For Star Wars fans of a certain age, those that grew up in the days with just the Original Trilogy, Grand Admiral Thrawn holds a special place in our hearts. Partly because he’s just a cool character, smartest person in the room, three steps ahead of the game, a Sherlock Holmes type but with a military mind instead of a detective one. And also in part due to the fact that his story was part of the first new Star Wars stories that we’d ever had.
In 1992 the world had largely forgotten about Star Wars. They were movies from the past, not culturally relevant in the slightest. And then, Timothy Zahn was commissioned to write a new trilogy of books about Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest. It was these books that introduced us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, as one of the central antagonists of that series, as well as started the ball that lead us to this moment here, where we have new Star Wars movies from now til the Apocalypse.
One downside of this new world of Star Wars we live in though was that the books that brought Grand Admiral Thrawn to life were no longer considered canon anymore, so in essence, the character didn’t exist in this new timeline. That is to say, until recently, when the Disney higher ups decided to bring the character back from the dead so to speak, and put him as a central antagonist on a recent season of the Star Wars tv series, Rebels, which is set in between the prequels and the Original Trilogy.
Not only did that happen, but they commissioned original creator and author to write a new novel, detailing Thrawn’s rise to power from Chiss outcast to Grand Admiral of the Galactic Empire. And this is the book that I’m here to tell you about this morning.
Star Wars: Thrawn is set a couple of years before the events of Rogue One, and A New Hope. It’s a time when the rebellion is still fledgling ground fighters, and the Empire is the strong source of power and leadership, for better or worse, throughout their known universe.
An Imperial ship finds Mitth’raw’nuruodo, a surivor on a wild planet in the outer rim of the galaxy. The group that finds him find the blue skinned alien to be quite intelligent, and decide to take him to Emperor Sheev (I will never not use his full name now that I know that his name is Sheev) Palpatine on Coruscant for curiosity’s sake.
Sheev is quite fascinated with this alien’s intellect and strategic mind, so he commissions him an Officer in the Imperial Navy and sends him to the Imperial Academy along side his translator and friend Ensign Eli Vanto. From here we see his rise through the ranks, rather quickly due to his intellect and strategic nature.
We also see the rise to power for Imperial Governor Arindha Pryce (who is another character from Rebels, albeit one that I’m not familiar with, outside of the clips that I’ve seen with her and Thrawn.) And we see these two upstarts cross paths time and again over the course of the novel.
This was one of the better Star Wars books I’ve read in a while. Zahn writes Thrawn as cool a protagonist, or antagonist, as one can imagine. He’s not necessarily evil, he just uses the Empire to save his own people, and is a master strategist. I’d love to see this character get a movie, preferably played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
One odd, I found bit of writing in the book stems from the author’s use of Star Wars versions of normal things, such as taxis, coffee, and cell phones. Albeit here Airspeeders, Caff, and holograms, but they were things that weren’t shown previously in other Star Wars mediums, but ones that you would imagine would be present in the day to day life in this world. It fit, but, being that I’d never seen them to my knowledge in the medium, took me out of the story for a split second. Another minor nitpick about the writing, and this goes for any science fiction or fantasy world work, comes from the use of earth analogies in this setting. Calling easily attacked ships overturned turtles, when he could have either invented a new Star Wars alien, or used a familiar one like a Tauntaun or something, would have fit better.
It’s a great book though, minor nitpicky things aside, and one that any fan of Star Wars, or fan of Grand Admiral Thrawn, will have a good time with.
Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn : A-