FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
Adams, Douglas
Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto
Allen, Roger MacBride
Allie, Scott
Allston, Aaron
Anderson, Kevin J.
Barclay, James
Barnes, Steven
Baum, L. Frank
Bear, Greg
Bendis, Brian Michael
Bischoff, David
Bisson, Terry
Blackman, Haden
Bova, Ben
Bowen, Carl
Brooks, Terry
Canavan, Trudi
Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
Clarke, Arthur C.
Clarke, Susanna
Clemens, James
Collins, Paul
Crichton, Michael
Crispin, A. C.
Cunningham, Elaine
Daley, Brian
David, Peter
DeMatteis, J. M.
Denning, Troy
Dick, Philip K.
Dickens, Charles
Dietz, William C.
Dixon, Chuck
Donaldson, Stephen
Eddings, David
Edginton, Ian
Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
Goodwin, Archie
Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
Harrison, Mick
Heinlein, Robert A.
Herbert, Frank
Herbert, James
Hine, David
Hobb, Robin
Howard, Robert E.
Jacques, Brian
James, Charlie Hamilton
Jenkins, Paul
Jeter, K. W.
Johns, Geoff
Jones, J. V.
Jordan, Robert
Jurgens, Dan
Karpyshyn, Drew
Kennedy, Mike
Kerr, Katharine
Keyes, Greg
King, Stephen
King, William
Knaak, Richard A.
Kube-McDowell, Michael P.
Lawhead, Stephen
Layman, John
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Lewis, C. S.
Lieberman, A. J.
Loeb, Jeph
Lorey, Dean
Lowder, James
Luceno, James
Lumley, Brian
Macan, Darko
Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
Marz, Ron
Matheson, Richard
McCaffrey, Anne
McIntosh, Neil
McIntyre, Vonda
Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
Miller, John Jackson
Miller, Karen
Milligan, Peter
Moench, Doug
Moesta, Rebecca
Moore, Alan
Nicholls, Stan
Nicieza, Fabian
Nylund, Eric
O'Neil, Dennis
Ostrander, John
Paolini, Christopher
Perry, S. D.
Perry, Steve
Pratchett, Terry
Pullman, Philip
Quinn, David
Reaves, Michael
Reed, A. W.
Reed, Brian
Rice, Anne
Richardson, Nancy
Roberts, Adam
Rowe, Matthew
Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
Shelley, Mary
Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Stewart, Sean
Stoker, Bram
Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Traviss, Karen
Truman, Tim
Turtledove, Harry
Tyers, Kathy
van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
Whitman, John
Williams, Sean
Williams, Tad
Williams, Walter Jon
Windham, Ryder
Wolverton, Dave
Woodring, Jim
Wurts, Janny
Yeovil, Jack
Zahn, Timothy
Collaborations A - F
Collaborations G - M
Collaborations N - R
Collaborations S
Collaborations T - Z
Anthologies A - R
Anthologies S
Anthologies T - Z
Still to come
Reviewing Literature
The Books of Timothy Zahn

An excellent author of both epic and emotional tales, Timothy Zahn, who lives in Oregon, reawoke the sleeping dragon of Star Wars fiction in 1991 with the first book of an epic trilogy, 'Heir to the Empire'.  In this trilogy, Zahn took us all back to the galaxy far, far away and created the best Star Wars villain bar Darth Vader; Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Average Review Score: 4.7 out of 5 (9 books)

Star Wars: Outbound Flight
Following the trend, this book is a prequel.  It is a prequel to Zahn's novels as a whole, but 'Survivor's Quest' in particular.  But don't be put off if you've not read the other books, 'Outbound Flight' stands alone perfectly and may even be the best place to start in the Thrawn story arc.  Here in glorious detail we have the story (set five years after Episode I and, similarly, five years before Episode II) of the Outbound Flight Project as it's colonists and Jedi leave the Republic to head into the unknown, only to be confronted by an alien military genius named Thrawn.  As I stated above, I consider Thrawn to be second only to Vader as a Star Wars villain, but here he shows that he is less a villain than he is a man who will go to any lengths to do what he thinks necessary.  