This week I decided to review Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn Duology: Visions of the Future by Timothy Zahn. The story continues the multiple plotlines from the last book, with Imperial Supreme Commander Palleon awaiting a reply to his offer of truce talks with the New Republic and pondering who might be behind the recent attack on Chimera, as he is certain they were not who they claimed to be. Meanwhile the bickering over what punishment should be extracted for the role a group of Bothans played in the destruction of Caamas just after the Clone Wars, though it is clear that many are just using this as an excuse to pick up ancient feuds, and the number of warships over Bothawui begins to grow rapidly as both sides of the argument send fleets. Garm bel Iblis is called away to prepare for a Da raid on Yaga Minor, the most heavily guarded system in what is left of the Empire and one of the few places which might have an intact list of the Bothans involved in the Caamas attack, though he leaves Wedge Antilles and Coran Horn, former Corsec agent and secret Force Sensitive to observe the situation on Bothawui. They eventually link up with an agent of Tallon Karrde who joins their efforts to hunt the Imperial agents who are trying to bring the crisis to a boiling point, but must soon rejoin bel Iblis for his raid. Meanwhile, Karrde himself is seeking Jorj Car'das, a former associate he has no desire to meet again but who might possess an intact Caamas Document. It is eventually revealed that Car’das was the founder of the smuggling organization Karrde now leads, and Karrde fears that even if he gets through the maze of criminal organizations and pirate fleets on the road to Car’das his former boss will demand revenge. Also the rogue Imperial forces seeking to use the ongoing crisis to destroy the New Republic begin to gain ground as worlds who fear their neighbors and believe that Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned seek to rejoin the Empire. Han and Leia take what is supposed to be a vacation, but after being rescued from an Imperial ambush by a former Imperial sleeper cell, they split up, with Han and Lando going on a quest to find the well-hidden capital of the Empire, followed by Leia moving to meet Palleon after the message sent by his captured aide is reconstructed. All comes to a head over Yaga Minor and Bothawui where Han struggles to put in end to the battle between Republic factions sparked by war hawk Imperial saboteurs, and Lando must rally the tattered forces that remain to face a war hawk-controlled Imperial fleet. And as all this is happening, Luke continues his quest to rescue Mara Jade and joins her to discover the true secret of the Hand of Thrawn. But a great sacrifice is called for to stop the Hand from falling into the wrong hands and only Mara Jade can decide if the price she must pay will be worth it.
I give this book an 8.5 out of 10. It’s a great book and a wonderful send off for the Bantam era of Star Wars novels. However there are a few flaws. The biggest is the sense of scale. Its claimed that the Imperial forces over Bothawui are outnumbered twenty to one but still outgun their opposing forces when they drop out of cloak. That would be unlikely even if all of the Republic-allied vessels were among the smallest class to be considered warships rather than fighters or gunboats. But earlier in the book the classes of some of the warships gathering are mentioned and three of those classes could hold their own against an Imperial Star Destroyer or outgun one alone. Also, while the author did a great job of tying the various plotlines to the main story, I feel there were a few areas that could have used a little trimming. This is one of the longest Star Wars novels ever released, and could have easily been divided into two books.