Vision of the Future - Timothy Zahn "The more you tap into [the Force:] for raw power, the less you're able to hear its guidance over the noise of your own activity"
The New Republic is on the brink of collapse as members use the Camaas Document and the situation of the Bothans as an excuse to let loose on each other. Han and Lando make a desperate mission into the heart of the Empire; Luke goes to rescue Mara on a world in the Unknown regions; Leia receives word of the transmission from Admiral Paelleon--the first signal of peace between their governments. But can their be peace when "Thrawn" has appeared?
In the tradition of the review of the previous Hand of Thrawn entry, I want to give you the ABC's of Timothy Zahn: Adventure, Big, and Clever.
Whenever you open up a Zahn book, you expect ADVENTURE, action, and intrigue. With Vision of the Future, you get it. Specter of the Past was 300+ pages of setup: the background (where are the characters now and what is the situation), the contention point (the discovery of the Camaas document), the history (the destruction of Camaas, the unravelling of the New Republic, the Empire's bid for peace), and the plan (find the full Camaas document!). So, while I still very much enjoyed Specter, it was a much drier read, particularly in comparison to Vision. Vision is the payoff, seeing one plot thread after the other, how they intertwine, how they accomplish the final outcome; Luke is here, Leia is here, Han is here. Wedge and Corran meet Moranda; Lando is with Han; Talon is with Shada. Again, each character is given a mission befitting their personality; each mission has some intrigue, some "danger", some adventure! It's just like watching Star Wars, only with words and images that Zahn creates in your mind!
There are also many personal adventures. Shada Du'Kal desperately seeks vengeance for the destruction of Emberlene, disgusted at how it was overlooked in favor for the more "chic" Camaas. Talon Karrde must seek after Jorj Car'das...but the last time he saw Jorj, Jorj was a ruthless smuggler. Can Karrde survive a meeting with Car'das? Mara is frustrated with her Force powers, her inability to hear the Qom Qae and the Qom Jha. Plus, she is hoping to bring Luke back to the man he had been ten years ago, the man she respected and admired. Luke is trying to figure out the path of the Jedi. And so on. And so forth.
Vision of the Future is BIG. Literally AND figuratively. Clocking in at 694 pages in paperback, this novel remains THE largest novel of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. And when you start reading what is inside, you learn why. There are SO many plot threads, so many characters, so many storylines, it couldn't be any shorter without losing something vital to the story, to the essence. If there is any complaint, it is that there is no Character Sheet at the beginning to remind us of all the participants, because Timothy Zahn does what we love and creates new, amazing characters like Moranda Savich (a personal favorite), Shada Du'Kal (seen in his short story in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina), and Child of Winds (Luke and Mara's native guide).
Lastly, Zahn once again writes a CLEVER novel. Gone are the overblown, useless superweapons. Gone are the silly warlords who are said to be worse than they really are. Gone are the too-powerful Jedi who are too easily undermined by even more absurdly powered Sith. This book is smart, this book has intelligence, this book is founded at least partially in the real world. I've said it before in Specter, but the overarching conflict over the Camaas Document doesn't sound too out of place on our planet. I liked how Zahn removed the "evil" from the Empire, how he made the INDIVIDUAL the evil one instead of the side. I love how Zahn imitates life in having people have over-blown opinions of others (such as how everyone in this book thinks Thrawn is unable to be defeated, even though Thrawn lost several battles AND was never able to anticipate his death). I love how the characters are intelligent, likeable, good at what they do. There are no bumbling idiot bad guys, no doofus good guys meant for bad jokes, and no sexy women thrown in just to be sexy women. Everyone has a purpose, everyone has a motivation, and everyone has a story. Some characters get along, some don't. It's beautifully done.
There are so many aspects to love about this book, let me make a list of my highlights of the book:
1.Mara and Luke's relationship: Mara and Luke finally break down and talk about their previous relationships. I can't help but think that Mara had a crush of sorts on Luke, but could never get close to him because his mind was always on someone or something else. Here, she finally can break down that wall and show him how she feels. And Luke of course does the same.
2.Paelleon's call for peace: When Leia discovers the message Pellaeon sent to Garm Bel Iblis, I was choked up. Having Leia, who negotiated a cease-fire with the Bakurans, and Pellaeon , who was a staunch Imperial of a new, more benign order, both sit down and talk peace was brilliant and poignant.
3.The Qom Qae and the Qom Jha: I love how they talk, I love how they assist Mara and Luke. Their concept is interesting, and I just think Child of Winds is adorable.
4.Moranda Savich: This woman is pure brilliance to me. Independent, smart, and not some sexy, young thang...thank you, Zahn!
5.Flim as Thrawn: This poor man, whose only skill to the Triumvirate is the fact he can impersonate Thrawn. He tries desperately hard to ingratiate himself to the group, to "hang on" with the threat of the Hand of Thrawn returning and supplanting Flim. It's sad to see his struggle and you can't help but feel for the guy.
6.A hint at the Yuuzhan Vong: Parck tells Mara that there are things, ominous things in the Unknown Regions. A nice entry into the New Jedi Order.
Of course, no book is perfect. The beginning is long; the book itself is very long. It's easy to become disheartened and stop, then to resume and forget where you were. I got lost in some of the descriptions of some of the settings. And this book makes almost no sense without Specter. Years ago, I read this book without having read Specter and I spent half the book playing catch-up and failing.
Vision reminds us why we love Star Wars, why we love Han, Luke, and Leia, and why Timothy Zahn is so amazing at plots. It is the crown jewel in Timothy Zahn's Star Wars work, his biggest, most elaborate contribution. I highly recommend.