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THE LAST COMMAND

A novel by Timothy Zahn (1993, Bantam Spectra)
Book 3 of the Grand Admiral Thrawn Trilogy
9 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

As Thrawn lays siege to Coruscant, Luke, Han and Leia attempt to destroy the Imperial cloning facility and the insane Jedi Master.

 

 

+

Read March 14th to 20th, 2005 for the second time  
    A good story, but one that is ultimately disappointing in many respects.

I like Thrawn's character, but his prescient abilities got worse through Dark Force Rising and then especially into this book. There is no way the author could make me believe that Thrawn could predict the New Republic's attack on the Bilbringi shipyards, when all evidence predicted another target. Perhaps he is simply suspicious when things start going exactly as planned, because nothing else in this trilogy has gone as well as this trap. But that kind of thought was not explored -it was simply given to his "genius" as a tactician.

Thrawn is not the only one who gets stray insights that are apparently correct. Where did Leia's intuition about the Force delaying a clone's growth come from? It is a poor way to get her to go to Luke's rescue, especially since she didn't really do anything -and we didn't even get to see her say goodbye to her newborn twins. This is the start of the way she treats her children all through their lives.

Karrde also gets a throwaway line, revealing that his pet vornyskrs hunt via the Force. The clues were presented in the two previous books, but the revelation comes at a very strange time here, and completely out of nowhere. It would have been better to have another demonstration, particularly with a ysalamiri nearby. His pets could have been used better, as well, in the battle with C'boath -they are Force hunters, raw, after all! They should have been more than a simple distraction.

The other disappointing part of the book was the whole C'boath storyline. While the plot seems to take a natural course of events, the insane Jedi Master seems to be more powerful than the Emperor. I do find it amazing that Zahn used tricks that Count Dooku would use in Attack of the Clones, like taking the ceiling down, and that Zahn predicted that Force lightning could be absorbed by a lightsaber!

The most disappointing part of the book, however, is the part that isn't there. The Bilbringi attack feels like it was truncated after Thrawn dies, but there is no real denouement to the trilogy. A small talk between Luke and Mara on Coruscant does not give us closure to any of the storylines. Luke could have asked her to become a Jedi, at least. We could have seen Leia and Han returning to their newborns, thinking at least that their futures were safe for the moment. Fey'lya was left up in the air, though we know that Karrde will continue doing whatever he does.

Despite the many things I can find to complain about in this book, it was very well written, and the characters continued to be drawn consistently and enjoyably. While Pellaeon is nowhere the leader he will become in later books, especially at the end of the New Jedi Order, he is allowed to be weak-minded yet also gains insights into Thrawn's tactics. I don't like the way he can be manipulated by C'boath like a mindless stormtrooper, but I do like that given the chance, he can guess Thrawn's motivations.

The characters that I continue to be most impressed with, however, are Luke and Mara. By the way they interact, I can see the seeds for their later romance. They are not ready yet, but they obviously were written to be a good match. In fact, Mara has grown to be one of my favorite characters, especially within the New Jedi Order. I had trouble seeing her as anything but a Jedi in this book! Despite what she keeps telling herself and others, she is firmly on the side of the New Republic. Her plot inside the Imperial Palace was one of my favorites in this book, avoiding the Imperial assassination and defending Leia and her children. It is a nice twist of fate that Mara ends up telling Leia about Wayland only because of Thrawn's assassination and slander attempt.

Mara's time on Wayland with Luke and the others allows her to grow in the Force, with Luke's training. She resists all the way, but we can see that it is only really a token resistance. I understand why she needed to be the one to kill Luke's clone, but why was she the one to also kill C'boath? That should have been Luke's responsibility. C'boath's real desire, after getting a taste of it coordinating Thrawn's troops, was controlling people. By the end, he had fully crafted a general's mind to his own will. He also finally did what I wondered about in the last book: he killed the ysalamiri that were blinding him to the Force around the storehouse mountain.

As expected, and consistent with the rest of the trilogy, the clone experiments described here actually run counter to what we now know from Attack of the Clones. Mara says that she doesn't want to see clones overrun the galaxy again. As I also said before, however, did anybody actually think the clones were going to be on the side of the Republic -the "good" side, as it were? However, the issue of insane clones does not necessarily run counter to what we have seen. Fast-grown clones are the ones that go insane -who knows how long it took the Kaminoans to grow their clones... I also wonder if Obi-Wan and the others felt the strangeness in the Force that Luke felt from the clones.

Much of the book takes place from Karrde's point of view, as he tries to unite some smugglers into gaining information for the New Republic. This was the part I liked least about the book. In fact, I was mostly bored by it. The attack on the smuggler group at the beginning as they met in a cantina should not have convinced the other smugglers about the Empire's "reputation" at all. They knew the Empire was after Karrde and his friend; they should have expected to get caught in the middle if they met with him. There was no reason at all for them to join together against the Empire, even if it was a setup by Ferrier. The rest of the smuggler antics didn't do anything significant except blow up a Star Destroyer, and give a little help at the battle of Bilbringi.

Speaking of the shipyards, if Pellaeon still had the larger fleet, especially so many Star Destroyers, why did he decide to flee the fight after Thrawn was killed? Yes, he was fighting on two fronts, and the unfinished ships were being attacked, but that means he abandoned them altogether, giving the New Republic that many more ships. Sure, Thrawn could have pulled a victory out of the situation, but was Pellaeon so blind that he could not have salvaged something from it?

The whole Nogrhi setup pays off here, but I still find it quite strange. If they now know that Vader tricked them, why do they still revere him? I suppose he did save their world, if he barely kept it alive after that, and he made them into great warriors. But they have simply replaced Vader with Leia, and by extension, Han and the twins. The final act of Rukh killing Thrawn was terrific justice, however.

In hindsight, I am amazed at how other authors mined the material in this book for use in later books. I wonder how much of this was in the Galaxy Guides and Sourcebooks, though. Moruth Doole is mentioned as running Kessel -a tidbit picked up for use in Jedi Search, for example. It also looks like the author was expecting to write the sequel Hand of Thrawn duology sometime, too. Most importantly, there is the unsolved mystery of why Fey'lya wants the Emperor's storehouse destroyed so badly. I still don't believe that the Bothan secret could have destabilized the New Republic so much, but it is nice to see that it goes back so far. However, I can't see how Thrawn got a cloning tank back to Chiss space for use in Vision of the Future. I can't see Thrawn trusting anybody to transport one, and set a timer for ten years in the future, and there is no way he had time to do it himself.

Finally, another character that didn't get much use until the Hand of Thrawn is Ghent. I really liked his character. Just for kicks, or because he was bored, he slices and makes his own security cards, and so on. Anything to do with computers, he can do. I liked the way he, Leia and Winter discovered Delta Source -the trees lining the Grand Hallway. Pretty cool.

So on a character note, this book was quite well written. In terms of plot, there wasn't too much going on. The siege of Coruscant was a good plan from Thrawn, but most took a back seat to the smuggler's group, which interested me the least. The ending was a bit of a disappointment, but not for the typical reasons. I found it logical, to a certain point, but nowhere near long enough. An extra ten pages would have been nice, to finish off the battle, and give us more closure. Of course, we know what happens next, detailing the events from Dark Empire...

 

 

5 stars

Also read February 22nd to 25th, 1994  
   

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