Discussion in 'Literature' started by fett 4, Dec 1, 2012.
Vader didn't really get beaten in TFU 2. It was all part of his master plan. See: Distant Thunder.
As Arawn pointed out, it's implied to be part of a master plan.
In the novel, he stares down Starkiller riding a Nebulon-B frigate missile bearing straight out him and doesn't flinch. My favorite scene in an otherwise mediocre book.
Don't have much time to post anything particularly detailed, but I will say that I took Lando's line about how C'Baoth is "perhaps as dangerous as the Emperor" was in reference to his obvious insanity. Lando is not a Force user, and he has absolutely no idea what ultimately makes a Force user more powerful, or more dangerous than another; if I were him, I'd be more afraid of the bumbling madman who has the power to rip your mind into pieces as well. Considering Lando never met Palpatine, he's most likely basing his entire conception of him based on a description of Luke; a guy with a dominating presence that can shoot lightning out of his hands. C'Baoth has that, so for Lando, they're close enough.
As for Pellaeon, remember that he had a chance to work with Thrawn, and became increasingly loyal towards him, where we have no idea if he even ever met the Emperor. I'd argue that Pellaeon is the single most unreliable narrator of the TTT.
I can't agree that his portrayal (though he rarely actually portrays these two) is comparable to Traviss' treatment of the Jedi. Traviss clearly has an agenda of some kind; it gives the impression that, before she even writes a Star Wars book, she is in the mindset of showing the Jedi to be amoral bastards, and to 'buff' the clones as much as possible. I never get that impression from Zahn's work. His characters- and, likely to some extent, the author- disagree with some things that Vader and Sidious do, but it's not a preoccupation. It's not an obsession. Most of these examples are off-hand remarks, anyway.
The strength of Star Wars as a franchise is that it's constantly told from a different point of view. It's true, there's no one in Zahniverse to say "lol no" to Thrawn, and it's true that he's more interested in writing about his original characters, though I believe that's a far cry from being obsessed with Mary Sue depictions and gleefully tearing down already established characters. His characters often serve as a mouth piece for his personal views of Star Wars, but frankly I enjoy seeing that kind of personalization, rather than simple recreation of situations from the films, or Jude Watsonesque characters who serve little purpose aside from reiterating how awesome the main characters are.
This should be emphasized. There's not a shred of evidence that Thrawn felt Vader was a buffoon- I'd argue there's actually evidence that he had a kind of grudging respect towards him- just that he had a very different command style from Vader.
It should also be noted that, at the time of the TTT's release, all we really knew about Vader was that he was Vader's right hand man, a very high official in the Empire. To me, it makes sense for Thrawn to be of a similar level with Vader, to be both an ally and a competitor; Sidious liked to challenge Vader with his various underlings, such as Xizor, and possibly Thrawn. Zahn was clearly basing part of Thrawn on Tarkin, a character who unflinchingly confronts and even dares to order Vader in ANH. That's evidence enough that Vader does not speak with the voice of the Emperor, but that he can be challenged.
The scene in Allegiance is much harder to argue against; regardless of the author intent, I'm willing to say that Vader was testing Jade, "putting the fear of god into her". It's most likely still an OOC moment, and I'm still not entirely sure what Zahn was going for there.
Mara was pretty much at Jedi Master strength in Choice of One and I seem to recall Luke being dazzled by her amazing lightsaber skills
Yes, it can be explained away if one tries, but I think its pretty hard to deny that Zahn plays some heavy favorites at the expense of other characters. I mean look at how awesome Zahn's stormtroopers are compared to every other stormtrooper - they basically go through two full novels almost unscathed while every other Stormtrooper(without character shields) gets ripped apart to a point that they look kinda incompetent.
I go into Zahn novels now expecting that type of stuff.
Stormtroopers in other books suffer from being mooks, cannon fodder for our heroes. Personally I've always thought Stormtroopers should be terrifying to face, like Zhan's, and have even DM'ed them like that.
But Palpatine was a megolomaniac, and while he wasn't incompetent he certainly descended further and further into the thrall of crippling hubris and his own twisted Force visions towards the end of his reign. The failure of the Empire vs. the Rebellion is that the Rebellion suceeded at a stateless strategy and that all the superweapon based threats of reprisals in the galaxy, to the point of blowing planets apart of multiple occassions failed; ergo, the members of the Imperial Navy feel that if all those resources had gone into conventional military construction instead of superweapons the Empire would have better projected its power across the galaxy and prevented the success of the Rebellion's stateless strategy. This thesis is probably wrong - space is just too big - but it is a logical and entirely arguable view that certainly represents the consensus revisionist history among Imperial Navy veterans.
The Hand of Thrawn bit about killing Palpatine is based in a similar thesis: that maybe a democracy based around over a million sentient species with different and indeed fully incompatible psycological makeups cannot work. Autocratic military rule just might, if managed in a suitably enlightened fashion, work better. This is part dictatorial apologia, and part real facts on the ground reality of the Star Wars galaxy. This point, while originally raised in HoT has gathered more and more steam over the years throughout the EU (and is supported by the way the PT constructed the Separatists as well) most obviously through the New Republic's complete and utter failure and fractioning in the face of the existential threat of Yuuzhan Vong invasion.
