There’s some confusion on my part over what I read next, once I’d finished The Courtship of Princess Leia. I vividly remember the cover of The Truce at Bakura, with the handshake of a black gloved hand and a woman’s hand with a fancy, wired golden bracelet. I probably read my cousin’s copy of that first, because I remember how miffed I was when my own copy had some words blocking out the handshake. This book, by Kathy Tyers, follows almost directly after Return of the Jedi. An alien race is trying to invade the planet of Bakura, so when the Rebels come to the rescue, they have to call a truce with the local Imperials, in order to defeat the Ssi-Ruuk.
At this time, I would’ve been reading the X-wing series, because who wouldn’t want to find out what happened to Luke’s buddies in Rogue Squadron? I loved following the adventures of Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, and Hobbie Klivian, but things really picked up when they handed the writing over to Aaron Allston, and he wrote the book Wraith Squadron. Allston has a lot of humor in his writings, and the Wraiths were quite a hilarious bunch. Come on, how could you not enjoy the squadrons having a Gamorrean (one of the pig-like aliens) pilot, as well as a former movie star, and the prankster Wes Janson along for this ride? There’s another book coming out in this series, in August, and my brother and I are both looking forward to it.
But whatever order I was reading the books in, and as there weren’t as many in print, back in the 90′s, it didn’t take me long to reach the Thrawn trilogy. If you read my last post about Star Wars, then my brother already commented at length on this subject. But I’m going to go right ahead and give my own spin on things.
Timothy Zahn is one of the best Star Wars writers in existence, and he gave himself that honor by writing one of the best trilogies in the series. Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command returns us to the original favorite characters, and introduces us to some new and fascinating ones. Han and Leia have gotten married and are expecting twins, while Luke attempts to re-form the Jedi Order. Meanwhile, the Empire’s only alien Grand Admiral, Thrawn, is searching for a Dark Jedi to help with his plans. And a smuggler becomes involved in the tale, along with his sidekick, one Mara Jade, who has a mission to fulfill, given to her by the Emperor himself. That is, to kill Luke Skywalker.
What amazing people that Zahn was able to create! Other Star Wars fans can freely correct me, if I’ve forgotten, but I’m almost certain that Gilad Pellaeon, Mara Jade, and Grand Admiral Thrawn were created by him. Thrawn is a blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss, and the only alien in high command in the whole Empire, as the Emperor was definitely pro-human and anti-alien. But in this case, he looked beyond the outward attributes to the brilliance within. With the Empire struggling to survive against the New Republic, he almost single-handedly puts the former Rebels on the run. He studies each planet and race through their artwork (yes, you read that right), and is able to determine their flaws, and defeat them.
And, of course, Mara Jade, the redheaded former Emperor’s Hand, has a bone to pick with Luke Skywalker, and she continues to have a large role to play in the rest of the series. I also gave away a spoiler to my brother, in my last SW post’s comments, but Captain Pellaeon also remains with the story for the next 30-40 years. And from all I’ve read about him, I don’t think the Empire ever knew a better commander or a better man.
The story becomes more complicated with creatures that can repel the Force (ysalimiri), the alien Noghri that attempt to assassinate Leia Organa Solo, and the lost Katana Fleet being found. Ah yes, and this would be the trilogy that introduced me to the planet Kashyyyk, home of the Wookiees. I do not forget what I learned then, and I still can’t forgive George Lucas for attempting to change the layout of Kashyyyk and the Wookiee mentality, just to stage a battle in Episode III. That is a rabbit trail that I will attempt to NOT go down with you, but if you’re really interested, I’ll explain more.
Obviously, when the series needed an author to write the Hand of Thrawn duology, ten years (in SW time) later, then Zahn was again brought in to write Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future. I won’t tell you how the trilogy ended, but I believe the premise of this duo was extremely clever, bringing in the character of Flim to do a brilliant impersonation.
I’m inclined to think that I read Children of the Jedi and Darksaber next, which are supposedly part of the “Callista trilogy”, but I don’t understand why Planet of Twilight is part of that. I don’t recall the character of Callista Ming being in that one, but then again, it’s been a long time since I read it. I really liked reading Children of the Jedi, at the time, because it threw you into Luke Skywalker’s first romance. No, his fencing with Mara Jade in the Thrawn books doesn’t count, because they only ended up with a truce. But as a romantic teenager, I figured it was about time. Han and Leia had several kids by now, why hadn’t Luke met a girl, yet?
