I just finished Air by Geoff Ryman and loved it. I want to dive right into another book, which brings me to Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, my first Star Wars extended universe novel. Going into this, I know absolutely nothing except that Leia is pregnant with twins and there’ll be someone named Mara Jade.

I will notate using percentage, since my ebook reader app of choice, Stanza, measures with arbitrary pages and with percents. Each 1% represents about four pages.


Okay, this is very tell-y. I’m already hitting paragraph upon paragraph of expository narration. Had this not come so highly recommended, I’d probably be giving up on it soon.


Thrawn and Pellaeon, our Imperial villains, are introduced first-thing. I don’t know either of them, and they’re such unappealing clichés that I’m not drawn to them. When they bring in Luke Skywalker and other characters I know, maybe it’ll get better.


Wow, Luke is still just as whiny as ever and they had Obi Wan show up in a dream for some pointless cheerleading. This isn’t looking very promising.


Never mind! I take it all back! The book is now saved! C-3PO has appeared! Surely this will now become an incredible adventure!

Luke is drinking something that Lando, the Galaxy’s Only Black Man, taught him to make. What is this mysterious, alien beverage?

Hot chocolate.

This place is strong with the dark side. Yoda had said that of the cave on Dagobah – the cave where Luke had gone on to fight a lightsaber duel with a Darth Vader who had turned out to be Luke himself.

Now you know why I prefer to skip expository narration.


Okay, I thought I’d be fascinated by the descriptions of pregnant Leia and talk of her unborn twins, but the book is including a disturbing amount of detail about her digestive troubles.

So apparently, in this galaxy far far away, they have milk (of what animal?), chocolate, and crackers. Of course, I also bitch that it has humans and that humans are the dominant players in all galactic affairs, so maybe pointing out the Terran food is nitpicking.

If Leia and her servant talk about pregnancy and then about Luke, does at least the first part count as passing the Bechdel Test?


Apparently, even in a novel, we don’t get to hear what Chewbacca’s dialog means. As in the movies, he growls and other people respond.

[Han, of the Empire:] “. . . our people are more motivated and a lot better trained than theirs.”

Wait, what? First off, I know losing Palpatine and Darth Vader was a huge de-motivational blow to the Empire, but you’re trying to tell me that there was no one in the galaxy scary enough to fill their spots? (Don’t say ‘Thrawn'; he hasn’t proven himself yet.) As for training, what happened to the legions of cloned, military-trained Stormtroopers? I know they shoot for shit, but at least they’re trained.

From the other smuggler’s dialog, I think we’re supposed to believe that Thrawn, mincing Risk fanatic that he is, will become the new Emperor Palpatine, making him the titular heir to the Empire. Allow me to put forth my most sarcastic Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

“Oh, by the way. You might tell your pal over there that he’s got to be the worst excuse for a backup man I’ve ever seen.”

YOU DON’T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT CHEWBA– Oh he meant some new character whom we’ll probably never see again.


Also, they’ve got a guy who can as good as turn invisible in order to spy on people. I guarantee this will never come up again.

Ah, Mara Jade Pinkett Smith just arrived. Finally, a non-movies character I’ve heard of. Maybe she’ll be original and interesti–

. . . with her usual catlike grace Mara Jade walked into the room.

. . . “Then there’s your talent for starship piloting, your ability to both give and accept orders . . . and your ability to adapt to unusual and unexpected situations.”

She’s also got green, “cool and measuring” eyes and red-gold hair. Next we’ll find out about how she shops at Hot Topic and all the boys want her so bad omg lol.


Here’s the difference between Darth Vader and Thrawn. If Darth Vader’s ship suddenly appeared in orbit around your planet, you would piss yourself, shit yourself, pray to your many profane alien gods, and then practice going down on both knees and begging for mercy. And that’s if you were just an innocent civilian.

A smuggler king’s reaction to the news that Thrawn has come within range?

“Interesting. Have they made any transmissions?”


