Reviews Books The JC Lit Reviews Special: CHOICES OF ONE (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac , Jul 13, 2011.

  1. Lane_Winree

    Lane_Winree Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 30, 2006
    Finally got around to reading Choices of One.

    Other reviews have already touched on what makes this book work, so I'll simply say that this book featured probably the best characterization of the Big Three the EU has seen in years. It was generally a fun adventure that didn't take itself too seriously. Wasn't overly dark and gritty like so many novels over the last seven or so years have been. A very welcome change of pace and a template for what Del Rey should produce more of.

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  2. marmkid

    marmkid Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 29, 2001
    I thought this book was a nice example of a side story stand alone book done well. We dont have a galaxy ending crisis jammed into one book

    Zahn had the charactorizations down pretty well as usual.
    Thrawn was fun but not too over the top this time, which was nice.
    Luke was mostly good, though I am not sure given how he was in ANH that he would be quite that naive or nervous about going on a mission. But then again, I didnt find it that unbelievable
    Palleaon was great and spot on i think

    Each individual story kept my interest and i think was paced well

    Given that it was a stand alone and not meant to be anything grander, I'll give it a 9 out of 10

  3. TheRedBlade

    TheRedBlade Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 17, 2007
    I'm going to give this one a 7/10.

    It's Zahn, so most of the characterizations are going to be pretty spot-on to where we want them to be. The only exception to this is Leia. She came off as a bit more naggy than sassy (if that's the word I'm going for?), and there was a line about her offering useless advice when working to load those missiles with Han that I found offputting. Seeing her in as Wedge's gunner was neat, though.

    My biggest complaint, though, is with the pacing. While the book ramps up in it's last third, I felt that the first half of the book was too much like reading Allegiance. I wish more of the fat had been trimmed, and gotten us to the "good stuff" faster.
  4. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 250.65/31 = 8.09
  5. aalagartassle

    aalagartassle Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 11, 2011
    Not the greatest SW book Zahn wrote. Actually maybe the worst.
    Little depth and all the right moves.
    I did enjoy the allegiance squad, it had grit.
    Luke Skywalker and Leia were below par.
    Han solo good.
    Mara, a little under done in thought.
    I thought Zahn made a point to add far to many tie-ins.


  6. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 256.65/32 = 8.02
  7. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Thanks, kataja, for mentioning Wheeler's YA series, most enjoyable and Star Wars-y reads. I stopped reading post-ROTJ books after the NJO ended, I can't say why, but Wheeler's books are a stand out for The Saga era.

    I enjoyed Choices of One as a stand alone, unaware of Allegiance's tie-in, so most likely that one is next on my reading list. Luke and Leia and Han were OT as they seemed like their movie selves. All Luke's hesitation in many scenes, plus his determination to do /something/ to save the governor's family, befitted ANH's young, eager hero. And it was great to see Chewie once more, strong and helpful and important. Pellaeon and Mara and Han were, to me, the big interesting protagonists; Mara's sense of justice clear and sure, Pellaeon sidestepping minefields in his career as he does his duty and Han revealing perhaps a bit of his service past when he impersonates an officer to good effect.

    Sort of weird things: the name choice of Odo? Odo of Deep Space Nine in Star Trek sprang to mind right away and the scene where he is marching down a companionway in conversation with someone, covered head to foot in a burqa plus a mask get up, made me laugh. Not what Nuso Esva would have appreciated, to be sure.

    I liked being misled about the true identities of Odo and Sorro and also the action, therefore