Luke and two of his students end up on the Eye of Palpatine, a re-activated ship with artificial intelligence, which intends to destroy their planet. But while onboard, Luke meets the spirit of Callista, a Jedi that died thirty years ago, stopping the ship’s mission, the first time. As Luke and Callista begin to care for each other, he knows that nothing can come of it, but impossibly, something does. I won’t tell you how, though, because that would spoil the story.
On a passing note, one random thing that I enjoy about the Star Wars series is that in the cover pictures, they age Luke, Han, and Leia as their characters would have, not like Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford have in real life. When you reach The Joiner King, you’ll find Han and Leia are going gray on the book covers, and even have some wrinkles, but they still look like the smuggler Han Solo and the Princess Leia Organa that we met many years ago at the movies.
But before we can have Luke fall in love, we have to have him reform the Jedi Order, which brings us to the Jedi Academy trilogy, which actually followed the Thrawn trilogy. Written by Kevin J. Anderson, Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force follow Luke’s search for Force sensitives and Han’s mission to Kessel, where Han gets imprisoned in the spice mines. The story also introduces a young man named Kyp Durron, who happens to be extremely strong in the Force, and all the gyrations that he goes through in his journey to Jedi Knight.
I, Jedi takes place at the same time as this trilogy, but is written by Michael Stackpole, of the X-wing books. Considering he was the first to write the character of Corran Horn, it’s only fair that he continue Corran’s journey to becoming a Jedi, as well.
I don’t think I’ll drag this subject out much further, because if you’re interested, you’ll go read one of the above-mentioned books. If you’re not interested at all, you probably stopped reading by now. If you have kids that want to know more about Star Wars, I’d recommend they read the Young Jedi Knight series, which comes not long after I, Jedi. The series covers the years that Han and Leia’s children spend at Luke’s academy, as well as Chewbacca’s nephew and Teneniel Djo’s daughter (see The Courtship of Princess Leia). If your kids really want to continue reading SW books, then having them read all fourteen of this series will be a good indicator.
For now, I’m stopping short of the New Jedi Order. Perhaps I’ll write about that, eventually. But if I try and tell you what happens, you won’t understand, because the characters involved are twenty-five years older than they were in A New Hope. You won’t know anything about the Solo children or why we should care about any number of other people. And the books I’m reading now are twenty years beyond those. If you’re a fantasy or sci-fi reader, in general, then I’ll just mention that R.A. Salvatore wrote the first New Jedi Order book, Vector Prime. An excellent introduction to the war against the Yuuzhan Vong, if I do say so myself.
Oh, and before I forget, the Star Wars books (especially the ones that are “canon”) are generally pretty G or PG-rated, not filled with sex or graphic violence. I’ve always liked the fact that Han, Luke, Lando, and the rest are not the type to jump into bed with a new girl in every book, like some movie and book characters. These guys are the real deal, looking for the love of their lives, and if something happens with an occasional girl, it happens off the page. As for graphic violence, sure, there are fight scenes, and occasionally the descriptions can be… well, descriptive, but if you’re looking for fights with monsters that drip blood and guts so realistically off the page that your stomach turns, this is the wrong series. I say that, even with the creepier pictures on the New Jedi Order books. When I was living at home and reading those, I tried to keep my mom from seeing the covers, so she wouldn’t wonder what crazy books her daughter was reading. But there are a few SW books that are NOT canon, like Death Troopers, which covers things like storm trooper zombies, but I’ll never read it, because I wouldn’t like it anyway.
I told you at the beginning that I never went to anything like Comic-Con or got dressed up in Star Wars costumes. I still don’t, even for all my love of Star Wars. To me, the people in these books are more than characters, and they’re more than just the costumes that you see in the movies. I’ve known these people so long, if they were real, I could almost consider them family. I know them that well.
I think my Facebook page still lists my second language as Mandalorian (Mando’a), because after I’d read all the Republic Commando books, I knew Mando’a better than I ever knew French or Spanish. Yes, many of the SW books involve Boba Fett, his fellow Mandos, and the clone troopers, for those of you that are interested.
And on another small rabbit trail, as I’ve seen some recent interviews with George Lucas, concerning the prequels coming out in 3D. I agree that George Lucas is only out to make the extra bucks with Star Wars, and that he no longer cares for the stories themselves. I am only interested in the stories and the characters, so I go ahead and enjoy the movies, and forgive most of the issues with the prequels. But as far as I’m concerned, Lucas may have started Star Wars, but he doesn’t know anything about the real tale, not anymore.
May the Force be with you.