While the triumvirate of Imperials continue with their plot. Using only the meagre resources they can scavenge from the remains of what was once the Galactic Empire. And as the New Republic continues its collapse, dozens of star systems flock to join the reappeared "Admiral Thrawn". And small wonder; since the New republic is as pathetic and ineffectual as the original [as seen in "Episode One: The Phantom Menace"] and Palpatine is long-dead, why NOT join the Empire?
However, the evil Rebels begin to plot - they pair off and search for the Camaas document.
Han & Lando go to search the archives of Bastion, the current Imperial Capital.
Leia & Ghent make an attempt of their own to infiltrate the Imperial data network.
Karrde & Shada go to the Outer Rim, where Karrde's former employer retired in mysterious circumstances.
Luke & Mara are trapped on the unknown world, and with help from the local wildlife [who have Force-based telepathic communication] they infiltrate the mysterious fortress.
Corran & Wedge join Bel Iblis & Booster for an attack of the Imperial Ubiqtorate base.
Along the way we find out what happened to Baron Fel, and why Thrawn never withdrew his forces from the Unknown Reaches when he originally counter- attacked.
And the book's climax? Well, after a complete lack of starship battles and any real action [except for the barely-mentioned deaths of a couple of important and sympathetic Imperials] the book grinds to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Beyond the many quests for the Camaas document, there is very little to this book. We all know the Imperials are doomed - after 15 years of retreat, 10 years since the death of Thrawn their fire has gone out of the universe.
This book is, as much as anything, an attempt to undo the terrible atrocities committed against the Star Wars universe by other writers. May the Force be with the Internet; Zahn's mentions of the Emperor Reborn ["I'm still not entirely convinced it was him," said Mara] and so on are similar to the "How Zahn could fix this mess" posts that have appeared on rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc
Anyway, Zahn ties up all the loose ends from the Bantam story arc, just in time for the new 30-book series from Del Rey that starts with "Vector Prime" by R.A. Salvatore.
But is the book itself tied up properly? Zahn's finale to this tome is every bit as unsatisfying as that of his last full-length work, "The Last Command". The "Hand of Thrawn" dies two undeserved deaths, and the galaxy is much the poorer for it. The New Republic is triumphant, and the Galaxy is open to whatever threats might await it in the unknown depths of space.
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