Vaughan Book Reviews

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As I own all of the Bantam-era Star Wars books that I bought and read in my childhood, I decided to re-read them all in chronological order and review them, based on my impressions of them.

To supplement this, I have also purchased two of the Del Rey-era stand-alone novels that are part of the relevant time period I am covering, plus the novelisations of the new films.

I will be reading novels only, with the exception of the Dark Empire comic series, of which I have the audio play and written transcripts to refer to. I will be reading all Bantam books, plus those five Del Rey books mentioned, from The Phantom Menace through to Vision of the Future.

If you do not want to read about my opinion, then go away. :P

I will be using the following scale for my review summaries, ranging from Embarrassing up to Awesome. As a point of example, I am expecting something like The Crystal Star or Darksabre to be Embarrassing, while Revenge of the Sith will be Awesome.

Here is the complete list of review summary terms, from best to worst:

  • AWESOME — Oh my god! I want this book's offspring! I recommend everyone read this book immediately, as I shall re-read it now!
  • EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.
  • VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.
  • GOOD — A good book, above average.
  • OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.
  • POOR — Nothing spectacular, kind of boring.
  • VERY POOR — This book was crap. I will make a point of never reading it again.
  • PATHETIC — This book was so bad that I will go out of my way to urge others not to read it. I don't hate it as much as I just find it extremely low quality.
  • EMBARRASSING — Words . . . cannot describe how bad I feel . . . this makes me feel embarrassed to be a Star Wars fan . . . I will be setting this book on fire and pretending it never existed!

Here are the list of stories already reviewed:

  1. The Phantom Menace (Episode I of the Star Wars film saga) — OKAY
  2. Attack of the Clones (Episode II of the Star Wars film saga) — GOOD
  3. Revenge of the Sith (Episode III of the Star Wars film saga) — AWESOME
  4. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth VaderOKAY
  5. The Paradise Snare (Book I of the Han Solo Trilogy) — VERY GOOD
  6. The Hutt Gambit (Book II of the Han Solo Trilogy) — EXCELLENT
  7. The Final Exit (Part III of Tales of the Empire) — OKAY
  8. Han Solo's RevengeEXCELLENT
  9. Rebel Dawn (Book III of the Han Solo Trilogy) — EXCELLENT
  10. Interlude at Darkknell (Part I of Tales of the New Republic) — OKAY
  11. Tinian on Trial (Part II of Tales of the Empire) — GOOD
  12. We Don't Do Weddings: The Band's Tale (Part I of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — GOOD
  13. Drawing the Maps of Peace: The Moisture Farmer's Tale (Part XV of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — GOOD
  14. A New Hope (Episode IV of the Star Wars film saga) — VERY GOOD
  15. Empire Blues: The Devaronian's Tale (Part VIII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — EXCELLENT
  16. Soup's On: The Pipe Smoker's Tale (Part XII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — OKAY
  17. A Hunter's Fate: Greedo's Tale (Part II of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — OKAY
  18. Trade Wins: The Ranat's Tale (Part X of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — OKAY
  19. Nightlily: The Lovers' Tale (Part VII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — OKAY
  20. Swap Meet: The Jawa's Tale (Part IX of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — GOOD
  21. At the Crossroads: The Spacer's Tale (Part XIII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — VERY GOOD
  22. When the Desert Wind Turns: The Stormtrooper's Tale (Part XI of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — OKAY
  23. The Sand Tender: The Hammerhead's Tale (Part V of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — VERY GOOD
  24. Hammertong: The Tale of the "Tonnika Sisters" (Part III of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — GOOD
  25. Be Still My Heart: The Bartender's Tale (Part VI of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — POOR
  26. Play It Again, Figrin D'an: The Tale of Muftak and Kabe (Part IV of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — GOOD
  27. A Certain Point of View (Part VI of Tales from the Empire) — EXCELLENT
  28. Doctor Death: The Tale of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba (Part XIV of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — AWESOME
  29. Do No Harm (Part IX of Tales from the Empire) — VERY GOOD
  30. Uhl Eharl Khoehng (Part VI of Tales from the New Republic) — GOOD
  31. The Last Hand (Part X of Tales from the New Republic) — VERY GOOD
  32. No Disintegrations, Please (Part VII of Tales from the New Republic) — EXCELLENT
  33. Side Trip (Part X of Tales from the Empire) — VERY GOOD
  34. The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V of the Star Wars film saga) — GOOD
  35. The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk (Part III of Tales of the Bounty Hunters) — EXCELLENT
  36. Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM (Part IV of Tales of the Bounty Hunters) — EXCELLENT
  37. Slaying Dragons (Part VIII of Tales from the Empire) — GOOD
  38. Shadows of the EmpireEXCELLENT
  39. The Longest Fall (Part V of Tales from the New Republic) — OKAY
  40. That's Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb (Part III of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — POOR
  41. Return of the Jedi (Episode VI of the Star Wars film saga) — EXCELLENT
  42. A Bad Feeling: The Tale of EV-9D9 (Part XIII of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — EXCELLENT
  43. A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance: Oola's Tale (Part IV of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  44. Let Us Prey: The Whiphid's Tale (Part V of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  45. A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper's Tale (Part I of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — VERY GOOD
  46. Taster's Choice: The Tale of Jabba's Chef (Part II of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — OKAY
  47. And Then There Were Some: The Gamorrean Guard's Tale (Part VII of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — OKAY
  48. Old Friends: Ephant Mon's Tale (Part VIII of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  49. Out of the Closet: The Assassin's Tale (Part XVI of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — OKAY
  50. Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade (Part VI of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  51. Shaara and the Sarlacc: The Skiff Guard's Tale (Part XVII of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  52. The Great God Quay: The Tale of Barada and the Weequays (Part XII Tales from Jabba's Palace) — VERY GOOD
  53. And the Band Played On: The Band's Tale (Part X of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  54. Goatgrass: The Tale of Ree-Yees (Part IX of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  55. Of the Day's Annoyances: Bib Fortuna's Tale (Part XI of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — VERY GOOD
  56. One Last Night in the Mos Eisley Cantina: The Tale of the Wolfman and the Lamproid (Part XVI of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina) — EXCELLENT
  57. Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88 (Part I of Tales of the Bounty Hunters) — VERY GOOD
  58. The Truce at BakuraEXCELLENT
  59. Skin Deep: The Fat Dancer's Tale (Part XIX of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — VERY GOOD
  60. Tongue-tied: Bubo's Tale (Part XV of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — VERY GOOD
  61. Payback: The Tale of Dengar (Part II of Tales of the Bounty Hunters) — VERY GOOD
  62. The Mandalorian Armour (Book I of The Bounty Hunter Wars) — GOOD
  63. Slave Ship (Book II of The Bounty Hunter Wars) — GOOD
  64. Hard Merchandise (Book III of The Bounty Hunter Wars) — GOOD
  65. Day of the Sepulchral Night (Part XVIII of Tales from the New Republic) — GOOD
  66. Gathering Shadows (Part III of Tales from the New Republic) — GOOD
  67. A Free Quarren in the Palace: Tessek's Tale (Part XIV of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — OKAY
  68. Epilogue: Whatever Became Of . . . ? (Part XX of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  69. A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett (Part XVIII of Tales from Jabba's Palace) — GOOD
  70. Missed Chance (Part IV of Tales from the Empire) — GOOD
  71. Rogue Squadron (Book I of the X-wing series) — VERY GOOD
  72. Wedge's Gamble (Book II of the X-wing series) — VERY GOOD
  73. The Krytos Trap (Book III of the X-wing series) — EXCELLENT
  74. The Bacta War (Book IV of the X-wing series) — EXCELLENT
  75. Conflict of Interest (Part VI of Tales from the New Republic) — OKAY
  76. Wraith Squadron (Book V of the X-wing series) — AWESOME
  77. Iron Fist (Book VI of the X-wing series) — AWESOME
  78. Solo Command (Book VII of the X-wing series) — AWESOME
  79. The Courtship of Princess LeiaGOOD
  80. Hutt and Seek (Part IV of Tales from the New Republic) — GOOD
  81. Tatooine GhostGOOD
  82. First Contact (Part I of Tales from the Empire) — GOOD
  83. Heir to the Empire (Book I of the Thrawn Trilogy) — VERY GOOD
  84. Dark Force Rising (Book II of the Thrawn Trilogy) — VERY GOOD
  85. The Last Command (Book III of the Thrawn Trilogy) — EXCELLENT
  86. Blaze of Glory (Part VII of Tales from the Empire) — GOOD

And the list of stories waiting to be reviewed:

  1. Isard's Revenge (Book VIII of the X-wing series)
  2. Retreat from Coruscant (Part V of Tales from the Empire)
  3. Dark Empire (Part I of the Dark Empire series)
  4. Dark Empire II (Part II of the Dark Empire series)
  5. Empire's End (Part III of the Dark Empire series)
  6. Jedi Search (Book I of the Jedi Academy Trilogy)
  7. Dark Apprentice (Book II of the Jedi Academy Trilogy)
  8. Champions of the Force (Book III of the Jedi Academy Trilogy)
  9. I, Jedi
  10. Children of the Jedi
  11. Simple Tricks (Part XI of Tales from the New Republic)
  12. Darksabre
  13. Planet of Twilight
  14. Starfighters of Adumar (Book IX of the X-wing series)
  15. The Crystal Star
  16. Before the Storm (Book I of The Black Fleet Crisis)
  17. Shield of Lies (Book II of The Black Fleet Crisis)
  18. Tyrant's Test (Book III of The Black Fleet Crisis)
  19. The New Rebellion
  20. Jade Solitaire (Part II of Tales from the New Republic)
  21. Ambush at Corellia (Book I of the Corellian Trilogy)
  22. Assault at Selonia (Book II of the Corellian Trilogy)
  23. Showdown at Centrepoint (Book III of Corellian Trilogy)
  24. The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett (Part V of Tales of the Bounty Hunters)
  25. Spectre of the Past (Book I of The Hand of Thrawn Duology)
  26. Vision of the Future (Book II of The Hand of Thrawn Duology)

Without further ado . . .

The Phantom Menace

Episode I of the Star Wars film saga.

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

Felt more like a narration of the film than a book. The beginning was more descriptive, but towards the end it was merely outlining what was happening on the cinema screen. That said, it was an enjoyable read, and did explain some parts of the story better than the film.

Attack of the Clones

Episode II of the Star Wars film saga.

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Better than The Phantom Menace. Possibly because I had never read this before, then again I could not remember much of the Episode I novelisation when I re-read it. . . Suffered from the same symptoms as The Phantom Menace towards the end, as it degenerated from book to mere narration of events happening on-screen. One point, though: the book made me actually care about Jango and Boba Fett, as it gave them more depth than 'villain' and 'evil son'. Almost made me sad that Windu chopped his head off.

Revenge of the Sith

Episode III of the Star Wars film saga.

AWESOME — Oh my god! I want this book's offspring! I recommend everyone read this book immediately, as I shall re-read it now!

This was so much better than the previous two, as it actually felt like a BOOK, not a mere adapted screenplay. Reminded me of the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy in places, structurally -- but not focused on humour, even though there was some decent humour throughout. This book took so long to get through because I made sure I stopped regularly to savour it, as I had not bough the next book, The Rise of Dark Vader, yet. I cannot stress how truly excellent this book is. It also ties in so many Expanded Universe elements, such as Carrack-class light cruisers, Garm Bel Iblis, and even a mention that the Sith could only be defeated by 'the new Jedi Order'. When I finish reading the entire collection, I intend to return to re-read this one, as it is by far the best novelisation of the three that I have read so far. The only part where it really falls down, is the last few chapters -- which fly past in a blur, with the last scenes of the film being condensed into single paragraphs each, which left my feeling ripped off and wanting. This seems to be a flaw present in all of the prequel novelisations.

Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

I must confess that initially I was going to skip over Dark Lord, and not purchase this book. However I am glad that I did in fact read it. While it felt decidedly amateurish and juvenile compared to the awesomeness that was Revenge of the Sith, it still drew me into the story by the end. It was a quick and easy read, with short chapters that encouraged reading onward. Vader and Sidious's characters were handled . . . fairly ineptly, as far as I'm concerned, however despite that I still eagerly looked forward to scenes with Vader in it. I did like how it helped blend in the new trilogy material with the original trilogy, including the razing of Kashyyyk and the introduction of various characters, as well as the transition from the Seperatist/Republic conflict to Imperial tyranny. Chewbacca went from a cameo role in Revenge of the Sith to a minor character of importance in this one. I'm not sure how I feel about that; it wasn't too poorly done, and I did enjoy Wookiees running amok. However, the emotional content of the book felt a bit light, as the Jedi Knight we were introduced to in the beginning chapters was decapitated with deriving nothing more than a raised eyebrow from me. The previous book had me dreading the bad things that were to come, whereas this book didn't get me as emotionally invested in the characters. However, I was drawn into finding out how it ended. Again, I must stress that the Vader/Sidious dialogue didn't feel very authentic, but despite what I perceive to be its flaws, this was a fairly quick and enjoyable read. One thing this book did for me, was give me an interest in reading about the 'dark times' of the Imperial rule, whereas I was never particularly drawn to this era before. So, bravo to it, and I look forward to the live action series between Episodes III and IV . . . I just hope it's good and doesn't suck.

The Paradise Snare

Book I of the Han Solo Trilogy

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

I'm not sure where to begin. This isn't the best book I've read, but it was pretty damned good. Of all the characters to spend the Imperial Era with, there could be worse than the Corellian Han Solo. I must admit the pacing was much quicker than I seem to remember, which is kind of a blessing more than anything else — as much as the flashbacks to Solo's youth are good fleshing out of backstory, they are really too depressing to want to spend too much time in. I definitely appreciated the context of the state of the galaxy under the Empire from Solo's point of view, after having seen the rise of the Empire in Revenge of the Sith and Dark Lord. And little cameos like Senator Organa and his daughter when Solo visited Alderaan. Of course the bodyguard Muuurgh is just a stand-in until the introduction of Chewbacca at a later date, but the pronoun-deficient feline is likeable enough to get by with. Knowing how the book ended, I decided to pause at the cadence point that was the end of Solo's time on Togoria, when everything's at a temporary happy ending. That all gets turned on its head, of course, by the end, and the ending is a bit of a downer. All in all, I feel it describes Solo's growth as a person fairly well, a kind of joining the dots between the flashbacks of his childhood to eventually the character sitting in Chalmun's Cantina on Tatooine. Strangely enough, Ylesia seemed like a nice place to be at first, with the torrential rains, even if it was a bit too humid and muddy. Oh, and fungal. I especially liked the brief look into the affairs of Hutts, as I find their politicking interesting to read about. It seems as though the author made a concerted effort to reference other in-universe creatures in lieu of their Earthly counterparts. And while the fight scenes weren't as exciting as, say, Revenge of the Sith, there is something about the cocky young Corellian that makes fights enjoyable. One thing that makes me confused though, is the 'no weapons on Coruscant' rule. When the hell did that come about? I don't recall reading about that in any other material . . . perhaps some other sources reference it that I simply can't member. Oh, and CorSec Investigator Hal Horn freezing "Jenos Idanian's" account was a nice touch. Actually made you annoyed at Horn for doing that, easily overlooking the fact that Solo was selling stolen items. Even if they were stolen from bigger criminals in the first place. Ah, on that note: "they belong in a museum" — if that's not another reference to Indiana Jones, I don't know what is. During the earlier to middle parts of the books I couldn't help but envision Solo as River Phoenix in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. All in all, a nice read, and I can't wait to read more about the dealings of Hutts. Oh, and the author expresses the raw emotion in Solo's first romantic relationship extremely well, I feel. If anyone's had their emotions torn up, they can empathise with Solo towards the end of the book. It didn't really affect me this time around, but that's probably because I knew what was coming. I also liked it when Solo flipped out and started channelling the pent-up anger from his abused childhood. The release was always sent towards a worthy target, and was very satisfying to see.

