Choices of One

Reading a Timothy Zahn novel is a nostalgic experience for most because quite a few Star Wars readers started the Expanded Universe with the Thrawn Trilogy. Books often get compared to that classic trio of tales because Zahn set the high mark for good story telling in the EU. Characters like Luke, Leia, and Han were brought back to life when fans thought they would never see any more adventures from them. Yet Zahn did more than write the existing characters well, he also introduced new characters that captured the fascination of readers. The intelligent, art-loving alien, Grand Admiral Thrawn and the mischievous, wily, antihero Mara Jade became icons of fandom. Choices of One is different, though. The epic characters have already been created. The galaxy does not teeter on the edge of this or that battle because the war against the Empire is still brewing. Instead it is the telling of a story in between the big moments of history. A time when Luke Skywalker has destroyed a Deathstar but is still learning to use a lightsaber. Where Han has aligned himself with the Rebellion but is still struggling with his place in the hierarchy. The story follows the paths of a dozen characters, and how all their choices lead them to one fateful adventure.

Among all the things Choices of One does, one thing that makes it stand out is the way the characters play off of each other. The Hand of Judgment is still a group of ex-Stormtroopers wandering the galaxy in search of people in need. Their desertion makes them enemies of the Empire, yet they still strive to support it, or at least the spirit of it. Their efforts to help the neglected corners of the Empire, at one point or another, puts them alongside the Emperor’s Hand, Mara Jade. Throughout their journey together, they each accomplish objectives that help them achieve their common goal, but often in ways that would seem extremely out of character. Consider the fact that the Hand of Judgment and Mara both end up inadvertently helping the Rebellion. On the other hand, there’s the fact that Han and Luke end up helping the Empire. Unbelievable yet, through the story, completely doable and thoroughly entertaining. Zahn takes something inconceivable and makes it an awkward adventure that puts the characters into positions we’ve never seen them in before.

Aside from those mentioned above, there are a lot of other important characters in the novel. First among them is Commander Gilad Pellaeon who plays a very substantial role on the Chimaera and its journey to the edge of the Unknown Regions. Buried within a plot filled with intrigue and mystery is Senior Captain Thrawn and an opponent on par with his strategic genius and planning. There is also the stubborn and annoying Vestin Axlon, a former governor on Alderaan and now a senior member of the Alliance, who Luke and Han find themselves working with. Throw in Leia, who consistently ends up in competition to outdo Han, and cameos from Wedge, Vader, and Cracken, and you end up with a lively cast with plenty of plot opportunities. All their varying paths lead to a single point, but along that way are several surprises as well as several juicy space battles.

Although it’s tempting to compare Choices of One to the Thrawn Trilogy, or even to Empire Strikes Back, in all fairness the best comparison is to Allegiance, its precursor. Timeline wise, Allegiance takes place a matter of months before the events of Choices of One. Both novels use common characters, but Choices of One introduces a couple extra faces with some unique story threads that help change the pacing and atmosphere. Choices of One also provides a much more enjoyable Han Solo who had a tendency to be a tad bit annoying in Allegiance, especially with all his “your worshipfullnesses.” There is an element of mystery and suspense that further heightens the reader’s interest in the story and keeps you guessing on what’s really happening and where this is heading. Worth noting is that the Hand of Judgment still doesn’t get any physical descriptions, but as long as the reader takes the time to assign them faces, their personalities manage to shine through. While not on the same level as Omega or Delta Squad, the Hand of Judgment does click together this time around with a level of familiarity that creates a bond with the reader.

Alongside the excellent characters and storylines, the other thing that Choices of One delivers well on is fan service. Throughout the book Zahn pops in little elements that should give Star Wars fans moments of glee and satisfaction. Whether it’s the appearance of Wedge or allusions to Hoth, Han’s humor or just random factoids that add yet another layer to the ever expanding EU, Zahn gives readers just about everything they could want. In fact he not only provides an entertaining story, but he manages to use his story to segue into Empire in such a way that fans can now look at that film in an entirely new light. How did the Rebels wind up on Hoth? How did Han go from give-me-my-reward smuggler to I’ll-see-you-in-hell tauntaun-riding-Rebel? Each character is fleshed out so that their overall stories become an even richer experience. To top it all off, the twists and reveals in the book make an immediate re-read of the novel worthwhile. All in all it’s everything you could want in a Star Wars book. Choices of One captures the spirit of the Original Trilogy formula but with all the advantages of a novel; an instant classic.

I give it five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren


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  1. What a fun read this book was; reminiscent of Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and duology.

  2. […] reviewed Mr. Zahn’s latest offering just last week. That review can be read by clicking here. Timothy Zahn is a veteran Star Wars author who has now written eight total works for the SWEU […]

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