The EU is dead. For those that didn’t know (or more likely, didn’t care) the EU was the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, which included anything published after the movies; games, sourcebooks, comics, and most importantly to me, books. Lots of books. In a move that everyone saw coming, Disney his killed it in favor of a blank slate to work with.
This is a big deal to some, but I am not one of them. Though I have read as many Star Wars books as anyone I can’t get overly excited. I enjoyed these books, reading them since Junior High. I know more stupid Star Wars trivia than I care to admit. Yet with the announcement of the death of this canon I find myself more excited than upset. I have been a bit vocal about my hatred of the way the EU was being handled in recent years. The quality is down (and starting at tie-in quality this is not a good thing). I have made the case that not following one central plot line can only lead to good things (the X-Wing novels, far from the big three of Luke, Leia and Han, make my case with their higher overall quality).
So, in belated celebration of Stars Wars day (May the Forth) I find myself reminiscing on my favorites, most hated, and overall thoughts on the now out of date universe.
Oh, and since none of this is canon anymore, I have zero issues dropping a spoiler or two.
The Best of the Best.
There are a few books that I think stand out the most; books that would be great on their own, and raise above the Star Wars tag that while it no doubt helped them sell better, hurt them in the eyes of most people when they think about quality. Interestingly, this short list includes the books that really started it all.
The Thrawn Trilogy – Timothy Zahn- There were Star Wars tie ins before this, but the release of Heir to the Empire marked the first time Lucas allowed someone to tell the story of what happened after the movies. It was here we learned Leia and Han married, had children. We get the single most interesting villain in Star Wars not named Vader, Grand Admiral Thrawn. And we are given the most important Star Wars character to not appear in the movies for the first time, Mara Jade.
But more than just setting the stage, this series is just good. Zahn has his shortcomings, and relies on certain characters types just a bit too much, but Star Wars is the perfect pallet for him due to the already over the top nature. Specifically he loves the chess master characters that have full control of everythin;, enter Thrawn. A tight thriller of a book that could have made a nice blue print for the what followed; intelligent villains, large cast, multiple locations, and best of all, no super weapons. Recommended to anyone with even a little interesting in Star Wars.
X-Wing series – Multiple authors – As a series within a series the quality varied a bit. But these were just fun space adventures. But what really made them stand out was how far from the main continuality they stood. Luke makes an occasional appearance but outside of that the main character is Wedge, who had all of three lines in the movies. And later in the series even he becomes a secondary character. This series showed how fun the Star Wars universe could be even without the main characters. It is proof that if done right this reboot can have some good things happen by focusing everywhere in this great big universe Lucas created.
Traitor– Mathew Stover – For long running fans only because this gem is stuck smack in the middle of the huge twenty two book New Jedi Order meta series. Too bad, because this book looks into the force more than any other book of the series, and plays with the implications of what it can do. I have been told that the author’s novelization of Revenge of the Sith was also top notch, by my hatred of the prequels kept me from reading it.
Worst of the Worst
Jedi Academy – Keven J Anderson – Ironically the first series I read from the EU, I was given one of the books for Christmas and never looked back. As a junior high kid I guess I enjoyed it. When I went back and reread everything about eight years ago, BLEH.
The biggest tragedy is he took the character Mara Jade and turned her from one of the best in the series into nothing more than an object Lando was trying to win. Later Zahn was forced to save his own creation by suggesting this was an act they were both playing in order to build a back story for an intelligence commission.
But really this whole story was just stupid. Dumb technology, dumb super weapons (hey a new death star and something EVEN BIGGER!!). And he couldn’t even think though his own weapons capabilities, his Sun Crusher could have been the most valuable piece of the New Republic’s fleet even without it’s genocide bombs, why destroy the whole thing? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Bad writing, over the top conversations, and most egregious of all, this one came so early in the series other authors were forced to deal with its canonical nature.
Fate of the Jedi – Starting with New Jedi Order the guardians of the EU realized that the stories were being patch worked all over and it was going to have to stop, so they put large story arcs together instead. And it worked pretty well for New Jedi Order, and reasonably well in Legacy of the Force (nine books). But by this third large arc the wheels were off. I read the entire series. Mostly because I just HAVE to know where the story is going. And there wasn’t a book worth reading in it. Never have I seen so little payoff for such big page space.
If KJA wasn’t involved in so many Star Wars books I would consider this the low point of the series, instead I would say it was fully capable of killing it had Disney not decided to do it on their own.
The Han Solo Trilogy – A. C. Crispen – Do you enjoy silly books full of coincidences and Gary Stu characters? Do you feel that ever plotline should involve every major character? Then you would love this. The entire galaxy revolves around Han in this one; that is all that really needs to be said. The one, single, redeeming thing that happens is it takes the whole ‘Kessel run in 12 parsec’ thing and twists it around so it no longer is a running joke about distance/time.
And a few thoughts on a few others.
I, Jedi – Michael Stackpole – Pretty good, but I remember this mostly for the way it took the entire silly story Anderson told in Jedi Academy, turned it on its head, and made it redeemable.
Razor’s Edge and Honor Among Thieves – Martha Wells and James Corey – I had a bit of hope for the EU due to these two books, after years of bad books a couple of nice stand alones that anyone could enjoy.
The Black Fleet Crisis– Michael Kube-McDowell – I remember like this series, but remember nothing about it. Anyone know if it was really any good?
Crucible – Troy Denning- The final straw on the continuation of the story for me. Especially disappointing because I though Denning was one of the better authors still in the lineup, but the book was almost unreadable. Had Disney not killed the EU, this would have been my last book following the post New Jedi Order storyline.
I have no idea what Disney is going to do with this series now outside of make a boatload of money each day. But I will repeat what I have said time and again. Open.. Up.. The.. Galaxy. Leave the central story and just let it all grow. Not every story needs a Han Solo intervention. I want to know how a minor civil war on a back water planet is affected by the presence of a Jedi on vacation. I want a book that focuses purely on a long running space battle, or a low key espionage mission, or a basic political negotiation. I want them to go Warhammer on this thing, let each author do what they do best and let me skip the ones I don’t like without getting behind in a series.
Give me Star Wars books I can recommend again and I will be happy. Plus I kinda missed Chewbacca