Lit The 181st Imperial Discussion Group: Specter Of The Past!

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Grey1, May 1, 2013.

  1. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    That's true; both storylines are ultimately resolved in Vision. But Karoly's hunt for Shada, specifically, plays out mostly in Specter and then takes a long break throughout Vision while Shada is deep in the Kathol sector and Karoly is working for Tierce. And Zothip does meet his fate in Book 2, but the Cavrilhu Pirates are more of a primary threat in the first book, culminating with their attack on the Chimaera, and then they fade into a smaller role in Book 2 as the galactic crisis happening around them rises to a fever pitch.

    A lot of the duology's storylines play out more heavily in Vision (with some of them, like Nirauan and the Kathol sector, playing out entirely within it), but the Karoly-Shada and Cavrilhu Pirates stories are two that I'd ascribe more to Specter.

    Re: Vader --- some of Traviss's books do explicitly say that the normal rank-and-file soldiers heavily respected him. Death Star has a cool scene of him floating through space alongside them pre-Tantive IV boarding that I've always liked. Sure, he waited until they downed the Rebel defenders to board, but he didn't wait until the entire ship was secure or anything. Also Yavin and Hoth. But good call about Thrawn disguising himself as a stormtrooper; I forgot about that. And yeah, the very fact that Thrawn does command battles is one of the main reasons that he's a perfect front for the Sinister Triumvirate. Vader isn't someone behind whom the Remnant's naval officers would rally.
  2. Iron_lord Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    I thought this was a better candidate for "foreshadowing the invasion"

    "He brought me out here. Showed me what it was we faced, and what we'd have to do to stop it. Showed me that even with all the resources of the Empire and the New Republic combined, and with himself at the head, there were no guarantees of victory. On the contrary, he's already made contingency plans for defeat. Ten years ago he had sleeper cells of the best of his cloned warriors scattered around the Empire and the New Republic, ready to form the nuclei of local resistance forces should Corscant and Bastion fall. Men who loved their homes and the land and their worlds, and who would give their lives in their defense."
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  3. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

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    Feb 28, 2013
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    Thanks for pulling the quote, @Iron_lord. Good stuff.
  4. Trip Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 7, 2003
    star 4
    yeah that! sorry like i said it has been awhile

    idk what you are even talking about tbh
  5. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

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    Specter of the Past is one of those EU works that really stands out in my mind, for a myriad of reasons. For starters, people tend to forget that between 1995 and 1998 the EU was essentially "stopped" at the Corellian Trilogy. That was the farthest down the timeline we got to see. There were tons of fill in books for the 4 ABY - 18 ABY period, but nothing that pushed the story forward. I still fondly remember stumbling on to a hardback copy of this novel at a Costco in 1998 (before the Internet took over our lives and message boards like this one were commonplace). In those days, the way I learned about a new EU book was when I saw it released at my local book store. I remember reading the synopsis and being so jazzed that we were going to see the "future" of the New Republic, the Big Three, and the Empire.

    For you EU younglings, the concept of a defined and structured Imperial Remnant didn't truly exist until this novel. Oh sure, there were side references to the "remnants of the Empire" and Imperial holdouts in the Core, but we never had a firm idea about the Imperial Remnant. We also got a firm idea on their military strength. The Fleet Junkie in my still marvels at line about the Empire being reduced to 200 Star Destroyers, when it used to have 25,000. As a young Fleet Junkie, during an era when we didn't get a lot of hard numbers, that little tidbit was amazing.

    The other thing that stands out in my mind is the size of the New Republic. SOTP made the New Republic feel big. Bases across the galaxy like Morshim or Haverling, major member worlds spread from the Core to the Outer Rim, etc. This is a New Republic that wasn't weak, but was suffering from growing pains. Powers were being devolved to sector assemblies, the New Republic Navy was spread thin, old rivalries were coming to a head, and the galaxy was essentially focused inwards, as the Empire was essentially a shadow. Despite these weaknesses, the NR was still strong when it was united. I remember loving that line during a Senate scene where one senator mentioned that the Empire's 200 Star Destroyers and "thousands" of support ships were no match for the might of the New Republic. The book was masterful in that it made the New Republic seem, simultaneously, large & strong AND a bit overextended and troubled. All of these little things combined to make the overall galactic backdrop so very interesting and compelling.

    Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the Zahn/Stackpole collaboration. This is most evident in the Rogue Squadron parts. We get Wedge, Tycho, Hobbie, and Jason all doing what they do best. Again, for those of you keeping track, this was the first novel with "General Wedge Antilles" that still showed him as a pilot. Prior novels either didn't refer to him as general (ie, the Corellian Trilogy) or painted him as a fleet commander. It was soooo cool to see General Wedge acting as a squadron commander.

