Written by Stonegood
Hello again! When I last wrote to you, I was just at the beginning of Thrawn by Timothy Zahn and I had a lot to say about Eli Vanto. I am happy to say that I have finished my first ever Star Wars novel. This time, I will be discussing a character that just did not sit right with me framed by a conversation with myself as a middle schooler. I have some beef that I wanted to work through on digital paper. Please be mindful of light-to-moderate spoilers for the whole novel, and enjoy.
* * *
“You know so much about Star Wars! Tell me about Grand Admiral Thrawn.” the 12 year old demands excitedly from across the table at our hometown’s library.
“I only know more about Star Wars than you because there is more Star Wars when I am from. To answer your question though, he’s alright I guess.” I rub the back of my head.
“You only mentioned that he had blue skin, red eyes, and he is amazingly smart!”
“That’s right kiddo.”
My younger self shrinks a little, his shoulders climb to his ears, “Am I bothering you? Am I being annoying? I get a little energetic about stuff like this.”
I turn and look at the librarian’s desk behind us, one is glaring at Kevin for raising his volume.
“No. No. Sorry,” I whisper, “It’s just the Grand Admiral is all of that and more. His assistant Eli Vanto is super interesting. Commander Faro is brash, but brave and intelligent. Colonel Yularen is calm and inspiring. Thrawn has this wonderful cast around him, but then there is Governor Arihnda Pryce.”
“Right!?” I exclaim. My arms go up towards the ceiling, drawing more glares from the librarian’s desk.
“I guess we don’t grow out of that energy for a while, huh?” I whisper and chuckle quietly. Kevin agrees. “I have a big problem with Arihnda in this novel and as badly as I would like to rant about how exceptional Thrawn and his crew are, I need to get this off my chest first.”
“Could we walk to 7/11 and get a Slurpee during this?” he asks.
“I’ll get you a 3 Musketeers bar and a pack of Juicy Fruit too.”
We leave the town library and turn right down the main road.
“So let’s start with the broad strokes kiddo. Ms. Pryce is from a planet called Lothal which is located in the Outer Rim. Not every planet in the Outer Rim is under the control of Emperor Palpatine, but Lothal is going to be. It has this great mining system filled with metal that is being used to build the Death Star, but no one knows that yet. Her parents run one of the mines and through bribery, black mail, and extortion the mine is seized by Senator Renking. Arihnda goes to Coruscant and works in Renking’s office trying to meet powerful people and hopefully ruin his life for what he did to her family.”
“Is Coruscant where the Jedi Temple is?”
“Was, but yes.”
“Yeah, that’s a whole mess, and is unimportant to our conversation right now. What else do you know about Coruscant?”
Kevin pushes the crosswalk button with a flourish of lightsaber sounds. I laugh and pretend to draw my own invisible lightsaber while we wait for the signal to change.
“Well,” He says while our imaginary lightsabers lock between our noses, “That’s where that big room of people on floating elevators are and the sky is filled with tons of ships! Anakin and Obi had to chase people in the beginning Attack of the Clones there.”
We withdraw our sabers and scurry across the street, a train whistle toots just ahead of us.
“You’re right about all of that. A lot of powerful officials live, work, and have offices there. There is a serious overpopulation problem on that planet; its like if New York City was a whole planet and then they stacked two more planet-sized New York Cities on top of that one. But, what you are most right about is Attack of the Clones already told us everything we need to know about Coruscant. It’s the main hub of the galaxy. It’s where Thrawn and Eli go for official Imperial Navy meetings. Arihnda’s point of view of the city is redundant. Nothing new or of real import is shared with us about the book’s setting because of her presence in the story. We could have easily gleaned all the information she shares through Eli or Thrawn.”
“Or we could just watch Attack of the Clones again!” Kevin says excitedly.
“You have a point there.”
The two of us approach the trestle that helps pedestrians cross the tracks at the train station. A commuter train rests while a few travelers quickly climb aboard and others can be seen making their way to their cars in the parking lot.
“Quick!” Kevin says, “Lets climb the stairs before the train leaves!”
I nod and we run as fast as the force can assist us. We each leap two stairs at a time, cross to the center of the trestle, and wait. I am breathing a little harder from that exertion than the middle schooler beside me.
“I have always wanted to be here while the train goes underneath.”
“You say that now. It’s going to smell really bad!”
“How? It’s just a train.”
The NJ transit employees board the train and after a short hiss, the train begins to chug under the trestle. Soon the exhaust is billowing from the top of the train; it’s all around us and Kevin holds his nose while he waves his hand in front of him.
“Back to Star Wars. Is that the only problem you have with Arihnda?” Kevin asks.
“No. Let’s talk about how she helps the plot move forward, and how that doesn’t even help her case.
So, Arihnda eventually gets to stick it to the senator that ruined her and her family’s life by using extortion, black mail, and other unsavory tactics and becomes the governor of Lothal in the process. She uses her friends in high places to help her along the way and even negotiates for Thrawn and Eli to receive promotions within the Imperial Navy. She sells her political prowess as something that is useful to Thrawn because he sadly is inept with the concept. Thrawn is a strategist, not a politician. And later in the story, she uses it as a weapon against Thrawn to cover for brutal crimes she commits.”
