1991 saw something incredible happen, for the first time since 1983, we were given a new Star Wars story, the beginning of a new trilogy, with the characters we knew and loved. This was an absolute stunning idea, that there could be more adventures. It shouldn’t have been, Star Trek had books for decades.
Author Timothy Zahn launched his new trilogy with Heir to the Empire. Picking up five years after the Battle of Endor (The Return of the Jedi) we find that the Empire hasn’t been completely defeated, but is being pushed back into an ever decreasing region of space.
But they do have an amazing leader, Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the highest ranking aliens in the mostly human Empire. A tactical genius who studies cultures through their arts, and then devises ways to best them, he is developing a plan that involves stolen mole miners, and a visit to one of the late Emperor’s hidden fortresses, Mount Tantiss.
There he and his crew, who man the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimera, discover the unstable clone of a Jedi master, Joruus C’Boath. With the promise of the galaxy’s last remaining Jedi to be his, C’Boath joins Thrawn, and a temporary alliance is formed.
Meanwhile, the blossoming New Republic is going through growth spurts, and political dissent, as a bothan representative is making some political manoeuvring that seems more personal that beneficial to the Republic.
A pregnant (with twins) Leia Organa Solo serves in the government, while her husband, Han Solo, and his co-pilot Chewbacca attempt to convince the smugglers of the galaxy to take honest work from the Republic. This eventually leads them to Talon Karrde, the new crime/smuggling lord now that Jabba the Hutt is out of the picture.
Luke is having problems of his own, confronting his worries about training Leia as a Jedi, and drawn into an adventure that sees him encountering, for the first time, fan favourite Mara Jade, who has a bit of personal vendetta against Luke.
With assassins after them, a visit to Chewbacca’s home world, strange creatures that repel the Force, and the Empire preparing for a massive attack on Republic shipyards, the former rebels seem to have their hands full, and Thrawn may be able to best them.
It’s a captivating read, and it’s easy for readers to take it in stride, considering how big the Expanded Universe was becoming before the Disney Lucasfilm merger wiped it all out, as they began creating their new canon adventures.
I remember buying the book, and racing home with it, putting on the Star Wars soundtracks, and diving into a story set a galaxy far, far away, and catching up with old friends.
Zahn crafts the first volume in the trilogy with such a familiarity with the universe that you could imagine the score, even if you weren’t playing it in the background as you read. There are heroics, space battles, chases, and some moments that would become iconic for many a reader.
There’s more to come. Until then, may the Force be with you.