    All in all, this book evokes a special time in both the EU in general AND my young in particular. Good times for sure! [:D]

    --Adm. Nick
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  6. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Was the concept of the Remnant being based in the Outer Rim a Zahn creation for this book? When last we left Pellaeon, he was commanding the United Warlord Fleets out of the Deep Core at the end of Darksaber. The Essential Chronology went on to establish that he took the Warlord Fleets out of the Core and joined with the surviving warlord factions in the Rim to create the Imperial Remnant, but that was a post-Specter retcon. Was there anything pre-Specter to indicate that the Imperials had been pushed back to the Outer Rim? Anything in The Black Fleet Crisis? I know that Before the Storm mentions Orinda, but galactic geography wasn't very well-defined back in 1996...

    Anyway, I agree with all of Nick's praise. After the zany mediocrity of Anderson, Hambly, McIntyre, & MacBride Allen, a second helping of Zahn was exactly what the New Republic era needed. I do have criticisms of the book, which I mentioned on the previous page, but Zahn's plotting, pacing, and characterization were second to none of his Bantam contemporaries. I mean, were there really any of us who didn't think to themselves "I sure could use another Zahn trilogy right now" while reading 100-straight pages of the Luke and Akanah stuff in Shield of Lies? Specter was a breath of fresh air.
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  7. Trip Force Ghost

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    Dec 7, 2003
    star 4
    yeah, the rim-based Remnant comes from Zahn.
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  8. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    BFC had the Deep Core belonging to the replacement warlords, which suggests that Pellaeon wasn't there anymore.
  9. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    Before the Storm makes a few references to Daala being in the Core, but I can't help but wonder if that was K-Mac asserting that the New Republic didn't know she had turned the United Warlord Fleets over to Pellaeon.
  10. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Well, before the internet took over, I only found out about new books when they appeared on the shelf, too. But while I liked numbers and stuff, I was never obsessed with stuff like fleet sizes, because to be honest all these numbers sound like stand-ins for "large" and "not so large" to me. ;)

    As much as we have the Empire defined today, I never felt the revolution coming from Zahn's portrayal of the Remnant here. I'm still no fan of the expression Imperial Remnant either; Of course they would call themselves the Empire. Maybe the Second Empire, which sounds like a trong vector into the future. Not The Imperial Leftovers or The State That Used To Be Strong But Can Now Can Be Bargained With. So anyway, there's this Empire, and even Thrawn's campaign had the fundamental flaw that there was no heir to the throne. We had heirs to the Empire in Thrawn, who could lead the military machine called the Empire, and we had C'Baoth who could fill the position of crazy old dark side guy. Neither of them sounded like a good choice for the throne, but I'll give you that fleet commanders might accept a successful guy as their new ruler, even if he's a crazy hermit coming out of nowhere or a stinking alien dressed in Imperial white coming out of nowhere. Other than that, the idea behind the Imperial Leftovers is that people still want Imperial rule and law, or that they have to keep fighting it out as warlords because they would be war criminals otherwise. But it isn't an Empire if you don't have an Emperor, and somehow Zahn never found this reason to keep stormtroopers and moffs and star destroyers really loyal to anyting but a vague concept which isn't a concept, but which was a Sith Lord taking over the government and telling everyone to stop being nice to each other.


    But before I start a war with the Imperial Fan Remnant ;) I'd like to ask a new question. Now that Thrawn is our top Imperial guy, OOU and IU, even though those alienhugger-haters have to accept an alien as saviour (sorry, I can't get over that particular piece of bigotry) - what about the others?

    - This time, three there are. How does the evil conspiracy of Disra, Tierce, and the guy that's seriously called Flim work for you? Especially when you compare them with Zahn's former big evil triumvirate of Thrawn, C'Baoth, and junior partner Pellaeon? And I don't really mean their plan or the plan's execution, but the combination of characters, and their characteristics? Are they memorable? Do they feel like a threat? How does their backstory of getting to this point in time compare to that of the TTT characters?
  11. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

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    May 15, 2006
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    It's worth noting that the name "Imperial Remnant" doesn't appear in this duology at all. Pellaeon, the Moffs, and even the New Republic all still use the term "Empire." Stackpole coined "Imperial Remnant" in the first issue of Union and then made it popular in Dark Tide, but it was always a name that the New Republic used for them while they still called themselves the Empire.

