Spoiler Review: Choices of One

When Mara Jade is tasked with investigating the possible treason of an Imperial Governor, she finds herself in need of the help of the rogue Stormtroopers she encountered three months prior to her assignment: the Hand of Judgment. No one will have an easy task in front of them, including the Rebellion that happens to find themselves in the same system as the Emperor’s Hand.

So… I wanted to like Choices of One. Unlike a lot of other people, I did like Allegiance, even if it was a tad on the generic side; at the very least, it wasn’t as bad as the utter atrocity that was Outbound Flight, so that’s something. Choices of One also features such epic characters as Thrawn, Mara, and Gilad Pellaeon, our favorite Imperials (or, well, Imperial at this time; let’s just disregard your future for this moment, Mrs. Skywalker). Therefore, my excitement and desire to read this book has been steadily climbing as the release has loomed nearer and nearer; Outbound Flight was just a fluke, I’ve assured myself! Zahn couldn’t write something near that level again – no, he wouldn’t.

While I wouldn’t say it was quite as bad as Outbound Flight, however, I can safely say it’s definitely closer to that point than any of the other Star Wars novels I’ve read so far.

But before I go into a rant about just how many bad things there were, I’ll touch on some of the positives. I suppose I can save the complaints on the countless negative points for later.

First, yes, there were lots of really cool characters thrown in. Like I touched on above, no one can deny the fact that people like Mara, Thrawn and Pellaeon are overall really appealing characters, so the fact that they all star in a book is a big thing in Choice of One‘s favor. It’s always good to see these characters in this time frame, when Mara was an Emperor’s Hand to be feared and Thrawn was slowly climbing his way up the ranks in the Empire (as was Gilad). Mara in particular was in fact the best part of the whole thing, I imagine because Zahn loves writing her so much (ah, authors with their pet characters).

The action was also very well done, but seeing as how that’s always been a strong part of Zahn’s writing, that came as no surprise. You’ll get a healthy dose of firefights, lightsaber combat, and space battles all wrapped up in one package with Choices of One, definitely satisfying my need for some good action. In fact, it starts pretty much immediately with one of said space battles, and while this certain aspect of combat isn’t necessarily my favorite – just check out my X-wing reviews to see my opinion on those – it’s still satisfying for the inner space jockey in you.

Honestly though… That’s all I got as far as positives go. Really. Everything else was extremely lacking – to say the least. So let’s get started with the negativity! Yay!

First off, this is probably the most predictable SW novel I’ve read in, well… ever. There were two main twists in the book involving a Rebel and Nuso Esva that were supposed to be shocking, but did they actually have that effect? Nope. The betrayal from a certain character was pretty predictable, and the one regarding Nuso Esva… Well, let’s just say that I had it called about 150 pages before the big revelation. That’s really bad. Also? It doesn’t help that you practically give away the biggest supposedly shocking twist in the DP, guys. Avoid that from now on.

Yes, everything about the plot seemed obvious and cliché, but hey – if the execution was good, that could be okay, right? It may even make up for it if you can at least enjoy the ride for what it is. But no; I couldn’t muster up any excitement as I read Choices of One because you never feel any urgency in Zahn’s way of writing. It all feels very laid back and ho-hum.

Of course, this could be contributed to the fact that every single character you care halfway about you know survives the book; Thrawn, Luke, Leia, Han, Mara, Pellaeon… This is one of the only books where involving characters you know survive in the future actually brings it down a considerable amount. Think of novels such as Luke Skywalker and the Shadow of Mindor or Wild Space; these were fantastic novels, something fans could thoroughly enjoy even if they knew the majority of starring characters were going to live past the book. That’s pretty much completely in part due to the fact that those novels were written exceptionally well; you felt excitement at the plot, worry for the characters even though you knew that they would ultimately survive. Not in the case of Choices of One, however; not only was the book itself suffering from the major lull of boredom, but with all the characters being ones you knew would survive… Well, the end result wasn’t preferable.

I can’t ignore the main characters that we didn’t know the ultimate fates of, though: The Hand of Judgment, renegade Stormtroopers who decided in Allegiance to desert their posts in the Empire and deal out their own version of justice to the galaxy when they found people in need. One of the main things I remember about Allegiance (which, admittedly, isn’t much; I enjoyed it, but it didn’t stick out as anything special whatsoever so a lot of the specific story points are a blur) was that, as many people have complained about, none of the Stormtroopers ever had a unique personality; really, they all could have been the exact same character – they just had different weapons. So a big factor of Choices of One was whether or not this was improved upon, and even though I have a lot of complaints about this book, I have to say that this is one factor that was slightly improved upon from Allegiance. While I wouldn’t say that they went all out with making each rogue Imperial their own super unique character, there were certain little quirks I noticed that were specific to one character; like I said, nothing major, but enough to make some difference in that aspect, helping to make their plot one of the more enjoyable ones of the whole book.

Past any painfully predictable moments the novel has, though, and past the extreme boredom you will undoubtedly suffer when you’re reading it, there are moments that simply don’t make sense, either. Take, for example, the whole freakin’ Mara Jade plot. Or, more specifically, her sort-of-but-not-quite meetings with Luke Skywalker, her future husband. First off, stop trying to purposefully stretch the boundaries of canon, authors. It’s getting old. Second, did Mara lose a whole level of common sense just so she wouldn’t put two and two together and mess up canon? There’s someone she’s working with who’s named Skywalker, but of course, there are apparently a LOT of Skywalkers in the galaxy (no, for real!) so, hey, he might not be the one Vader’s hunting. Fair enough, I guess. Way too convenient, but I’ll go with it. Then, however, they had to make it REALLY stupid and have Luke use a lightsaber literally right in front of Mara, but for some reason, despite the fact that this is a pretty damn obvious sign that it is, in fact, the Skywalker Vader’s looking for, she disregards it anyway because really, what are the chances it’s him? So I guess apparently a lot of people with the name of Skywalker have lightsabers. Lulz. Sure, Choices of One. Sure.

Mara was generally the best part of the book, however, often going into major badass territory; sure, a little too badass perhaps (and let’s not forget her “skin tight” combat suits. Oh, Zahn, you do love to write her as a shameless sex bunny with how she dresses and looks) but I prefer that over her being lame and powerless, at least.

No one can deny the fact that the Thrawn books were some of the best books that have ever graced the EU, and for that reason alone, Timothy Zahn will have a special place in all of our nerdy, Star Wars loving hearts. But – despite the fact that I hate to say it – he’s really losing his touch with his recent works, now being guilty of writing my two least favorite SW books (Choices of One and, well… the other one we won’t mention. No, Outbound Flight, YOU GO STAY IN THAT CORNER WHERE YOU BELONG). Would I recommend this novel? Well…. no, actually. I’m usually not that harsh with novels considering how much of a book worm I am (I tend to read anything I can get my hands on), but this is one of the cases where it’s necessary, unfortunately. The only way I would say go ahead and read it is if you really, really liked Allegiance and can get a great deal on this one, but don’t pay full price for it. Maybe hold out for one of those nifty 30% off coupons book stores have sometimes.

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