Choices of One
By Timothy Zahn
Choices of One is the follow up book to Allegiance (which was excellent) and takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It links up with the events of all three of these titles, as well as tying in superbly with Mr. Zahn’s Thrawn novels and his later New Republic novels. Choices of One manages this while maintaining a tightly woven plot with more than it’s shares of twists and turns and bringing the epic viewpoint of the Star Wars universe down to the individual level. The title may indicate that this would happen, but the focus is less on a singular hero (though there are plenty of them) perfectly situated to alter the course of the galaxy (e.g. killing the emperor) and more on the smaller scale decisions of individuals doing the best they can in the worst of circumstances.
Long story short, I loved this book. Five stars. The banter between the Hand of Judgment is lively and humorous, revealing not only the dynamics of the team, but the characters of the individuals. And once again Mr. Zahn truly captures the personalities and relationships of the heroes of the Star Wars Universe. The tension between Han and Leia is amusing for not only the reader, but for some of the more insightful characters in the book. Luke’s uncertainty, inexperience, and immaturity is clearly expressed but in a way that generates sympathy for him. Honestly, I never liked Luke until I read Mr. Zhan’s writing of him. Until then he was utterly obnoxious. However, the true main characters of this book are Mr. Zahn’s own; Senior Captain Thrawn, military genius, and Mara Jade, agent extraordinaire.
Thrawn plays a major role in the events of this book (as he does and would in any and every book he could find himself in) but he has very little scene time. Which suits him well as he is a chess master, his true genius existing in his ability to correctly analyze people and then engineer situations to make them act how he wants them to.
Mara Jade plays a major role in both the events of the story and pulls a lot of scene time. She is hands on and action oriented, both by nature and by training. She drives the story and the plot, knocking down the pieces that Thrawn sets up and pulling the reader in with her sense of loyalty, duty and sheer overwhelming conviction.
These two characters (both Imperials) lead directly to what I really like about Mr. Zahn’s writing. The original Star Wars was space opera at its best. It took a simple view of the galaxy. The Empire was evil, the Rebellion was good, and in the end good triumphs over evil. Mr. Zahn takes that view and mixes it in the dirt, rolling it around and bringing it back out with depth and grime. While the people in charge of the Empire may be pure evil, that doesn’t mean all those associated with it are. Mostly they are real people, many of them very good people, with their own loyalties and priorities, who are trying to make the best of a bad situation. The Rebellion is riddled with personality conflicts and wild cards who have their own agenda and are only involved with the rebels to use and manipulate them. And these two entities, Empire and Rebellion, are not the only powers at work. There is a great deal going on beyond them that they are unaware of and that only adds to the realism of Mr. Zahn’s writing.
Final verdict: If you enjoy Star Wars, or character driven Sci/Fi, read this book. It won’t let you down. I’d also highly recommend Mr. Zahn’s other Star Wars books and his Quadrail series.