    Disra, Flim, and Tierce aren't as memorable as Thrawn or C'Baoth, but I don't think Zahn ever intended them to be. He knew he couldn't create another Thrawn, so instead he went with the concept of some less memorable villains invoking the memory of a more memorable one. It was a welcome change from and a much more believable story than other Bantam authors trying to create the next big-bad monster but ending up with someone whom we couldn't take seriously at all (*cough* Kueller). Intentionally non-memorable villains were refreshingly different from what other Bantam authors had done, and, ironically enough, that ended up making them memorable.

    Edit: Additionally, the story didn't call for a super-awesome memorable villain. It called for con artists working behind the scenes to exploit a crisis that was already tearing the New Republic apart from within. The fragility of the NR's hold on the galaxy is probably the most important aspect of the duology, and it would have been cheapened if the villain had been some badass guy with spikes on his shoulderpads and a secret fleet with lots of firepower. Not that that's what it takes to be memorable, but you know what I mean. The villains Zahn chose worked for the story that was being told.
    Last edited by Jeff_Ferguson, May 3, 2013
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  12. Dr. Steve Brule Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 7, 2012
    star 4
    Plus the NJO makes clear that to the Imperials, their state is still just "the Empire", it'd only outsiders who call it the Remnant.
  13. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Thats kinda the point though. The Empire was in decline and needed to adapt to survive. For a long time the novels made sure to have Imperials keeping to their POV that the Imperial Remnant was not a name that they recognized themselves by. That slipped later on, mostly due to author error in my opinion, and now kinda flutters in and out. FOTJ for instance gave us a scene with Jag scolding Jaina for calling it the Remnant.

    So basically your dislike of the slang name is supported in canon if that makes you feel any better :p

    The term itself is simply an easy OOU way to identify what people are talking about.

    This strikes me kinda as semantics though. The British Empire never had an Emperor, financial moguls talk about how they build their financial empires, so on, so forth. The name was kept by the Remnant because it represented a tie to what they once were, to what they wanted to be again. We could spend a lot of time concerning ourselves with proper definitions and legal jargon revolving around if they should have called themselves that. Reality is that it was what they called themselves and who they considered themselves to be. I frankly doubt they would care about someone coming to knock on their door and inform them that they were using the name erroneously.

    It would make a great episode on The Big Bang Theory though.

    In terms of Specter of the Past they fill every need that is required of them. They are not meant to be a threat to the New Republic, the novel isn't even really about the New Republic, Luke Skywalker and crew. Thus they can't really be compared to the villians of the Thrawn Trilogy. The novel itself is all about the Empire, or this section of what remains of it.

    In that context the villians are a huge threat. If they had succeeded there would be no Empire left to aid the Republic in finding Zonoma Sekot, no Empire left for the Fel's to rule, no Imperial Knights, so on, so forth.

    Vision of the Future gives much more of a story to the 'main' characters like Luke. It finds them important things to do to help save the galaxy and make the universe a better place. Specter of the Past is all about the Empire, Pellaeon working to save the Empire - the New Republic working to help him do that even if they don't realize it at the time.

    I can totally see how if you are not a fan of Pellaeon and what remains of the Empire how this novel, and aspects of the next novel, totally wouldn't work. If your looking for a villian for Luke Skywalker to deal with, one simply doesn't exist here. Like I say the threat the villians pose is more aimed at Pellaeon than the NR.
    Last edited by Robimus, May 3, 2013
  14. JediAlly Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 2000
    star 4
    I forgot about the rank-and-file soldiers. I think I can express the distinction between how the military viewed Vader and how it viewed Thrawn. Yes, the military, from the rank-and-file to the officers to perhaps the top brass respected and feared Vader and Thrawn. In Thrawn's case, they respected him more than they feared him. In Vader's case, they feared him more than they respected him. We can see this in HTTE when Pellaeon offered a compromise between Thrawn's plan and C'Baoth's plan - a compromise both agreed to. He apologized to Thrawn afterwards for speaking out of turn, and Thrawn told him not to worry about it. He had no problems listening and considering any plans suggested by his subordinates.

