Sunday, January 8, 2012

Heir to the Empire: The Review

Alright.  Heir to the Empire is the first book in the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn.  Zyra informed me that this was the first post-ROTJ, EU book, published back in 1991.  I did not know that!  Considering some of the other authors, books, and story lines that followed it, I don’t think it was such a bad place to start.   

Coincidentally, as much as my memory allows me, I think these books were among the first of the EU books that I read.  I remember being pleased with them.  Pleased enough to buy more books anyway.  I can remember my mild disappointment that, although Leia was pregnant (yay! How exciting!), she and Han weren’t together nearly as much as I would’ve liked.  But then again, this is what drove me to write fanfic, so there has got to be a silver lining in there somewhere, right?

Now on to the plot.  I’ll give my normal warnings here.  #1 – I don’t write very good book reports, so if you want a really good synopsis, check out Wookieepedia or Amazon.  #2 – Although mediocre, my synopsis will contain plot spoilers.  And #3 – I will focus mainly on Han and Leia’s role (or lack of it) in this book. 

So, in the very first chapter we meet Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Palleon aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer, the Chimaera.  Both of these characters are Zahn creations.  (Word of note:  this author is not afraid to introduce/invent new characters and does a pretty good job of developing some really interesting individuals.  In writing this review I was surprised to find out just how many characters are introduced in this trilogy.)  Thrawn is a Chiss (blue-skinned, red eyes) humanoid alien that, while a brilliant, tactical genius, had been relegated to the outer rim worlds by the Emperor due to his (the Emperor’s) hatred of aliens.  Palleon (Corellian human) was captain of a Star Destroyer at the Battle of Endor and after everything went to pot, he is the one that issued the retreat order for the remaining Imperials.  Palleon (along with a host of other original characters we will meet here) will actually stick around for a really, really long time in the EU.

Basically, all you need to know is that Thrawn is calculating the ‘complete and utter destruction’ of the New Republic (although he still calls it the Rebellion).  And that he has this interesting Noghri (also new character, name Rukh) bodyguard, that has grey skin and is super stealthy and bad ass.  Oh, and that the Rebellion has no idea that he (Thrawn) exists and is planning this offensive.

Luke and Leia, in the meantime, are on Coruscant and living in the old Imperial Palace.  Luke isn’t happy that the New Republic moved in there and he is struggling with his role of the ‘last remaining Jedi’.  He feels he is not capable to teach a brand new generation of Jedi Knights and he also thinks that Coruscant is steeped in Dark Side energy due to the Emperor’s time spent there (although he cannot feel any proof of that in the Force).  Luke is brooding in his rooftop apartment and Threepio comes to check on him since Leia, now playing around with her new found Force sensitivity, could ‘feel’ that he was upset. 

I remember getting really excited about the fact that Leia was Force sensitive.  Before I started reading the EU, I had read some fanfic but it was mostly pre-ESB era and nothing really post-ROTJ that explored this nuance.  From the onset she is anxious to begin her training (anxious in both good and bad ways, although you do get the impression that she is more afraid of it than excited by it).  I guess that might explain why (future plot spoiler) Leia doesn’t actually seriously train in the Force until, IDK, 20 years later or so when her kids are grown.  But it seems every book has her stressing over her training.  I hate(d) that. 

Moving along, we are still only in Chapter 2 and we get to see Leia!  She is 9 weeks pregnant and having stomach issues.  Winter (also a Zahn creation that is prominent in the EU), her childhood friend is staying with her and checks on her.  Leia expresses her worries about Luke’s distressed state and confides in Winter that he seems reluctant to talk to Leia about what might truly be on his mind.  Winter than suggests that, “Perhaps Captain Solo will be able to draw him out when he returns.”  And we get this response from Leia:

Leia squeezed thumb and forefinger together, a wave of anger-filled loneliness sweeping over her.  For Han to have gone out on yet another of these stupid contact missions, leaving her all alone –

The flash of anger disappeared, dissolving into guilt.  Yes, Han was gone again; but even when he was here it seemed sometimes like they hardly saw each other.

Wow, poor Leia.  If she thinks she and Han are apart a lot now, I’d hate to be the one to tell her about what their future held in store for them.

Anyway, I was surprised by the ‘anger-filled loneliness” and the fact that she called it a ‘stupid contact mission’.  Now, at this point we (the reader) have no idea what he’s doing.  I mean, he could be smuggling spice again for all we know.  But, we have to assume that he’s working or doing something to aid the New Republic which you think she would be happy about.  Of course, she is hormonal and pregnant, and the way her mood swings here, it could just be that.

