Spectre of the Past by Timothy Zahn Audiobook Review

Note: This review of of the abridged version of the audiobook.

After disturbing information about a planets destruction comes to light the peace within the New Republic becomes frayed thanks to a plot from within the Imperial Remnant whilst the Imperial leaders debate a surrender to the New Republic in a bid to end the war once and for all.

Timothy Zahn returns with what feels like a direct sequel to his blockbuster hit trilogy featuring all the familiar names and places that he introduced in ‘The Empire Trilogy’.

Following a failed weapons test, Supreme Commander Gilda Pellaeon meets with the last leaders of the fledgling Imperial Remnant and announces his intention to formerly surrender to The New Republic. Whilst the Moff’s agree, behind the scenes, Moff Disra has put a plan into action, with the help of Grodin Tierce, a former Imperial Royal Guard to make the Galaxy believe that Grand Admiral Thrawn had survived his assassination attempt ten years before, using a Con Artist called Flim to portray the dead leader.

On Wayland, whilst on leave from the Galactic Senate, Leia mediates a meeting between a Deveronian and the local Noghri where Leia comes into possession of a collection of Data Cards, one of which details something called ‘The Hand of Thrawn’, another, which she deciphers with the help of Talon Karrde, they learn that ‘The Caamasi Incident’ which wiped out most of a planet and its population was committed by a group of Bothans.

Whilst on a diplomatic mission, Han, Luke and Chewie are drawn into a fight with pirates. Through the Force, Luke senses that the crews are made up of Clones. Han and Chewie go to meet Leia whilst Luke hunts down the pirates and locates their stronghold deep within an asteroid belt. After narrowly escaping capture by the gang, Mara arrives in time to save Luke before the base self-destructs.

Luke goes to a Medical Facility to heal wounds he got in the base and has a terrifying Force Vision that leads him to a meeting with Talon Karrde where he learns that Mara, after chasing down one of the last Pirate ships she has been captured.

With tensions getting worse in the Senate, Han and Leia travel to Bothawui to help the local government deal with growing unrest. During a protest, an assassin frames Han for the murder of the Bothan leader. Han is found innocent after a device is found that was part of the assassins plan. Later, they meet Lando, who along with a Senator were taken aboard a Star Destroyer where they met the returned Grand Admiral Thrawn.

After revealing the Grand Admiral’s return to the Senate, Lando, Han and Leia meet with Karrde who decides to join their efforts in bringing some stability to the Senate and finding the names of the Bothan’s involved with ‘The Caamasi Incident’. After some convincing, Karrde agrees to go and meet a contact who may have access to a copy of the document.

Meanwhile, Pellaeon’s plan to surrender has started to fall apart. Firstly, the messenger tasked with inviting Senator Garm Bel Iblis to meet to discuss terms was captured by a Star Destroyer. Secondly, at the proposed rendezvous, The Chimera was attacked by pirates, whose ships were disguised as Corellian attack ships, meant to be believed to be ships under Iblis’ command. Realising the ruse, Pellaeon decides to wait a bit longer.

Well, when I say this, I’m talking mainly about the abridgement of this book. It’s a mess. A complete and utter mess. Everything is all over the place. Characters are in one place one second and a minute later they’re somewhere completely different, and it’s as if the news they got a moment ago hasn’t even been delivered based on their temperament.

Whilst the bare bones of the story is good, and yes it’s a bit messy in places, but with what seem like great big chunks taken out to fit the book into three hours it’s not surprising.

My one big take away, that I stated previously, is that Zahn is writing a direct sequel to his ‘Empire Trilogy’. He’s kept parts of the established lore what had come in between his first and second forays into the Expanded Universe but he’s definitely keeping to his own sandbox in terms of characters, events and even locations (Leia just so happens to be on a relaxing holiday on Wayland of all places, but according to Han it’s changed in the ten years since Thrawn’s defeat).

Zahn has put into place some interesting ideas, the Caamasi Incident is a terrifying feat that the Empire perpetrated with the assistance of a group of Bothans, and now that this evidence is brought to light it’s caused a political firestorm that once again threatens to tear the New Republic apart. Though I’ll be honest, the ease of which anyone can throw the New Republic into so much turmoil really goes to show how fragile the concept of a Galactic Government really is.

It was nice to reconnect with some favourite characters, especially Gilad Pellaeon who hasn’t been featured (from what I can remember) since ‘The Last Command’ and seeing this once proud leader of the Empire finally admit defeat and plan to surrender is almost heart breaking, if, you know, he wasn’t a member of The Empire. Also the return of Talon Karrde, the smuggler/information broker/pirate, you name it he’s done it. I would include Mara Jade here but she seems to have turned up quite regularly, but it it nice to get to read (hear) her as part of a Timothy Zahn book.

Whilst enjoyable, I really feel the desire/need to either get the unabridged version or buy the book to get the full story. I really feel that, out of all of the abridged versions I have listened to, this one has suffered the most. Zahn’s books are always (as far as my experience) pretty dense and chock-full of detail which never really made it into this version of the story, which was a bit disappointing but it has whet my appetite for the full story.

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