    Here are my views of Disra, Tierce, and Flim. I actually pitied Flim. I get the feeling he never wanted to be in the position in the first place, yet he was forced to do so. Disra was perhaps typical of one type of Imperial - those whose ambitions exceeded talents. Admiral Ozzel was another such individual, though both had their saving graces. Ozzel attributed his rise to his connections, though he did show some talents. However, his incompetence exceeded his talents, and his connections saved his sorry hide until Hoth. Disra, on the other hand, knew that he lacked the clout necessary to gain the military's favor. Thus, he needed to ally with a military man to get the military's favor. As for Tierce, I want to wait until next month to get to him.
  15. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Jeff, JediAlly and Robi have said much that I would, so I don't all that much to actually contribute save for:

    1. I'm very sceptical the Empire of the Hand was set up with the Vong in mind! Oh, the lines are vague enough to work still but there is no grand master plan for the EU, just stuff being done.

    2. Remember this is pre-PT. In the absence of that it asks how the Old Republic fell and the answer is the factionalism and lack of common interest and law. The New Republic now has to face the same adversary that killed its predecessor! That the NR has not developed any common laws determining what conduct is acceptable between members is plausible due to the shadow of the Empire still looming large in the popular and political perception.

    3. Fey'Lya's brand of brutal hardball politics comes back to bite him and the Bothans big time and it's hard to say they don't deserve it to a degree. Remember that Fey'Lya's used the empire's atrocities as cover for his own xenophobia and treatment of Asyr.
  16. Nobody145 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 9, 2007
    star 4
    Not much to add by now, just that I love this duology, it has its flaws of course, feels a bit too much post-TLC and only TLC, though it acknowledges a lot of other books, though not always nicely, and pet characters, and how Leia is back to being just a High Councilor instead of Chief of State (although a vacation from the top post is understandable) but what I loved most about it was that it felt like an... epilogue as it were. The Union comic is after this, but basically, at long last the Galactic Civil War is all but over, so everyone is going back to business as usual. All those stories where some Rebel had to appeal to the locals to unite against the Empire are finally finished with, with no more Empire to worry about, so all the old problems are flaring up again. Heck, I even remember the Moffs using this to defend Palpatine's New Order, but since things settle down without anyone needing to declare themselves a dictator, its not required either (and NJO and everything after make such a case against the Republic anyway). Not to mention plenty of mentions of the old days here and the second book, and 15 years after Endor seems like time for things to settle down (which makes NJO a bit jarring in that respect, and everything after NJO is just awful in that respect, in that some Endor veterans are still on the frontlines so by then its just sad that they can't get their nice retirement). I think this was before the prequels, so the timeline is off compared to what we have now, but still, more than anything else, it was nice to see a galaxy at risk not from the Sith, or some Dark Jedi or Imperial warlord, or some overblown extragalactic invasion, but from trying to co-exist with each other.

    The Caamas issue is a bit contrived (of course a datacard with only some of the details survives the explosion of Mt. Tantiss), but I forget if it was this book or the next that its noted as mainly an excuse for everyone to feud with their neighbors over old issues.

    Also, while as in the Thrawn trilogy Zahn moved the Empire a bit away from the absolute evil thing, its also still a surprise to just see Pellaeon basically give up and hope to officially end the war with some dignity, and basically force the Moffs to acknowledge the same. Pellaeon has been around for a long time by now, seen a lot of defeats, yet he still has a relatively young Captain commanding the Chimaera, but though no one says it, they know its over, that the only reason they haven't been wiped out is the New Republic has lost interest and bigger problems to deal with... which is really demoralizing too. The whole Thrawn boogieman thing is kind of silly, given the Imperial Remnant's state, but then the New Republic was already falling apart too at about this time, so having a military genius reappear after all this time would not help stability.

    Luke... its kind of a regression and it gets worse sort of by the next book, but at least he's never really seriously in danger of a fall to the darkside, blah, blah, in retrospect its nice for him to just get into an X-wing and do stuff without having to worry about his soul or the soul of the galaxy, etc. And while a tad contrived, and probably a bit too close to be homage so much as copy of the Dagobah meditation scene, also nice to see Luke just meditate and have a vision and go off to chase it. And forget if it was this book or the next, but it was mentioned at some point that Luke's Jedi Academy had been emptied out of Jedi to help with negotiations across the New Republic to try and keep things from blowing up. We don't see Jedi as negotiators much anymore (something that's briefly shown in Outbound Flight now that I think about it), instead of the special commandos we almost always see them as these days (either as officers, generals, spies, soldiers, etc.). Its off-screen, but a nice reminder of what the Jedi seemed like before the dark times... before the prequels. :p
    Last edited by Nobody145, May 4, 2013
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  17. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    I think this is something peculiar to Zahn. Lots of books have plotlines where the heroes have to find things out, obviously, but the thematic focus on control of information is something that Zahn especially stresses, and uses it better than most. Zahn is very good at controlling the way the reader receives information, but he also is good at controlling what information the characters have. They don't get ahead of themselves or just get info dropped on them because they're supposed to know everything the reader knows -- they have to go places to seek information out, whether it be Mount Tantiss, Karrde, a Ubiqtorate base, Car'das. They operate behind the fog of war and don't know what their enemies know. Characters gain a crucial advantage when they have the information networks to get ahead -- Thrawn and Karrde being the primary examples. Discovering new information is a plot-critical event and something that plots are built around. Information is treated like a resource, and it's a crucial war resource. It's definitely something that Zahn focuses on and incorporates into his writing to a much greater degree than others.