  8. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 264.65/33 = 8.02
  9. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    It's a fun book, and the nostalgia value of the OT setting is high. Unfortunately, Zahn, for all that he would seem to be a natural fit, doesn't seem to quite gel with the setting. A lot of the little details are off, like Luke using his lightsaber exclusively when even a cursory look at ANH and TESB would show that he was still using a blaster as his primary weapon, and the characterization doesn't quite fit. Zahn writes a great post-ROTJ Big Three, but his post-ANH Luke is far too callow, without the blossoming confidence and experience he was showing even in ANH. His Han is too one-note and flat as a jerk who doesn't want to be there and finds Luke grating. And his Leia is okay, but unspectacular. I'm also not crazy about his version of Mara back when she was a true believer. The Hand of Judgment characters never really come alive -- they're too professional as stormtroopers to have real identities, which may be deliberate but works against their being engaging protagonists. Zahn is much better at nailing Pellaeon, but he doesn't quite seem to get how weird and unseemly it is to have a fifty-something, supposedly-competent officer serving as third- or fourth-in-command on a Star Destroyer. Now we basically have to retcon some kind of disaster and demotion into his record. Thrawn is nicely enigmatic, but there's a fundamental problem with the fact that Car'das's inclusion serves no purpose other than to get another Watson in there for Thrawn. Car'das never ends up doing anything in the plot or turning out to be a critical piece. His arc, ultimately, is that he gets less suicidally depressed, and that was Thrawn's goal, because he's Thrawn's friend. Which is weird as ****, if sort of interesting, and which doesn't really tie into the plot and ultimately feels like a distraction.

    The plot is another of Zahn's tight, complex Thrawn-plan narratives, with the added complication of Esva being the main plotter with Thrawn plotting over him. That's clever and interesting, but while Thrawn's plans are excellent, it's a major problem that Esva isn't up to that standard. His mastermind status appears to depend on his ability to . . . show up to random people and tell them stupidly simple things they want to hear and somehow be believed. It doesn't really work. And his master plan -- to humiliate Thrawn by . . . making standard-equipment things crash in a nowhere backwater while Thrawn is in the area -- is laughable. At no point does it register as anything approaching the devastating blow to Thrawn's reputation or significant defeat to the Empire Esva casts it as. Instead it registers as Saturday-morning-cartoon farce.

    I don't want to be too hard on the book -- it's fun, it has lots of good elements, and the retro feel works -- but Zahn is nowhere near the top of his game here. It feels like it needed another pass or two to refine the characters and plot and focus down on exactly what story Zahn wanted to tell. 7/10
  10. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 271.65/34 = 7.99
  11. Riven_JTAC

    Riven_JTAC Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 28, 2011
    Just finished the book last night. I thought it was okay, but nothing great.

    Like many people have already mentioned, Zahn's character depictions are sometimes suspect and sometimes great. I agree with Havac that Pellaeon was portrayed very well, but it does seem strange that he's not in command already in the book. He clearly is a very competent officer. He had to have done SOMETHING to be put in a position under Drusan like this.

    I think too much was trying to be accomplished in so short a book. There were so many story lines going on at once that I was actually surprised when I'd turn a page and see characters I hadn't seen in a long time. "I forgot they were even in this book!" I'd say to myself. Some of the subplots were weaker than others, for sure. The defense of [hl=black]the tapcaf by the Hand of Judgment[/hl] seemed terribly contrived. I still cannot believe that there were no local security or loyal stormtroopers who came to check things out. Comlink jammer or not, you'd think SOMEONE would notice the explosions and blaster fire.

    I did like Han's [hl=black]bluffing his way into the Golan[/hl]. I thought that was clever and, while some parts of probably stretched my ability to believe, it seemed like another fine cowboy-esque Han plan.

    At the end, I really liked Mara's inner conflict over what she perceived to be a disconnect between her loyalty to the Emperor and her sense of justice and right. I think stuff like this in Choices of One and previously in Allegiance make her post-OT self much more believable, showing that she always had a sense of good in her that could override her immense loyalty and sense of duty to the Emperor.

    I give it a 7/10 based mostly on the fact that it was more Mara Jade, an interesting plot (overall, but not at all times), and it read quickly (despite its issues).
  12. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 278.65/35 = 7.96
  13. Jedi Comedian

    Jedi Comedian Jedi Master star 3

    Oct 27, 2012
    Sorry to post this here, but I wasn't sure where it belonged. Is the old thread that collected the scores of all the Lit Review Specials still around somewhere, or has it been lost for good? As a lurker for a fair while, I found it useful in deciding which books to read next.
  14. fett 4

    fett 4 Chosen One star 5

    Jan 2, 2000
    Find myself agreeing pretty much with Havacs review. While not Zahn best starwars work it was not his worst, and was enjoyable enough, certainly a step up from the awful Alliegence without question. I even agree with the rating 7/10

    Pelleon was the best and most interesting charachter in the book without doubt but for me it was because there was tension and interest in the scenes.

