Thursday, March 22, 2007
Star Wars: Allegiance by Timothy Zahn
review by Dan Tres Omi
Omi's Note : warning ! Spoilers!
Many might debate this statement but this writer has to say that Timothy Zahn is one of the top three Star Wars EU writers. He has written one of the best book series introducing us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Chiss warrior who almost brought the Empire back. He penned the story of the disastrous Outbound Flight. He also brought us Mara Jade once known as the Emperor's Hand. Zahn continues his foray into the EU with Allegiance.
The story takes place shortly after Star Wars: A New Hope (ANH). The details about the destruction of the first Death Star are still reaching the rest of the galaxy. The Rebel Alliance is starting to gain momentum as more and more systems begin to rethink their position on the Empire. The last time someone wrote a novel about our favorite gang of rebels in the post ANH timeline was Splinter in the Mind's Eye. Here we find Luke Skywalker to be still a novice in his Jedi training. Han Solo is still debating about his position in the rebellion. Leia Organa is still the same hardcore diplomat.
The basic storyline of the book centers around five stormtroopers who decide to desert. After they were forced to massacre innocent civilians in an attempt find some rebels, these stormtroopers begin to rethink their role in the Empire. They begin to question the motives of their superiors . When they kill an officer of the notorious Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) after being accused of treason, these five stormtroopers steal some equipment and make a break for it. However instead of escaping to some uncharted system, they decide to fight pirates and help the average Imperial citizen. They call themselves the Hand of Judgement.
Eventually they run into some rebels and actually meet Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca. Things change for the worse when they encounter Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand. Mara Jade is only about nineteen at the time but is as equally ruthless when we meet her several years later. Her job was to weed out traitors and corrupt Imperial officials.
Zahn does a wonderful job keeping the storylines separate and finally pulling them together. One has to remember that this occurs right after the destruction of the Death Star so only a few Imperials know what actually happened at Yavin. No one really knows who Leia, Luke, Chewie, and Solo are. At this point, they can still roam the galaxy and not worry about the Imperials. Mara Jade even learns about Luke Skywalker while snooping around Vader's files but has no clue about who he is. As a matter of fact when the Hand of Judgement encounters the rebels, they have no clue that they are working with the most wanted group of people in the Empire. Until Vader and the 501st show up.
The book is exciting from cover to cover. One will enjoy learning about the Storm Trooper Corps. At this time, the Empire has been recruiting humans from around the galaxy for quite some time. Much of the dialogue between the Stormtroopers who become deserters sounds like the conversations I had with fellow sailors while in the Navy. In Allegiance we encounter many Stormtroopers who sign up with the Empire to serve their galaxy. After several missions, they become disillusioned. While working with several corrupt officers and witnessing atrocities against innocent civilians, many question their role in the Imperial armed forces. This is why many former Imperial officers sign up with the Rebellion. The original Rogue Squadron was made up primarily of former TIE fighter pilots.
Ironically, the Hand of Judgment do not see the Rebel Alliance as a solution. They think of them as usurpers to the Imperial Order. They see them as a new brand of Separatists. As a matter of fact, through Leia we learn that the Rebel Alliance was originally not looking to start a war. Instead they hoped to bring the Imperials to the negotiating table. This of course is naivete on their part since the Emperor would never have conceded.
Again, I have a beef with how George Lucas portrayed the Stormtroopers in the movies verses how writers in the EU have discussed them. Consider the Stormtroopers like the US Marines. They are elite and only a few are chosen. Writers in the EU have written them as nothing less than the best. In the movies, they are like keystone cops always fumbling about. My other beef is Mara Jade's use of the Force. She is very skillful in this aspect. When we meet her in the Thrawn series, her powers are very limited. It seems as if she forgot. She does not get better until she trains with Luke. Yet wouldn't her Force abilities remain strong because she was trained by the Emperor and had much more experience in using them through her missions? This is a problem with continuity. Still Zahn does his thing yet again. The book is a must read.