Tales of the New Republic

Like the other “Tales” collections before it, “New Republic” chronicles the adventures of a diverse group ranging from the famous (Mara Jade, Bel Iblis, Ysanne Isard) to the obscure (Fenig Nabon, others). And like the collections before it, there’s stories I loved and stories I thought ‘meh.’

“Interlude at Darknell” was a fascinating look at a prominent Rebel character that I knew precious little about: Garm Bel Iblis. He plays a huge role in both the Rebellion the conflicts to follow, so it was fascinating to find out his backstory and why he fought the Empire. It also features Hal Horn, which is a character I really love to see get his own novel someday. Of the three Horn generations, he’s the one we know the least about.

“Jade Solitaire” details just how Mara Jade acquired the formidable Jade’s Fire that will be featured in upcoming stories (particularly the Thrawn trilogy + duology).

“No Disintegrations, Please” is a decent Boba Fett short. Having made it to “Fate of the Jedi,” I’m really wishing he got more novels in the pre-Legacy era. Such an interesting character.

There are others, but those three stuck out in my mind. Pick it up sometime – it’s a fun and diverse collection.

Next: Matt Stover is quite possibly my favorite Star Wars author (with Zahn a close second), and he delivers his usual awesome in “Shadows of Mindor,” a great novel that I really need to get back from the person I loaned it to…

Book Stats:

Title: Tales of the New Republic
Author: various
Timeframe: various
Background required: Depends on the short story, but generally little.
Format: Paperback
Pages: 397
Read Time: ~4 hours

Winner Lose All

It was a bit of mental whiplash going directly from “Dawn of the Jedi” straight into the Rebellion Era. Very different worlds.

“Winner Lose All” is a short e-novel from Timothy Zahn that builds on some of the characters introduced in “Scoundrels.” In 58 pages Lando, Tavia, Bink, and Zerba get thrown together at a high-stakes sabaac tournament where the top prize is an ancient and valuable bit of statuary. However, the plot thickens as we realize that the statue may be a fake, and things escalate from there in typical Lando fashion. A short read, but a fun one that really stands entirely alone.

It’s another of the rare stories where there are no Jedi. Palpatine is mentioned in passing, but none of the characters are Force-sensitive. Refreshing, really, to learn how the rest of the galaxy lives, as it were.

With that, we close out the Rebellion Era! Reading-wise, I’m two books into Fate of the Jedi, so I’m trying desperately to catch up here before my library loans expire.

Next: Tales from the New Republic (for real this time).

Book Stats:

Title: Winner Lose All
Author: Timothy Zahn
Timeframe: 0-3 BBY
Background required: If you know who Lando is, you’re set.
Format: e-book
Pages: 65
Read Time: .5 hours

Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void

We take a step back in time with the newest addition to the Star Wars EU – “Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void”.

Actually, a giant flying leap might be more accurate. This novel, a tie-in to the Dawn of the Jedi comics series, catapults us some twenty-five thousand years before the events of the original movie, to a time even before the founding of the Republic or, as it turns out, before the discovery of hyper-spatial travel ubiquitous in every other era. This is the era when ‘Sith’ meant a race, a species, not a dark-sider.

And it was utterly alien to me, largely because I haven’t read the accompanying comic books. This is not a book I’d recommend for those without familiarity with Star Wars as a whole as even with my relatively extensive knowledge of Star Wars I felt somewhat lost. The closest I can come is the Knight Errant novel, but even then there was the comfortable dichotomy of Sith and Jedi, light and dark sides of the Force.

In this time, in the place, this is not the case. But first, the story.

Sheltered on the world of Tython, a band of Force-sensitives grow and thrive, brought there by the mysterious Tho Yor. While the world is not without its share of dangers, the Force runs incredibly strongly here, the perfect origin for a Force-using Order. But to those not attuned to the Force, it is a deadly world that eventually breaks the minds of those who are blind to the Force.

Lanoree, Je’daii Ranger, knows this firsthand. Her younger brother fell prey to the madness and has been thought dead for nine years. When the Council summons her from her wanderings, she quickly learns that the truth is even worse – Dalien lives, but at the head of a fanatical group known as the Stargazers, who wish to leave Tython for the stars and are willing to use dangerous unknown technology to accomplish it, technology with the potential to destroy Tython. So she is tasked with using any means necessary to stop him.

Having just read “Legacy of the Force” and the final, terrible duel in “Invincible,” I couldn’t help but draw parallels of sister hunting fallen brother. History does indeed repeat itself in the Star Wars galaxy – art imitating life as usual.

What really separates this novel from anything else Star Wars is the philosophy (and the lack of lightsabers, but that’s just because of how far back in time we are). At this point in the Project, I’ve encountered quite a few Force-philosophies, particularly about the nature of dark and light. Sith and Jedi alike believe there is inherent dark and light within the Force, choosing to serve one or the other, Potentium followers believe there is no dark or light to the Force, only in the user, and the Aing-Tii see the Force as a rainbow (which I hope gets explored more someday).

