Lit Timothy Zahn making Darth Vader look a fool ! (spoilers for both books)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by fett 4, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Who just so happens to be arguably one of the strongest Force-Users in history Sable - think that un-levels the field quite a bit!
  2. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

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    Well, Palpatine was an excellent political strategist, but I don't think we know a thing about his value as a military strategist.
  3. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Operation Shadow Hand
  4. fett 4 Chosen One

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    d.[/QUOTE]
    Hmm... [face_thinking] I thought Allegiance was good, actually. It brought some new to the table and finally showed Mara sensible and competent, something I'd been lacking in other authors characterization of her. They had been focusing too much on her temper and redhead factor - which is only one side of her. Zahn shows her to be this expremely controlled, rational person - he has all the time, actually - and I think it was a welcome clarification. But my second problem with CoO was that he didn't deepen this much, didn't show how this rational and moral character would inevitably get into situations where her morals and her loyalty would be challenged. Situations where she'd act wrong, because of trust in her Master. I wich he'd developed her character in CoO, not showed us more of the same, as I think was the case. And this is my take on his worry to ake her look bad. But I don't have a problem with his statement that she went after bad people - in a big, galaxy the Emeperor would ahve had agent specialized in different areas.[/quote]

    Allegiance I found to be his weakest. I love the Thrawn trilogy and despite a few problems that I mentioned previously (as well as Shada, the Mara clone) I enjoyed HoT and thought it tied up the Bantam run nicely, fixed some problems that other authors had created (he all but names KJA by name in the HoT) and got Mara and Luke together. I also enjoyed his Outbound Flight duology, but Allegiance not at all.
    I could not care less about the Stormtrooper A-Team. While charachters were making decisions that seemed really stupid, but for no other reason than the plot needed to be moved forward.A plot that went nowhere anyway. There was even a scene which he all but copied from his Sceptor of the Past book.
  5. fett 4 Chosen One

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    His plan at Endor almost worked, he just didn't count on the Legion of his best troops running into the teddybears of death.
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  6. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    RPG stats. :p
  7. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

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    I guess Esg and fett 4 are right: we know his value. Two defeats.
  8. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    He was too focused on the Skywalkers to be really concerned with winning but he still Manhandled the NR
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  9. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Okay, first of all, Palpatine doesn't consider the Rebellion the biggest threat to the Empire, he never did from its very begining. He was always more focused on the light side of the Force as a threat - moving heaven and earth to catch Luke and ignoring the rebel fleet. Likewise, politicial infighting within the Empire was a greater threat to imperial stability than outside attack, as the downfall of the Empire post-Endor, and even pre-endor coup attempts show. Keep in mind that Palaptine was almost killed by an Imperial officer mere months into his reign, while no one else not carrying a lightsaber ever came close.

    Besides, Palpatine uses his tools with care. He was surely aware of Mara's moral predelictions, and channeled her mission orientation accordingly. Breaking her to the dark side would have damaged her particular utility - someone who actually truly believes in the goodness of the Empire is much better suited to fight its corruption than another cynical pragmatist. He had other Hands to send agaisnt the rebellion when necessary.
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  10. blackmyron Force Ghost

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    In the end, though, both villains died the same way - they overestimated themselves and underestimated others.

    But at least Thrawn got in a pithy line before he died.
  11. Danzo Jedi Master

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    Oct 20, 2012
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    I've always enjoyed Zahn's work but it's not like this is anything new for him. Straight from TTT we we're constantly being introduced to characters that we're supposed to believe are better than anyone else. In TTT alone you had Mara (shown to have been one of the Emperor's most trusted assassins who was given the same task as Vader to kill Luke Skywalker, Thrawn who was the best tactical genius the galaxy had ever known and had proven the Emperor wrong, Karrde who just happened to be the best in the information business, Bel Iblis the third leader of the Rebellion who happens to be a tactical genius that Mon Mothma bows down to allowing his character to take over the defence of Coruscant because a film character can't handle it, and a planet full of little grey ninjas who are the most lethal assassins in existence. Zahn has always made his characters out to be better than everyone else in the galaxy.

