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Publisher's Summary

Hugo Award-winning author Timothy Zahn makes his triumphant return to the Star Wars(r) universe in this first of an epic new two-volume series in which the New Republic must face its most dangerous enemy yet--a dead Imperial warlord.

The Empire stands at the brink of total collapse. But they have saved their most heinous plan for last. First a plot is hatched that could destroy the New Republic in a bloodbath of genocide and civil war. Then comes the shocking news that Grand Admiral Thrawn--the most cunning and ruthless warlord in history--has apparently returned from the dead to lead the Empire to a long-prophesied victory. Facing incredible odds, Han and Leia begin a desperate race against time to prevent the New Republic from unraveling in the face of two inexplicable threats--one from within and one from without. Meanwhile, Luke teams up with Mara Jade, using the Force to track down a mysterious pirate ship with a crew of clones. Yet, perhaps most dangerous of all, are those who lurk in the shadows, orchestrating a dark plan that will turn the New Republic and the Empire into their playthings.

©2011 Timothy Zahn (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Zahn turns in his usual high-caliber performance." ( Library Journal)

Featured Article: Who Is Grand Admiral Thrawn? The Ultimate Guide


Looking for a rundown of what The Mandalorian's latest name-drop means for the Star Wars universe? We've got you covered. Whether you're a casual fan who was left asking, "Wait...who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?" or a certified fanatic overjoyed at the very mention of the big blue bad, it's never a bad time for a quick refresher. We’ve compiled the best listens featuring Thrawn that offer key information on one of the most chilling villains in the entire franchise.

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What listeners say about Star Wars: Specter of the Past: The Hand of Thrawn, Book 1

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Zahn is simply the best.

Where does Star Wars: Specter of the Past: The Hand of Thrawn, Book 1 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Timothy Zahn is the unparalleled master of the literary EU of Star Wars. Carrying on from the fantastic Trawn trilogy, which introduced the majority of the major EU players including Han and Leia's Children, the Noghri, Captain/Now Admiral Pellaeon, Winter, Talon Karde, Mara Jade, and most importantly Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn is and was the Empire lover's pinnacle character, neither good nor bad, uncompromisingly loyal to the Empire but not without mercy. A true Sherlock Holmes Sociopath. Zahn introduced a world where Star Wars was not so black and white but filled with grays. Of course the end story comes down good versus evil but he relegates those matters down to the force, not the political world of Empire vs. Republic. Zahn carefully crafts a story that shows good and evil on both sides, blanching from the flawless white knight rebellion his peers often write. The Republic in Zahn's world is one full of good intentions being poorly implemented, a government torn by politics and bad decisions and bureaucracy. The Empire is shown in much the same light with heroic figures butting heads with villainous partners vying for control and the future direction of the remnants of the Empire. The major flaw of this book, if it could be called one, is the lack of the legend himself, Thrawn, who was killed in the final book of the trilogy by his traitorous body guard. Though hardly a flaw of the writing, the book just doesn't have the same special feel to it. Even at its best it can't really compare to watching Thrawn and Pellaeon play they Sherlock and Watson routine as they slowly ground the vastly more numerous Rebel forces into dust through pure genius tactical planning. Pellaeon does his best in the Hand of Thrawn to use the tactics of his mentor, but he does't get enough page time and the harsh reality that the authors who took control of the EU between the Thrawn trilogy and duology had ground the Empire into an irrecoverable mess, placing it in the hands of poorly written one dimensional psychopaths and madmen, takes it's toll. The plot device of the Caamas documents is an interesting one, one showing the fragility of the New Republic, how one event could lead to a devastating civil war between it's loosely allied member states plays well into the Zahn theory of the good guys not always having the most efficient form of governance. I won't say too much more in effort to not spoil this masterfully written novel. I'm just glad the unabridged version has finally made its debut and am looking forward to the second part being released soon. Zahn, to me, will always be to the Star Wars literary world what George RR Martin is to ASOIF. There really is no substitute for the master.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Major Tierce is a fascinating new character, full of mystery and hidden goals. Excellently well written and fun to follow. Pellaeon will always be a favorite though. The big three, Han, Luke, and Leia are excellently well written as well. No other author truly captures that quintessential Star Wars feel with them. Even while you root for the heroes you find yourself admiring the villains and how simply cool they are. It helps in the case of the Zahn novels, that the villains are less one dimensional and villainous and instead simply other people on the other side of the war.

What does Marc Thompson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Marc Thompson is hand's down the best reader for the Star Wars stories. His mastery of the voices of each of the characters is as unparalleled as Zahns commanding storytelling.

