Blackcollar Hardcover – Nov 1 2005
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About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I really like the storyline. Zahn has put together a gripping story that sucks you in and makes you want to find out what's going to happen next. Highly recommended!
However, the publisher has done it a great disservice. Typos are all over this book - it reads like they took the original print version, ran it through OCR software, and then never bothered to fix the typos that introduced. "Who needs copy editing? Just push it out there and make that money!" It's like the publisher in "Elf" who signs off on printing a book with two missing pages. Who's going to notice something small like that?
Well, I noticed and it's really, really annoying. Yes, it's "only" the Kindle edition, but take some pride in your work and show some respect for the author's vision!
The book takes place in the future, sometime around 2447. The Terran Democratic Empire and it's 28 planets, including Earth, lost a war to an expansionist species known as the Ryqril. Humans now live under occupation. Each planet is completely isolated from the others except for select government personnel. Humans in high level positions are forced to go through re-conditioning, ie. brainwashing. Living conditions are not exactly optimal and the Ryqril aren't very compassionate overlords. It is in this environment that a few cells of resistance remain. The main character, Allen Caine, is a young member of the resistance on Earth who has trained his entire life to fight the Ryqril and undermine their authority. After a lifetime of preparation, he's been given a mission to sneak off Earth and make contact with the resistance on another planet. It's their hope that this contact can lead to a new paradigm in the war against their oppressors. The key to their success lies with the Blackcollars.
What's interesting about this book is just how important the Blackcollars are to the story. Zahn could have gone a lot of different ways with the story. He could have pushed the history of the war, the fight of the resistance, the presence and views of the aliens. Yet instead of doing that, the focus of the story is the mystery of these aged veteran super commandos of a war that took place 29 years ago. These warriors were made into something beyond normal through the use of ability enhancing drugs. They aged slower, had faster reflexes and were generally smarter. In Zahn's own words...
"The Blackcollars were the low-tech warriors, with the martial-arts and the ninja-type weapons, because their enemy had easy ways of detecting large amounts of metal or power sources, so it was a different style of warfare. The Cobra books had a lot of political-sociological stuff as the Cobras are trying to create a colony with ordinary citizens cut off from Earth. The Blackcollars were more a chessgame-"cat and mouse" type of tactical storyline: the "us versus them" sort of thing. Trying to out-think and out-maneuver rather than simply out-gun the enemy." -Timothy Zahn, TheForce.Net interview, February 2000
Thus at the center of this story is a group of elderly ninjas. Yes, the Blackcollars are old. They were in their prime 29 years ago. The age reducing drug called Idunine was cut off after the war. But even with the years against them, the Blackcollars are not to be underestimated. These guys are deadly. One Blackcollar can take out an entire room of hostiles in close quarters combat. On top of that, they don't even use guns. Like their real life ninja counterparts, they use shuriken and nunchaku. They also have armored ninja suits that can protect them from laser fire. And like Zahn said in the quote above, the Blackcollars are very intelligent. Rather than out gunning their enemies, they outsmart them.
On his mission to defeat the Ryqril, Allen Caine heads to the planet Plinry where he hooks up with the fabled Blackcollars. From there, a plot is born that leads to sneaky missions, espionage and subterfuge. There's action, some small nuggets of history and a few, rare glimpses of the Ryqril, but the heart of the story is the characterizations of the Blackcollars. Zahn carefully creates full identities for each of them. As the story progresses, they became interesting and intriguing plot points. I found myself wondering who each individual character was, what their backstories were, what their motivations are. They become compelling characters that you care about and want to learn more about. After all, these are the champions of the human race and Earth's last hope for rescue. It's easy to root for them.
However, underneath that gung-ho storythread of resistance fighters fighting against their oppressors, there's an opposing storyline that's even more entertaining: loyalty. The Ryqril are the obvious, easy to spot enemy. Yet the resistance biggest foe is collaborators aka collies. With the brainwashing programs the Ryqril have developed, no one can be certain who is a traitor and who isn't. When Allen Caine is sent to an entirely new planet, he has no idea who he can trust. The intrigue is further pushed by odd behavior from the Blackcollars. Early on there is a subplot that undermines the loyalty of some of the Blackcollars. Allen is witness to actions that don't make any sense. They keep him in the dark without any justification for their actions. Later on, the whole aspect of traitors and loyalty takes on new heights as the collies begin infiltrating their ranks. Allen is forced to question the trust he has put in the Blackcollars when the unthinkable is brought to light.
There aren't too many flaws with the story itself. Cassettes do get mentioned and tend to date the story a bit, but it's easy enough to overlook something like that. My one problem with the story was the Nova class ships. They become a central plot point but its never clearly illustrated why they are so important. The story implies that they are big ships and thus powerful weapons to have. Yet there's never anything that shows the reader just how big and powerful they are. We never get to see one in action or hear anyone recount how deadly they are. It would have been very helpful to have had a passage describing one in action to illustrate why they are so important and feared by the Ryqril. This shortcoming definitely hurt the ending a little. There are events that unfold that I was not able to fully appreciate due to my lack of understanding of just what a Nova class ship represented. If they had been described a bit more, I think the payoff would have been a lot better.