    I think there are two key points with Thrawn. One is that he's the figure for the Remnant to rally around. Zahn's Remnant is of a particular character: all the Dark Jedi are gone, the Sith are gone, the COMPNOR types have retreated to the background, and the Empire is now dominated by authoritarian militarists like the Moffs and old-guard military types like Pellaeon. They aren't going to respond to an Inquisitor figure. They aren't going to be excited to give up their power to a capricious, dominant figure like Vader. Palpatine is not going to get these guys excited anymore. He came back, he died, his second reign was crazier and more destructive than his first, and the fact of the matter is that the true believers are all gone. They died on Byss. Nobody is here for Palpatine anymore; they're here for law-and-order authoritarian government, and the return of the crazy Sith Lord doesn't represent something genuinely stirring. It's not 5 ABY anymore. But Thrawn has that appeal. He's a figure like those remaining in the Remnant: a military-rule authoritarian leader, not a New Order ideologue. He's the guy who aligns with what they want and where they are right now.

    And the second thing is that there are a lot of military figures, but Thrawn is the legendary one. He's not just a Grand Admiral, he's the Grand Admiral with the track record of taking over a faltering Empire and single-handedly pushing the New Republic back. He's famous for being a military genius and he's proven he can fight from his back foot. That's exactly what the Remnant needs right now: a figure who can inspire them that, though all seems lost, he has the pure tactical and strategic genius to get them back in this fight and to win it. Nobody else really has that combination of legend and appeal, plus Thrawn has his reputation as secretive and enigmatic, a mysterious guy from a mysterious region outside the galaxy who died a mysterious death, and thus can credibly come back ten years after his death. A fake Tarkin, say, can't come back twenty years after he died; it just raises too many questions about where the hell he was. Thrawn is the guy who can conceivably say, "I spent ten years recovering and planning out of sight, just like I was planning out of sight before, and now I'm coming back out of nowhere to take over the Empire and lead it to glory as its last hope, just like before." So Thrawn's thing isn't that he's necessarily the biggest threat -- though really, he is -- it's that he's the perfect figure for Disra to get buy-in from the rest of the Remnant and seize power.

    Though I do think the criticism that it's Gary Stu-ism for everyone to be so afraid of Thrawn on the NR side is wrongheaded. The whole thing about Thrawn was that he was the undisputed military mastermind who came out of nowhere and kicked the New Republic's ass just as it thought it was set to take control of the galaxy. Between his tactical genius, his access to and mastery of unique tactics using cloaking tech and C'baoth, and his inside information from Delta Source, he always seemed like he was two steps ahead of the New Republic, always knew just how to beat them, how to fool them, how to strike them in the soft spots. That's what made him a great villain -- he was terrifyingly good, and a genuine challenge to the NR. Then, just when it seemed like he had outthunk them again and was going to beat Ackbar, his fleet retreated. They heard later that he'd died mysteriously behind enemy lines. They never saw a body, never had real confirmation, and they were facing a guy who was known for his mastery of deception and deployment of schemes within schemes. That always had to leave them a little unsettled. I mean, Daala kept "dying" in front of their eyes, and she kept coming back -- Thrawn dies inside an information black hole, and they have absolute faith he could never return? Then, ten years later, the guy who seemed to always have their number, who was way ahead of them right up to the moment his bodyguard assassinated him, is reported back? If that didn't scare them, they'd be fools. They're human beings, not Superman -- they shouldn't think they're invincible. They should be capable of being spooked. The relatively credible return of the only guy better than Ackbar, right in the middle of a massive internal crisis? Yeah, that should concern them.

    I like Caamas. I like the concept -- Star Wars needs more emphasis on the great civilizations of its history, more alien Republic founders, and more focus on philosophy and morality. I'm always happy to add an element that contributes to that. I wish they'd use Caamas more in the EU, just like I wish they'd use more of the grand Core Worlds that aren't Coruscant in general. Alderaan, Chandrila, Esseles, Alsakan, Anaxes, Axum, Diamal, Isht, Ralltiir, Brentaal, Grizmallt, Corulag, Rhinnal, Giju, Rendili, Shawken, Atrisia.

