the saga continues…

I’m currently finishing up what may be my last Star Wars Expanded Universe reading experience 

*gasp*

*                    *                    *

That is what I said back in January as I polished off Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams.  It wasn’t a bad book, don’t get me wrong.  It was actually a pretty fun read.  However, Star Wars books have been losing their steam.  It happens with all great franchises.  There’s only so much you can do.  I was fully prepared to say goodbye to Saga lit FOREVZAR!!1! 

But a few little gems have pulled me back in.

And, as fate would have it, the Force has given me a spot of car trouble and pulled me off the road on my return trip north.  So, as I wait for the spendy-ass verdict on why the Check Engine light is on at the dealership cafe, I will give you a rundown on the Star Wars books I’m most excited for–and which one ultimately brought me back into the fold.

….there was  a boy in 6th Grade  that had just seen the Great Trilogy for the first time.  And all the Micro Machine playsets in all the world weren’t going to be enough to satisfy his thirst for space opera.  And so this boy turned his attention to the EU–the Star Wars Expanded Universe collection of literature.

TWIST!  That boy was me.  Now back in the day, EU Lit was a collection of cool adventures starring Luke Skywalker, Leia, and the Han Solo in an expanded (post-films) world built mostly by the epic trilogy written by Timothy Zahn.  His Thrawn novels (unofficially billed as Episodes 7,8, and 9 by many fans) paved the way for many great authors to pen the continuing adventures of the everyone’s favorite Jedi, Princess, and Scoundrel.  There was some pretty good continuity, but it was mostly loosey-goosey.  Now, in the wake of the prequels and the Clone Wars series, George Lucas has quite a lock on what does/doesn’t happen to his beloved trio.  And their offspring.  And their offspring’s offspring.

This was a total must.  A strict continuity and canon is what separates the Wars from the Trek.  But, in doing this–I believe–that Star Wars has lost some of the whimsy and wonder that it all began with.  The politics got more real, the characters became alive, and everything took on a certain sense of reality.  Personally, I think it began with the Vong wars, but that’s just me.  In short, I don’t think any Star Wars fan will disagree with me that the EU novels have lost a lot of that swashbuckling fun that I was so addicted to in middle school.  And the further they stray from the core characters, I struggle to stay interested.

But….there are a couple that still speak to me.  And since summer is usually the time I set aside for Star Wars books, I’ll have a look at the ones I may dive back into.

Michael Reaves is an author I’m on the fence about.  On one hand, he dips his quill into pretty out-there characters.  And truly, Coruscant Nights is a culmination of a lot of his creations coming together–a little convoluted perhaps.  On the other hand, he does know how to pick out an interesting story.  For example, this series finds one of the last remaining Jedi hiding out as  private investigator–in a time when Jedis are to be killed on site–when suddenly a slew of factions are tugging him to find out the truth about his father and his past.  Mikey likey a good story.  And my guilt about giving up on this series while there are still two books left in the trilogy finally caught up with me.  No matter my disappointment with the recent EU, I have to know how the story ends.

Then, as if my summer weren’t busy enough, Michael Reaves did THIS to me.  Personally!

Right?!  Man, what a jerk.  What’s that?  You don’t really catch my drift?  Okay, let me give you the lowdown in non-SW speak first.  You have  a mega-popular pop singer on the run from her former mafia husband who wants her dead.  She hires a mercenary as her bodyguard–a man who has his own history with the mafia.  Throw in a second infamous gun-for-hire who also has history with the main merc and, well, you have quite a good stew goin’ on.

Now, let’s stir in the Star Wars and what brought me back on board.  The aforementioned mercenary is none other than Dash Rendar.  Let me tell you something:  DASH RENDAR IS THE MAN!  The only guy cooler in the Star Wars universe is Han Solo.    But Dash is the guy that took Han’s place while the smuggler was frozen in carbonite between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  For the right price, he aligned himself with Luke and Leia as they attempted to catch Boba Fett before he sold the frozen Solo to Jabba the Hutt.  The story of Shadows of the Empire (aka Episode 5.5) was a tough one for me.  Because in the absence of my favorite character, Han Solo, a new favorite arose:  Dash Rendar.  Just as cocky and brash as Han, but with a seedier past, Rendar really jumped off the page.  By the time Han comes back in the picture in Jedi, Dash is long gone, believed to be dead.

Long story short:  Dash and Han have never butted heads in person.

Until now.