And finally, the premise of HoT is not that the New Republic tears itself apart at the rumor of Thrawn's return, the premise is that the New Republic tears itself apart based on the revelation that one of its foundational alien species is harboring a bunch of war criminals who supported the Empire. The best real-world analogy I can come up with would be the McCarthyite Red Scare in the 1950s, only imagine if McCarthy really did had the names of a bunch of members of Congress who were not only Communists but actively engaged in treasonous activites.
Yeah, I don't have a problem with Old Fuss and Failure badmouthing the Emperor (wonder what some future subordinate thought of HIS failings and his inability to win the war, but anyway...) nor do I have a problem with his subordinates in HoT, who probably knew very little of the Galactic Empire, mouthing similar things. Character POVs can be whatever they want. It's inaccurate portrayal that annoys me.
I don't see a problem with Luke being impressed with Mara's lightsaber skills. At this point, the guy can barely swing a lightsaber without taking his hand off. Also, though Zahn might not be aware of this, the only lightsaber opponent Luke has faced was Tagge, a skilled non-Force using swordsman (and in that, Luke only won through 'playing blind' through the Force). I'm not at all surprised Mara would look very skilled next to Tagge.
Luke also may have witnessed a portion of the lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan (though I honestly can't remember how much), but that was a fairly subdued duel, and he would have been much more concerned with Obi-Wan's well being than in admiring their skills.
Also, I don't personally mind Mara being "Jedi master level"; she does go on to become a Jedi master, after all. Even with her 'upgrade', I never felt that she was invincible; she was frequently outgunned, and one AT-AT was enough to send her running, in a day and age where it's more fashionable to pick up an AT-AT and crush it with the Force.
Don't get me wrong, I definitely feel Zahn makes it somewhat obvious that he prefers to write his original characters, and is sometimes willing to use them to highlight his own characters. I just feel that the favoritism, and the accusation that he hates Vader, is a bit exaggerated.
Luckily, from the Zahn I read, he does tend to shy away from portraying Vader and Sidious; if it is true that he does not like these characters, than it's a good thing he doesn't resort to Traviss-like straw men in order to pretend to give all characters fair representation.
To be quite honest, I've been mostly satisfied with his Vader depictions, save the infamous one from Allegiance. As I said in another post, I have no idea what Zahn was intending there, but I choose to take it as a test (even if it still seems odd coming from Vader) and a deliberate attempt to send a message to Mara that he could kill her if he chose. Mara's pretty unreliable as far as narrators go, but I do recall getting the impression that she was indeed afraid, and totally aware of the fact that she would not be able to stop him, should Vader choose to really attempt to kill her. But of course, it could have just as easily have been a "lulz, Vader's a nutcase guyz" deliberate scenario. Definitely the most odd scene I've read in a Zahn book.
The Allegiance thing taps into an idea that already has existing support (see, e.g., Vader's Quest) that Luke is Vader's berserk button. At this very early stage of the game, he's obsessed with tracking down the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and finds out that he's Luke Skywalker -- that Anakin potentially had a son -- and that stirs up all kinds of conflicting emotions in Vader. As a Sith, he's found his secret weapon against Palpatine, and he's determined to keep it secret. As a person, as that remnant of Anakin, it whips up all this emotion about what he's lost and could get back, about what he's doing and what he could do, attachment and longing and mourning. If the Emperor's personal spy sneaks up on him while he's going after this trail, those emotions combined could whip him into DESTROY mode. It's not about Vader being a simple monster, or a maniac, but being consumed with turmoil and at the same time being super-protective of this new secret he wants to use against Palpatine.
I agree with a lot of what you say here. Like you I have no problem with TTT. It was a great series and pretty much kickstarted the EU, while the charachters were fine for it. By the HoT there were subtle differences, like Han quaking in fear at Thrawns name etc. SideTrip was also fairly fun story but the Zahn scene at the end with Thrawn and Vader was annoying, with Thrawn talking Vader through things like to a child.
Not read the making of Baron Fel book do you have a link.
Personally I thought his portrayal of Sidious in Outbound Flight was pretty good. His actions in Choices of One and Allegiance also seem fairly consistent with the character as previously established.
I didn't mind this particular thing since I got the impression from the start of Allegiance that Zahn actually tried to improve the quality if the stormtropers in general. His four characters thus stands out in intergrity, not in skills. It makes much sense to assume that Stormtroopers actually should be good soldiers. The problem with it is, of course, that the OT pretty much contradicts this...
The usual reason given for Stormtroopers doing badly in ANH is "they were under orders to let the Rebels escape so they could be tracked".
The stormtroopers do moderately well in ESB- but badly again in RoTJ.
I'm definitely not one of those fans who feels every little detail of the OT is holy sacrament that cannot be contradicted or questioned. I personally rejoice every time it's suggested that not every stormtrooper in the galaxy is a bumbling jackass that shouldn't be trusted to hold towels in a men's room, much less hold a rifle.