Right after that quotation, Leia thinks of how much of her time is being devoted to the New Republic and it even hints to the fact that Leia is the only one that is able to do whatever it is she is doing while rebuilding this government.  By the end of the paragraph she is vowing to ‘make it all up to Han’ once things get settled in a ‘few more months’.  So you get the picture that it is her duties and responsibilities that are separating them.  Then it says this:  The guilt faded.  But the loneliness remained.  Awwww.  Come back, Han, dammit!

We do find out what Han is doing.  Han is flying around the galaxy meeting with his old smuggler contacts trying to recruit pilots to fly cargo for the resource-strapped New Republic.  Unfortunately, most smugglers aren’t ‘biting’ and the one we get to see him make contact with is weary of Han since he became ‘respectable’ and even says he knows about his ‘Jedi twins’ on the way.  She’s only 9 weeks pregnant and the entire galaxy knows?  Oh, well.  It is also hinted that the smugglers don’t trust Admiral (It’s a trap) Ackbar, since the Mon Cals were hard-nosed on smuggling, or some such thing.

And…we are not done meeting new characters yet.  Now we meet Talon Kardde, which (according to Han’s contact) is the new head honcho of the smuggling biz since Jabba the Hutt bit the dirt.  Unlike Jabba though, Kardde seems even-keeled and prefers to lay low, which he is doing on some planet called Myrkr.  We meet Kardde’s assistant, Mara Jade (who will become pretty important later on in the EU).  Kardde is impressed with Jade’s abilities and is grooming her for promotion, he just can’t figure one thing out about her – why she hates Luke Skywalker.

Kardde is paid an unexpected visit by a Star Destroyer.  In his business he does not take sides (New Republic or Imperial), so he utilizes the opportunity to offer his assistance.  He ‘meets’ Grand Admiral Thrawn over the comm and helps him to harvest some of the planet’s native species called “Ysalamiri”, which have a special ability:  they repel the Force.  He asks nothing of Thrawn in return and Thrawn makes a note of his gratitude to the smuggler.

Han returns to Coruscant and delivers his report (that he got nothing) and the High Council is less than pleased.  Another new important character alert (seriously – did Zahn create more characters than Lucas?), Borsk Fey’lya (a slimy Bothan) and Ackbar have some words over their differing opinions.  When Han finally gets a few words with Leia he finds out that she has committed them (she, Han, Luke and Chewie) to go on some diplomatic trip to Bimmisaari.  Han is less than pleased, but Leia appeases him by telling him “It’ll be all right, Han.  You, me and Luke together again – it’ll be just like old times.”  (Oh and let me mention here that she squeezes his hand, too.  Because that’s about as much as we get in this book from these two.)

On Bimmisaari, Chewie remains on the Falcon and Han, Leia and Luke (along with 3PO as translator) meet the little, furry Bimms and are led into their city.  Right away there is a problem and the person they are supposed to have met with is said to have fallen ill.  Their guide tries (very obviously) to separate them, inviting Leia to a marketplace and Han and Luke to view some artwork.  This is the very first tabby I placed and IDK, I just liked Han’s reaction here as he obviously smells a trap:

“I like marketplaces,” Han cut him off brusquely, his voice dark with suspicion.  “I like ‘em a lot.”

I can just see Han squeezing Leia's hand possessively/protectively as he delivers this line (although the book doesn't give us any more squeezing here unfortunately - just the line).  

Not feeling any strange vibrations in the Force, Luke takes up the offer to view the artwork and Han and Leia go to the marketplace.  Once at the marketplace, Han and Leia are attacked by some strange, grey-skinned aliens.  Luke is attacked, too but escapes and makes it to the marketplace.  Chewie comes to their rescue in the Falcon and they lift off the planet.

Second tabby (and so quickly) came when, while orbiting the planet and planning their return, Luke asks Leia this:

“What does Han have to say about us putting back down?”

“Han doesn’t have any choice in the matter,” Leia said firmly.  “This is my mission, not his.”

“That’s right,” Han agreed, stepping into the lounge.  “Your mission.  But my ship.”

Yep.  The Falcon had already jumped to hyperspace.  Go, Han!  I remember when I first read this I couldn’t believe what Leia had said, but then Han turned around and did what he did and I thought it was cool.  (Leia was not too pleased, but she got over it.)