    But I also like the Caamas Document Crisis specifically. The New Republic is a conglomeration of peoples from all over the galaxy, and it's not ruled with an iron fist in the fashion of the Empire. It's inevitable that there will be conflicts between peoples and interest groups, and the New Republic needs to find a way to handle that, but it's too new, and too dedicated to freedom to handle the crises particularly well. Zahn's treatment of the New Republic calls to mind the young United States under the Articles of Confederation, when zeal for liberty caused the Americans to create a central government that was too weak to perform its duties properly and had to be reformed. Similarly, the New Republic is too spooked by the specter of the Empire to create a government strong enough to keep order when a massive internal crisis breaks out. So when a cause comes along in the form of the culprits for the destruction of a beloved world under Palpatine coming out, we see the various sides of these internal conflicts using the cause to position themselves against each other. The image Zahn creates of a galaxy of factions is incredibly compelling, and it makes for great storytelling. I remember being immediately captivated by the idea that there could be thousands of stories out there in the galaxy at any time of low-scale local conflicts, of species fighting species and planet fighting planet. It's a great storytelling opportunity that's not used nearly enough.

    I love Disra, Tierce, and Flim. I'd actually disagree with Jeff that they're not memorable -- I think he's using it more as a synonym for "big personalities," and that they're not -- they're memorable precisely because they're not big personalities. We've had a lot of big single figures coming through to take over the galaxy. Many of them were not written that well. But these new villains are distinctive. A Moff, a military genius ex-Royal Guard laying low as a mid-ranking officer, and a con man coming together to further the Moff's plan to gain control of the Empire and destabilize the New Republic so that the Empire can expand again. We've never seen anything like that before, and though they're not big personalities, they're fresh styles of character, and well-enough drawn to grab our interest.

    Most of these characters tend to be exotic somehow; Disra is deliberately run-of-the-mill, an angry old Moff who chafes at playing second fiddle. What makes him distinctive is his plan, and the way he has to interact with other forces -- Tierce, Flim, the Cavrilhu Pirates -- he doesn't have to be someone groundbreaking if he's doing something groundbreaking. He doesn't have to have exotic powers or multicolored eyes or be the greatest political manipulator ever to be a memorable, high-quality villain. Just imagine your favorite old British thespian in a uniform, working with a great script and playing off great characters, and you've got Disra. That's all you need. Tierce is great because he adds that power-struggle dynamic. He's a younger, more physical character, and he's also a military genius, but he doesn't have the resources Disra has. He's brought in to Disra's plan, and he's dependent on Disra, but there's immediately that tension that here's an ambitious guy who's been handed his path to power, and he's going to chafe against Disra's control and his own limited benefit from the scheme, and there's going to be that spark of conflict and instability in the triumvirate. Zahn knows what he's doing in giving us a dynamic and a struggle within our villains -- it's a whole new source of drama and narrative tension. Add to that mix Flim, the hired stooge who's dependent on Tierce for guidance, but plays the face of the conspiracy, knows he's indispensable, and knows exactly when to throw around that weight, and you get a third fascinating character dynamic to play in the mix. I really love these characters.

    There's also the nature of the plan itself going for it. Disra is planning to destabilize the New Republic, sure, but that's almost more an internal crisis -- he's lit a spark, but it's the New Republic that's threatening to blow itself up, and so the heroes aren't in direct competition with him. He's not plotting directly against them -- he's just planning to provoke the New Republic into plunging into civil war itself, allowing the Empire to take back its territory amid the mess. There's more of a direct threat in VOTF, but it's still an issue that has to be primarily tackled by uniting the NR factions, not by shooting Disra. Disra's real personal threat, the person he's scheming directly against, is Pellaeon. His evil plan is to take over the Empire, and that is an evil plan because Pellaeon has been shifted to count among the heroes. Pellaeon is the good soldier who wants peace, the respectable officer, and we're actually led to root for the leader of the Empire against a coup attempt from within. It's an incredible novel style of threat and a fresh plot, and Zahn executes it incredibly well. That's one of the things that impresses me most about the HOT, how innovative Zahn is with the galaxy. I think the whole "return of Thrawn" thing causes people to think of it more as a rehash of TTT, but the fact is that it's being incredibly innovative in what it's doing, both in terms of Zahn's previous work and in terms of the Bantam run in general.
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  18. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Plus Thrawn did what he did in TTT with bugger all in the way of resources, that's what drives a lot of the fear around the notion that he could be back, some way, some how.
  19. fett 4 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jan 2, 2000
    star 4
    I never got how the whole Empire would have huge Thrawn love though as by Zahns own storyline he was a guy packed off to the unknown regions, (which we know in the duology they know very little about) and only reappeared in the TTT as a clever but ultimately unsuccesful warlord. Which was a short duration and Thrawn was then killed at the end of TLC. For a supposed rallying figure Thrawn would not seem ideal, nor is it likely Han and the New Republic would be terrified at the thought of Thrawn.

