Timothy Zahn is simply a genius. In Thrawn Ascendancy Lesser Evil, he weaves so many brilliant tactics for Thrawn to use, it’s almost as if he is as smart as Thrawn!
The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy came to an end with Lesser Evil, and I very much anticipated the conclusion of this trilogy. Timothy Zahn is simply a genius. He weaves so many brilliant tactics for Thrawn to do, it’s almost as if he is as smart as Thrawn! He probably is.
Thrawn Ascendancy Book III: Lesser Evil takes place about a year after the events of the previous book, Greater Good. In Greater Good, the evil Grysk, Jixtus tried to start a civil war within the 9 ruling families of the Chiss Ascendancy. But he failed. Yet, he is not deterred and neither is Thrawn because he is still trying to figure out what happened. And he has not returned the Springhawk (his ship) to Csilla.
Jixtus is also not done and is crafting an even more brilliant plan to take down the Ascendency. He is manipulating the Generalirius Nakirre of the Kilji Illumine. Nakirre and his people are religious fanatics and want to spread “Enlightenment” to all races of Chaos (known to the humans as the Unknown Regions). And possibly those in Lesser Space (Galactic Empire/Old Republic). Jixtus makes Nakirre think he is an equal. But later in the story, basically says it’s his way or the highway and speaks softly but carries a big stick, in this case: larger military might.
Thrawn is as wily as ever and displays many brilliant tactics that are hard to explain in this review. A lot of his tactics don’t make sense until it the conclusion which makes Thrawn such a compelling character to read. Ara’lani, Thrawn’s Admiral friend has also seemed to have learned from Thrawn’s example and plays a key role in saving the Ascendency. Everyone that is influenced by Thrawn seems to have benefited greatly in some way, even the young sky-walker Ch’eri. Zahn shines at writing space battle mechanics, and if you aren’t a fan of that, this book is not for you.
Since Timothy is a physicist, he understands how large a solar system is. And I appreciate how he knows you need FTL to move quickly around one, and therefore ships need to make micro-jumps in hyperspace that only lasts a few seconds. The infamous Memories section is back, but thankfully this time around, it is much more interesting and is a one-track story that focuses on Thrawn’s friendship with Thrass.
Thrawn is the analytical brain for war games, and Thrass is the one for political maneuvering. One area that Thrawn is woefully ignorant in. Since Thrawn is basically a blue Sherlock Holmes, it is worth noting the other comparison between the two. In almost all “important” areas, Holmes excelled. Yet, there were some basic things he had no clue about and didn’t feel he needed to know about. Thrawn is the same. It’s interesting how much of an anomaly he is among his people. As very few can comprehend his intelligence. That’s why those two petty pills, Thurifan and Zistalmu are fixated on getting rid of him.
The Magys returns from the last book and plays a different role than before. Before, she was a depressed, suicidal leader. Now Thrawn has sparked the will in her to live and save her people, and I have to say that I am astonished. Che’ri communicates telepathically with Magys, and I have to say, she is growing up. She benefited from Thrawn’s mentorship, and I love how she has become more independent and wise about what needs to be done for her people. She knows she has to save Thrawn and makes even the steadfast, Samarko agree to turn the Springhawk around and defy the Ascendency.
The Chiss, I have to note are very interesting people. While none of them are as brilliant as Thrawn, it’s interesting to see them pit their wits against one another. And 65% of the book is them hailing another military figure on a comm, and convincing them to do what they want. Either by veiled threats or ingenious misdirection. Just kidding about the 65% by the way. Regardless, many of the Chiss are angry and pompous, believing their family to be superior and the fieriest is Captain Roscu. Yet, she is very tough to beat, and the Force seems to favor her survival.
Another strange trait among the Chiss is that aside from anger, they are very emotionally reserved, almost robotic, and without humor. And on the occasion they do make a joke, there is no hearty laugh, only a smile, and brief acknowledgment. They seem like extremely boring people, and their culture is also very confusing. They have hyperdrives but rely on the skywalkers to navigate. Navicomputers are almost regarded as “magic” to them and many other races of Chaos, and they have no droids whatsoever. I used to think that they smartly decided A.I. would be too dangerous, but now it is clear that they don’t have the sophistication to make them. This is bizarre. And true as their version of DARPA cannot completely reverse-engineer any of the marvels that they have captured from Lesser Space like a gravity well generator and the Starflash weapon.
They call their elevators elevators instead of turbolifts and eat ice cream for a treat like people on Earth. Also much like us earthlings, they are never too far from their iPad (or in this case, the Questis). Nakirre’s relationship with Jixtus is a very peculiar match, and what happens is very predictable. Yet, the main wild cards are Caretaker Thalias and the navigator Qilori. Their role in this story turns out to be the most important, and it is not so obvious early on in the book.
Thrawn Ascendancy Lesser Evil had so many twists and turns and at a whopping 548 pages (not counting the Memories section) you need to be patient and devote several days to this book to finish it. However, you will not be disappointed. So many things are surprising, and the web that Jixtus spins and Thrawn unravels will make your head hurt. But in a good way. Many Chiss are treacherous beings, and you will be rooting for Thrawn as he must maneuver all the petty politics of the Nine Families.
At the end of the tale (at least for me)- there are 3 morals to remember. 1. If you threaten and bully someone weaker long enough, you will eventually regret it. And they will rise up and make you pay. 2. Sometimes personal sacrifice is the only way to achieve a greater goal. And finally, I leave you with 3. Incompetence may always rise to the top, but competence is often pushed to the bottom.
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!