Oh, let me just point out here that by this time in the book the author had repeated several lines from the movie already and it continues - not too badly - but continues, throughout the rest of the book.  Now, as the very first EU books, I can forgive him for wanting to tie the movies into his stories, but it did get kind of…old.

I guess I have to introduce yet another character now.  Joruus C’baoth, some insane clone of an old Jedi who practices on the Dark Side.  Thrawn finds him (along with the stash of the fallen Emperor’s treasures which includes some cloaking technology and several Spaarti cloning cylinders) on a planet called Wayland and recruits him (utilizing the ysalmari to subdue him) to coordinate his battles using the Force in return for giving C’baoth four Jedi to train as his pupils.  (You guessed it:  Luke, Leia and her unborn twins).  C’baoth is most interested in Leia’s twins and Thrawn is sending his Noghri elite commandos to try and capture them.

After their return to Coruscant, Leia does try and ask for some time off so that she can work on her Jedi training, which Han is all for so that she would be better able to protect herself.  Her request is shot down by Mon Mothma, however, because Leia is far too valuable to let go.  Oh, and Leia squeezes Han’s arm again.  (Seriously, this is all you’re gonna get.)

Thrawn continues doing some strike and fade stuff on New Republic planets.  Luke decides to go to Dagobah.  Han and Leia take a tour of a planet that has been hit by Thrawn’s strike and fades, and while there, they get attacked by the grey-skinned aliens again, who in an effort to fool and capture them, used a fake Millennium Falcon

Fed up and really scared now, Han and Leia decide to try and hide out for a while but will need someone they can trust to ‘slice’ into the New Republic channels so they can keep in touch but remain hidden.  And we’re off to see Lando, because – of course – he knows all the good criminals.  (Oh, let me mention that the New Republic is perplexed as to how several of their secrets, such as Han and Leia’s itineraries, are being leaked and name the leak ‘Delta Source’ although they have no idea what or who it is.)   Also, Luke finds something in that old cave on Dagobah which leads him to look up Lando at the same time.

When the Falcon and Luke’s X-Wing first arrive on Nkllon (Lando’s planet), they aren’t expecting to see each other and after the fake Falcon bit, Han and Leia are suspicious.  Even after Leia talks to Luke over the comm they are still unconvinced that it is definitely Luke.  Han is racking his brains to try and find a way to positively identify Luke when Leia puts 3PO on and has him ‘talk’ to Artoo, easily confirming who the X-Wing is.  The only reason I mention this little aside, is because we then get this from Han:

…He’d known a lot of men back in his smuggling days, who wouldn’t have wanted a wife who could sometimes think faster than they could.

Speaking for himself, Han had long ago decided he wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, not long after the trio meet Lando, a Star Destroyer attacks.  It was just a coincidence since Thrawn was after some mole miner starship things that Lando had, but Han and Leia thought that the attack was aimed at them.  As did Lando.  Let me just say this, if I was friends with Han and Leia I would not look forward to visits from these two.  After the attack, Lando is showing Han and Leia around.  At one point he pulls Leia over to a viewport and puts his hand at the small of her back.  She thinks about it and realizes that Lando has flirted heavily with her ever since she and Han got married.  And then this:

She’d puzzled over that for a while, until she’d noticed that all the attention seemed to annoy Han.

Or, at least, it normally annoyed him.  Right now, he didn’t even seem to notice.

I know he’s probably preoccupied with the attack on Leia and a thousand things are going through his mind, but this bugged me.  Also, you could argue that the longer they are together the more he trusts her and Lando’s harmless flirting wouldn’t bother him.  But he would still notice!  IDK, it just felt to me that the book liked to hint at these stressors in Han and Leia's relationship.  Was it just me?

Alright, a few things.  Luke shows Lando the electronic gadget that he found in the cave on Dagobah and it is some kind of ‘ship caller’ thing that will make your ship come to you no matter where you are, even fighting its way to you.  Luke also ‘hears’ another Jedi calling to him while he was battling the Star Destroyer (which we all know is the insane C’baoth) and he wants to go and investigate the calling.  Chewie offers to bring Leia to Kashyyyk to protect her amongst the Wookiees and Han reluctantly agrees while he and Lando go off on the Falcon flying around and trying to fool everyone that Leia is really with them with a re-programmed C3PO that has Leia’s voice.

Han and Leia don’t even kiss before they say goodbye for, they don’t even know, how long.