The Hutt Gambit

Book II of the Han Solo Trilogy

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

This book is probably only VERY GOOD grade, however I like the context that much that of the entire collection of books this is one I would probably come back to read on its own, maybe. Apart from the start, which starts on a bit of a downer, compared to the success — if tragic — ending of the first book, the rest of it is really quite pleasant. The drama is not terribly emotionally wrenching or draining, and Solo finally fits into a community with friends and loved ones — such as his various girlfriends, and the ever-present Chewbacca — and enjoys life as a smuggler on Nar Shadda. The Hutt intrigue I was asking for was satisfied, but I was surprised that I would ever find myself feeling sympathetic for a Hutt! Durga and Aruk's interactions were surprisingly touching, especially towards the end . . . a number of the 'villainous' characters actually seemed sympathetic, to a degree . . . or at the very least they seemed to have motives, hopes and dreams, making them a bit more three-dimensional. A slight criticism is that relationships and characters tend to be introduced almost as afterthoughts just before action sequences, perhaps to raise the emotional stakes involved, but it didn't really work for me this time around. That said, the pace kept up very quickly, much faster than I remembered, and I didn't find myself getting bored with the story, wishing it to move on as I did with The Paradise Snare in less-happy places. There were numerous attempts at foreshadowing, that maybe wouldn't have seen so glaringly obvious if someone were reading through in chronological order for the first time . . . such as the prophesising crone, mention of an Imperial outpost to be set up in the Maw, Boba Fett flying over the Pit of Carkoon, etc. All in all, it was a nice read. Not the most exciting book, but not particularly boring, either. The Battle of Nar Shadda was engaging and detailed, and actually made battling with freighters seem somewhat interesting. In a way, I kind of want to rest here for a bit, because I know things go downhill by the end of Rebel Dawn, and like the happy ending that this book provides for most of the characters.

The Final Exit

Part III of Tales of the Empire

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

Overall, this was a nice little short story. The combination of moral discussion and story action seemed kind of . . . awkwardly done, and less impressed people might call the finished product 'amateurish'. However, it has a kind of charm that rises about what I perceive to be its writing flaws. For example, the settlement on Trulalis sounds like a nice little non-technological rural centre, a location more akin to the real world rather than the Galaxy Far, Far Away. One of the things I liked the most — apart from the ending — was the Kierra's consciousness, which would make flying a ship much more interesting. I want my own AI-integrated ship! The Dark Jedi was kind of addled and inconsistent, but I believe that was the intent. A Jedi turned Emperor-servant, that had partaken in unspeakable atrocities in His Imperial Majesty's name . . . and had been driven partly mad by it. The smuggler was kind of forgettable — I can't even recall his name — but I did like the sections involving the Old Corellian language. Now, if you're excuse me, I'm going to look up more information on Brandl, and the feisty ship Kierra . . .

Han Solo's Revenge

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

First up, I read this book after getting half-way through Rebel Dawn, as that was the appropriate place to swap books over, with Solo out of the main story, with only brief interludes summarising his adventures in the Corporate Sector. That said . . . at first I found it hard to get into this story, as I kept wanting to read more about the Hutt intrigue, and other plot points in the Han Solo Trilogy . . . however, it didn't take too long before the story sucked me into it. There is something about the writing style of this book that just made Solo sound much more like his character in the films — moreso than the Han Solo Trilogy books. The fact that it was written in International English, rather than American, was a refreshing change — not having to read through what my mind automatically perceives to be 'spelling mistakes' makes for a much more fluid read. The story is short, happily so, as it's more of a quick sojourn, rather than an epic tale that spans a galaxy. The adventures are quite enjoyable, and I really liked that the book explored quite a bit of different scene types. Probably the only thing missing were dogfights, as the space battles were with the Millennium Falcon, the hotted up freighter it is. Still, it's just not the same as darting starfighters weaving about shooting each other . . . That said, there are fistfights, vibroblade fighters, and swashbuckling galore. As well as a bit of political intrigue — basically this book just felt like it flowed really well. In fact, this brings me to another point: the book felt original. Meaning that it didn't feel used, or tired. It didn't feel like the author was hired to write "yet another Star Wars book". It just felt like a book. A short one at that; but enjoyable, and seemed more of an inspired tale rather than some marketing manager's cynical attempt at fishing for cash. One thing this book did, that was unintentional on the author's part, time-wise — it made me appreciate the level of dedication and research the author of the Han Solo Trilogy did when writing the books. It really feels like this book is related to the other trilogy, that the character is the same. Solo's hatred of slavery, and his mentioning of flying swoop races as a child — also his crazy knack for flying through tight spaces instead of around them — all come together to make it feel as though this is one consistent character. Very well done. However I think this book succeeds at invoking the Solo spirit more than the Han Solo Trilogy, not that the latter fails at all. Just this one is better for characterisation. That said, I'm now bound to return to where I left off in Rebel Dawn.

Rebel Dawn

Book III of the Han Solo Trilogy

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

The impression I got throughout the first half of this book was that it was even better than The Hutt Gambit, which surprised me, as I vaguely remembered it ended unhappily. Halfway through the book I took a detour via Han Solo's Revenge, as that was the appropriate place in the story to do so. My impression now, at the end of the trilogy . . . is that it was pretty damned good. The quality seemed to increase from book to book, and I definitely feel that this one was similar to The Hutt Gambit, but in a good way — it took that standard and built upon it. One scene that sticks out in my mind is the Hutt vs. Hutt death-match, which was pretty damned cool. And a bit off-putting, when Durga kept pounding at the corpse afterwards . . . Oh, and the second time I've felt sorry for a Hutt — Kibbick being murdered by Teroenza. Nasty stuff. And Kibbick was an idiot, which probably only adds to one's sympathy. The Hutt interplay of politics, and the inclusion of Black Sun, all reached its foregone conclusion, fairly satisfactorily. Solo's reaction when Tharen contacted him on Nar Shadda surprised me — I thought he'd be overjoyed instead of ragingly mad — but I sill appreciated his revenge. Although personally I would have liked to see him dish it out a bit more. Especially after she screwed him over and basically ruined his life. Exploitation of loved ones; all in a day's work for a good rebel operative . . . The only place I felt the book really fell down . . . or perhaps, 'wore thin' is more accurate, was towards the end. And I don't mean Revenge of the Sith-class ruination of an ending, which was the whole final act, but the last chapter or two felt a bit rushed, and sort of contrived. As if there were plot points that needed tying up, and the deadline was approaching. But like I said, nothing on the scale of the Revenge of the Sith novelisation ending. Currently I cannot recall much of the beginning of the book, but what most sticks in my mind is the Battle of Ylesia, and Tharen's betrayal of the smuggler and privateer forces that fought — and died — alongside them. In fact, I was surprised Solo didn't spit Jarik's death for nothing in Tharen's face, just to knock her off her moral high ground pedestal. As much as I liked her before she was a backstaber, it was very appropriate that she be slaughtered in battle against overwhelming Imperial odds. It was still saddening, though, no matter how appropriate. Well, I really can't remember much more at this point in time . . . but here I am, almost into the films of the Classic Era. Onward!

Interlude at Darkknell

Part I of Tales of the New Republic

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

I am sure that most people would give this a higher ranking — as I expected myself to, considering the authors — but for some reason this story failed to engage me on any strong level. Which is a shame. Garm Bel Iblis, Isard and Isard, Hal Horn . . . what's there not to like? Maybe I'm just weary of labyrinthine plots, but the story didn't really excite me much at all. It was all well done, of course, I just didn't really find it that interesting. The thief character was one I wanted to escape the most, along with Horn. Maybe I'm just hard to please. Bel Iblis's emotional turmoil didn't feel particularly poignant or tumultuous . . . I knew there was emotion involved because the story said so, but I didn't particularly feel it from the character. It was good to see Iceheart get shown up and made a laughingstock. And her chilly betrayal of her father was disturbing but satisfying too, knowing where these plot points would all end up. Maybe this one was just too long a short story for me? :P

Tinian on Trial

Part II of Tales of the Empire

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Truth be told, this story might only be OKAY level, however its charm appealed to me. The crux of the story is a theme that will be running through almost all stories encountered at the moment: mean old Impies doin' nasty stuff. Now while we've seen the rise of the Empire being fairly nasty in Revenge of the Sith, continued with the Empire's subjugation of Kashyyyk in Dark Lord. The many Imperial massacres and crimes against civilisation enacted by the Empire mentioned in passing now and again, fairly regularly, in the Han Solo Trilogy are continued on more personal levels in this story. A loyal technological contractor to the Empire develops a kick-ass anti-blaster defence screen, and proves the success of the product in front of a crotchety old villainous Moff. The Moff, impressed, attempts to seize the project through force, and executes the company's owners, the grandparents of the main character in question. The rest of the story deals with her escape from the world, and their denial of the technology to the corrupt Imperial forces. It's a tad banal, I suppose, compared to the galaxy-spanning conflict around, but it is cutely presented, showing the evil of the Empire as it ruins a little girl's life and world. One wearingly thing . . . is that I just know that I'm going to be reading a hell of a lot more of these types of stories, so maybe that's something making it less endearing. But in case I've sounded like I disliked the story, it was quite okay and I did enjoy it. I just can't wait to get to the stories where the Rebels start knocking back the evil and corrupt Empire.

We Don't Do Weddings: The Band's Tale

Part I of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Having finished reading this story, I'm surprised at how quickly it went by. Apart from my issues with having Earthean musical terms being thrown around by a group of Bith, it was a quick and amusing read. I liked the wry humour of the main character / narrator. He seemed like a smart-ass, in a good way. This tale probably seemed a lot shorter than I expected, because I'm getting the Devonarian's tale confused with it, as it deals with the behind-the-scenes backstory for this tale. I have a feeling this might be VERY GOOD quality, but it just went by too fast for me to be sure.

Drawing the Maps of Peace: The Moisture Farmer's Tale

Part XV of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I'll start off my noting that I liked this one. It was a nice little example of colonial thinking on the edge of civilisation encroaching on the native peoples, who strike back, and the conflict that ensues, every side of the conflict feeling as though they're the victim. Basically it's another 'mean old Impies doing bad stuff' tale, and it works well, having the Empire screw over the negotiations for compromise and peace between the three main peoples of the desert on Tatooine — the moisture farmers, the Jawas, and the Sand People. I like the efforts of the moisture farmer in his diplomatic relations with the native inhabitants, but it's one of those stories that rips you off at the last minute, because the ultimate aim is thwarted somehow. I guess it's a change from the good guys always winning, but it is a bit of a let-down. Memory-wise, I didn't remember the Alderaan girl getting married to the main character's neighbour . . . I thought she was romantically involved with the main character (probably because they both shared the same viewpoint, and the other farmers considered them both outsiders with their damned newfangled ideas). The battling with the Sand People, first at the moisture farm, and then further afield, at the main character's vaporator, where he negotiates the release of their hostage, strongly reminds me of the Sand People scenes in Attack of the Clones. Especially the bound female hostage. It Reminds me of Shmi's capture a hell of a lot, which is interesting, since this story came first. The Lars's not arriving at the wedding was a nice touch, but something confuses me . . . the main character resolves to himself that he's going to join the Rebellion . . . but his talk seems to be specifically focused on Tatooine, not further afield. What hope could he possibly have of repelling the Imperial forces stationed on the planet, unless he was willing to actually join the Alliance and take part in that on-the-run lifestyle, hitting at the Empire wherever and whenever possible. It seemed a tad short-sighted to me. But it's probably the author's intention, or maybe I'm just not understanding what his resolve was meaning, exactly. Oh, and one final point. And this is a problem I have will the whole Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina anthology . . . the Imperial presence. Going just by the films, it seems clear to me that there is not normally an Imperial presence on the planet. It's an out of the way backwater that the Empire doesn't care about. The troops stationed there are landed there in the film specifically to hunt down the Death Star plans. They're not part of a pre-existing Imperial governing structure. At least as far as seems obvious to me. However, because a bunch of stories deal with a more permanent and settled Imperial presence on Tatooine, it's canon. But I still don't think it's what was meant to be. Oh well. Onward to A New Hope now! Enough of the 'mean old Impies' stories, and onto the Rebels kicking their asses!

A New Hope

Episode IV of the Star Wars film saga

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Despite being the first piece of Star Wars literature produced — hell, this predates even the first film to be released! — there are surprisingly few inconsistencies between the film version and the book. For the most part, the dialogue was almost spot-on, with only a few alterations. I don't even think the novelisations of Episodes I to III were any more synchronised with their films. One of the main differences, however, are the names of characters. Watch the film, read the book, there are a number of differences between the names of certain characters. Still and all, this is a good book. I would recommend it to anyone who's seen the film oodles of times, and might be looking for a few more insights. I vaguely remember reading this novel years ago, but I was surprised by the thoughts and internalised reactions of certain characters to certain circumstances — mostly because I didn't pick up the emotional nuances, or in some cases because the actors didn't nuance at all. Darth Vader was surprisingly cool. I don't generally like angry characters, but his barely-restrained, seething, quiet rage was fairly entertaining. The prologue, which explains the collapse of the Old Republic, was interesting, and seems to represent the earlier design concepts of the story where the Emperor wasn't a lightsabre-wielding, lightning-hurling Sith bandit. Looking back, there's one things that sticks out in my mind: how short the story is. While novelisations don't tend to necessarily be the longest of books, I just know it's going to feel strange that an in-between novel such as Shadows of the Empire seems longer, more extensive, and with more plot points being explored. I guess that's just the difference in medium, though, as films need to be more streamlined than novels, in order to keep the audience from becoming completely confused. One criticism I do have, is a technique which very quickly became clichéd: he was as short as the other was tall; it was as cold as the other was hot; as accurate as the other was inaccurate. While it works sparingly, it really felt like the same comparison of metaphors formula was being dragged out again and again. That said, the story felt good, like it fit. I was really expecting this first piece of EU in existence to feel more out of place, as the tone for the films hadn't been established yet, and because I expected there to be more changes from the film scripts that the novelisation was based on, and the finished film. The mention — and then showing — of the Sand People felt very familiar (in a good way), after having just finished Drawing the Maps of Peace. Strangely enough, as one of the three main characters, it didn't feel like there was much Solo in the story. And for once, I found myself sympathising with his unwillingness to volunteer for what would almost certainly be a suicidal march into the detention centre of the Imperial battlestation. How perspectives change with age — I'd always identified with the optimistic, heroic Skywalker as a kid, now I can identify with Solo's pragmatism more readily. I might have more to say, but instead I'll just go watch the movie version now. And after that, it's onto a slew of Tatooine-based stories in the same timeframe, with most of the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina stories in rapid succession, one after the other. Fun, fun.