    I'm not saying it's a good thing just that it's been there from the start.
  12. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    You don't think AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH is a pithy line?!
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Dec 2, 2012
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  13. blackmyron Force Ghost

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    But in each of those cases, most of the characters were dead wrong - especially Bel Iblis, whose pride couldn't lead him to admit that he was wrong about Mothma. And in the case of Thrawn, he failed on a number of crucial points - the attack on Sluis Van ultimately did not succeed, if you recall; his alliance with the crazed clone of C'Baoth ended up costing him; and for someone who believed he could 'read' a race he failed to understand the Noghri. That's the killing joke at the end - the Noghri's 'art' is their killing methods, and Thrawn only understood them as one fatally wounded him.
    In the case of Vader, I think the real problem is that Vader doesn't really like to explain himself or have a confidant. We get to hear Thrawn talk to others, especially Pellaeon. I'm sure that Vader thought that Thrawn was an egomaniac, overly cautious, and untrustworthy. We just don't get to see his feelings expounded upon in reply to Thrawn's criticisms.
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  14. _Catherine_ Force Ghost

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    "My curse will be on the Skywalker bloodline for generations!"

    Well I guess that turned out to be true lol.
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  15. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    It's not that Zhan's characters are 'the best' it is that they're elite, and that Zhan clearly believes that the Star Wars galaxy is sufficently meritocratic by dint of shear size if nothing else that truly elite persons rise to positions of power. Many of the characters he created in TTT are role-filling characters, people whose existence could be inferred and he just created a specific person to fit that template. Thrawn for example is the elite military genius who rises to save the battered Empire after the politics have cleared out sufficently that he has the authority to do so. Mara Jade is the super-deadly ultra-loyal assassin that Palpatine kept hidden from the world. Karrde is the galaxy's top smuggler/information broker, Bel Iblis is the Rebellion's military roots.

    These people could have been different characters, they just happen to have been produced by Zhan a certain way. In fact, because the EU has since duplicated several of those roles, we can see other people's take on the character model. Thrawn can be swapped for Grand Admiral Grant. There are several other Emperor's Hands, including a few stunning female assassins (Aralina Silk, Lumiya). Karrde was explicitly a replacement for Jabba. Bel Iblis now shares time with General Kota.
  16. CT-867-5309 Force Ghost

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    None of the explanations matter or assuage my irritation. Zahn simply spends an unacceptable amount of time performing literary oral sex on his favorite characters.
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  17. FatSmel Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 23, 2012
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    as long as he keeps it literary he should be ok. Luke Skywalker seems like the jealous type . . .
  18. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Nobody ever said that Grant was superior to Lord Vader, much less the Emperor. Lumiya was never being groomed as a replacement for Vader, or as the Emperor's new lieutenant. Karrde may have replaced Jabba in-universe, but he doesn't replace him role-wise: he's far too difficult to ever truly take down. Bel Iblis and Kota occupy rather different roles I think -- though TFU's own overriding of the Corellian Treaty can be seen as another example of people trying to one-up another.

    Sometimes it's fun to read about mediocre characters. It's a big world. I'm not criticizing Zahn for not doing that -- TTT was early in the EU -- but he got worse over time. Everything in the TTT you can chalk up to point of view -- Thrawn and Jade are only better because they say they are. That's fine, nobody has to believe them.

    His subsequent contributions, on the other hand, are meant to underscore that point objectively: no really, Thrawn and Jade are the best, here's more reasons why!

    Don't get me wrong, I like both characters. It's just that Zahn doesn't need to try to disparage the ultimate villains of the saga to make these guys look good.


    (edit: obviously by ultimate villain I refer to Mon Mothma... who else would I be talking about?)
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Dec 3, 2012
  19. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    Eh, I think the extent of Zahn's buffing his characters over the OT characters is exaggerated. So Palpatine once expected too much from Thrawn, and Thrawn told him so? The point of that story isn't, "Lol, the Emperor's an idiot, guys, look at how much better Thrawn is" -- it's "Thrawn was operating in the highest of high circles, and even the Emperor ultimately respected his military expertise." The point is that Palpatine was acting as we'd expect an Emperor to act -- ordering an attack on his terms, demanding that his underlings get results no matter what -- and Thrawn was able to stand up for himself and say that the results were unachievable. He didn't have Palpatine's respect such that Palpatine gave him what he wanted, or took his advice -- Palpatine threw a fit at him and made someone else go through with the attack -- but he had enough respect that Palpatine didn't have him executed, and when the attack failed he accepted that Thrawn knew what he was talking about.