Because he is just so absolutely brilliant, Thrawn not only figures out that Leia has gone to Kashyyyk with Chewie and sends a crew of his Noghri to capture her, but he also deduces that Luke was with them on Nkllon and knowing that Luke will be answering the ‘call’ from C’baoth, goes to deep space to intercept him before finding C'baoth (Thrawn trying to keep an upper hand with the insane Jedi).

Thrawn intercepts Luke and Luke escapes, but not after damaging his hyperdrive motors.  Luke makes a quick jump to get away but then comes out in deep space and is stranded.  Thrawn recruits all manner of smugglers and bounty hunters to search for Luke in deep space.  Kardde declines helping.  Han and Lando, wanting to try and find Kardde and his expert slicers, go to meet a contact that might help them find the head smugglers’ hideout.

Leia immediately thinks she sees one of the aliens as soon as they get to Kashyyyk.  After the Wookiees search and come up empty handed, they reassure her and tell her that she is safe.  Then she thinks this:

To safety.  Leia gazed at the house, a shiver running up her back.  And wondered if there would ever be such a thing for her as safety.

I only pointed that out because we all know, sadly, that the answer is no.  Maybe it’s best that she doesn’t know that.

Kardde does end up finding Luke (due to Mara’s Force sensitivity) and takes him back to Myrkr as his prisoner unsure what he is going to do with him.  Luke finds out that Mara Jade hates him but can’t fathom why.  I don’t know what Thrawn is doing right now, but I’m sure it’s something.

Another insignificant thing (plot wise) I wanted to point out happens as the book cuts back to Han and Lando.  The pair is waiting to meet their contact that may lead them to Kardde.  Han and Lando first talk about their favorite topic:  Han's winning the Falcon from Lando.  Lando says that he's gotten over it - mostly.  And Han tells him that if Lando hadn't lost the Falcon to him they probably wouldn't be sitting there right now with the Empire controlling the galaxy after the first Death Star destroyed Yavin.  Lando then says:

"Maybe; maybe not.  With people like Ackbar and Leia running things-"

"Leia would have been dead," Han cut him off.  "She was already scheduled for execution when Luke, Chewie and I pulled her out of the Death Star."  A shiver ran through him at the memory.  He'd been that close to losing her forever.  And would never even have known what he'd missed. 

They then talk about the attack on Leia and Han says that it was because they want the twins.  Lando is startled and asks Han if he is sure which Han replies in the affirmative.  Then Lando says this:

(Lando) “Does Leia know?”

(Han)  “I don’t know.  Probably.”

I found this really sad, too.  Sad for Han and Leia.  I mean wouldn’t they have talked about this?  Or maybe they are both afraid to admit it, I know I would be.  Either way, it was just really heart-wrenching to me, especially when after this, Han just kind of looks around him helplessly.  What a raw deal these two are getting already!  This is supposed to be a happy time for a couple.  And by the way, I don’t have any more tabbies on this book after this point…

In the end, Han and Lando meet their contact and are on their way to see Talon Kardde on Myrkr.  They arrive and are welcomed by Kardde, while having no idea that he is holding Luke in a nearby room.  At the same time, in need of more Ysalamari, Thrawn arrives at Myrkr as well.  Kardde has Mara move Luke so he won’t be found by the Imperials.  This move allows Luke to escape in some small starship with Mara right on his heels.  Kardde doesn’t want Thrawn to know that it’s Luke and makes up some story which Thrawn doesn’t buy.  After Thrawn takes his Ysalamari he leaves a storm trooper contingent on Myrkr to try and find out what was going on.  During all of this, Han and Lando also figure out that Luke was being held there.

Both Luke and Mara crash in the forest surrounding Kardde’s camp.  They head for a nearby village and during their trek get to know each other.  Luke discovers Mara’s story about her being an Emperor’s Hand and finds out that she hates him because she thinks that Luke killed the Emperor and destroyed her life.  Even though her apparent life’s goal at the moment is to kill Luke, she doesn’t for various reasons.

Let’s see, it’s good at this point to know that Thrawn is preparing for a big attack on Sluis Van shipyards.

