I first discovered the Star Wars Expanded Universe books in high school. I had just moved to Texas and my new neighbor turned out to be a bigger Star Wars geek than me. He introduced me to the books and I took off running with them. I really enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and then Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston’s X-wing series.
Of the others, I enjoyed a lot of them. The New Jedi Order series at the time they were released though I’m not sure I would enjoy them if I picked them up for the first time now. I have a sharp distaste for New Rebellion and Dark Nest trilogy though honestly can’t remember much of anything about the books. I also couldn’t get into the Fate of the Jedi series so didn’t read all of it.
So when Disney picked up the Star Wars license and wiped the slate clean I was mixed. On one hand, I enjoyed a lot of the books. On the other, a lot of the books were terrible. I didn’t pay much attention to the new canon of books until recently as I decided I wanted to give Aftermath a try when it came out. I picked up the others from the library and did a bit of a reading blitz the last few weeks.
Overall, not terribly impressed so far but not turned away either. I haven’t read Dark Disciple or Lords of the Sith. I was kinda interested in Ventress’ story in Clone Wars but not enough to read it. Library didn’t have Lords of the Sith but might try that one later.
Of the others, Tarkin was…okay. On one hand, getting to know Tarkin as a character helped turn him from more than just a background piece. Given the time frame and story line of the Rogue One movie he may play a role. So that’s good. But otherwise it felt kind of pointless. The most interesting part of the book was in my head, his super corvette looked just like the Raider corvette that just came out for the X-wing mini’s game.
Heir to the Jedi was mixed. It took awhile for me to get into it. But because everything was a completely fresh slate I wasn’t really sure where it would go. The new character grew on me and it felt sad when she (SPOILERS) died. I could have seen it going either way though, as she could have died or gotten sent off to the backgr0und through the other movies and then show back up in post movies material.
A New Dawn I am enjoying so far. I haven’t finished it yet but it feels like an episode of Rebels and I’ve enjoyed Rebels. The characterization of Hera and Kanan feels like they are the same person as they are on the show. That’s something not all the books have done well. This has been my favorite so far and while I can’t definitely say until I finish it, the only one I would right now recommend.
Now, all of those books have been books that take place during the movie era. I’ve only read a few from the previous EU as I generally enjoyed the post ROTJ stuff more. So I was really looking forward to Aftermath. I dove right into this book as soon as it released last Friday, wanting to be a true mega Star Wars geek and gleam from it what I could about the new post Return of the Jedi era and the hints it laid for Episode VII. And again, my reaction is mixed.
(Spoilers by the way.)
First off, I hated the present tense the book was written in. I really did. It took some effort to get past it. But I did get used to it and by the end felt it worked okay. So, really off putting at first but you can get past it.
Second, for the story and characters itself it was pretty good. I liked Norra, Sinjir, Jas and Sloane. Temmin was insufferable. I also liked that it brought Star Wars into the 21st century. First, by having a gay main character and treating his sexuality as just a part of who he is rather than his defining character trait. Second, by having a lot of women, especially non-white women. Lando is no longer the only dark skinned human in the Star Wars galaxy and Leia is no longer the only woman. Let’s hope the movie follow through with that.
The main plot felt like it fumbled around for a bit but ended up picking up and resolving pretty well. I could have done without the ‘oh no, Norra died, wait she’s alive’ bit happening twice. And I could have used more Wedge. But overall I enjoyed the read though I don’t think I’ll feel compelled to ever read it again.
But this plot was not why anyone I know picked up the book. The book’s main appeal was that it would lay the ground work for Episode VII and establish what the time period beyond Episode VI would look like. How did it do on these fronts?
Frankly, I don’t know. It has…possibilities. But we also don’t know if any of it will pay off. The interludes scattered through out the book felt, well, scattered. Are any of these characters going to turn up again? Will any of them play a role in more stories? Or were they just there to show that no, the war with the Empire is not over and yes, the Empire was evil?
Taken just by themselves, most of the interludes feel flat. Han Solo and Chewbacca running off to save Kashyyyk with a random bunch of smugglers sounds cool. But will we ever get to see that story? I didn’t care for any of the stories about the Anklebiter Brigade but maybe that’s setup for a YA series or these are the people who are adults during Episode VII era.
The biggest set up with potential is the mysterious Imperial fleet admiral. He’s never physically described but held in high esteem by everyone. He’s in command of a Super Star Destroyer Ravager and it’s fleet. The status of this ship is something the book harps on a little to much. But from the trailers seen so far, we know a SSD is among the wreckage on Jakku in Episode VII. Could this mysterious fleet admiral be Thrawn or a Thrawn like character, who smacks the New Republic around for awhile before meeting his fate over Jakku?
Preserving the core of the Thrawn trilogy into the new canon could be really cool. It would be a great way to bridge what came before with this new stuff. It could also help set up a very different galaxy for E7. If the New Republic repairs to demobilize and then Thrawn sweeps out and smacks them around, the two fleets could wipe each other out leaving the galaxy wide open for whatever is coming.
What is coming is another possibility the book sets up. We don’t learn about the Knights of Ren directly but there are hints of Sith cultists. The Acolytes of the Beyond and the hints of something outside the galaxy are interesting. Could this be a threat that the First Order and Resistance have to face together?
And the biggest unanswered question, that I didn’t expect to have answered, but could play into these Acolytes of the Beyond, is what the hell happens to Ahsoka, Kanan and Ezra? Heir to the Jedi and Aftermath both make it abundantly clear that Luke is the only Jedi around. Do all these characters die tragically before A New Hope? That would be pretty dark for a kids show.
All of these pieces, Rebels, Aftermath, Episode VII are supposed to be built under a single canon. They’re all being developed at the same time. Will they end up playing nicely with each other in the end? Do the Jedi from Rebels disappear to chase after some new threat and return to help in Episode VII or just post ROJ? Or maybe as the threat for Episode VII (still half convinced Ezra is Kylo Ren).