Mar 1, 2011

[Books] Star Wars: Allegiance

Star Wars AllegianceWhen people think of the Star Wars novels and what is now known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, it's hard to completely avoid the name Timothy Zahn. His Thrawn Trilogy did help push the Star Wars novels in a radically new direction apart from the direct novelizations of the official movies at the time.

Thus we have strong characters like Mara Jade, also known as the Emperor's Hand, as some of pillars of Expanded Universe stories until today. After all, it took years and years before she and Luke Skywalker finally got married given we all sort of knew this was inevitable from the moment she was first introduced in Heir to the Empire. And since then a whole host of other authors have played around in this creative sandbox, further enriching the universe and providing more and more stories to keep us geeks generally content.

There was a pretty significant gap of time when we didn't see any new Star Wars novels written by Timothy Zahn himself. It's understandable given he has his own creative ventures to pursue outside of the Star Wars universe, but a lot of fans (myself naturally included) wondered when he'd return. In the mid-2000's we saw an increase of Zahn novels once more and this was one of those eventual additions to the Star Wars library.

Star Wars: Allegiance is a standalone novel set in the Star Wars universe as written by Timothy Zahn. It takes place about six months after the events of Star Wars IV: A New Hope and features many of the main characters of the franchise.

The story actually focuses on a group of Stormtroopers aboard the Reprisal starting with Daric LaRone. While loyal to the concepts behind the Empire, he recently has starting having doubts after being ordered by the ISB to execute civilians on the planet Teardrop given the belief that they have been supporting the Rebellion. An altercation with an ISB Major Drelfin leads to him accidentally killing the man in self-defense. Thus LaRone together his fellows who witnesses the incident - Grave, Marcross, Quiller and Brightwater - steal an ISB ship and flee the ship.

Princess Leia, sporting her trademark "ci...Image via WikipediaMeanwhile, the Rebel Alliance continue in their efforts to evade Imperial detection while cementing new alliances. Thus Princess Leia Organa solo is sent off to Shelkonwa to settle disagreements between the rebel factions active in the area while Luke, Han and Chewie are sent to investigate a series of pirate attacks on their supply lines which is affecting their continued military efforts.

And lastly, the book also follows one of the first missions of Mara Jade as the Emperor's Hand. What starts out as an investigation into embezzling by Moff Glovstoak leads to her discovering a larger conspiracy at work that eventually ties a lot of the plot threads together.

The timing of this book was pretty interesting since the only other stories that I'm familiar with that were set in this time were titles such as the short story anthology Tales from Mos Eisley Cantina. The area has a unique feel about it given we still have a very young and optimistic Luke Skywalker, a Han Solo who remains uncommitted to the alliance and of course the mixed up love triangle of the two with Princess Leia. I felt Zahn tried to capture this well enough and helped convey a lot of those nuances in how he handled their characterization throughout the story.

But the real focus was on the Stormtroopers, who eventually call themselves The Hand of Justice - a suitably campy name that you'd expect front line troops to come up with for themselves. I sincerely liked the camaraderie of the group that helped humanize the normally abstract terrors that are Stormtroopers in other books, thus making for a nice twist. I can imagine this was how the Republic Commando novels go, although I have yet to venture into those books myself.

Not too many big space battles in this book, which is okay given the context of the story. While Zahn does have a good track record for handling such space encounters, most authors tend to throw in the space aspect just because. However this story didn't really dictate the need for that and thus the larger focus on ground encounters and all the political maneuverings involved there.

The big conspiracy plot felt a bit far-fetched though, once all the pieces were laid out. I'm sure it made a lot more sense to the Zahn as he was writing it but once you go through it as a reader, it did seem a tad underwhelming. Then again, this was meant to be just a sector-wide issue and nothing too large in scale, in order to avoid taking the focus away from the Stormtroopers.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the book and what it accomplished and I'm looking forward to the continued adventures of The Hand of Jutice, as hinted at in some of the online buzz about the book. Star Wars: Allegiance gets 4 ridiculous manifestations of the Adari political class structure out of 5. You can purchase the book online, but only in paperback format it seems. Why don't they release more Kindle editions of these kinds of books?

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  1. Now I gotta be honest, I've never actually read a SW novel. Considering my love of the franchise you would think I would have years ago. I guess I've just never seen any that caught my eye as expanding on the setting instead of cashing in. Would you recommend this as a good entry point into Zahn's work? Or should new readers find a different starting point?

  2. The core Zahn novels are always a good start for getting into the Star Wars expanded Universe. Going beyond that is a bit tricky, hehe.