A Long Time Ago: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

 

Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy was both a new start for the Star Wars universe and a continuation of tradition. It exists as a bridge, combining what we know and love about the original trilogy and what we would come to love in future novels.

 

Like the Star Wars trilogy, the Thrawn trilogy starts each story on a Star Destroyer, travels across the galaxy, visits both dens of iniquity and centers of power, and ends the second story on a cliffhanger, with the enemies having the upper hand, ready for a final confrontation in Part 3.

 

What? It’s a trilogy, that’s not a spoiler.

 

One new thing the trilogy introduces is the titles. While the Star Wars films are titled after pulp novels, the Thrawn trilogy and the vast majority of subsequent novels have multi-tiered titles, that can be applied to several subjects within the story. For example, in the previous novel, Heir to the Empire, the title could be applied to Grand Admiral Thrawn, warlord of the Empire, Gilad Pellaeon, past and future human ruler of the Empire, Joruus C’baoth, heir to the mystical side of the Empire (at least, as far as anybody understood in 1991), Mara Jade, one of the Emperor’s few surviving apprentices, and even the New Republic, heir to the Empire’s position in the galaxy.

 

Dark Force Rising has a more literal title- “Dark Force” being another name for the Katana fleet, but even without the fleet having been obviously named to match this, it still applies to both Joruus C’baoth and the Imperial Remnant rising in strength. While admittedly nowhere near as strong or game-changing a title as Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising is still an effective title, on the level with Empire Strikes Back for indicating the enemy’s rise to power.

 

Dark Force Rising follows all of the protagonists of Heir to the Empire; that is to say, Luke and Han, Leia and Chewbacca, Thrawn and Pellaeon, and Karrde and Mara. Even Lando makes relevant contributions to the plot, this time spending time as Luke’s sidekick and even helping Luke to identify a minor character who will play a role in major plot events during the novel.

 

Luke himself finds himself in the center of the plot, as usual. He makes his way to Joruus C’baoth before being pulled away by Mara Jade to pay back a favor he owes Talon Karrde: break him out of an Imperial cell. Throwbacks to Dagobah and the Death Star at the same time? You betcha, but each one has a twist.

 

It’s for this reason that Talon Karrde is willing to disclose the next major plot device: the Dark Force, a fleet of prototype ships that were lost in space years ago. Upon hearing the name, anybody paying close attention to the novel is aware that the fleet is going to find its way back to civilized space, but that doesn’t mean there’s not suspense until the last minute over whose hands the fleet is going to end up in.

 

Needless to say, this novel is jam-packed with action, foreshadowing, metaphors, call-backs, and of course, new characters. Borsk Fey’lya, Garm Bel Iblis, and even Counselor Leia Organa are all placed in the roles that they would hold for a decade or more, as our heroes and villains alike move seamlessly through the story toward our final conclusion in The Last Command.

 

Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy was both a new start for the Star Wars universe and a continuation of tradition. It exists as a bridge, combining what we know and love about the original trilogy and what we would come to love in future novels.

Like the Star Wars trilogy, the Thrawn trilogy starts each story on a Star Destroyer, travels across the galaxy, visits both dens of iniquity and centers of power, and ends the second story on a cliffhanger, with the enemies having the upper hand, ready for a final confrontation in Part 3.

What? It’s a trilogy, that’s not a spoiler.

One new thing the trilogy introduces is the titles. While the Star Wars films are titled after pulp novels, the Thrawn trilogy and the vast majority of subsequent novels have multi-tiered titles, that can be applied to several subjects within the story. For example, in the previous novel, Heir to the Empire, the title could be applied to Grand Admiral Thrawn, warlord of the Empire, Gilad Pellaeon, past and future human ruler of the Empire, Joruus C’baoth, heir to the mystical side of the Empire (at least, as far as anybody understood in 1991), Mara Jade, one of the Emperor’s few surviving apprentices, and even the New Republic, heir to the Empire’s position in the galaxy.

Dark Force Rising has a more literal title- “Dark Force” being another name for the Katana fleet, but even without the fleet having been obviously named to match this, it still applies to both Joruus C’baoth and the Imperial Remnant rising in strength. While admittedly nowhere near as strong or game-changing a title as Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising is still an effective title, on the level with Empire Strikes Back for indicating the enemy’s rise to power.

Dark Force Rising follows all of the protagonists of Heir to the Empire; that is to say, Luke and Han, Leia and Chewbacca, Thrawn and Pellaeon, and Karrde and Mara. Even Lando makes relevant contributions to the plot, this time spending time as Luke’s sidekick and even helping Luke to identify a minor character who will play a role in major plot events during the novel.

Luke himself finds himself in the center of the plot, as usual. He makes his way to Joruus C’baoth before being pulled away by Mara Jade to pay back a favor he owes Talon Karrde: break him out of an Imperial cell. Throwbacks to Dagobah and the Death Star at the same time? You betcha, but each one has a twist.

It’s for this reason that Talon Karrde is willing to disclose the next major plot device: the Dark Force, a fleet of prototype ships that were lost in space years ago. Upon hearing the name, anybody paying close attention to the novel is aware that the fleet is going to find its way back to civilized space, but that doesn’t mean there’s not suspense until the last minute over whose hands the fleet is going to end up in.

Needless to say, this novel is jam-packed with action, foreshadowing, metaphors, call-backs, and of course, new characters. Borsk Fey’lya, Garm Bel Iblis, and even Counselor Leia Organa are all placed in the roles that they would hold for a decade or more, as our heroes and villains alike move seamlessly through the story toward our final conclusion in The Last Command.

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