    Zahn was writing the first big post-ROTJ fiction, and since the books were continuing the story of the movies, he understood that he needed to operate at movie levels to carry the story forward. Later authors could write about old weapon platforms trying to blow up planets Leia happens to be on. He couldn't. He needed an antagonist who could stand on a level with the movie antagonists. He did so not by creating a character that one-upped Palpatine or Vader -- a bigger, badder darksider -- but rather one that complemented them, a military expert who, like Tarkin, moved in their circles and could believably form part of the vast unseen Imperial machine. Part of establishing Thrawn at that level was to establish that he moved in those circles. He was a peer, roughly understood, of the movie antagonists, in the style of Tarkin. How do you do that? Backstory that shows Thrawn interacting with Palpatine, and Palpatine respecting his tactical acuity. Not bowing before him, not showing the Emperor up, just winning a grudging respect for his military judgment. So we see, aha, Thrawn was an important military tool to the Emperor, a lieutenant and an advisor. Credibility! Links to the movie villains!

    It's the same with Vader -- Thrawn sets himself up in opposition to Vader's kill-all-failures methods not because he despises Vader and is so much better than him (we have plenty of material, from Zahn himself as well as Stackpole, to show that Vader and Thrawn actually shared an extremely effective working relationship, and we don't see any real sign that Thrawn thought Vader deficient as a tactical thinker) but to establish his bona fides as someone who can critique Vader's methods as an equal rather than a fearful or resentful subordinate and to establish a basis for the character's effectiveness and demonstrate that he is respected within the Fleet because he is competent and more of an officer's officer; he does not hold his power by bearing feared like Vader and Palpatine. We respond better to that, obviously, but that doesn't degrade Vader -- oh, Vader's a bad villain because everyone's scared ****less of him? -- it just sets up Thrawn as having a different style.

    It's much the same with the oft-derided introduction of Kinman Doriana. There's nothing about introducing Doriana that says that Vader is diminished. All it says is that Palpatine used to have a right-hand man who did all his dirty work, and he relied upon him. That right-hand man was then replaced with an array of people who could perform all the same duties -- spying, enforcing, and military command. There's nothing to say that Doriana was better at enforcing than Vader, or that he was ultimately a bigger right-hand man than Vader.* Or that the fact that Vader couldn't spy and assassinate, but Mara Jade could, puts her on an equal plane with Vader. All it says is that she fulfilled a function Doriana had, and was a very valuable tool to Palpatine. Introducing Doriana is just a way of creating intriguing backstory while establishing that Mara and Thrawn were both extremely important tools in the Emperor's toolkit who fulfilled roles Vader didn't. It establishes that they weren't in competition with Vader.

    *And as we've seen with Zahn's work fleshing out Doriana, he's pretty definitely saying that Vader, Mara, and Thrawn were all better at their jobs than Doriana. Zahn's Doriana is an incredibly useful flunky who gets utilized in multiple capacities because he's flexible and Palpatine doesn't have a huge stable of military commanders and darksiders yet, just secret agents. Doriana is very clearly never more than a flunky, and it becomes quite clear in retrospect that, however Doriana's reputation might have filtered down to people like Parck, it was never a case of Palpatine's top fixer being a fantastic Swiss Army Knife he had to replace with a lousy old knife, screwdriver, and scissors -- it was Palpatine going everywhere and getting everything done in his 1990 Jeep Wrangler because he only had the one car, and now he has a Bugatti Veyron for the highways, a Land Rover for offroad, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom for the city.

