Rather then ending the Thrawn Trilogy with a whimper, Timothy Zahn saves the best for The Last Command
With Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine gone, the New Republic was supposed to usher in a golden age of peace. Instead, the galaxy finds itself being torn apart by the ravages of war again. Led by the brilliantly tactical mind of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the dreaded Imperial Empire has risen again, armed with a fleet of seemingly-indestructible starships that are being piloted by a limitless army of clones. Pulling the strings of the Empire's vast clone army is Dark Jedi C'Baoth, who is too far gone in his delusions to realize that he himself is also merely a puppet of Thrawn's. In a last ditch effort to end the war and defeat the Empire, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo lead a covert mission with the one person who knows enough about Thrawn's stolen technology to destroy it...Jedi warrior Mara Jade, who once served as the Emperor's most trusted assassin. But even if Luke manages to save the galaxy, he may never get to see the results of his work, since Mara Jade has vowed to fulfill the Emperor's last command and kill Luke Skywalker...
Like many people my age, I grew up loving Star Wars, but in more recent years, it became harder and harder to remember why. Let's face it, the prequels were, at best, disappointing, and when Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy, it seem like without that childhood sense of wonder, the flaws of the original trilogy were far more glaring. Sure, the action was great and the one-liners were amusing, but when you really look at the original movies, the characters were mostly cliched, the overall story was pretty standard, and much of the dialogue that didn't make us laugh induced groaning instead. In fact, what better evidence is there that the much of the appeal of the original Star Wars trilogy was cosmetic than the fact that Boba Fett became such a fan-favorite character...despite the fact that he didn't really do much more than wear a cool-looking suit of armor... "Let the stormtroopers do all the work...I'm just going to stand around and look shiny!"
But Timothy Zahn's brilliant Thrawn Trilogy has reminded me why Star Wars still has a special place in my heart...it's FUN!!! Yes, even with its flaws, if the stories are done right, the good far outweighs the bad and the audience is taken on a roller-coaster of a thrill ride. But with the Thrawn Trilogy, Zahn has managed to up the ante a bit by giving us a story that's not only fun, but intelligent as well. And no character embodies the more cerebral nature of Zahn's Star Wars stories than lead villain Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. While Darth Vader was more inclined to simply choke the life out of someone who displeased him, Thrawn's tactics are far more methodical. I knew I was in for a different kind of Star Wars adventure right from Chapter 1, when Thrawn uses a strategically-placed cloaked ship to give the illusion that his own starfighter can somehow manage to shoot through his prey's shields, causing them to surrender because they believe he possesses a super-weapon that doesn't actually exist! All throughout the book, Thrawn machinates complex schemes that are fascinating to watch as they unfold...my favorite being the most creative usage of asteroids that I have ever seen! Speaking of asteroids, a game where you did nothing but shoot at rocks was considered one of the most exciting video games of the 80's...if you ever wondered why some people turned to cocaine for thrills during that decade, now you know! DISCLAIMER: The preceding statement was just a joke...don't do drugs, kids!
But Thrawn is just one of many things that works about this novel. In addition to Thrawn's master plan, multiple sub-plots introduced in the first two books are realized in a superb fashion. Princess Leia's pregnancy, smuggler Talon Karrde's efforts to rally his fellow rogues against the Empire, Thrawn's mysterious informant within the Republic, and of course, Mara's mission to kill Luke...Zahn was juggling a lot in the trilogy's final episode. Fortunately, rather than collapse under its own weight, the book weaves all the various plot-threads together, leading each to a more-than-satisfying conclusion. In addition, the minor problems I had with the last two books were resolved this time around. While the previous two books dragged at times, this one was paced beautifully, so much so that I never once found my interest waning. Classic characters like Han and Leia were handled better and no longer felt outshone by Zahn's original characters like Mara and Karrde. Even dark Jedi C'Baoth, who I found more annoying in the past, came across as a far more intimidating adversary this time around. Yes, if there was any flaw this time around, it was that the ending came a little too abruptly, but it was hard to get too upset about that, considering it was so artistically done!Above is another example of something artistically done! Forget that overrated Mona Lisa drawing...as far as I'm concerned, THIS is true artwork!!!
Exciting, intelligent, and most of all, FUN!!! "The Last Command"
is the best book in an amazing 3-novel series. To anyone who ever enjoyed the Star Wars universe, this trilogy is a must read. And if, like myself, you ever found yourself wondering why you ever liked Star Wars so much in the first place, this trilogy will make you realize that your original love of Star Wars wasn't just the result of some Jedi mind-trick...