Here, it’s not about serving dark or light. Here, the Je’daii strive for balance, walking the tightrope between dark and light while striving to keep from tipping into one or the other. This does fail eventually but it’s a fascinating idea I’ve only seen played with once in fanfiction (Davin Sunrider’s “One Missed Strike” series). The Je’daii eventually splinter into the groups that will form the basis for the modern Jedi/Sith divide in the Force Wars, which sound intriguing enough to make me want to read the comics at some point.

The novel has quotes from Je’daii masters before each chapter, and one of them really struck me. Paraphrasing, it says that to veer too far into the light is to see the dark as monstrous and to veer too far into the dark is to see the light as confining. It’s exactly the attitudes we see in modern-day Sith and Jedi, and I wonder if it’ll ever get played with in that era. Definitely brings new meaning to the Sith’ari and Chosen One prophecies! It also made me realize that, the Vong invasion aside, every major conflict in the GFFA has been due to the clash of Force-wielders. A sobering thought.

Lastly, there’s a bit of interesting linguistics. Hutts and other species have referred to the Jedi as Jeedai, making me wonder if that’s not a corruption of the original ‘Je’daii.’ Haven’t seen pronunciation of the latter anywhere, but it’s intriguing (and a cool bit of retcon if I’m right).

In short – don’t read this book unless you’ve read the comics or are comfortable getting dropped into the middle of a story. It was fascinating in sections (and as a sister, heartbreaking at times), but very hard to jump into.

Next: You’ve heard the expression “winner take all” but sometimes, the winner loses it all instead.

Book Stats:

Title: Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void
Author: Tim Lebbon
Timeframe: 25,793 BBY
Background required: The comics of the same name (or a willingness to be a bit confused)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Read Time: ~2.5 hours

Truce at Bakura

Set just days after ROTJ, “Truce at Bakura” begins with a desperate cry for help. The Imperial-held world of Bakura sends a drone to try gain assistance from Emperor Palpatine, unaware of the events of Endor. The Alliance intercepts the message and sends Han, Luke, and Leia to investigate the report of an alien invasion and offer assistance with the hope that Bakura will join the Alliance.
The situation they walk into is simultaneously complicated and dire. The politics of working with Imperials and rebel factions are delicate, while the Ssi-ruuvi intent to enslave the souls of all life to power their machines is as bad or worse than any atrocity perpetrated by the Empire.

Against this backdrop we see personal conflict: Luke begins the first of a long string of failed relationships (in the EU, anyway) with Gaeriel Captison, while Leia struggles with the aftermath of learning her heritage, a process not exactly helped by the brief appearance of Anakin’s spirit begging for forgiveness.

The book also underscores the fact that, celebrations aside, the Alliance’s work has only just started with the death of Palpatine and Vader. There are hundreds of warlords now vying to fill the power vacuum, and the process of gaining control over the galaxy is a going to be a very long one. Even in the Legacy era, forty years later, the Empire still exists, albeit it much diminished.

Side note – I love the fact that the author, Kathy Tyers, dedicates the novel to John Williams. His music really does make Star Wars what it is. :)

This is (almost) the final book in the Rebellion Era. Still need to get my hands on “Winner Lose All,” the e-book companion to Scoundrels.

Next: We step into the New Republic era with “Tales from the New Republic.” Lots of fun stories in there that help bridge the gap between Empire and Republic.

Book Stats:

Title: Truce at Bakura
Author: Kathy Tyers
Timeframe: 4ABY
Background required: The Original Trilogy of movies, but nothing else.
Format: Paperback
Pages: 341
Read Time: ~3.25 hours

Scoundrels

I’ve previously pointed out how Star Wars has expanded from its space opera roots. The universe now encompasses mystery, elite-soldier, horror, and more. With Timothy Zahn’s “Scoundrels” we add another genre.

Heist caper.

Yes, this book is pure Ocean’s Eleven-meets-Star Wars, and it’s wonderful. While heavy-hitting Zahn characters are sadly absent (no Mara Jade, Talon Karrde), Han, Chewie, Lando, and a small-name cast pull the spotlight off well.

The premise, like many heist movies, is quite simple – acquire an item despite the heavy layers of security, sell it, and retire to a life of ease. Or, in Han’s case, get rid of that pesky bounty Jabba has on his head.

We go through all the usual stages – find out about the job, assemble the team, make a plan – but there’s a completely unexpected twist in the literal last page of the novel that turns everything you thought you knew about this job on its head. It’s the kind of masterstroke expected from an author of Zahn’s caliber, and left me grinning like an idiot for quite a while.