Any additional comments?

Please record the rest of Zahn's books!!!

29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Great Story and Marc Thompson

As most folks have already stated, this is a great followup to the Thrawn trilogy. Marc Thompson has yet another great read under his belt.

The story is pretty solid for it's time and just like other EU books it tends to jump around a bunch.

The thing I disliked was Luke, and in some of the past books and a quite and few after this one. He is a self nominated Jedi Master but most of the books put him in these situations that a Jedi Padawan could get out ease and a real Jedi Master wouldn't have even broke a sweat, but yet here Luke is straining to do things like fight off 6 guys.


Some new readers and listeners think this book is new, it is not. It's over 16 years old. Random House Audio is just going back and redoing most of the EU books to current audio formats and editorials.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Rerelease surpasses the Original

What made the experience of listening to Star Wars: Specter of the Past: The Hand of Thrawn, Book 1 the most enjoyable?

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!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Star Wars: Specter of the Past: The Hand of Thrawn, Book 1?

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!

What about Marc Thompson’s performance did you like?

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.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Ten Years Later, Grand Admiral Thrawn is back!

Any additional comments?

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!

23 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Ok Rh, so where's the second volume?!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, because it's Star Wars!

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the pacing. And I like the fact that I finally get to listen to it complete and unabridged.

What does Marc Thompson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Mark nails the voices of course. He sounds very passionate about these stories and he keeps me wanting to listen until the last page. Well I suppose you could use the word page in this case.

Any additional comments?

I've been waiting for this duology to be released unabridged for such a long time and I'm glad it's here. Well, the first book anyway. My only complaint is that RH Audio didn't give us Vision of The Future on the same day as Specter. Here's hoping RH decides to give us unabridged recordings of the New Jedi Order series next as well as the Young Jedi Knights series. I'm unable to go out and purchase paperbacks due to blindness and it's a joy to be able to read these novels from cover to cover for the first time. I can't wait to see what I missed out on when and if RH decides to tackle the unabridged NJO books. I read this one and compared it with my old Bantom audio cassette abridgement of Specter from 97 and was amazed as to how much was cut out. Trust me, you want this one rather than the 3 hr version. Anthony Heald is and will always be one of my fav narrators in the SW EU but c'mon folks, this one's the whole thing.

Keep showing RH your support by purchasing these unabridged titles, gals and guys of audible. It really means the world to those of us who aren't able to enjoy these older titles the way they were meant to be the first time around. Thanks in advance and may the Force be with all of us.

13 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Another good series

Timothy Zahn and Marc T are so good. Just tip top. I like the story and the various threads running thru it. Bravo

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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It's starwRs

Like listening to a movie enjoyed very much and hope more adventures keep coming in the same format and voice e actors

2 people found this helpful

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Couldn't wait for more!!

Which character – as performed by Marc Thompson – was your favorite?

I love the talon Kardde voice. Also I like the Han, Luke, and leia have the same voice across his books.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes it was.

Any additional comments?

I liked it so much that I nearly downloaded the abridged version while waiting for audible to add the unabridged version.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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excellence as always

zhan writes another beautiful novel that characterizes everyone beutifully. this is my real episode 8-9

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great version of a great book!

Timothy Zahn's books set the precedent for amazing Star Wars stories. This duology is a great look at what went wrong with some of AU's storylines and goes deep into the character of Luke Skywalker in a unique way. Zahn does not get as much praise as he deserves for creating unique and strong female characters. His books are always a delight and this one is no exception. Marc Thompson is a wonderful narrator, his version of Luke Skywalker is particularly good and he does unique voices for all the characters. I would definitely buy it just for his narration, I hope he does many more Star Wars books!

1 person found this helpful

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The best narrator ever!

The way they made it was awesome! The sound effects, music and voices! like listening to a star wars movie!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Zenoslaf
  • 03-14-21

Too bad it's not canon. :(

I have read this book several times when it came out and it was so good to have high quality expanded universe content.

Too bad it's not canon, because this would've been an epic 2 part movie, maybe even a series.

Marc is brilkiant as always and it's getting harder for me to listen to other narragors since Marc throws in so many different characters with his amazing voice acting that his books are more of a radio drama then just a narrator reading a book.

Off to Visions of the Future now.

Everything Zahn writes is highly recommended because he's truly amazing writer. And having Marc Thompson on board is just adding to the whole awesomeness of it.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam T Boddy
  • 01-04-21

Good quality, just misses greatness.

