The Stolen Data Tapes
X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston (1999, Bantam)
Starfighters of Adumar is the ninth book in the X-wing series, and Aaron Allston’s fourth book therein. Unlike his other X-wing novels, this one doesn’t chronicle the adventures of Wraith Squadron. In fact, despite its being labeled as the ninth book in a series, it is a stand-alone novel that a reader with little to no knowledge of the expanded universe would have no trouble with.
When the planet Adumar is discovered after years of isolation from the galaxy at large, Wedge Antilles, of all people, is sent to oversee the New Republic’s diplomatic relations there. The reason for this is that Adumari culture honors starfighter pilots over people of any other profession. Honor, in fact, is very important in Adumari society—after a fashion. The Adumari are fond of dueling to the death, either in aerial dogfights or the through use of rather impractical weapons called “blastswords,” in order to accumulate prestige.

Wedge and his companions—Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson, “Hobbie” Klivian, and a documentarian named Hallis Saper, who wears a camera-equipped 3PO head on her shoulder—arrive on Adumar without having been briefed on any of this. Furthermore, Adumar is not a planetary government, but is rather comprised of many nations with contentious relationships. To top it all off, four pilots of the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing have already arrived, with aspirations to bring Adumar into what remains of the Empire.
As good as the resulting political maneuvering and moral dilemmas are, Starfighters of Adumar is further enhanced by the resolution of long-standing romantic tension between Wedge and New Republic Intelligence agent Iella Wessiri.

Iella first appeared in Michael A. Stackpole’s X-wing books, where, after the death of her husband, she and Wedge were established as potential love interests. The way in which Allston deals with Wedge’s existing relationship with Death Star scientist Qwi Xux is a little abrupt and smacks of a desire to just get her out of the way, but to be fair, that relationship, as developed in Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy, isn’t entirely convincing (I was way too kind about it in my previous reviews). Allston does a far better job of writing romance that brings a cheesy grin to my face, rather than, as in the Jedi Academy books, a grimace at the cheesiness.
The Wedge/Iella relationship is just one example of Allston’s well-developed character dynamics. The friendship, teamwork, and banter of Wedge and his pilots is something at which Allston has always excelled. His use of dry humor throughout this book elicited many a smirk and chuckle from me.
Strong character work, dialogue, and plotting, as well as a massive air/space-battle climax, add up to make Starfighters of Adumar a great read. Many other reviews, message board comments, and the like that I’ve read about this book rate it as the best Star Wars novel. I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, but I won’t be surprised if, when all is said and done, it makes my top ten.

X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston (1999, Bantam)

Starfighters of Adumar is the ninth book in the X-wing series, and Aaron Allston’s fourth book therein. Unlike his other X-wing novels, this one doesn’t chronicle the adventures of Wraith Squadron. In fact, despite its being labeled as the ninth book in a series, it is a stand-alone novel that a reader with little to no knowledge of the expanded universe would have no trouble with.

When the planet Adumar is discovered after years of isolation from the galaxy at large, Wedge Antilles, of all people, is sent to oversee the New Republic’s diplomatic relations there. The reason for this is that Adumari culture honors starfighter pilots over people of any other profession. Honor, in fact, is very important in Adumari society—after a fashion. The Adumari are fond of dueling to the death, either in aerial dogfights or the through use of rather impractical weapons called “blastswords,” in order to accumulate prestige.

Wedge and his companions—Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson, “Hobbie” Klivian, and a documentarian named Hallis Saper, who wears a camera-equipped 3PO head on her shoulder—arrive on Adumar without having been briefed on any of this. Furthermore, Adumar is not a planetary government, but is rather comprised of many nations with contentious relationships. To top it all off, four pilots of the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing have already arrived, with aspirations to bring Adumar into what remains of the Empire.

As good as the resulting political maneuvering and moral dilemmas are, Starfighters of Adumar is further enhanced by the resolution of long-standing romantic tension between Wedge and New Republic Intelligence agent Iella Wessiri.

Iella first appeared in Michael A. Stackpole’s X-wing books, where, after the death of her husband, she and Wedge were established as potential love interests. The way in which Allston deals with Wedge’s existing relationship with Death Star scientist Qwi Xux is a little abrupt and smacks of a desire to just get her out of the way, but to be fair, that relationship, as developed in Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy, isn’t entirely convincing (I was way too kind about it in my previous reviews). Allston does a far better job of writing romance that brings a cheesy grin to my face, rather than, as in the Jedi Academy books, a grimace at the cheesiness.

The Wedge/Iella relationship is just one example of Allston’s well-developed character dynamics. The friendship, teamwork, and banter of Wedge and his pilots is something at which Allston has always excelled. His use of dry humor throughout this book elicited many a smirk and chuckle from me.

Strong character work, dialogue, and plotting, as well as a massive air/space-battle climax, add up to make Starfighters of Adumar a great read. Many other reviews, message board comments, and the like that I’ve read about this book rate it as the best Star Wars novel. I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, but I won’t be surprised if, when all is said and done, it makes my top ten.

Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambly (1997, Bantam)
If you’re expecting jokes about the title of this book, you’re in for a disappointment. Every Twilight joke possible has already been made, I think, and such jokes are past their expiration date. Although, I did read part of Planet of Twilight in a room full of people who were watching Breaking Dawn.

The majority of this novel’s action takes place on Nam Chorios, a planet where an anti-technology religious sect known as the Therans are fighting with a small minority of settlers for the right to dictate policy and decide whether the planet will join the New Republic.

The situation, it turns out, is nowhere close to being as simple as that, and Barbara Hambly treats us to a number of twists as the plot is unfolds and reveals itself to be a tangled web of petty rivalries, grand schemes for galactic domination, and corporate espionage. A deadly plague with the potential to spread throughout the galaxy is the primary threat here. This is a welcome change from “yet another planet-destroying laser/spaceship/missile.”

Antagonists involved include an Imperial Moff, two former Jedi who have grown petty and self-absorbed, and a truly disturbing mastermind. He turns out to be an evolved bug, but despite my distaste for bug people, I thought that Dzym, a parasitic creature feeding on his minions’ life force, was effective in his creepy-crawliness, owing to some graphic and disturbing passages from Hambly describing his many mouths and the pleasure he took from draining his victims.

As in her previous Star Wars book, Children of the Jedi, Hambly writes Leia very well, giving her way more to do than most authors tend to. Early in the novel, she is captured and held prisoner by Dzym and his underlings, but she escapes on her own and plays a crucial role in the book’s climax. Hambly explores Leia’s daddy issues and her fears about becoming another Vader if she learns the ways of the Force. It’s very rewarding to see her finally confront these issues after so many other books that have dealt with them only fleetingly.

The highlight of the book, though, is its ending. Luke has also come to the planet of Nam Chorios, looking for Callista, the Jedi-out-of-time he fell in love with in Children of the Jedi. Callista had left on a journey of self-discovery after realizing that she wasn’t getting anywhere with trying to reawaken her ability with the Force. When Luke finds her in this book, it’s only to realize that the two of them are now on separate paths and can’t be together. The last chapter of this book is very emotionally effective, leaving the reader with a wonderfully bittersweet feeling on the last page.

From what I can gather by flitting around the internet and reading discussion boards and comment threads, most fans really don’t like Hambly’s Star Wars work. They mostly cite a lack of coherence in the plots and some ill-defined distaste for her writing style. I’ll agree that Children of the Jedi and Planet of Twilight aren’t the greatest Star Wars books ever written, and her plotting can be a little difficult to follow in places (and sure, a Hutt with a lightsaber is a little silly). Still, I think that she gets the emotional center of each of the main Star Wars characters (including even C-3PO and R2-D2) just right, and for me, that’s what’s most important.

Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambly (1997, Bantam)

If you’re expecting jokes about the title of this book, you’re in for a disappointment. Every Twilight joke possible has already been made, I think, and such jokes are past their expiration date. Although, I did read part of Planet of Twilight in a room full of people who were watching Breaking Dawn.

The majority of this novel’s action takes place on Nam Chorios, a planet where an anti-technology religious sect known as the Therans are fighting with a small minority of settlers for the right to dictate policy and decide whether the planet will join the New Republic.

The situation, it turns out, is nowhere close to being as simple as that, and Barbara Hambly treats us to a number of twists as the plot is unfolds and reveals itself to be a tangled web of petty rivalries, grand schemes for galactic domination, and corporate espionage. A deadly plague with the potential to spread throughout the galaxy is the primary threat here. This is a welcome change from “yet another planet-destroying laser/spaceship/missile.”

Antagonists involved include an Imperial Moff, two former Jedi who have grown petty and self-absorbed, and a truly disturbing mastermind. He turns out to be an evolved bug, but despite my distaste for bug people, I thought that Dzym, a parasitic creature feeding on his minions’ life force, was effective in his creepy-crawliness, owing to some graphic and disturbing passages from Hambly describing his many mouths and the pleasure he took from draining his victims.