One of the questions I occasionally get asked is which book is a good ‘gateway’ into the Expanded Universe. Having reached Fate of the Jedi (the final Star Wars series chronologically), I’d have to say that this is one of the best. It requires little background knowledge, features famous characters, and offers a familiar formula with a Star Wars twist.

This book will be on my bookshelf as soon as a paperback copy is released.

Next: No rest for heroes – in the immediate aftermath of ROTJ, the fledgling New Republic combats a sinister unknown race as Leia struggles to come to terms with her new-found heritage as Darth Vader’s daughter.

Book Stats:

Title: Scoundrels
Author: Timothy Zahn
Timeframe: 0ABY
Background required: ANH would be good, but isn’t strictly required.
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 443
Read Time: ~4 hours

The Han Solo Adventures (trilogy)

Like the Lando novels, the three books that make up the Han Solo Adventures stand very much alone in terms of style and content, betraying the fact that they’re ‘early’ Star Wars. It’s also one of the few sets of novels that are entirely from the POV of a non-Jedi character. In fact, the Jedi don’t get mentioned even in passing. It’s quite unique. When I first read these, I thought for sure that they didn’t get referenced by the wider EU, but turns out I was wrong – references crop up in the NJO era.

“At Star’s End” is the first in the trilogy, and introduces us to a pre-ANH Han and Chewie as they work to disguise the Falcon in order to slip past Corporate Sector security. Along the way they find out that the genius mechanic who could help them has been kidnapped and is being held in an infamous Corp Sec prison called “Star’s End.” Naturally, they go to rescue them. Lots of hijinks and crazy plans, pure Solo style. Two droids – BLX-5 and Blue Max – later get an obscure shout-out in the NJO series.

“Han Solo’s Revenge” follows some time later, when Han and Chewie are tricked into carrying a cargo of slaves. They turn the tables on the slavers, but lose out on the money they were promised. The mishap sets the tone for the story as the duo move heaven and earth to get someone, somewhere, to pay them the money that they’re owed. One of their misadventures, taking place on the world of Kamar, gets pulled into the “Dark Nest” trilogy way out in the NJO era – it explains Han’s severe aversion to insect races. Let’s just say that you should be careful when there’s a language barrier…

“The Lost Legacy” watches as Han and Chewie head off Indiana Jones-style to try to recover the fabled lost treasure of Xim, an ancient despot. Definitely worth reading without spoilers, so I’m not going to say more than this (mis)adventure also comes back to haunt Han during the Dark Nest crisis.

This concludes the “Rise of the Empire” era. All that remains are the three movies, and those will be watched at the end of the project.

Next: Star Wars meets Ocean’s Eleven-style heist in “Scoundrels,” a book I’ll be buying the second it comes out in paperback.

Book Stats:

Title: At Star’s End
Author: Brian Daley
Timeframe: 2-1BBY
Background required: None
Format: Paperback
Pages: 183
Read Time: ~1 hour

Title: Han Solo’s Revenge
Author: Brian Daley
Timeframe: 2-1BBY
Background required: None
Format: Paperback
Pages: 198
Read Time: ~1 hour

Title: The Lost Legacy
Author: Brian Daley
Timeframe: 2-1BBY
Background required: None
Format: Paperback
Pages: 187
Read Time: ~1 hour

The Last Jedi

Readers may remember the “Coruscant Nights” series, which mixes hardboiled detective with Star Wars in amusing ways. While this book follows the same characters, it stands alone and takes place some time after the events of “Patterns of Force.” Jax, Larannth, and the others are continuing their work with Whiplash, the resistance movement on Coruscant even while Jax struggles with the concept that he may be the last Jedi in existence.

The book opens with a bang, quickly raising the stakes as one of the long-time members of Jax Pavan’s group dies preventing Darth Vader from capturing all aboard their vessel. The loss of their companion and the near-deactivation of I-Five haunts the group for the entire novel as they struggle to come to terms with both their loss and the potential death of Whiplash. For in the same attack that claimed their friend’s life, one of the main resistance leaders is captured by Vader.

The book is very different in tone and subject matter, less of a detective story and more a story of ‘what-ifs’ and the grieving process. It also explores the nature of time, as Jax and the others discover more about the strange¬†Cephalon race that has figured into the series at several critical points. It’s still just as good as the others, just very different.¬† It’s also one of the few Star Wars books I’ve purchased without reading, confident that it would be worthy of a place on my shelf. And it most certainly was.

Next: the other Han Solo trilogy, the one that takes place in the Corporate Sector and has the same tone/style as the Lando Calrissian trilogy.

Book Stats:

Title: The Last Jedi
Author: Michael Reeves
Timeframe: 18-17BBY
Background required: Rest of “Coruscant Nights”
Format: Paperback
Pages: 480
Read Time: ~3.5 hours