Back on Kashyyyk, Leia gets attacked again.  She does some pretty good self-defense moves, but in the end one of the aliens grabs her.  While he is holding her, with his nose close to her neck, he suddenly lets her go.  After evading more of the aliens, one Wookiee gets killed and Chewie gets hurt.  Once safe, they return to the captured alien and Leia finds out that although he had been sent to capture her, he had no idea that she was Vader’s daughter (knew once he smelled her) and apparently his entire world in indebted to the Dark Lord of the Sith and thus, he will not harm her.  She request to visit his home world to try and make peace with his people, he is reluctant to agree but they decide on a meeting point above Endor and a time and they let the alien go.

Luke and Mara reach the small village and the storm trooper contingent.  Of course, they escape.  During all of this, Kardde’s deception of Thrawn is exposed and he prepares to evacuate his home base asking a departing Han and Lando to send an empty freighter his way if they have it.

Han, Luke and Lando arrive at Sluis Van just in time for Thrawn’s attack.  Basically Thrawn ‘cloaked’ some freighter making it seem empty on everyone’s scopes and then blew it up and released a zillion Tie-Fighters.  Using the mole miners stolen from Lando, Thrawn has each mole miner attach itself to a New Republic ship and invade the bridge and take the ship over trying to steal a bunch of ships from the New Republic.  The mole miner things kindof drill themselves into the hulls of the ships.

Thinking that they are about to lose everything, Han remembers that the mole miners ran on remote and Lando, of course, knows the codes.  Lando programs all the mole miners to keep drilling until they virtually destroy the ship’s operational functions.  This ends up severely damaging all the New Republic ships but it makes it impossible for Thrawn to steal them.  Thrawn realizes he has lost and leaves.

Han contacts the New Republic and fills them in on what happened.  While he is doing that he receives an incoming call:

“Han?  It’s Leia.”

“Leia!”  Han said, feeling a delighted and probably foolish-looking grin spread across his face.  A second later though – “Wait a minute.  What are you doing back on Coruscant?”

Yes, that was short-lived.  But he was very happy to hear from her.  She tells him to get back right away because Admiral Ackbar had been arrested (apparently some political move by that slimy Bothan Fey’lya).  Luke wonders if the move might lead to a civil war and Han assures him that they won’t let that happen.  When asked how, Han responds:  “We’ll think of something.”

And that’s the end of the book.

I really like Tim Zahn's writing and I remember when I first read this I found all of his new characters interesting and I liked the plot.  I told Zyra that I much prefer this kind of villain over the Vong that we get much later.  If this wasn't solely a Han and Leia Factor rating I could see these books rating higher, but it is a Han and Leia Factor and I give it 3.5 Stars.  It's not that Zahn doesn't write them well, he does.  They are just not together!

Up Next:  Dark Force Rising


  1. Nice review there, Push.

    Yes this was the first proper EU thing, discounting Splinter of the Minds Eye, and Brain Daley's Han adventures. There was quite a bit of publicity and genuine excitement when this was first released, it was supposed to be the authorised continuation of the films, and I was soooo happy when I first got it. I'd read previews and was floored when I read that Han and Leia had got married, and even more so that they were expecting.

    I remember buying this on a family holiday in Blackpool (famous British resort), and got it on release day and was absolutely glued to it for the whole week, couldn't put it down. Loved it at the time, and it's still a pretty good read. Zahn is certainly a good story teller.

    Nice to see Mara as a potentially interesting character, before she became annoying later on.

    Don't think at the time I first read it I released how little time Han and Leia are spending together, now it's just annoying to go back and see what a totally crappy deal they got in a lot of these books. Makes you wonder how Leia actually got pregnant, they must have spent SOME time together. At least Troy Denning addressed this issue in the previous book by having them spend a whole book together early in their marriage.

    Zahn does have a real aversion to kissing doesn't he? I know they were written over a decade apart, but we got a ton of kisses in TG (and ahem, more...) and then a few months later all they do is squeeze hands and squeeze arms. Come on, they've only been married about a year, she's pregnant, and they don't even all. Not at all realistic, or in character for these two. But it gets worse, as I mentioned in another thread, I don't believe they kiss at all in this entire trilogy!

    Another gripe I have is that Winter appears to live in Han and Leia's apartment. What's that all about? Yes she is Leia's personal assistant, but can't she even sleep somewhere else? Understandably she's with Leia during working hours, but does she have to take her home too?

    Despite those few moans, it's certainly worth reading and the plot will keep you interested.

