Cobra Strike by Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn is like an amusement park ride. Dare I say a Disneyland ride? When you get on a ride you know there might be some slow spots, just to catch your breath, but mostly it’s just going to go and twist you around in unexpected ways until you don’t think you can take any more. Then it ends.

I have more books by Timothy Zahn than any other author, and I still think that his original Star Wars books are better than any of the movies or books that have come since.

Cobra Strike is just more Timothy Zahn. That’s a good thing. Timothy Zahn is always good at fielding great moral questions then letting his readers work out the answers as the characters go on a great action and mystery hunt. There are usually politics and politicians thrown in as well.

What I like about Zahn’s politicians is that many times their motives and concerns are on a different scale than the average citizen. They make decisions that baffle the rest of the world but when we see what they are thinking it makes sense. This is how politicians look from the outside. I can only hope that on the inside they are as thoughtful as Zahn makes them sound.

In order to win five worlds in a bargain with the Troft aliens the government of the Cobra worlds agrees to send a neutralizing force to Qasama, a planet that the Troft find dangerous. The Cobra are turned from peacemakers to mercenaries over night.

Things get really fun when they get to Qasama and discover what the Troft didn’t tell them and the secret the Qasamans are trying to hide. The usual Timothy Zahn exploding and fast thinking cleverness ensues.

This is some of Zahn’s early work and it’s fascinating to see how quickly he improves as a writer. He deftly juggles several characters of different ages and background in order to tell a compelling story. Each of his characters has a history and their own sets of goals and fears. It’s almost hidden at first since the information comes as snippets in the middle of action but the people are distinct.

I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this book feels vaguely familiar. The political maneuvering, the government oversight, the strange aliens and brilliantly depicted action scenes against improbable odds have all been seen before. This book doesn’t present much that’s new to the world. If you’ve read Timothy Zahn before you probably know what to expect. However, that isn’t a bad thing – yet. There are other authors (Terry Brooks, David Eddings, etc.) who get tiresome. Maybe their formula isn’t as flexible or maybe I just wasn’t as patient.

I fully recommend this book. The beauty of it, and most of Zahn’s books that I’ve read, is that you don’t need to read the former Cobra book – though you should – in order to understand this one. Just pick it up and be ready for a ride.

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