I track my reading progress over at Good Reads and, as a reward, they occasionally tell me something I don’t know already. Just last week I got a surprise from them as they let me know that Timothy Zahn is returning to the Star Wars Universe and the main character of his creation, Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Back in 2011 I wrote a bit about the original Thrawn novel from Zahn, Heir to Empire. It was the 20th anniversary of the book and I was interested to see how I felt about the story two decades down the road.
As I noted, 1991 was a very dry time for Star Wars fans. We bitch now about too much Star Wars diluting the impact of the series, but back then we just had the original three movies, that Ewok TV series, and bootleg tapes of the Star Wars Holiday Special. You used to have to find some guy in a small booth in a shady corner of the dealer’s room at a con to get a copy of the latter and, as awful as it was, it was Star Wars canon you could cling to.
And on to that parched ground Zahn dropped Grand Admiral Thrawn and we were grateful to have him. He was a well written nemesis for the New Republic and no doubt the peak of the early Star Wars novels. It was the first entry in a trilogy that among other things introduced Coruscant as the capital planet of the Old Republic and Galactic Empire and introduced characters like Mara Jade, who gained fame despite never being in the movies.
And even twenty years down the road Thrawn seemed crisp and fresh, different from Vader or the Emperor, and blazing a path towards restoring the empire. If there were problems with novel it came from the flat and predicable character from the movies… Luke, Leia, Han, Lando, and Chewie… and some regrettable in hindsight plot points. But Thrawn, he was a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, the two follow on novels, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, did not hold up as well when I returned to them. Thrawn became predictable and manifested an obvious character flaw that you could see would be his downfall a few hundred pages ahead of the climax.
Still, back then Thrawn was good and Zahn ended up penning two more Thrawn prequel novels before they were all thrown out of the Star Wars canon.
However, Thrawn was too big to keep down. He forced his way back into the Star Wars canon when he showed up in seasons 3 and 4 of the Star Wars Rebels animated series, which coincided with start of a new Thrawn trilogy from Zahn. The last entry in that dropped in 2019, but demand for Thrawn remains and so a new trilogy is coming.
I have the first book in the Thrawn trilogy in my Audible.com library, but I honestly have little recollection of having read it. Was that the one where it was all recollections with himself as the outside narrator? I suspect that forgetting it does not bode well for the series. But it did well enough to spawn more Thrawn.
I just wonder if it is worth reading now. My own tastes have changed. I’d like to think they’re more sophisticated, but it is more likely I just won’t put up with the same shtick I would when I was younger due to the proliferation of entertainment choices now available.
Maybe I’ll go watch Star Wars Rebels to see if Thrawn in season three sparks any interest in me.