As in her previous Star Wars book, Children of the Jedi, Hambly writes Leia very well, giving her way more to do than most authors tend to. Early in the novel, she is captured and held prisoner by Dzym and his underlings, but she escapes on her own and plays a crucial role in the book’s climax. Hambly explores Leia’s daddy issues and her fears about becoming another Vader if she learns the ways of the Force. It’s very rewarding to see her finally confront these issues after so many other books that have dealt with them only fleetingly.

The highlight of the book, though, is its ending. Luke has also come to the planet of Nam Chorios, looking for Callista, the Jedi-out-of-time he fell in love with in Children of the Jedi. Callista had left on a journey of self-discovery after realizing that she wasn’t getting anywhere with trying to reawaken her ability with the Force. When Luke finds her in this book, it’s only to realize that the two of them are now on separate paths and can’t be together. The last chapter of this book is very emotionally effective, leaving the reader with a wonderfully bittersweet feeling on the last page.

From what I can gather by flitting around the internet and reading discussion boards and comment threads, most fans really don’t like Hambly’s Star Wars work. They mostly cite a lack of coherence in the plots and some ill-defined distaste for her writing style. I’ll agree that Children of the Jedi and Planet of Twilight aren’t the greatest Star Wars books ever written, and her plotting can be a little difficult to follow in places (and sure, a Hutt with a lightsaber is a little silly). Still, I think that she gets the emotional center of each of the main Star Wars characters (including even C-3PO and R2-D2) just right, and for me, that’s what’s most important.

Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)
“Oh no, not another superweapon!”
      -Han Solo, Darksaber, page 18 (paperback edition)

My thoughts exactly, Han! This acknowledgement of the fact that Kevin J. Anderson is writing another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device does not excuse the fact that Kevin J. Anderson has written another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device.  Between the World Devastators and the Galaxy Gun (Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire), the Death Star prototype and the Sun Crusher (Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy), and the Eye of Palpatine (Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi), we are being asked to believe that, within a span of three years, the New Republic faced five weapons with at least the power to raze an entire planet.

Ugh.

This time, it’s not the Empire behind the weapon.



Instead, we have Durga the Hutt ordering the construction of his own Death Star superlaser. Nobody in the book ever points out the silliness of a crime lord destroying planets and all of their monetary resources.



The weapon consists only of a Death Star’s planet-obliterating superlaser, without the accompanying battle station. This makes for a more maneuverable weapon that can be fired more rapidly. As you can see, the weapon is cylindrical and a beam of light is emitted from the end of it. The weapon’s designer, Bevel Lemelisk (one of the bazillion and one expanded universe characters credited with designing the Death Star), notices these vague similarities to a lightsaber and chooses to name the weapon… Darksaber.

Again, I say: Ugh.

Thankfully, this is not all there is to Darksaber’s plot. Admiral Daala (who has once again escaped certain death) heads to the Core Systems and begins an effort to consolidate the Empire’s squabbling warlords in an effort to finally destroy the New Republic. Passages dealing with this are easily the best in the novel. In one chapter, Daala gasses a conference room full of warlords who can’t come to a consensus. Her characterization here is much better than in the Jedi Academy Trilogy. Here, we can see her competence, as opposed to being told how good she is at her job as we follow her from one ill-conceived plan to the next.

Unfortunately, apart from Daala, characters are rather thinly drawn in Darksaber. Kyp Durron is featured prominently, but there isn’t a single mention of the fact that the young Jedi blew up an inhabited star system the previous year, almost as if Anderson decided that having Kyp do that in the first place had been a mistake and didn’t wish to discuss it again. I’m all for redemption, but to not even mention the guilt a repentant mass-murderer must be feeling a mere year after his crime is ludicrous.

The novel also suffers from a lot of plotting and pacing problems. An important subplot of Darksaber involves Luke’s current girlfriend Callista attempting to regain her ability to use the Force. In this quest, Luke takes her all over the galaxy, providing a very, very thin excuse for the two of them to go to Hoth, fight a bunch of wampas (including the one whose arm Luke cut off in Empire), and then leave pretty much immediately.

As for the Darksaber superweapon… (spoilers, if you honestly care)… it is unceremoniously crushed between two asteroids when its laser fails to discharge. Hurray.

Long story short, Darksaber is every bit as lame as its title. Skip this one.

Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)

“Oh no, not another superweapon!”

      -Han Solo, Darksaber, page 18 (paperback edition)

My thoughts exactly, Han! This acknowledgement of the fact that Kevin J. Anderson is writing another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device does not excuse the fact that Kevin J. Anderson has written another Star Wars book revolving around a doomsday device.  Between the World Devastators and the Galaxy Gun (Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire), the Death Star prototype and the Sun Crusher (Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy), and the Eye of Palpatine (Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi), we are being asked to believe that, within a span of three years, the New Republic faced five weapons with at least the power to raze an entire planet.

Ugh.

This time, it’s not the Empire behind the weapon.

Instead, we have Durga the Hutt ordering the construction of his own Death Star superlaser. Nobody in the book ever points out the silliness of a crime lord destroying planets and all of their monetary resources.

The weapon consists only of a Death Star’s planet-obliterating superlaser, without the accompanying battle station. This makes for a more maneuverable weapon that can be fired more rapidly. As you can see, the weapon is cylindrical and a beam of light is emitted from the end of it. The weapon’s designer, Bevel Lemelisk (one of the bazillion and one expanded universe characters credited with designing the Death Star), notices these vague similarities to a lightsaber and chooses to name the weapon… Darksaber.

Again, I say: Ugh.

Thankfully, this is not all there is to Darksaber’s plot. Admiral Daala (who has once again escaped certain death) heads to the Core Systems and begins an effort to consolidate the Empire’s squabbling warlords in an effort to finally destroy the New Republic. Passages dealing with this are easily the best in the novel. In one chapter, Daala gasses a conference room full of warlords who can’t come to a consensus. Her characterization here is much better than in the Jedi Academy Trilogy. Here, we can see her competence, as opposed to being told how good she is at her job as we follow her from one ill-conceived plan to the next.

Unfortunately, apart from Daala, characters are rather thinly drawn in Darksaber. Kyp Durron is featured prominently, but there isn’t a single mention of the fact that the young Jedi blew up an inhabited star system the previous year, almost as if Anderson decided that having Kyp do that in the first place had been a mistake and didn’t wish to discuss it again. I’m all for redemption, but to not even mention the guilt a repentant mass-murderer must be feeling a mere year after his crime is ludicrous.

The novel also suffers from a lot of plotting and pacing problems. An important subplot of Darksaber involves Luke’s current girlfriend Callista attempting to regain her ability to use the Force. In this quest, Luke takes her all over the galaxy, providing a very, very thin excuse for the two of them to go to Hoth, fight a bunch of wampas (including the one whose arm Luke cut off in Empire), and then leave pretty much immediately.

As for the Darksaber superweapon… (spoilers, if you honestly care)… it is unceremoniously crushed between two asteroids when its laser fails to discharge. Hurray.

Long story short, Darksaber is every bit as lame as its title. Skip this one.

Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly (1995, Bantam)
Reading Children of the Jedi was a unique experience for me. It was the first Star Wars novel I have read in years that I’ve gone into completely cold. I had no idea what this book was about before I opened it. I was pleased to find that it didn’t (completely) rely upon a doomsday weapon for its dramatic tension.

After receiving a strange warning, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and Artoo travel to the planet Belsavis, where a group of Jedi refugees and their children had hidden to escape Palpatine’s wrath. Luke embarks on his own investigation with C-3PO, a Jedi student called Cray Mingla, and her fiancée—sort of.

Cray’s fiancée, Nichos Marr, suffered from a terminal degenerative condition. In an attempt to save him, Cray built an exact droid replica of Nichos, hoping to transfer his consciousness into the droid body. There are many passages throughout the novel in which Luke privately wonders if that authentic transfer has been accomplished, or if Nichos is simply a very convincing droid.

After crash-landing on the unpronounceable planet Pzob and meeting an aging, long-marooned stormtrooper, Luke’s party is captured and dragged aboard a thirty-year-old “battlemoon” called the Eye of Palpatine. Luke spends most of the novel here, dragging himself along after taking a vicious wound to the leg and attempting to deactivate the ship’s mysteriously reactivated AI before it can make it to Belsavis and complete its decades-old mission to wipe out the secret Jedi colony there.

Luke soon discovers that within the Eye’s computer is the spirit of the Jedi who sacrificed herself thirty years ago to stop the ship’s mission. This is Callista Masana, pictured on the cover above.

Skimming around the internet, I’ve found a lot of complaining on discussion boards about this character. Many fans seem to harbor a strong distaste for her. My suspicion is that this is mainly because Luke falls in love with Callista, and Callista isn’t Mara Jade. Readers would do well to remember, however, that at this point, Mara hadn’t been explicitly presented as a romantic interest for Luke. In fact, there was at this point more romantic tension (albeit one-sided) between Mara and Lando.

