Review: The Last Command

Timothy Zahn, Thrawn Trilogy #3.

First read 4/17/98
First read 4/17/98

I confess it was not until recently that I paid any attention to the order in which Star Wars books were published. Of course I knew the legendary status of this trilogy — which I had not read since the early 2000s — and that Zahn was first and how he had consciously deviated from the comics which had their genesis about the same time. But until this year, I’ve spent my passion on the stories without any thought whatsoever toward the authors of the stories (or at least not much thought, and that mostly hatred directed at James Luceno).

My point with that is I had never realized just how responsible for the realcanon Timothy Zahn was. Not paying attention to who wrote what first or in what order, I missed who was responsible for creating what. And it turns out that most of it comes back to Zahn. For example, in reading this book, I realized that even Moruth Doole, or at least Doole’s name and occupation, came from him as well.  (Other things Zahn was responsible for that any average Star Warrior should know are the planets Coruscant and Mykyr; the stroke of genius that is the Force-blocking ysalamiri; and the characters Gilad Pellaeon and Mara Jade.)

If you’re really reading a review for the third of Zahn’s blockbuster Thrawn trilogy, do you really need to be told these books are brilliant? Now, I’m not really a Zahnbie, and the guy has had a few flops — mostly the fault of being forced to write something he didn’t care to,  which even tripped up William Shakespeare — but the reputation of his Thrawn trilogy is absolutely deserved.

The cover of the book recalls Return of the Jedi in many respects. Once again, everything from the  cover to the last page seeks to tie the spin-off in with the beloved films and weave them together as part of the same tapestry.

Watching Thrawn strategize is a treat. The Empire may be shaken up, but they are not defeated, and they are determined to give the fledgeling New Republic a real run for its money. Smugglers, including Talon Karrde (wrested from his hideout but safe from Imperial custody for the moment), try to skate the thin line of neutrality. Leia gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl, amplifying the danger as Imperial agents try to capture Luke, Leia, and the newborn twins as fodder for the mad clone C’boath.

Timeline, 01147?
Timeline, 01147?

Mara Jade finds herself on Coruscant and once again helping the man she wants to kill, Luke Skywalker — who is the only one who wants to trust her as things begin to come to a head. Again, Zahn keeps the focus on the wars: Thrawn is threatening to unleash a second Clone War on the galaxy, an occurrence much to be dreaded. Rich characters working against a backdrop of new planets keep us waiting for and expecting the only ending a Star Wars story ought to have. No fluff. No filler. Just solid writing that creates fresh canon while establishing old . . . I think I can safely say it is a trilogy the like of which we’ll never see again.

And, well, maybe we don’t need to, because like the original trilogy, the magic of these books can be recaptured simply by snatching them off the shelf again for a thoroughly enjoyable re-read, as I’ve spent this last month doing. It’s good stuff and not to be missed.

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