Empire Blues: The Devaronian's Tale

Part VIII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

To be honest, this story was probably only VERY GOOD or GOOD, but I enjoyed it muchly. There was something about the writing style, the attitude of the narrator, that I liked. Especially some of the random, not entirely relevant to the story but enjoyable anyway, comments that came out of nowhere. The massacre of rebels on Devaron was interesting, having read it mentioned in passing in the Han Solo Trilogy. Not really much else to say about this one. I liked the character's attitude, what he thought about others, and I liked his happy ending — owning all of the Modal Nodes's gamble-able instruments, and seven free drinks a day at the cantina as long as the band stuck around. How he played them all from the start was interesting, too. Well, not much more to say about this — I like the character and the way he thinks. Especially the comments about Nightlilly, who was looking 'bored and horny'.

Soup's On: The Pipe Smoker's Tale

Part XII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

This one didn't excite me as much as I was hoping. I seem to remember enjoying it more. Apparently not. Semi-biographical, it's basically this brain-sucking assassin explaining his life and lifestyle to a non-existent listener in his mind. His take on things is interesting, and I like that he is a refined individual. But at no point did it really excite me. The only time was when the hum of a lightsabre could be heard, as a Jedi disarms (har har) someone. The basic vampire myth is turned into something different and kind of interesting. Just wasn't interesting enough for me to give it a higher rating.

A Hunter's Fate: Greedo's Tale

Part II of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

I read this before going On Leave, and didn't get around to writing a review for it, so my memory is bound to be extremely poor. That said, this suceeded in painting Greedo in a sympathetic light. Not that he's any brave hero or anything, but it makes the Rodian more sympathetic. From an idyllic lifestyle on a forest planet (unknownedly through exile) living with family, to the grimy ultra-urbanised setting of Nar Shadda, it seems to show all the way through that he's less mature and savvy about the galaxy than he thinks, especially when he's thinking he's so much more superior and smart than certain other characters. Some nice crossovers with characters and settings on Nar Shadda, especially the Han Solo Trilogy — not sure which came first, but it was a nice tie-in anyway. Hmm . . . can't really remember much else, except that I have a problem with Solo being on Tatooine only about a day or so before Greedo gets roasted. I know the Han Solo Trilogy showed this, also, but it just didn't jive with me . . . maybe because the A New Hope novelisation contradicts that by stating he was around for a week or so before the events of the film. And while it's not exactly on par with the film in terms of canon, the novelisation existed first, so I'm not sure why later materials contracted it. Anyway, an okay tale. Can't really remember much more than that.

Trade Wins: The Ranat's Tale

Part X of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

This tale was much, much shorter than I seem to remember. In fact, the Ranat is different to what I remember, too. Knowing the fate of the Jawa that the Ranat steals the power pack from, it made one wonder if the transaction were willfully callous and almost intended to lead to the Jawa's fate. However, the story pretty much spells out that there was no malicious ill-will from the Ranat. Although the Jawa's desire for battle talisman should have been a major hint that the Jawa intended to use the weapon the Ranat rendered useless, but oh well. Truly, this one sped by too fast for me to judge adequately, however I guess it was okay.

Nightlily: The Lovers' Tale

Part VII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

Not as exciting as I remembered; maybe because I knew the ending. Essentially the Gotan was a condescending, prejudiced jerk who deserved what happened to him. Even if what happened to him was kind of harsh. The quality seemed fine until the cantina scenes, in which it really felt fake (maybe it's the 'watching the same scene happen for the umpteenth time, but from a slightly different point of view' that's getting to me — if so, then I'm in for a bad run, as there are many more stories in this anthology to get through yet). By this stage, I'm kind of bored of the peripheral tales, and craving a decent-length novel covering a major story. Then again, up until a few stories ago, I was sick of those types, and looking for something more like this. Just a fussy bastard, I guess. :P Anyway, more Tatooine goodness to grind through yet.

Swap Meet: The Jawa's Tale

Part IX of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

GOOD — A good book, above average.

This was a nice little tale about the little guy struggling to triumph against the world against him. A story of a non-conformist in a conformist society. A revolutionary; someone with the strength and courage to take on life and make a statement for all . . . at least that's how it seems. But since the Ranat stole the power pack, the poor little bastard gets roasted without managing to even get off a shot. But that's another story. As I said, a nice little moral tale, with an okay cameo from a certain Jedi Knight. The Jawa's insect-like society of hierachy was well explained, and the use of body odours as kinds of 'non-verbal' body language was an interesting touch, too. It's just a shame that the high note the character's tale ends on in the story is continued in another . . . and turns sour incredibly quickly. But if you didn't know how it ended, it would be a fitting, triumphant ending.

At the Crossroads: The Spacer's Tale

Part XIII of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

I'm not sure if this was an excellent story of not, but I really enjoyed it, so that's what matters. Finally, a story that involved some action! Dodging TIEs wasn't what did it for me, though, it was running through the streets of Mos Eisley with a horde of religious zealots in hot pursuit, with stormtroopers and local police chasing after that. That whole chase scene did it for me, with shots being fired and dodged and all that. I would actually like to see more of BoShek, but I'm pretty sure this is the only story he will appear in (other than a brief cameo in the Han Solo Trilogy), and as background scenery in A New Hope. The use of the Force seemed a bit out of place — it just didn't feel like the same sort of phenomenon that's described elsewhere. But it wasn't too bad. What struck me as even weirder, was that someone in the Imperial Age could go around preeching about the Force and not be arrested on the spot (there were stormtroopers and police looking for something else — him — but surely they'd home in on any Jedi-related rhetoric . . . although I guess that assumes the masses actually know much about the mystical beliefs of a decades-extinct order . . .). Still, this was a fun story. One final interesting point to note: BoShek states (in his mind, and to Chewbacca) that he beat the Falcon's time on the Kessel Run. Must have been before the Han Solo Trilogy's retcon of that.

When the Desert Wind Turns: The Stormtrooper's Tale

Part XI of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

Two things in this that stick in my mind as inconsistencies — the fact that it treats AT-ATs as much, much larger than they actually are ("covering in seconds what people on foot would take an hour" — I call bullshit on that), and that Maximilliam Veers is an asshole that would rather bury evidence that shows a tactical weakness in a project of his, rather than actually fixing it. The first one seems to be a factual error, while the second one just seems like a major characterisation flaw. This is the same guy who personally leads the Imperial ground forces in the Battle of Hoth, and who Hal Horn will (sometime before that battle, but not quite yet in the timeline) consider to be an unusual Imperial, insofar as he leads from the front. Wookieepedia seems to have some reconciliation of the 'bastard Veers', to do with the Colonel being in a precarious position where his job and rank were at risk should this flaw be found out . . . but still, that seems like crap to me. Not all Imperial officers were bastards, and Veers has a few attested sources where he's not a complete dickhead. Not that he's necessarily a nice guy, but that this story really seems to have him falsely characterised. Oh, kind of focused on those negative points a bit . . . er, the rest of the story is an okay 'realising the evil of the Empire' tale. Hrm. Another issue that I consider to be a factual error (but might be me who is wrong here): the stormtroopers scouring Tattoine for the droids with the Death Star plans — shouldn't they have been from the Devastator? The one thing this tale leaves me wanting to know . . . is how Felth succeeds (or fails) as his new role as wannabe-rebel. Guess no one thought to do any follow up stories.

The Sand Tender: The Hammerhead's Tale

Part V of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

This was probably only GOOD standard, but there was something genuinely uplifting and hope-filled about this that made me bump it up a notch. Not a great deal happened, but the Ithorian mindset was explored nicely, and the planet Ithor was introduced well without even being set there. I know in advance that this story will have some kind of sentimental payoff, as I seem to recall that the main character (and two clones of the antagonist) make another apperance later in the timeline. I look forward to seeing Nadon Momaw again. Beyond that I can't think of much else . . . it was just a nice tale that had a certain uplifting feeling to the end that I can't describe properly.

Hammertong: The Tale of the "Tonnika Sisters"

Part III of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Can't think of much to say for this one, really. Other than to point out that I think the two stormtroopers in the cantina on Tatooine recognising the "Tonnika Sisters" and coming back to arrest them later is errata. The Davin Felth tale seems to completely ignore the plot points, so we'll just say they were another two stormtroopers that arrived to abscond them. Or that it's a stuff up on the various authors' parts and get on with our lives. :P It was probably only an average read, but there was some kind of 'nice' quality to it that bumped it up a notch. The character Shada wasn't anything special, but I do look forward to revisiting her on a few more occasions throughout the EU timeline. Oh, one final thing. Death Star Mark II? Before the first Death Star was destroyed? The hell? Why would they go and throw that hydrospanner into the convoluted mess of Death Star continuity?! :P

Be Still My Heart: The Bartender's Tale

Part VI of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

POOR — Nothing spectacular, kind of boring.

The bartender's point of view regarding xenochemistry and brewing were interesting, but beyond that this tale kind of bored me. The best thing was that it was short. I didn't hate it as such, I just didn't really care for it. Wuher's change of heart didn't seem particularly . . . well, in-character. Actually, even Greedo seemed a bit out of character. Greedo is always a bit of an upstart jerk, but . . . well, it just didn't really seem like the Rodian in this tale was Greedo. Unless I just have a completely different take on the bartender's character, then I think other stories have him characterised more aptly than this, his feature tale. But this could just be up to interpretation.

Play It Again, Figrin D'an: The Tale of Muftak and Kabe

Part IV of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I could barely remember this story, which made it all the more enjoyable — I really couldn't remember how it ended, so the life-or-death situations actually seemed like there could have been grave consequences. I didn't realise that Talz were a rare species . . . especially since a Coruscanti human slicer recognises one by sight only a few years from now. Perhaps they're a little more well-known by then? :P I'd like to say that the tale dove-tailed nicely with Momaw Nadon's story, but there were cross-over scenes which I'm sure were meant to be the same scenes, but had different dialogue . . . I haven't checked that, it's just an impression I had that drew me out of the story a bit in those places. But the parts that included contextual crossovers (instead of literally the same scenes from different points of view) were very effective. And I liked the we actually got to see the Ithorian's hiding chamber that was mentioned in his tale. This was another 'feel good' story, but not in a sickly over-the-top vomitous way. A nice read. Oh, and the title makes no sense . . . it's referenced twice in the story, but not in that context . . . silly irrelevant title. :P

A Certain Point of View

Part VI of Tales from the Empire

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

Thinking back on this — as it's been almost a week since I read it — I'm not entirely convinced if this really was EXCELLENT, or whether I was just so bored on the train that something good seemed much better than it was. That said, I seem to remember enjoying this one. Reading the stories in chronological order has a slight payoff here, as citizens of the Empire discuss the destruction of Alderaan not long after having read A New Hope. The point of view of civilians caught in the middle of the galactic war, with loved ones being killed by both sides rather than one or the other is an angle that hasn't really been explored much so far (at least, at this point in the chronology). The main character is someone I would actually like to read more of.

Doctor Death: The Tale of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba

Part XIV of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

AWESOME — Oh my god! I want this book's offspring! I recommend everyone read this book immediately, as I shall re-read it now!

Again, reading the description of what I classify as AWESOME . . . I can't help but feel I might be overestimating the quality of this one. Still, it was my initial impression upon finishing the tale, so that's what I'll stick with. I liked the setting for this — ominous stone castle in the middle of an ocean. It was pretty much a Star Wars version of the Frankenstein's story. And as much as that's a cliché, I thought it worked. And I found it strange that instead of hoping the noble, righteous hero who attempts to kill Evazan to avenge the cold-blooded killing and mutilation of his family to succeed . . . that I was actually hoping the sociopathical Evazan would survive. Anyway, for a Frankenstein-style tale, I thought it was pretty good.

Do No Harm

Part IX of Tales from the Empire

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Reviews from here on in will be much more brief as my free time has been absolutely decimated. Put simply, I really liked this one. Something odd, though . . . it took me a while before I realised the main character was female . . . it's more obvious by the end of the tale, but I just assumed it was a male. I've read this story before, and I think I must not have realised the character's gender when I read it years ago. But yeah, I liked this one, it was a good short story. A character I would like to see more of, even though I know I won't.

Uhl Eharl Khoehng

Part VI of Tales from the New Republic

GOOD — A good book, above average.

One objection I have here before going further: Jedi in the Rebel Alliance. ??? I thought Skywalker was the beacon of Jedi-ness in the Rebellion, and that more Jedi weren't really brought out of the wood-work / trained until a few years into the proper establishment of the New Republic. I don't have a problem with Force sensitives serving in the Alliance, that's just natural, but Jedi? Hmm . . . the only way I can reconcile this is to have her a wannabe Jedi with bugger-all training. So a sort of padawan without the proper training. So her training sessions with Brandl is really what bumps her up to proper Jedi status. Anyway, that nit-pick out of the road . . . This was much more successful than its predecessor. The mixture of the stage play metaphors and the action didn't seem quite as forced or disjointed as in The Final Exit. So yeah, this was pretty good. I want to find out what happens to some of the characters . . . but unfortunately the final chapter of the series isn't officially published. I might try and track down the online copy the author uploaded, just to see how it ends.

The Last Hand

Part X of Tales from the New Republic

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

This was pretty cool. The naïve kid was a bit clichéd and annoying, but the gambler, his Mon Calamari ship and disembodied female friend all made for an enjoyable read. This was a really good one. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Another group of characters that I would like to read more of, but never will since it was a once-off short story. But yeah, a nice little adventure tale, with a few sprinklings of mystery which are revealed gradually throughout. Oh, and the bad guy got tricked in the end (but without violence, which was a nice touch), which was satisfying. It was about a week or so ago when I read it, so I can't think of more than that. Oh, one last thing — the title made me think it was going to be a Mara Jade story, but I was thankfully mistaken, and read something a bit more fresh and original.

