Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review: The Last Command, by Timothy Zahn

New York: Bantam Books, 1993, pp. 407.

As the third and final volume of Zahn's Thrawn trilogy opens, Thrawn's using the Katana Fleet to throw the New Republic on the defensive--while his power struggle with Joruus C'boath continues to escalate.

It is a promising beginning.

Still, the book does not quite succeed in bringing its various threads together. Granted, the course of events is logical enough, even providing a payoff to the Noghri subplot that comprised so much of the prior two books. However, the Imperial raid shutting down traffic in and out of Coruscant, and Talon Karrde's intrigues, do not add very much to the interest of the whole, and feel as if they could have been cut out of the story with only minimal modification.

More problematically, the climax--which has Han and company tramping through the forest on the way to a potentially war-deciding special forces action against a key Imperial facility, and Luke in a light saber duel before an Imperial throne against an enemy in whom he has seen himself--suffers by comparison with the Battle of Endor it so strongly evokes. Part of the problem is the diffuseness of this section of the story, Admiral Ackbar again leading a fleet into action, but doing so very far away from the Battle for Mount Tantiss, in what is frankly a separate action. This separation extends to Thrawn's denouement which, while appropriate in certain of its essentials, lacks dramatic flair and ends up feeling nearly incidental.

In the end the events of the trilogy appear to have been just a mopping-up operation that had some hairy moments after all--and Thrawn a footnote to Galactic history. The result is that the book does not pack quite the punch that might have been hoped for, and even seems a letdown in light of the series' earlier promise, but still manages to entertain, while setting the stage for later adventures.

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