For fun, I’m going to post a reaction photo at every ten percent mark. Here’s how I feel right now:

Not only is Mara Jade a ‘talented leader’, she gives herself away with obvious facial expressions (that the narrator redundantly points out to us). As a bonus, she has mysterious connections to Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, the late Emperor, and the Death Star!

I must have skipped some exposition, because they’re talking about ‘ysalamiri’, which I gather is used against Jedi.

As the chapter closes, the narrator points out that Mara obviously hates Luke Skywalker. Funny, because I obviously hate her. In fact, her new name is Mary Sue Pinkett Smith.


So we’re on an alien planet with mysterious primitives and a surprise Dark Master. And it’s all so boring. How do you make this boring? How do you manage to take Dark Jedi and Imperial Admirals and exotic planets and make it so damn boring?


So far, the Imperial party has almost been shot three times (twice with crossbows, once with force lightning). Each time, Pellaeon is so slow on the draw that they would have been killed if not for body armor, those ysalamiri things, or the hospitality of a Dark Lord. Plus, in the first scene of the book, Thrawn was the one who repelled the Rebel attack while Pellaeon sat with his thumb up his ass. Somebody remind me how this dumbass got to be in charge of a silverware drawer, let alone an Imperial ship.


It occurs to me that this is a lot like the prequels: Less doing, more talking and talking and talking. I hope that when we get to some action, it’s not as pointless as those in the worst three movies.

I should note that I feel justified in comparing this book to Episodes IV, V, and VI, because this is meant to imitate them in tone. Remember that this was published in 1991, half a decade before the prequels premiered, so as my mate put it, “You can’t blame this one on Jar Jar.”

Borg-implanted‘ made me scream ‘Star Trek reference?’ until I remembered that it’s short for ‘cyborg’. Nonetheless, still an awkward usage.


Now there’s a huge chunk of bad guys navel-gazing about why they should serve each other and strategy and blah blah blah blah. And then, finally, we get past that and they go exploring in the alien mountains and, supposedly, find the technology they were looking for (which had been hidden by Emperor Palpatine before his death). I say ‘supposedly’ because we get two paragraphs about it, chapter end.


I’m now also skimming dialog that is clearly meant only for exposition. A good example is the epilogue to that chapter, in which Pellaeon and Thrawn go on and on and on about how their new Dark Master sidekick is a clone or some other shit I really can’t bring myself to care about.

Note that this conversation does nothing new to establish the two characters’ personalities. Pellaeon is still timid, unimaginative, and not Empire officer material; Thrawn is still a mincing, boring, bland, boring pile of vanilla pudding.

Scene change; Han Solo is back. Maybe this will get interes- Nope, never mind, this is just more expository dialog. Everyone, even Han Solo, sounds like the boss from Office Space.

Oh, my God. We’re sitting around a table, with military leaders and Han Solo and Princess Leia all gathered, and we’re talking about trade routes and smugglers and economics. I’m having really bad Phantom Menace flashbacks.

Quick, let’s make references to cool parts of the movies, like the Battle of Endor. Maybe the mere memory of something interesting happening will keep the reader going.

Han Solo bitches that they’ll have to go to some boring summit with aliens and use C-3PO as a translator and just talk and talk and talk. I hope for Timothy Zahn’s sake that he realizes how appropriate this is.


[Leia:] “The Bimms are very friendly people . . . There won’t be any trouble.”

Please, please, please, can I have some irony?


Thank you, sweet baby Jesus: Something interesting is happening.


So Luke allowed himself to be separated from Han and Leia (wow, that was smart); he’s attacked while Han and Leia are ambushed. This results in lots of cool fight scenes and escaping (ever since around 17%).

And then this happens:

Forcing his way through the crowd, using the Bimms for visual cover as much as he could, Luke started around the attackers’ circle.

Between his lightsaber and the Falcon’s swivel blaster, they made a very fast, very clean sweep of it.

[scene break]

“You,” Luke said with a shake of his head, “are a mess.”