I think that Luke’s affection for Callista makes perfect sense. She shares Luke’s sense of self-sacrificial duty, has a wry sense of humor, and presents a link to a past that Luke has been studying for eight years. This ghost in the machine plot and the Nichos droid replica situation add some faint cyberpunk tones to the novel that I enjoyed quite a bit.

The Han/Leia plot isn’t bad, but doesn’t really take off until the book begins moving toward its climax. Leia uncovers a conspiracy involving a former concubine of the Emperor, a bunch of snobbish aristocrats, and a childishly malicious, Force-sensitive kid who can very precisely control machines—including the light-years distant Eye of Palpatine.

Hambly is able to seamlessly fit the Star Wars cast into a story that is mildly unconventional for the Star Wars universe, with its musings on AI ethics and philosophy. She writes Leia particularly well, giving her a central role in the story instead of keeping her off the page with various affairs of state.
Luke, too, fairs well in this novel. Too many writers portray post-Jedi Luke as an aloof sage who left all of his most interesting personality traits behind on the second Death Star. Hambly lets Luke crack jokes and have feelings that don’t directly relate to being a Jedi. Watching him struggle past the brink of exhaustion is also compelling.

The ending, unfortunately, feels forced, almost as if Hambly or an editor at Bantam abruptly decided that it was time to give Luke a break in his love life for a change and had to quickly come up with an explanation in order to accomplish that. I will, however, give it credit for surprising me, albeit cheaply.

Speaking of giving credit, I was delighted to read C-3PO’s nervous concern over the prospect of being “sent to the sandmines of Neelgaimon.” I don’t rate these books on a numerical score, but if I did, a reference to my favorite living author would at least be worth a point or so.
Fans often refer to Children of the Jedi and the next two books, Darksaber and Planet of Twilight, as a trilogy. This appears to be solely because all three books feature the character of Callista, but I’ll go ahead and review them in sequence anyway. See you back here next week for the depressingly titled Darksaber.

Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly (1995, Bantam)

Reading Children of the Jedi was a unique experience for me. It was the first Star Wars novel I have read in years that I’ve gone into completely cold. I had no idea what this book was about before I opened it. I was pleased to find that it didn’t (completely) rely upon a doomsday weapon for its dramatic tension.

After receiving a strange warning, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and Artoo travel to the planet Belsavis, where a group of Jedi refugees and their children had hidden to escape Palpatine’s wrath. Luke embarks on his own investigation with C-3PO, a Jedi student called Cray Mingla, and her fiancée—sort of.

Cray’s fiancée, Nichos Marr, suffered from a terminal degenerative condition. In an attempt to save him, Cray built an exact droid replica of Nichos, hoping to transfer his consciousness into the droid body. There are many passages throughout the novel in which Luke privately wonders if that authentic transfer has been accomplished, or if Nichos is simply a very convincing droid.

After crash-landing on the unpronounceable planet Pzob and meeting an aging, long-marooned stormtrooper, Luke’s party is captured and dragged aboard a thirty-year-old “battlemoon” called the Eye of Palpatine. Luke spends most of the novel here, dragging himself along after taking a vicious wound to the leg and attempting to deactivate the ship’s mysteriously reactivated AI before it can make it to Belsavis and complete its decades-old mission to wipe out the secret Jedi colony there.

Luke soon discovers that within the Eye’s computer is the spirit of the Jedi who sacrificed herself thirty years ago to stop the ship’s mission. This is Callista Masana, pictured on the cover above.

Skimming around the internet, I’ve found a lot of complaining on discussion boards about this character. Many fans seem to harbor a strong distaste for her. My suspicion is that this is mainly because Luke falls in love with Callista, and Callista isn’t Mara Jade. Readers would do well to remember, however, that at this point, Mara hadn’t been explicitly presented as a romantic interest for Luke. In fact, there was at this point more romantic tension (albeit one-sided) between Mara and Lando.

I think that Luke’s affection for Callista makes perfect sense. She shares Luke’s sense of self-sacrificial duty, has a wry sense of humor, and presents a link to a past that Luke has been studying for eight years. This ghost in the machine plot and the Nichos droid replica situation add some faint cyberpunk tones to the novel that I enjoyed quite a bit.

The Han/Leia plot isn’t bad, but doesn’t really take off until the book begins moving toward its climax. Leia uncovers a conspiracy involving a former concubine of the Emperor, a bunch of snobbish aristocrats, and a childishly malicious, Force-sensitive kid who can very precisely control machines—including the light-years distant Eye of Palpatine.

Hambly is able to seamlessly fit the Star Wars cast into a story that is mildly unconventional for the Star Wars universe, with its musings on AI ethics and philosophy. She writes Leia particularly well, giving her a central role in the story instead of keeping her off the page with various affairs of state.

Luke, too, fairs well in this novel. Too many writers portray post-Jedi Luke as an aloof sage who left all of his most interesting personality traits behind on the second Death Star. Hambly lets Luke crack jokes and have feelings that don’t directly relate to being a Jedi. Watching him struggle past the brink of exhaustion is also compelling.

The ending, unfortunately, feels forced, almost as if Hambly or an editor at Bantam abruptly decided that it was time to give Luke a break in his love life for a change and had to quickly come up with an explanation in order to accomplish that. I will, however, give it credit for surprising me, albeit cheaply.

Speaking of giving credit, I was delighted to read C-3PO’s nervous concern over the prospect of being “sent to the sandmines of Neelgaimon.” I don’t rate these books on a numerical score, but if I did, a reference to my favorite living author would at least be worth a point or so.

Fans often refer to Children of the Jedi and the next two books, Darksaber and Planet of Twilight, as a trilogy. This appears to be solely because all three books feature the character of Callista, but I’ll go ahead and review them in sequence anyway. See you back here next week for the depressingly titled Darksaber.

I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole (1998, Bantam)
In my reviews of his X-wing novels, I think I’ve made it clear that Michael A. Stackpole is among my favorite authors who have written in the Star Wars universe. His ability to create memorable and original Star Wars characters is rivaled only by Timothy Zahn, and his talent for exciting space dogfights is unmatched.

I’m especially fond of Stackpole’s signature Star Wars character, Corran Horn, a Corellian cop-turned New Republic fighter pilot with a strong sense of justice, a Jedi heritage, and an excess of pride and ego.

Because of my appreciation for Stackpole and Corran Horn, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would love I, Jedi. Unique among full-length Star Wars novels, I, Jedi is written in the first person, from Corran’s perspective. I find it bizarre that many fans seem to be uncomfortable with this, as if first person perspective is some crazy, experimental style that doesn’t belong in a Star Wars book. I, for one, appreciate departures from the house style I’ve noticed in Star Wars novels, where everyone writes in third person limited and tries really hard to be Zahn.

The first large chunk of I, Jedi takes place during the events of Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. If you check out my reviews of those books, you’ll see that I enjoyed them well enough, but thought they were fairly flawed. In I, Jedi, Stackpole gives the same events a more intimate treatment, fleshing out the personalities of the students at Luke’s Jedi Praxeum and getting into the personal conflicts that arise from being terrorized by a Sith ghost and having a student fall to the dark side and blow up a solar system.

Corran joins Luke’s academy on Yavin 4 in hopes of gaining the needed ability to locate and rescue his wife, who has been captured by a particularly nasty group of space pirates. Corran’s stubborn insistence on doing things his own way causes him to butt heads with Luke on a number of occasions, but it’s his deductive reasoning that draws out the ancient Sith lord Exar Kun and enables the Jedi students to defeat him.

Luke’s decision to take the repentant Kyp Durron back as a student is too much for Corran, who strikes out on his own, infiltrating the pirates to find his wife—and essentially turning his back on his identity as a Jedi. While undercover, Corran realizes that he isn’t as immune to the dark side’s influence as he’d suggested during an argument with Luke. His pride begins to get the better of him, and he faces the temptation to take the quick and easy path to rescuing his wife, at the expense of his fidelity to her and to everything he stands for.

I, Jedi, at 577 pages, is pretty long for a Star Wars book, but it never overstays its welcome. It shifts gears several times, thrusting Corran into completely different situations that keep things fresh and interesting. The first person format allows for a lot of introspection, but Stackpole doesn’t skimp on starfighter battles and lightsaber combat. Running throughout the novel is what I think is a good message about learning to grow and change without sacrificing that which makes you who you are. I, Jedi is Stackpole’s finest Star Wars work, and easily one of the best tales to grace the expanded universe.

I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole (1998, Bantam)

In my reviews of his X-wing novels, I think I’ve made it clear that Michael A. Stackpole is among my favorite authors who have written in the Star Wars universe. His ability to create memorable and original Star Wars characters is rivaled only by Timothy Zahn, and his talent for exciting space dogfights is unmatched.

I’m especially fond of Stackpole’s signature Star Wars character, Corran Horn, a Corellian cop-turned New Republic fighter pilot with a strong sense of justice, a Jedi heritage, and an excess of pride and ego.

