Specter of the Past
by Timothy Zahn
Published by Bantam Publishing
Chris's Rating: 3 out of 4
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
Nineteen years after Star Wars: A New Hope, and ten years after Timothy Zahn's famous Thrawn trilogy, the Empire has been whittled down to the point where it's seemingly no longer a threat to the New Repubic. Only a leader of legendary charisma and tactical ability could breath life back into the carcass of the New Order.
As the New Republic teeters on the brink of civil war due to thousands of age-old feuds inflaming, a few devious Imperials plot to give the Empire the leader it needs to take advantage of the New Republic's weakened postion: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
There's something about the way Timothy Zahn captures the pace and rhythm of the Star Wars galaxy on paper that makes me feel like I am really there. As with his first trilogy, Zahn rendered the characters of the novel in a way that made me feel like I was meeting dear, old friends again. Character development is a beautiful thing and Zahn recognizes the beauty in it.
The regular characters were presented in a believable fashion; Han Solo felt like an older Han Solo, Leia felt like an older Leia, and most importantly, Luke even felt like a Jedi Master. I liked the fact that Leia is no longer the President of the Republic--after all, she almost had a longer reign than Palpatine! (She does get back in power shortly after, it seems, because she's the prez again in Anderson's Young Jedi books).
It was great to see the return of some of the saga's most interesting, often recurring characters: Talon Karrde, Mara Jade, Borsk Fey'lya, Booster Terrik, Admiral Paelleon, Mirax Terrik, Corran Horn and, of course, the Noghri. Not to mention another cameo by Rogue Squadron. They were all done justice and reading about them brought a smile to my face.
As for the new characters: Tierce is very interesting, but I didn't like Moff Disra. Then again, Disra is not the sort of villian one likes.
A long time ago Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire sparked interest again in Star Wars and its novels. Now Specter of the Past shows it wasn't by accident. Zahn yet again proves why he is the undisputed fan favorite. Nobody knows the Star Wars Universe like him. Everybody is in character. Not only do they act like the movie characters we know and love, he expands on them in believable ways. Zahn also shows he's not content to simply play in someone else's Universe. He expands on it. New worlds, ships, characters, and aliens all make you feel like you're exploring a galaxy far, far away. When I met Timothy Zahn, one of the things he told me was that he thought the other Star Wars authors had made the Jedi too powerful. After all, if their powers could be described as 'simple tricks and nonsense', then how do you simply explain them ripping ships out of space, altering the minds of hundreds of people at once, and more. If Jedi were THAT powerful, then why didn't Yoda defeat the Emperor? Why were they defeated and completely wiped out? Zahn powers down Luke in this novel and it was a long time in coming. Luke is essentially more like the Jedi Knight we met in Episode 4, Ben Kenobi. He also brings back fan favorites like Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, Corran Horn (from the X-Wing series) and more. And where have the Noghri been for all the novels since The Last Command? After all, didn't they swear to protect Leia and her family? Where were they when the twins were kidnapped? Where were they when Han was kidnapped? Or when anything bad happened? Zahn corrects this glaring continuity error. This novel is definitely a welcome addition to the Star Wars storyline.
My main problem with this book is that when I was finished I had no sense of resolution whatsoever; if felt as if I had read half of a book despite the ample length of the story. It's upsetting that I have to wait another year to see what happens with these characters and the still-open plot lines.
If you're a Chewbacca fan, there's not much here for you. Chewie has a short cameo. Maybe he'll show up in the second novel. Also, now I know this is nitpicky, I got really annoyed with one little thing. Whenever one character was debating with another and one of them said something important, then the other says, "Point." Point Point Point. Every time it popped up it was like fingernails scratching on a chalkboard to me. But then I'm just sensitive. :) I disagree with Chris' note on no sense of resolution. I knew there was a sequel and I expected a cliffhanger ending. When it came, it didn't bother me. It just made the anticipation for the sequel even greater. Hopefully Zahn can live up to it!
Timothy Zahn plays the Luke and Mara Jade sexual tension angle again in this novel. I've always been a big supporter of Luke ending up with Mara so I'm digging these scenes big time. What's the ugly part? What I am going to do to Tim Zahn if Luke and Mara don't end up together. One word: Misery.
I'm with Chris on this one. If Mara and Luke don't end up together, then I'm going to have drive to Skywalker Ranch and chain myself to the front gate. Don't think I won't do it! Also, facing a year till the sequel to this novel is going to be extremely hard to deal with. At least it's sooner than the prequels.