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Thrawn (Legends vs Canon Novels)


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Over the past few years, I have been burning through the new Thrawn novels by Timothy Zahn as they have come out. Specifically:

  • Thrawn (2017)
  • Thrawn: Alliances (2018)
  • Thrawn: Treason (2019)

I have read quite a few of the other new canon novels as well, (which were hit and miss), but in my humble opinion: these have been consistently top shelf. I just ordered the latest one that came out back in September, but I wanted to know from some of you old EU nerds if the OG Thrawn novels, are worth picking up and reading next? Or are these newer novels mostly rehashed stories from the old EU that have been updated to fall in line with the story lines being put together by the new corporate overlords at Mickey's Clubhouse?

Has anyone read at least one novel from Zahn's old and new sets and care to give your thoughts?

Or, if you have only read the original novels: any standouts that are must reads?

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Over the past few years, I have been burning through the new Thrawn novels by Timothy Zahn as they have come out. Specifically: Thrawn (2017) Thrawn: Alliances (2018) Thrawn: Treas

I enjoyed reading Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. I think you would have to read all three since they are just one big story. However, that was almost 30 years ago when I

Actually, all of the new canon books Zahn has written so far have been carefully written around EU continuity, so they can fit into either canon ("Legends" or Disney). I own them all but have only rea

I enjoyed reading Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. I think you would have to read all three since they are just one big story. However, that was almost 30 years ago when I read those books. So, this was way back even before the Special Edition Star Wars. Thus, I think the author had a fairly wide degree of freedom when writing these. If you don't care about stuff in these stories not being in line with what is now canon Star Wars, I think they could still be enjoyable novels. Beyond those books, I have not read much other EU stories (except the Jedi Academy Trilogy).

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Actually, all of the new canon books Zahn has written so far have been carefully written around EU continuity, so they can fit into either canon ("Legends" or Disney). I own them all but have only read the first, which was very good. The same applies to James Luceno's novel Tarkin: part of Disney canon but written to be able to fit within EU continuity, albeit with a bit of imagination. That also was an enjoyable read.

We may not technically be getting new "Legends" materials, but as long as these guys keep writing, it's as if we are. Unofficially, of course. There also others that were not meant to fit within the old EU but actually do, by an amazing fluke. These would include Rogue One and The Mandalorian. A trusted chronologist friend of mine actually says the latter fits quite well right before the original Thrawn trilogy.

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17 minutes ago, Zerimar Nyliram said:

Actually, all of the new canon books Zahn has written so far have been carefully written around EU continuity, so they can fit into either canon ("Legends" or Disney). I own them all but have only read the first, which was very good. The same applies to James Luceno's novel Tarkin: part of Disney canon but written to be able to fit within EU continuity, albeit with a bit of imagination. That also was an enjoyable read.

We may not technically be getting new "Legends" materials, but as long as these guys keep writing, it's as if we are. Unofficially, of course. There also others that were not meant to fit within the old EU but actually do, by an amazing fluke. These would include Rogue One and The Mandalorian. A trusted chronologist friend of mine actually says the latter fits quite well right before the original Thrawn trilogy.

That is awesome to hear. See, this is one of the ways I figured this might go. Since Zahn was selected as the author for both sets of series, I was thinking that he might just adhere to the Legends version of Thrawn so as not to isolate any old fans, but since I have never read any of them, I didn't know for sure if that was the case. My fear was that Filoni might have done something when he reintroduced Thrawn in Rebels that would have precluded Zahn from maintaining that continuity. Glad to hear that isn't the case. Thanks for the info. I'll definitely be picking these up then.

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I just don’t buy his gift. It’s the sort of thing that only works because the author wants it to. Sure, you could say the same thing of the Force, but Thrawn’s deductions and acumen is never earned. We’re just told he can do this thing, so watch him do it.

To be fair, I never really liked Sherlock Holmes for the same reason.

Also, a lot of the early EU stuff rubbed my wrong with it’s bigger is better methodology.

In the prose Paellon remarks that if Thrawn, instead of Vader, had been overseeing the Endor situation the rebels would have lost. I can’t stand Zahn as a writer because he makes these assumptions and leaps and we’re just supposed to roll with them— and to do so at the expense of legit SW characters is criminal to me.