Because of my appreciation for Stackpole and Corran Horn, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I would love I, Jedi. Unique among full-length Star Wars novels, I, Jedi is written in the first person, from Corran’s perspective. I find it bizarre that many fans seem to be uncomfortable with this, as if first person perspective is some crazy, experimental style that doesn’t belong in a Star Wars book. I, for one, appreciate departures from the house style I’ve noticed in Star Wars novels, where everyone writes in third person limited and tries really hard to be Zahn.

The first large chunk of I, Jedi takes place during the events of Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. If you check out my reviews of those books, you’ll see that I enjoyed them well enough, but thought they were fairly flawed. In I, Jedi, Stackpole gives the same events a more intimate treatment, fleshing out the personalities of the students at Luke’s Jedi Praxeum and getting into the personal conflicts that arise from being terrorized by a Sith ghost and having a student fall to the dark side and blow up a solar system.

Corran joins Luke’s academy on Yavin 4 in hopes of gaining the needed ability to locate and rescue his wife, who has been captured by a particularly nasty group of space pirates. Corran’s stubborn insistence on doing things his own way causes him to butt heads with Luke on a number of occasions, but it’s his deductive reasoning that draws out the ancient Sith lord Exar Kun and enables the Jedi students to defeat him.

Luke’s decision to take the repentant Kyp Durron back as a student is too much for Corran, who strikes out on his own, infiltrating the pirates to find his wife—and essentially turning his back on his identity as a Jedi. While undercover, Corran realizes that he isn’t as immune to the dark side’s influence as he’d suggested during an argument with Luke. His pride begins to get the better of him, and he faces the temptation to take the quick and easy path to rescuing his wife, at the expense of his fidelity to her and to everything he stands for.

I, Jedi, at 577 pages, is pretty long for a Star Wars book, but it never overstays its welcome. It shifts gears several times, thrusting Corran into completely different situations that keep things fresh and interesting. The first person format allows for a lot of introspection, but Stackpole doesn’t skimp on starfighter battles and lightsaber combat. Running throughout the novel is what I think is a good message about learning to grow and change without sacrificing that which makes you who you are. I, Jedi is Stackpole’s finest Star Wars work, and easily one of the best tales to grace the expanded universe.

Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)
Champions of the Force is the final installment of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The previous book, Dark Apprentice, ended on a decidedly gloomy note. Kyp Durron, fallen student of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Praxeum, has made off with the Sun Crusher, an indestructible superweapon that can blow up stars, thereby incinerating entire star systems. The first chapter of Champions of the Force has Kyp annihilating the Imperial-controlled Carida system in a failed attempt to reunite himself with his brother.
Kyp had also put Luke in a coma, who spends a good chunk of this book as a disembodied spirit, unable to communicate with his Jedi students and having to rely on them to fend off countless attacks against his body engineered by the evil spirit of the ancient Sith lord, Exar Kun.
Surprisingly, all of this is resolved less than half-way through the novel, when Luke’s Jedi students manage to beat Exar Kun through… the power of teamwork? Despite the dismissive wording there, I actually found this to be a satisfying victory for the new Jedi, albeit a little cheesy.
With Exar Kun’s second death and Han Solo’s encouragement, Kyp Durron is able to shake his influence and turn from the dark side before continuing his rampage. Mon Mothma, who’s failing health is one of this novel’s primary concerns, defers to Luke Skywalker for judgment of the fallen Jedi. In a decision that appears to be just as divisive for fans as it is for various characters in the Star Wars universe, Luke accepts Kyp’s repentance and welcomes him back into the fold.
I’ve mentioned here before that I feel redemption is one of the central themes of the Star Wars saga, and allowing it even of a mass murderer (which, let’s not forget, is also what Darth Vader was) is consistent with that theme. The argument, of course, can be made that Kyp should have received some punishment, but regardless of what you think, I think it’s hard to argue that this decision isn’t one Luke would have made.
All that said, though, I don’t think that Anderson spends nearly enough time dealing with the fallout of Luke’s decision in this novel. Readers learned nothing of how the other Jedi students felt about this until four years later, in Michael Stackpole’s far superior treatment of the events of this trilogy in I, Jedi.
Champions of the Force reaches its climax with a battle over Maw Installation, the Imperial weapons development laboratory that created the Sun Crusher. New Republic forces tangle with Admiral Daala’s last Star Destroyer and… the Maw Installation’s Death Star prototype.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Kevin J. Anderson is obsessed with doomsday weapons. It’s not enough to have a weapon capable of wiping out entire solar systems. Let’s get another Death Star in on the action, too. Anderson’s next Star Wars novel, the unfortunately titled Darksaber, also deals with a weapon cobbled together from old Death Star plans.
In this novel’s about the author page, Anderson makes it clear that he used to work at a government research lab as a technical writer, and his Maw Installation is obviously a venting of dissatisfaction with either the job itself or the work that was done there. I can definitely get behind the idea of a writer sticking it to the Man, and this is enjoyable to an extent, especially as manifested by the Maw scientists’ cartoonish adherence to procedure and interminable meetings to discuss their next move—even in the midst of battle. But the overabundance of superweapons and the reliance on them as plot devices left a decidedly sour taste in my mouth.
The entire Jedi Academy Trilogy suffers from forced references to the Star Wars films and some pretty egregious expository dialogue. Take this winner of a line from Mon Mothma, as she describes her improving condition:
“…My body is healing itself with a vengeance. The bacta tanks are working overtime, effective again now that Cilghal removed the nano-destroyers.”
…Yikes.
The biggest failing of this book in particular, however, is scattered plotting, clearly intended to be purely linear, that leaves the reader to piece together the novel’s proper chronology. “Now, wait, before that happened, this happened!” or “No, no, all of that happened at the same time as this. Never mind that it’s been nearly a hundred pages!” It’s not difficult to follow, but it definitely feels sloppy.
In case I haven’t made myself clear by this point, Anderson’s writing leaves much to be desired here. However, he obviously loves Star Wars and its characters, and that comes through in all three of these novels. This, along with some interesting ideas, makes these books quick, mostly-pleasant reads. They’re worth reading for completionists like myself, and they cover some important events in the post-Return of the Jedi chronology—though you could probably get all the highlights if you just read I, Jedi instead.

Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)

Champions of the Force is the final installment of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The previous book, Dark Apprentice, ended on a decidedly gloomy note. Kyp Durron, fallen student of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Praxeum, has made off with the Sun Crusher, an indestructible superweapon that can blow up stars, thereby incinerating entire star systems. The first chapter of Champions of the Force has Kyp annihilating the Imperial-controlled Carida system in a failed attempt to reunite himself with his brother.

Kyp had also put Luke in a coma, who spends a good chunk of this book as a disembodied spirit, unable to communicate with his Jedi students and having to rely on them to fend off countless attacks against his body engineered by the evil spirit of the ancient Sith lord, Exar Kun.

Surprisingly, all of this is resolved less than half-way through the novel, when Luke’s Jedi students manage to beat Exar Kun through… the power of teamwork? Despite the dismissive wording there, I actually found this to be a satisfying victory for the new Jedi, albeit a little cheesy.

With Exar Kun’s second death and Han Solo’s encouragement, Kyp Durron is able to shake his influence and turn from the dark side before continuing his rampage. Mon Mothma, who’s failing health is one of this novel’s primary concerns, defers to Luke Skywalker for judgment of the fallen Jedi. In a decision that appears to be just as divisive for fans as it is for various characters in the Star Wars universe, Luke accepts Kyp’s repentance and welcomes him back into the fold.

I’ve mentioned here before that I feel redemption is one of the central themes of the Star Wars saga, and allowing it even of a mass murderer (which, let’s not forget, is also what Darth Vader was) is consistent with that theme. The argument, of course, can be made that Kyp should have received some punishment, but regardless of what you think, I think it’s hard to argue that this decision isn’t one Luke would have made.

All that said, though, I don’t think that Anderson spends nearly enough time dealing with the fallout of Luke’s decision in this novel. Readers learned nothing of how the other Jedi students felt about this until four years later, in Michael Stackpole’s far superior treatment of the events of this trilogy in I, Jedi.

Champions of the Force reaches its climax with a battle over Maw Installation, the Imperial weapons development laboratory that created the Sun Crusher. New Republic forces tangle with Admiral Daala’s last Star Destroyer and… the Maw Installation’s Death Star prototype.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Kevin J. Anderson is obsessed with doomsday weapons. It’s not enough to have a weapon capable of wiping out entire solar systems. Let’s get another Death Star in on the action, too. Anderson’s next Star Wars novel, the unfortunately titled Darksaber, also deals with a weapon cobbled together from old Death Star plans.

In this novel’s about the author page, Anderson makes it clear that he used to work at a government research lab as a technical writer, and his Maw Installation is obviously a venting of dissatisfaction with either the job itself or the work that was done there. I can definitely get behind the idea of a writer sticking it to the Man, and this is enjoyable to an extent, especially as manifested by the Maw scientists’ cartoonish adherence to procedure and interminable meetings to discuss their next move—even in the midst of battle. But the overabundance of superweapons and the reliance on them as plot devices left a decidedly sour taste in my mouth.