In the end, Blackcollar is a character driven suspense story with a great atmosphere. The backdrop is formed by a hostile society filled with collaborators and dissent. There's an extremely tantalizing history of galactic warfare and alien conquest. Sci-fi elements appear here and there, yet they never drown out the character elements of the story. Instead, all of these little elements-the Ryqril, the war, the hi-tech gadgetry-are sprinkled throughout to spur the imagination and enhance the experience. I also loved how cerebral the plot was. Zahn managed to weave the characters in such a way that it was hard to lock down their motivations and loyalties. The plot had an elusive way of heading different directions from one moment to another. It created a really solid story. While it did have a flaw or two, it was still a good book. I give Blackcollar a four out of five and definitely recommend it to any Star Wars fan looking to broaden their horizons.
The story takes place in the future. Earth and the many planets it has colonized had a major battle with an alien race…and lost. However, this isn't the usual post apocalyptic tale where everything is left in ruins. At the beginning of the story we find out that in the last days of the war Earth and the planets it inhabits surrendered to avoid being annihilated. While the book does go deeper into it that really sets the history that begins the actual story.
The actual story begins 30 years after the occupation of the alien force. A resistance movement made up of former government officials, regular soldiers and an elite branch of soldiers known as "Blackcollars". While the resistance has been a thorn in the side of the aliens, now governing all Earth's inhabited planets, this story begins when the resistance decides the time is right for a major offensive to fight back.
The author, Timothy Zahn, then takes us on a journey to other inhabited planets where a group of Blackcollars join with one of Earth's resistance fightersand they become the core group that the story focuses around.
This was the first book I had ever read by Timothy Zahn and that was back in the early 80s. This was always intended to be a trilogy but like most trilogies this first book in the series is a full story in and of itself. Sort of just like the first Star Wars movie. That way if it doesn't sell the reader still got an entire story even though it's open ended (like that first Star Wars movie back in the 70s).
what I love about Timothy Zahn's style of writing is that it leaves so little to the imagination, because it's so descriptive, that you could almost see the story in your mind as if it were a movie. I introduced this book to several other friends who also like science fiction and without having said anything when we talked about the book they had the same response.
Interestingly enough, the author is able to do this without turning the book itself into something with more pages than a set of encyclopedias (like a typical Stephen King novel). He paints pictures in your mind but is able to do it in very few words.after he paints that picture of the surroundings he seamlessly brings the characters and the reader into that place he created and the story continues.
While this trilogy is considered science fiction I would also consider it an "action" series. Really, the action is nonstop.
I got this book back in the early 80s when it came out. I remember reading it several times and never getting tired of it. About three years later the second book of the series came out. It picks up where the first one ended (naturally). If you read this first book and enjoy it you will probably want to read the next one as well. The second book of the trilogy is written just as well, just as graphically and continues the story of that initial group of resistance fighters.
I waited three more years for the next and final book of the series to come out… Nothing! Timothy Zahn moved to another publishing house and since they jointly owned the rights to the series he was unable to write the last book in the trilogy. Aargh!
Skip ahead 20 something years (in real life) and he was finally allowed to write the last book in the trilogy. It was like a Christmas gift that I found in the middle of the summer. I was concerned that it wouldn't have the same style which I had come to love since he had over 20 years of writing behind him and his style might have changed. The good news is that the final book in the trilogy is as good as the first two. I wrote to the publisher because after reading the third book I realized that it was left open ended and wondered if the trilogy (like the first Star Wars trilogy) was going to be extended. I was told however that this was just an exception made for Timothy Zahn to finish the Blackcollar series. But like that last Star Wars movie in 1983, this last book in the trilogy could also conceivably lead to additional books if all the legal stuff ever got out of the way.
The typical question is, "what I recommend this book to a friend?" You can probably tell from what I've written that the obvious answer is, "YES". If you never read the other two books in the series I think you'd find this book a good read all by itself.
It introduces you to all the main characters, they are fully fleshed out, it's a great story line with lots of action and when I said the characters are fully fleshed out, they really are. In this one book you learn the history of each of the characters before, during and while the war is going on throughout this book's storyline. Science fiction usually creates very different images in different reader's minds. Also, as I said I had introduced this book to several other science fiction fans and when we discussed how we envisioned what the author had written it was amazingly similar; in some cases almost identical.
While I have the hard copy of this book (a paperback in this case) the reason I purchased it again was that I wanted to put it on my Kindle Fire HD since it has the ability to read most books out loud. So while you can just sit there with your Kindle and read the book you also have the option of just listening to it. It's like getting a regular book and an audio book: one. And this is one of my favorite science fiction books of all time so it was definitely worth the money.
Get the book, grab some popcorn and something to drink and start reading (or listening). ~SMILE ~