The future of the Star Wars franchise may truly lie in the Unknown Regions, as the latest novel unveils a canon replacement for the Yuuzhan Vong. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn: Alliances introduces a formidable new alien race, the Grysks, who share some similarities with the Vong - and have set their sights on conquering the galaxy.
Thrawn: Alliances is Zahn's second book in the new Star Wars canon, again focusing on the Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn. The chapters are divided across two eras; one during the last days of the Clone Wars, revealing Thrawn's first encounter with Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker, and the second is in the Imperial era. The two stories weave together, revealing a dangerous threat looming in the depths of the Unknown Regions. The Grysks have been watching the galaxy for decades, considering when it is best to act, and actually believed themselves powerful enough to plot an invasion when the Empire was at its height.
Long-term Star Wars fans will find some of the ideas surprisingly familiar; as Zahn has set up the Grysks, they could work as a canon replacement for an alien race from the old Star Wars "Legends," the Yuuzhan Vong. In so doing, he may well have established an important new plot for the entire Star Wars franchise.
- This Page: The Yuuzhan Vong
- Page 2: Behold the Grysks
The Yuuzhan Vong Were Very Important In Legends
Until the late '90s, the license to publish Star Wars novels had sat with Bantam. The publisher had run a hugely successful range of books, including a number of New York Times bestsellers, but Lucas Licensing decided they wanted a publisher who was more ambitious. They passed the license on to Del Rey, and in 1998 representatives from both parties met with author James Luceno. Del Rey felt that the Star wars franchise needed something of a shake-up, a move away from the same story of light versus dark. A new threat was needed. That threat was the Yuuzhan Vong.
The Yuuzhan Vong were extragalactic invaders, brutal, warlike and believing the galaxy was theirs to claim. Instead of using machines, they had a form of living technology, "shaped" by their bio-engineers in order to be of service. Where traditional Star Wars enemies were essentially PG-13 (it's no coincidence that lightsaber blades cauterize wounds) the Vong most assuredly weren't. They practiced ritual scarification, their equivalent for blaster bolts were thud bugs that embedded themselves in the flesh of an opponent, and they subjected prisoners to torture in the so-called Embrace of Pain. They were a truly fearsome foe, wearing armor that could turn away a lightsaber blade, wielding staff weapons that could match a Jedi blow-for-blow, and piloting living ships with micro-singularities to swallow up enemy fire.
These aliens were featured in the 19-book "New Jedi Order" series, with the Yuuzhan Vong cutting a bloody swathe through the galaxy and even conquering Coruscant. Nobody was safe from the Yuuzhan Vong's wrath; the series kicked off with the death of Chewbacca, and partway through the series the main hero, Anakin Solo, died at the hands of the Yuuzhan Vong too. The Yuuzhan Vong were then subtly woven into the broader Star Wars continuity, with other novels revealing that a Vong scout arrived during the Prequel Era and even kidnapped a Jedi. Timothy Zahn's own novels confirmed that the Chiss were aware of the Vong, and were preparing for the war against them. Even the Star Wars comics explored the Yuuzhan Vong.
The Yuuzhan Vong Were Almost Canon
The Yuuzhan Vong, along with all previous Star Wars books and comics released up until that point, were made non-canon in 2014. Disney had faced a difficult decision; should they accept all the accrued weight of continuity offered by the old "Expanded Universe," or should they erase it from canon altogether and start rebuilding the mythology, retaining only the films and TV shows? They chose the latter approach, and in large part it was because of the Yuuzhan Vong.
The "New Jedi Order" range was simply too ambitious, transforming the galaxy so completely that it simply couldn't remain canon. Any viewers who tuned in to a post-"New Jedi Order" movie would be utterly bewildered. Besides which, Lucasfilm didn't agree with the decision to kill off Chewbacca. They believed the beloved Wookiee needed to come back in the sequel trilogy. Once that decision was made, the Lucasfilm Story Group swiftly realized that everything else from the old Expanded Universe would probably have to be discarded too.
Ironically, the Yuuzhan Vong themselves almost slipped through into the canon anyway. Lucas Animation planned a Yuuzhan Vong episode as part of the Clone Wars animated series. It would have seen an early Yuuzhan Vong scout kidnap one of the cast, with the Jedi rushing to the rescue. Unfortunately, The Clone Wars was canceled before a script had been produced. The Yuuzhan Vong were left as nothing more than "Legends."
But now, six years on from Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, they may be returning... in some form.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019