The entire Jedi Academy Trilogy suffers from forced references to the Star Wars films and some pretty egregious expository dialogue. Take this winner of a line from Mon Mothma, as she describes her improving condition:

“…My body is healing itself with a vengeance. The bacta tanks are working overtime, effective again now that Cilghal removed the nano-destroyers.”

…Yikes.

The biggest failing of this book in particular, however, is scattered plotting, clearly intended to be purely linear, that leaves the reader to piece together the novel’s proper chronology. “Now, wait, before that happened, this happened!” or “No, no, all of that happened at the same time as this. Never mind that it’s been nearly a hundred pages!” It’s not difficult to follow, but it definitely feels sloppy.

In case I haven’t made myself clear by this point, Anderson’s writing leaves much to be desired here. However, he obviously loves Star Wars and its characters, and that comes through in all three of these novels. This, along with some interesting ideas, makes these books quick, mostly-pleasant reads. They’re worth reading for completionists like myself, and they cover some important events in the post-Return of the Jedi chronology—though you could probably get all the highlights if you just read I, Jedi instead.

Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)
The second Jedi Academy novel, Dark Apprentice, opens in a state of relative calm and general hunky-doriness. The deadly and indestructible Sun Crusher is launched into the center of the gas giant Yavin where it can’t be retrieved, and Luke has about a dozen students that he’s begun training at his new Jedi Academy, located on Yavin IV in the ancient temple and former Rebel base there. Unfortunately for Luke and all the others, Dark Apprentice follows the generally agreed-upon storytelling rule that in the second part of a trilogy, everything has to go to hell in a hand basket.

Just for starters, sabotage causes Admiral Ackbar’s personal B-wing to crash into a culturally important cathedral on a planet the New Republic is courting. Ackbar survives, but, believing the crash to be his own fault, resigns his command in disgrace.

Imperial Admiral Natasi Daala takes her surviving fleet on a mission to cause as much damage to the New Republic as possible. This includes wiping out a new colony on Dantooine along with every one of its inhabitants, followed by a devastating attack on Mon Calamari.

But the biggest threat lies on Yavin IV. We learn that the jungle moon is haunted by the spirit of a powerful Sith lord, Exar Kun, who lived four millennia ago and sparked galactic war. Kun’s spirit succeeds in killing one of Luke’s apprentices and seducing another: young Kyp Durron.

Durron, believing himself wise enough to use the dark side’s power for justice, decides that Luke is too weak to do what is necessary. With Exar Kun’s help, he drags the Sun Crusher out of Yavin’s core and makes off with it, vowing retribution for those who still serve the Empire that destroyed his childhood. He even manages to do something to Luke, leaving the Jedi Master catatonic and the apprentices to fend for themselves.

Kyp Durron’s fall to the dark side is believable; he has plenty of reason to be angry, and even if I hadn’t already known what was going to happen to Kyp, I think I would have seen it coming. Still, while his motivations are logical and Kyp’s way of rationalizing his descent into evil rings true, I can’t escape the feeling that it happens just a bit more quickly than what seems likely for such a momentous decision in a person’s life.

Dark Apprentice isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s a delightful subplot in which Han and Lando’s dispute over who rightfully owns the Millennium Falcon comes to a head. The two of them play sabaac for it, and the ship changes hands three times before Lando gives it to Han as a gift—whether because he’s such a great friend or to impress Mara Jade is unclear. This goes a long way towards keeping this book from getting too grim.


Wedge Antilles even gets to enjoy a budding romance with Qwi Xux, the Imperial scientist who escaped with Han, Chewie, and Kyp from Maw Installation. The relationship seems a bit unlikely due to the fact that Qwi is partially responsible for those two Death Stars Wedge helped blow up, but the passages that follow them on their trip to the forested planet of Ithor are heartwarming, if for no other reason than that it’s nice to see Wedge this contented—but even this culminates in disaster.

With Dark Apprentice, Kevin J. Anderson delivers a solid second installment to this trilogy that tops the first. The notion of an evil Force ghost is a fascinating one, and Exar Kun’s seduction of Kyp Durron reads a little like a Bizzaro version of Luke’s relationship with post-mortem Obi-Wan. Kyp himself makes a great villain because he plays on all of Luke’s insecurities about his ability to train Jedi. He flat-out accuses Luke of not knowing what he’s doing and, by turning to the dark side, fulfills Luke’s greatest fear.
The book certainly ends with enough loose threads to entice the reader to pick up the Jedi Academy Trilogy’s final chapter, Champions of the Force. We’ll check that one out next week.

Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)

The second Jedi Academy novel, Dark Apprentice, opens in a state of relative calm and general hunky-doriness. The deadly and indestructible Sun Crusher is launched into the center of the gas giant Yavin where it can’t be retrieved, and Luke has about a dozen students that he’s begun training at his new Jedi Academy, located on Yavin IV in the ancient temple and former Rebel base there. Unfortunately for Luke and all the others, Dark Apprentice follows the generally agreed-upon storytelling rule that in the second part of a trilogy, everything has to go to hell in a hand basket.

Just for starters, sabotage causes Admiral Ackbar’s personal B-wing to crash into a culturally important cathedral on a planet the New Republic is courting. Ackbar survives, but, believing the crash to be his own fault, resigns his command in disgrace.

Imperial Admiral Natasi Daala takes her surviving fleet on a mission to cause as much damage to the New Republic as possible. This includes wiping out a new colony on Dantooine along with every one of its inhabitants, followed by a devastating attack on Mon Calamari.

But the biggest threat lies on Yavin IV. We learn that the jungle moon is haunted by the spirit of a powerful Sith lord, Exar Kun, who lived four millennia ago and sparked galactic war. Kun’s spirit succeeds in killing one of Luke’s apprentices and seducing another: young Kyp Durron.

Durron, believing himself wise enough to use the dark side’s power for justice, decides that Luke is too weak to do what is necessary. With Exar Kun’s help, he drags the Sun Crusher out of Yavin’s core and makes off with it, vowing retribution for those who still serve the Empire that destroyed his childhood. He even manages to do something to Luke, leaving the Jedi Master catatonic and the apprentices to fend for themselves.

Kyp Durron’s fall to the dark side is believable; he has plenty of reason to be angry, and even if I hadn’t already known what was going to happen to Kyp, I think I would have seen it coming. Still, while his motivations are logical and Kyp’s way of rationalizing his descent into evil rings true, I can’t escape the feeling that it happens just a bit more quickly than what seems likely for such a momentous decision in a person’s life.

Dark Apprentice isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s a delightful subplot in which Han and Lando’s dispute over who rightfully owns the Millennium Falcon comes to a head. The two of them play sabaac for it, and the ship changes hands three times before Lando gives it to Han as a gift—whether because he’s such a great friend or to impress Mara Jade is unclear. This goes a long way towards keeping this book from getting too grim.

Wedge Antilles even gets to enjoy a budding romance with Qwi Xux, the Imperial scientist who escaped with Han, Chewie, and Kyp from Maw Installation. The relationship seems a bit unlikely due to the fact that Qwi is partially responsible for those two Death Stars Wedge helped blow up, but the passages that follow them on their trip to the forested planet of Ithor are heartwarming, if for no other reason than that it’s nice to see Wedge this contented—but even this culminates in disaster.

With Dark Apprentice, Kevin J. Anderson delivers a solid second installment to this trilogy that tops the first. The notion of an evil Force ghost is a fascinating one, and Exar Kun’s seduction of Kyp Durron reads a little like a Bizzaro version of Luke’s relationship with post-mortem Obi-Wan. Kyp himself makes a great villain because he plays on all of Luke’s insecurities about his ability to train Jedi. He flat-out accuses Luke of not knowing what he’s doing and, by turning to the dark side, fulfills Luke’s greatest fear.

The book certainly ends with enough loose threads to entice the reader to pick up the Jedi Academy Trilogy’s final chapter, Champions of the Force. We’ll check that one out next week.

Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)
Jedi Search is the first book of The Jedi Academy Trilogy, the second of several Star Wars novel trilogies published by Bantam. This one is set after the events of Dark Empire, with several references to “the resurrected Emperor.”

In the wake of those events, Luke is poised to finally establish a new Jedi order, which he intends to begin with an academy for new Jedi. After the New Republic Senate agrees to fund this project, Luke must first find students for the academy. Much of the book follows Luke’s efforts to track down Force-sensitive people scattered across the galaxy. Even Lando gets involved in this, in a portion of the book that took me longer than normal to read. I recognize that it was meant to be humorous, and it succeeded at first, but the moment it dawned on me that I’d read ten pages about racing amoebas was one of the saddest moments imaginable.

While Luke searches out students for his academy, Han and Chewie head to the mining/prison world of Kessel in an attempt to bring the planet into the New Republic fold.



However, the new boss on Kessel, while not quite the same as the old boss, does bare a grudge against Han. Rather than opening negotiations with them, Moruth Doole throws Han and Chewie into the spice mines. It’s here that they meet Kyp Durron.