    The Trimuvirate were fun enough but the unesscary reveal of Tierce seems utterly pointless.

    Side note I still love the fact that another of Zahn's OC's is considered the best and most respected general in the NR.
    Last edited by fett 4, May 5, 2013
  20. Jeff_Ferguson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2006
    star 4
    I know I'm responding to something from about forty posts ago, but I think it's a discussion worth having. This discussion probably belongs in the diversity thread as much as it does here, but I really do think that comparisons between Shada's arc in this duology and Mara's arc in the nameless trilogy are largely based on the fact that they're both women. Or, more specifically, ass-kicking women who have lost everything. And honestly, I think that's where the similarities end.

    Mara maintains a cold distance from the heroes throughout most of the nameless trilogy and only reluctantly accepts that her future is with the New Republic on the final page of Volume 3. Shada, on the other hand, breaks into Leia's house with the sole intention of joining the New Republic before Specter is said and done, and spends Book 2 as a willing participant in one of the good-guy subplots. The New Republic finds Mara, but Shada finds the New Republic. If anything, Shada is a clever inversion of the Mara storyline in that regard.

    Mara rediscovers her atrophied Force powers throughout the course of the nameless trilogy with help from Luke, a theme that climaxes with her hard-fought battle with and victory over C'baoth and Luuke. Shada, on the other hand, hasn't lost any of her fighting prowess and spends the entirety of the duology at the height of her abilities; her killing of Tierce at the end of Vision isn't the payoff of a character arc but is something that she could have done at the beginning of Specter had she had reason to.

    Sure, both of them eventually realize that their former employer may not have been so great after all, but their respective journeys to get there are very different from one another. The comparisons are all surface that are unfortunately based on the fact that they're both women --- if we did the same thing with men, we could say that Car'das is Bel Iblis 2.0 because the heroes find him after he's spent years in hiding. Or that Ardiff is Pellaeon 2.0 because he's Pellaeon's sidekick and Pellaeon was Thrawn's sidekick. Or that Disra is Thrawn 2.0 because they're both Imperial badguys.

    I liked Shada and wish we could have seen more of her beyond Conquest, but I'll have more to say about that when we discuss the Kathol Rift subplot next month.

    The shift of Pellaeon from villain to hero was something I really liked, too. I was a big fan of him in the nameless trilogy, and I was rooting for him when he showed up again in Darksaber. I would agree that Pellaeon is really the central hero of Specter --- he even has a hero's journey of sorts. The beginning of the novel sees him at the lowest point of his career, realizing that the Empire he's commanding is a joke, and he goes on to devise a plan to save it that sees him face off against reluctant, ambitious, and scheming Moffs. He perseveres, however, and the climax of the book is even Disra-loyal pirates attacking his fleet, not a New Republic fleet. The future stability of the galaxy depends upon his plan coming to fruition.

    The Big Three, on the other hand, don't really do a lot during Specter. They all find their place in the story by the time we get to Vision (Luke on Nirauan, Han on Bastion, Leia meeting with Pellaeon), but in Volume 1 they're not really acting, but rather just reacting to what goes on around them. Specter is Pellaeon's book, not theirs.

    The fact that the Big Three don't have much to do in this book is one of its faults, though, and is, IMO, what really makes Specter seem kind of like a rehash of the nameless trilogy --- not the return of Thrawn. As Nobody, myself, and others have already mentioned, the Big Three all seem like they've regressed back to where they were at the end of The Last Command. Luke is a one-man Jedi Order in an X-wing, Leia is a mid-level bureaucrat who tries to solve the galaxy's problems by herself, Han... well, to be fair, he didn't actually get any character development in the ten intervening years. But it does seem in some ways that Zahn is treating everything from Dark Empire to Showdown at Centerpoint as little more than filler between his two big book series. Even other major characters are suddenly doing the same thing they were ten years ago --- Wedge is leading Rogue Squadron from the cockpit of an X-wing, Lando is running another damn mining operation...