Good, but not quite the equal of the original Thrawn trilogy. (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising & The Last Command)

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Clint Ryan
  • 10-21-19

great story, plot was excellent , really enjoyed

the narrator was excellent and story was fantastic, listened to on way to work

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul Ford
  • 08-01-19

One of the better star wars audio books

One of the better star wars audio book
Great story and classic characters. Recommend .

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dan Rouge Wolf
  • 10-01-18

great wow done well you will find it entertaining

great wow done well you will find it entertaining you will enjoy it the best in star wars

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Vader
  • 11-12-21

Great story

this is yet another excellent story from Zahn I can't wait to hear part 2

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Phil Barker
  • 04-11-21

Lost the plot

I’ve enjoyed the other dozen or so Star Wars audiobook I’ve listened to, however, this one I didn’t. The main issues is with each chapter loads of new characters are introduced with bizarre hard to remember names. The storyline is all over the place. I got three quarters the way through and abandoned the audiobook. It’s a shame as the others have been great, easy listening.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Wibble
  • 09-23-20

Poorly encoded, micro gaps everywhere.

Whoever encoded this book really didn't know what they were doing or just couldn't be bothered to do it properly. Everywhere there would have been an index point on the original CD, there is now a micro-gap of silence. These are very short, just 2 tenths of a second long, but because of the music and sound effects, they are frequently painfully obvious and are detrimental to the listening experience. I paid for this so why does it sound like something from a dodgy torrent site?

It's been available here since 2013 & I can't be the only person who has drawn their attention to all the glitches. They've had seven years to fix this, but they haven't. It's so poorly put together it makes me wonder if they care at all about quality.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Jel
  • 06-27-20

Lifelong Star Wars fan - disappointed

Struggling to finish. I'm not sure if I ever will. I recently listened to Darth Plagueis after finding the hard copy book hard going and found Darth Plagueis excellent so I had high hopes for this based on the reviews.

Its tough to follow, there is a lot going on seemingly and while I thought I'd be enthused to hear Han, Luke and Leia again it was actually an anti climax.

Sorry, it's a thumbs down from me. It won't stop me purchasing other Star Wars audiobooks (I've got my eye on Darth Bane) I just think I'm more suited to novels which fill gaps around the 9 episodes and its characters (Vader, Maul, Dooku, Palpatine) and this does not.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • MC
  • 05-26-20

Good book, though I can see why it’s not canon.

I really enjoyed the story and the voices are good, but this takes place 5 years before the force awakens and according to Disney, the empire died 1 year after the battle of Endor, not 25. I can see this kind of stuff makes a good story, but it wouldn’t make a good movie. I’m happy with what Disney did with Star Wars, but just having a hard time separating the canon stuff from the legends. But that’s not the stories fault. Very good book by the way, you should defiantly get it. I just didn’t get the big pay off I was hoping to get at the end. Also, read the Thrawn trilogy first, because if you don’t, you wouldn’t know what the occasional odd reference means and it would just be confusing to you. Five stars though. Another great Timothy Zhan book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Thomas
  • 12-05-15

A good continuation of the Thrawn story.

They should have made Zahn's trilogys into the new Starwars movie, very enjoyable. looking forward to getting into the next one.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-09-21

great book

loved it cant wait for the next book. I really hope Luke and Mara finally get together

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-10-20

Meh.

Lots of dialogue, hardly any action. The Thrawn aspect was very uncreative. I can't think of a single substantial moment. Get plagueis instead and thank me never.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-18-20

The book won't work

This book sadly won't work and so I cannot listen to it Its really sad how they can't seem to have their look working here

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-16-19

Loved a further adventure into the world of Thrawn

Really well produced, same fantastic characters, more movie like action, looking forward to finishing it in the next installment!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tim Lehmann
  • 02-11-19

A good start to another great yarn.

A good setup for another great chapter in the greatest "should have been" story ever.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Josh Morgan
  • 09-14-18

it is good

this was a fantastic book and the performance was great, I thoroughly enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the star wars universe

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-03-17

It's a shame these stories are no longer Canon

Shame they're no longer canon as there are some fantastic support characters like Mara Jade and Talon Karde etc

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Corryn
  • 11-25-17

Amazing Story

Amazing story, the sound effects make the story so much more interesting and takes you into the Star Wars Universe

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Aleksa
  • 02-02-17

A good story with some detracting moments.

Overall it was a very fun story, except for any council meetings. All the dialogue sounds like it's coming through a metal pipe, detracting from Marc Thompson's excelent performance.