The Stolen Data Tapes
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.

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (1991, Bantam)
Last week, I wrote about Tales from the New Republic, the final book published by Bantam in 1999. That decade of Star Wars novels, and really the expanded universe as it’s generally known, began in 1991 with this novel. It, along with Tom Veitch’s and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire, were the first of the veritable explosion of Star Wars books, comics, and other media that has not subsided since. At the time, aside from the later issues of the Marvel Comics Star Wars series, there were no works set after the events of Return of the Jedi. Heir also remains one of the only Star Wars novels that I find even many casual fans have read. The novel introduces many characters and concepts that would go on to be widely used in the expanded universe and one concept—the galactic capital planet of Coruscant—that would be used in the later Star Wars films.

The novel is set five years after Return of the Jedi. Han and Leia are expecting twins and Luke is still trying to figure out what being a Jedi really means. In an emotional passage in the book’s second chapter, Obi-Wan Kenobi appears to Luke in a dream to bid him farewell, assuring Luke that he is “not the last of the old Jedi,” but “the first of the new.”

Having more or less established itself as a legitimate government, the New Republic faces inner turmoil as underhanded Bothan politician Borsk Fey’lya vies with Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma for control.

Unbeknownst to our heroes or the leaders of the New Republic, there is a new threat from without, as well, in the form of an Imperial Grand Admiral known as Thrawn.



The fact that Thrawn is an alien speaks highly of his abilities, given the Empire’s previous anti-alien policies. Thrawn, who has taken command of the Empire, is a military genius who is almost always a step ahead of his enemies, predicting their actions through an analysis of their psychology often extrapolated from various cultures’ artwork. He is assisted by Gilad Pellaeon, the commander of Thrawn’s flagship.

Pallaeon is himself a highly competent military officer, but finds himself continually amazed at Thrawn’s virtually flawless deductions. They’re sort of like Holmes and Watson—if Holmes and Watson were space-fascists.

The plot is wonderfully multifaceted, but largely hinges on a deal Thrawn strikes with an insane clone of a dead Jedi, Joruus C’baoth. In exchange for C’baoth’s ability to coordinate Thrawn’s fleet through the Force, Thrawn will provide Jedi for C’baoth to corrupt. Namely, Luke, Leia, and her unborn twins.

When Luke responds to rumors and  C’baoth’s call through the force, he is attacked on the way to this rendezvous and, after a hasty hyperspace jump, Luke is left with a damaged ship, stranded in space. He’s picked up by the Wild Karrde, a vessel belonging to pun-happy smuggling kingpin Talon Karrde.

Really, however, Karrde’s happening upon Luke is no coincidence. One of Karrde’s associates happens to be Mara Jade.



Jade’s secret is that she once served as the Emperor’s Hand, a Force-sensitive agent with whom Palpatine communicated directly through the Force and who carried out special assignments for him. Mara’s entire life was pulled out from under her when Palpatine died, and she lays the blame for this squarely on Luke’s shoulders. In retaliation, she intends to kill the young Jedi.

Carefully laying all of these elements in place, Zahn builds toward surprising revelations, a rousing space battle climax, and a gripping hook for the next installment of this trilogy.

Many fans would consider it blasphemous to say a single negative word about this book, and generally with good reason. There is very little to say about it in the way of negative words. Still, I can’t help but be uncomfortable with one critical plot element: the ysalamiri. Ysalamiri are creatures who are able to create a “bubble” in the Force where the Force is ineffective. I feel that this treats the Force more like a super power than the all-pervasive spiritual concept that is established in the original trilogy. Nevertheless, Zahn does use this plot element to good effect to present Luke with some interesting challenges on a planet full of these creatures.

I don’t want to emphasize this complaint too heavily because it’s a matter of personal perspective and, apart from it, I think one would be hard-pressed to find anything Zahn doesn’t get right. As evidenced by this blog, I’ve read a ton of Star Wars books, but I have yet to read any that so perfectly capture the mood of the original films as Zahn does in what has become known as the “Thrawn Trilogy.” He perfectly captures the motivations and personalities of the movie protagonists, and his new characters fit seamlessly into the Star Wars universe. It isn’t hard to understand why Star Wars books enjoyed such success after the publication of Heir. As a Star Wars story, this novel is virtually flawless.

It has been my practice since I started The Stolen Data Tapes back in May to review a trilogy or other series of books all in one week. Unfortunately, my reading has caught up to my reviews, so I am only one book ahead of myself. This means I’ll have to stretch my reviews of the Thrawn Trilogy out over the next few weeks. Join me next Friday, then, for a look at the second volume, Dark Force Rising.

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (1991, Bantam)

Last week, I wrote about Tales from the New Republic, the final book published by Bantam in 1999. That decade of Star Wars novels, and really the expanded universe as it’s generally known, began in 1991 with this novel. It, along with Tom Veitch’s and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire, were the first of the veritable explosion of Star Wars books, comics, and other media that has not subsided since. At the time, aside from the later issues of the Marvel Comics Star Wars series, there were no works set after the events of Return of the Jedi. Heir also remains one of the only Star Wars novels that I find even many casual fans have read. The novel introduces many characters and concepts that would go on to be widely used in the expanded universe and one concept—the galactic capital planet of Coruscant—that would be used in the later Star Wars films.