“I’m sorry, Master Luke,” Threepio apologized . . . [it’s revealed that they’re back on the Falcon]

I have not cut anything from that. That is honestly the end of one scene and the beginning of another. We go from a lightsaber battle and pregnant!Leia/Han getting swarmed by enemies, and then, “Welp, we got away, time for wacky hijinks with Threepio!” The first interesting, Star Wars-y part of the book grinds to a screeching halt because actually showing them escaping would be relevant and fun and good pacing.

Beside Luke, Artoo twittered something.

rockets sitll broken, but Luke is taking tiem out of day to clean webbing off Gaypio @FML

And then, minutes after barely escaping this dangerous attack, Leia insists that they should go back immediately and finish the diplomatic mission. Not leave and come back with soldiers for protection. Not wait a week until things cool down on the planet and the people have forgotten about how they shot up their marketplace during the escape. Not launch an investigation into who bribed the Bimm who betrayed them. No, we should blunder back in. Does being pregnant make you stupid?

It’s not even like this is a crucial mission. I skipped a lot of exposition, so maybe the Bimm have some amazing artifact or lots of money or something. Without knowing that, this looks like a minor Sunday chore that could be taken care of by someone other than the three most important people in the Rebellion. Don’t give me this shit about how the Bimm hero-worship; if they did, the one Bimm wouldn’t have betrayed them.

Oh! Thank you again, baby Jesus. Han Solo is smart enough to jump to light speed in order to go get some ships for backup before returning.


[Luke:] ” . . . As far as I can tell, nearly all the Jedi of the Old Republic carried lightsabers, even those who were primarily healers or teachers.”

Thus Yoda’s lightsaber in the prequels is justified in advance. Thanks for your foresight, Timothy Zahn; it is thanks to you that a bouncing, sword-fighting muppet has entered our cultural consciousness.

Chapter 8

For a long minute Grand Admiral Thrawn sat in his chair



Me: “So now we’re back with Thrawn and Pellaeon talking about . . . something.” My mate: “Well THANK FUCKING GOD!”

They’re setting up a future fight between C’baoth and Luke Skywalker and it is so obvious that Luke will beat him within five minutes that my not-caring is reaching painful levels.


[Akbar, defending Han Solo’s decision to bug out of the Bimmisaari mission:] “Captain Solo’s duty at that point was abundantly clear: to protect the ambassador in his charge and to return safely to alert us.”

[Fey’la, head of Rebellion counsel or something:] “Alert us to what? . . . I don’t understand what exactly this threat is we’re supposedly facing. Whoever these gray-skinned beings were, they clearly weren’t considered important enough by the Old Senate to even be included in the records. I doubt a race that insignificant is likely to be capable of mounting a major offensive against us.”

  1. You don’t understand the threat . . . so you don’t care? You don’t think it’s important that Han Solo brought the news to you? You don’t want to investigate further?
  2. As Leia points out, they might have been excluded from the records due to an oversight or even deliberate erasure. (She gets to wear the ‘uh, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh‘ hat.) Now, you might think that these records are perfect and can never be tampered with. That is, unless you know anything about history, in which case you know that about forty years previously, Palpatine had managed to keep an entire goddamn clone-factory-planet hidden from the Senate and Jedi Counsel by simply erasing an entry in the records.
  3. Okay, say there’s only a few of them and they can’t mount a major offensive against the Rebellion. Say that they have nothing to do with the Empire. They still almost captured/killed your head ambassador, best captain, and the last Jedi master in the galaxy. You should look into it.

How, how, how, how did this dumbass get on the Rebellion counsel?  He is the Pellaeon of the Rebellion.

[Ackbar:] “We’re going to need tighter security for these missions, obviously.”

[Fey’postrophe:] “All of which will cost that much more time and effort.”

My mate: So, he doesn’t want to go a little out of his way to make sure the next ambassadorial party doesn’t all come back dead?

Me: No, no, no. Hold on. Fuck’la has a point. We’re already expending too much resources on these missions. Leia, I know these missions are important, since they help us gain allies. However, we can’t have you taking ships to the planets anymore.

