Specter Of The Past is the first of a two-book series and is the continuation of Timothy Zahn's Grand Admiral Thrawn Trilogy.
When I was in Junior High I was given a copy of Heir To The Empire, the first of the Thrawn Trilogy and the launching of the Star Wars alternate literary universe. I was blown away. Remember that at this point there was no such thing as episodes one through three. If you wanted to see the Star Wars films you had to be lucky enough to catch them on cable or you had to get them on VHS. It wasn't like Star Trek that already had probably hundreds of different books. New Star Wars stories was a big deal.
I'm not going to take time going in to the story of the original Zahn trilogy. You can look it up. I ripped through the books and went on to read several of the Kevin Anderson books as well. Star Wars was a part of my life again.
So I was understandably excited when I saw that Zahn was putting out two new books. Of course I had to get them.
Specter Of The Past is a decent and entertaining book. One thing to remember is that even though I still love Star Wars, as a reader it's impossible to not see things differently at 37 years old than I did when I was 13. Also, it's hard to not look at the books with the slight glint of bitterness surrounding my disappointment with the new films.
Specter picks up ten years after the events of the Thrawn Trilogy. The forces of the Galactic Empire is again on the ropes, scrambling to hold on to what power they have as the new republic continues to fortify their position as the officially recognized government. Acknowledging their position of weakness, the Admiral in charge of Imperial forces has decided that the time has come to seek terms of surrender.
A small splinter group decides to act against this plan and news begins to spread that Grand Admiral Thrawn himself has returned from the dead to once again attempt to return the Empire to total power. The republic itself is also starting to fracture from within as old grudges start to pull allies apart.
The story is fine, it moves along reasonably well but one problem I have is that the real substance of the story doesn't move forward very much. At the end of the book, the Empire's scheme doesn't seem to have progressed very much and while the internal fracturing within the new republic is the more compelling part of the book, even this doesn't go very far. There is a lot of innuendo with not so much revealed, almost as if they were stretching to fill two books.
Another problem I have is that there seem to be many references to other Star Wars books besides Zahn's original trilogy. While I appreciate that an effort has been made to preserve a more consistent continuity between the books, I also wished Zahn had limited his references to his own books. It doesn't prevent you from understanding the story but I also would have liked knowing what was being referenced.
It is a Star Wars book and Zahn writes it well. He does a good job capturing the voices of all the classic characters and much to my appreciation, Han and Leia's children play a pretty minor role in the book. The action is well described with just the right balance of space opera with military sci-fi. Zahn excels at describing the equipment and the concepts and weapons of the Star Wars universe without it feeling overdone or forced.
Timothy Zahn is good at writing Star Wars. If you are looking for a relatively quick read, something to enjoy on a weekend or a trip, this would be an excellent choice.