Friday, December 26, 2014

Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn: Specter of the Past review

This week I decided to review Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn: Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn. The story focuses on multiple fronts. Pellaeon, the Supreme Commander of what is left of the Imperial Starfleet, begins launching an effort to secure peace with the New Republic in hopes of saving what is left of the Empire after a war game to test a new piece of Imperial military hardware fails. Meanwhile, with the Empire seemingly no longer a threat, many New Republic worlds are picking up where old grudges from before the Empire was established were left off. Han, Luke, and Chewbacca attempt to mediate a disagreement over merchant vessel security between two long- feuding governments, but Han soon realizes there is an impending pirate attack heading for the system they are in which is a major trade hub. The trio race to intercept the attack, but during the battle, Luke is certain that he senses clone crew aboard one of the pirate vessels. And Leia, who is taking a vacation, happens to be on hand when a partial copy of the Caamas Document, which reveals that the world of Caamas--which was devastated in the aftermath of the Clone Wars--was attacked on Palpatine’s order, an attack that was aided by a team of Bothans sabotaging the planet’s shields. But the damaged document doesn’t identify the Bothans who committed the sabotage, and when news of this discovery hits, many Republic worlds begin calling for the Bothans to pay reparations to the surviving Caamasi, while others call for withholding punishment until the Bothans responsible can be identified, and yet more begin using the debate as new focus in old feuds with their neighbors. When news of this reaches the Empire, a renegade Imperial Moff, a former Royal Guardsman, and a con artist impersonating the long dead Grand Admiral Thrawn, who wish to keep the war going and destroy the New Republic, begin carrying out a plot to use the Caamas crisis to trigger a full scale New Republic civil war. Luke’s quest to hunt down the pirates leads him to one of their bases, but he narrowly escapes a pirate trap and is rescued by Mara Jade. Soon after parting company, Mara arrives at the Errant Venture, a privately owned Star Destroyer and mobile trading hub to meet her boss Talon Karrde. But their meeting is interrupted by an unidentified fighter of unknown design broadcasting a message including Grand Admiral Thrawn’s rarely known full name. She sets out to investigate the ship, but Luke soon has a vision of her unconscious or dead, and after a meeting with Talon, Leia, Han, and Lando Calrissian he sets out to find her while Talon sets out to meet an old contact he would rather not see again in hopes of finding an intact copy of the Caamas Document. And Admiral Pellaeon, unaware that the aide sent to contact the New Republic was captured by Pro-War Imperial forces after only being able to send a garbled transmission to his destination, finds himself under attack by an apparent Corellian task force.

I give this book a 9 out of 10. It includes enough battles, and they are detailed enough to be entertaining. I loved how some of he craft from one of my favorite adventures from the old RPG played a major role in the story, and its nice to see Star Wars authors who actually pay attention to such material because so much of the base the earlier novels drew from came from such sources. The political maneuvering and plotting is realistic, and it definitely does a good job of wetting the reader’s appetite for part two. However there were a few scenes which seemed to have little impact on the overall plot, and I question how much sense some plot points make.

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