Thrawn Trilogy Retrospective: Heir to the Empire Chapters 4-5

200px-HeirToTheEmpireIn the last installment of our Thrawn Trilogy retrospective, we met most of the major players of the series and set the stage for the story to come. In Chapter 4 we meet two more antagonists–one major, one minor (who later becomes a huge part of the New Republic’s government). Onward we go!

The Chimaera arrives at another new planet, called Wayland. Right off the bat we have Zahn treating hyperspace travel realistically–well, as realistic as fictional technology can be. Apparently the Chimaera travels at .4 past lightspeed, and hyperspace travel isn’t instantaneous like it seems in some of the films (mainly Revenge of the Sith).

Thrawn and Pellaeon are looking for the Mount Tantiss facility, which was the Emperor’s private storehouse. Thrawn wants to recruit the “Guardian” of the mountain to their cause. He assumes that the Guardian is a Dark Jedi, which is why they stopped by Myrkr to pick up the ysalamiri; the animal has the ability to “block out” the Force. The use of the term Dark Jedi always sends me on a nostalgia trip, back to when we knew hardly anything about the prequel era and the use of the word “Sith” was forbidden. It also makes me wonder how different this book would’ve been if it’d been published today.

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Joruus C’baoth, just as crazy as the original

Once Thrawn and Pellaeon arrive in the city, they ask for the Guardian of the mountain. They meet Joruus C’baoth, who claims to be the Guardian, and he takes them inside the fortress. He tells them he killed the first Guardian and all the outsiders that have followed, and then shoots Force lightning at them. But — gasp! — it doesn’t work. The ysalamiri bubble stops the lightning before it can hurt Thrawn or Pellaeon. C’baoth is understandably shocked, and a negotiation begins between the two parties. Thrawn asks C’baoth to help direct battles through the Force, and in exchange offers to give him Luke, Leia, and her Jedi twins. C’baoth doesn’t want control of cities or even the galaxy, you see; he wants face-to-face power over an individual’s mind. He’s kind of crazy. (Later on we learn that he wasn’t crazy because he was a clone, as this story posits, but because the original  himself was insane.)

The chapter ends with Thrawn directing the Noghri commandos to attack the Republic envoy to Bimmisaari. Somehow the Imperials know their plans, which can only mean one thing: there’s a leak in the Imperial Palace….

We get a lot of backstory in Chapter 4, mainly that Jorus C’baoth was a Jedi involved with the Outbound Flight project, which Thrawn destroyed. Joruus C’baoth is a clone, and must’ve been created sometime before the real C’baoth’s death, early in the Clone Wars. Of course the actual Outbound Flight novel takes place between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, before the war even started. Back then the timeline stated that the Clone Wars happened about thirty years before the Original Trilogy. There’s also a mention that the early clones were unstable, and that Pellaeon’s forces fought against insane clones. This seems silly now, but back them most everyone assumed that the Republic/Empire fought against the clones, not with them.

Even with the backstory overload, the chapter does contain a nice bit of action when the Imperials land on the planet, and I remember being genuinely shocked when the lightning didn’t kill Thrawn.

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Borsk Fey’lya, the most awful being in the New Republic

Chapter 5 heads back to the New Republic, where Han is reporting to the Inner Council about his mission to recruit smugglers. Admiral Ackbar disapproves of this plan, because he dislikes smugglers, but he’s not the big problem. We meet Borsk Fey’lya, also known as the worst being in the galaxy. He gained favor in the Rebellion because his faction of Bothans helped discover information about the second Death Star. He says the smugglers won’t help the New Republic because they don’t trust Ackbar, trying to undermine the admiral. There’s a lot of squabbling going on, and a lot of power plays by Fey’lya. While I hate that dirty Bothan, I do appreciate that the New Republic isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There’s infighting and differences of opinion, which is what would happen in any kind of democracy.

They discuss the upcoming mission to Bimmisaari. Han is angry about Leia having to go; he’s been wanting her to focus more on her Jedi training but she keeps getting swept up in politics. Sorry, Han: you should’ve known what you were getting into.

This chapter is a lot of setup, but there’s good characterization here, and is really important in setting up conflict in the rest of the series. One thing I thought was interesting was that Han mentions first meeting Mon Mothma during the events of Return of the Jedi, which I’m pretty sure has been retconned since then. It makes sense, though; Han was pretty touch and go from A New Hope to The Empire Strikes Back, and then there was the whole carbonite thing. He wouldn’t really have been in a place to ever meet Mon Mothma, and it makes sense that Zahn assumed this in the early days of the Expanded Universe.

It’s also interesting that Han is so concerned about Leia training to be a Jedi. This seems to be brought on by her being pregnant. I can understand his concerns for her, and his unborn children, but really, despite all this, shouldn’t Leia have already been trained by now? At least a little bit? Luke’s had five years, and he hasn’t been busy that entire time. He should’ve at least carved out some time for his sister!

Stay tuned for the next installment in which we have the mission to Bimmisaari, a surprise appearance by some Noghri commandos, and Luke being a complete farmboy and badass. 

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