Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-through- “The Paradise Snare” by A.C. Crispin

Who's 'scruffy looking'?

Who’s ‘scruffy looking’?

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. Here, we go back to the future to see the origins of Han Solo with book one of the Han Solo Trilogy, The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin.

The Paradise Snare

Who doesn’t love to get some background into their favorite characters? (Put your hand down, you!) Seriously, it’s always exciting to learn more about beloved characters’ pasts, though it is sometimes with some trepidation that we explore, hoping our image of them will not be shattered. A.C. Crispin’s “Han Solo Trilogy” is an origin story for everyone’s favorite scoundrel, Han Solo.

One of the most problematic plot devices, in my opinion, is what I have dubbed the “kill a ‘protagonist’ handle.” Okay, I just made that up. But what I mean by it is a reference to when authors start off a book by introducing a character who is clearly a “good guy” and then killing them fairly briefly. Why is this such a problem? The reason is because we haven’t been given any reason to care about the character before they die, so it is not as impactful as the death of a character should be. This happens in The Paradise Snare with Dewlanna, the Wookie who took care of a young Han Solo. I’m glad Crispin developed Dewlanna’s backstory more through Han’s reflections, as this softened the contrived feeling a bit.

The Paradise Snare is a pretty sweet concept too. As I said, origin stories are usually pretty thrilling, and ever since I first saw the movies I felt there was more to the story of Han Solo than met the eye. It’s good to get this development into the past to ground some of the aspects of his personality. Moreover, Crispin did an excellent job capturing the “feel” of Star Wars and Solo in particular. The dialogue is very well written throughout, something that is not always the case in the Star Wars universe *cough* prequel trilogy *cough*.

Solo seems like a very real character, with differing motivations, reactions, and actions that all seem to fit with what we already know as Star Wars fans. Moreover, he can act in unexpected ways that nevertheless seem to fit his character. Bria, another Corellian, is also fairly well-developed, though we don’t get to spend as much time with her as we do with Han (for obvious reasons). Most other characters feel very tertiary and have little motivating them. I think this is more a product of the purpose of the book and its focus on Han than anything else, however. Crispin captured the feeling of Solo very well.

One thing that was a downside throughout was that none of the locations seemed particularly developed. There were some descriptions, yes, but overall the different planets almost all felt like mere wallpaper for the story to occur in front of. One of the great things about Star Wars is all the diversity of planets, and although Crispin did capture this at moments, it most often seemed like there wasn’t much to hold on to so far as the settings were concerned.

It’s always tough to grade a childhood favorite, and I loved the Han Solo trilogy. There are a few problems in the book, sure, but the question is what is it that readers are looking for in such a trilogy. The answer is some good action, development of the character we’ve grown to love, and a solid story. The Paradise Snare checks out on each front. A strong start to the series.

The Good

+Strong development of Solo
+Great dialogue

The Bad

-Not enough development of the various locales
-Secondary characters feel like window dressing

Best Droid Moment

I was a fan of the R2 unit on the ship Solo stowed away on threatening to have him arrested on arrival.

Grade: B+ “A strong lead book that gives plenty of reasons to read on.”

Conclusion

The Paradise Snare is a solid beginning of the origins of Han Solo.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

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Star Wars: EU Read-Through- “Heir to the Empire” by Timothy Zahn

The main guy on the cover (with lightning fingers) occupies about 10 pages of the book. Weird.

The main guy on the cover (with lightning fingers) occupies about 10 pages of the book. Weird.

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. Here, I look at Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn.

Heir to the Empire

Well, here it is folks, the beloved Thrawn trilogy. I remember vividly checking this book out of the library some 17 years ago or so and then absolutely devouring it. But that was a long time ago. Does it hold up now?

Short answer: yes.

Timothy Zahn has gone down as possibly the best Star Wars writer for a reason. His understanding and portrayal of the characters is so true-to-form, and the characters he introduces are impactful rather than being window dressing as they seem in some other books in the EU.

