Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heir to the Empire

Title: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
Author: Timothy Zahn
Published: 1991

I was reading this at work one day last week and my manager walked by. "Aaron," he said, "do you really need to perpetuate your own stereotype?"

"What stereotype is that?" I asked, not sure what he meant, exactly.

"A Star Wars book?" he asked, and laughed. I think his implication is that I'm kind of a geek. The kind of guy who plays video games and reads comic books. Granted, these things are true of me, but I don't think that it should necessarily be a negative thing that I like Star Wars or Playstation. And, may I remind my boss that his ringtone is the theme from Superman. Who's the geek now?!

For the record, this is the first time I've picked up a Star Wars novel in years. I was still living in Virginia the last time I read one. I'm never really sure if I ever want to get into these books that comprise what's known as the expanded universe. These are books that Star Wars fans have come to embrace as canon, despite the fact that the events occur outside of George Lucas' movies.

Heir to the Empire isn't the first novel to bring fans into this expanded universe, but it was the first of a wave of novels that has only grown more popular and has grown in the number of books published ever since. This one came out in (year?) when I was in middle school. I remember seeing it in the public library and being kind of excited. I checked it out because the back cover promised the continuing saga of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. But, at the time, I wasn't the reader that I would eventually grow into.

To a kid in middle school, reading becomes a chore. Even if it is something as awesome as Star Wars. I know that's not true for every middle school kid, but in my experience, those 7th graders that love to read are hard to come by. I got a few chapters into this novel and took it back to the library. My thought was, why read Star Wars when I have Empire Strikes Back on video tape?

Years passed. More than a decade passed. We've entered a new millenium and we now live in a world where Star Wars prequels exist and define the series for a generation. I had friends in college who shared a love for Star Wars. It was a love, but not an unhealthy obsession, and I think it's important to make that distinction. These friends convinced me that some of these books are really good and are well worth the read. So I've read a few, but I've never come back to the Timothy Zahn books that kick started the franchise on the literary level.

Until now. Heir to the Empire is the first part of a trilogy that takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Emperor is dead. The Death Star is destroyed. The Empire is in tatters. But the remants of the once galactic superpower are now being led by the mysterious Grand Admiral Thrawn. He's organizing what's left of the imperial forces to strike back, once again, at the Rebellion, now running the show as the New Republic.

Zahn introduces several characters who play an important role in the lives of our heroes. Mara Jade, I've heard, plays a very important role in Luke Skywalker's life for many years to come. As for the other new characters, like Grand Admiral Thrawn and smuggler Tallon Karde, who seem to be great characters, but I have no clue as to whether they survive the rest of the trilogy. Do they go on to have a part in other books by other authors? Guess I'll find out at some point.

I'm glad I gave this book another shot. It was pretty good and I look forward to the next two books in the trilogy, if only to find out if Thrawn's plans are thwarted. I have a pretty good feeling that they will be. I mean, who writes a Star Wars story and lets the bad guys win in the end? Things might look bleak at the end of part 2, but I'm confident that Luke will save the galaxy by the end of part 3.

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