Marc Thompson delivers another amazing performance in "Specter of the Past", book 1 of the Hand of Thrawn duology. His voices for Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are uncannily accurate, and make it very easy to picture Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams as they might've portrayed the story in a film.
Not only do his voices for classic characters deliver, but he also adds greater depth to the Expanded Universe characters like Talon Karrde, Grand Admiral 'Thrawn', Moff Disra, Borsk Fey'lya, President Gavrisom, and Admiral Gilad Pellaeon, as well as many others.Thompson's performances in the Star Wars audiobooks make them truly a pleasure for my wife and me to listen to, and we always look forward to his performances when we're journeying through the Expanded Universe in chronological order.
Also, this re-release of "Specter of the Past" far surpasses the original, and not only because it's unabridged. I'm not saying Anthony Heald did a bad job on the original release. For its time, it was very good, but the simple fact is that Timothy Zahn's Star Wars novels are so rich and full of detail and intricate plot that having them abridged into little three-hour segments is like literary butchery."Specter of the Past" and its sequel "Vision of the Future" particularly suffered from the cutting block when produced by Bantam audio books, and I am absolutely delighted that these two are being rereleased, unabridged, on the heels of the Thrawn Trilogy's 20th anniversary rerelease!
Hmm . . . how to pick just one memorable moment? I really like the inclusion of Shada D'Ukal more heavily in this story, because I really enjoyed her story in "Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina", as read by Laura Esterman (which, by the way, Audible doesn't have for some reason! ?), and seeing it more fully integrated into the larger tapestry of the Expanded Universe.
The reappearance of Grand Admiral Thrawn is also a fun moment, again made more so by Marc Thompson's brilliant performance! I can't wait to hear "Vision of the Future", which comes out next month!
The scenes with Admiral Pellaeon are also brilliant, as one of the most dedicated Imperials of the Expanded Universe seeks to end the war between the Empire and the New Republic once and for all. Marc Thompson's Pellaeon voice truly portrays the character's long career and old age. Excellent!
I've answered this in previous sections of this review, but I'll say it again - he's brilliant at portraying classic characters as well as Expanded Universe characters, and it's easy to picture other people with that voice, as opposed to some audio books where it sounds more like someone just reading aloud, instead of giving a performance.Marc Thompson is quite simply one of the best I've ever seen.
Ten Years Later, Grand Admiral Thrawn is back!
I'm very glad to see Random House giving some of the classic EU novels' audios a much needed overhaul, and I'd really hope to see more of these in the future!
Path of Destruction was a fascinating listen. I had read it once, a looooong time ago, but a lot of the details had slipped from my mind. Now it's more firmly entrenched. [grin]
"Path of Destruction" is one of a fairly few unique style of Star Wars novels. Like the more recently acclaimed "Darth Plagueis", this story is set almost exclusively within the realm of the Sith, and you really get a look at things from their perspective. From their view, it seems they're not evil at all (although I would classify Darth Scabrous of "Red Harvest" that way. Yuck! Don't waste your money on Red Harvest!). Instead, they are portrayed simply as a different order of Force users with a philosophy contrary to that of the Jedi, which is, I think, one of the things that made Plagueis such a hit.
And yet this books is not set within the familiar and comforting time period of the movies, or shortly before or after. It is 1,000 years before the events of "The Phantom Menace", and starts off even earlier, portraying Darth Bane's early life as an abused son of a drunken miner on the miserable world of Apatros, when his name was Dessel. It's fascinating to get a look at a character who is so far removed from the Star Wars movies, and yet so crucial in setting it up.
It's been a long time since I'd heard anything new from Jonathan Davis, what with Marc Thompson apparently having taken over the bulk of the newer novels. I was glad to see his return to the Star Wars Expanded Universe here!
His creepy soft voice for Bane was brilliant, but it was very similar to Sith Lord Khan (I don't know why, but I kept picturing either Ricardo Montalban or Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Lord Khan, lol). It's fortunate that the two of them didn't have much contact in the story, or it might have gotten very confusing.
Aside from that, his narration was sharply delivered, often in a voice like that of the character so you really know from whose perspective the story is being told. Jonathan is one of my two favorite readers for the Star Wars novels.
A New Hope . . . For the Sith!
Having recently also heard the Old Republic novel "Revan", I was saddened to see how the Star Wars universe largely remembers him only as a Sith Lord. This was portrayed by Bane's studies into Revan's antics while he was bad, and then later on by Bane finding a holocron left by Revan, made before his redemption by the Jedi.
On a personal note, I've become sympathetic to Revan and the raw deal he got, and seeing the good that he did, and ultimately ended up sacrificing his life for, ending up all but forgotten is rather depressing. It brings to mind all that Anakin Skywalker did during the first two prequels, and the Clone Wars, and yet the galaxy will always remember him as Darth Vader. It just sucks that Revan and Anakin got such raw deals.
The Star Wars audio books are always an enjoyment for me to listen to. This particular story is a rather poignant one since some major EU characters is killed off in this story, which makes it sad, yet heroic, as it occurs to defeat overwhelming enemy forces.
I liked the heavy use of EU characters, including the younger ones introduced in the "Young Jedi Knights" series, which for some incomprehensible reason, has not been made into audio books.
A favorite? That's a tough one - there are many cool scenes in this book. Unfortunately, a lot of them were cut out for this abridgement. This was a HUGE novel, and the editor took a paring knife to it to force fit it into a small window of time. This was the major flaw of the older Star Wars audios - many of them were too abridged, and it hurt the story. In particular, I refer to "Darksaber", "The Crystal Star", the Jedi Academy trilogy, and the Hand of Thrawn duology, which is being rereleased this September & October, reread and UNabridged!
One cool scene was where the Jedi rescue some Dark Jedi in enemy captivity, only to be betrayed by them. How? Listen to the story!
Another is the death of the team's leader, and it's a sad ending for him, though heroic. The book definitely leaves you wanting to see what happens next!
Yes, I admit that I did weep a bit when the aforementioned character died, since through the books, we've seen him grow from a baby into a model Jedi. He was cut down too soon. The first time I read the book, I got so heavily into it that I was depressed for a few days after I finished.
In short, this is an excellent book. If you don't mind sacrificing quality for a time budget, this will do fine. If you really want the whole story, then read the book or petition Random House Audio to re-do this one, unabridged. In fact, I'd have them re-do the whole New Jedi Order, but that's just me.
While the later books (the Dark Nest Trilogy and Legacy of the Force) were also abridged, they were far less so than these older ones. After the 13th book of the New Jedi Order line, they started to wake up to this with "Destiny's Way" being far longer than usual. Then they made the mistake of similiarly abridging the Force Heretic trilogy and "The Final Prophecy". The finale, "The Unifying Force" was given a similar treatment to "Destiny's Way", and then Random House began making longer, though still edited, releases.
IMHO, the Dark Nest trilogy suffered for this, with my favorite parts in that trilogy being left out!
Similarly so with this abridgement. If you've read the book, you can fill in the gaps with your memory, so it's easier to listen to.
Either way, it's a fast-paced story, and Star Wars fans should enjoy it. I do.