Any Star Wars geeks want to talk about Thrawn?

So over the last couple months I’ve decided to get my full geek on and read the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. It’s the first and only Star Wars Extended Universe stuff I’ve read or watched beyond the occasional Nintendo game back in the day and I found myself enjoying it quite a lot. It’s not fantastic literature by any stretch but the story was well paced, interesting and a fun way to squeeze a bit more out of the format. The reason I picked it up was because I was reading a movie blog that had a top 10 list of books that should be made into movies but never will and this one was featured, I have to say I agree with that assessment. I suspect most Star Wars fans would have preferred this to what Lucas cooked up for the Prequels.

Anyways, I have a feeling that a ton of Doper geeks have read the series before and I want to hear some opinions and talk it out. What did you think? How long ago did you read them?

For my part I found the stories slightly dated, at least for something set in a completely fictional world with no connection to reality, and I occasionally felt like the author was shoehorning characters into the loop as a bit of literary stunt casting and certain segments felt like tortured attempts to involve those characters in ways that didn’t necessarily improve the story. To that point some of the dialogue was also contrived in order to inspire nostalgia for the original movies and in some ways that was successful.

The best part of the books were the new characters. Thrawn was a very good villain and I enjoyed his interactions with his subordinates and how they tiptoed around him fearing Vader-like repercussions. Many of the alien races that were introduced were interesting and it seemed he avoided any Jar-Jar like missteps. Joruus C’boath was a bit of a disappointment. Generally I liked the concept but they seemed to make him slightly too powerful, perhaps even moreso than the Emperor or Yoda were ever portrayed. I couldn’t decide how I felt about the addition of the ysalimari and how they were used in the main theme of the story. Additionally some of leaps of logic that the heroes made at opportune times which would save the day reminded me of some of Lucas’ inept storytelling but for what was essentially teen-lit I can’t complain too much.

Enough rambling from me. I hope someone out there remembers reading it and feels like sharing, geeky crap like this is at it’s best when dissected!

Not sure how to handle spoilers. Use your discretion I guess, the books are like 15 years old so I suppose there’s not that much reason to fret too much but perhaps there’ll be a handful of people inspired to read the books by the thread.

They are awesome. Every single bit of it.

I have no problem at all with this. A story that only works because someone is unusually competent worries me far less than a story that only works because someone is unusually incompetent. And given the sheer size of the setting, it’s hardly surprising that someone might have a brainwave, whether it be a protagonist or one of n-thousand intelligence agents.

I read Dark Force Rising in half. Seriously. I read it so often the spine broke in the middle of the book. When I was in my teenage and preteen years, Star Wars was it for me, and the Dark Force Rising trilogy was almost more central to that obsession than the original movies.

Primarily it’s the characters. I have always had a huge admiration for true leaders, and the DFR trilogy is riddled with them.

Control through fear never appealed to me, but individuals who make people want to follow them are simply incredible. While I’ve encountered people in both fiction and reality that are better at that than Thrawn, he was possibly the first who really opened my eyes to the archetype. Unquestionably evil, but so good at it that you find yourself willing to overlook it. He’s just that awesome.

Then there’s Pellaeon, whose understated nature in the books actually made him stand out to me. He’s the epitome of a good, honorable man who happens to be working for the great evil. He’s not ambitious or power-mad, just a steady, competent officer whose prime duty is to see his subordinates safely through the day. In fact, as I think on it, he’s probably one of the biggest influences in how I’ve tried to carry myself in my own life. (Yeah, I know, these books are not amazing literature and I sound horribly, horribly dorky right now, but I latched onto them at one of the more impressionable stages in my life, and they’ve stayed with me for a long time.)

Talon Karrde is another archetype I’ve always admired; not just a rogue smuggler, like Solo, but a full-fledged crimelord. Ruthless, mercenarial, but honorable. He does the right thing not for any noble cause like “it’s the right thing to do,” but because it’s in his best self-interest. He’s roguish and charismatic, instilling loyalty in both straights and criminals alike. I like this archetype and I’m always pleased when it makes an appearance, like John Marcone in The Dresden Files. (To geek out just a little more, at the time I was heavily into Star Wars books and DFR in particular, I was also into The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. About that same time, I was into online gaming, and whenever I had the option of taking a pilot handle and naming my ship, I would take Bosstone and The Rascal King, which I always felt described Karrde’s archetype very well.)

It’s those three characters that give DFR a permanent place in my head. Not the writing or the story, but those characters. All original to the trilogy, and all excellent archetypes of effective leaders, if not always applicable to real life.

I could probably go on about other aspects of the trilogy in later posts, but for right now I think I’ve exhausted my geek quota. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m not so much talking about someone being unusually competent, that’s part of the whole fantasy hero motif. But in The Last Command leading up to the final fight at Mount Tantiss…

Leia conveniently has an epiphany that Thrawn put ysalimari in the Mountain and that Luke was walking into unexpected danger. There was essentially no lead up or real need for Leia to know this and there was no benefit to her rushing off to the fight except for the authors desire to have her and Karrde present and in peril at the final fight. It was pretty clumsily forced

There are other similar epiphanies or contrived “only Leia/Luke/Wedge can save the day” moments where it strains credulity and the author is pretty obviously trying to force the main characters together for an homage to the movies.