    Thats what made his Original trilogy so interesting as charachters were learning and developing. It's also what made Mara interesting. Not her chopping Priates left an right but in her development and discovering things about herslef.
  15. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 285.65/36 = 7.93
  16. fett 4

    fett 4 Chosen One star 5

    Jan 2, 2000
    Are you going to do a review for Alliegence at all ?
  17. Riven_JTAC

    Riven_JTAC Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 28, 2011
    I thought there was one already.
  18. MistrX

    MistrX Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 20, 2006
    The first time I tried reading this book last year, I had trouble getting into it. It didn’t grab me initially, so I set it aside and moved on to other things for a while. Recently, I decided I would try again, wanting to catch up on some of the more recent book releases. I reread Allegiance to get the backstory again and ended up liking that book more than I had remembered. Plus, I seem to had forgotten quite a bit of that book’s plot, so it was nice to get the beginning and a reintroduction to Zahn in this era and his new characters.

    I think that helped because in my second attempt to read this book, I ended up liking it quite a lot. What we get here is another one of Zahn’s spanning stories with multiple plotlines and various points of view, all coming together in some way in a rip-roaring finale. In some of his recent efforts, like Allegiance or Survivor’s Quest, I felt that those climaxes were underwhelming or a little less dramatic than they could have been. Not so here. The plot this time around kept me guessing and actually threw me off in places. I was convinced for much of the book that Odo and Sorro were Jorj and Thrawn. Maybe I missed an obvious clue early on that clearly showed them to be different duos, but if it was there I didn’t see it. There were enough twists and turns that I stayed interested and kept waiting to see how they would all come together and how various characters might end up playing roles in the ultimate confrontation.

    I also appreciated all of the nods Zahn gave not only for events to come in the films, but also in his own Zahnverse corner of the EU. Here, we get hints of the foundations for the great map we see in Hand of Thrawn and the multispecies 501st we meet in Survivor’s Quest. We see the Rebels gain equipment vital to their base on Hoth as well as the speeders they use in Empire.

    On the other hand, I would imagine many reading noted some of the impressive ability of the main characters. If Zahn has been accused of Mary Sue/Gary Stu-ing his characters up before, this would be no exception. Thrawn is back and planning for things that seem way too convenient for him to realize. Mara rarely feels like she’s in any danger whatsoever. The Hand of Judgment even doesn’t have too much trouble, largely thanks to one of Thrawn’s group of pseudo-Noghri. They at least get injured at the hands of the traitor, but largely don’t play an essential part of the plot. Mostly, they support Mara and wait around, protecting the life of the planet’s governor while others take care of business. It seems like something of a waste of their characters, who I had hoped to see working beside Mara in a more tangible capacity.

    I actually think he handles the classic characters better this time around, letting the big three each take part in a major plot of their own. Han seems to be everywhere and I probably had the most fun following his crazy ideas and plans. I liked following his improvised style and how at least his superiors (and Leia, grudgingly) recognize the value of having him as part of the Alliance. Plus, it was nice seeing him acknowledge to himself his attraction to Leia, since he’s not hiding it much at Hoth two years later.

    Leia’s plot also ends up being better than I had thought, and it was nice to see her get to use her intelligence to figure out where the cavern with the missile ships was. While it ended up not being all that important in itself, the speeder attack with Rogue Squadron was just fun to picture, something I could certainly enjoy seeing onscreen.

