Triplet by Timothy Zahn (Baen, 1987) Zahn finds a fresh way to mix fantasy and SF but becomes too caught up in worldbuilding and posing scenario-specific problems for his characters to solve. The actual story is little more than advanced role-playing, the high-stakes threat just another intellectual exercise.
Protocol by Timothy Zahn (Analog, September 2002) [Novelette] A seemingly effortless piece of SF world-building. Colonists cut off on a frontier settlement must comport themselves by unfathomable alien rules… at pain of death. But what happens if the rituals stop working? Unsatisfyingly, the story poses but doesn’t answer this question.
Deadman Switch by Timothy Zahn (Baen, 1988) Zahn melds SF concept (navigation requires a recently deceased pilot; spaceships carry two death-row felons) to moral quandary (one ‘zombie’ pilot has been wrongly convicted). The novel goes through several phase shifts exploring the wider value of maintaining a small human focus.
Star Wars: Thrawn – Alliances by Timothy Zahn (Century, 2018) Zahn’s big picture storytelling doesn’t amount to much but Thrawn remains good value in the moment – a military virtuoso with Sherlockian powers of observation and deduction. Here the chronologically removed but intertwined narratives pair him with both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
Cobra Traitor (Cobra Rebellion, Book 3) by Timothy Zahn (Baen, 2018) Zahn brings another Cobra trilogy to an end, various storylines dovetailing into a slow-dawning frown of ‘So what?’. Characters and scenarios that are made to feel compelling in the moment prove upon reflection to be the effervescent froth of a fizzy drink.
Pawn by Timothy Zahn (Tor, 2017) Timothy Zahn has taken an intriguing single-novel idea — several factions of aliens trying to wrest control of a spaceship from each other — turned it into a series and done his utmost not to include any of it in the first book. Clickbait.
Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn (Century, 2017) Grand Admiral Thrawn must rank as one of the all-time favourite Star Wars characters (including those from the films). Redacted by Disney to accommodate Episode VII, the Chiss strategist has been reinstated in this much-welcomed origin story charting his rise to prominence.
Cloak by Timothy Zahn (Silence in the Library, 2014) Cloak features prototype invisibility cloaks, but is primarily a foray into the intrigue/thriller genre as SF doyen Zahn envisages how these might be used to steal and deploy a nuclear weapon. Ultimately the intricacies prove more interesting to Zahn than his readers.
Cobra Outlaw (Cobra Rebellion, Book 2) by Timothy Zahn (Baen, 2015) Zahn’s mix of military action and political intrigue remains engaging, but his latest Cobra trilogy would (back in the day) have been one long book; the wait between instalments makes for a certain disorientation, especially given the multiple plotlines running in parallel.
A Call to Duty (Book 1 of Manticore Ascendant) by David Weber and Timothy Zahn (Baen, 2014) A slow-cooking goulash of military procedure and political machinations, peppered with technical detail, bland in characterisation. The navy personnel are homogenous and one-dimensional, the protagonist a fully fledged square. In doling out lashings of Honorverse minutiae, Weber and Zahn fail to entertain.