    While I do still maintain that this duology is a fantastic wrapup to the New Republic era, I do wish that it felt more like a sequel to everything and not just a sequel to Zahn's earlier trilogy. The NR era may not have been written linearly, but there was still character development that Zahn could have acknowledged.
    Last edited by Jeff_Ferguson, May 5, 2013
  21. AdmiralNick22 Fleet Admiral of Literature

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 28, 2003
    star 6
    @Havac

    There are so many parts of your post above that I agree with 100% that I wish I could "like" each of them separately. ^:)^

    In particular, your comparison of the New Republic to the young United States under the Articles of Confederation is dead on.

    --Adm. Nick
    Havac likes this.
  22. JediMara77 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2004
    star 4
    YES. Thank you. It's like the comparisons I've seen between Mara and Mirax and Mara and Vestara, especially.
    Last edited by JediMara77, May 5, 2013
  23. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I knew you'd like that part.
  24. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2000
    star 4
    Regarding the diversity/pantskicking women issue... I think that's not all that easy to dismiss. Yes, there's differences; but regarding comparisons, we always say Bantam had the warlord of the week, but if you take a close look they were all different from each other. And, what's more important, is that this author - Zahn - introduces a character somewhat similar to Mara in his second venture into the EU. It's a bit like Joss Whedon always including similar character types in his shows and movies (Whedon would be perfect for adapting characters like Mara or Shada, by the way). Is it a crime? No. Are they exactly the same? Heck, no, nobody suggests that. But they are variations based on the same mold. Zahn could have made a storyline out of a librarian or a reporter or a caamasi wandering trader, but he went for the competent assassin grrl instead. Besides, why would a smuggler king who's really an information broker want an assassin/bodyguard as his heir?

    I don't think it's that bad that Zahn included Shada. I just don't feel like her story adds anything to Specter. It's obvious that he's developing her because he once wrote the Cantina short story. But that's also a weakness: she gets more attention just because she's from the Zahn back catalog, not because she really adds anything to Specter. Having her detail the events of the story so the heroes know who she is is a bit off. It was twenty years ago today, Seargent Pepper taught the band to play. But I guess that's part of the weakness of tying scenes back to the movies and, in Zahn's case, the Thrawn trilogy all too often.


    Regarding what Hav said - that is an excellent point. Zahn really keeps track of who knows what. And I never thought about Thrawn's demise always only having been told to our heroes by word of mouth, instead of being able to actually burn Vader or something like that. On the other hand, him disappearing for eight years might have been that little bit more plausible if Zahn had made it a bit more outlandish, like including him having been frozen in cabonite stasis or something like that. Or strongly implying that quite a few people know that Chiss go into a healing chrysalis or something like that.

    I think for all his belief in the power of information and his ability to know who knows what, there's one party that Zahn doesn't work with so well: the audience. The book is written well, but there's no suspense. That's not really because we don't have a clear antagonist. Yes, there's Disra vs. Pellaeon, but to be brutally honest, the audience doesn't really care about Pellaeon and his little Empire at this point. Talking peace sure is a nice move, but the real struggle is the internal crises of the Republic. So there's an antagonist in form of a concept. There is no suspense because we always know what's going to happen - Tierce and Disra always tell us about their plans before a scene is taking place. The biggest mystery might be what's happening to Mara.

    So, I agree with you, Havac - it is a cool idea to have a book that's more about a conspiracy or two instead of a straight action plot. The problem is that this conspiracy holds no mystery to the reader. I can't really make out a balance between the protagonists and antagonists, either.


    Other than that, I think there's a lot of good stuff happening. But I'm reminded of Lucas cutting off the first half of his story so that the remaining part would feel more interesting.
    kataja likes this.
  25. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Kind of a bold take considering we see multiple people in this topic telling you that they cared about and enjoyed this plotline.

    As I previously mentioned I can see why someone reading this to by and large see the further adventures of Luke Skywalker wouldn't take a huge interest in the book. Luke, Han, Leia, Lando - none of them really do anything of significance.

    I would suggest that there were people very much taken with the Disra vs Pellaeon plot of the story, people who were concerned how the Empire was going to come out of the duology. Was Pellaeon going to come out on top and save it? Was Disra going to prevail and force Pellaeon into the arms of the New Republic? There were a lot of unknowns at the time and those to me were full of suspense.

    The fate of the galaxy wasn't really in play in Specter, and even with Vision striving to make it a little more relevent it all still came back to the fate of the Empire.

    I think people were far more interested in the plot than your suggesting.