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18 minutes ago, Tank said:

I just don’t buy his gift. It’s the sort of thing that only works because the author wants it to. Sure, you could say the same thing of the Force, but Thrawn’s deductions and acumen is never earned. We’re just told he can do this thing, so watch him do it.

To be fair, I never really liked Sherlock Holmes for the same reason.

Also, a lot of the early EU stuff rubbed my wrong with it’s bigger is better methodology.

In the prose Paellon remarks that if Thrawn, instead of Vader, had been overseeing the Endor situation the rebels would have lost. I can’t stand Zahn as a writer because he makes these assumptions and leaps and we’re just supposed to roll with them— and to do so at the expense of legit SW characters is criminal to me.

I do not agree with you at all about Thrawn being over rated, and I actually think he is one of the best EU characters created. 

However, as presented, I do have to agree with you that the idea he is able to look at a piece of art and can predict an enemy's possible reaction just seems too much of a stretch for even me.  I think a better way would have to just said he was a brilliant military mind like a Alexander the Great or Napoleon, cold and calculating, and left it at that.  Zahn didn't need to go into detail with the art thing or walk us through how he came to the conclusions he did.  Just have the good guys make a military move, and boom, he outmaneuvers them with trickery and deceit.   Basically, Grand Moff Tarkin without the over blown hubris.

As for your Palaeon point, I don't see that as an absolute truth.  I just see it as Palaeon's personal bias and loyalty. 

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30 minutes ago, Tank said:

I just don’t buy his gift. It’s the sort of thing that only works because the author wants it to. Sure, you could say the same thing of the Force, but Thrawn’s deductions and acumen is never earned. We’re just told he can do this thing, so watch him do it.

To be fair, I never really liked Sherlock Holmes for the same reason.

Also, a lot of the early EU stuff rubbed my wrong with it’s bigger is better methodology.

In the prose Paellon remarks that if Thrawn, instead of Vader, had been overseeing the Endor situation the rebels would have lost. I can’t stand Zahn as a writer because he makes these assumptions and leaps and we’re just supposed to roll with them— and to do so at the expense of legit SW characters is criminal to me.

I can see this; however, the new series does humanize him quite a bit. We see him stumble frequently as he starts from the bottom and makes his way up through the ranks. And in Rebels he experiences quite an embarrassing defeat.

This criticism is the same Mary Sue argument levied against the protagonist in the ST. I think it has merit if they truly didn't work for anything they have. In this case, maybe I have a different perspective because I haven't read the original series, and started with these newer novels where he does have to work a bit more for what he has.

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1 hour ago, Tank said:

Just here to be a dick and say Thrawn is the most overrated SW character ever and I can’t stand him.

But you all enjoy!

True.  He knows everything in the original Zahn trilogy.  He knows everyone's move ahead of time but his explanations for how he knew are super lame.

You suck, Za'ahn!

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44 minutes ago, Jedigoat said:

True.  He knows everything in the original Zahn trilogy.  He knows everyone's move ahead of time but his explanations for how he knew are super lame.

You suck, Za'ahn!

Would you like Thrawn better if you just thought of him as the Serpentor of Star Wars?

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Ah I was waiting for Tank to show up. His Thrawn/Zahn hate is legendary.

He is a bit of a Mary Sue, admittedly. Even in the new novels, he's pretty much perfect with the exception of his political savvy, and then he pretty much works to make it irrelevant. That said, I still enjoy his stories and Zahn is still the best Star Wars writer. Claudia Gray and E.K. Johnston have so far been the only other new one I've liked, and they write the heroine novels.

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3 hours ago, Destiny Skywalker said:

Ah I was waiting for Tank to show up. His Thrawn/Zahn hate is legendary.

True story - Thrawn used to be one of my favourite Star Wars characters. Then I read Tank’s Anti-Thrawn rants here and I was converted. My eyes had been opened. Thrawn does kinda suck. 

And then the most recent episode of a certain Star Wars television came along and instead of being excited about a recent development, I just let out a disappointing groan. So yeah...thanks Tank! 

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Tank: crusher of dreams. Hahaha.

Well, I'm not quite converted yet. I'll withhold judgement until I read the original novels. But I now have a counter-narrative in my mind to tamp my unbridled appreciation of the character and author. The seed has been planted.