No Disintegrations, Please

Part VII of Tales from the New Republic

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

A short description of this one would be that it was a cliché. Much like I gather any stories with villains like Darth Maul or Boba Fett in them, sans main characters, which features an ass-kicking baddie who always comes out on top (at least until they come up against one of the saga's main characters, in which case plot necessity screws them over). So this story is pretty much a clichéd 'Boba Fett kicks a heap of ass' tale. But despite that, it works. This one was a very enjoyable read. It's solely an action short story, with nothing like character development and the only plot going from explosion to next fight scene to next cool Boba Fett scene. But it succeeds and is an excellent read. As mentioned in the rating descriptor, this is one I will definitely be re-reading at some point, after I've finished all the books on this list and looking for something (Star Wars-related) to read. Story-wise, this actually takes place years after the current point in the timeline, but as the bulk of the action takes place here, this is where I've put it. Sometime after the Death Star has been destroyed, but before Fett succeeds in capturing Solo. So yes, a short description: a clichéd tale of Boba Fett kicking ass, that works well.

Side Trip

Part X of Tales from the Empire

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Thrawn and Horn. This wasn't too bad, but I seem to remember enjoying it more the first (few) time(s) I read it to now. I guess a lot of the annoying idiosyncrasies (read: clichés and repetitious motifs) of both authors were more apparent to me this time around, marring what would otherwise be a great read. Not that I dislike either author's work, just that they have certain . . . things that they do, and do often . . . if you read enough of their material it starts to grind on your nerves after a while, even though they write fantastic stories. "Point," he countered. "Ah", he said dryly, cocking/arching an eyebrow sardonically. Apart from those little issues, this is a good read. We get to see Hal Horn here in his last (non-flashback) living apperance, with his son as a sidekick. It's set just before the Battle of Derra IV, before Vader pays a certain frosty world a visit. I haven't really reviewed the story itself much . . . basically it serves as a nice little treat to anyone who's read The Thrawn Trilogy and the X-wing series. I'm drawing a blank at the moment, but this was one that I kept wanting to read more of, because even though I knew how it ended, I couldn't remember all the pieces of the puzzle — and with these authors, you know there's some kind of elaborate plot — let alone how all the pieces fell together. So, um . . . yeah. Good read. Recommend it. Doesn't really introduce Thrawn or Horn as well as their respective main series' do, but is a nice treat to anyone already familiar with their original material.

The Empire Strikes Back

Episode V of the Star Wars film saga

GOOD — A good book, above average.

As far as I'm concerned, this was pretty much at the same standard as Attack of the Clones is to non-novelisation novels. That is . . . it tells the story of the film well enough, and gives a number of insights that the film didn't, but doesn't really feel as though it stands up to a piece of original EU fiction. That seems to be a failing of novelisations full stop, though, and not of this particular one by itself. That said, it was a good read. Not as join-the-dots as The Phantom Menace was, but didn't feel as fleshed out as non-novelisation works tend to. Of course, I'm saying this now before I've come across any truly bad EU work yet, so I'm sure I will be looking back at this one with extreme fondness before I get to the end of the list of tales. As much as this was an enjoyable read, the ending did come extremely quickly, but unlike Revenge of the Sith, it seemed mercifully so. No, that's not because the book was crap, it's just that the way it was written, it didn't really feel like it wanted to be drawn out. Don't really have much else to say about this at the moment . . . if I were to recommend novelisations of the films to read, I'd put Revenge of the Sith up there as ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY READING, and then A New Hope on a rung below that, then Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back, and then I wouldn't even mention The Phantom Menace. I'm not sure yet where I'll place Return of the Jedi on that scale, but we'll find out in . . . oh, about eleventy billion short stories' time.

The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk

Part III of Tales of the Bounty Hunters

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

This was an extremely satisfying and enjoyable read. We get to spend some more time with Tinian, after having left her devastated in the wake of her family's business and lives on Drukenwell, from which she escaped. Now she's a bounty hunter. And hooked up with another Wookiee. And Bossk, who really seems like an asshole that I don't particularly care for, ends up joining forces with them to track down Vader's bounty on Captain Solo. So yeah, needless to say, the Trandoshan has plans of deceit against his partners. But that's okay, because they have it in for him, too. It's been about a week since I read it now, so my memory is a bit hazy, but I very much enjoyed this one, any time I was interrupted I wanted to return to it, and it is definitely on my list of 'to be read in future' stories when I'm finished with this entire reading list. Also, I loved the little slicer droid. Cute.

Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM

Part IV of Tales of the Bounty Hunters

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

This one I've written in at the same rank as the previous tale, but I actually enjoyed this one much more. The previous one was great. This one was better. I don't know if it's the boredom of commuting on the train twice daily that increases my enjoyment of these tales, or whether ones like these are just awesome. Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this. Having consulted Wookieepedia, I know the fates of the characters beyond this story, but if I didn't know them, I'd really want this story to continue more. I enjoyed the split story-telling, how it followed the Ion Cannon sensor control officer (or whatever she was) from Echo Base on Hoth during the battle onboard the medium transport that Organa was meant to catch, and the bounty hunters in their attempts to track down Vader's quarry of the Millennium Falcon and its captain. The tale of survival, and the tough choices onboard the damaged Rebel transport were enjoyably Battlestar Galactica-like (even though this came before the current incarnation of the show), and Zuckuss's intuition and 4-LOM's thought processes were enjoyable to read, also. I guess the only thing I felt it really missed were some good fighting scenes. These seemed to have been glossed over in the few instances that they occurred . . . although the technique used on Hoth was an effective one. This felt like a very contented, satsfying ending . . . however one thing stood out as odd to me — how would these bounty hunters know that the Alliance to Resore the Republic would name their eventual government the New Republic? Was there a memo I missed during the Rebellion stating such? I guess at the point in time that this was written it wasn't an issue (with the Galactic Republic being colloquially known as the 'Old Republic'), but still . . . now that we know it was officially called the 'Galactic' Republic. I don't know . . . this is a minor thing, and probably isn't even an issue, but I'm picky, dammit. :P Other than that, this was an extremely enjoyable read, and I wish it went further. Oh, and the ending was extremely rushed. Revenge of the Sith-style. But even that couldn't subtract from the excellence that was this story, just as it couldn't with that novelisation.

Slaying Dragons

Part VIII of Tales from the Empire

GOOD — A good book, above average.

This is another story I seem to have enjoyed much more in the past than I did this time around. It was okay, but nothing compared to some of the previous short stories. Although it actually made contextual sense this time, having read it just after the rout at Hoth, when the Rebel character mentions his 'friends' having lost a massive amount of equipment recently. So hurray to propper chronology. I guess this was intended as a short, cute read, which is succeeds as. But I wouldn't really go around recommending this one. It was just good. It wasn't excellent. Then again, it's been a few days since I read it, so I might be cutting it down more than it deserves. I do seem to recal . . . wait, I've lost it. Belinda's luring me to bed. Oh well, pretend there's more review of substance here!

Shadows of the Empire

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

This was an excellent read. The start I had a bit of trouble getting into that I don't recall having on previous occasions reading it. These were mostly, I think, just adjusting to some of the author's writing habits. These did annoy me throughout, however it was only the beginning that really impeded reading of it. Mostly the heavy repetition of certain things, such as the word 'cook' or 'cooked', of things 'not having a right to' whatever, such as 'the ship flew better than it had a right to', and the biggest one, probably, dropping off the start of sentences. Have no problem with characters doing this with dialogue. Bothers me a bit when its part of the narrator's prose. Feels like you've started reading a sentence part way. Missing bits. Apart from these quibbles, though, that only really interrupted reading at the beginning of the book as I adjusted to it, this was a really great read. Vader was especially awesome in it. Character dialogue felt a bit out of character at first, but gradually grew on me, until it sounded natural by the end. Rendar was a surrogate rogue to supplement the lack of any Solo, but worked okay as the device that he was. I forgot that the book leaves you believing he's dead at the end. So if you didn't know he survived — oh, spoiler warning, I guess — it works much better as a bitter kick-in-the-balls victory ending. Although the other side of it could be that the character was brought in for the story to temporarily replace Solo, and now that Solo will be back soon, he can be knocked off. However . . . the brief appearance at the end of the Han Solo Trilogy worked better chronologically at making him seem more like a real character in the universe, rather than a one-hit wonder. Some scenes unfolded differently to how I remembered them, partly due to a confusion with other media: for example, X-wing Alliance has Azzameen fly in one of the Bothan Y-wings for the raid on the Suprosa, which also featured a run-in with an Immobiliser cruiser that wasn't mentioned in the book and so probably didn't really happen at all. As with all pre-1999 appearances of Vader, it's interesting to see how the interpretations mesh with the newer material available. And it doesn't fit too badly. I have never really got the concept of Vader kneeling in fear of Palpatine, but . . . this novel was one that spelt it out. Even though I kept being confused, seeing them almost as equals in Revenge of the Sith. Anyway, moving on . . . oh yeah, Vader was awesome. Lots of choking galore, and behind-the-mask moments, and darkside-imbued out-of-suit breathing. Also, what happened to Admiral Piett? Why isn't he on the Executor? I'm guessing there's some reason for his absence, but it felt odd to not even have the character mentioned, even as an offhand thought of Vader's when doing one of the few 'waving the flag' missions he was sent on. Xizor's arrogant musings were entertaining, however I kept waiting for a scene that never eventuated: Xizor being Force-choked by Vader, before Palpatine calls him off. I must be getting this confused with something else, probably the extensive flashback scenes in The Bounty Hunter Wars. Anyway, this one impressed me enough to write more on it, but I don't have the time, so I'll just cut straight to the ending. While this was an excellent book, the ending alone was AWESOME-class, and I would bump the whole story up to that level if some of the annoying narrative elements weren't in it. So yes, excellent book with an absolutely-awesome ending. And awesome Vader, especially at the end when he did what Vader does best: kill and blow up things. But enough from me for now, sleep awaits, and then more reading tomorrow during otherwise-boring forty-odd minute commutes.

The Longest Fall

Part V of Tales from the New Republic

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

Just as a preface to the next dozen or so entries . . . I've left writing this until quite a while after reading them, so I won't be able to remember much. These will be rather lean on information, as my memory sucks. :P Anyway, onto this tale . . . I guess it showed the crapiness of the Empire when it came to politics screwing over even decent officers. But mostly I was confused throughout this. I felt kind of . . . strangely disturbed at the end, even though I guess I sort of knew it was coming. So yeah, I would have enjoyed it more if it weren't so macabre, but that would defeat the point of the story, wouldn't it?

That's Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb

Part III of Tales from Jabba's Palace

POOR — Nothing spectacular, kind of boring.

I seem to have a much fonder memory of this one than when I read it recently. It was kind of boring. Maybe it's better if you don't know the ending. Meh, I don't know . . . I guess Salacious Crumb just isn't that interesting as anything more than background comic relief.

Return of the Jedi

Episode VI of the Star Wars film saga

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

As for the question posed in The Empire Strikes Back review . . . this novelisation stacks up better than that one. I was extremely impressed with how many Expanded Universe references there were in this book, with even the most minor characters actually being named in the book — amazing since there wasn't an EU as such at this point in time, really. So whereas A New Hope and even The Empire Strikes Back would mention things like a 'crowd of aliens and strange beings', this story would actually name them, and have the names match the characters as they are seen in later spin-off material. Hmm . . . it's really been too long since finishing it that I'm writing this. But basically it was just really good. Maybe only second to the Revenge of the Sith novelisation. It explained some characters' motivations a bit better, too . . . Ah, and one thing that probably made more sense than the movie, but I am glad was left out . . . the section where the Ewoks don't see a reason to become involved in the conflict with the Empire. It makes more sense, and probably treats them much more intelligently than the film version does (where they're overenthusiastic but mindless fools who happily throw themselves into war for no good reason that I can make sense of), but the Rebels' arguments trying to convince them to join the cause were just, well, cringe-worthy. Essentially, it's been too long to properly remember and review this, but I seem to recall that it was most excellent (well, partly because that's the rating I wrote down once as soon as I finished it :P).

A Bad Feeling: The Tale of EV-9D9

Part XIII of Tales from Jabba's Palace

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

The next chunk of reviews will be very brief, as they have backed up. That's a problem with having a huge stretch of short stories — full-length novels take a bit longer to get through, which makes them more manageable to keep up with reviews for. Okay, basically this one was excellent. I really liked it. Is it strange for me to appreciate what the evil droid was trying to achieve? In a way I was kind of wanting her to succeed. However it was also very satisfying to have the ex-patrol droid and all of the tortured droids disassemble her piece by piece. Pretty sure there was more I wanted to say about this one, but it's been too long. Anyway, it was great, I liked it. I'll definitely be re-reading this one again at some point.

A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance: Oola's Tale

Part IV of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I liked the Skywalker cameo in this one. It seemed fairly in-character, even though he could have kicked Fortuna's ass easily and rescued Oola, too, but plot necessity prevented that. And while I appreciate that the Twi'lek was convinced she was making a last stand, I'm not sure it really achieved anything. Just seemed kind of a waste. Can't really remember much more of this one.

Let Us Prey: The Whiphid's Tale

Part V of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I have written down here that it was a good read, but I cannot really remember what exactly was good about it. Oh wait, now I remember. The story was okay, but it was the last part that I found hilarious and just had to bump the story up a notch: after the Whiphid has just sliced a monk through the chest with a vibroblade, a Gamorrean guard stumbles upon the scene. Very funny outcome. Made me look forward to the Gamorrean's story, which didn't really live up to the hilarity that I found in this single scene at the end of this one.

A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper's Tale

Part I of Tales from Jabba's Palace

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

This was a good read. One which I will re-read. It's also sad, as odd as thinking of the death of a slavering monstrous rancor would be. As with a lot of these Tales of stories, there's a majorly implausibility in the fact that all major events of note are focussed around the time of the films . . . such as all of the major plots against the Hutt intending to happen on the day of his death-by-slavegirl, in this case the plot to free the rancor from its slavery to the Hutt (which is probably one of the nicer plots happening in the palace, considering it involves the death of no-one, followed by the fact that the rancor won't be eating any more of Jabba's victims). One thing that I thought was a bit strange — and this didn't occur to me during reading, but a while afterward — is that nobody, not even the monster's keeper, comes up with a name for the 'poor pet'. I'm no animal person, but it seems a bit strange to me that a keeper of a creature that has emotional bonds to it would refer to it as its species name. "Let's play fetch, Dog!", "Okay, Cat, it's time to get you neutered", etc. Just seems a bit strange that the keeper at least wouldn't have come up with a nickname for the beast. Anyway, other than that nitpick, it's a very nice and warm and fuzzy story, until a certain upstart Jedi kills the beast. However, I thought it was a nice touch to read in the Return of the Jedi novelisation that Skywalker finds it hard to consider the beast evil, merely angry and confused. However the end of the story makes me hope that Malakili doesn't end up dead in the ensuing chaos of the post-Jabba period in the place . . . and a quick flick through Wookieepedia puts those thoughts to rest. Long live the weepy fat man!

