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Star Wars: Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition
Timothy Zahn
Lucas Books/Del Rey, 468 pages

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn's SF career began by selling SF stories to Analog magazine while he was a physics grad student at the University of Illinois. When his thesis advisor died, he decided to write full-time. He started with hard SF, writing the Cobra series of military SF novels. In 1984, he won a Hugo for his novella "Cascade Point." His writing has a distinctly humanistic touch, so it seems obvious to some that Theodore Sturgeon was an early influence. Zahn is perhaps best-known as one of the original authors commissioned to write novels in the Star Wars realm.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dragon and Liberator
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Allegiance
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Outbound Flight
SF Site Review: Night Train to Rigel
SF Site Review: The Green And The Gray
SF Site Review: Star Song and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Manta's Gift
SF Site Review: Angelmass
SF Site Review: Icarus Hunt
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Specter of the Past

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Maddox

1991. It had been seventeen years since the first Star Wars film had graced the silver screen. Over time, its popularity had dimmed. The toys were no longer on the shelves and an entire generation had only experienced the trilogy on their TV screens. There were rumors of another trilogy, theories about what was going on at the fabled Skywalker Ranch, but these had become the stuff of legend, little believed by more than the hardcore Star Warrior.

Then a novel was released. Acclaimed writer Timothy Zahn was given the task of creating a continuation of the Star Wars Saga, giving readers their first glimpse into was to be known as The Expanded Universe. He was given some rules, no explaining anything that had happened before A New Hope, no going too deep into Yoda's background and a few other restrictions, but otherwise, he had free reign to follow up on where the movies left off. This was Heir to the Empire, the first in the Thrawn Trilogy of novels.

20 years after the fact, Heir to the Empire is considered by most fans to be the rebirth of the Star Wars Saga in multimedia (coupled with the comic Dark Empire and the computer game X-Wing a year later). Zahn downplays this notion, saying, "A more accurate statement would be that I was the first person since Jedi (the film) who was permitted to stick a fork into the pie crust to see if there was still any steam underneath." But he succeeded in giving fans more adventures with Luke, Han and Leia, told how the New Republic was struggling with the remnants of the Galactic Empire and introduced one of the most popular non-movie villains ever, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Heir does a wonderful job of recapturing the joy of seeing Star Wars come to life again, especially for those of us who were too young to experience the films the first time out. The story holds up after all these years, but Zahn has gone a step further by annotating the entire tale with thoughts, asides, explanations, and a few witty quips. For instance, Outbound Flight, which was just a throwaway line, would later go on to be its own novel along with Survivor's Quest and the Nohgri were designed to resemble Vader's visage, as the explanation for the look of the Dark Lord's helmet hadn't been revealed yet.

Over the years, Zahn, and other writers, have tried to canonize Thrawn, showing that he actually had the Galaxy's best interests at heart. But Heir reminds readers that he was definitely a bad guy, a villain different from the Emperor or Vader, but no less lethal, and possibly a little tactically smarter. There's a new short novella about Thrawn at the end entitled Crisis of Faith, featuring the strategic conflict between the Admiral and Nuso Esva, a character introduced in a recent Zahn novel, Choices of One, which gives some of that redemption, but still display the ruthlessness to the beloved character.

Collectible-wise, the hardcover edition of the book has a nice silver dust jacket that shrouds that original cover art by Tom Jung, done in black and grey. As an international best seller, the Thrawn Trilogy, and especially Heir to the Empire are some of the best the Star Wars Expanded Universe has to offer. If you've never read the story, or just want to relive it through older, more informed eyes, don't miss this 20th anniversary edition.

Copyright © 2012 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been Star Trek characters, the Riddler in a Batman stunt show and holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University. He has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories while acting on stage, screen and television. He can sometimes be seen giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood and playing Norman Bates.

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