“So you are saying even her strengths as a character are uncool.” Kevin asks as he jumps down the last five steps of the trestle onto the sidewalk below.
I jump the last five as well and my knees click loudly. “Yeah. Her good abilities aren’t used for the ‘greater good’ of the empire. She is selfish. All of her actions are for her even though she totes them around as an asset for others.”
“I mean, through her story we get to see a little bit of a rebel faction called Higher Skies, and that was neat. They were training bodyguards for Imperial senators so they can start gaining information on the empire that way. It was really interesting before she and Thrawn thwart it. Turns out, one of her friends from Coruscant was knowingly training these bodyguards and she was arrested by Arihnda personally.
“Woah. And you said these were the good parts of her.”
“Yup! While I was reading this book I kept thinking if she was supposed to be the villain or just Thrawn’s foil. Like she is everything Thrawn isn’t.”
Kevin nodded slowly, “Thrawn is a strategist. She is a politician.”
“But those aren’t necessarily opposites of each other.”
“Arhinda is mercilessly manipulative. Thrawn is not.” he points out.
“Not true. Thrawn manipulates Eli. He manipulates Nightswan. He manipulates Captain Rossi and other senior officers. So they aren’t opposites there.”
“Is Thrawn ever remorseful for his actions?”
“He is a little sad about one death in the story, but he knew it was going to happen and it wasn’t his fault.
“Who’s fault was it?”
“She kills people?!”
“Yup, one on purpose. And a lot more by accident.”
“Because she is selfish and unreasonable. I’ll tell you more after we get our snacks.” I hold open the door for Kevin and he hurries in. I wave hello to the clerk and we speed walk to the back corner of the store where the Slurpee machine whizzes. He chooses Cherry Coke, while I go for the radioactive green Mountain Dew. Before we make our way back to the counter, Kevin dives into the candy aisle and snags a 3 Musketeer bar for both of us and a pack of Juicy Fruit to share. He piles our sugary treats in front of the cashier, I pay, and we bounce out of the door.
“Do you still remember the shortcut home?” Kevin asks.
“Yeah dude! Let’s go!”
We jump the curb together into the woods behind the convenience store, find a fallen log, and plop our butts on it.
“She kills an agent of the Imperial Security Bureau who is just trying to complete his mission, then she shoots a security guard, and then sets a bomb off that kills stormtroopers in the area.”
“But she is just a politician. That sounds like something Han and Chewie would do.” Kevin is perplexed.
“It does sound like something the rebels would do. She did this so she could extract her mother and father from the planet they are on. It is careless.”
“I guess that shows how bad of a tactician she is.” Kevin points out. “Would Thrawn have been able to do all of that without people dying?”
“Probably.” We both take a long sip of our Slurpees and a few bites of our 3 Musketeers bar.
“I can see why you don’t like her.” Kevin says, “She isn’t the bad guy, she doesn’t show us anything new, and she is barely better at politics than the main character is.”
“She feels forced.” I respond, “I was so mad when she had whole chapters dedicated to her. I just wanted to find out about Thrawn, Eli, and Nightswan. The Nightswan plot could have been so much more! An interesting game of cat and mouse in space! But huge swatches of that plot were told in exposition after time skips so there was room for Arihnda Pryce.” At this point, my head is hung low and Kevin rests a hand on my shoulder. “It just seems like Govenor Pryce’s purpose in this story was just to say ‘Thawn doesn’t understand the intricacies of politics.’ That is something that could have been said with interactions with more important characters in the main plot. Or not at all. Thrawn doesn’t need politics to be successful. The promotions Arihnda puppeteered is something Thrawn could have done on his own, although it would have taken longer. I would have enjoyed this book so much more without her.
“Aw man. Its okay. There are more Star Wars books to read when you’re from right?” Kevin asks.
“Yeah. I’ve got the Force Collector all lined up.”
“Maybe that one will be better!”
“I hope so, man.”
With that, Kevin stood up from our log and thanked me for his snacks. It was so nice to see him and know he has so much future nerd content to be excited for. I watched him walk towards the small creek at the far end of the woods and saw him leap from rock to rock until he was on the other bank. After the trees obscured him from view, I closed my eyes and thought that maybe this is just a small segment of Arihnda’s arc; it is a fact that there are two more Thrawn books written by Timothy Zhan. What if her selfishness and lack of remorse is something that becomes a bane in her story, or maybe her murders are something Thrawn or Colonel Yularen begin to look into, or what if … ? My mind began to wonder about all the possible stories, opportunities, victories, and defeats that could await her. Soon there were too many ideas and wishes.
When my eyes opened, I was back in my arm chair holding my copy of the Force Collector by Kevin Shinick. The Sunday morning sun shone through the windows beside me as I gently pulled the dust jacket off the cover and turned to the first page.
The next Star Wars adventure awaits!
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