Taster's Choice: The Tale of Jabba's Chef

Part II of Tales from Jabba's Palace

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

According to the rating I recorded upon immediately finishing this one, it was 'an average read, but not excessively poor'. It's been a long time since I read it now, which makes me wonder why I didn't actually bump it down to POOR. I'm guessing my memory of it isn't as good as it was. Basically the whole thing is about the Hutt's unfortunate chef — who I do consider to be a sympathetic character, I really do . . . I just guess this story didn't really do much for me. Oh, and I'm pretty sure this had some woeful misquoting of material from the film. Such as 'the resting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc' becomes something like 'the abode of the . . .'. Anyway, it was an okay twist at the end, with what exactly the meaning of fierfek means, but I'm not sure if it was enough to save the whole story in my eyes. I guess if you're into cooking, it might be more exciting, as I seem to remember there being a lot of in-depth cooking discussion.

And Then There Were Some: The Gamorrean Guard's Tale

Part VII of Tales from Jabba's Palace

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

This is another tale I seem to remember enjoying much more than I actually did this time around. Especially disappointing because I was looking forward to it after the brief cameo of the character in Let Us Prey, which I thought was hilarious. This one didn't make me laugh so much as it did make me feel sad. Stupid Gamorrean, making me feel sympathetic to its unintelligence. Here we learn that this guard is actually much stupidier than the average Gamorrean — considering these are Gamorrean I'm speaking about, I just assumed they were all stupid. Anyway, I can't remember much of the guard's investigation, other than it being a bit . . . macabre that he was carting around dead and decomposing bodies for a few days . . . the mentioning of coloured fluids leaking out of the bodies was particularly offputting. And made me wonder if the speed of decomposition was happening a bit too quickly for credibility. But apparently it happens fast — even faster, I would imagine, in a sweltering sauna such as Tatooine. So yeah, poor stupid guard made me feel sorry for it, when here I was expecting a good laugh. Bah. Oh, and what's with the stupidiest creature in Jabba's palace knowing that Dannik Jerriko is an Anzati, when no-one else knows this (yet)?

Old Friends: Ephant Mon's Tale

Part VIII of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

There was something about the narrative style of this that seemed to give Ephant Mon character. I don't really have much more to comment about it than that — I really enjoyed it, even just the flow of the narrative itself, without thinking of the story aspects. Oh, and I believe this is the only tale (so far) to have a speaking role for the Imperial prefect (or whatever he was), when he is apparently one of the major players in this Tales of series. But yeah, reading this made me think it was cool that they had a Republic-era story with Ephant Mon it it, running guns or whatever it was that he recalls doing before becoming Jabba's unofficial plot-discoverer. A character I would like to revisit.

Out of the Closet: The Assassin's Tale

Part XVI of Tales from Jabba's Palace

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

As with the previous Dannik Jerrico tale, I have a much fonder memory of it than it seems worthy of having read it more recently. Not that it's necessarily bad . . . I just don't care for the artsy narrative style. Might suit some tastes; doesn't suit mine. Which sucks, because (like the Gamorrean story) I was really looking forward to it. Especially when Jerrico just goes nuts and starts randomly killing everyone . . . but that's actually set after the scope of this story, so no insane vampire-man. I am curious, however, as to how he thought he would get through the rows of guards in order to be alone enough with Jabba to do the brain-suckage thing. Then again, I'm curious as to how he thought he'd even be able to get his proboscii into that bloated hunk of slime to reach the Hutt's brain.

Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade

Part VI of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

As grudgingly as I am to admit it, this was kind of cool. I don't exactly hate Jade as a character . . . I just find some authors seem to have bloated senses of their character's importance or greatness. Anderson has Kyp Durron (and, in a way, Daala — since she's a pretty useless warlord but I doubt he sees it that was), Stackpole has Corran Horn, Zahn has Mara Jade and Thrawn. So any tales of Jade kicking ass are kind of . . . well, the premise makes me arch an eyebrow sardonically, to channel the great Zahn himself. That said, I really enjoyed this one. I thought the 'Jade kicks ass noisily right underneath the crowded palace but nobody hears because the rancor is trying to eat Skywalker' bit was a bit . . . improbable? I don't know, it just seemed an excuse to throw a few more movie moments in there. But Jade kicking the guards' asses in that scene made up for it. Basically this was pretty cool. And I liked that it introduced Melina Carniss . . . who we will be seeing a bit later in the X-wing series in a role that Jade herself will eventually take over. So yeah, this was pretty good.

Shaara and the Sarlacc: The Skiff Guard's Tale

Part XVII of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I liked this one. It was a different setup from most. The narrative being presented as a story being told by the skiff guard to Boba Hutt while en route to the Pit of Carkoon. And while it was a bit cheesy with its foreshadowing, I still thought it was pretty cool. A shame that the narrator is probably offed in the following skirmish. This was an interesting tale involving horny stormtroopers and a hungry yet discerning Sarlacc. A shame the narrator is probably dead — I wouldn't mind reading a few more tales related by this character.

The Great God Quay: The Tale of Barada and the Weequays

Part XII Tales from Jabba's Palace

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

This was extremely entertaining. When reading the Return of the Jedi novelisation and it mentioned that the Weequays were brothers and all had the name 'Weequay' instead of given names, I thought 'oh yeah, this won't gel with other EU sources'. Turns out I was wrong. The Weequays were incredibly entertaining, with their quirks. I love how down-to-business they are, and yet incredibly silly. Such as believing a magic eight ball as being the personification of a god, or of having a meeting with just two of them, complete with one being the chairman and the other secretary, etc. I thought it was very entertaining. Barada, while a sympathetic character, really seemed wasted in this. I just didn't see much need for him at all. The Weequays alone were extremely entertaining. I am wondering about the bomb they discovered, though (more than the way they did, haha). Was that a real bomb? Or was it just some device that they assumed was one, and then broke it thinking they had 'defused' it (this might have been answered in the narrative, I can't remember). The ending I enjoyed too — while they all die in a fiery blast, the last thing they see is their magic eight ball flying up away from the explosion, 'to return to the heavens'. As much as that's a load of crap, it seemed nice for them to believe that before they were consumed by fire. Silly Weequays — they didn't even think to jump.

And the Band Played On: The Band's Tale

Part X of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

This one wasn't as entertaining as I remembered. Reebo was the most identifyable character, because Snoodles was bitchy. The contract the band signed on for was amusing. Ah, Ortolans. This is one of those pieces of EU that have been largely rendered obsolete by the Special Editions, as the various miscellaneous characters added in the newest versions of Return of the Jedi are all understandably missing from here, yet later EU material has retconned it so that various characters did know each other very well . . . doesn't really mesh with this version of events. Not the author's fault, really — they couldn't have known the source material would change a few years down the track. :P But yeah, this wasn't too entertaining, but entertaining enough that I would like to follow Reebo's character to see where he ended up after this. Hopefully somewhere with a lot of food.

Goatgrass: The Tale of Ree-Yees

Part IX of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Hmm . . . really can't remember much about this one. Mustn't have been terribly memorable. Burning eyestalks and braying laughter are pretty much all I remember. Oh, and using Bubo to smuggle sabotage equipment into the palace, which had me wondering just what Bubo thought of that. Yeah, can't really remember much about this one. I have it written down as GOOD, so it can't have been bad. Just unmemorable. Oh, I remember wanting the Ree-Yees to make it back to his homeworld, with the swaying goatgrass and the triple-breasted beauties. Because who doesn't like triple-breasted beauties?

Of the Day's Annoyances: Bib Fortuna's Tale

Part XI of Tales from Jabba's Palace

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

I must say that after seeing Fortuna's portrayal in all the stories to date, I did not expect to ever find him a character I could sympathise yet. However, with his side of the story I can see where he's coming from, and even if he's not a particularly nice or good character, he's not altogether evil. Villanous, yes, but evil, no. He seems to genuinely mean well . . . but just has nasty ways of doing that, and the ends most certainly seem to justify the means. Interesting that he could be both intuitive and weak-minded. I guess the monks didn't see a point in fortifying the willpower of one they knew was going to betray them once his use for them ran out. As much as he was a bit of a bastard, and his brain ended up in a lovely spider-jar, Fortuna is a character I would like to see more of. From his point of view, I mean, not others: there are many cookie-cutter villains around — I'm interested in seeing things from his point of view.

One Last Night in the Mos Eisley Cantina: The Tale of the Wolfman and the Lamproid

Part XVI of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

Why was this one good? I'd have to say that the cantina scenes didn't really do it for me, with the exception of the final scene there. But the dogfighters were pretty awesome for a short story. In fact, they're probably the best I can remember reading outside of the X-wing series, or maybe the Battle of Coruscant in the Revenge of the Sith novelisation. And the dogfighting was fairly realistic too — the Wolfman was up against four TIE Fighters, which were an actual threat, not some piece of cake that could be wiped off easily; he had to be inventive and creative to kill them all off. The Hoth flashback I thought was well done, however I kept having trouble actually visualising what the hell the Lamproid actually looked like . . . the ending parts (such as when the cantina transitioned from post-Jabba riots back to A New Hope-era time) were pretty damned sentiment-inspiring, even if the ending was a bit too 2001: A Space Odyssey for my tastes. Despite the weird part just at the end, this was an excellent read with an emotional ending that didn't ring hollow. Hurrah. I look forward to more awesome dogfighting scenes like this in the X-wing series that is yet to come.

Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88

Part I of Tales of the Bounty Hunters

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

My understanding is that of all the EU, this is probably one of the pieces that most people would want to make un-canon. Why? Mostly because of the crap that is IG-88 becoming one with the Death Star II. It's been a long, long time since I read this one, so I was not looking forward to it. However, and I probably throw whatever credibility I have to the four winds, I liked it. It was kind of Anderson-like (not a good thing) with the super-duper, over-the-topic, zomg awesome type of characterisation and story elements . . . but I really enjoyed it. Of course, I may be stabbing KJA effergies when I get up to Darksabre, with the nimble and zoooming Victory Star Destroyers, but for the moment I'm actually admitting to enjoying this one. Of course, the IG-88 droids being so incredibly awesome is kind of throw into question by them being killed off by Boba Fett every few minutes . . . but hey, I guess that just makes Fett more awesome. Right? After all the claims of Zahn Vader-bashing with Jade and Thrawn as his mouthpieces, I thought it was interesting that Vader was an object of fasination and awe for the super-duper zomg awesome lol assassin droids of Anderson's. And okay, I admit: I thought the over-the-top awesomeness of the droids was enjoyable. We need more stories of machines of nigh-indestructible machines going about coldly partaking in wanton destruction. What? Erm . . . now I've lost my train of thought, and can't remember what I was going to write next. Oh well, despite it's corniness, I really enjoyed this one. I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone who's not reading this, but I liked it enough to encourage the reading of it here. :P Oh, and IG-88 becoming the Death Star still sucks, but within the context of the narrative it somehow seems . . . okayish. Almost.

The Truce at Bakura

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

Ah. The first full-length novel after a whole sea of short stories. I remember whinging about wanting to read a few moer shorter-length stories towards the start of this endeavour, and now I'm just wanting to settle down with a more lengthy storyline for a bit of a change. I think from here on in it shouldn't be as much of an all-or-nothing situation — the short stories look to be balanced out nicely with full-scale novels, rather than either drowning in short stories or . . . er . . . starving for them? Okay, enough of my crapping on about that, and time for crapping on about the story. I think it was pretty damned good! The first time I've seen the Big Three (hah) since Return of the Jedi . . . which was only yesterday for them, but was a boatload of short stories ago for me. :P I really thought the characterisations were spot-on with this one, with none of the characters really acting, well, out of character at all. Only criticism I can think of . . . is that while Organa's going loopy with the aftershocks of 'Vader's my daddy! NOOOO!', I would have expected Skywalker to dwell on (or perhaps 'meditate on' is the correct expression here?) his encounter with Palpatine — you know, the one in which he fought his father to a stand-still, barely escaped succumbing to the darkside, then had his father kill himself to off the most evil man in the universe and save his son's life? — in the throne room of the Death Star. That strikes me as something you would think about more than once or twice! Especially the day after the events take place. I guess it can be explained away as a sort of automatic repression mechanism . . . and that after the Bakura crisis he would start to open up to really feeling it, but I don't know . . . that's the only thing that really seemed out of character to me. I liked pretty much everything else. I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot and easy-way-out to off both Sibwarra and the Imperial governor . . . while I can imagine Sibwarra's living not really affecting much beyond Skywalker's training of Jedi, with Nereus still alive . . . well, the surrender of Imperial force at Bakura would have been much more . . . interesting. Maybe I'm just thinking too much of court intrigue? Anyway, have the bastard shoot at the Jedi, that'll work for an easier way out of the story. I know I've whinged a bit, but I really, really enjoyed this one. Especially since it's the first decent-lenthed story I've read for a while. Really worn myself out on short stories for the moment, having read the eleventy billion there were from just before A New Hope until now, with only four or five novels to separate them. Hmm . . . oh, and I was hoping for there to be some kind of implied opening for Skywalker to maybe (Did they? Didn't they?) get it on with Captison (the Gaeriel one, I mean :P), however the story doesn't leave any real timeframe for that to happen. By the time she's fully accepted him as a good person and a Jedi they've realised they have no future and seem to break off emotional contact. I'm sure I had more things relevant to the main storyline to comment on, but I'm bored now. Basically: this was a pretty kick-ass story, compared to the ocean of short stories I've been reading — there's only so much you can become invested in characters and storylines that last for twenty pages then stop. Variety, and all that. Here's to a more sensible mix of long and short stories from here on.

Skin Deep: The Fat Dancer's Tale

Part XIX of Tales from Jabba's Palace

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

This was much better than I remember. A vaguely memorable character from the films — just how many six-breasted women do you see? — I liked that it dealt with her post-Anzati experience, in the tumultous unheaval of the palace due to the Hutt's timely demise. The fat dancer and the (non-Anzati) hunter are both very sympathetic characters, and I couldn't help but like them and want them to do well. And of course having an insane Anzati running amok in the palace is always good reading. Ah, good times. But yes, the two main characters are ones I would enjoy reading about beyond this story — not necessarily putting them in peril (I think after the adventures both in this story and before that in Jabba's palace are enough for any sane sentient), but just to see at least some characters achieving a happy ending. A nice change from all the war and strife in the galaxy. Oh, and the krayt dragon was cool, too.

Tongue-tied: Bubo's Tale

Part XV of Tales from Jabba's Palace

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

There wasn't really much to this one, either length-wise or substance-wise. But I think I ranked it so highly because it amused me. Yes, that must have been it. It's basically just a short intro and conclusion with a brief flashback as the body, but I think Bubo is a character I would appreciate reading more of. Well, as long as it's from his point of view, since to anyone else he's just a mindless frog-dog. I guess the point of this was to amuse more than actually tell a story, and at that it succeeded. I do wonder, though, why Ree-Yees didn't seem to mention (in his thoughts) Bubo eating the detonator link in his own tale. He seemed to not understand where it had gone, rather than witnessing it eaten by the frog-creature. Oh well, just put it down to lost in the drunken haze, I guess. Well, I've run out of interesting things to say (probably did that before I started, actually). As Bubo philosphically comments on the universe: BUUURP!

Payback: The Tale of Dengar

Part II of Tales of the Bounty Hunters

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Heading into the final bend of 'stories I read ages ago that I'm finally getting around to writing about'. Incidentally, the final lot until I'm up-to-date all feature Dengar. And I must say I prefer the characterisation in this tale rather than The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy, because it just seems a bit off, and this story came first. There are a few reasons I like this Dengar. One: he's a cyborg who has enhanced speed and agility. Two: he's batshit insane. Three: . . . well, those first two are probably it. The Solo fixation of his I never got terribly excited about. Regarding the story as a whole . . . I found that it was one of those stories that start with a premise . . . and then go off on a tangent, without really having any sense of what's coming next. Often that seems messy, like the story has a lack of direction. But here I felt like it worked, and helped make the story seem more organic. I thought it was interesting that the whole obsession with Solo never led to any kind of confrontation with the object of his, er, obsession. And Solo flying swoops dangerously as a kid? Good continuity. The romance with Manaroo was kind of sweet, in a 'sociopath learns emotions' kind of way. Umm . . . yeah, the ending was okay, but I think by this point I was hoping to continue the story with The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy . . . this story and the following trilogy don't exactly dove-tail as well as I was hoping. I don't really understand when Fett had time to be Dengar's best man at his wedding, after having read the sequel trilogy . . . Anyway, I recall this being an excellent read.

The Mandalorian Armour

Book I of The Bounty Hunter Wars

GOOD — A good book, above average.

You know, all three books in this trilogy are pretty much the same, so I could review the whole trilogy at once . . . in fact, that would be easily. But I've got a system going here, so I'll try and break it up into each book. I'll try not to become too repetitive. Basically . . . this was very clever and well implemented, however I get the distinct feeling that the author wasn't as familiar with the universe as others. Some things just . . . felt off. The depiction of certain things, descriptions of others. The frequent use of "Standard Time Unit" — I know the A New Hope novelisation used something of the sort when Solo's boasting about the speed of the Millennium Falcon, but the term hasn't been seen since, if indeed it is the same int he first place. Also, a great many characters introduced elsewhere felt a bit out of character somewhat. Xizor (in flashbacks, pre-mortem) probably suffers the least . . . I'll get into the characterisation issues with Vader and Palpatine, and other continuity slip-ups, later but for now . . . Dengar. Human male, suffered a near-fatal crash in a swoop race with Han Solo when he was an adolescent. The operation which saved his life was also an Imperial experiment, and they cut away parts of his brain, including the ability to sense all emotions other than a select few, such as rage and hope. After that he worked as an Imperial assassin for years before he went completely psychotic and started killing Imperial targets, specifically members of the departments that experimented on him and turned him into the unfeeling monster he had become. Also, he has a fetish with visualising his victims as Han Solo, so he can have payback for the hell he inadvertantly put him through. Is well-known by the moniker 'Payback' because of that. Then joined the Rebel Alliance to try and track down Solo, but failed and bumped into a girl he'd previously saved from Imperial experimentation. Eventually, through the aid of some kind of neural network device, he once again experienced the full spectrum of emotions: just Manaroo's emotions, not his (due to the brain-chopping, remember?). Anyway, none of that is addressed, mentioned, or even remembered in this trilogy. Instead of being a super-strong, super-fast, unemotional sociopathical assassin . . . he's just a lumbering, tough, low-on-brains-by-high-on-brawn ruffian. And apparently he's in a galaxy-world of debt, which is preventing Manaroo and he from living happily married ever after. Anyway, that's the start of my characterisation issues for this series, and I'll stop bitching about that for now. Other than that, the story is an interesting one: the hereditory head of Kuat Drive Yards inexplicably wants to make sure Boba Fett is dead, and so goes ahead with his attempts to make that so. Boba Fett, nursed back to health by Dengar and a mind-wiped dancing girl of Jabba's, doesn't want to go along with that idea. Boba Fett and company proceed with their plans to not-die and follow Fett's mysterious and unexplained plans. This is a tell-two-stories-for-one kind of series, with the extensive flashback chapters taking place not long after the first Death Star went kersplodey. In this continuity, Price Xizor sets into motion his plans to break up the lethargic Bounty Hunters Guild by hiring the Assembler (the galaxy's ultimate go-between) as a middle-man to get Boba Fett to join the guild to act as a catalyst to bring it down. Xizor explains to the Emperor that it's in the Empire's interest, as only the toughest bounty hunters will survive, thus benefiting the Empire. Of course it really benefits Black Sun most of all, but that's not to be spoken too loudly. There's also some major mischaracterisation of Zuckuss, and Bossk's ship the Hound's Tooth magically being in his possession around the time of Jabba's death — nevermind the fact that when last we saw it, and him, the ship was in the control of Tinian and her Wookiee friend, and the reptile himself was bound for skinning by so Imperial officer. Anyway, despite these obvious continuity clashes, the story is good, engaging, mysterious and interesting. Full of plots with twists and turns. However it also suffers in that department, as the plots are so complicated that a lot of time is spent explaining things to the reader. Anyway, enough of this for now, but the next two reviews are going to be more of the same kind of thing, as the books themselves were. Fortunately the books themselves weren't terrible reads, because otherwise that would be extremely tedious. I was tempted to rank this VERY GOOD, but for reasons you'll find in the next two reviews, I decided to knock the whole trilogy down to its current ranking.

Slave Ship

Book II of The Bounty Hunter Wars

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Okay, onward with more convoluted plotting encased in an engaging but often clunky and awkward narrative. This series definitely suffers from a sense of 'zomg Boba Fett is awesome lol!111'. I mean, yes, he is, but the characters in the story — and the narrative voice itself — just bash us over the head with it at every opportunity. Something I'd surprised of in this series . . . is that Fett seems to be only armed with a handful of weapons. Whereas in previous stories he's been featured there have been all manner of weaponry built into his armour that aren't always obvious or apparent, but that come handy when he's disarmed of the other weapons. Wrist-darts? Thigh-cannon? Okay, so the second one was in Thrawn's "Jodo Kast" armour, but still . . . it's all Mandalorian. :P The main mischaracterisations in this one would have to definitely be Vader and Palpatine. Little things such as Vader addressing Palpatine as 'my lord', rather than 'master', and Palpatine referring to Vader as 'Vader', instead of 'Lord Vader', as is his wont. And while the twisting and turning plots are interesting, there are long, speechy parts where segments of plots and plans are explained to us either by the narrative text, or by characters. The latter seems exceedingly tiresome. Oh, also . . . in this book the flashbacks are explained as Dengar telling Neelah the story of the breakup of the Bounty Hunters Guild. So . . . I don't know. It kind of cheapened it for me having the flashbacks be part of a story told in-universe by a character to kill time. It even retroactively explains it as having been the case in the first one, while Fett was unconscious Dengar was regailing Neelah with tails of Fett's wiliness. This is slightly allieved by the fact that the next book explains any inconsistencies or errors with a 'certain point of view' type deal . . . which I guess can be used to explain away the mischaracterisations of Vader and Palpatine. I mean, how many run-of-the-mill denizens of the galaxy actually knew either of them long enough to tell stories about them? Can't really think much more to say of this one . . . except that I think the author may have realised some of the more annoying or inconsistent elements of this book and the previous . . . because some of those issues are addressed in the next one. Or in some cases . . . attempted to be explained away. Anyway, I tire of this trilogy. I guess it gets bonus points for being extremely consistent, because instead of three stories, I definitely see this as just one story chopped up into three parts for publishing reasons. Anyway: onward!

Hard Merchandise

Book III of The Bounty Hunter Wars

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Okay. Almost up to date now. This book seemed to have a theme of trying to tie up loose ends — and by loose ends I mean errors introduced and used repeatedly in the first two books. For example . . . there's a line or two acknowledging the bind Bossk got into with Tinian and Imperial captivity, and mentionoing that he bribed his way out of that and used cunning to reclaim his ship. There's also Zuckuss reflecting on his and 4-LOM's time in the Rebellion, before 4-LOM was blasted down to his core and forgot all his noble programming. However, it still doesn't address the huge character differences between the Zuckuss of this series, and the Zuckuss story in Tales of the Bounty Hunters. You know, the one where he can medidate and predict the future? One of the other attempts at correcting an inbalance in this series . . . is having Boba Fett suffer some losses for a change. Taking some extensive damage due to not being one hundred percent prescient. Erm . . . kind of let my mind wander a bit, can't remember where I was up to. Anyway, this was a good series, but not excellent. It tries to be too clever, while believing in its cleverness too much for my liking. There are extended speechifying parts explaining how wonderful plans were, and how wonderful the inventors of those plans are (and by extension, how wonderful the author thinks they are). It could be good characterisation of hubris, for characters who eventually fall . . . or it could just be an author convinced of their cleverness (which is really irksome). At any rate, the series is by no means terrible. It just . . . suffers, somewhat, from a few bumps and bruises formed by not being completely emeshed in the rest of continuity. However, it also shows a nice grey territory that's not the main spotlight for the saga as a whole — while good and evil are prominently featured, the only touches of grey that are shown are fleeting and temporary, usually short stories instead of trilogies. Anyway, it was a fairly satisfying ending. Oh, and I like Ballancesheet. Chronologically, I'm not entirely sure where it should sit. It's a tricky one . . . it takes place during Return of the Jedi, and ends sometime at the end of that story . . . but I'm not sure how long after the Battle of Endor it continues to. So that's why I've placed it here — with all the confusion that are the Tales from Jabba's Palace short stories around this time, I don't mind placing this one slightly after The Truce at Bakura, even though it probably should be before it. Anyway, now I'm up to date, it's time to continue on with the reading project. This could be made slightly tricky by a lack of reading time — I used to read on the forty-minute commute to work, but I've been fired from that job because the boss is an asshole bastard, so . . . we'll see.

Day of the Sepulchral Night

Part XVIII of Tales from the New Republic

GOOD — A good book, above average.

This was basically a Star Wars version of Treasure Island. And, like a number of other sources, I like that small warships like Corellian corvettes are considered by normal people as big ships, rather than tiny things that can be easily offed (this mindset being a byproduct of the flight sims, methinks). I remember being confused throughout most of this as to why the Quarren would need rebreathers and be concerned about the rising tide of the ocean . . . until I finally realised they weren't Quarren, but Weequay. Still, in my defence, the only Weequay I've seen up to this point have been the clone-like, group without a sense of individuality that worked as guards for the late Jabba the Hutt. Anyway . . . not much happened in this story, but it was kind of pleasant and didn't seem to suffer from the lack of action. I especially liked the fact that the Weequay manage to see the bright side at the end: that they have pockets full of jewels, and some new targets for their bounty hunting list. I choose to believe that beyond the end of this story they are rescued, buy themselves a life of luxury, then eventually track down and have vengeance on the double-crossers. Dammit. Now I want a fortune in riches to cash in and live in comfort. Oh, and the setting of the story was nice and terrestrial, with a slight sense of the weird (the whole day long esclipse with the three remaining visible moons of different hues).

Gathering Shadows

Part III of Tales from the New Republic

GOOD — A good book, above average.

A big problem with runs of short stories in a row is that it's hard to keep track of them if you don't write about them immediately afterwards. I remember this one, but I can't think of what to say about it. The cell scenes were very vivid . . . really struck home the feeling of helplessness, of being a prisoner trapped in the dark, likely to be tortured to death or simply killed at any moment . . . or maybe left alone in the dark forever. I seem to remember the infiltration of the smugglers into the Imperial compound being a bit too easy, but that is explained as really hopeless, poorly trained Imperial forces on the planet (without the planet knowing). I think it's . . . two months past the Battle of Endor at this stage? Already the New Republic is known by that name, which is interesting. Satisfaction with the Rebellion, but dissatisfaction with the New Republic . . . this is a plot thread I think we'll be seeing more of in the short stories throughout the New Republic period, especially in the first few years after the Emperor's death. Anyway, can't think of much more to say, other than I would like to read more about the characters introduced here, and that the walking dead was . . . interesting. And it's funny that by this stage, mere months after Palpatine's death, an Imperial presence on a world flees when the world discovers their unauthorised presence. Certainly a sign of the future for the ruin of the Empire. A few months ago an ImpStar probably would have been sent out in response to bully the world into line, but now they just run away before the planet's military forces (or the New Republic's) arrive. A lot has changed in two months.

A Free Quarren in the Palace: Tessek's Tale

Part XIV of Tales from Jabba's Palace

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

I think I was expecting more from this one. It wasn't bad, but I didn't get terribly excited. Hrm . . . can't really remember much more. I guess hearing about the ins and outs of the late Jabba the Hutt's death plots are kind of tiresome by this stage (not this story's fault, it's just one of about a billion doomed let's-kill-the-Hutt! schemes that all failed because the Bloated One decided to piss off a Jedi). Finally we get some substantial mention of the Imperial Prefect, who the start of the book seemed to imply was an important player in the series of tales. One inconsistency I noted was that the Fat Dancer was caught but Tessek stealing gems (that's perfectly in-character — she had to save up her money somehow over the years), but she admitted it was because she was leaving. However in her own story it seems to indicate she was intending to leave legitimately once she'd saved up enough credits, and was freed from the slave contract by Jabba's death. I guess one way of working this is to have her just be lying to Tessek. Makes a lot more sense than her planning to escape while Jabba was away, only to have her thoughts later contradict that. I think I had actually remembered something else to talk about here, but it's gone again and I'm ready to move on. Next!

Epilogue: Whatever Became Of . . . ?

Part XX of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

This isn't a story as such, but was a nice series of mini-epilogues for the various tales from the collection. If you've read any of the short stories in Tales from Jabba's Palace, this is a highly recommended subsequent reading.

A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett

Part XVIII of Tales from Jabba's Palace

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy, but I detest the word 'barve'. Not because of the word itself, but because in that trilogy it was used all the goddamn time. Every time someone referred to Boba Fett, they used the term 'barve' to describe him. It got old very quickly. Anyway, thankfully this story doesn't do that. In retrospect, I should have read this story between Payback and The Mandalorian Armour as it would have helped to blend between some of the inconsistencies between the two, but because the epilogue is set one year later, I mistakenly read it at that point in the timeline. Things would have made a lot more chronological sense had I read it back then. Anyway, this version of Boba Fett doesn't seem particularly characteristic of the bounty hunter's nominal characterisation. It mentions something like a simmering rage that burns just below the surface at all times . . . say what now? All the previous depictions of Fett I've read have been cool, calm, collected. I mean, sure things will piss him off eventually (especially a certain spacer named Solo), but as a general state of being? No way. Anyway, this story was pretty good. Kind of . . . disturbing, the setting is . . . waiting in a dark, claustrophobic and dank environment while the Sarlacc digests you with its stomach acids. That's all I have to say about this one . . . I actually read it a few weeks ago, so I'm surprised I remember as much as I just wrote.