We learn that his attack on Outbound Flight and his work to preserve the Empire (in the later novels) are all in an attempt to counter the potential threat of the 'Far Outsiders' (aka the Yuuzhan Vong).  I liked how Zahn used his formerly mysterious master-smuggler Jorj Car'das in this book, providing the counterpoint to Thrawn that Pellaeon was in the Thrawn trilogy and allowing Thrawn's thought processes to explored and discussed.  As well as giving us lots more Thrawn story to get to grips with, the author also fills out some of the background to the Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth (whose insane clone later threatens the New Republic).  One of the things I liked most was that C'baoth becomes the epitome of what causes the galaxy to turn against the Jedi, as he's arrogant and overbearing.  His slide towards insanity and the dark side make a good counterpoint to the story of his Padawan Lorana Jinzler, who is everything that Jorus isn't and goes from meek apprentice to heroic Jedi Knight.  The inclusion of Obi-Wan and Anakin seems a slightly cynical attempt to make the book more saleable, but Zahn balances this by making the relationships between the four main Jedi filled with all sorts of great subtext.  Well, enough ranting from me, I'll just finish by saying that not only is this book great by itself, but it also erases all the faults that made 'Survivor's Quest' less than perfect (be sure to read this one first and then that one, if you haven't yet).
5 out of 5
'The light freighter Bargain Hunter moved through space, silver-gray against the blackness, the light of the distant stars reflecting from its hull.'
Star Wars: Allegiance
A stand-alone novel set just six months after 'A New Hope'.  There are three main threads in this story, the first being the story of a squad of Stormtroopers who become disillusioned by the Empire's cruelty.  These five Stormtroopers are great characters, each with specialist military skills, who travel from place to place attempting to serve and protect the people of the Empire, under the name the Hand of Judgement.  The second story thread is much smaller in scale and deals with Han, Luke and Leia's operations on behalf of the Rebels.  I'm torn between two factors as being the best element of this storyline; the fact that Chewie's back or the fact that the droids don't feature at all!  The third story thread is by far the best and follows Mara Jade, as the Emperor's Hand, on a mission to root out a corrupt Imperial officer.  It's great to finally see Mara in action at the height of her power as an Imperial agent and even better than that is her interaction with Darth Vader.  The tension, jealousy and respect between the two characters is brilliantly written by Zahn.  Overall, this is another well-written and enjoyable story from the past master of Star Wars fiction.  However, it is also completely unnecessary.  The post-Episode IV time period is heavily populated by stories already and in relation to Han, Luke and Leia, no major character development can or does take place.  I felt the stories of Mara and the Hand of Judgement probably warranted a short story at most and so I was disappointed at the lack of scope in this novel.  I strongly feel that it was simply something to keep Mara Jade fans happy since I've got a feeling the character is going to die in the upcoming novel 'Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice'.
4 out of 5
'The Imperial Star Destroyer Reprisal slipped silently through the blackness of space, preparing itself for action against the Rebel forces threatening to tear the galaxy apart.'
