"Heir to the Empire" A Summer Journey

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I have been watching Star Wars since 2nd or 3rd grade. My mother owned the original trilogy on VHS (the theatrical release - no souped up additions) and I watched them rather often as a child, especially Return of the Jedi. I didn't have any Star Wars figures or toys, but I still felt like a fan. We purchased all the Visual Guides (DK Publishing) as each new episode was released, and even got an Amidala paper doll book. I thoroughly read them all as a kid, then as a teen, and still as an adult.
Through much begging and pleading, I finally got my hands of "The Wildlife of Star Wars" by Terryl Whitlatch when I was in late middle/early high school, and remains today one of my very favorite books. I think it was this book that started me on a path of "mature fanship" of the SW universe. I wasn't into the violence or lasers, but instead the cultural and mythological influences, character development, the costumes, the different styles of art and architecture seen in the film, and the creatures. I wanted to be a Jedi for more than just a sparkly sword - I wanted to achieve their control, discipline, and emotional disconnect. I underwent many strong, negative emotions in high school, so the mantra, "What would Jedi do?" was often on my mind. I never was a Darth Vader fan.

During my college years, I didn't think very much of Star Wars. Maybe it was all that ballet. However, that has drastically changed in the past few months.

Duke, my beloved, was also a childhood Star Wars fan and introduced me back into the fandom through Star Wars literature. He heralded The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn and urged me to read it. Imagine my luck when I can across the entire set of books at Goodwill. In hardback nonetheless!

"Heir to the Empire" was the first book in the series and I started it soon after summer began. Oh my goodness. It felt like watching the films for the first time! Taking place after Return of the Jedi, Zahn's books continue the adventures of the New Republic seamlessly. They don't feel like misguided ramblings of a closeted fan, but instead feel as real as it gets. The writing is smooth, and the story is brilliant. The new characters are convincing, and delightful plot twists are woven in beautifully. The books feel more in touch with the spirit of the original films than Episodes I, II, and III.

I've never been a Darth Vader fan, and The Empire was never really that interesting to me as a child, but boy, are those guys COOL in Zahn's trilogy! The Imperials are much more fleshed out and you get to spend more time aboard Star Destroyers. ((Alas, there is still no real indication of what Imperials actually do aboard those giant things when they're not crewing, walking around menacingly, or listening to the sound of their own boot heels clicking against the polished floor...))

A girl can dream, can't she?
Captain Pellaeon is introduced. BISHIE ALERT! This guy is hot*. The perfect Imperial officer, he's strong, steady, loyal, and fair without all the fluffy "evil stuff". He's just trying to do his job and do it well. He's a realistic, refreshing character that adds more depth and relevancy to the Star Wars Universe. In fact, the Imperials don't really seem that bad in this trilogy.

*Now, it's worth saying that Pellaeon doesn't get a whole lot of visual description in the series, but he does have a definite canon appearance, which I have chosen to totally ignore. Ladies (and gentlemen), just ignore that profile pic on Wookiepedia and imagine away!  

Thrawn is just so damn cool that no picture does him justice.
Remember when I said that I was never really into Vader? Well, I'm still not. In fact, after reading Zahn's work, I'm convinced that Vader is filled with nothing but Harry and David pears. Enter Grand Admiral Thrawn. The best villain in the galaxy. Ever. Don't be put off by his cerulean appearance - this gentleman is anything but tacky. He dominates the book series and is written so well, you'll be upset upon reading the final book in the series, "The Last Command", because of that word "last". Three books are just not enough! Unlike Vader, who enjoyed killing off handsome (sometimes!) officers when the Rebels slipped out of their grasps, Thrawn treats his crew with respect while maintaining high standards. While he still invokes a chilling sense of fear (those glowing red eyes certainly do help), he's a far superior leader and tactician. Many naughty Imperials are pardoned to live another day instead of ending up as crumpled corpses on the floor of the bridge. His campaigns and battles are so spectacular and clever as to make one positively giddy with glee. In fact, Thrawn seems a lot like Sherlock Holmes... Oh, and did I mention that he formulates his plans by studying his enemy's artwork?

Eat your heart out, Vader.
I can't give enough accolades to these books. If you ever liked the original Star Wars trilogy, go out and give these books a read. The saga didn't end with Return of the Jedi.

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