Dark Force Rising
by Timothy Zahn
Published by Bantam Publishing
David's Rating: 4 out of 4
The sequel to Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising continues the plots and themes introduced in that novel. The New Republic finds itself under attack on all fronts military and political. The Nohgri continue to try to capture Leia, who eventually travels to their homeworld in an attempt to make some sort of truce and win them over to the New Republic. Talon Karrde and Mara Jade find themselves on the run, chased from one base of operations to the next. Delta Source is still revealing all kinds of sensitive information to the Empire, things known only by those in the uppermost levels of power. In the background, pulling all the strings, is Grand Admiral Thrawn. Having been defeated at Sluis Van, Thrawn continues his search for capital ships to support his new clone army.
At roughly the same time, both Thrawn and the New Republic become aware of the existence of the famed Katana Fleet, a fleet of nearly 200 Dreadnaughts lost before the clone Wars. It becomes a race to see who can get to the fleet first, with the only man who knows the its location, Talon Karrde, one of the most important persons on the galaxy. Against this backdrop, Luke finally meets the mad Jedi clone, Joruus C'Boath, who begins to train Luke to be a Jedi in his own image. Will Luke fall under C'Boaths spell, or escape in time to prevent Thrawn from capturing a fleet of 200 intact capital ships?
What really sets Zahn's novels apart are the numerous plots and subplots that are carried throughout his entire trilogy. Some are even reintroduced in the Hand of Thrawn series. Most of the different plot lines in this book could stand perfectly well alone in their own books, but Zahn weaves them together so beautifully, it comes across as one big story, and doesn't overwhelm the reader. His characters also seem to be intensely real, and Zahn uses that to his advantage, often giving clues as to what the character is thinking, rather than just telling us outright. Especially poignant are Admiral Ackbar and Councilor Fey'lya. The ongoing struggle between them closey mirrors the cold war between Thrawn and C'Boath. The tension between the Grand Admiral and Jedi clone is heightened in this book, and provides some foreshadowing to the eventual end of the trilogy. Finally, ever character is written in character. I can actually picture Leia doing/saying the things she does/says, the same for all the characters. You can tell Zahn actually went back and researched the movies. And of course, no book with Thrawn is a bad book. He is my favorite part of the whole trilogy. I like how he is portrayed, not exactly evil in the way the Emperor and Vader were, he doesn't cause others to suffer just for the fun of it, yet neither is he good. You get the sense that people and planets are all just pieces on a chessboard for him, that he doesn't really care about anyone or anything. It would be interesting to see what kind of Emperor he would have become.
There isn't a lot of bad in this book. The major flaw that stands out to me is how lucky the heroes are repeatedly. The are constantly in the right place at the right time to find out some important clue or just narrowly avoid death. The problem is that Zahn created an enemy too powerful, one that could only be defeated with a lot of blind luck.
Trying to pronounce all those Nohgri names.