Star Wars: Heir To The Empire
This is the novel that first proved that there are many more tales to be told of Jedi Knights and Rebels than just those in the Star Wars movies.  Here Zahn shows us the New Republic as it begins to heal the hurts caused by the Empire, only to be set back by the return of an Imperial genius named Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Zahn's characters became the mainstay of the Star Wars expanded universe and that is because they are so strong, with history and intelligence to rival those of the familiar cast of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando, C-3PO and R2-D2.  Talon Karrde is a sutble mix of Lando and Han with a touch of Jabba the Hutt's ruthlessness, creating a clever and dangerous anti-hero whose loyalty is to himself alone.  The pair of characters Gilad Pellaeon and Grand Admiral Thrawn are excellent, particularly with each other, sharing a Holmes-and-Watson sort of relationship where Thrawn is clearly the superior thinker but he treats Pellaeon as an equal.  The next of Zahn's great characters is Joruus C'baoth.  In the movies Darth Vader represented power and Emperor Palpatine represented evil, but here Zahn introduces a powerful dark sider who is the very essence of insanity, which makes for a deadly but also deceptive enemy who provides the perfect counterpoint to Thrawn's calm and analytical mind.  Ultimately, though, Zahn's best new character is Mara Jade.  The former personal assassin of the Emperor she has an undying hatred for Luke, but they are forced together by circumstance and discover, to Mara's discomfort, that their core values are not so different.  She makes a perfect sounding board for Luke's beliefs and faults and helps him develop as a character too.  The other characters from the movies are all done justice and the essence of the story is very much reminiscent of, although different to, the plots of the films.  A fantastic book that is truly unmissable to people who enjoy or want to get into the Star Wars expanded univserse.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Dark Force Rising
The second book of the Thrawn trilogy, Grand Admiral Thrawn is attempting to aquire the Dark Force, a fleet of ships lost for decades, for his war against the New Republic.  Meanwhile Luke seeks out the Jedi Master Joruus C'baoth in order to learn from him and the New Republic is torn by internal rivalries.  This book sees more of the near-perfect set up of the first book but develops the story and characters as Mara Jade is forced to save Luke from C'baoth in order to ask his help, which is an excellent twist in the tension between the two characters.  Leia gets to test her diplomatic skills in her attempts to free the Noghri of decades of pro-Imperial dogma.  Although this is the middle part of a trilogy, it is a full and complete story and not just a bridge between the other two books and is, in fact, very much the equal of the other two books in the series.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: The Last Command
The climatic book of the Thrawn trilogy.  The war is going against the New Republic as Grand Admiral Thrawn's fleets win victory after victory.  The New Republic leadership plans to capture vital cloak-detectors via misdirecting Imperial attention away from the Imperial facility that they will target, but Grand Admiral Thrawn is one step ahead and Admiral Ackbar's fleet is heading into a trap.  Meanwhile, Mara Jade has been arrested for treason but she is soon sprung from her prison by Han, Leia and Luke.  She is shocked by the actions of these people who she considered enemies and it is in this way that Zahn turns a corner with Mara that will lead her to overcome her Imperial conditioning to stand side by side with Luke and Leia against the insane Dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth.  This novel is the perfect ending to this series, completing the development of Zahn's own characters as well as progressing the characters of the familiar heroes of the Rebellion.  The stunning Battle of Bilbringi is one of the best written and clever battles in the entire Star Wars expanded universe.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Specter Of The Past
Zahn makes a very welcome return to the Star Wars universe and once again gets to retake the reins of his characters such as Talon Karrde, Gilad Pellaeon and Mara Jade.  The New Republic is once again under threat, but this time from internal discontent.  A document implicating the Bothans in the Imperial devastation of the planet Caamas has been found and a desperate search for a complete version of the document begins so that the guilty can be punished and civil war averted.  Amid this turmoil, a trio of Imperial conspirators decide to stage the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Mara Jade sets off to the remote planet Nirauan in response to the appearance of strange alien ships and there is lost and Luke must set out to find her.  This book is an excellent next step for Zahn's characters as Mara and Luke's friendship deepens, Karrde must take on a mission out of selflessness and, perfectly, Gilad Pellaeon must wrestle with the tough decision to sue for peace with the New Republic, despite the treachery of his own subordinates.  Han and Leia are also developed well, many Star Wars books simply have them regurgetating their 'diplomat and edgy partner' roles, but Zahn shows them dealing with their new positions out of the public eye as Han has retired from military service and Leia has stepped down from government.  Zahn also pays astute and intricate attention to the politics of the New Republic government, which gives a nice extra depth to the story.  This novel was also written with close links to Michael A. Stackpole's 'I, Jedi', so we get to see characters such as Corran Horn and Elegos A'kla developing in the new socio-political climate.  I must say that this book lacks the pace and epic scale of the Thrawn trilogy and will be tedious to those who're into Star Wars for the lightsabers and dogfights, but those who like a good science fiction story with a star wars twist then you should definitely have a read.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Vision Of The Future