Leia: . . . What?

Me: I want you to teleport there using your brain.

Leia: You mean the Force?

Me: What? You think we’ve got lots of Force just sitting around? I want you to do it using your brain.

My mate: So now you want her to use precious brain teleportation resources on this? No, here’s what we need to do: Leia, I want you to stand in one spot, very still, and wish very hard that the alien species will side with us. While you’re at it, make the Empire stop being so evil and stuff.

Me: We’re still thinking too small. While we’re needlessly standing around wishing for things to happen, we’re digesting food and breathing precious oxygen. We can cut down our resource usage even more.

My mate: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Me and my mate: YES!


Earlier, Thrawn implied to Pellaeon that, before Palpatine’s death, the Emperor had been subtly Force-controlling the entire Empire’s military to make them more motivated and efficient. Modern day: Jumping a certain way in hyperspace is dangerous and hard to do. For the past year, Pellaeon has argued with Thrawn against doing it, but Thrawn has them do it so often that it’s now routine. Despite it being so difficult, they’ve apparently succeeded every time so far, without crashing the ship into a sun or something.

So is this sloppy writing (the jumps aren’t as dangerous as the narration is trying to convince us) or is Thrawn controlling his men using hidden Jedi powers? Alternatively, has Thrawn been in league with C’boath all along and had the old man controlling his troops for a year or more?


C’baoth warned him . . . “I grow tired of waiting.”

Thrawn threw a glance at Pellaeon, a quietly smoldering look in his glowing red eyes. “As do we all,” he said quietly.

Far ahead of the freighter Wild Karrde

(I’ll stop linking everything to tropes now; I’ve given you the kick-starter examples, you can look up the rest yourself.)

Now, at last, we see the triumphant return of Mary Sue Pinkett Smith. Let’s see what dazzling originality she’s adapted in the last 15% of the book.

Wait a second, the whole escort thing that Karrde arranged with Thrawn . . . never came to anything. Thrawn reached the planet, met C’boath, got his treasures (off-screen) and then left. Wait, no, that was later. This is getting so confusing.

And scene over. Apparently we just had to have a scene with Mary Sue talking to Karrde, even though nothing happens in it.


Han interrupts Luke training Leia and says they need to go to the Unpronounceable system, which the Empire attacked in the previous chapter, to assess the damage.

[Luke said,] “I’d better come along.”

Han looked at Leia. “Well, actually . . . you can’t.”

. . . Leia explained, “the Bpfasshi don’t like Jedi.”

  1. “Dude, my sister is pregnant and already almost died this week. I’m coming whether they like it or not.”
  2. “Dude, they just got attacked by the Empire. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
  3. “Dude, Leia is a Jedi, albeit a padawan. Are they going to be fine with her just because she can’t yet beat a training remote while blindfolded?”

Nonetheless, they decide to leave without Luke.


. . . the tingling in Leia’s mind abruptly exploded into certain knowledge. “Han, Wedge, duck!”

–and at the rim of the crater a handful of well-remembered gray-skinned aliens appeared.

They’ve got Han, Leia, and some unnamed guy taking cover. The Millennium Falcon flies over and lowers a ramp to Han’s group, but then the group figures out that the Falcon isn’t shooting their enemies and Leia can’t feel Chewbacca’s presence on the ship. Han takes a glance at the ship and immediately figures out that it’s not his ship but one of the same model. It’s a trap.

There is so much that is slightly wrong about this: The amount of planning that no doubt went into this ambush and trick, how close the group comes to falling for it and yet the speed with which they figure it out . . .


At least their escape is sort of cool so far. Any scene involving Han + a light saber is okay in my book.


Excitement over. Leia and Han are talking about Akbar and Fail’a, and as we all know, a scene in which two characters talk exposition about a third (or fourth!) is a crock of shit.

My face! :D :D :D :D


Back with Luke headed for Dagobah (thanks to a handy tip dropped earlier by Han Solo).

“Hang on, Artoo,” Luke called . . .