That’s right.  Remember that second infamous gun-for-hire I mentioned?  It’s none other than Han-freaking-Solo himself.  Throw those two together, and you have quite the party.  Plus the mafia stuff?  That would be the uber-cool crime syndicate Black Sun.  And Black Sun is lead by one of the coolest villains in Star Wars–and yes, I know who Vader is–Prince Xizor.  A reptillian BA with the ability to manipulate people by producing pheromones.

And what a sweet symbol Black Sun has! Tattoo anybody?

Needless to say, this is going to be a great story, Star Wars or not.  And it just so happens to be Star Wars.  Slam Dunk.

As an honorable mention, I’m also interested in reading Star Wars:  Scourge for its connection to the underworld.  But the absence of the core–and extended core–characters coupled with the fact that it’s based on an RPG offshoot doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Okay, so far ALL the books on this lineup have to do with the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars crime universe.  Maybe I’m just interested in that.  Especially since the next book on the list is no exception.  And this one–well, this is the big daddy.  When I saw the press release for this book, I literally flipped.

Holy Effing Ess!

You guys, this is exactly what you think it is.  And if you have no idea  what to think about it, let me punch your brain with an explanation.

First off, Scoundrels–set to hit shelves the day after Christmas–is written by Timothy Zahn.  That’s right, the Lord of the EU.  Hailed as one of the greats at capturing post-film Star Wars themes and characters, Zahn is jumping right in with a cannonball.

From the Usual Suspects-inspired cover design, you can probably glean that there’s an element of crime involved.  Of course, you could also probably glean that from a young Han, Chewie, and Lando being in the same place at the same time.

This book–taking place almost immediately after Episode IV: A New Hope–promises to be an Ocean’s 11-esque caper heist.  Guys, if you don’t know that Ocean’s 11 and caper heists are two of my favorite things, well, I don’t think we can hang out anymore.

I mean, this is exactly what Star Wars fans want.  Bad.  Not only are capers always cool, but this one is starring the galaxy’s favorite cons.  And anyone remember that famous scene in Empire where Lando says to Han, “You got a lotta guts coming back here after what you pulled?”  Well, this would have been the last time Han saw Lando before they parted ways.  Time to finally find out what Chewie was talking about in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon when Han told him, “That was a long time ago–I’m sure he’s forgotten about that.”

To reiterate:  Han Solo.  Chewbacca.  Caper.  Heist.

And that’s it!  There’s nothing else  in the Star Wars Expanded Universe worth reading.  It’s all about the capers and the heists and the Wookiees.  Turn away from the screen.

I’m walking off-stage.

The lights fade to black.

Conversations resume.

A couple people order drinks.

Then BLAM!  The lights are back on and everyone is cheering for THIS:

Get up off your knees and wipe the tears off your eyes.  If anything brought me back into the world of the EU, it’s this novel.

For me, the back-and-forth of whether or not this book was actually going to happen was a real roller coaster.  It was on, then it was off.  Definitely coming out, then scrapped.  This was especially hard on me for two reasons:

1) James Luceno is a great writer, and an especially great Star Wars writer.  I followed him from way back in the Vong Days and he blew my mind with Episode III bookends Labyrinth of Evil and Dark Lord: Rise of Darth Vader.

2) “Darth Plagueis” is a name that has been on Star Wars fans’ lips since Revenge of the Sith.  It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and I wanted to know more.

Let me explain.  From the cool, haunting tale that Chancellor Palpatine (aka–the Emperor) tells Anakin (aka–Darth Vader), one can infer that Darth Plagueis is the famous Sith Lord that taught Palpatine all his cunning skills.  Right up until the day that Palps killed him.

And that’s all you can infer.  Until now.  Luceno has fleshed out this character.  And if there’s one thing that Luceno excels at it’s tying together events and fleshing out character backgrounds in ways that will literally take your breath away.

From all the buzz generated by Jason Swank of the ForceCast–one can assume this is a pretty intense read.  Jason has been called a “Hater of the EU.”  It’s a mantle he only sort-of dismissed.

He loved this book.  I don’t think a podcast has gone by where he hasn’t mentioned it.  He and co-host Jimmy Mac even hosted a special roundtable just to discuss the importance of this book.  And there’s talk of doing another just because so many questions and discussions linger.

And me?  Well I was hooked at the first excerpt from the audiobook.  It.  Gave.  Me.  Chills.

There’s a lot of answers waiting in this book.  And clearly a tie-in to one of the coolest characters of all-time:  Darth Maul.

Alright, there you have it.  The complete definitive list of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels that I’m coming out of ‘retirement’ to read.

Gosh, how many more blogs am I going to have to write about these books before YOU ACTUALLY READ THEM?!

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