Back in the day I read a lot of Star Wars books. I’d go to the school library every week and they’d say “no Chris there aren’t any new ones in yet”. It was as though they knew what I was going to say. From Thrawn to the Vong to Rogue Squadron, there was a lot going on.
Then Disney purchased Lucasfilm and it’s various properties, so Star Wars has new caretakers. It would be horrendously tricky to fit new movies in among nearly forty years of ‘Expanded Universe’ tales, so they didn’t! Everything was moved to ‘Legends’ status and no longer counted as canon, with creators now free to create a new canon. There was outrage, but it made sense. Why be beholden to hundreds of mixed quality stories when you could make new films and figure everything out properly? Games, TV, books and comics now all work together towards one cohesive story. I dig it. Disney are even using the expanded universe to their advantage, bringing in certain pieces and shifting things around so that they make sense. It’s the best of both worlds.
But what are the new books like? Well the title might give away what I’m going to do. Much like my pieces for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Resident Evil Games, and Metal Gear Series, I’ll rank what I’ve read and add more as I get through them.
8. Tarkin – James Luceno – 4/11/14
I didn’t feel it as I was reading it but upon finishing Tarkin it hit me that everything interesting in the book had nothing to do with Tarkin himself. He’s an impressive chap but ultimately I didn’t need to know about his past. It doesn’t change anything. He fully believes in what he’s doing and is occasionally overconfident; nothing we didn’t already know. The book is at its best when he’s paired with Vader, and even then I wasn’t focusing on him.
7. Heir to the Jedi – Kevin Hearne – 26/2/15
It’s nice to see more of Luke. He might be the main protagonist but what does he really do? We don’t see him really get involved with anyone and we don’t really find out how he feels about anything that isn’t related to his friends and family.
Well here, in first person no less, we get a look into Luke’s noggin, and it’s actually pretty good. At first I wondered if I was in for a tough time but the story soon found its flow and I zipped through it within a few days. Luke might be a hero of the Rebellion but he’s without a teacher, doesn’t even have a book to read about the force, and is being sent all over the place on missions he doesn’t seem all that suited to. Tough times but it’s good to know his ego got quite the boost after Yavin. Who’s wouldn’t?
Luke wondering if he gone’s mad hearing an old man’s voice in his head and an interesting cast of characters make this a muddled but enjoyable read.
6. Lords of the Sith – Paul S Kemp – 28/4/15
Vader and Sidious stranded on a hostile planet, surrounded by enemies. Sounds cool doesn’t it? This book lives up to that. In fact it does better than that. Not only does it give us a look into the Sith duo’s relationship but it gives us some well written protagonists. Actually, who are the protagonists? We want the Rebels to win but we want to see the Darth’s do cool stuff. Despite knowing how things ultimately pan out there’s still a real sense of tension. I still found myself wondering what would happen! Lots of fighting and force usage, but also a lot of time spent on characters. A very well judged, self-contained story.
5. Aftermath – Chuck Wendig – 4/9/15
As the first post RotJ book I’ve read in the new canon, I eagerly anticipated finding out what happened after Endor. I may not have found out a lot regarding that, but I did find a story that I enjoyed far more than what voices online lead me to believe I would.
Wendig does flit around; we spend a lot of time with New Republic and Imperial alike, but it works out. I want to see things from both sides. I want to know how both sides deal with a Palpatine-less galaxy and how The First Order come about. We also get several interludes; stories including well-known characters and complete strangers that may tease things to come.
I found it all very interesting. Star Wars: Aftermath may not be the story I was expecting it to be but it’s still a good one.
4. A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller – 2/9/14
‘AND’ is said to be the first narrative product of Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Story Group collaborative process (thanks Wookiepedia). John Jackson Miller takes the chance to get to know more about two members of the Ghost’s crew from Star Wars Rebels. A New Dawn introduces us to Kanan and his first encounters with Hera. There’s conspiracy, multiple interesting characters, and a truly detestable bad guy. Count Vidian is in some ways a mix of Vader and Palpatine; large parts of him are no longer natural and he’s a right vicious bastard. I really hated him. They say a story can only be as good as its villain. There you go.
3. Aftermath: Empire’s End – Chuck Wendig – 21/2/17
I finished the Aftermath trilogy with a heavy heart and great sadness. I was sad because I doubt I’ll get to read another story with Norra, Snap, Mister Bones, Sinjir, Jas and Jom together. They’re a fantastic set of characters that I’ve watched change and grow. I want to spend more time with them.
Aftermath flitted about, whilst Life Debt was a great balance of past and present. Empire’s End turns out to be pretty lopsided, so whilst it does indeed live up to it’s title and gives us plenty to chew on, it doesn’t beat it’s predecessor.
I’m looking forward to watching The Force Awakens with these books, and Empire’s End in particular, in mind.
2. Alphabet Squadron – Alexander Freed – 4/6/19
The hook for me with this book is something that both people in real life and characters in the book seem to want to mock. Five different starfighters, with extremely different abilities, forced together. But that was exactly what excited me! Turns out the book does a great job of describing the ships and their strength/weaknesses, which I absolutely appreciate as a detail geek. The best thing though, and what makes the book as good as it is, is the pilots. What a disparate bunch! With wildly different pasts, they’re all trying to figure out what they’re up to in a post Empire galaxy.
Not to say I have no imagination, but I admit I like seeing artwork of the characters, as it settles the images in my head. All it needs me to do is figure their voices, which fortunately comes quite easily with Alexander Freed’s dialogue. There’s a lot more to find out here, and I can’t wait! Far from perfect characters, in a period we know little about… and a Y-wing. Yes please.
1. Aftermath: Life Debt – Chuck Wendig – 12/7/16
“I need the next book!” was the first thing I said to my wife when I finished Life Debt. Aftermath set a lot of pieces in motion but this sequel really gets into the meat of things. There’s a lot to digest but it never gave me indigestion; Wendig has a got strong handle on it all as we return to a a great set of characters, plus some more famous ones.
I adore this this cast. Imperial, New Republic, or other, they’re all trying to figure out their place in a new galaxy. They’re not sure if what they’re doing it best and you follow they’re ideas shifting. These guys aren’t static and it’s very interesting to see them grow.
Rae Sloane is one of the best Imperial characters there is, full stop. She truly believes in the Empire, but has a specific idea for what it should be. Having first met her in A New Dawn I really enjoy seeing her progress further.
We see a lot of the original heroes this time around. Han, Leia, and Chewie all have roles to play. They’re never the main characters but they feel right.
A brilliant story well told, Life Debt is a cracking sequel and a great Star Wars story. I bashed through nearly 500 pages in about 10 days. When I’m reading rather than playing video games you know it’s a good book.
There’s my ranking of the new Star Wars so far. What do you think?
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