words and syntax of Basic (what we call English on Earth).
At the beginning of each chapter, we get a little piece of Thrawn’s wisdom; a soliloquy of sorts in which Thrawn talks about things a warrior must do in order to be successful in battle. It is so artistically done (see what I did their) and really shows how smart Thrawn is. Thrawn is like Sherlock Holmes; deducing information from people based on observation, and at the start of every Thrawn dialogue, we get a sneak peek into Thrawn’s thought process, ashe evaluates the facial expressions, tone, pitch of voice and other tics that people do when they talk or express emotion. Zahn is 100% consistent with it, and it happens EVERY time Thrawn talks to someone. I love it , and I love how Eli falls into the role of Watson, as he is in awe at Thrawn’s abilities and slowly, as the years pass, he begins to pick up a few of Thrawn’s talents. The exchanges between them are both intimate and crisp, with Thrawn highlighting everything he does, step by step with undying patience.
The story itself is alternated between Thrawn’s ascension in the Imperial navy and Governor Pryce’s (from Rebels) ascent. Pryce’s side-story is nowhere near as interesting as Thrawn’s and I found myself trying to read it as quickly as I could; eager to get back to Thrawn.
Some of what Thrawn does has me saying “What?”, as I don’t always catch how he undermines his opponents. Thrawn is too smart for me! Thrawn handles dissident early Rebels and rises incredibly fast in the Imperial hierarchy. He is also a man of mystery and is attracted to mystery, as he speaks of an encounter with Anakin Skywalker and untold horrors that lie in the Unknown Regions (cough, cough Yuzhann Vong). Thrawn is not afraid to speak his mind to anyone; not even the Emperor. He deduces the existence of the Death Star project and its kind of cool to know that during Season 3 of Rebels; he knew the Empire’s plan all along.
The writing of this book is GOOD. Everything is written well, and I praise Zahn for his ability to spin a cohesive yarn. However, I sometimes don’t like the expressions that are used or how it mirrors the real world. Sure, they have computers, but there is no mention of any technological wonders. It doesn’t have to be big, but I’d love to know if the galaxy far, far away is up to at least picotechnology. Oh well.
The only thing Zahn fails at (and this is seen with Chuck Wendig as well), is the depiction of space battles. The way they are written aren’t visceral and hard to picture in the mind’s eye. The ships are depicted moving around like pieces on a game of Battleship, and its hard to tell what’s going on. Aside from that, the book is well structure and the ending is very satisfying. I am overjoyed when Eli is able to leave an Empire that doesn’t appreciate him for the Chiss Ascendency. Now he’s their Thrawn. A human among Chiss as opposed to a Chiss among humans.
Speaking of humans, I like that Zahn was sure to include thee Empire’s xenophobic viewpoints, and Thrawn in his early years has to deal with racism, similar to Spock in the Star Trek series. Humans are the “white people” of Star Wars and all other aliens are minorities. It parallels the real world all too well.
Even though I didn’t care much about Pryce’s story, I liked very much how impressive and powerful Tarkin is portrayed, and I gain more respect for him in this book, then when I was reading the whole novel devoted to him!!
All in all, it’s very hard to rate this book. While it had many great moments, some of the story was slow, and Thrawn’s maneuvers were sometimes too complicated to understand. Zahn nailed the character of Thrawn down well for sure, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointment, because Legends Thrawn seemed a bit more inventive. This book has a lot of pressure on it to be good, and similar to the Darth Maul return; the hype far exceeds the content. I am going to rate it as 6 ½ out of 10 Death Stars, as I feel that is fair. (Also ARKANIAN DRAGONS ARE CANON NOW. YAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!)