The Thrawn Trilogy

Today, I finished the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. Overall, I really enjoyed the books and feel like it was a great introduction to the Extended Universe/Legends. I like the Star Wars Universe, but I’m coming to realize that it isn’t really a sci-fi series, it is more like a religious fantasy series than anything. Instead of swords, magic, and dragons you have lightsabers, the Force, and aliens. The Force plays a dual role; it is both the source of magical powers for some people as well as an independent omnipotent(?) being that seems to guide the action.

It is the latter part of the Force that kind of bothers me. I’m not big on a god-like being interfering in the character’s lives. Within the trilogy there were several Deus Ex Machina moments that could all just be blamed on the Force. People were so often “coincidentally” (thanks to the Force) in the right place at the right time in a way to stop Thrawn’s plans that is started to bug me. I started to realize the good guys would win no matter what, even if they didn’t deserve to.

I think that is part of why I started to like Thrawn. He was certainly a bad person in a lot of ways, particularly the way he handled some of the incompetence in his ranks and the way he dealt with the Noghri people, but he was also an incredible tactician and not evil like Vader or the Emperor. Thrawn worked hard at studying his opponents and coming up with unique battle plans, he was an incredible leader who his soldiers trusted and he worked to minimize casualties. Without any Force powers of his own he was more of a character out of a Tom Clancy novel than fantasy.

Much of his hard work and intelligence was a waste because he wasn’t defeated by a superior tactician or someone who worked harder, he was mostly defeated because the Force wanted him to be. Sure, many of the final events were a result of his mistakes (the Noghri and handling The Mad Jedi), but the New Republic wouldn’t have had a chance without a long string of coincidences that the Force put into play. I guess I would have rather seen the groups that combine creativity, hard work, perseverance, and ingenuity have a chance of winning instead of knowing ahead of time that the “good guys” will be victorious by the end of the series.

I know it sounds like I am bitching about the series, but I actually really did enjoy it. Maybe I just need to get used to the Star Wars Universe, read more, or stop taking things so damn seriously. If you haven’t read this book you really should, it is enjoyable fiction and the audiobook version on Audible is phenomenal.

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Dark Force Rising

I just finished listening to “Dark Force Rising” (the second book in the Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy) and oh man, I fucking loved it. I haven’t been listening to a lot of books lately, partly because I’ve been on a podcast kick and partly because there is a weird sort of guilt that I feel for listening to a lot of fiction. I feel some need to counter it with non-fiction even when I’m not in the mood for that. A lot of my Facebook friends consume non-fiction like animals and I kind of feel like I am wasting my time with fiction. Even as I write that I realize how shitty that argument is and I should just do what I want.

Anyway, finishing Dark Force Rising brought two things to my mind. First, I am beginning to understand Star Wars fans anger (fear? hatred? suffering? some path to the Dark Side…) at Disney for turning all the canon novels into “Legends”. Before starting the Thrawn trilogy my only interaction with Star Wars was the films and I didn’t really realize how rich of a universe had been created by so many collaborative authors. Previously minor characters (like Wedge Antilles) get more depth, and established characters become even more humanlike. To have all the adventures you loved, the characters you cherished, and the universe that was a part of your life for decades, wiped out by Disney had to be painful. I am just beginning my adventure into the Star Wars (non)canon and I’m annoyed that the universe of Thrawn isn’t the universe of Rae, particularly since it wouldn’t have been difficult to integrate the movies into the same universe, or even adapt some of the previous material to the big screen.

Second, I always thought Star Wars (and really Sci-Fi and Fantasy in general) handled different species poorly. There seemed to be this idea that an individual could be evil based purely on their species, except for humans who could vary widely in their ethics and abilities. Now that I’ve started reading the books I realize that I wasn’t being fair. The movies may not have the opportunity to dive into much depth for most non-humans (except Chewie and Jar Jar) but the books allow for that The Star Wars universe is made richer by being explored through different artistic means… films, tv shows, graphic novels, books, and video games all provide a different way to explore the art. Destroying that seems to be a terrible mistake.