Star Wars: Choices of One
Author: Timothy Zahn
Published By: The Ballentine Publishing Company
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I heard that Timothy Zahn was returning to the Star Wars Universe with a new novel, I was happy. When I found out that the book would star one of my favorite Expanded Universe characters, Mara Jade, a character Zahn had created many moons ago, I was ecstatic. When I heard that the novel was to take place sometime between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, I was not terribly disappointed - I did want to learn more about Maraís past. However, I had been hoping for a Mara/Luke adventure sometime just before or after their marriage. No matter, I would read it anyway. When I saw the cover to the new novel, Star Wars: Choices of One, I was severely disappointed at the artwork, but artwork has nothing to do with Timothy Zahnís writing, so I rushed out and bought the novel as soon as it hit the shelves.
In Star Wars: Choices of One, Mara Jade is still the Emperorís Hand and she is about to embark on a new mission - to hunt down an Imperial Governor who has apparently turned traitor and is dealing with the Rebellion. She heads off to Poln Major, but not before enlisting the assistance of renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. We first met these stormtroopers in Allegiance when circumstances forced them to go AWOL, forming a renegade unit set on dispatching justice throughout what has become a decidedly unjust Empire.
In the meantime, Han Solo and Chewbacca are assigned to escort Vestin Axlon, an Alderaanian rebel leader, to Poln Major. It is there that Axlon will complete talks with Governor Bidor Ferrouz for a location for a Rebel Base in exchange for protection from an alien warlord known as Nuso Esva. Unbeknownst to Han, Luke Skywalker has been enlisted by Axlon to aide him in his talks, but Axlon has ordered him to keep the mission to himself. Also unbeknownst to Han is the fact that Leia Organa and other members of the Rebel Alliance are on their way to Poln Minor, a mining planet, to scout out the possible locations offered by Ferrouz to use for their hidden base.
On another front, Chimaera Senior Bridge Officer Pallaeon has become suspicious of the Imperial Destroyerís new guests, Lord Odo and his pilot Sorro. Never mind the fact that Lord Odo is intent on wearing a mask for his entire stay on the destroyer, but his suspicious activities while on board have inspired Pallaeon to conduct his own investigation as to who Lord Odo is and what his purpose is aboard the Chimaera.
Things on the surface look straight forward, but as our characters do some investigating, we soon learn that not everything is as it appears. Carefully laid plans begin to fall apart and Rebels and Imperials find themselves working on the same side to stop a menace from the Unknown Regions from destroying the planet.
Timothy Zahn is back with a vengenace! This is exactly the type of book I expected from Zahn, a novel I could get lost in with tons of action, adventure and intrigue. Every chapter adds another twist to the tale. Just when you think you know whatís going on, you hit a bump in the road and everything you thought was true ends up being a fabrication.
I liked Zahnís foray into Star Warsí past, allowing him to write the characters as they were before The Empire Strikes Back - Mara Jade as a devoted Imperial Agent with a sense of fairness, Luke Skywalker as a green Rebel agent just learning to use his Force powers, Han Solo as a rogue Rebel agent with a lack of disregard for command, Leia Organa as a tough as nails Rebel with a need to be in the center of the action. We see Luke Skywalker, just learning what itís like to have to kill someone face to face instead of inside a starfighter cockpit and Han Solo coming to grips with the increased role he has been taking on in the Rebellion. We learn about Mara Jadeís feelings toward the Emperor and the Empire at large. We see why Grand Admiral Thrawn was so impressed with Palleaonís abilities as a commander.
What was even more interesting to me was the ways in which everyone, both Imperials and Rebels, became entangled in a bid for power that had them setting aside their differences and working together toward a common goal. I also liked the idea that the choice of one man affects all. This novel shows the many ways in which that can take place in every aspect of oneís life.
I thought it was cool the way Zahn was able to tie up some loose ends for the fans. He explained how the Rebel Alliance got its hands on the T-47 fighters modified for cold weather environments. He explained how the equipment needed for those modifications gave Vader just enough information to give him an idea as to where to look for the hidden Rebels in The Empire Strikes Back.
I started reading Star Wars: Choices of One on a Friday and was halfway done with it the same day. Zahnís writing has a flow that is incredible. You become absorbed in the characters and their outcomes. Choices of One has the added incentive of a mystery the reader must try to solve along with the major characters. That was something new for me in the Star Wars universe and quite welcome. Bravo, Timothy Zahn, you have once again proven why you are the master of the realm known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe!
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