This is a consalidated review of the entire trilogy, consisting of Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising and . I received Heir To The Empire as a gift when I was in junior high. Nowadays, Star Wars has grown into an empire in its own right with six movies plus another three in production, video games, comic books and any number of animated cable TV shows. Back then however, most if not all of these had not happened yet. Lucas Arts as a brand name was not known for what it is now and truthfully, pretty much the only time we ever even saw George Lucas was when he was doing an interview for behind the scenes material for the latest incarnation of the original trilogy, released on video for the last time.
Let me dispense of this right up front, are these books particularly profound in their nature? No. Are they going to blow back your perception of the world and implant you with a plethora of new outlook on people and the plight of our world? No. Are these books going to leave you breathless with the quality of their precise prose? No. Are these books going to be fun to read and hit you right in those squishy, nerdy happy places? YES.
As I grow older, I am reminded that it really is all right to read a book purely for the entertainment value and Timothy Zahn wrote an entertaining trilogy. I still remember how impatient I was for the next volumes in the series to come out. This was pre-internet back then, or at least the version of the internet was not what people have delivered into their homes now so unless your local book store had information on a specific release, there was no way to even get an estimate of when the next book was coming out. It was frustrating but also lent a feeling of excitement to the whole experience.
This trilogy picks up several years following the events of episode six. The rebel alliance, now ensconced in the capital of the empire is trying to set up governmental office, while at the same time conducting what is widely considered a mop-up operation of what remains of the Empire's fleet. Little to they know that a Grand Admiral little known previously to anyone except the Emperor himself is now leading the fleet and is proving to be too skilled of a tactician for the alliance to handle. As the series progresses, he gradually begins to gain the upper hand, even finding a surviving dark Jedi who is determined to capture both Luke and Leia along with her unborn twins with the intent of training them all as his servants.
Overall, the series does a great job. The writing is a little cheesy at times, as he certainly resorts to a certain amount of gimmicky narrative technique that does annoy me a little. But the story itself is compelling enough and exciting enough to make me willing to overlook all of that. He seems to have a good grasp on the various personalities of the classic characters of the series and pretty much everyone from the original movies make an appearance, as well as some new additions that are great as well.
You have to take these books pretty much as isolated works. As they were written even before the new movies were made, they pretty much fail completely to hold up as a part of the continuity of the Star Wars universe as it exists now. So take it for what it is, a great piece of entertainment. If you love Star Wars, then I think you will enjoy these books. These were the first books that were authorized by the Lucas machine and while I have not been as big of a fan of later books published after these, I think that the quality of Zahn's prose is stronger and the books have held up well over time. He clearly had a lot of love for these characters and this universe and he does them great tribute. Zahn has just published two new books that carries on the story from this trilogy so I will be excited to see what he has to add.
May the force be with you all.