The Stolen Data Tapes
Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller (2011, Del Rey)
From a certain point of view, this is the “oldest” book I’ve reviewed so far, despite the fact that it was published earlier this year. Knight Errant is set a full millennium before the events of the Star Wars movies. Most current fans are familiar with this and other much longer ago periods in the galaxy far, far away, but this was new territory for me.

During this time, much of the galaxy is dominated by Sith lords who have carved out feudal territories for themselves. As you’d probably assume, all of these governments are wildly oppressive, and the Sith spend most of their time and resources on wars among themselves.

Knight Errant is part of the story told in the Dark Horse comic of the same name.



I haven’t read these comics yet, but Miller does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed. The novel’s protagonist, Kerra Holt, is a lone Jedi who has been stranded in Sith space and continues to wage guerilla warfare against the Sith. When the fighting between two Sith brothers leaves Kerra and mercenary captain Jarrow Rusher with a ship full of child refugees to handle, Kerra’s mission changes. She must find a safe place for them.

Miller appears to have a real talent for coming up with colorful villains. My personal favorite is Daiman, who believes himself to be the creator of the universe, but there are several others: Odion, a sort of barbarian-king; Quillan and Dromika, siblings who jointly mind-control an entire planetary population; Arkadia, a ruthless pragmatist; and Vilia, a matronly old woman who may just be a Palpatine-level mastermind.

The plot moves along in an episodic fashion, with the crew of Rusher’s ship carting the refugees from one Sith dystopia to the next, in hope of finding someplace remotely tolerable. Kerra and Rusher spend most of the book arguing about whether or not this or that planet is suitable for the children (Rusher wants to get rid of these kids and get back to his job), and they learn a lot from each other about the tension between ideals and reality.

Given that there are nearly two thousand of these refugees, it seems to me that more than one of them should be a character with a name and personality. They are treated as the driving plot device, with little to no development.

Miller is able to compensate for this a little through Kerra and Rusher, who are both strong, well-drawn characters and good foils for one another. The book’s final reveal, which ties its events together, didn’t quite knock my socks off, but it was a pretty good surprise nonetheless.

Knight Errant isn’t a perfect book, but its protagonist and setting are good enough to peak my interest in the comic series, as well as this era of Star Wars fiction.

Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller (2011, Del Rey)

From a certain point of view, this is the “oldest” book I’ve reviewed so far, despite the fact that it was published earlier this year. Knight Errant is set a full millennium before the events of the Star Wars movies. Most current fans are familiar with this and other much longer ago periods in the galaxy far, far away, but this was new territory for me.

During this time, much of the galaxy is dominated by Sith lords who have carved out feudal territories for themselves. As you’d probably assume, all of these governments are wildly oppressive, and the Sith spend most of their time and resources on wars among themselves.

Knight Errant is part of the story told in the Dark Horse comic of the same name.

I haven’t read these comics yet, but Miller does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed. The novel’s protagonist, Kerra Holt, is a lone Jedi who has been stranded in Sith space and continues to wage guerilla warfare against the Sith. When the fighting between two Sith brothers leaves Kerra and mercenary captain Jarrow Rusher with a ship full of child refugees to handle, Kerra’s mission changes. She must find a safe place for them.

Miller appears to have a real talent for coming up with colorful villains. My personal favorite is Daiman, who believes himself to be the creator of the universe, but there are several others: Odion, a sort of barbarian-king; Quillan and Dromika, siblings who jointly mind-control an entire planetary population; Arkadia, a ruthless pragmatist; and Vilia, a matronly old woman who may just be a Palpatine-level mastermind.

The plot moves along in an episodic fashion, with the crew of Rusher’s ship carting the refugees from one Sith dystopia to the next, in hope of finding someplace remotely tolerable. Kerra and Rusher spend most of the book arguing about whether or not this or that planet is suitable for the children (Rusher wants to get rid of these kids and get back to his job), and they learn a lot from each other about the tension between ideals and reality.

Given that there are nearly two thousand of these refugees, it seems to me that more than one of them should be a character with a name and personality. They are treated as the driving plot device, with little to no development.

Miller is able to compensate for this a little through Kerra and Rusher, who are both strong, well-drawn characters and good foils for one another. The book’s final reveal, which ties its events together, didn’t quite knock my socks off, but it was a pretty good surprise nonetheless.

Knight Errant isn’t a perfect book, but its protagonist and setting are good enough to peak my interest in the comic series, as well as this era of Star Wars fiction.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks (1999, Del Rey)
I bought this book soon after it came out. At the time, I didn’t have any real interest in reading any of the movie novelizations because, as I reasoned, I already knew those stories. Why, then, did I pick up a copy of the Phantom Menace novel right away, more than a decade before I conceived of a project that would require me to own it? Two words: Terry Brooks.