There was an affirmative twitter from the rear, the translation appearing across his computer scope.


Beside him, Artoo twittered a question.

This is when I realize that I’ve used all two of the internet’s Twitter jokes.


I thought Luke understands R2D2, just as Han Solo understands Chewbacca. Yet in this, it’s obvious that if he doesn’t have a translator, he’s just guessing what the little robot means. Am I misremembering his abilities or is this a plot hole?


Here’s the difference between Darth Vader and Mary Sue Pinkett Smith: When Luke enters the cave on Dagobah and Darth Vader shows up wordlessly to fight him, it’s yet another pants-crapping moment. I’ve been LARPing when lich lords and hardened enemy commanders were coming at us (sometimes at me alone), so I know that feeling.

When Luke enters the cave on Dagobah and has a dream about the Hutt barge from Return of the Jedi, and it breaks canon by having Mary Sue take Luke’s lightsaber so that they’ll all get thrown into the sarlacc pit, I don’t care.


In one of his rare intelligent moves, Han Solo refuses to ‘slave’ the Falcon to another (I assume this would entail the two ships getting synced and the master being able to control the slave’s systems). Finally, after all the traps they’ve blundered into, he’s being cautious.

An unidentified ship is approaching, and there’s a really tense bit where Han is wondering if it’s an Imperial attacker, and then it turns out to be Luke. This actually got a sigh of relief from me.


‘Atmosphere’ and ‘mood’ came up in an unrelated conversation on writing last night. Now, the original Star Wars trilogy had a certain mood about it that was similar to old adventure serials, with exotic locales and dangerous characters. The prequels lost a lot of that in very subtle ways, and this book (while published before the prequels) suffers the same problem. With rare exceptions, there’s no sensation of a vast, explorable galaxy, and even the well-known main characters are shallow. Don’t try to tell me that you can’t have the same effect in the written word; plenty of books manage it.

In the original trilogy, would there have been a thirty-second bit with Han and Leia talking about mining machines?

Just because a novel can be the equivalent of 200 hours long doesn’t mean it should be.


“Imperial Star Destroyer,” Lando said quietly. “Coming in fast toward the planetary shadow.”

Alright, this actually got an ‘oh shit’ out of me. Let’s see how long this welcome bit of tension lasts.

Whenever Luke mentions doing ‘not the Dark Side, but you can see it from there’ Jedi actions like mind-screwing people and losing time, I get a sort of Harry Dresden feel. (This is a good thing.)

Thrawn sure retreats quickly from fights. This is the second or third time the bad guys have shown up, gotten some wounds, and high-tailed it within minutes. Of course, he’ll explain at length that it’s all part of his master plan, but I’m skipping boring expository dialog, so I’ll probably never know.

He stole some mining machines, I think. Don’t ask me how nobody noticed that during the battle; maybe C’boath was cloaking them.


Does Timothy Zahn realize that you can get things across in less than a full page of dialog? He’s got Thrawn and Pellaeon blathering on and on about C’boath and their plans. Darth Vader’s idea of a plan blather was “Commander, tear this ship apart until you find those plans! And bring me all passengers, I want them alive!” Congratulations, ten terrifying seconds and we know what he wants. None of this simpering, mincing bullshit.


When we reach Lando:

Luke: “The cave where I found it absolutely tingles with the dark side.”


Oh, oh, oh! Here’s how we bring Talon Karrde into the Skywalker/Solo part of the story: Lando suggests that they hand over Leia so that Talon Karrde, a famous smuggler who might or might not (SPOILER: HE IS) in league with the empire . . . to protect her!




Han cleared his throat. “Chewie has a suggestion. . . . He’s willing to take you to Kashyyyk.”



I am not being sarcastic: THIS WOULD BE AWESOME! We would get to visit an exotic planet full of interesting characters! It’s actually a good idea for their goals! Yes, Timothy Zahn, you have me! You finally have me!