The 'Stormtrooper Effect' also happens to be a self-sustaining myth about Star Wars that drastically over-estimates any incompetence the Stormtroopers display on-screen. In all three films there's only one sequence where they truly bumble about - the bridge scene in ANH. Otherwise stormtrooper poor performance is based on several scenes in ANH where they are chasing moving targets that they are presumably under orders to capture rather than kill, or sequences of them being killed by Ewoks in ROTJ. Of course, during ROTJ we never see any of the stormtrooper side of the battle - they are shown to fire a precise Five times and not once do they shoot at a single Ewok.
You bring it up right in your post though. He has seen Vader & Obi-Wan duel and basically never mentions it. Mara on the other hand is incredible both in Zahn's narrative and Luke's eyes. Mara could hardly manipulate the Force in TTT, but she's a whirling masterpiece of skill in Choices of One(all because of Palpatine's power accenting her own no doubt), this after besting Vader in Allegiance.
And I've also said that I think its not that big a deal because its a common trait that numerous Star Wars authors seem to share. Stackpole makes Corran super human, Denning always has Saba coming out on top and Traviss, of course, favored the Mandalorians in general. Its not a huge fault, but it remains something that is there.
Luke caught his breath as he suddenly understood. She was turning her lightsaber on and off as she ran to keep from slicing through the rails support struts while she swept the blade across the incoming fire.
For a moment he just stood there staring, frozen in amazment by hte level of sheer control and artistry the manuver demonstrated.
Now maybe it doesn't reflect poorly upon Luke that he was dazzled by this lightsaber display, but the descritption is pretty self explanatory. Look at Mara, she is awesome. Ki Adi Mundi couldn't deflect much of the blaster fire during Order 66, but Mara can do it while perfectly turning her saber on and off in an incredibly intricate manner.
Like Robimus said, you can design or extrapolate scenarios to undermine the remarks. But the problem is that, to me, Zahn very clearly intended to convey this notion. Otherwise, why have Lando say that at all?
I have no issue with Pellaeon, Thrawn's right hand man, opining a favorable view of Thrawn. My problem is that everyone in the books share, to varying degrees, that sort of assessment with practically zero counterbalance.
In fact, I would say that Pellaeon, not Thrawn or Mara, is Zahn's single greatest creation precisely because Zahn doesn't waste time trying to one-up everyone with him. Pellaeon is a competent commander who develops radically throughout his appearances, maturing (even as an old man) into an even greater military commander. Yet for all his influence in the post-Endor world, he's not touted as a guy who'd lay waste to the likes of Ackbar and Bel Iblis or otherwise a naval commander without peer.
As I said, the similarity is that neither Zahn nor Traviss entertain any contrary ideas.
The fact of the matter is that, based on accomplishments, Thrawn is an exemplary commander and a military mastermind par excellence. This is acceptable to me. But then when you write him as being "two steps ahead" of the saga's premiere political manipulator in a political context, we have a problem, Houston.
I haven't read this book, but despite Mara coming off as far more skilled than she should, I'm fine with it.
Here's where we get to telling the reader how awesome Mara is, which is piling it on, instead of just letting the reader come to their own conclusion.
Zahn does this constantly, everyone is constantly in awe of Mara or Thrawn. If he just cut down on it significantly, it wouldn't get so annoying.
I don't object necessarily to Mara having more technical expertise than Luke as a swordsman, since she was formally trained and he wasn't.
This tendency to portray one's favorite characters as super-awesome to the point of being Mary Sue's/Gary Stu's is not unique to Zahn, however, I find it the mark of a good writer if we can't tell who his or her favorite character is. James Luceno comes to mind; I have no idea which Star Wars character he likes best, if he even has a favorite. Stover--I think he prefers Obi-Wan but he writes the other characters fairly as opposed to writing a very "in your face" Obi-Wan preference.
Sable_Hart summed it up for me: Thrawn is a great military strategist? Fine. Pellaeon admires Thrawn? Fine again. But telling this trilogy and Outbound Flight from the point of view of the character who thinks Thrawn is the greatest character who ever landed in the GFFA, by having this character follow Thrawn around and talk about how outstanding Thrawn is and how everyone either loves him or fears him? Not so much.
Luceno's on record as saying Sidious is one of, if not the, favorite character he writes. Which is ironic, since Darth Plagueis at no point aggrandizes the character.
This is a lesson Zahn and others should learn.
An author who has to say in an interview who his or her favorite character is because no one can tell in his or her stories--that's a good author.
That makes sense. I've been loving his Palpatine since COD.
forget the whole fighting thing, the worst part of Allegiance was when Mara found out about what Vader was up to because he googled "Luke Skywalker" on a computer in the library
i mean are you trying to say Darth Vader doesn't know how to flush a browser history come on
I still don't think its that big a fault. People have favorites, entertainment works around having a popular character and running with it. I think its too bold a claim to suggest that Zahn isn't a good writer because he has a couple faults that pop up in his books.