Brooks, best known for his many Shannara novels, has been one of my favorite writers of fantasy fiction since a few years prior to the release of Episode I, when I read Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!, the first book of his Landover series. He constantly puts an unexpected spin on familiar fantasy concepts and has a talent for always creating characters that feel thoroughly authentic, regardless of the outlandishness of the setting. If you haven’t read anything of his, do so. He’s the king.

Brooks brings those talents to the table in his novelization of The Phantom Menace. He switches up the sequence of events a little bit, giving us a podrace to open the novel and furnishing us with a more detailed account of Anakin’s life on Tatooine. These early passages—particularly one in which Anakin and friends talk to an old spacer about becoming pilots one day—are filled with a sense of childlike wonder that isn’t hampered by the sub-par performances of Jake Lloyd and the other child actors in the film. Free of bad delivery, even such classically irritating lines as “Are you an angel?” brought a smile to my face that was, I’m sure, much closer to the one George Lucas intended than my usual sardonic smirk. With a few passages unique to the novel, Brooks even managed to endear Anakin’s friends to me, and I even found myself wondering what became of them.

Through passages such as one in which Anakin helps an injured Tusken Raider, Brooks puts a heavy emphasis on Anakin’s kindness and compassion, creating a starker contrast between the boy and the more-machine-than-man he will become. Other sections, which, according to his memoir, Brooks developed over the phone with Lucas, provide details about the histories of the Jedi and the Sith that have served as the basis for the recent deluge of material set a millennium before the movies.

All of this is great. The tone and characterizations are spot on and I would go so far as to say that there are many ways in which this novel is better than the film. Still, we can’t ignore the elephant—or rather, the Gungan—in the room.



Despite several expansions, there are no deviations from the film’s plot here, and unfortunately, Jar Jar Binks is quite present in this book. I would never have thought it possible, but the bane of every fan’s existence may be even more annoying in prose. Having to see the Gungan dialect printed on a page is a truly harrowing experience. Anybody interested in banding together and offering a cash reward to the author who kills Jar Jar? Ah, who am I kidding? I’m too broke to play The Old Republic, let alone put out a Binks bounty. A guy can dream, though, right?
Despite the presence of the most unlikely and unfortunate general and senator of all time, Terry Brooks has written an adaptation that succeeds as its own entity more than any of the original trilogy novelizations.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks (1999, Del Rey)

I bought this book soon after it came out. At the time, I didn’t have any real interest in reading any of the movie novelizations because, as I reasoned, I already knew those stories. Why, then, did I pick up a copy of the Phantom Menace novel right away, more than a decade before I conceived of a project that would require me to own it? Two words: Terry Brooks.

Brooks, best known for his many Shannara novels, has been one of my favorite writers of fantasy fiction since a few years prior to the release of Episode I, when I read Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!, the first book of his Landover series. He constantly puts an unexpected spin on familiar fantasy concepts and has a talent for always creating characters that feel thoroughly authentic, regardless of the outlandishness of the setting. If you haven’t read anything of his, do so. He’s the king.

Brooks brings those talents to the table in his novelization of The Phantom Menace. He switches up the sequence of events a little bit, giving us a podrace to open the novel and furnishing us with a more detailed account of Anakin’s life on Tatooine. These early passages—particularly one in which Anakin and friends talk to an old spacer about becoming pilots one day—are filled with a sense of childlike wonder that isn’t hampered by the sub-par performances of Jake Lloyd and the other child actors in the film. Free of bad delivery, even such classically irritating lines as “Are you an angel?” brought a smile to my face that was, I’m sure, much closer to the one George Lucas intended than my usual sardonic smirk. With a few passages unique to the novel, Brooks even managed to endear Anakin’s friends to me, and I even found myself wondering what became of them.

Through passages such as one in which Anakin helps an injured Tusken Raider, Brooks puts a heavy emphasis on Anakin’s kindness and compassion, creating a starker contrast between the boy and the more-machine-than-man he will become. Other sections, which, according to his memoir, Brooks developed over the phone with Lucas, provide details about the histories of the Jedi and the Sith that have served as the basis for the recent deluge of material set a millennium before the movies.

All of this is great. The tone and characterizations are spot on and I would go so far as to say that there are many ways in which this novel is better than the film. Still, we can’t ignore the elephant—or rather, the Gungan—in the room.

Despite several expansions, there are no deviations from the film’s plot here, and unfortunately, Jar Jar Binks is quite present in this book. I would never have thought it possible, but the bane of every fan’s existence may be even more annoying in prose. Having to see the Gungan dialect printed on a page is a truly harrowing experience. Anybody interested in banding together and offering a cash reward to the author who kills Jar Jar? Ah, who am I kidding? I’m too broke to play The Old Republic, let alone put out a Binks bounty. A guy can dream, though, right?

Despite the presence of the most unlikely and unfortunate general and senator of all time, Terry Brooks has written an adaptation that succeeds as its own entity more than any of the original trilogy novelizations.