I have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. There will be SPOILERS in what follows for the novel discussed as well as (possibly) earlier books in the same series.
Hard Merchandise by K.W. Jeter
Hard Merchandise gives us the payoff of the first two novels in the trilogy, The Mandalorian Armor and Slave Ship. The payoff is… okay. The core of the novel isn’t bad, but a lot of the window dressing has issues.
Suspension of disbelief, I have to say, was somewhat difficult at parts of this trilogy in general. First, the notion that the Bounty Hunter Wars would even be more than a flicker as far as the galaxy goes. I should have marked it, because I don’t remember the exact scene/wording, but somewhere in Hard Merchandise we have some character make an offhand comment about how there are basically no bounty hunters operating any more because the Guild has had some problems. And I was just shocked, because it seems impossible that in an entire galaxy there would be like two bounty hunters operating due to some conflict in a single organization. It’s baffling that that would even be a possibility on a planet, let alone over a huge number of planets and civilizations. I’m pretty good about granting huge suspension of disbelief to sci-fi, especially science fantasy like Star Wars, but this pushed my limit past breaking.
I did like the many tie-ins to the core movies and broader Star Wars franchise the novel had. Giving us explanations for specific people at Jabba’s palace and even some more background on Return of the Jedi was great. Fett’s investigative skills weren’t always on display, but when they were, it definitely made him into a more interesting character. The back-and-forth with Xizor’s enemies and friends (both together?) was interesting enough to keep me going. I have just started watching “The Mandalorian” TV series, and I’m curious to see if anything from this trilogy gets pulled into the show.
Honestly, though, the best characters in the series were probably Dengar and Neelah. Dengar is largely a tough guy with a heart figure, but he’s done well enough that I don’t mind the cliché. Neelah, on the other hand, is the memory-loss cliché but her character growth and development are probably the highlight of the series. She goes from being an unknown figure to a major player due to her connections with the weapons manufacturer Kuat Drive Yards. And the Kuat scenes are among the best in the book with the intermingling of corporate backstabbing with pseudo-nobility. It’s a great thread and honestly would make a decent cyberpunk type world to explore further. Apparently that’s Jeter’s background, so it doesn’t surprise me that those aspects of the novels were done well. In Hard Merchandise, I found myself reading as much to find out what these side characters were up to as I was reading for Fett.
Hard Merchandise is a competent conclusion to a series that left me wanting more. I wanted more development, more explanations of what was happening, and more to believe in. But with some strong side characters, the series is worth reading, especially for those interested in non-canonical ways Fett developed.
+Yet another great cover
+Good characterization for some side characters
+Great tie-ins to the movies…
-The tie-ins are sometimes forced
-A little bland
Grade: C+ “A competent conclusion to a trilogy that left me wanting more.”
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Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.
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