Durron is a young man who has spent most of his life in the spice mines of Kessel and lost his entire family. It quickly becomes apparent that Kyp is Force-sensitive, and his abilities prove instrumental in helping Han and Chewbacca escape from Kessel.

It’s after this escape—and fairly late in the novel—that the Jedi Academy Trilogy’s Imperial antagonist, Admiral Daala, appears. Daala (pictured on the cover above), is a former protégé and lover of Grand Moff Tarkin. Shortly before the Death Star’s destruction, she, along with a team of scientists and a small Imperial fleet, was secluded at a secret weapons laboratory hidden at the calm center of the Maw, a cluster of black holes near Kessel.



Here they keep an old Death Star prototype, along with a new superweapon, the Sun Crusher, which can destroy entire solar systems.



With the help of the very scientist who designed the Sun Crusher, Han, Chewie, and Kyp are able to steal the device and escape with it back to Coruscant, where Luke has brought his new Jedi trainees, only to eventually relocate them to the newly established academy on Yavin 4.

Prior to this novel, the only Kevin J. Anderson I’d read consisted of the short stories he’d written for other Star Wars anthologies and a short Starjammers series he did for Marvel Comics about ten years ago. I’d found his work to be serviceable, but nothing to write home about.

To a certain extent, this is my assessment of Jedi Search as well. On a technical level, the writing lacks any particular flare, but it’s not terrible, and the straightforward prose gets the job done. There’s a tendency in this book toward token references to the Star Wars movies and to other expanded universe works that sometimes helps situate the reader, but at other times feels intrusive and superfluous.

The story of Jedi Search, however, is pretty solid, and the book really shines when it comes to characterization and character moments. Leia’s affection for her children and concern for Han, and even Threepio’s silly efforts to keep the Solo kids under control are often quite touching. There are also a number of passages which invite the reader to experience the awe and wonder of the Force as Luke begins to reveal its mysteries to his new recruits. At their best, these moments evoke some of the films’ sense of magic and grandeur.

All told, Jedi Search is a pleasant read, and a solid first entry for this trilogy. Next week, we’ll take a look at The Jedi Academy Trilogy’s second volume, Dark Apprentice.

Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam)

Jedi Search is the first book of The Jedi Academy Trilogy, the second of several Star Wars novel trilogies published by Bantam. This one is set after the events of Dark Empire, with several references to “the resurrected Emperor.”

In the wake of those events, Luke is poised to finally establish a new Jedi order, which he intends to begin with an academy for new Jedi. After the New Republic Senate agrees to fund this project, Luke must first find students for the academy. Much of the book follows Luke’s efforts to track down Force-sensitive people scattered across the galaxy. Even Lando gets involved in this, in a portion of the book that took me longer than normal to read. I recognize that it was meant to be humorous, and it succeeded at first, but the moment it dawned on me that I’d read ten pages about racing amoebas was one of the saddest moments imaginable.

While Luke searches out students for his academy, Han and Chewie head to the mining/prison world of Kessel in an attempt to bring the planet into the New Republic fold.

However, the new boss on Kessel, while not quite the same as the old boss, does bare a grudge against Han. Rather than opening negotiations with them, Moruth Doole throws Han and Chewie into the spice mines. It’s here that they meet Kyp Durron.

Durron is a young man who has spent most of his life in the spice mines of Kessel and lost his entire family. It quickly becomes apparent that Kyp is Force-sensitive, and his abilities prove instrumental in helping Han and Chewbacca escape from Kessel.

It’s after this escape—and fairly late in the novel—that the Jedi Academy Trilogy’s Imperial antagonist, Admiral Daala, appears. Daala (pictured on the cover above), is a former protégé and lover of Grand Moff Tarkin. Shortly before the Death Star’s destruction, she, along with a team of scientists and a small Imperial fleet, was secluded at a secret weapons laboratory hidden at the calm center of the Maw, a cluster of black holes near Kessel.

Here they keep an old Death Star prototype, along with a new superweapon, the Sun Crusher, which can destroy entire solar systems.

With the help of the very scientist who designed the Sun Crusher, Han, Chewie, and Kyp are able to steal the device and escape with it back to Coruscant, where Luke has brought his new Jedi trainees, only to eventually relocate them to the newly established academy on Yavin 4.

Prior to this novel, the only Kevin J. Anderson I’d read consisted of the short stories he’d written for other Star Wars anthologies and a short Starjammers series he did for Marvel Comics about ten years ago. I’d found his work to be serviceable, but nothing to write home about.

To a certain extent, this is my assessment of Jedi Search as well. On a technical level, the writing lacks any particular flare, but it’s not terrible, and the straightforward prose gets the job done. There’s a tendency in this book toward token references to the Star Wars movies and to other expanded universe works that sometimes helps situate the reader, but at other times feels intrusive and superfluous.

The story of Jedi Search, however, is pretty solid, and the book really shines when it comes to characterization and character moments. Leia’s affection for her children and concern for Han, and even Threepio’s silly efforts to keep the Solo kids under control are often quite touching. There are also a number of passages which invite the reader to experience the awe and wonder of the Force as Luke begins to reveal its mysteries to his new recruits. At their best, these moments evoke some of the films’ sense of magic and grandeur.

All told, Jedi Search is a pleasant read, and a solid first entry for this trilogy. Next week, we’ll take a look at The Jedi Academy Trilogy’s second volume, Dark Apprentice.

Tales from Jabba’s Palace edited by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)
If you’ve read Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales of the Bounty Hunters (or at least my reviews of those volumes), you can probably guess at what you’ll find in Tales from Jabba’s Palace. This is the second of three books featuring short stories by a variety of authors about incidental or background characters from the films (I chose to review them in chronological, rather than publication, order).

This collection contains nineteen stories and comes in at 420 pages. Because discussing each of these stories in depth would make for a very long review that would take a very long time to write—and because I should really be doing schoolwork right now—I’m going to go over what I consider to be the highlights and then talk about the collection as a whole.



I haven’t read a ton of Kevin J. Anderson’s work; only the stories in these Star Wars anthologies and a Starjammers mini-series he wrote for Marvel back in 2004. In general, I’ve found that body of work to be perfectly readable, but nothing earth-shattering. While I wouldn’t call “A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper’s Tale” an “earth-shattering” story, either, I would call it the best example I’ve seen of Anderson’s writing and one of the better stories in this anthology. He quickly makes Malakili sympathetic through his compassion for the rancor, and even engenders some sympathy for that vicious monster in the process. Anderson really made me want Malakili’s plan to escape Jabba’s palace with the rancor to succeed, despite knowing all along that it was doomed to failure.



This ridiculous creature has long been a favorite among my friends. I saw Return of the Jedi for the first time over a decade and a half ago, but I still can’t look at Salacious Crumb without, at the very least, an amused smirk. My pal Chris does a near spot-on imitation of Crumb’s cackle; perhaps I’ll record him doing it and put it up sometime if he’s amenable.

Anyway, Esther M. Friesner’s “That’s Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb” follows a stodgy professor called Melvosh Bloor who is seeking an interview with Jabba the Hutt for an academic paper on the crime lord. Instead of meeting with his arranged contact, however, Bloor runs afoul of everyone’s favorite Kowakian lizard-monkey, and sadistic—and highly amusing—antics ensue. The story functions as a wonderful satire on the politics of academia.



Timothy Zahn is possibly the only expanded universe author to create a character whose name is known even to many casual Star Wars fans. While I wish that were the case with more EU characters, Mara Jade is certainly worthy of her notoriety. In “Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade,” the Emperor’s hand is dispatched by her master to Jabba’s palace in order to kill Luke Skywalker (what else?). A number of circumstances conspire to rob Mara of her goal, but at least she gets to see her future husband and current assassination target kill Jabba’s rancor.

Tales from Jabba’s Palace was published before the Return of the Jedi Special Edition was released, so my arch-nemesis, Joh Yowza, is blessedly absent from the line-up of the Max Rebo Band in the somewhat redundantly titled “And the Band Played On: The Band’s Tale.”



John Gregory Betancourt gives the reader an entertaining band dynamic on par with that presented in Kathy Tyers’s story about Figrin D’an and the Modal nodes in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Sy Snoodles is actually the brains of the outfit, Snit (A.K.A. “Droopy McCool”) is the quiet one, and Max loves to eat. It’s a lot of fun.



“Of the Day’s Annoyances: Bib Fortuna’s Tale” is notable not only for its exploration of the Twi’lek Bib Fortuna, Jabba the Hutt’s Machiavellian scumbag of a majordomo, but also of the B’omarr monks, a religious order dedicated to seeking enlightenment through the shedding of their bodies. To this end, their brains are extracted and placed in droid walkers. M. Shayne Bell weaves a gritty tale of cloak-and-dagger intrigue as Fortuna attempts to use the monks to further his own ends, only to have the tables turned on him. There are a number of twists that keep things interesting, and I found the story’s conclusion extremely satisfying.