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11 hours ago, Tank said:

In the prose Paellon remarks that if Thrawn, instead of Vader, had been overseeing the Endor situation the rebels would have lost. I can’t stand Zahn as a writer because he makes these assumptions and leaps and we’re just supposed to roll with them— and to do so at the expense of legit SW characters is criminal to me.

I don't know if that really counts toward your point. Just because Palleon says it doesn't make it true. It's established that Palleon idolizes Thrawn the same way Watson idolizes Holmes. Therefore, it's possible that Thrawn would have defeated the Rebels at Endor but the validity of that statement is still ambiguous.

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Here’s the thing— in writing, it’s a very easy and subtle thing to plant a concept in the guise of a character’s point of view by sticking it in dialogue (speaking or inner thoughts). But if there’s no counter point, or specific denouement to undo it, it has the same effect as being “true” and not simply a point of view. The thought is floated to the reader. Add in more subtle plants throughout three novels, and you’ve built the idea Thrawn is a better villain than Vader.

At the same time, no writer would try to form a villain around the idea of them being anything less, so Zahn had to go about it this way. Which brings me back to my core EU stance of Star Wars in a non-visual form, post ROTJ, is just something that doesn’t work. For me, all it does is undermine the movies, not enhance them.
 

 

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Hahaha. 
 

That’s just the one I clearly remember however many years later from reading it when it came out. There were other instances.

But like I said, it was a cumulative thing for me as every early EU story did this to some extent. Sun Crushers topping Death Stars, Xizor’s out-crime-ing Hutts, etc etc etc.

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Well, I suffer from the nostalgia bug I suppose, when it comes to the early EU of the early to mid 1990s.  You know, back when you still had to work for your Star Wars fix, and before even the SE versions and PT.  Also, things like those didn't bother me back then, because I was young and dumb(er).  

 

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I read Heir right when it came out, I think I was a sophomore or junior in high school. I was amped for it because you’re right, there was not a lot of Star Wars at that time.

I loved Bryan Daley’s books, and played the original RPG that I had heard Zahn used for source material, so I was amped for it.

I very much remember finishing it and not knowing how I felt. I think I thought it was all right, but I didn’t love it.  I know I thought the trilogy was based on Lucas’ plan for sequels that he was never going to make.

By the time I finished the third book I knew I was not a fan. I couldn’t fully vocalize it at the time beyond there just being too many things that I just thought were stupid.

Animals that blocked the force, the concept of Dark Jedi, Mara Jade being inserted into the background of everything, and yes— I abhor the naming of Luuuuuke. It’s just so freaking stupid and unexplained. None of it felt right to me.

It wasn’t until much later when I started writing and learning about writing was I able to express why I felt Zahn was a lazy writer. I’ve tried many books of his and none of them hold me.

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The Thrawn trilogy is far from perfect for sure.  I think Heir to the Empire was probably the best of the lot, with the other two books being of lesser quality, with the Last Command being my least favorite.  There was all kinds of set up with Thrawn, and his fate was anti-climatic, IMHO.  I did like the Sparti cloning module aspect, and the need for them, but the Katana Fleet does not really line up with the continuity that TPM-present established.  I liked the idea of Joru'us C'Baoth being a clone of a jedi master, who went insane.  I did NOT like Lu'uke, and C'Baoth really ended up becoming an Emperor-lite, and some of the ending of the Thrawn Trilogy seems a rehash of ROTJ.  

Tank your  issues are totally valid, and if that trilogy came out today, it could now almost be labeled young adult books.  That said, I personally find Thrawn an interesting character because back when those books came out (and besides the fact we didn't know we would be getting any more Star Wars films at the time), is I started to become interested in history, and historical military figures and Thrawn reminded me of Caesar, Alexander, even Hannibal.  TO be sure, Vader and the Emperor are hard acts to follow, and I think ALL Star Wars suffers from not having villains that stand up to them. 

In the PT, other than Palpatine,  yeah you have Maul, and he is a cool villain, but is more like Boba than Vader (in TPM).  I LOVED Christopher Lee, but he was in his mid 80s and really wasn't written very well for or did much in AOTC and ROTS.  The ST had a good villain in Kylo, but really, was he ground breaking?  No, he was Vader 2.0. Snoke could have been interesting, but ends up being an Emperor meat puppet.

Contrast that with Thrawn, who was one of the first attempts to have a unique post ROTJ villain, and I think he is largely a success considering all that.  

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