The novel is set five years after Return of the Jedi. Han and Leia are expecting twins and Luke is still trying to figure out what being a Jedi really means. In an emotional passage in the book’s second chapter, Obi-Wan Kenobi appears to Luke in a dream to bid him farewell, assuring Luke that he is “not the last of the old Jedi,” but “the first of the new.”

Having more or less established itself as a legitimate government, the New Republic faces inner turmoil as underhanded Bothan politician Borsk Fey’lya vies with Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma for control.

Unbeknownst to our heroes or the leaders of the New Republic, there is a new threat from without, as well, in the form of an Imperial Grand Admiral known as Thrawn.

The fact that Thrawn is an alien speaks highly of his abilities, given the Empire’s previous anti-alien policies. Thrawn, who has taken command of the Empire, is a military genius who is almost always a step ahead of his enemies, predicting their actions through an analysis of their psychology often extrapolated from various cultures’ artwork. He is assisted by Gilad Pellaeon, the commander of Thrawn’s flagship.

Pallaeon is himself a highly competent military officer, but finds himself continually amazed at Thrawn’s virtually flawless deductions. They’re sort of like Holmes and Watson—if Holmes and Watson were space-fascists.

The plot is wonderfully multifaceted, but largely hinges on a deal Thrawn strikes with an insane clone of a dead Jedi, Joruus C’baoth. In exchange for C’baoth’s ability to coordinate Thrawn’s fleet through the Force, Thrawn will provide Jedi for C’baoth to corrupt. Namely, Luke, Leia, and her unborn twins.

When Luke responds to rumors and  C’baoth’s call through the force, he is attacked on the way to this rendezvous and, after a hasty hyperspace jump, Luke is left with a damaged ship, stranded in space. He’s picked up by the Wild Karrde, a vessel belonging to pun-happy smuggling kingpin Talon Karrde.

Really, however, Karrde’s happening upon Luke is no coincidence. One of Karrde’s associates happens to be Mara Jade.

Jade’s secret is that she once served as the Emperor’s Hand, a Force-sensitive agent with whom Palpatine communicated directly through the Force and who carried out special assignments for him. Mara’s entire life was pulled out from under her when Palpatine died, and she lays the blame for this squarely on Luke’s shoulders. In retaliation, she intends to kill the young Jedi.

Carefully laying all of these elements in place, Zahn builds toward surprising revelations, a rousing space battle climax, and a gripping hook for the next installment of this trilogy.

Many fans would consider it blasphemous to say a single negative word about this book, and generally with good reason. There is very little to say about it in the way of negative words. Still, I can’t help but be uncomfortable with one critical plot element: the ysalamiri. Ysalamiri are creatures who are able to create a “bubble” in the Force where the Force is ineffective. I feel that this treats the Force more like a super power than the all-pervasive spiritual concept that is established in the original trilogy. Nevertheless, Zahn does use this plot element to good effect to present Luke with some interesting challenges on a planet full of these creatures.

I don’t want to emphasize this complaint too heavily because it’s a matter of personal perspective and, apart from it, I think one would be hard-pressed to find anything Zahn doesn’t get right. As evidenced by this blog, I’ve read a ton of Star Wars books, but I have yet to read any that so perfectly capture the mood of the original films as Zahn does in what has become known as the “Thrawn Trilogy.” He perfectly captures the motivations and personalities of the movie protagonists, and his new characters fit seamlessly into the Star Wars universe. It isn’t hard to understand why Star Wars books enjoyed such success after the publication of Heir. As a Star Wars story, this novel is virtually flawless.

It has been my practice since I started The Stolen Data Tapes back in May to review a trilogy or other series of books all in one week. Unfortunately, my reading has caught up to my reviews, so I am only one book ahead of myself. This means I’ll have to stretch my reviews of the Thrawn Trilogy out over the next few weeks. Join me next Friday, then, for a look at the second volume, Dark Force Rising.

The Hutt Gambit by A. C. Crispin (1997, Bantam)
In The Paradise Snare, we left Han Solo heartbroken and hardened, but with a promising future as an Imperial cadet. The second book of A. C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, entitled The Hutt Gambit, fast forwards to a Han much closer to the one with whom we’re familiar from the films. Han has recently been dishonorably discharged from the Imperial Navy for saving Chewbacca from beating and death at the hands of an Imperial slave driver. This, as most readers already know, has incurred a Wookie life debt. In short, Chewbacca is bonded to Han for life. This comes much to Han’s chagrin at first, but as Chewie proves himself an increasingly useful and pleasant companion, Han begins to warm up to the concept.
Han and Chewie make their home on the “Smuggler’s Moon,” Nar Shadda, which first appeared in the 1991-92 comic series, Dark Empire, mentioned in that book as an important part of Han’s past. Mindful of continuity, Crispin includes such characters as Shug Ninx, Mako Spince, Salla Zend, and even a brief cameo by the winner of the 1991 Palpatine look-alike contest, Vima-Da-Boda, seen here in Dark Empire doing her best Yoda impression:

Several characters from other books, such as crime lord Prince Xizor, seasoned smuggler Roa, and illusionist Xaverri play important roles as well.
Nar Shadda is in Hutt space, and Han quickly forms a professional rapport with everyone’s favorite vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt while working for him and his uncle/aunt Jiliac. The majority of this book’s first half consists of Han and Chewie kicking around on Nar Shadda, making smuggling runs for their new employers and making short work of the bounty hunters that Teroenza, the t’landa Til High Priest of Ylesia, has been sending after Han.
One of those bounty hunters turns out to be Boba Fett, who almost succeeds in bringing Han in, but for a last minute rescue, compliments of Lando Calrissian. Han’s new friendship with Lando, who owns a used spaceship lot, allows him to lease a ship which he christens the Bria.
This ship will see combat quite soon, as in the novel’s latter half, shit gets real. The Empire has been having increasing troubles with rebel activity (they have Han’s old girlfriend Bria Tharen to thank for some of that), and the decision is made to tighten the iron grip even further by making an example of those outside the law—including the entire moon of Nar Shadda.
This latter portion of the book focuses on planning for the upcoming battle, which proves a lengthy, but nonetheless exciting sequence. Despite the sting of seeing Bria again in the company of an Imperial sector Moff (how’s he supposed to know she’s a rebel spy?), things turn out pretty well for Han in the end, and the book concludes in the way it began: with Han preparing for a high stakes card game.
The Hutt Gambit is easily my favorite book in this trilogy. The majority of the novel is spent with Han in his element, quickly becoming a pro at the smuggling trade and hanging around with his fellow scoundrels. Crispin shows us not only Han’s obvious capability as a smuggler, but in the Battle of Nar Shadda, we see his potential as the leader that he will eventually become. I feel that Crispin perfectly captures the characters, tone, and scope necessary in this novel. In short, it’s pure Star Wars.
Join me on Friday for my review of Rebel Dawn, the final installment in The Han Solo Trilogy.

The Hutt Gambit by A. C. Crispin (1997, Bantam)

In The Paradise Snare, we left Han Solo heartbroken and hardened, but with a promising future as an Imperial cadet. The second book of A. C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, entitled The Hutt Gambit, fast forwards to a Han much closer to the one with whom we’re familiar from the films. Han has recently been dishonorably discharged from the Imperial Navy for saving Chewbacca from beating and death at the hands of an Imperial slave driver. This, as most readers already know, has incurred a Wookie life debt. In short, Chewbacca is bonded to Han for life. This comes much to Han’s chagrin at first, but as Chewie proves himself an increasingly useful and pleasant companion, Han begins to warm up to the concept.

Han and Chewie make their home on the “Smuggler’s Moon,” Nar Shadda, which first appeared in the 1991-92 comic series, Dark Empire, mentioned in that book as an important part of Han’s past. Mindful of continuity, Crispin includes such characters as Shug Ninx, Mako Spince, Salla Zend, and even a brief cameo by the winner of the 1991 Palpatine look-alike contest, Vima-Da-Boda, seen here in Dark Empire doing her best Yoda impression:


Several characters from other books, such as crime lord Prince Xizor, seasoned smuggler Roa, and illusionist Xaverri play important roles as well.

Nar Shadda is in Hutt space, and Han quickly forms a professional rapport with everyone’s favorite vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt while working for him and his uncle/aunt Jiliac. The majority of this book’s first half consists of Han and Chewie kicking around on Nar Shadda, making smuggling runs for their new employers and making short work of the bounty hunters that Teroenza, the t’landa Til High Priest of Ylesia, has been sending after Han.

One of those bounty hunters turns out to be Boba Fett, who almost succeeds in bringing Han in, but for a last minute rescue, compliments of Lando Calrissian. Han’s new friendship with Lando, who owns a used spaceship lot, allows him to lease a ship which he christens the Bria.

This ship will see combat quite soon, as in the novel’s latter half, shit gets real. The Empire has been having increasing troubles with rebel activity (they have Han’s old girlfriend Bria Tharen to thank for some of that), and the decision is made to tighten the iron grip even further by making an example of those outside the law—including the entire moon of Nar Shadda.

This latter portion of the book focuses on planning for the upcoming battle, which proves a lengthy, but nonetheless exciting sequence. Despite the sting of seeing Bria again in the company of an Imperial sector Moff (how’s he supposed to know she’s a rebel spy?), things turn out pretty well for Han in the end, and the book concludes in the way it began: with Han preparing for a high stakes card game.

The Hutt Gambit is easily my favorite book in this trilogy. The majority of the novel is spent with Han in his element, quickly becoming a pro at the smuggling trade and hanging around with his fellow scoundrels. Crispin shows us not only Han’s obvious capability as a smuggler, but in the Battle of Nar Shadda, we see his potential as the leader that he will eventually become. I feel that Crispin perfectly captures the characters, tone, and scope necessary in this novel. In short, it’s pure Star Wars.

Join me on Friday for my review of Rebel Dawn, the final installment in The Han Solo Trilogy.