Several of the stories in this collection revolve around, or at least mention, a series of killings in the palace by an unknown culprit with no conclusive motivations. I was quite pleased to discover that the killer was Dannik Jerriko, the pipe-smoking Anzati brain-vampire from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Jennifer Roberson, author of the Dannik Jerriko story from Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina returns here to write “Out of the Closet: The Assassin’s Tale,” which mostly consists of Jerriko prowling around and pontificating on various qualities of “soup” (that is to say, “brains”).

Han Solo, whose soup Jerriko has been craving for four years now, slips through his fingers again, and he throws a tantrum, killing several folks at the palace. What surprises me is that this is the last we hear of him. I love this guy, and really wish somebody would use him in a book. I wanna see him and Han throw down, dammit!



J.D. Montgomery has the distinction of chronicling Boba Fett’s triumphant escape from the Sarlacc pit in “A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett.” This gets a little more metaphysical than one might expect in a story about Fett. The bounty hunter, trapped and temporarily paralyzed, speaks to the Sarlacc’s first victim and now controller, Susejo, and other still-(quasi)living people who had also become Sarlacc snacks. The story’s narrative structure is built around long conversations between Boba Fett and Susejo and the mournful testimonies of other Sarlaac victims, including a millennia-old Jedi.




The denizens of Jabba’s palace are less interesting to me than those of Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley. This may be in part because of the simple fact that the camera’s eye lingers on the bar patrons in A New Hope longer than it does on the creatures found in Jedi. Nevertheless, this book has a sense of cohesion among the stories, references to this volume’s predecessor, and some very funny moments and ideas (see “The Great God Quay: The Tale of Barada and the Weequays”) to its credit. This collection is a worthy entry in the Tales series, despite not being quite as good as its two trilogy-focused counterparts.

Tales from Jabba’s Palace edited by Kevin J. Anderson (1995, Bantam)

If you’ve read Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales of the Bounty Hunters (or at least my reviews of those volumes), you can probably guess at what you’ll find in Tales from Jabba’s Palace. This is the second of three books featuring short stories by a variety of authors about incidental or background characters from the films (I chose to review them in chronological, rather than publication, order).

This collection contains nineteen stories and comes in at 420 pages. Because discussing each of these stories in depth would make for a very long review that would take a very long time to write—and because I should really be doing schoolwork right now—I’m going to go over what I consider to be the highlights and then talk about the collection as a whole.

I haven’t read a ton of Kevin J. Anderson’s work; only the stories in these Star Wars anthologies and a Starjammers mini-series he wrote for Marvel back in 2004. In general, I’ve found that body of work to be perfectly readable, but nothing earth-shattering. While I wouldn’t call “A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper’s Tale” an “earth-shattering” story, either, I would call it the best example I’ve seen of Anderson’s writing and one of the better stories in this anthology. He quickly makes Malakili sympathetic through his compassion for the rancor, and even engenders some sympathy for that vicious monster in the process. Anderson really made me want Malakili’s plan to escape Jabba’s palace with the rancor to succeed, despite knowing all along that it was doomed to failure.

This ridiculous creature has long been a favorite among my friends. I saw Return of the Jedi for the first time over a decade and a half ago, but I still can’t look at Salacious Crumb without, at the very least, an amused smirk. My pal Chris does a near spot-on imitation of Crumb’s cackle; perhaps I’ll record him doing it and put it up sometime if he’s amenable.

Anyway, Esther M. Friesner’s “That’s Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb” follows a stodgy professor called Melvosh Bloor who is seeking an interview with Jabba the Hutt for an academic paper on the crime lord. Instead of meeting with his arranged contact, however, Bloor runs afoul of everyone’s favorite Kowakian lizard-monkey, and sadistic—and highly amusing—antics ensue. The story functions as a wonderful satire on the politics of academia.

Timothy Zahn is possibly the only expanded universe author to create a character whose name is known even to many casual Star Wars fans. While I wish that were the case with more EU characters, Mara Jade is certainly worthy of her notoriety. In “Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade,” the Emperor’s hand is dispatched by her master to Jabba’s palace in order to kill Luke Skywalker (what else?). A number of circumstances conspire to rob Mara of her goal, but at least she gets to see her future husband and current assassination target kill Jabba’s rancor.


Tales from Jabba’s Palace was published before the Return of the Jedi Special Edition was released, so my arch-nemesis, Joh Yowza, is blessedly absent from the line-up of the Max Rebo Band in the somewhat redundantly titled “And the Band Played On: The Band’s Tale.”

John Gregory Betancourt gives the reader an entertaining band dynamic on par with that presented in Kathy Tyers’s story about Figrin D’an and the Modal nodes in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Sy Snoodles is actually the brains of the outfit, Snit (A.K.A. “Droopy McCool”) is the quiet one, and Max loves to eat. It’s a lot of fun.

“Of the Day’s Annoyances: Bib Fortuna’s Tale” is notable not only for its exploration of the Twi’lek Bib Fortuna, Jabba the Hutt’s Machiavellian scumbag of a majordomo, but also of the B’omarr monks, a religious order dedicated to seeking enlightenment through the shedding of their bodies. To this end, their brains are extracted and placed in droid walkers. M. Shayne Bell weaves a gritty tale of cloak-and-dagger intrigue as Fortuna attempts to use the monks to further his own ends, only to have the tables turned on him. There are a number of twists that keep things interesting, and I found the story’s conclusion extremely satisfying.

Several of the stories in this collection revolve around, or at least mention, a series of killings in the palace by an unknown culprit with no conclusive motivations. I was quite pleased to discover that the killer was Dannik Jerriko, the pipe-smoking Anzati brain-vampire from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Jennifer Roberson, author of the Dannik Jerriko story from Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina returns here to write “Out of the Closet: The Assassin’s Tale,” which mostly consists of Jerriko prowling around and pontificating on various qualities of “soup” (that is to say, “brains”).

Han Solo, whose soup Jerriko has been craving for four years now, slips through his fingers again, and he throws a tantrum, killing several folks at the palace. What surprises me is that this is the last we hear of him. I love this guy, and really wish somebody would use him in a book. I wanna see him and Han throw down, dammit!

J.D. Montgomery has the distinction of chronicling Boba Fett’s triumphant escape from the Sarlacc pit in “A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett.” This gets a little more metaphysical than one might expect in a story about Fett. The bounty hunter, trapped and temporarily paralyzed, speaks to the Sarlacc’s first victim and now controller, Susejo, and other still-(quasi)living people who had also become Sarlacc snacks. The story’s narrative structure is built around long conversations between Boba Fett and Susejo and the mournful testimonies of other Sarlaac victims, including a millennia-old Jedi.

The denizens of Jabba’s palace are less interesting to me than those of Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley. This may be in part because of the simple fact that the camera’s eye lingers on the bar patrons in A New Hope longer than it does on the creatures found in Jedi. Nevertheless, this book has a sense of cohesion among the stories, references to this volume’s predecessor, and some very funny moments and ideas (see “The Great God Quay: The Tale of Barada and the Weequays”) to its credit. This collection is a worthy entry in the Tales series, despite not being quite as good as its two trilogy-focused counterparts.

Tales of the Bounty Hunters, edited by Kevin J. Anderson (1996, Bantam)
Like Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Tales of the Bounty Hunters is an anthology of stories by different authors set during and around the events of one of the films. This one, of course, follows the exploits of the bounty hunters that Darth Vader sicked on Han Solo and the crew of the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.
Unlike the other two collections mentioned above, this one has only five stories (as opposed to sixteen or nineteen). The trade-off is that each is significantly longer, still managing to fill your standard three-hundred plus pages for a Star Wars paperback.



The collection opens with “Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88” by Kevin J. Anderson. The story reveals that the assassin droid showed up on the Executor (Vader’s Super Star Destroyer) partially to raise funds for his ultimate goal and partially to divert attention from that goal: complete destruction of all organic life in the galaxy, ushering in an era of droid supremacy.
Anderson writes serviceable, quick-paced prose, but he indulges in a little bit of cheese here when IG-88 and his duplicates start killing folks. In my mind’s eye, I could see a ‘90s holofoil super-special-awesome collector’s edition comic book cover for this story with the words “ROBOT CARNAGE!!!” emblazoned on it. That said, this isn’t a bad story. It’s reasonably entertaining, and its conclusion is immensely satisfying. IG-88 is foiled by his arrogance, a trait that is, of course, all too human.




You know, Boba Fett gets all the love. When I read this book years ago, I became just as fascinated with Dengar because of Dave Wolverton’s “Payback: The Tale of Dengar.” It turns out that Dengar’s head is all bandaged up because of a nasty swoop bike crash—the result of a race with none other than Han Solo. Dengar’s life was saved by Imperial doctors, who made him into an ideal government assassin by burning out several of the emotional centers in his brain. This left Dengar with few emotions save for rage, the likely false hope that his situation might improve, and loneliness.
This begins to change when he meets Manaroo, a member of a race whose members share a cybernetic empathic link with those closest to them through a device called an attanni. Through brief glimpses Manaroo provides, Dengar slowly relearns to make decisions for the wellbeing of another person, to distinguish from right and wrong, and to love. The last thing most folks would expect from this collection is for any of the stories to tug at the heartstrings, but Wolverton does so here, and to good effect. The story is romantic and even heart-warming, but Wolverton remembers that Dengar has spent years as a cold-blooded killer, and doesn’t let the bounty hunter’s transformation stray into the realm of schmaltz.




