“STAR WARS: THRAWN” BY TIMOTHY ZAHN NON-SPOILER BOOK REVIEW

I am a massive fan of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy from 1991 to 1993.  In a lot of ways, those books, and novels that continued on from there, are truly what made me a Star Wars fan, more than just three movies.  Before those books, this was a dead franchise.  Timothy Zahn breathed life into Star Wars and made it a love of mine for every single year of my life since then.  The character of Thrawn was a large part of the success of those stories.  He was a fascinating and competent villain always one step ahead of our heroes.  Truly one of the greatest characters in Star Wars.

When Thrawn was resurrected in the new continuity for Rebels, I was delighted.  When I learned Timothy Zahn would be writing a new novel, that was just the icing on the cake.  I’m happy to report the book lives up to my expectations for the most part.  It’s a fascinating read, a brilliant focus on Thrawn, and probably my favorite book of the New Canon.  (#2 would be Dark Disciple)

The book is not a massive war epic, but that’s alright.  It covers the many years of Thrawn’s service in the Empire dealing with pirates, smugglers, rebels, and his own corrupt inept Imperial superiors.  I really wish the book established what year these chapters took place in; I had no idea how close this was to ROTS or ANH.

My one substantial complaint is that a surprising amount of the book stars another character who I just had zero interest in, and I didn’t really see the point of having it in here.  Anytime I got to one of those chapters, I was just dying to get back to Thrawn.  It was probably only about a fifth of the page count though, so it’s not a huge deal.

The book is a fascinating character study of a brilliant Sherlock Holmes type who willingly serves a corrupt, evil institution.  I really loved seeing how Thrawn dealt with the evil aspects of the Empire and how he maneuvered around his superiors as needed.  I also really treasured his relationship with Watson-like assistant.

MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA

I really loved the first three games, particularly for their story and setting.  I was so into the world of ME I read all the tie-in novels and some of the comics.  It basically played like Babylon 5: The Video Game, right down to ancient alien foes and the story being centered around a massive cylindrical space station.  Sure, the first game had a horrific inventory system, but the trilogy was a wonderful blend of RPG and Action Shooter with a really great story.

While ME:A certainly has fun shooter game play, I truly feel this story is vastly inferior to its predecessors.  By journeying to another galaxy centuries later, all of the back story that made the original trilogy is completely jettisoned, leaving us with a new set of random new aliens who just are not interesting.  The villains are particularly cardboard and uninspiring.  It’s a real disappointment.

I played the game on the easier setting, because I only have so much time in the day, so I ignored the inventory and leveling system for the most part.  I think if I had delved into that, I would have been even more frustrated.  I applaud the game for having a “casual gaming” difficult setting though.  I was able to play the game quickly, with ease, and I hardly ever died in combat.  I beat the game in 28 hours, and that’s including doing all the character loyalty missions.  I skipped over a hundred more small local missions.  I didn’t have enough interest to spend time on them, but the depth of content in this game is astounding.  I just wish the story had been interesting.

GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

I saw the original anime film back in the day and vaguely remember liking it, but that was the extent of my familiarity with the franchise.  I went into this movie with no expectations aside from nice visuals.  I’d say I was pleasantly surprised.  This was basically a modern day Blade Runner in every possible sense, though I’m certainly not calling it a classic piece of cinema.  It had the same film noir tone, questions about what is life and intelligence in the face of robots, very similar visuals with vast holograms everywhere…  Scarlett Johansson was a bit of a cipher of a character, but that was intentional, and you could certainly say the same thing about Harrison Ford in Blade Runner.  I did really enjoy the relationship with her partner Batou though.  He was my favorite character.

The film was visually gorgeous all the way through.  Almost every single shot of the movie had some kind of hologram going on in the background.  The action scenes were solid and interesting.  The story had an interesting mystery.  Aside from the inexplicably mostly white cast in what appears to be Japan, I don’t really have any complaints.