Literature / Choices of One

Choices of One is a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel by Timothy Zahn. It's set nine months after A New Hope, and is a direct sequel to Allegiance.

Three months after the events of the previous book, Imperial Governor Ferrouz of Poln contacts the Rebellion and offers them a permanent base in his system if they'll help him deal with the alien warlord Nuso Esva, since his calls for help to the Empire fell into deaf ears.

Han Solo is tasked with bringing the rebel envoy to Poln, as a test of his ability to handle the responsibilities that would allow him to become an officer of the Rebel Alliance.

Luke Skywalker is discreetly tasked with escorting Solo and the envoy to Poln, as a potential backup in case of unwelcome surprises.

Mara Jade is given the mission of dealing with Governor Ferrouz's perceived act of treason and hires the former stormtroopers of the Hand of Judgment to help her in her task.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated storyline, Captain Pellaeon serves aboard the Chimaera when the Star Destroyer is given the mission of escorting the mysterious Lord Odo on various missions.

As usual in a Zahn novel, the story first follows the characters in seemingly unconnected storylines, before bringing them all together in a situation that becomes more and more complicated as the story goes.

Choices of One provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Battle of Wits: Thrawn vs. Nuso Esva.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Han fakes being a senior level Imperial Officer, takes command of the Golan Space Station, and uses it to destroy Nuso Esva's missile ships.
  • Body Motifs: Continuing from the previous book, Thrawn offers the Hand of Judgment to join his budding Empire of the Hand.
  • Call-Forward: Oh boy. Thrawn's real mission in the Unknown Regions, Pellaeon's habit of taking command of the Chimaera after his superior officer gets killed, the snowspeeders and other equipment used at Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back, Thrawn giving a security evaluation of the defenses at Endor, a mention of Admiral Zaarin....
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the story, Thrawn tells the Emperor that he needs six more Star Destroyers in order to guarantee a decisive victory against Nuso Esva. The Emperor tells him that he'll have to bargain with Vader to get them. Cut to the end of the book, and six Star Destroyers show up to relieve Thrawn's badly outgunned task force - Darth Vader's personal squadron.
  • The Chessmaster: Thrawn, of course. Nuso Esva isn't that bad either. Had he been up against anyone other than Thrawn, he'd have won.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Even though Leia and Luke are present, Han is pretty much the main character in the Rebel plotline.
  • Full-Name Basis: No one ever calls Nuso Esva by anything less than the full name.
  • Gambit Pileup: You'd almost think everyone is conspiring against everyone in this book...
  • Guile Hero: Senior Captain Thrawn. In spades.
  • Gunship Rescue: How often do you get to cheer for the appearance of Darth Vader's whole personal fleet?
  • The Hero: Luke. He agonizes over killing one person, someone who was just about to kill him and could not be dissuaded.
  • Hidden Depths: Everyone's genuinely surprised when Han turns out to be a real good leader.
  • Indy Ploy: Appropriately, Han Solo’s default reaction to unexpected problems. His tendency to do this frequently irritates Leia; his ability to make it work impresses Cracken and Rieekan enough that they offer him the rank of Lieutenant at the end of the book.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: The narration's reaction to the Rummage Sale Reject example seen below.
  • Kill It with Fire: Used once by Mara against a crowd of enemies.
  • Meaningful Name
    • Sorro
    • Zahn revealed in an interview that if you replaced each consonant in the name Nuso Esva with the one immediately preceding it (same for the vowels; for instance swap the N for an M and the A with a Y), you get Moriarty. Appropriate, since Thrawn is essentially an Expy of Holmes, if Holmes were a militaristic alien admiral.
  • Morton's Fork: Nuso Esva locks the Chimaera into a collision course with Poln’s Golan Defense Platform. Either one opens fire and destroys the other, or the collision destroys them both; meanwhile, Nuso Esva’s superior fleet overwhelms the other Star Destroyer. Thrawn, of course, has other ideas.
  • Motifs: The name of the book comes from an in-universe saying, "The choices of one shape the futures of all." It comes up repeatedly, said by different characters who often never meet.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Troukrees aren't as harmless and primitive as they first appear to be…
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: During the climax, Thrawn has the Chimaera and the Admonitor on one side of Nuso Esva's fleet, and Vader's Death Squadron of six Star Destroyers and the Executor jumped in on the other. Vader gives the order to engage the now surrounded and outgunned enemy fleet... and then the space battle goes offscreen and skips to the aftermath.
  • One Steve Limit: Comes up. Mara Jade ends up working with Luke, though at a distance. She was told his last name and wonders if he is the Skywalker that Vader is so obsessed with, especially when she sees him using a lightsaber, but ultimately shrugs it off. Skywalker's a common name in the Outer Rim. According to George Lucas, there's even a completely unaffiliated Skywalker vintage of wine.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nuso Esva delivers one to Thrawn during the climactic battle.
    Pellaeon winced as Nuso Esva launched into a detailed description of what exactly that battering would consist of. He wasn’t bluffing, either.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mara, once again. She actually gives Ferrouz a chance to prove his innocence and cancels his planned execution when she realizes he only turned traitor under threats against his family.
  • Red Herring: For a long time, the structure of the narration strongly suggests that Lord Odo and Sorro are actually Thrawn and Car'das. Cue The Reveal.
  • Retcon: Avoided. Mara and Luke team up at one point to get out of a trap, but they're separated by distance and wearing disguises. Mara's not certain if Luke is the Skywalker Vader wants and shrugs it off, while Luke can't tell - yet - that Mara is Force-Sensitive or an enforcer for the Emperor. As a result, it still fits Zahn's Thrawn trilogy timeline for how they first truly meet.
  • The Reveal: Several of these, as usual with Zahn:
    • Ferrouz's main reason for allying with the rebels is that Nuso Esva ordered him to, or else his family will be killed.
    • Axlon on the Rebel side and Drusan on the Imperial side work for Nuso Esva.
    • Lord Odo is Nuso Esva.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: At some point Luke buys some used clothing as a disguise - gray pants, blue tunic, yellow sash. Mara Jade spots him from a good distance and in the internal narration calls him "badly dressed and clearly insane".
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Thrawn’s response to Nuso Esva’s "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Then he summons The Cavalry in the form of Darth Vader’s personal fleet.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Used several times, but most notably:
    • Mara starting a fire in a cavern to keep her enemies occupied.
    • Han ordering a space station to fire all of their (few) remaining torpedoes at a small fleet of ships… which was preparing to unleash a Macross Missile Massacre. The ships' missiles detonate and pretty much vaporize the whole fleet.
  • Take a Third Option: Naturally, Thrawn’s response to the dilemma that Nuso Esva crafts for him. He orders Pellaeon to repeatedly use the Chimaera’s tractor beam on a small freighter in order to alter Chimaera’s course away from the Golan.
    Nuso Esva: Captain Thrawn? Your time is running out.
    Thrawn: Not at all. You asked me to choose between the death of the Chimaera or the death of the Golan. I have made my choice. I choose neither.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Both Axlon and Drusan work for Nuso Esva to ensure their side's victory, no matter what the costs.
  • You Just Told Me: Thrawn goads Nuso Esva into revealing his true opinion of two other systems that have aligned with him. On an open comm channel. That Thrawn is rebroadcasting to those systems.
    Nuso Esva: I imagine you would delight in telling them. Not that they would believe you.
    Thrawn: There’s no need for them to believe me. They can hear it from your own mouth. In fact, they’re hearing it right now.