Missed Chance

Part IV of Tales from the Empire

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I'll have to start this review by being upfront about something: I cannot remember what my impressions actually were of this story. For some reason, probably lack of time, I did not write a review from this story, and since then I've read seven books and another short story . . . So my memory is failing me here when it comes to what my impressions of the story were. I can remember the basic outline of the story, though, so I guess I'll go with that. This will be a poor review, though, because I really don't remember much. Um . . . Corran Horn on the run from the Empire . . . fools a local Moff . . . inadvertently starts a teenage rebellion on the planet . . . escapes through wit and cunning and barely avoids being discovered and caught by his nemesis Kirtan Loor. I think it was an okay story, going by the fact that I wrote down GOOD next to the name. Yeah, sorry, I really can't remember much more of this. One thing I do remember, though, is that it acts kind of okay as a prelude to the X-wing series, since it shows Corran Horn in his pre-Rogue Squadron arrogant best. Prior to all the character development he undergoes in the X-wing series. Which is kind of a nice touch, if it does make him slightly annoying at the end. Anyway, that's all I can think of. Sorry.

Rogue Squadron

Book I of the X-wing series

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Before I try and recollect my impressions of the entire X-wing series in one go, I would like to start with some background information about this series, to temper any unwarranted negativity that might be found in my reviews. Before the release of the X-wing series by Michael Stackpole, most of the Expanded Universe stories were by-the-numbers, not that great pieces that always featured the 'big three' characters of Skywalker, Organa and Solo. No stories really broke beyond that mould, and the EU really suffered from it. Then, Stackpole wrote a story that featured almost all new characters. Suddenly we had characters who could bleed and die, and not be protected by too much in the way of 'character shields', other than Antilles that is. Only a handful of the main characters in the books had been seen in previously-published, chronologically-later material, which meant that everyone was almost fair game. This made the series much more fresh than another Anderson trilogy about superweapons. That said, at this point in my 'let's read all of the EU' process, there haven't really been many stories featuring the main film characters of the Galactic Civil War period, which means I was actually looking for stories with them in it. Which is obviously why the EU was so bloated and polluted with those types of stories — people wanted to read more about them. And having read eleventy-billion short stories with original characters, I found myself wanting a few more Truce at Bakura-like tales to satisfy that, before heading off into the territory of yet more original characters. So, because of that, I didn't enjoy Rogue Squadron as much as I really ought have. I've read the story about three or four times now, so yes I already knew what was going to happen, however it was so long ago that thankfully I couldn't remember everything that was going to happen. Which kept some parts of the plot nicely surprising as I couldn't remember them all. Overall, a lot less happened in this book than I remembered. I think that's because I had, in my mind, compressed a lot of the plot points of the next few books into what I thought this one was. I haven't really stressed enough of the good points in this series, but if you've read it then you already know how good it is. So onto the bad. Or at least things I didn't like. The fact that everyone refers to the New Republic, or things pertaining to the New Republic, as 'the Alliance'. What the hell? The Alliance to Restore the Republic has officially been the New Republic for about two and a half years by this point. Surely that's enough time to have passed for less reference to 'Alliance'. I found it distracting for some reason. Not sure why. Oh, another point about the Stackpole books. These are good books, and they were some of the best reading when they first came out. But unfortunately Aaron Allston's contribution to the series have made me enjoy Stackpole's books slightly less. Because Allston somehow manages to inject a healthy dose of wit (some say too much forced wit in tales like Starfighters of Adumar), and also manages to reduce the obviousness of 'redshirt' characters. In the Stackpole books, like this one, I found that although good they were overly dry and took themselves too seriously — both the story and the characters. And . . . the aliens with the funny names who don't really talk much are the ones who are obviously going to die. That said, I don't think all of the Rogue deaths are redshirts as such . . . but there are just more in these four books than there are in the three that follow it. Oh, and there are serious tense problems in this book that I did not notice in the ones that follow. The author kept forgetting to keep everything in past tense, so it awkwardly changes between past and present tense without any real pattern, which is quite jarring. I know it seems like I've bashed the hell out of this one, but I'd prefer this to a Dark Lord or The Final Exit.

Wedge's Gamble

Book II of the X-wing series

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Hm, one down, six X-wing books to go. I imagine my review for this and the next one will be fairly similar to the first, which means it will be a lot shorter. I liked the undercover operations on Coruscant, and I liked Isard's planning, even though it ultimately costs her the Empire. Hmm. This story was very combat-light; or at least light on the dogfight scene. Which was probably intentional, to make sure it wasn't a Book I clone. The battle at the end with Horn and company flying through the storm kind of makes up for this. Really can't remember much more. I think I liked this one more than Rogue Squadron. Really amazing jump in mentality for Horn regarding Celchu. I'm not sure if I noticed this the first few times I read it, but I definitely noticed how much of a difference there was of opinion between the end of Rogue Squadron and the start of Wedge's Gamble. Not saying it's a mischaracterisation, just that it was a very big jump between books. Yeah, can't really think of much more to say here. I really need to stop being slack, and start writing these as soon as I've finished the books, so that they're fresh in my mind and I can actually remember things to write about.

The Krytos Trap

Book III of the X-wing series

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

I forgot to mention in the previous review, that I do like Isard as an antagonist. She seems capable and intelligent. A real threat. And it's only due to some bad luck and the ingenuity of the New Republic and allied characters that her plots go awry. I mean, the Krytos virus would have worked, had the Rogues not been as inventive as they were. And even though she ultimately failed in this regard, she caused a lot of damage in the process. Eat your heart out, Daala. This is how a real Imperial warlord woman wages war, you pretender. Having opened with that, it's an interesting touch that we don't really get to see Isard in this story at all, other than Horn's interrogation sessions. Her absence makes it that much more of an interesting surprise when her ship does appear at the end. Dlarit's duplicity was one I think I saw through on my first reading through. Not sure if I managed this entirely by myself, or when it became obvious to Horn that Celchu wasn't the spy. And . . . for some reason I was really rooting for Loor. I mean, he's arrogant and happily served evil for all his life, but I really wanted him to live happily ever after. Getting gunned down was kind of poetic and all that other lovely crap, but I really wanted him to live happily ever after on some distant planet, not getting involved in galactic affairs. But yeah, not sure why, but I didn't want him to go out the way he did, even though he did deserve it. Derricote deserved his end, as did Thyne. Can't really think of much else to say. Oh yeah, Fey'lya can go die in a fire, but we all know he does eventually anyway.

The Bacta War

Book IV of the X-wing series

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

Now, this book here feels like an entirely different story. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just that this seems like such a clean break from all that has come before. Suddenly the characters aren't cogs in a government's military; now they're harking back to the roots of the Alliance — they're a guerrilla force with a clear objective that's almost impossible. I know I forgot to mention the trial in the previous review. I do remember having serious issues with how much it resembled normal court procedural television shows. But, well . . . they have humans speaking English, so I guess having a legal system basically the same as ours isn't so big a deal. Anyway, apart from that tangent . . . of the X-wing books I had read at this time, I felt this was the best Stackpole X-wing book to date (my opinion might change with Isard's Revenge, but I haven't got up to re-reading that one yet so this comment stands for now). I seem to remember the ending coming up much quicker than expected. Oddly enough, once again I found myself sympathising with one of Isard's lieutenants . . . however I was satisfied enough I suppose when Vorru did take a stun bolt at the end. There's probably more I could talk about here, but I suck and can't remember anything more. Sorry. Oh, wait, I have remembered something. This is not so much a flaw of just this book, and might not be contained to this series alone either, but I often find myself wanting to know more about the aftermath of conflicts. Which doesn't ever really happen, EXCEPT in the first few chapters of the NEXT book to come. Which isn't the same really, especially when you reach the end of the series and have no follow-up books to explain what happened afterwards. Anyway, that's just a blanket woe I have with stories in general. Not sure it's actually a flaw with this book or series. Onward!

Conflict of Interest

Part VI of Tales from the New Republic

OKAY — An average read, but not excessively poor.

This story was probably better than I gave it credit for. I really thought this was going to be about something different to what it was. Incidentally, I think its placement here may be slightly wrong, chronologically, since it has a New Republic Intelligence operative referring to the Bacta Cartel as still alive and kicking, which does not seem to gel with the events of the Bacta War, which imply that the cartel is broken, which would open the market up much more. Still, I'm not sure where to have placed this where it would not have interrupted the flow of the X-wing series. Maybe between The Krytos Trap and The Bacta War. Actually, yeah, that could have worked. Oh well, hindsight. Oh yes, why didn't I like this one as much as I should? I guess because it's part of a series of stories that are all about 'oh no, the New Republic isn't as pure and awesome as it was supposed to be'. Well tough, it's a government and that's the way things are. I mean, I know it's only highlighting the fact that even the best of things have a dark side, but it just seems a bit . . . well, I don't know. I know that we're doing that ourselves with the RS ITOD, by showing that we're not as pure and bloodless as the New Republic is normally shown in continuity (not that I think we're exaggerating how bloody and destructive warfare is, even if you are the good guys), but it just seems as though there's a number of short stories that run the idea through the ground. Maybe there isn't, and I'm just being unduly critical. Not sure. As I said, this wasn't a bad story, and was fairly interesting. I just don't think I was particularly interested in it at this point in the timeline.

Wraith Squadron

Book V of the X-wing series

AWESOME — Oh my god! I want this book's offspring! I recommend everyone read this book immediately, as I shall re-read it now!

Okay, now we're into what I consider to be the BEST part of the EU, ever. Three bloody awesome books in an awesome series. This I think will be the peak, the ceiling of my 'let's read through the entire Bantam-era timeline' reading project. So many things I love about these three books. The humour, the characters, the fact that the characters all seem like real people and are relevant and that when they die it's kind of shocking because they're not all one-dimension cut-out characters. I also like some other approaches, like the fact that each of the three books focuses on a different character. This one is mostly from the perspective of Tainer, the second is Loran's, and the third is Petothel's. Or is that Notsil's? I don't know. I just cannot overstress how much I love these three books. Oh, and on top of the 'main character per book', there's also Antilles, who's kind of the main, main character of the entire series. Which seems to work. Other points of interest: that because X-wing dogfights have been done to death in the previous four books (not that it's a bad thing), that Allston changed the dynamic for these three books, by making sure he shook it up a bit. Gave it a bit of variation. More gunfights, more fistfights, more TIE combat; just a lot of different perspectives to help make his contribution to Stackpole's series leave a different kind of mark. When characters die I felt their absence afterwards, without it being thrown in my face. I just noticed Ackbar wasn't around any more after she died, for example. Tainer's issues were frustrating, and I mean all of them, but still . . . I understand why it was there. And the Janson/Loran/Phanon/Tainer comedic core I really enjoy. However, there are some drawbacks that seem as though Allston was given a brief including elements he MUST have. These didn't really detract from the story at all, but they were noticeable at first. Such as . . . the fact that Antilles has problems with a New Republic General who flies a different fighter, that the main character (Tainer, for this book) had a non-Human wingmate who had unusual pronouns, that one of the characters is a token Force sensitive . . . and so on. These don't detract too much, but they are notable in the sense that it seems as though they were directions given by Lucasfilm and weren't all entirely the author's idea. Um . . . other things. I really, really liked some of the described locales. As if they were places that I would really like to visit. Stornial is the one from this book that comes to mind. It was really well described, and sounded pretty nice for an Imperial world. I think it's interesting that Zsinj is slowly dished out, with only hologram appearances in this book. A lot more technical descriptions, due to the inclusion of mechanics who can speak Basic and are included in the narrative. Oh, and I forgot earlier to mention the token protocol droid that mirrors the previous X-wing books. Even though Emtrey and Squeaky are both characterised differently, it does seem like another one of those 'oh, make sure you include a protocol droid quartermaster like the previous books' elements. Um, can't think of much else at the moment. I liked the inspired, non-standard improvisational elements all the way through it, how the characters and group just rolled with the challenges and tried weird things that tended to work most of the time. I think I've pretty much exhausted my memory of things that happened in this book and how I felt about it, but I think either this book or Solo Command are my favourite of the X-wing series up to this point in the timeline. Possibly Solo Command more, because it ties up more plot points, has more subplots, and is the most recent in my mind. Anyway, that's all I have to say for Wraith Squadron for now. On to the final two books in the series.

Iron Fist

Book VI of the X-wing series

AWESOME — Oh my god! I want this book's offspring! I recommend everyone read this book immediately, as I shall re-read it now!

Before I begin with this review, I should mention something I forgot to mention in the Stackpole book reviews. I absolutely HATE the fact that for EVERY chapter he feels the need to add some BIG, IMPORTANT LINE OF DIALOGUE. Or if not dialogue, then some pompous internal monologue or even narrative voice. I just hate it. Ever goddamned chapter finishes with something BIG and IMPORTANT in the final line. Such as 'and in the end they will realise what we are up to, but by then the entire New Republic will be doomed.' So why did I mention that? Partly because I just thought of it, but also to point out that by contract Allston does NOT seem to do this often. If he does, it's more forgivable since it doesn't happen at the end of every goddamned chapter. However, I think his flaw is to do it at the end of every book. Which is slightly less irritating, but is still annoying. Now, I can't really remember this happening at the end of Iron Fist and Solo Command, however I think it might have, but I know for a fact it is in Wraith Squadron. Anyway, just a pet annoyance of mine that I decided to share. I liked the undercover theatrics of this one, and Notsil's resolve to become her character . . . and for some reason I find Zsinj to be a charismatic Imperial. Not quite so bad as the numerous infighting warlords who will eventually clutter up the galactic stage. An antagonist, yes, but at least he has a sense of humour. I liked the asteroid base, and all the antics that happened there, including Runt's 'ritual', which was nice. And once again a world was described that actually sounded like a nice place to visit: Halmad. And who wouldn't enjoy robbing banks with TIE Interceptors? Phannon's death was a blow, even though character-wise it was kind of the only real fate he had left. Mostly it was a blow because it meant his acerbic humour was forever lost. Hm. Can't think of much else, other than to comment that the Executor-class vessel introduced in this book actually seemed to have a plausible death — it had a skeletal crew, was severely sabotaged, and had a fleet fall on its ass. Much better than the contrived fates of . . . well, pretty much all else Executor-class and greater warships on the Imperial side. :P I like the part Solo plays in this, since he's not a main character as such. The story isn't all about him; he's just one of the people in charge. Whereas if this were any other series it would be solely from his point of view. And he probably wouldn't be in command, either, since any prolonged stint of generalship is something that would be mentioned as having happened in the past, and not something that people tend to write from Solo's point of view in the present tense. Anyway, I'm just rambling mindlessly now, which means it's time to move onto the final review before I'm actually up to date.

Solo Command

Book VII of the X-wing series

AWESOME — Oh my god! I want this book's offspring! I recommend everyone read this book immediately, as I shall re-read it now!