The plot is interesting as well. We’re a few years out from the destruction of the second Death Star and the Empire is largely on the ropes. But a Grand Admiral who had been out in the boonies has gotten control now and his tactical insight is turning the war around, at least on the outside. Meanwhile, political intrigue among the leadership of the Rebellion (now the “New Republic”) threatens to spill over. All of this is not to mention some interesting stories regarding a woman–Mara Jade–with an intense hatred for Luke Skywalker and dealings with smugglers.

Zahn does a fantastic job balancing the new characters with those we know from the movies, and his writing style constantly keeps the action and plot moving. There’s just enough balance between action and backstory to keep it moving.

At some points, the plot points are a bit too convenient. For example, it seems altogether astounding that Thrawn, Han and Lando, and Luke would all happen to get thrown together before Talon Karrde at his “secret” base. Granted, Zahn introduces reasons for them all to be there, but it seems just a trifle contrived.

Overall though, this book has its status as hallowed Star Wars lore for a reason. It’s just fantastic. It’s a thrillride that doesn’t disappoint, and I’m happy to re-read it. On with the rest of the trilogy!

The Good

+Excellent cast of characters both already known and new
+Interesting tactical insights in the battles that happen
+Strong sense of continuity with Star Wars universe
+Awesome cover…

The Bad

-…which strangely features a (for now) minor character most prominently
-Some of the situations are a little too coincidental

Best Droid Moment

C-3PO impersonating Princess Leia. What more needs to be said?

Grade: A+ “There really is a reason the Thrawn Trilogy is known as the best of the best of Star Wars.”

Conclusion

Heir to the Empire is just fantastic. It holds up well after all this time. The balance of characters old and new is perfect, and Zahn’s writing is well-suited to the Star Wars universe. A truly superb book.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through- Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

darth-plagueis-luceno

Did I mention the cover is also really cool looking?

I have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more, and here I begin my quest with Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. There will be SPOILERS in this review.

Darth Plagueis is ostensibly the story of Emperor Palpatine’s Sith Master, but it is much more than that. It also provides extensive background into the person of Palpatine/Darth Sidious and his own rise to power. Moreover, there is much background provided herein to show the development of plot details behind the Prequel Movie trilogy.

The book begins by tracing Plagueis’ own overthrow of his master and his eliminating all Sith opposition in order to cover his tracks. He encounters Palpatine on Naboo and ultimately convinces him to join the path of the Sith. Plagueis wishes to overthrow Darth Bane’s “Rule of Two” which teaches, among other things, that apprentices should always be looking for a way to kill their Sith Masters in order to perpetuate strength in the order. He also seeks to destroy the Jedi and forge the Republic into a creation of the Sith.

As Plagueis and his apprentice, Sidious (Palpatine) work towards these ends, Luceno also traces developments in the wider galaxy, particularly in the growing conflict between the Trade Federation and Naboo. The details of this development actually serve to make more sense of various things found in the Prequel Trilogy such as why the Trade Federation would work with Sidious, how Amidala rose to the throne, and more.

One downside is Plagueis’ focus on “midi-chlorians,” a concept I’ve been trying to forget since Lucas brought it into Episode I. Another issue is that, past the first half of the book, it becomes almost entirely about Palpatine rather than Plagueis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it maintains a coherent story throughout, but I thought it worth mentioning.

The book therefore provides a decades-long development of the work of the Sith alongside the broader developments in the galaxy. This could be a recipe for disaster, but Luceno pulls it off remarkably well. He also interweaves questions of morality, political control, and other philosophical issues into the plot. The book is fantastic.

The Good

-Manages to fill in gaps in the story for the Prequel Trilogy in such a way as to make them only lesser atrocities
-Provides great background into Palpatine’s life
-Brings up a host of philosophical questions while maintaining its dark plot
-Gungans are mentioned but never get to speak

The Bad

-“Midi-Chlorians” featured prominently at some points in the plot, and this concept should never ever be acknowledged to exist in the EU
-The ending felt a little rushed
-Ultimately more about Palpatine than Plagueis

Best Droid Moment

114D immediately calling Sidious master after Sidious had killed Plagueis. Droid don’t care.

Grade: A+ “I wish I’d read it sooner.”