The second book of the Hand of Thrawn duology, this novel ties up all the various threads of it's predecessor.  The pace picks up here as civil war begins to break out above the Bothan homeworld and the three Imperial conspirators who have faked Grand Admiral Thrawn's return prepare to take advantage of the New Republic's weakness.  Meanwhile Luke and Mara must infiltrate an Imperial facility on Nirauan where Thrawn's followers await his return.  The relationship between Luke and Mara continues to deepen as they both realise their love for one another.  The love between Han and Leia has been done to death, but the interaction between Luke and Mara is something entirely new and refreshing and I was genuinely surprised at how the relationship turns out at the end.  This book has all of the good elements of the first book of the series and adds a bit of the old Star Wars, space battles and lightsabers, back in.  The resolution of the New Republic-Imperial tension is also excellent, with Gilad Pellaon and Talon Karrde (unlikely heroes, I know) saving the day.  Definitely the stronger book of the duology, it is nevertheless important to have read 'Specter of the Past'.  This book is really the end of the Star Wars era that Zahn began in the Thrawn trilogy as all of the storylines in between are resolved; the Jedi Academy is self-sufficient, Han and Leia are no longer public leaders, Luke and Mara have got it together, Karrde, Booster Terrik and Pellaeon have all finally found their places in society and the galaxy is at peace.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Fool's Bargain
This e-book is set shortly before the events of 'Survivor's Quest' and was republished in the paperback edition of that book.  The story is set on a war-torn world in the Unknown Regions, where the Stormtroopers of the Fighting 501st and the other members of the Empire of the Hand are fighting against the powerful Warlord.  It focuses on one squad of the 501st as they ally themselves with local rebels and infiltrate the Warlord's fortress.  I enjoyed this novella a lot as it gives us another look at the potent but honourable Stormtroopers we see in 'Survivor's Quest' itself.  If you've enjoyed the Star Wars saga's more militaristic stories ('Republic Commando: Hard Contact', 'Jedi Trial', the X-Wing books) then you'll certainly like this, as I did.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Survivor's Quest
Here Zahn takes up one of his most intriguing story threads as Luke and Mara are invited to help recover the remains of the Outbound Flight Project, a Jedi/Republic exploration vessel that disappeared decades before, courtesy of a young Chiss named Thrawn.  Zahn assembles a diverse group of characters to undertake this quest; Luke and Mara settling into their roles as husband and wife Jedi, Chak Fel (son of Soontir) and four fearsomely efficient Stormtroopers of the 'Fighting' 501st Regiment, a group of strange aliens whose history and motivations are questionable, and finally the Chiss themselves in all their pretentious but honourable glory.  This book has several flaws, the first being that both Luke and Mara's relationship and the Chiss have already been explored in The New Jedi Order series, meaning that Zahn is unable to explore those ideas very far (despite the fact that he came up with them in the first place!).  The second major flaw is that, when all is said and done, we basically don't learn anything about what happened to Outbound Flight, which is supposed to be the book's hook.  This turns out to be an irritating marketing scam, because Zahn has a book titled 'Outbound Flight' due out in 2005, so basically this book's plot is nothing but a teaser trailer.  Annoying.  These, of course, are only problems for people who, like me, follow the entire span of the Star Wars universe; anyone merely wishing for a good book won't go wrong with this one.  It is written with Zahn's impecable skill at both personal and practical levels, balancing thought and emotional content against excitement and classic Star Wars action.  That leads me onto my final point, which is to mention this novel's finest scene.  In it Luke and Mara confront a Destroyer Droid whilst attempting to cut into the bridge of a starship in a brilliantly staged echo of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's similar experience in 'The Phantom Menace'.  Following the release of 'Outbound Flight', this book will definitely rank up there with Zahn's other Star Wars books as part of an epic seven-part subseries.
4 out of 5

If you like Zahn:
A perfect partner to Zahn's Star Wars work is that of Michael A. Stackpole.  The two authors share each other's characters well and even wrote two excellent novellas together in the anthologies 'Tales from the Empire' and 'Tales from the New Republic', one of which (from the former book), 'Side Trip' is one of the best Star Wars short stories ever written, having characters such as Corran Horn, Thrawn and even Darth Vader himself.

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