Just finished a full percent (three or four pages) of Luke and Leia talking and talking about what they know about the mysterious Jedi Lord C’boath. This is yet another scene that would have been merged into another, truncated, or cut altogether if this were actually a Star Wars movie.

Leia shook her head in wonder as they headed for the door. “Do I really,” she asked, “sound like that?”

Does Timothy Zahn, not know how, to use punctuation?


“. . . there are non-Wookiee traders flying in and out of Kashyyyk all the time.”

And yet in the previous chapter, Leia mentions that Wookiees discourage human visitors to their planet. I know there are other traders, but then, humans are apparently the ‘most influential species in the galaxy’ and just about every trader and smuggler we’ve seen in canon is human. And why do they specifically dislike humans — because the Empire seems to be made up almost entirely of humans? So, Wookiees are racist?

Oh, now we’re back to Pellaeon and Thrawn. I naively assume that things will get interesting. After all, it’s not like Zahn thinks we want to hear more about Thrawn’s art fascination–

The command room was filled with sculptures instead of pictures this time

over a hundred of them, lining the walls in holographic niches

as well as scattered around on the floor on ornate pedestals

The variety, as Pellaeon had come to expect, was astonishing

ranging from human-style chunks of simple stone and wood to others

that were more like tethered living creatures than works of art

Each was illuminated by a hazy globe of light

giving sharp contrast to the darkness of the spaces between them

(If the cause of the above rage isn’t obvious, don’t worry; down below, I explain my thoughts on this book’s obsession with interior decorating.)


So Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando take the Millennium Falcon and the Lady Luck (Lando’s ship) away from Lando’s planet, and then they make it look like Lando transferred from the Falcon to the Lady Luck and headed for Kashyyyk. In reality, Leia and Chewbacca transferred to it, while Lando stayed with Han Solo. C-3PO, on the Falcon, is doctored to have Leia’s voice, and sends some transmissions to Coruscant to further the illusion that Leia was still with Han Solo.

TL;DR: They come up with a complex plan to let Leia escape to Kashyyyk without the Empire noticing.

Thrawn sees through this immediately.

[Thrawn said,] “Four minutes fifty-three seconds. They’re in a hurry, of course, locked together so vulnerably. Which means . . .” His forehead furrowed in concentration, then cleared. “Three people,” he said, a touch of satisfaction in his voice. “Three people transferred, in one direction or the other, between those two ships.”

“Yes, sir,” Pellaeon nodded, wondering how in the Empire the Grand Admiral had figured that one out. “At any rate, we know that Leia Organa Solo remained aboard the Millennium Falcon.”

“Do we?” Thrawn asked, lazily polite. “Do we indeed?”

“I believe we do, sir, yes . . . Right after the Lady Luck and Skywalker’s X-wing left, we intercepted a transmission from her that definitely originated from the Millennium Falcon.”

Thrawn shook his head. “A recording . . . No; they’re cleverer than that. A voiceprint-doctored droid, then, probably Skywalker’s 3PO protocol droid. . . .

“. . . This exercise only makes sense if Organa Solo and the Wookiee are together . . . there is only one logical place for them to go.”

Pellaeon looked at the display . . . “Kashyyyk?”

“Kashyyyk,” Thrawn confirmed.

I just figured out why Thrawn seems so uncommitted, so bored, so disconnected from everything going on in this book. It’s the same thing that effects gamers, reducing their investment in the story and tension.

Grand Admiral Thrawn has cheat codes.

Or magic.

Luke is forced out of hyperspace (that’s possible, apparently) and sees an Imperial transport ship (disguised as a non-Imperial ship, of course) being attacked by Thrawn’s ship. Luke tries to turn around and leave without getting spotted. No sympathy for those being attacked, no decision to go get help. I’m sure this can be justified somehow, but it feels uncharacteristic.

Oh, after Thrawn’s ship spots him, then he checks the freighter for lifesigns and finds none. Good thing he didn’t do that before he was personally invested in the situation. That would be selfless.


Cool space battle here, yet another rare interesting scene. Maybe the rest of the book will be just as good.


