Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through: “X-Wing: Wraith Squadron” by Aaron Allston

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston

Wraith Squadron marks a departure for the series as Aaron Allston takes over for Michael A. Stackpole. Wedge has moved to a different task. Instead of leading the elite-of-the-elite in a squadron to be commando-pilots, he is taking on the castoffs and problem children of other squadrons, whipping them into shape, and making them into, er, commando-pilots.

The idea is a fine one, and it gives the series a slew of new faces. The best part of the book is all the side characters getting so much development. I was blown away when a certain event happened, showing characters in this series are actually vulnerable. It was quite well done, especially the aftermath.

The plot is a good thread, as an Imperial Warlord continues to meddle with Wedge’s affairs. There are plenty of well-written space battles (caveat being you have to accept the complete absurdity of Star Wars space battles–no; physics and common sense need not apply) to be had. What bogs the story down is some of the more commando parts in which the pilots are out of their various spaceships. There are many scenes that are apparently supposed to be a kind of spy-action type thing happening, but instead just feel slow. They’re throwaway scenes as far as the plot goes, too. One can almost feel Allston waiting to get pilots back into their fighters.

Wraith Squadron is another good read in an excellent series. I continue to enjoy my first-ever read through of this series, and I’m glad I’ve been able to circle back and read them at last.

The Good

+Great space battles
+A villain that at least has some mystery to how he acts
+Many side characters introduced
+Actual consequences for characters in the book

The Bad

-Gets bogged down in action scenes that aren’t in space
-A bit too much standing around talking with each other

Cover Score: 5/10 – They basically just mashed as many fighters on the cover as they could

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: B Allston takes over the series with hardly a hiccup.

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through: “X-Wing: The Bacta War” by Michael A. Stackpole

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: The Bacta War by Michael A. Stackpole

I believe it was around when this novel came out that I realized something dreadful when I was at the bookstore. I had missed out on the earlier entries, and as I cast about trying to find the earlier books in the series, they weren’t available. I was both a kid and a human who lived before Google and so had no concept of going to the desk to ask them to order it for me or to do so at the library. I figured I’d just have to wait for the other books to show up someday, and it never did. So this is actually my first ever reading of the novel.

I do recall other Expanded Universe books having mentions of the Bacta War or Bacta shortages, so one of the things I love about this book right off the bat is that it has wider ramifications. Too often, events in one book are either ignored by others or tie directly into the next book in an endless parade of sequels. Here, though, the Bacta War ripples out to books that aren’t even in the same series, showing a more ambitious form of storytelling than before.

The plot itself is fun, too. We’ve got the now splintered off group of pilots seeking to build their own resources in the first quarter or so of the book. Then, the middle portion is found with Corran Horn et al. playing a cat-and-mouse game with Isard. Finally, the latter part focuses on an epic final showdown. It’s all pretty solidly done, and the conclusion is satisfying.

There are plenty of great character vignettes as well. Stackpole has done well writing characters in other universes (eg. BattleTech), so it’s fun to see him unleashed in Star Wars. He does so with grand impact, showing off several side characters who get more development than any did earlier in the EU novels.

On the flip side, our villains are once again very one-dimensional. Isard is evil for evil’s sake and power hungry is the icing on the cake. Her erstwhile allies and supporters do everything but diabolically laugh as they watch her defeat or quiver in fear if she gets angry. Also, one specific scene talks about how the Empire continues to underestimate the power of a snub-nose fighter with torpedoes. I know it’s a weird sticking point, but it annoyed me that this is the case. You’d think after the first Death Star, they’d be all over that. The Second Death Star can be forgiven for being incomplete when it got rocked. But after that, if I were the Empire I’d be investing all my resources into building something like the anti-fighter/corvette missile destroyer from the video game Homeworld. Just imagine a huge ship that has effectively limitless guided missiles to track down fleeing fighters. That’s what I’d be building by the dozen. Instead, they underestimate fighters again? Come on.

Overall, though, The Bacta War was everything I was hoping it’d be. It’s got tons of Star Wars space fighting, solid character relationships, and a glimpse at broader implications.

The Good

+Great action sequences
+Development of many side characters
+Wider repercussions exist

The Bad

-Villains continue to be very one-dimensional

Cover Score: 7/10 A solid cover with iconic ships and explosions.

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: B+ Worth going back and reading as a fan.

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through: “X-Wing: The Krytos Trap” by Michael A. Stackpole

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

Star Wars- X-Wing: The Krytos Trap by Michael A. Stackpole

Coruscant has fallen, but the battle is far from over. Tycho Celchu is put on trial for treason, having allegedly set up Rogue Squadron for defeat. Meanwhile, terrorists start attacking key targets on Coruscant, hoping to drive the Rebellion off. Corran Horn has to escape from Ysanne Isard and vindicate Rogue Squadron before it’s too late.

There are several different major plot threads happening here, and some of them are more interesting than others. They trial of Tycho Celchu is interesting, in part because with it not being a major character there’s a real chance things could go poorly for him. Borsk Fey’lya, who is largely annoying as hell in just about every appearance, is a somewhat interesting antagonist here. I don’t know if it’s because I’m reading about him when I’m older, but the nuance and complexity of his motivations seems much more three dimensional than it did when I was a kid. I guess that part of it is that I now understand there really are people who might mean their best while also trying to control political power and manipulate events to their own desires. Growing old makes one more cynical, perhaps, to the point that one can relate to Fey’lya. Oh no.

Another major thread is Imperial-sympathetic terrorists. Though this has a couple interesting scenes, the motivations are almost entirely “I hate Rebels so I kill them,” which is fine, but paper-thin. Corran Horn’s scenes with Isard are another major thread, and they have some of the more interesting scenes but also some of the least impactful ones.

The main problem here is that a huge amount of the book feels like setup for more plot. Sure, the trial of Celchu is wrapped up, but even that reads like it’s just there to nudge characters towards plots that are yet to come. The result is that the whole book has a lingering feeling of being filler more than anything else. That said, Stackpole consistently delivers good action scenes, which help move the story along more quickly than it otherwise would have felt.

The Krytos Trap is another good entry in the X-Wing series. It didn’t blow me away, but I was entertained all the way through.

The Good

+Great action sequences
+Continues to feature non-main Star Wars characters
+Borsk Fey’lya is interesting as an antagonist

The Bad

-Drags at times

Cover Score: 4/10 Pretty generic and the scale is kinda warped.

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: C+ It’s not boring, but it feels like a middle book in a series, with some of the problems that accompany that.

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read Through: “X-Wing: Rogue Squadron” by Michael A. Stackpole

I’m on a quest to re-read all of my favorite (or least favorite that I kept for whatever reason) Star Wars novels in the Expanded Universe and beyond. Come along for the ride and check out my Star Wars Hub for more. There will be SPOILERS for the book discussed.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole

Michael A. Stackpole is one of those writers who spends most of his career writing in other people’s universes. Some people call authors like that “hacks.” I think that’s stupid. Let people enjoy things. Stackpole is actually quite good at capturing the feel of multiple different franchises. His BattleTech novels are fantastic (especially the Warrior trilogy). Here, he opens the Star Wars universe up far more than any other author has done so far.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron follows the story of a squadron of, well, X-Wings that is brought together to fight the enemies of the Rebellion. The name Rogue Squadron has become legendary, and they are the sharp edge of the sword for the ragtag Rebel fleet. Familiar faces show up in droves, with Wedge Antilles and Admiral Ackbar being the most prominent. Readers who have explored more of the series know a certain Corran Horn is kind of a big deal, but in this book he’s a fresh face fighter pilot who gets commended and chastised for his daring bravado.

The plot includes some of the political meanderings and in-fighting of the Rebels that become par for the course in later development. Stackpole handles these scenes well, using them as true tension-building rather than info dumps. He also writes excellent action scenes. The final few battles are quite fun to read, and just as crazy and campy as one would expect from the flashiest Star Wars film.

What makes the book most impressive, though, is its lack of reliance on the big three characters (Luke/Leia/Han) and building its own core of names, some of whom go on to much bigger and better things.

I had actually never really delved into the X-Wing books before this read-through. I somehow missed the vast majority of them as they launched and by the time I noticed them there were enough that younger me was perplexed with how to find them before the preponderance of finding and buying things on the internet. So I came at X-Wing: Rogue Squadron fairly fresh and was very happily surprised by it.

For me coming at it the first time, the biggest strength of the novel is how strongly it evokes the feeling of Star Wars. What I mean by that is the novel has that sense of awesome wonder that the first few films truly bring out. It’s as if anything can happen. Heroes are heroes, enemies are evil but might have some lingering complexity. I don’t know how to describe it. The sense of “space opera” with heavy emphasis on the “opera” part is what I’m getting at. It feels like something far larger and grander than it truly is.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is a top-tier Star Wars novel that manages to really shine with many characters. Stackpole knocks it out again.

The Good

+Great action sequences
+Tons of new characters and side characters developed
+X-Wings
+Captures Star Wars-esque feel

The Bad

-Enemies are largely comic-book villains
-Droids- see below

Best Droid Moment

Very little characterization of droids here.

Cover Score: 7/10 – captures some great Star Wars action but largely lacks camp or 80s-esque characters faded in the background.

Grade [measured against my super objective* Star Wars enjoyment factor]: A “Stackpole delivers an excellent novel that incorporates many, many side characters into a coherent whole.”

*Not super objective and in fact wholly based on my feeling at the time of this review. Not measured against any other sci-fi works or really any other literature. This score is purely because I like giving scores to things.

All Amazon Links are Affiliates

Links

Star Wars Hub– All of my Star Wars-related posts can be found here. These include posts about more expanded universe books, the movies, and new canon novels.

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.

Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi – A canonical launch

I have very little patience for gatekeeping in fandom, because people can like what they like, but for myself, I was a bit upset that Disney didn’t at least allow the Expanded Universe of Star Wars novels to get a final wrap up on some of the most important stories. Yeah, I went ahead and read fanfic that wrapped up the stories of Luke, Jacen, Jaina, et al. in a satisfactory way, but I still wanted more official novels that I didn’t have to go through a redo in my headcanon to figure out. Along comes The High Republic, and I was excited to dive in. I read Light of the Jedi the moment my library got it in, but then forgot to review it. With the second batch of High Republic stuff coming, I revisited the novel.

Light of the Jedi does a great job introducing a “new”-ish time period to Star Wars readers. A large number of new characters are thrown at the reader pretty quickly, so while we don’t get to spend enough time with any of them to get to know them better, we also get a feel that this world is pretty big. One of the most valid complaints with Star Wars in general, in my opinion, is that the universe is so big but feels small because a group of about 10 characters is responsible for basically everything in-universe of any import. With the large number of characters introduced in Light of the Jedi, I’m hoping this won’t be as much of an issue for this series.

SPOILER-ish stuff after this

The central thrust of the plot is a looming disaster of some kind of asteroid-things coming in and shattering a bunch of inhabited planets. But, plot twist, those “asteroids” are actually broken up pieces of an inhabited ship itself so the Jedi and others involved in trying to stop them from smashing all these planets can’t just blast them out of the sky! It’s got all the tension and big impact that some of the best space opera has, but also some of the campy silliness that is part of Star Wars. I was a fan of the main plot, even though I had to enormously suspend my disbelief at points. For example, the speed at which this debris is coming in seems to vary as necessary at the speed of plot. At one point, it’s said to be traveling at or near hyperspace speeds or lightspeed, but then it somehow takes minutes or hours to cross the space between a few objects. Light from the sun takes about five and a half hours to get to Pluto, so some of this timing is just… off.

The stakes felt pretty high in the book, though, because literally any character could die or be put in mortal peril. As a reader, I had no idea who might make it out or why. That’s because we don’t have the notion that any of these characters have to be immortal for the plot to continue. It certainly feels like a new page in the era of Star Wars novels, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Light of the Jedi is a solid introduction to The High Republic. I’ll be reading more of these novels as they come out, and I’m hopeful we’ll get that Star Wars-y feel with a bigger universe than ever. Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments!

Links

Star Wars Hub– Read all my posts about Star Wars here.

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: “Hard Merchandise” by K.W. Jeter

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. 

The Good

+Yet another great cover
+Good characterization for some side characters
+Great tie-ins to the movies…

The Bad

-The tie-ins are sometimes forced
-A little bland

Grade: C+ “A competent conclusion to a trilogy that left me wanting more.”

Links

Star Wars Hub– Read all my posts about Star Wars here.

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: “Slave Ship” by K.W. Jeter

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.

Slave Ship by K.W. Jeter

Maybe middle book syndrome is a real thing. That’s what I think any time I run into it. It’s probably selection effect. Slave Ship suffers monumentally from pacing issues. I found myself skimming at multiple points because it felt like nothing was happening. On top of that, the interesting characters seemed to fall into the background as more new characters and conflicts were introduced. 

On the plus side, I adored Kuat of Kuat in this novel. I don’t think that when I first read these books as a kid I understood how entertaining he was. The world building surrounded Kuat Drive Yards was also some of the best writing in the book.The interplay between Prince Xizor making a power play and Vader trying to play Xizor was good, too. But again, these are characters that should have been on the side of what was, before, a story of Boba Fett and Dengar with Bossk as a villain.

I did not enjoy the bounty hunter scenes all that much here. Bossk seems very one dimensional, though the bomb on a ship stunt Boba Fett pulled on him was great. On the flip side, I guess my perception of Fett as having some kind of Mandalorian honor may have been overblown because he just turns traitor, seemingly, on his team. I didn’t like that choice for his character. It didn’t have the right feel. I wonder how it will play out in the third book.

Slave Ship is a merely okay read. It’s a desert of boredom punctuated by enough oases of excitement to keep me reading. That was a silly sentence, but there it is. I hope the third book redeems it, because the first was fine.

[Edit: I accidentally published a partially finished/edited version of this the day it was published. My apologies. I’ve made corrections and edits now!]

I read this before I saw any episodes of “The Mandalorian.” In fact, I’ve since finished the trilogy and only then saw the first two episodes of the show. I was already surprised by a few things that seem to have been potentially lifted from these pages.

The Good

+Awesome cover
+Prince Xizor / Vader rivalry
+A few good moments for certain characters
+Kuat of Kuat

The Bad

-Pacing problems abound
-Weak characterization
-Very little seems to be important or happen overall

Grade: C- “Not particularly impressive, but not awful either. It’s a bland read which suffers from the alleged middle book syndrome.”

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: “The Mandalorian Armor” by K.W. Jeter

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.

The Mandalorian Armor by K.W. Jeter

I first read this book around when it came out. It has been the source of many an argument with Star Wars fans for me–something I normally avoid–because it serves as non-canon story for Boba Fett surviving. For some reason, Boba Fett struck me very strongly in the movies–his silent, armored visage demanded to know why–why did he do what he did? 

I was kind of devastated in the second movie when Fett’s canonical backstory was revealed. I don’t want to get into a debate over the prequel trilogy, but my point is that my vision of Boba Fett was shaped much more by the non-canonical than by the canonical, and this book and those following it were a huge part of that. 

The best part of this book is that it establishes Boba Fett as more than his eponymous armor. Is he invulnerable? No, but no one is foolish enough to mess with him. Correction: only the foolish mess with him. And they don’t seem to win. He begins the book badly injured and somewhat vulnerable–certainly more vulnerable than anyone would expect from him as a character. 

The plot here has layers of intrigue on top of each other, with Prince Xizor leading the way in corruption, vying for power with Vader and others as he manipulates the bounty hunters to his own ends. I have a strong dislike for Xizor as a character, having read Shadows of the Empire at a point where his vile manipulation of Leia and others truly impacted me in a deep way. So yeah, having him here was tough; I don’t know that I’ve experienced such a visceral dislike of a fictional character before or since. 

The book ties in extremely well to the movies, because it features so many side characters viewers may have wondered about while also taking place immediately following Return of the Jedi. It’s a great tie-in for the Expanded Universe.

One part of the book that undermined its feel within the Star Wars universe was the technology featured in it. At times, this felt much more like a cyberpunk-type novel with many more gadgets than one would expect in the strange tech-magic universe of Star Wars. It threw off the feel once or twice for me, but suspension of disbelief was never fully destroyed. I think the biggest one was the use of radiation in the air by one of the droids to try to calm an irate character down. 

The Mandalorian Armor is a fun read for those looking for more Star Wars. Its ties to the movies make it feel more relevant than some of the other books, while its main characters leap of the pages. 

The Good

+Great action
+Ties in well to the movies
+Good side characters
+Boba Fett
+The cover is beautiful
+Fun Droids

The Bad

-Uneven pacing
-More cyberpunk than Star Wars science fantasy
-Not a fan of Xizor, but I guess this could be a good thing

Best Droid Moment

Honestly, I most enjoyed the droids introductions as their names were contrasted and the silliness of the same was subtly mocked. The droids were great throughout, though. Snarky droids are my favorite.

Grade: B “It drags at points but provides an excellent jumping off point from the original trilogy while also exploring the mysteries of some of the most compelling side-characters from the films.”

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 – “Children of the Jedi” by Barbara Hambly

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 look at Children of the Jedi, which is apparently the first in a trilogy about Callista, kind of. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Okay, I want to start with the good here. That cover is absolutely gorgeous. I can definitely see it being a kind of movie cover. It has the retro vibe down pat, and is definitely Star Wars all over it.

That’s the good. Look, I went through and purged my Star Wars collection a while back of the books I knew I didn’t really want to re-read because they weren’t great. There are some truly fantastic Star Wars novels out there–like the Darth Bane trilogy or the Thrawn Trilogy. But this is not one of them. The only reason I can think of for keeping it was because of the cover. Oh, and maybe I thought having Luke fall in love would be cool. I had vague memories.

Did I mention Luke fell in love with the recording of a woman Jedi’s consciousness on a machine and that she’d later take over the body of a traveling companion of Luke, Han, and Leia’s seemingly purely for the sake of plot? No? Oops. Well, that is what happens.

There are a lot of ways I could go in this review, but of all of them, I really want to focus on that aspect of it. First, let’s talk about how computers in Star Wars are either totally inept or completely advanced? Like, C-3PO is programmed with an AI basically, and can easily converse in many languages and even learn new ones on the fly occasionally, but they struggle to use their computers to even analyze what’s wrong with their spaceships. Someone needed to plan this better. But here, we’re supposed to believe that some Jedi magic managed to put a woman’s personality and being, apparently, into some computer system? No. Sorry, but no.

It might help if the conversations Luke and Callista had were interesting, but they’re not. They’re just… boring. And they aren’t written in any believable fashion whatsoever, either. Combine that with Luke, Han, and Leia all acting somewhat out of character and surprisingly nonchalant throughout the book and you’ve been delivered a Star Wars novel where even the favorite characters are out of sorts.

The whole book just feels uncomfortable. Not in a “good” way for fiction like being foreboding when appropriate or challenging your perspectives. No, it just reads like all the characters aren’t quite sure they should be acting how they are and as though they’ve forgotten how to have real motivations and dialogue.

I think I may just skip the rest of this trilogy. I think I got rid of Darksaber but kept the third book. Anyone have any thoughts on the rest of them?

The Good

+The cover is beautiful

The Bad

-Stilted dialogue
-Incredibly slow paced
-Suspension of disbelief is stretched beyond all bounds
-Characters are boring

Best Droid Moment

Basically any time they show up because at least they still add some comedic element occasionally.

Grade: F “It stretches suspension of disbelief beyond the limit on every level, is stilted and dry, and run through with pacing issues. I still might keep this one for the beautiful cover, though.”

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: Queen’s Shadow” by E.K. Johnston

I saw that Queen’s Shadow was announced and felt a thrill of excitement. Though I have thought the Disney Star Wars books have been uneven (as were the Expanded Universe novels before Disney, for sure), I have enjoyed my share of them. Also, I have a soft spot for The Phantom Menace. I saw it as a kid right at an age that it would appeal to. Sure, it has major issues, but it has some truly great moments. I love the over-the-top feel of Queen Amidala, as well as basically all the cool stuff on Naboo. So here we are, with a novel about the Queen and the handmaids. I feel that.

The book follows these handmaids through Padme’s move into the Senate, and shows how their careers diverge into different paths. It picks up right as Padme’s time as Queen is coming to an end. Some political intrigue is involved, and readers get insight into one of the best characters from the prequel trilogy. E.K. Johnston gives all the handmaids personalities and motivations. I didn’t think any were particularly memorable, but they made me want to keep reading.  The book has several memorable moments, especially as it reaches its climactic action and ties to the later movies.

Johnston also fills in several details about how things developed in between films, which I always think is welcome especially for the Prequel Trilogy, which, among its faults, moved too quickly for my taste. There are also some details filled in about the broader conflicts in the Galaxy, which helps make sense of some of the machinations behind Episode III.

The novel is for a Young Adult audience, but reads just about the same as most Star Wars books, in my opinion. The whole expanded universe and now these “canon” novels are generally appropriate for any readers capable of handling somewhat mature content. It honestly makes me wonder a little bit why this was categorized as YA and not simply in the general science fiction section.

Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow is quite a fun read, and one that serves fans well. It’s not going to blow readers away with the intricacy of the plot, but it gives Star Wars fans more insight into the films and some of the more interesting characters in the prequel series. Johnston’s work is a welcome addition to the Star Wars canon, and I particularly enjoyed learning more about the Queen. I’d recommend reading it.

Links

Star Wars Expanded Universe Read Through– I have many posts on expanded universe novels within Star Wars. Check them out here.

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.