Monday, July 19, 2010

Andrew's Review of Vision of the Future


5/5 Rancors - Timothy Zahn's Vision of the Future delivers on the excellent setup of Specter of the Past in every respect. The story is sprawling and doesn't drop the ball on the numerous plotlines introduced in the first book of the duology. Some may find these two books a bit slow relative to the typical Star Wars tale, but the extra time spent fully developing the story is quite appropriate to these books' role in wrapping up many loose ends from the earlier Bantam Spectra novels. The pacing lends gravitas to the proceedings in the finale, in particular the moment that finally comes in the first sentence of Chapter 43. This sentence, so wonderfully understated, represents an immensely satisfying moment for both the galaxy far, far away and for any readers who have been following the book storyline post-Return of the Jedi.

Luke Skywalker's journey to confident Jedi Master continues here. Some authors have struggled with Luke's portrayal, erring on diluting his character for fear of making him too powerful. This watering down of Luke's capabilities may have made sense for some storylines, but I'm glad to see Zahn stabilize him here. Mara Jade's personal journey comes to a climax as well as she and Luke draw strength from each other's fears and hopes to forge a new future together. Mara, along with Grand Admiral Thrawn and Talon Karrde, are clearly Zahn's pet characters, but he does an excellent job of bringing them to well-rendered life without stealing any thunder from Luke, Han, Leia and friends.

The civil war plot comes to a head with an epic battle over the capital city of Bothawui. The Caamas document continues to play a key role and the device of this simple document having such far-reaching implications continues to be a sound foundation for the story. The Bothans occupy an enjoyably gray area in the Star Wars universe, generally on the "good" side but with a side dish of virulent scheming, political ambitions, and a dash of selfishness thrown in. A standout new character from this plotline is Elegos A'kla, Trustant of the Caamasi Remnant and a true voice of reason in the middle of madness. His quiet strength in the face of such great suffering for his people underscores the alternatives to vengeance and hatred anyone can choose in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Zahn's Hand of Thrawn duology represents a true turning point in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The Empire has been dramatically reduced and changed. The New Republic has created a chaotic alliance of disparate systems but is managing to hold it together despite many challenges both internal and external. Luke has found love and a new vision for his role in the future of the Jedi Order. After this story, the universe takes a darker turn with the intergalactic invasion story of the New Jedi Order saga. For readers who loved the tone and stories of the Original Trilogy, this duology might be a jumping off point, before the beloved movie characters are thrown into the proverbial wringer once more. I highly recommend this book and the duology, although I will toss in a caveat: I believe these books will be most rewarding to readers familiar with the EU history leading up to this point.

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