  2. I hadn't read this book since I first started reading the EU, in 1995. As a Han and Leia fan, obviously it doesn't give us much in spite of the fact that Leia is pregnant with their first children and it was our first glimpse of them as a married couple, so that was disappointing. But as a Star Wars book in general, it's pretty entertaining, certainly well written and everyone is in character. Except for Han and Leia's total lack of making out. I remember even from way back when that there was no kissing in these books, just a lot of hand/arm squeezing. Maybe it's just supposed to be so obvious how into each other they are and how much they miss each other when they are apart that there is no reason to dwell on it? Sure.

    When we first meet Han and Leia here it is apparent that they do miss each other terribly and wish they were together, so that is certainly a good thing. I don't know about Han leaving Leia's side when she's pregnant, but then again, he trusts Chewie implicitly, so surely that helps. On the other side of that, would Leia want Han to disappear?

    Zahn certainly set the bar though for cool Star Wars books, even if we don't get any Han and Leia "moments" that we on this blog love so much. Though it was kind of rough to start reading so much from the "bad guy's" point of view, and we all better get used to that sort of thing.

  3. My daughter and I met Timothy Zahn back in October at a book signing for the 20th anniversary of Heir to the Empire. We bought two copies that we had signed. It was very interesting to hear Timothy's story of how he came to write Heir. He answered questions from the audience as well. My daughter interviewed him (via facebook) for her blog. We had an even more interesting conversation with his wife. We spent about three hours all together at the signing. It was very cool. I re-read Heir (the 20th anniversary edition has lots of author notes on why things were written they way they were). I looked at it from a writer's perspective and how cool it was that this one guy created so many characters that have spanned so many books. I talked with his wife about Han and Leia. We had an interesting conversation about Jacen. I told them I wasn't to happy with that direction. She didn't seem to happy either. My daughter loves Mara and she didn't like what happens to her. Timothy said he was pretty much against killing off main characters. I kinda felt sorry for him. I know what it is like to put so much blood, sweat and tears into something for it to just be canceled (or in his case, develop characters that turn bad and/or get killed off). I did thank him for Han and Leia getting married. I also told him how much I enjoyed Choices of One and Allegience from a Han and Leia perspective. Apparently Timothy is going to be writing another Star Wars Classic Era book featuring Han. I'm not sure when it is supposed to come out.. His facebook might tell more information.

  4. Wow, that's great meeting Tim, sounds like you had a good chat with him.

    When you think about it, he is really the "father" of all the post ROTJ, he set the benchmark, and everyone else followed. This trilogy set up everything that happened after.

    All I know about the new Han novel he's doing is that he said it was going to be "something a bit different"', make of that what you will. He does write Han very well, so I am sure it will be good read. There was a theory I read that it would be set between ESB and ROTJ and be based on Han's thoughts whilst in carbonite, again, make of that what you will.

    Yes, he was probably gutted about what they did to Mara. It can't be nice to have other writers kill off your characters.

  5. Yeah, that is pretty awesome getting to talk to him and stuff. I can see why he would feel sad. Killing off the main characters is only making the universe they have to play in smaller and smaller. I've said this before and I'll say it again I'm sure, but their attempt at being edgier and making it a bit more "realistic" to me just goes against everything Star Wars is all about. The good guys win in the end, nobody super important dies. End of Story. Mara annoyed me in some of the middle books, mostly because it was like she was totally flawless while Leia was letting the government fall apart all while being a terrible wife and mother. But I also really wasn't happy when she died, because they'd started to turn her around and make me enjoy reading about her again. They just keep ruining things!

    Heard about the Han book and definitely looking forward to whatever that will entail. We are not getting much to look forward to in the EU.

  6. That's awesome you got to talk with him, Seams! It certainly would be something to be the one to contribute so much to the SW lore.

    This was my first EU book, and I suppose since I hadn't read any of that other junk yet, it didn't bother me much that they were barely together throughout the book. I do remember enjoying the characters on their own just as well. Maybe it was just Zahn's writing that made it bearable. He does a good job of pacing the story right.

    I did find the Ysalamiri to be lame. It kind of sucks all the awesome out of the Force...okay, not as bad midichlorians.

    Haha, yeah what is up with Winter? Does Han have one wife or two?

  7. I think this was the second EU book I read, or maybe the third if I went back to Truce at Bakura after starting with COPL. I think Zahn is great at writing in the spirit of the movies, which is what makes him more enjoyable than a lot of the other authors. Ysalamiri, yeah, tough call on those. Once everyone knows about them then it seems like it's too easy to "blind" the Jedi. Speaking of Jedi, this is only the beginning of finding out that Luke is way far from the last of the Jedi in the galaxy.

