The Last Command, Retrospective

will: Welcome, readers, and here we are looking back at The Last Command. It’s been a while, and a lot has happened, since we did one of these back in April for Dark Force Rising.

Before we dive in, however…this isn’t generally a space where we’ve talked politics, but I think enough of who we are has come across that you can imagine our feelings on this week’s American elections.

But we’re still here, and we’re not leaving.

z: What he said.  In all its multiple layers of meaning.

But I’m glad that Will drafted this on Monday, because I’m not sure what you would be getting this Friday otherwise.  You’re getting something much shorter than usual as it is, and for that I apologize, because I for one held it up for two days midweek for some reason.

will: It’s hard to do a book retrospective of a final in a trilogy and not let it slop over into the trilogy retrospective, but I’ll try.

As I said back when, one of the strengths of a planned trilogy is the long form plotting that results, and that’s all over this. Zahn introduced clones and ysalamiri and everything back in Heir, and here it all comes together with the Wayland attack.

z: What makes it nicer is that they each played significant roles where they were introduced, too.  They weren’t all handled just foreshadowing.

will: That said, I happen to think that almost all of the best moments in this book are Leia’s: Delta Source and her figuring out what the ysalamiri are for in particular. Runner up best moment, after those two, is Mara learning who Luke is, and what that means for her purpose from Palpatine. Then maybe Bel Iblis at the Coruscant raid, and the history with Mon Mothma.

It probably says something that all of those are the quieter revelations, not the big fight scene or Mara’s felling of Luuke or C’baoth. Those are important, but in some ways I feel like they’re more… expected? And Zahn is frankly really good at mysteries with reveals, as witness his space intrigue/mystery novels.

z: They are expected, and then especially with Luuke and Mara’s shaking off the compulsion on her mind, not exactly expected.  But I agree with you.  Ferrier’s end is satisfying to read—only at the very end of the book did I realize it was actually fun to follow along with all the smuggler-style politicking—but it doesn’t stick.  Thrawn and Pellaeon are absent more than not. So…

I also note that everything you’ve cited as memorable are things that expand either the history (Mon Mothma/Bel Iblis) or the setting (the ysalamiri) of the universe, and even both (Delta Source).

will: Also, it must be said: Zahn was leaning a bit more heavily on resonance with the movies for the entire Wayland/Bilbringi sequence. In fairness I’m not 100% sure I realized it back when I read this the first time, but this time, it’s unmistakeable.

z: I’m still not sure I feel it.  You’re right, I reckon, it’s just that the resonance is very very deep for me so I can’t decouple.

Physics metaphors over.

will: But to go back to a point I made a minute ago, I feel like this book has an interesting connection more with Heir. In many ways it feels like the events of Dark Force Rising, while important, represent unexpected changes and upsets to the status quo–Mara taking a side, the Katana Fleet, Bel Iblis–and so because this is the end of the setups in Heir, the two outside books feel stronger thematically than the middle one. Is that just me?

What do you think, Z?

z: Well, for one thing I think that answering your previous question there would tilt this towards a Trilogy retrospective, so I’m edging away?  *grin*

There is a bit of a disconnect between the earlier and later parts of the book, maybe thanks to the (unavoidable) pacing change.  I had to actively remind myself that the Siege of Stones in the Sky was early on in this book, for instance, and not in _Dark Force Rising_.  But once I get that settled mentally, I can point out a few more favorite things: Everything about Ghent; the ingenuity of that siege and of the Stardust search method; the “okay that’s there we’re here I guess we’re going there then” matter-of-factness of the way the Wayland mission was undertaken and planned; Wedge Antilles and his “so it once again comes down to trust” inner monologue.  The latter two in particular tie back to how thoroughly Zahn understood these characters and made them his own.  Of _course_, for instance, Han would say the line about the whole Rebellion thing being highly illegal and bordering on treason.  It’s not just that it is in his voice, it’s also through his brain, if you know what I mean.

But I’m sneaking towards a Trilogy-wide thing myself at this point, so I’ll cease.  We’ll do that properly next week.  Until then, may the Force be with you.

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