Luke suddenly found himself trying to dodge a virtual sandstorm of laser fire.

This reminds me of a terrible metaphors list I once read.

Luke escapes, and, in a scene meant to evoke Darth Vader (to the point of Pellaeon silently making the undeserved connection), Thrawn pinpoints the one to blame and has a Noghri dispatch him violently (but without graphic description) in front of the entire bridge. While not as weak as Thrawn’s other scenes, this falls flat, mostly because there is (as usual) too much goddamn chatter before and after the violence.

As you can see above, in the original movie, Darth Vader chokes a dude and says, ‘You screwed up. Hey, other guy, get back to work.’ The scene takes :25 seconds. In the book, the entire scene takes about three pages or (estimate) four minutes of screentime.

Screw it. From now on, if Thrawn is talking, I’m skipping ahead.


I made the mistake of not obeying the above resolution. Thus I read about Thrawn knowing all about the obscure maneuver Luke used to escape, and being able to predict that Luke’s ship will be crippled about a light year away, rendering him helpless. The Emperor and Darth Vader were both Sith Lords and they never had information this precise. I’m beginning to think Thrawn is a sleeper Mary Sue. Or could he actually be smarter than both his Sith Lord predecessors combined?

[Luke was] feeling inordinately clumsy in zero-gee freefall

I’m far from science-savvy, but as Wikipedia tells me, ‘Free fall describes any motion of a body where gravity is the only or dominant force acting upon it’. Using this definition, ‘zero-gee freefall’ is an oxymoron. EvilMonkey in IRC theorized that this is just a shorter way of saying ‘floating in zero-gee’, but Timothy Zahn hasn’t so far proven himself the type to use fewer words when possible. In fact, in my tradition of renaming people I don’t like for the purpose of half-assed comedy, I’m going to start calling him Timmy Jojo.

For a long moment he just hung there, one knee bumping gently against the power surge vent, wondering what in the name of the Force they were going to do now.

The disturbing revelation of Luke’s ship damage is ruined by this shoehorned religious reference to the Force. Never in the movies did anyone swear by the Force, yet this is the fourth or fifth time it’s been said/thought in this book. It sounds cheesy, that’s all.


Despite Timmy Jojo’s lack of skill, this scene is biting and clawing its way into enjoyability. Luke is stranded “literally in the middle of nowhere” with a broken X-wing, and is beginning to feel very bleak.

And now we’re landing on Kashyyyk! It’s Wookiee time!


This was a real, genuine city

You know, as opposed to all those fake, imitation cities.

Leia is worried about staying on Kashyyyk because she doesn’t speak the Wookiee language, Wookiees’ throats are built in such a way as to not allow human speech, and Han kept C-3PO. Why this wasn’t addressed earlier when she could have grabbed another protocol droid, I don’t know. Why there are no protocol droids on the entirety of the planet of creatures who can’t speak Common, I don’t know.

So she reaches Kashyyyk and, in the welcoming party, is a Wookiee named Ralrra who, to Leia’s shock, speaks ‘perfectly understandable’ Common. The explanation for this? Ralrra has a speech impediment that allows him to

No, I’m serious. That’s how the book explains Leia conveniently having a Common speaker to interpret Wookiee for her.

Here, see for yourself. This development, equivalent to a human being born with vocal chords capable of emulating a bear’s roar, is slipped in like an afterthought, as if no one would ever question it.

I know, right?


One or two people have asked why I’m still torturing myself with this book when I know (and have demonstrated) how terrible it is. Now, regular readers will know that I put down a lot of books. However, the person who long ago told me to read this book (and who may have a thousand snakes upon their name) begged me to give it more than my usual glance and sneer. My skepticism led me to try out an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while now: Writing down my thoughts as I read. I’m very glad I went with it while reading this book, because I’ve gotten great reactions to this liveblog so far.

Here’s to another grueling 50%! Part 2 is here.


A novelist from northwest Arkansas, Fiona's range of topics include writing, tropes, and self-improvement. She goes by 'FekketCantenel' online.

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