    Also, anyone else bugged sometimes by how the Jedi abilities in the Force kind of change from book to book? In some books they are practically invulnerable superheroes. Sometimes they can communicate completely telepathically, sometimes they can only sense feelings, sometimes they can practically fly. I don't know.

  8. Zyra and I have a question for everyone: Has anyone read "I,Jedi" by Stackpole? It comes after the Jedi Academy Trilogy and neither one of us has read it. We wondering if we should include it in the EU book club. Anyone out there that has read it, please weigh in.

  9. No, I haven't read I, Jedi. But I know I spent about half hour in a book shop once flicking through it looking for any Han and Leia. I think they are in it very briefly, but I don't think there's anything significant or I would have bought the book.

  10. I've read I, Jedi and will be happy to revisit and hit the high points from H/L perspective. It's actually mostly a retelling of the events of the Jedi Academy trilogy from another perspective. I do remember one bit where Leia is making eyes at her husband whom she hasn't seen in a while.

    I have a lot of questions about Winter. First off she does actually show up in some of the Rogue Squadron comics and she's in the Rogue Squadron trilogy too and I've never been clear if they put her in there after Zahn invented her or if he took her from there and gave her a new role. anyone know?

    Second, what is Winter's job description? personal assistant, secret weapon who remembers everything, nanny, maid, what? it's like no one knows what to do with her. She's always annoyed me because she's part of the whole Leia-not-being-a-hands-on-mother thing.

    That is too awesome about meeting Tim Zahn, Seamstobe. I am impressed that you and your daughter managed to ask and get answers to questions. I have met authors at book signings and am frequently too awestruck to speak coherently let alone remember what I want to ask them. very interesting also about the anniversary edition having notes, I might have to borrow from the library that sounds cool.

  11. According to Wookieepedia, which has a pretty extensive page on Winter, she was created by Zahn for the Thrawn trilogy.

    And it looks like she's everything you described (personal assistant, secret weapon, nanny, etc.)

  12. Ok, here are some annotations from the 20th Anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire. There are so many interesting tidbits of information and insight. It is really worth the read, even if you just skim them in the bookstore. I have only highlighted a few. Sorry if it’s a little long.

    This one is from Betsy Mitchell who was Zahn’s editor and main contact from Lucasfilms.
    This is in regards to Han’s line about marketplaces
    “Han’s line here is pitch-perfect. One of Tim’s greatest challenges in this book was to re-create the voices of the film characters. It’s so easy to imagine Harrison Ford grinding out, “I like marketplaces, I like ‘em a lot.”

    Another note from Betsy in regard to Leia in the later chapters of Heir: “I was pleased, during this reread, to find very few things I would have edited differently now from the way I did twenty years ago. One exception appears here. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Leia, and obviously some time has passed. Yet there’s no mention of her advancing pregnancy. It’s odd that I didn’t request a sentence or two, especially as I was going through my own first pregnancy at the time and discovering that there is not a moment when that developing child escapes a mother’s awareness. Yet Leia doesn’t give a thought to her baby bump in this very exciting chapter.”

    From Timothy Zahn
    “I thought long and hard about how to write the sound of an igniting lightsaber. I finally went with snap-hiss.”

    “A writer absolutely has to make his villains clever and competent. It’s no fun –and no challenge- for the heroes to get out of trouble without sweating about it first.”

    “Han Solo: master of tact. You gotta love him.” (this was in reference to his line about knowing who the enemy is in regards to Borsk Fey’lya).

    “For some reason, Han not lumping Bpfssh in with the “unpronounceable” ones strikes me as both funny and very Han.”

    “A couple of weeks after I finished Heir and sent it in, my editor, Betsy Mitchell, called to chat about the manuscript. In the course of the conversation she asked if I liked Han best of all the movie characters. I assured her that I liked them all, and asked why she would think I liked Han best. She said, “Because you gave him all the best lines.” She may have been right. But in all fairness as far as giving Han good lines is concerned, George got there a long time before I did.”

    As far as meeting Timothy Zahn, I have never been to an author signing before but the people we talked to in the audience told us that Timothy always spends a great deal of time with his fans and doesn't mind signing any of his books, even if the signing is for a particular book. I got the impression from the crowd that Timothy is a pretty humble guy. We came away from the experience thinking the same thing.

  13. Um, how do you pronounce "Bpfssh?"

    Haha, Han does get the best lines - it's part of what makes him so awesome!

