Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good Review

Alexander Wallace catches-up with the Chiss.
Timothy Zahn: the man who saved Star Wars.

Grand Admiral Thrawn: the character who has intrigued and terrified Star Wars fans for going on thirty years.

Perhaps nobody has defined the Star Wars expanded universe more than these two (this is a subject I previously discussed in my review of the first book in this subseries). There’s before Zahn and before Thrawn, and after Zahn and after Thrawn. There’s no better way of putting it. Not entirely surprisingly, then, that both Disney and Zahn are perfectly willing to keep churning out content involving our favorite tactician.

So, does it hold up?

One of the things that’s curious about Greater Good is that, for all it’s marketed with the name of Thrawn, the to-be-Grand Admiral actually doesn’t have much ‘screentime.’ Most of the action revolves around other characters, mostly but not entirely Chiss, engaging with the newest travails of the ascendancy. These are drawn from different walks of life, mostly military and political figures but with two interesting exceptions: a young aristocratic couple on a wanderjahr, and a family of farmers on a relatively minor Chiss world. This doesn’t diminish the impact of the sheer presence of Thrawn; rather, it heightens it, as you know something special will happen when he is portrayed directly. It’s a horror trope, but it is one because it works.

One of the major themes Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good is politics. Not politics as in social issues, per se, but rather the more immediate sort of politics: the jostling and conniving of people in social settings when power is at stake. Read any book about politicians (I’d recommend Robert Harris’ Imperium for a good example) and you’ll see how much of their time is spent not actually debating issues or policy but rather managing relationships and reputations. It is that sort of political workmanship at which Thrawn is consistently dismal, and there are small but growing consequences for that. In this regard, Thrawn is a good deal of us: he’s someone who wants to do his job and do it well, rather than jockey with status-chasers.

The Chiss Ascendancy is a heavily clan-based society, like the Scottish Highlands of years gone by. Much drama is brought out from this, and is the source of some major plot developments. Careers are made and broken over your status within and among the families. Not to spoil too much, this way of running the Ascendancy is something that is very much exploited by its enemies.

Much like Chaos Rising, Greater Good is a strange book in terms of being part of the Star Wars canon. Any references to the events of the films or the shows or any other part of the universe are sparse, being literally only in allusions (even Chaos Rising had one brief scene with a movie character!). As such, Zahn has deliberately decided to hold up the story himself. The worldbuilding and characters are all his, and like Chaos Rising feels more like his original work than his Star Wars work at times. Fortunately, this is not a drawback; there’s a good reason why they chose him to write Star Wars in the first place.

Overall, Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good is good, and anyone who likes Star Wars or Timothy Zahn should read it after catching up with literally all the other Thrawn books (in this regard, there’s a drawback brought about by sheer archive panic). For those who are loyal followers of both, there are few better ways of satisfying that faith than by reading this book.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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