    Luke, unfortunately, ends up reacting for most of his plotline. He is, however, where I mostly would expect him to be at this point in his Jedi training, one of the problems I had with him having little problem deflecting blaster bolts in the Star Wars: Rebellion plotlines, which apparently take place a month after this book. The guy who has trouble pulling his lightsaber through the air in the wampa cave should still have a long way to go at this point.

    Reading the end of this book, I have to wonder if Zahn has heard some of our complaints about his Vader characterization because getting Vader and Death Squadron to play the book’s Big Damn Heroes at the end was a moment that nearly made me cheer. And then in the next scene, having him figure out in seconds that the Rebels would be looking for a cold, uninhabited world based on the equipment Ferrouz gave them was a good moment for the Dark Lord. For once, Zahn let Vader be ruthless without making him look rabid and actually gave him a moment to show us that, no, he’s not a completely mindless marauder. I appreciated that.

    On its own, the book doesn’t lend much to characterization. The Hand of J gets less development here than in the previous book and in fact most of the character development seems to go to Han and Pellaeon, two characters’ whose stories we already know. It’s plot driven, and though the plot may be convoluted, it was still fun enough that I think it’s one of Zahn’s best. If he decides to explore this era and the characters further, I’ll be right there reading.

    BTW, Mara seems to growl a lot. Just wanted to throw that out there.

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  19. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 294.4/37 = 7.96
  20. Darth_Foo

    Darth_Foo Force Ghost star 4

    Feb 24, 2003
    Really liked this more than I thought I would. I wish less time had been spent on the logistics of the set-up so the fights in the Unknown Regions could've been explored more. Luke's "Force inexperience" is a little grating given even the old Classic SW comics, but Zahn does have a point that in the opening of ESB Luke has problems calming down and levitating his saber. At least he regrets every life he takes.

    Zahn writes a great Han. I don't like Han in the movies but his scenes were some of the best. So yeah the HoJ are super-soliders (one of them really should have died) and Mara is just perfect but that didn't ruin the book for me.


    Also, at the end Thrawn tells the Imperial group what the Rebels got away with and Vader is the one who says they are on a cold uninhabited world.
  21. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 29, 2005
    Average score: 302.8/38 = 7.96
  22. sharkymcshark

    sharkymcshark Jedi Knight star 3

    Dec 12, 2013
    Bit average.

    The Han/Leia stuff was reasonably interesting, if perhaps stretching credibility (casting about in local pubs for people to do installs on your top secret fleet seems reasonable, right?).

    The Luke stuff did basically boil down to him going 'gee I wish I was a real Jedi', though that was kind of the point I suppose (seeing as he didn't actually achieve anything by the end, and it was more or less all Mara).

    Did nothing to dispel my suspicion that every story featuring Mara Jade set pre TTT basically exists as a vehicle for the author to go "NO SERIOUS GUYS LIKE I KNOW I SAID THAT SHE WAS THE TOP OPERATIVE OF THE MOST EVIL PERSON EVER BUT LIKE SHE'S NOT THAT BAD HONEST".

    The actual story was decent - it picked up a good bit of pace in the middle after the riot broke out through to about the time that Axlon revealed his duplicity and Han/Leia had to escape from Esva's makeshift shipyard. The pace did just sort of grind to a half after that and towards the end perhaps got a little bit too wheels within wheels within wheels (within...) for its own good. Also I can't help but feel that the only reason that Thrawn was hanging around on a shuttle (with Cardas, for whatever reason?) was because otherwise it would have been almost pointlessly obvious that Lord Odo was Nuso Esva.

    Anyway, as I said above, par for the course.

  23. sharkymcshark

    sharkymcshark Jedi Knight star 3

    Dec 12, 2013
    And to save Havac some nuisance

    307.8/39 = 7.89
  24. Vialco

    Vialco Force Ghost star 5

    Mar 6, 2007
    This was a difficult book to get ahold of in hardcover, there aren’t that many copies around. This book was published at the very end of the Expanded Universe and as such it’s very much an underrated gem.

    What begins as a repeat of the Shelsha Secession Ruse from Allegiance quickly dissolves into something very different. This book has gotten a bad rap over the years from many people, but I quite enjoyed it. I churned through this novel in less than a week and I have to say, I quite enjoyed it.

    As in Zahn’s previous novel Allegiance, the main protagonist in this tale is Mara Jade. The Emperor’s Hand. We also see the return of the Hand of Judgment: LaRone, Marcross, Quiller, Grave and Brightwater. I’ve actually grown quite fond of those five stormtroopers and it was nice to see them return.

    The main theme of this book is the honour and decency of some Imperial officers. That there are heroes on both sides of this conflict. Mara Jade cleans up corruption, the Hand of Judgment dethrones petty tyrants and dictators and Captains Thrawn and Pelleaon defeat vicious alien warlords from the Unknown Regions.

    The most deplorable person in this book is really a Rebel-former Governor Vestin Axlon-who tries to kill the Imperial Governor in an insidious way that I’ve already forgotten the details about. If there’s one flaw in this book and in Zahn’s writings overall, it’s that his plots can be a bit too convoluted and sometimes difficult to follow.

    Han, Leia and Luke all get some focus in this book and some development, but the real focus is on Mara Jade. We can see from her depiction in this novel that she was very much the Emperor’s anti-corruption agent. Her enemies weren’t the Rebels or innocent farmers or civilian populations. Which is just as well, because Mara Jade believes in the Empire as a force for good. This naïveté is very intentional and was no doubt cultivated by Palpatine to ensure his most useful assassin and secret agent would remain loyal. After seeing much of this book through Mara’s eyes, I have no doubt that she would have balked at killing a planet full of civilians the way Tarkin did, or slaying younglings as Darth Vader has done in the Emperor’s service.

    Perhaps the years have mellowed me, but I can appreciate that there were some decent and honourable sentiments within the Empire. People that believed in the Galactic Empire as a force for good. I also find it quite believable that these people would not have committed atrocities in the Empire’s name. Rather, when faced with the horrid aspects of the Empire, they would defect. This novel sets up Mara’s eventual support of Luke Skywalker and the New Republic, years after Endor.

    While Mara is an excellent protagonist, my favourite character in this book has to be Gilad Pelleaon. The Old Man of the Empire, who’s not so old in this novel. After years of seeing Imperials as bloodthirsty butchers, it’s nice to see a few decent and honourable Imperials. I enjoyed seeing Gilad try to resolve the mystery of the enigmatic Lord Odo and his servant Sorro. From the start of the book, it’s very clear that whoever Odo is, he’s definitely not Thrawn. As for his dupe, Commander Drusan has to take the cake as the most incompetent and deluded Imperial in the EU. Joak Drysso wasn’t this inept or foolish. As the book progressed, I found myself actually laughing at Drusan’s idiocy. The man was completely duped and deceived by Nuso Esva.

    That brings me to another theme that this book subtly weaves into it’s structure. The Empire does have good qualities and there are honourable people serving it. But the leadership remains corrupt to the core and as long as men like Palpatine and Tarkin remain in charge, the Empire will ultimately be a tool of oppression, tyranny and slaughter. A case can be mad that Zahn doesn’t make this obvious enough in this book, but I know that there’s already plenty of material that shows the Empire as being unrepentantly evil. This book is meant to show that there is still some good within it. Even here, we see glimpses of that evil.

    Palpatine and Thrawn tour Endor, where the second Death Star is being built. Thrawn himself declares that democracy can never work, which is why he serves the Empire. With all this time spent on the Imperials, it’s easy to forget the Rebel Alliance. But they do play a part in this book and we can see the differences between them and the Empire very easily.

    The Choices of One is a good book and an enjoyable read, but it’s not for everyone. I’ve read much of the positive and negative thoughts on this book and I can understand where both are coming from. But I think that this book is best appreciated in the wider context of the entire Star Wars Saga. When you know what has come before and what will come after, this book slots neatly into the EU timeline and I would give it a 7.5/10. It does have some shortcomings but they’re easily ignored and glossed over. A pleasure to read, as is all of Zahn’s Star Wars writings.
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