SWG: How'd you like that book? Star Wars: Choices of One

Timothy Zahn has written some of the best SW fiction I've read. His novels have traditionally focused around a certain cast of characters: the characters you know and love from the movies, and his own iconic characters, such as Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Gilad Pellaeon. His most recent SW book takes place shortly after Episode IV, and three months after the events of Star Wars: Allegiance, another one of Zahn's, which introduced us to some new characters of his: a stormtrooper squad with patriotism, ethics, and backbones of steel. This new book is loosely a sequel to Allegiance, and I'm glad I've read it.

So, Star Wars Geek, how'd you like...

Star Wars: Choices of One

When I saw that Choices of One had come out, and that it would follow Allegiance, I was excited to see Zahn in action again. Allegiance was a fun title, and an excellent stand alone novel. It featured Mara Jade, and the big four[1. Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie.], and five new characters who are stormtroopers.

I expected something similar from Choices of One. What I got instead made my day. Choices of One has all the Zahn favorites, tieing in Outbound Flight and the original Thrawn Trilogy. It was great to see all the characters becoming the characters I knew they'd be. It really was one of the most pleasurable parts of reading this story, was to see the transitions happening.

Luke Skywalker, for instance, blew up the first Death Star only 9 months previously, and he is still wet around the ears, a naive farm boy who's fighting more from idealism than people. Mara Jade is the Emperor's Hand, coolly dispatching Imperial justice. Thrawn is a Senior Captain. Pellaeon is a Commander, the third bridge officer of the Chimaera. Han is still a hot head who wants to get his way, and Leia still isn't sure if she hates him. Conversely, we also get to see a little of Jorj Car'das well after his appearance in Outbound Flight, now older and in a state of crisis.

It's a tough thing to do, I think, to set up so many character relationships between major turning points in them. The characters still need to start the way we last saw them in Episode IV, but not develop any more than they are when we see them again in Episode V. Maybe develop is the wrong word, though, because what Zahn manages to do is use these characters to make a great drama where we can feel something has happened with these characters in more subtle ways as well as letting us get to know them better.

All in all, while I wouldn't recommend this book to someone fresh to the SW EU[2. Star Wars Expanded Universe], I think it's a 5 out of 5 must read for the SW EU fan, and is a great addition to Thrawn's lore.

{Continued with spoilers below fold}.

One of the most exciting aspects of the book for me was seeing Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker come so close to bumping into each other, when they aren't supposed to meet for the first time until much later, during the first book of the Thrawn Trilogy, Heir to the Empire. The chance that they'd really meet was dangled repeatedly, and that tension was almost too much for me.

It got my heart pounding in the way of a devoted geek.

However, for all the subtlety of how that situation was handled, I felt the opposite about Thrawn's motives in acting. They were very plainly laid out in this text for the first time in universe, and I found that it brushed a little bit of the enigmatic charm that Thrawn has always held for me away.

It was stated by Zahn as an author while the New Jedi Order was still being written that Thrawn's actions were because he wanted to see a strong, unified central government so that an unknown threat (read: the Yuuzhan Vong) could be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

So I have understood that to be his position for many a year now, but he never actually came out and said it, because he never explained himself, really. That's where the whole 'he's an enigmatic genius' thing comes from.

Still, I guess it gives credulity to the argument to make it in universe, and it was made in a privet conversation in the book, not like he stood on a grandstand and told the universe.

That being my only complaint, I otherwise found the book to be a fun, action packed adventure. And while I did mention that the Big Four couldn't really develop much, and that Mara remained a bit static as well, the stormtroopers were held back by no such restrictions, so we get to see them further change and develop, and see Thrawn and Pellaeon reaching for the people they will very soon be.

My suggestion, in the end, is that anyone interested in reading Zahn's SW works should consider reading this book last, or at least after they've read the Thrawn Trilogy, Outbound Flight, and Allegiance.

Happy reading, and may the Force be with you,

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek