I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since the age of 5 in 1977. I lived through the first wave of greatness and I was there in 1991, when it returned…. sorta of with “Heir to the Empire.” The trilogy as told by Timothy Zahn left me cold. I bought the books, but by the third one, I was left still….cold. Weird force slugs and bullshit clones of crazy Jedi Masters and LUUKE Skywalker, did not feel Star Wars like at all, but bad fan fiction from a “Space: 1999” vibe. Nothing wrong with “Space: 1999” of course, but they are two very distinct beasts.. and sadly the disconnect was never remedied as more and more EU books came along to piss in my favorite pool.
It took me years to sublimate my feelings accurately as to why I never was crazy for the EU. Despite my dislike for “Heir to the Empire,” I read what I could of the stories that followed Han, Luke and Leia as I just loved those characters and the universe.
I enjoyed Michael Stackpole’s “X-Wing” novels, and the smaller stories like, “We Don’t Do Weddings,” “Tales of the Bounty Hunter,” all were fun reads, but for every good one, there were five bad ones….and not just out of my preference range, but actual shitty literature that I’m shocked it ever made it to a legitimate publishing house.
Those early novels, dealing with the big three of Han, Luke and Leia were just dire- “The Courtship of Princess Leia,” a strangely romance-less novel that is basically one long character assassination. Leia is a jerk to Han and he is a pathetic doormat. For something that is suppose to culminate with a wedding, it’s senseless bickering and some of the worst mind games this side of “The Bachorette.” The worst part is none of the characters are recognizable, it was rather insulting actually. It’s a good thing I didn’t read it first.
As bad as it was, I didn’t think things could get worse, but it did….
I remember going on vacation with my family in my final year of college. I took some books along to read on the ride up. “The Crystal Star” looked like a easy sell, an easy read and great way to prep for my long trip out of state, but instead I felt sick after reading this…. where had my Star Wars gone? Sure the material has always been pulpy and breezy, but its always had some emotional heft…. what the hell is this? This is the result of someone who had never seen a Star Wars film and had no clue what the universe or the genre she was writing in was about.
THIS is the prime example of EU delving into bad science-fiction. This book reminds me of the worst moments of “Space: 1999” when they would show a monster or alien instead of writing a satisfying end to an episode. The shittiest moments don’t screw around- werewolves (spelled “wyrwolves,”) why? Luke comes off as a whiny bitch, but not in an endearing way- and lost his force powers because of a dying sun….. Ugh and of course, the always reliable lazy tropes of the leftover Imperial officers vying for power grabs and the millionth kidnapping of those goddamn Solo kids. Those brats were the worst protected since the Lindbergh baby.
Damn, I HATED this book so much. I remember being insulted and amused often in the same paragraph. I can’t remember to this day if I made it to the end, I just remember throwing it out the car window somewhere in western Kansas. It was so bad- still is. THE single worst piece of literate I have ever and I’ve read ‘Catcher in the Rye!” *ZING!
This hunk of piss forced me off Star Wars novels for a good three years, but being the fan I am, I was drawn back in… with the JEDI ACADMEY trilogy of all things. At the time, I enjoyed these novels, but listening to them recently they don’t hold up very good and don’t resemble Star Wars outside of the names. On this second go-around I noticed an annoying habit by Anderson. He always had to try one-upping the movies- a Death Star, eh? F**k Y**! I have a SUNCRUSHER! Thrawn might be genius, but my Admiral is a one and…… a WOMAN! And she was Tarkin’s lover! IG-88 had to not only be a cool bounty hunter, but THE Death Star set out to destroy ALL organic life as V’Ger…. whoops, I mean….. that was in “Star Trek.”
It didn’t stop there. My last official foray, meaning the last the book I ever bought in a book store from the old EU was “Vector Prime,”- or “The Unnecessary Killing of Chewie”. It’s a bit unfair to lump this book on here with the true trash, as its a decent enough story, but the killing of Chewie bothered me. He went out a hero for sure, but you don’t break up a set. You don’t just give away the salt shaker. It felt wrong and it pushed me out the door of EU forever.
Everyone seems to think “Heir to the Empire” is the tits and the bees knees, but it’s not Star Wars. It writes from plot, not characters. Once this story became a success it created an annoying formula that would forever plague nearly all future stories of the big three or at least the ones I remember reading. Separate them all, Lando occasionally accompanied but mostly was stuck on his own “missions.” Leia was always shoved into boring political crisis with an alien Senator antagonist. Han and Chewie and then just Han, were sent to retrieve…. something/someone and Luke would swoop in to say the day on his separate mission with R2. Add in the galactic Armageddon McGuffin.
Other than Chewie dying, I don’t recall much momentum with the characters nor did they change much. Add that to all those damn Solo kids going dark and killing everyone like Jason Vorhees. Going dark was a big deal in the movies; later it was trivialized and used way too much. I will give them credit for killing off a Solo kid and Luke’s wife Mara Jade- which is not really a bad thing except I just didn’t care.
The problem with the old EU is that Star Wars is NOT science-fiction. It has elements of it, but at its heart and its fundamentals are FANTASY. Most of the EU novels missed that.
The movies came first and for the obvious reasons- have an enormous iconic power. These books did their job of keeping the dream alive of course, but they didn’t forge their own perspective. Lucasfilm (Disney had NOTHING to do with it) was correct in dumping it. Movies trump bad science-fiction any day of the week.
Ah well, that’s my take, this new canon seems to be much more mature, polished and avoiding the many missteps of the above mentions. “Tarkin” is a great character study and long overdue as is “Lords of the Sith” and the excellent “Bloodlines,” although what the hell is up with AFTERMATH?