Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review: Choices Of One

Hey all, Counterfett here wishing you as wonderful a Wednesday as possible. Stuff's a bit stressful for me here at the moment, but I'm sure it'll all work out. In any event, what with all the video gaming, war gaming, and LEGO, it's easy to overlook that I've been doing other stuff!

I'm historicaly a huge Star Wars fan, though I have been a bit burned out on it the past few years. Nevertheless, I loved the Timothy Zahn novel 'Allegiance' from a few years back. When I found out that a follow up 'Choices Of One' continued the story of my five favorite Stormtroopers, I decided that when it hit paperback, I was going to be all over it!

So I got it, I read it, and I enjoyed it. Now here's the rundown.

PROS:

  • Between movies. Choices of One takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This has always been Zahn's strong suit, making stuff happen that's interesting, but doesn't alter the existing timeline in an appreciable way. I swear, he should have written sitcoms. Everything is wrapped up tidy and ready for next week.
  • Well liked characters. The Hand of Judgement, Mara Jade, Thrawn, Pellaeon, and the like are all back, and for the very first time, in some cases. The Hand and Mara were in Allegiance, of course, but the others were not, and it's nice to see them tied in. There are a few 'origin' stories as well. Also, there are a few interesting scenes with Thrawn, and how he integrates into the Imperial Command structure. The seeds for the 'Heir' trilogy are planted here.
  • Nuso Esva. The big bad evil alien warlord is in the book for too short a time, I'm afraid. He seemed like an interesting character, and mayhap we will see more of him in the future. I would actually like to see a title more focused on Esva and Thrawn grappling for the future of Wild Space another time, perhaps.

CONS:

  • Confusing. Even in retrospect, I don't understand some of the plot twists. Why did Esva manuever the rebels the way he did when most of the possible outcomes would be to his disadvantage? For a genius warlord, it seems like he did not take the most common possible outcomes into consideration. Sometimes, with a story like this, you have an 'aha' moment where it all falls into place. For me, when I got to what should have been the 'aha' moment, I sat and scratched my head and said "but then why did...?"
  • Zahn. A lot of people do not like Zahn's Star Wars work. Understand that I am not one of them, but some of the complaints are valid. It's said that he only uses the movie characters or his own characters. Also, he ignores all of the Expanded Universe material that isn't his. Largely, this is correct. It doesn't bother me especially, and unless you're a hardcore EU loyalist, you probably won't care either.
  • Thrawn as Deus Ex. There is another major character who comes in at the end who might also be called a Deus Ex. Zahn does use this a lot, and while it's worked in cleverly, it can be a little tiresome to always have the cavalry ride in during the last chapter. I would have liked to see Pallaeon sort some of this out himself.

It was a good read, if a little 'thick' in the Zahn style. I don't think Timothy Zahn gets enough credit for what he's done for the Star Wars franchise. His first trilogy was during a time when there were going to be no more movies, and no one really thought Star Wars was relevent or had any more legs. Not only did he prove that wrong, but he fueled enough enthusiasm for the Theatrical Re-Releases of the original trilogy, and from there the prequels.

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