Despite the title of the third story—“The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk”—Kathy Tyers chooses to make the big Trandoshan bounty hunter the antagonist of this tale. The protagonists are two original characters: A human woman called Tinian I’att and her Wookie partner, Chenlambec. Both sign on to help Bossk with the intention of capturing him and collecting the bounty on his head. Bossk, on the other hand, is interested in Chenlambec’s rare silver-tip pelt.
The story’s cat-and-mouse game works well enough, but its most interesting elements are its insights into Trandoshan culture. Bossk’s people worship a deity known as the Scorekeeper, who tallies point values based on kills made, pelts collected, and other lovely things, all to be rewarded in the afterlife. There’s something chilling and captivating to me about an alien race with a truly alien set of ethics. I would have liked to have seen more discussion of these ideas here, but the story is solid nevertheless.




Mysticism is something one would not be likely to associate with any of these characters, but I’m glad that M. Shayne Bell did in “Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM.” It turns out that Zuckuss has a gift he simply calls “intuition,” which allows him, through meditation, to discern the location and intentions of people, as well as the outcome of events. It is left relatively ambiguous as to whether this gift has anything to do with the Force, but either way, Zuckuss’s droid partner 4-LOM, who has a long history of exhibiting several very un-droid-like qualities (such as greed), has also decided that he can learn Zuckuss’s skill.
The story also follows Rebel Commander Toryn Farr, who is forced to make several tough decisions during the evacuation of Hoth. Her path crosses with that of Zuckuss and 4-LOM when the former intuits the Rebel rendezvous point outside the galaxy, and the bounty hunters rescue Farr and her crew as a gesture of good faith—a decision that later prompts the pair to begin working for the Alliance.

In this story, Bell explores the themes of choice and consequence and keeps things interesting by writing both Zuckuss and 4-LOM in a way that defies the expectations I imagine most readers had for those characters going in.




In compiling this volume, Kevin J. Anderson has saved the best for last. I don’t say this because Boba Fett is a fan favorite character. Boba Fett is pretty bad ass, to be sure, but this last story is the best simply because Daniel Keys Moran’s “The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett” is the most well-written story here. Its prose is thoughtfully considered and skillfully crafted, full of memorable lines and phrases that are repeated at appropriate moments throughout the story.
This one covers the greatest length of time, beginning with Boba Fett’s first from-a-distance encounter with Han Solo, tracing his activities through the trilogy and beyond, and ending with a confrontation between Fett and Solo, the conclusion of which is left ambiguous. Moran conveys the passage of time in poetic fashion, sometimes choosing to execute time skips with an isolated line reading “Fifteen years passed,” and other times doing so with several paragraphs describing the monumental changes taking place in the galaxy, and in Boba Fett and Han Solo. There is plenty of Boba Fett being a badass and exploration of his unique and uncompromising principles to be found here, but at its heart, this story is really about aging and change. It’s an excellent exploration of those themes, and I don’t just mean “for a Star Wars book.”

Tales of the Bounty Hunters isn’t quite as cohesive a collection as Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales from Jabba’s Palace, and the difference in quality between these stories is more noticeable because there are fewer of them, but for a fan of Star Wars books, they are all well worth reading. 

Tales of the Bounty Hunters, edited by Kevin J. Anderson (1996, Bantam)

Like Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina and Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Tales of the Bounty Hunters is an anthology of stories by different authors set during and around the events of one of the films. This one, of course, follows the exploits of the bounty hunters that Darth Vader sicked on Han Solo and the crew of the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.

Unlike the other two collections mentioned above, this one has only five stories (as opposed to sixteen or nineteen). The trade-off is that each is significantly longer, still managing to fill your standard three-hundred plus pages for a Star Wars paperback.

The collection opens with “Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88” by Kevin J. Anderson. The story reveals that the assassin droid showed up on the Executor (Vader’s Super Star Destroyer) partially to raise funds for his ultimate goal and partially to divert attention from that goal: complete destruction of all organic life in the galaxy, ushering in an era of droid supremacy.

Anderson writes serviceable, quick-paced prose, but he indulges in a little bit of cheese here when IG-88 and his duplicates start killing folks. In my mind’s eye, I could see a ‘90s holofoil super-special-awesome collector’s edition comic book cover for this story with the words “ROBOT CARNAGE!!!” emblazoned on it. That said, this isn’t a bad story. It’s reasonably entertaining, and its conclusion is immensely satisfying. IG-88 is foiled by his arrogance, a trait that is, of course, all too human.

You know, Boba Fett gets all the love. When I read this book years ago, I became just as fascinated with Dengar because of Dave Wolverton’s “Payback: The Tale of Dengar.” It turns out that Dengar’s head is all bandaged up because of a nasty swoop bike crash—the result of a race with none other than Han Solo. Dengar’s life was saved by Imperial doctors, who made him into an ideal government assassin by burning out several of the emotional centers in his brain. This left Dengar with few emotions save for rage, the likely false hope that his situation might improve, and loneliness.

This begins to change when he meets Manaroo, a member of a race whose members share a cybernetic empathic link with those closest to them through a device called an attanni. Through brief glimpses Manaroo provides, Dengar slowly relearns to make decisions for the wellbeing of another person, to distinguish from right and wrong, and to love. The last thing most folks would expect from this collection is for any of the stories to tug at the heartstrings, but Wolverton does so here, and to good effect. The story is romantic and even heart-warming, but Wolverton remembers that Dengar has spent years as a cold-blooded killer, and doesn’t let the bounty hunter’s transformation stray into the realm of schmaltz.

Despite the title of the third story—“The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk”—Kathy Tyers chooses to make the big Trandoshan bounty hunter the antagonist of this tale. The protagonists are two original characters: A human woman called Tinian I’att and her Wookie partner, Chenlambec. Both sign on to help Bossk with the intention of capturing him and collecting the bounty on his head. Bossk, on the other hand, is interested in Chenlambec’s rare silver-tip pelt.

The story’s cat-and-mouse game works well enough, but its most interesting elements are its insights into Trandoshan culture. Bossk’s people worship a deity known as the Scorekeeper, who tallies point values based on kills made, pelts collected, and other lovely things, all to be rewarded in the afterlife. There’s something chilling and captivating to me about an alien race with a truly alien set of ethics. I would have liked to have seen more discussion of these ideas here, but the story is solid nevertheless.

Mysticism is something one would not be likely to associate with any of these characters, but I’m glad that M. Shayne Bell did in “Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM.” It turns out that Zuckuss has a gift he simply calls “intuition,” which allows him, through meditation, to discern the location and intentions of people, as well as the outcome of events. It is left relatively ambiguous as to whether this gift has anything to do with the Force, but either way, Zuckuss’s droid partner 4-LOM, who has a long history of exhibiting several very un-droid-like qualities (such as greed), has also decided that he can learn Zuckuss’s skill.

The story also follows Rebel Commander Toryn Farr, who is forced to make several tough decisions during the evacuation of Hoth. Her path crosses with that of Zuckuss and 4-LOM when the former intuits the Rebel rendezvous point outside the galaxy, and the bounty hunters rescue Farr and her crew as a gesture of good faith—a decision that later prompts the pair to begin working for the Alliance.

In this story, Bell explores the themes of choice and consequence and keeps things interesting by writing both Zuckuss and 4-LOM in a way that defies the expectations I imagine most readers had for those characters going in.

In compiling this volume, Kevin J. Anderson has saved the best for last. I don’t say this because Boba Fett is a fan favorite character. Boba Fett is pretty bad ass, to be sure, but this last story is the best simply because Daniel Keys Moran’s “The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett” is the most well-written story here. Its prose is thoughtfully considered and skillfully crafted, full of memorable lines and phrases that are repeated at appropriate moments throughout the story.

This one covers the greatest length of time, beginning with Boba Fett’s first from-a-distance encounter with Han Solo, tracing his activities through the trilogy and beyond, and ending with a confrontation between Fett and Solo, the conclusion of which is left ambiguous. Moran conveys the passage of time in poetic fashion, sometimes choosing to execute time skips with an isolated line reading “Fifteen years passed,” and other times doing so with several paragraphs describing the monumental changes taking place in the galaxy, and in Boba Fett and Han Solo. There is plenty of Boba Fett being a badass and exploration of his unique and uncompromising principles to be found here, but at its heart, this story is really about aging and change. It’s an excellent exploration of those themes, and I don’t just mean “for a Star Wars book.”

Tales of the Bounty Hunters isn’t quite as cohesive a collection as Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or Tales from Jabba’s Palace, and the difference in quality between these stories is more noticeable because there are fewer of them, but for a fan of Star Wars books, they are all well worth reading.