It’s been half a lifetime since I read them, but I recall two main things: One, I loved them-- I thought they were terrific stories and Thrawn was an awesome villian.

Two: The whole “Thrawn can tell everything about a species by their art” is so ridiculous, it still pisses me off to this day. “These people sculpt like this, so we can deal with them this way” – I don’t know how, while writing a story so good in practically every other way, Zahn could miss such a gaping flaw in that kind of thinking. Could you imagine trying to tell anything about even a single country by the type of art they produce? Now imagine trying to apply that to all of civilization. Ludicrous – there’s way, way, waywayway too many variables.

Other that that, great books.

That just played into Thrawn’s overconfidence, a common flaw in Star Wars villains.

Word. I could have bought it if Zahn had actually provided some analyses of the art, even if it was total bullshit. But it was completely glossed over. “Thrawn stared at the sculpture for half an hour. ‘Ah. Of course. Captain, here’s what we do.’” And then he proceeds to wreck some hapless race’s shit. Even when I first read them I knew that was a weasel move.

Cons: Not sure how I feel about a species that has evolved the power to continuously block out what is essentially life-energy…shouldn’t they die?

Pros: Talon Karrde, Thrawn, Mara Jade, the Noghri, Leia as “Lady Vader”, Winter (I LOVE Winter), Thrawn’s spy network*

*The trees planted in the Great Hall outside the Senate chambers.

Also remember that in SW and in a lot of Sci-Fi, alien species of the same type are basically all the same in terms of character and culture. So chances are the Twi-leks only have one type of art. Roadians only have one type of music.

If all humans every came up with in terms of music was say- the blues, I think that could actually tell you a bit about our nature.

Loved them. Re-read them regularly. Really dig the Noghri.

If there really is an alien conquerer out there somewhere with that strategy, and he makes his way to Earth, let’s hope he’s given a Jackson Pollock painting.

Or Hans Richter.

I felt the same way about Thrawn and Pallaeon. I thought they were both developed very well as characters and I could really identify with them as such, especially Pallaeon. Kaarde was a good addition as well.

I thought the series itself was good. There was an awful lot of running around with the heroes. They traveled all over that galaxy and back in those 3 books, but it did have a kind of epic quality to it that subsequent writers and even Zhan in his follow up books didn’t quite achieve.

Don’t forget that Mara Jade was introduced here as well. She was a great character though somehow I had it figured out that she’d kill the clone Luuke. It seemed like the obvious resolution that they took a long time to get to.

Then many books later, Luke and Mara got married and the fanboy in me cheered.

You know, Grand Moff Tarkin was awfully progressive for being one of the most powerful men in an evil empire. Between Thrawn (alien, and diversity was NOT an Imperial value) and Daala (female, feminism was NOT an Imperial value, either), he handpicked a couple of rather surprising additions to the Admiralty…

Tarkin is usually portrayed in the EU as an incredible badass. Had he not died along with the first Death Star, his brilliance and willingness to not hold to Imperial ideology would likely have crushed the Alliance.

Of course, that rather neglects the not-so-brilliant line from the first movie: “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.”

Speaking more generally about the series, I think what really captured me in the first place was that, although we could point out technical faults in Zahn’s writing all day, he really managed to capture the spirit of the movie trilogy in a way that even Lucas’s prequels couldn’t. They continued the story of the Alliance and its heroes in a reasonable fashion without getting too fanboyish over any of the characters. As a contrast, look at the Jedi Academy series, where Kevin Anderson really lays the Mary Sue formula on thick with Kyp Durron. There’s a suitable mix of adventure and political intrigue, dialog and action, space battles and ground battles (I’ve always felt Star Wars plots really need both in equal amounts) told in interesting ways, good characters and fantastic locations. Lando’s new operation, the walking colony cobbled together from leftover AT-ATs, was nothing short of genius, as was the Space Umbrella. It’s a gigantic piece of implausible tech, which is what Star Wars is all about.

The Outbound Flight book also by Zahn, gives a nice look at the younger Thrawn and the original Jorus C’boath.

brandishes crucifix
and wolfsbane, just to be sure

Survivor’s Quest answers a number of questions about Outbound Flight and what happened to it, as well.

Heh, this absolutely was difficult to swallow. It helped that he usually reasoned his ideas out ever so slightly with Pallaeon to make the conclusions at least seem somewhat rational and considered.

It also helped the story that General Bel Iblis and Talon Karrde were portrayed to be nearly his equal when it came to strategy and leadership. Thankfully one side wasn’t shown to be insanely lucky or comically bumbling.

I was absolutely convinced that Winter was Delta Source. I’m still not sure if that was an intentional misdirection from Zahn or if I just misread something in one book and tricked myself. The solution he came up with is awfully well done.

Bingo. The only Star Wars novel outside of the first Zahn trilogy that similarly captured that original “Star Wars” feel were the X-Wing series - especially Allston’s “Wraith Squadron” arc.