Conclusion

Darth Plagueis is a really awesome entry into the Star Wars universe; it is one which actually succeeds in deadening some of the awfulness of the Prequel Trilogy while also standing on its own two feet. It’s not a perfect book, which suggests an “A+” is too high, but any book that manages to accomplish the Prequel redemption and avoid the serious possible pitfalls gets mad bonus points. I’m excited that so many recommended it to me and that I finally got around to reading it. I would highly recommend a read-through for Star Wars fans. Please let me know if you have any ideas for categories I should include in these reviews going forward.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

New Star Wars “Canon” Novel Sampler

canon-samplerIf you have some qualms about jumping in to the new “canon” novels now that the “legends” (read: Expanded Universe) series has effectively been shut down, now’s the time to check them out. There’s a free sampler of several of the new upcoming books so that we can tip our toes into the water before we dive in.

Star Wars Books on Facebook had this press release:

We’re thrilled to announce that our FREE Star Wars 2014 sampler is available for download on all e-reader platforms. Includes exclusive previews of the first wave of novels that are part of the official Star Wars film canon, created in collaboration with the newly formed Lucasfilm Story Group:

A NEW DAWN by John Jackson Miller
Set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV, A New Dawn tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths.

TARKIN by James Luceno
Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

HEIR TO THE JEDI by Kevin Hearne
The author of The Iron Druid Chronicles tells a thrilling new adventure set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and-for the first time ever-written entirely from Luke Skywalker’s first-person point of view.

LORDS OF THE SITH by Paul S. Kemp
When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their awesome martial skills to prevail.

Click here to download the Star Wars 2014 sampler for free, and take your first step into a larger world…

http://atrandom.com/starwars2014sampler/

Rest assured that I’ll be reading at least a few of the samplers to see if I want to pursue this new “canon” series after the shut down of the Expanded Universe! Let me know if you also read the sampler, and what you think! I have written about my thoughts on the closure of the Expanded Universe elsewhere.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe- Initial Thoughts on “THE END OF THE WORLD”

sw-fotjIt’s been a little while since Disney announced the Star Wars Expanded Universe is officially unofficial and non-canon. Star Wars fandom is going nuts. I personally have a few thoughts on this overall.

The Expanded Universe has had some amazing moments, but it has also had some weak points (here’s looking at you, 90% of the books on the Yuuzhan Vong). My initial reaction to this news was to immediately horde Star Wars books from the EU because I wanted to be able to relive those memories again and again. But, when I looked back over the whole post-movie EU universe, I realized there weren’t really that many books I needed to grab. I had the major series I enjoyed, and I’d already gotten rid of the vast majority of the books I thought weren’t that great. Looking back, for the number of books there are in the EU, the quality has not been consistent.

Maybe, just maybe a reboot is something that is needed to get this show on the road and going strong for a long period of time.

That said, it will be impossible to try to forget or ignore the EU if and when I read the new novels that come out of the canonized book series. In particular, Mara Jade and Ben Skywalker have been some of my favorites, and of course the development of Boba Fett off and on was a major plus for me. I am not at all sure how I will be able to move beyond the sense of loss over having to pretend much of this history just never happened. To me, it may as well be a completely alternative universe at this point.

I think the biggest hurt for me was not being able to experience the now-cancelled “Sword of the Jedi” series. I was so looking forward to that after the “Fate of the Jedi” ended so exceptionally well (read my thoughts on that series at my other site). Realistically, I don’t see why Disney could not have at least allowed for the “Sword of the Jedi” trilogy to be written and tie off any number of loose ends that remain open. Of course, there would always be more loose ends, but those which appeared in “Apocalypse” are extremely important and, frankly, worth tying off. Maybe Disney will reconsider and allow for some closure here. If they did this most of my feelings of disappointment would dissolve.

Overall, then, I think that the ending remains a shock for me and it is something that I wish did not happen. I remain hopeful for the possibility of a trilogy somewhere to tie up the “Legends” universe at least a little bit, but I also tentatively am hopeful for the next iteration of Star Wars in the form of the newer novels.

What do you think of this development? What have been your favorite Star Wars books? Leave a comment and let me know!

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.