    It's not to say that there's never been an objectionable moment where Mara feels overpowered or Thrawn is overpraised, but the narrative that Zahn is consistently buffing his characters at the film characters' expense out of some uncontrollable tendency toward Mary Sueism has lots and lots of holes.
  20. kataja Force Ghost

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    Absolutely. As does the narrative that Troy Denning does this same thing. Yet the 'narratives' live on, so clearly people balk at something, it's not just mass hysteria or ill will towards the authors. IMO the interesting thing is what, in these authors texts, causes these reactions!!! Personally, I love Zahn's books - yet, from time to time - there is something that makes me want to throw what I read into the wall - and I can't pin it down and it annoys me even more! And while I generally like Denning, I've notices many that are straightout repulsed by his stories. They're entitled to their opinion, of course - but I'd like to understand what triggers it. And in Zahn's case, I'd like to figure it out even more. I still say the TTT is the best that happened to the EU ever - and of what I've read, only Stover's Mindor can challenge it as reading experience. [face_thinking] Actually, no, it can't. TTT is best, period.:p But that's not the same as loving all Zahn does as much.
  21. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Hav, I don't have the time to compose the response that your post deserves, so I'll go with a brief demurrer instead.

    I agree with you completely about the TTT -- it was the first big thrust of the EU and it needed to pick up where the movies left off. That's fine -- and like I said, I have relatively little objection to the characterization in there. It's HoT, OBF, and in particular, the stormies duology that earn the most objections from me. I don't have a problem with him making capable antagonists, and I don't have a problem with him casting them in a different light than the movie villains: as you say, that's narratively a good thing.

    My issue strictly relates towards his tendency in his later works to do more than distinguish his villain from the movie villains, but to actively disparage them. The treatment of Vader in Allegiance is particularly galling. I don't mind his earlier treatments of Vader, and as you say, the stuff in Side Trip is particularly good (indeed, Stackpole's contrast of Vader and Thrawn in the Making of Baron Fel is similarly good). I feel though that after the PT, Zahn's taken it as a license to sort of tell us how he really feels about Vader, and to do so in a fashion that resembles the "unstable, blunt instrument" presentation of some post-PT material.
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  22. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

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    I haven't read a Zahn-authored book in years, but I do recall systemic attempts to undermine Vader and Sidious as villains.

    The Last Command does include a remark from Lando: according to what Luke told him, "C'baoth is at least as dangerous as the Emperor-- perhaps moreso." Other criticisms are littered throughout his contributions: Mara Jade, of all people, claims that "if Palpatine was one step ahead of everyone, Thrawn was at least two" (and this was not a reference to naval theater, but the political one); Pellaeon muses in the Thrawn Trilogy that Palpatine was an incompetent megalomaniac who assumed more direct control of the Imperial Navy to its detriment, ordering construction of the Death Stars, Super Star Destroyers, etc; his lieutenant in the Hand of Thrawn duology laments that no one killed Sidious sooner and replaced him with someone like Thrawn; to say nothing of the ridiculous, arrogant premise of the duology: the New Republic nearly tears itself apart at the mere rumor of Thrawn's return?

    Other minor examples include C'baoth's openly hostile relationship with Palpatine instead of the advisory one mentioned in the trilogy, Mara Jade routinely lecturing Luke about proper Force use, etc. and so forth.

    Now my issue with this would not be so pronounced if Zahn would balance them; there is no one in-universe who disagrees with these assessments. No one to say: "lol no."

    Ultimately, there is little difference between Traviss's treatment of the Jedi and Zahn's treatment of Vader and Palpatine; there is no counterbalance or refutation.
    Last edited by Sable_Hart, Dec 3, 2012
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  23. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    The book that ruined Vader for me was The Force Unleashed 2. The ending was so appalling. Words can't even begin to describe how appalled I was. The ending of the first one wasn't much better for Vader either...
  24. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

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    I disagree, actually. Vader's treatment in TFU2 was infinitely more flattering than TFU1 and is one of my favorites. Machiavellian, implacable, poised... it's a triumphant depiction of the character, his defeat notwithstanding.
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  25. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Its been awhile since I've read both books so I don't remember the characterizations that well but Starkiller trashed Vader twice and the Rebellion captured Vader. That completely ruined Vader of the movies for me. How on Earth are supposed to take Vader seriously if he was beat twice and captured? I can take Vader freaking out on Mara but getting beat badly and captured by the Rebellion? I just can't. If they ever get the Force Unleashed 3 out there better be some satisfactory explanation about this.
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