  14. Cool notes. Looks like the 20th anniversary edition is worth checking out.

  15. So, Zahn came up with snap-hiss? Very nice choice. Bpfssh is one of a long list of words that I don't even attempt to sound out in my head when I read it. I just recognize it as "um, yeah, one of those" and move on. Maybe I'll check out that anniversary edition. I don't own a copy of this book at all so I could even be justified in spending the money.

    I would think that authors like this would be easy to talk to. I don't think people get into writing to be rich, because very few writers actually make Stephen King money or even close to it. They don't get accosted walking down the street so it seems like it would be fun for them to talk to fans who are passionate about the same stuff, right?

    I'm glad that that editor mentioned the pregnancy thing, because yeah, Leia hardly seems to act like anything is different!

  16. I like how the editor mentions Zahn trying to recreate the "voice" of the characters. This one point is how I tend to judge EU authors, when you read the characters dialogue if you can't hear Harrison, Carrie or Mark saying that line in your head, then that writer has failed. Big time! The most important thing is to capture the true essence of the characters we see on screen.

    Zahn does this very well, he rarely has a dud line, Han in particular, is pretty much perfect. Denning also succeeds with his dialogue, as does Matt Stover. It's no surprise that they are all SW fans.

    But Wolverton, for example, is absolute bottom of the heap, his characters are so bad, it really does make you wonder if he's even seen them on-screen.

    Zahn really is the king of unpronouncable words, LOL!

  17. Hey, JZHanFan: Was that an offer to do another guest review for "I, Jedi"? :-)

  18. It's like Winter is the utility infielder of the EU. whatever they need, that's what she is today. spy, nanny, cook, maid, bodyguard, babysitter, speechwriter, slicer... I wonder what Zahn thinks of it all. must be weird to see what everyone has done to his characters and the original ones, over the years.

    I have always felt Zahn did give Han better lines than he gave Luke. He just doesn't ever give Leia any good ones - Mara is the only female character whose head he can get inside. But his Han is always spot on and I can easily hear Harrison growling out any of the lines Han gets in this trilogy. I do remember being irked that he kept quoting the movies at us, it never seemed to fit well. like maybe he felt obligated to do it to keep them connected to the films?

    I am adding the anniversary edition to my wish list at amazon. I have a birthday coming up :-)

  19. Don't forget, Winter also serves as a DOUBLE for Leia, according to wookieepedia. This is frankly laughable. Zahn regularly mentions that Winter is a tall woman. Er....and Leia, is....well, small but beautifully formed. Add to that if you look at pictures of her they look nothing alike. There was some comics about rogue squadron where Winter pretends to be Leia. Hmmm, ok. Let's hope Han is sleeping with th right Leia...LOL!!!

    Also wookieepedia states that Winter was adopted by the Organas and her and Leia are actually sisters...I don't know where this was established, but I don't remember it.

    Again, this is all stuff invented by other writers and not Zahn.

  20. just downloaded the sample chapters of the anniversary edition to my Nook and I totally love this bit in Zahn's introduction - "The readers had to hear Mark Hammill's and Carrie Fisher's and Harrison Ford's voices inside my quotation marks... if I couldn't do that, or at least get close, it wouldn't be 'Star Wars'. It would be 'An Adventure of Two Guys Named Han and Luke'. And that would be a waste of everyone's time."

    My first thought was, are you listening, Dave Wolverton?

    I knew I liked this guy.

  21. and yeah, claire1976, what is up with Winter being Leia's double? I can get that she's more "elegant" than Leia and people who didn't know what Leia looked like might confuse the two when they were girls on Alderaan but seriously. they look NOTHING alike.

  22. Great quote from Zahn there, jzhanfan. Yep, that was my earlier point, its vital to capture the voices of those characters or you fail. I admire Tim Zahn for acknowledging the importance of this, and implementing it so well in his writing.

    Does anyone else find Leia the hardest character to "hear" in their heads when reading?

    Yes, obviously Wolverton wasn't listening at the time.

    Winter as Leia's double is just unbelievably stupid. Don't know who thought up that one, but clearly we can't blame Tim!

  23. I found a copy of "Heir to the Empire" yesterday :P I fell about laughing reading one line in the beginning, it's after Winter talks to Leia: "Han had suggested more than once that anyone who talked to her own stomach was slightly nuts. But then, she suspected that Han secretly believed everyone was slightly nuts." I just love this! :D It makes me smile :)