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Specter of the Past
Vision of the Future

By Timothy Zahn
19 years after ANH
Specter vision
Specter of the Past Vision of the Future
* * * * *
* * * * ½


Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future form a duology that takes place 15 years after ROTJ. As the duology begins, the remnants of the once-mighty Empire are less and less a threat to the New Republic. In the place of this external enemy, internal dissension is about to come to a boil. Long-dormant prejudices and age-old feuds are awakening all over the galaxy. As moderating factions within what's left of Palpatine's Empire move towards peace with the New Republic, a few devious plotters led by the scheming Moff Disra maneuver to take advantage of the burgeoning strife breaking out all over. Disra and his co-conspirator former Imperial guard Major Tierce align with some of the less savory of the mercenaries, weaving a multi-layered plot to further inflame speciesist conflagrations on the one hand, and stall the peace process, led by the Commander of the Imperial fleet Admiral Pellaeon, on the other.

The duology has many playing stages, with Han & Leia attempting to disprove the accused Bothan complicity in the Emperor's massacre of the noble Caamasi race, Luke tracking down a suspected clone star-fighter squadron, smuggler chief Talon Karde and former Mistryl warrior Shada D'ukal searching for a document that could mitigate some of the anti-Bothan sentiment, Rogue Squadron on the Bothan homeworld one step ahead of saboteurs, and Mara Jade travelling to the Uncharted Territories to track a mysterious ship which might be the source of rumors about the resurrection of the now-ten-years-deceased Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Specter of the Past sets all these wheels in motion: the brewing racial conflicts, the revelations of Bothan treachery, the rumors of Thrawn's return, the search for the document that might exonerate the Bothans, and the Imperial/Republic peace process and the manipulations of those who would undermine it. In Vision of the Future, what was begun in the first book comes to fruition and all the stakes are raised.


Timothy Zahn is truly the master. Many of the other EU contributors would do well to take lessons from him. In Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future, the gang's all here and what fun to see Zahn take advantage of such a large, existing cast. Admiral Pellaeon, Mara Jade, Talon Karde, Corran Horn, Bothan Senator Borsk Fey'lya, not to mention the film protagonists, Han, Luke, Leia, the droids, Wedge Antilles, etc. The character voices are perfectly tuned, and the ratio of core players to supporting cast is ideal. It helps, too, that everyone, down to the smallest of roles, is fleshed-out, multi-faceted, and interesting. Luke, Leia, and Mara's use of the Force has just the right balance, with no one omnipotent, but the extra powers put to apt use. Zahn has the advantage, as well, of being the last in line in the 15 to 20-year arc that begins with The Truce at Bakura right after ROTJ, and essentially ends with this duology. For better or worse, and usually for better, Zahn can tinker with history, re-writing, explaining, excusing, and adjusting timeline inconsistencies or previous authors' weaknesses. The primary downside to this, however, is to try to "fix" too much. A few of the re-alignments do feel a bit convenient, but overall, Zahn gives excellent closure leading into the next phase of the continuum, the five year, New Jedi Order series.

There's just not much to quibble with here. There's a wee too much recapping to feel completely natural, and there's a little heavy-handedness in the sometimes buffoony, comic-opera depiction of the bad guys, but these are truly minor complaints. The over-riding sense the reader comes away with is of a plot that is elaborate, subtle, and thoroughly engrossing. The pacing is marvelous, both within and between sequences, and the whole thing is just expertly constructed. Good action, humor, warmth, and even romance. (And not just the finally realized, long-hinted-at Luke and Mara relationship, but old-marrieds Han and Leia also display a gentle passion).

The use of multi-book series in the EU allows for a much richer experience…when done well. Poorly executed, it reads like padding, but in Timothy Zahn's hands, events are totally motivated, and the added pages afforded the duology lets us see a lot of details that make it all feel real, lived in, observed rather than created. Zahn deserves a lot of the credit for the successful birth of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and it is fitting and immensely satisfying that he should close out the first long story cycle.

In the first of the GalaxyFarAway.com Books Features, we have an exclusive interview with the Black Fleet Crisis Series author, Michael Kube-McDowell.
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