Okay, onto the final book of the X-wing series. One thing I forgot to mention in the previous review was that the cameos of the Rogues in Iron Fist seemed a bit forced and fan-fictiony. I don't mean that the author can't write, but it just felt . . . forced, a bit. Like, 'oh, yeah, let's throw in a line or two from this character who the readers know but who I don't really know'. The main reason I mention that here is because by this book that seems to have been corrected. The Rogues seem much better integrated, and seem to be used much more naturally in the flow of the story. There are so many characters to keep track of in this story. That's not a complaint, but there is one point in the story where I really felt that the author hadn't written in enough references to remind the reader that all of the Wraiths were present. It was during the Binring facility break-in, where I flat-out forgot that characters such as Runt and Janson were present, because only about three members of the intrusion team were referenced throughout the pre-disaster period of the operation. But that was one slight blot in an incredibly awesome book. I think this is my favourite book in the X-wing series, which I think is my favourite series in the saga so far (at this point in the timeline, at least). I really like the fact that it shows the life of war from those who fight in it every day, not from the gifted Jedi superhero, or the rogue who's fortune's darling, or the high-level politician. How it shows people, soldiers, pilots, mechanics and all that going about their lives in the middle of war, and that yes, it's not only the bad guys who die and suffer. And I like that it shows that even though one side might be in the right, that it's still a nasty thing to do, even if you don't really have any other choice. By that I'm reminded of an instance in Iron Fist where Loran shoots an Imperial in the TIE hangar and asks the next one to give up the passcode, and the passcode was the dead Imperial's daughter's name. Just nice little touches like that which humanise the enemy. That show not all Imperial personnel are scum who deserve to be blown up. That there can be decent people among them, fighting for warped beliefs. Anyway, I just like things in shades of grey, rather than clear-cut black and white, good and evil being obvious. Just makes things more interesting, and is easier to identify with since life is rarely so clear-cut. Anyway, I'm really rambling now, and not really keeping on topic. So, um . . . oh! This is probably one of the few stories where Chewbacca has actually served a purpose, where the character has been done justice. I understand the difficulties of having a character who doesn't speak in words to the audience/readers, which makes it really good to see the character treated properly, not just as an afterthought of 'Chewbacca growled in assent' every now and again. Hm. I think I've run out of things to say, even though there are more things to say. Well, that's that end of the main sequence of the X-wing series, which I think is the best series in the EU that I've read up to this point in the timeline, and might possibly be the best series in the whole timeline I'm covering. Not sure yet. If there is a time in the timeline when I feel the most nostalgic, it is definitely the period of the X-wing series. Not necessarily the stories themselves, but the galactic state at this point. It's kind of more hopeful than the films since the Empire is being beat back, but not to the point where the Empire are pushed to a small corner and the New Republic government's flaws are the main pieces of drama and conflict. Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. I will try and keep up with reviewing these stories as I finish them, so that I don't have a half-assed rush job of eight stories at once like this. Now back into the normal flow of the EU, with the 'big three' characters being pretty much the only stories from here on in. And onward to the end of the Zsinj saga.

The Courtship of Princess Leia

GOOD — A good book, above average.

I've been slack again. I let myself get a number of books ahead of where I've been reviewing them. I've been busy. :P Anyway, I had the good sense to take down some notes not long after finishing this book (it was a while ago). Basically, my overall impression was that the first half was crap, while the second half was good (half being approximate — it was probably less than half that I thought sucked). The main problem I had with this book, as the title suggests, is that it's a romance story. And in romance stories there always has to be conflict between the characters. And while Organa and Solo have had their fair share of arguments and fights, the main one in this book just seems . . . kind of out of character. It just doesn't seem like these are the characters we're familiar with. And while I know we haven't seen the 'big three' fulltime since The Truce at Bakura . . . But still, the portrayal just seems kind of . . . off, somehow. Incidentally, having finished up with Solo's campaign against Zsinj in the X-wing series, it makes his position in this book much more sympathetic, because you've spent months with him doing this crappy job that he hates, and suddenly his girlfriend ups and goes off with some prince who's just turned up. And Organa . . . well, she's just a flighty bitch in this. I can understand her character marrying someone just for the good of her people, and for the good of the New Republic, herself be damned. But that's not the case here. Later material tries to portray that as her intentions, but we see her intentions — literally, we see her thoughts at times — throughout the book as genuinely having feelings for this prince — feelings that rival her affections for Solo. I'd just like to go on the record here and saying that anyone who considers going off with someone else rather than you . . . well, fuck 'em. They're not worthy of your time and effort and thoughts. So I found Organa to be an incredibly un-sympathetic character in this book. Which is unfortunate, since in a romance you're suppose to like the characters, yes? Onto a different topic: the two female-dominant cultures in the book. I don't know if the author secretly (not so secretly?) fears women, or whether he was trying to make a point about sexism by showing it with an opposite to Earth-based Western cultures (probably both), but it was very telling that the two societies introduced in the book are both female-dominant/male-slave. Take from that what you will. Also, what the hell is with hippie Skywalker? Okay, so the way it's portrayed, with a near-death experience and all that, I guess it's kind of understandable. But still, it just seems a bit on the nose. There was some interesting Solo genealogy information here, which seems to contradict the Han Solo Trilogy. Seems to, but I'm sure the canon gods have somehow made it fit together. Onto the Falcon, I had pretty much forgotten that all the mods Solo had made to the freighter over the years made it temperamental and . . . kind of unreliable. This book reminds you of that fact, in case you've forgotten. Some other points that seem weird now, having seen them in chronologically earlier material. Such as Solo having 'never heard of a droid in clothes before', when he's forced to clothe 3-CPO to make him less visible and whatever. That just seems silly after having read Solo Command, where Squeaky — yes, another protocol droid — dresses up in clothes and puts on a General Solo face mask as part of the campaign against Zsinj. And Solo knew all about this. I know, this is a really minor quibble, and there are far greater issues to bitch about . . . but still. It just breaks continuity slightly. Actually, on the topic of Solo and clothed Threepio, there was a moment in this book where I genuinely felt something emotive for one of the characters. It was Solo telling Threepio that he wasn't going to leave him behind (after having decided to abandon the Falcon in his pledge to get Organa off the planet safely), because he'd never leave a friend behind. Threepio asked 'A friend, sir?', to which Solo looks at the him and thinks that in all likelihood, the droid wouldn't survive the journey. That actually made me feel sad. Even though I know all the characters live happily ever after. Erm, I mean, that all the characters live . . . through the rest of the wars and battles that they're constantly put through by Lucasfilm publishing. Oh, and this book is rife with outrageously exaggerated Force abilities. For example, Skywalker LITERALLY skywalks. He ejects from his ship during a freefall crashlanding, and somehow uses the Force to gently lower himself to the ground, while also levitating Artoo, and maybe even Prince Isolde and his ship too for good measure. This kind of godmoding wouldn't bother me so much if he were shown as consistently pulling off stunts of this calibre. But you can bet your ass each book or series will have its own interpretation of the extent Skywalker can use the Force. The Force witches were an interesting concept, although I'm sure they would probably really irritate the more purist fans. It would not surprise me if the author normally wrote fantasy tales. Which leads me to my final point . . . the final battle at the end was more of a fantasy (i.e. elves, magic, bows and arrows) than normal sci-fi, or even Star Wars, but I kind of liked it. AT-STs being levitated up hundreds of metres with the Force to unleash turbolaser barrages. That's kind of cool, even if it's probably a bit tacky. By any road, the end battle kind of made up for the crappy beginnings. Almost. Well, not really, but the end of the book was pretty good. Again, there are probably other noteworthy things I'd normally comment on, but like I said, I finished this book two and a half months ago, and my memory sucks. I'll try and catch up the next few books I've read over the coming week, so I can keep moving forward through the timeline.

Hutt and Seek

Part IV of Tales from the New Republic

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Once again, there's an enormous time gap from when I read this story to when I'm writing the review. Thankfully I had the foresight to take down some notes. However, they're kind of brief. But that's okay, because it's a short story anyway. The first point to make about this story is that all the main players (other than Durga the Hutt) are female. That's not good or bad, but it is noteworthy, because it means the four characters are played in a certain way they wouldn't be if they weren't all female. One of the lines seemed to sum this up to me, a character's thoughts about 'as every female onboard the ship knew, suspicions weren't the same as getting caught'. Some interesting Hutt culture, with the 'don't shoot the messenger' rule they have, which was demonstrated in the Han Solo Trilogy, too. There were substantial links to other Expanded Universe concepts, such as the Mistryl Sisterhood and Durga the Hutt. And there were many, many references to The Courtship of Princess Leia, as the story takes place during the events of that book. So there are news snippets throughout telling the common person's point of view of the events only previously seen from the main characters' points of view. Personally, these kind of 'common person' perspectives is what I like seeing; helps make the universe seem more real, when you have everyday people relating to galactic affairs in their own way. Anyway, to sum up, this was a nice, complicated plot, with a bunch of characters I would like to see again. However, apart from maybe one of the Mistryl, I probably won't. :P

Tatooine Ghost

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Admittedly, I had heard many bad things about this author, so I went into this book with a fair degree of apprehension. But it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I feared it would be, in fact it wasn't too bad. The prequel tie-ins weren't handled as sloppily as I've heard they were in the Dark Nest Trilogy, where various scenes from Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were shoe-horned into the narrative awkwardly. Same author, but I guess less of a mess this time around. Overall, the characterisations weren't bad, as the characters for the most part felt like they should. Some bits were hard to believe, like Solo telling his wife that they were going to have their first married argument — honestly, these two bicker enough that they would have had a post-wedding argument since before this point in the timeline. Oh, and something noteworthy: Chewbacca was actually used, and used well for a change. Instead of 'Chewbacca rumbled his assent', or something of the 'oh crap, I guess we'd better use this non-speaking character every now and then' technique that happens at various points in the Expanded Universe. In fact, I didn't really notice the absence of the droids much, and even thought Skywalker wasn't a main character in the story, the brief scene he appeared was fairly consistent. Especially since it had him pouring over material recovered from the Chu'unthor, or whatever it's called, which he was using to piece together Jedi history from the ruins on Dathomir in The Courtship of Princess Leia. In fact, there were a lot of tie-ins with the greater Expanded Universe that seemed relatively seamless, such as mentions of Solo's previous relationship with Bria Tharen, the whole love tiangle debacle with the Hapes' prince, Antilles and Wraith Squadron (although, why was Antilles working with Wraith Squadron, now that they've been transferred to Intelligence and not Starfighter Command?). Organa Solo's issues with having children that were heavily emphasised in The Truce at Bakura and then forgotten everywhere else were smoothed over here, as throughout the course of the novel she deals with her 'Vader-birthing' fears and has the change of heart that allows her to have a small army of offspring. And . . . I do appreciate that it attempts to justify Organa Solo's flightiness in The Courtship of Princess Leia as merely duty-bound, not emotional, and that she didn't really think it would go ahead due to her aversion to children and the Hapans' eventual wanting of heirs . . . but if you actually go back to the previous book, it has Organa's own thoughts showing her affections for this random prince, and makes the retcon a bit more stretched. Another tie-in was Solo's awesomness with swoops and racing, which were extensively demonstrated in the Han Solo Trilogy, and even the other Solo books. Now onto the bad things. The Thrawn in the novel felt fake. It didn't seem like Thrawn at all, it just felt like someone trying to copy Thrawn who was failing dismallly. That's probably just because the author couldn't quite get a proper feel for the character. It just felt like a major weak point of the story. Also, I want to know why the hell everyone on Tatooine knew of the 'Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader' "myth". They all knew the story, and none of them believed it because Skywalker was a local hero. But . . . the real reason for this is because the book was written before Episode III, so it wasn't clearly established that almost no-one knew who Vader really was. But, still . . . wait, no. It even took Prince Xizor an extensive amount of research before he realised Vader was Skywalker, so it just seems really dumb to have everyone on Tatooine know of the 'myth' that Skywalker became Vader. Can't really excuse it, because it's just weak. Organa Solo I can well understand; Skywalker tells her himself about their father. But . . . in her interactions with Anakin Skywalker's old friends and acquaintances, they should react with surprise at her assertions he was Darth Vader. Surprise and then flat-out denial, rather than 'oh yeah, that old story — no, that's a lie'. In fact, this point probably drags the book down more than the Fake Thrawn characterisation does. Anyway, the only other bad things I can think of were the fact that the story was kind of banal and not necessary — really, if this story weren't told we wouldn't have missed out on too much, other than the linking and smoothing-over of a few Expanded Universe concepts and plot points — and the fact that the ending was extremely abrupt. We didn't even get a proper conclusion or debriefing of what happened. So in the spirit of the ending style of this book—THE END.

First Contact

Part I of Tales from the Empire

GOOD — A good book, above average.

The notes I have for this story are pretty brief. I read it about three and half months ago, too, so these notes are all I really have to go off. Anyway. Mara Jade features in this story with Talon Karrde. Jade's use of the alias 'Celina Marniss' seems kind of clever on the surface, but breaks plausibility slightly when Karrde doesn't really react to the name. He should, because Melina Carniss was an operative of his who sold him out to the Empire less than two years ago in the Bacta War. So someone using a name extremely similar to that traitor should elicit some kind of reaction from him. And while Karrde is a man to play everything close to the chest, it still seems odd he doesn't even think of the name similarity, because I'm sure we get inside his head at least a few times in this story. I was surprised when Tapper died. At first I thought he was just wounded, but then he died. I don't really remember him much, but I'm sure I must have become accustomed to his presence in The Bacta War that it surprised me that he died so casually. This story wasn't as excellent as I was expecting it to, as I'd read it before and for some reason had high expectations. And I can't really think of anything else, other than this serves as Jade's induction to Karrde's organisation, which we'll see develop in the next three books.

Heir to the Empire

Book I of the Thrawn Trilogy

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

Okay, with the end of my favourite parts of the Expanded Universe, that being the X-wing series, that I don't think anything else can compare to, this trilogy is pretty damned good. Comes close, but not quite, to matching the X-wing series in my mind as the high point of the Expanded Universe. Throughout the course of the three books, all of the characters, both new and old, demonstrate what they're awesome at. Skywalker's good at his Jedi things, all the new characters are awesome at whatever they do, but characters like Solo who might be marginalised by the more powerful genius villains and Jedi brother-in-laws still have moments that show off their strengths which are unique to them. You'll have to forgive my lack of conciseness in places here, because there are some parts I can't make sense of what I meant with my own notes. Overall, this book was really good, even with the annoying Zahnisms, which admittedly I didn't really notice when I was a kid, but which are painfully obvious to me now. What do I mean by Zahnisms? That every character says "point" at some point, when conceding a point, that so many characters say something 'dryly', all the people who arch their eyebrows 'sardonically', and the über Zahn characters introduced in this book (however, by this point in the timeline follow-up books and stories have used most of them extensively, so they don't feel new) such as Winter, who never forgets anything ever, Mara, who's Palpatine's plaything and who considers herself to have been an equal to Vader, even though she wasn't, Thrawn, the brilliant, tactical and strategic genius without equal, and Karrde, the polite, civil and coldly machinating super-smuggler. Moving onward, even though Grand Admiral Thrawn is kind of a bit wanky (yeah, I have no idea what I meant by 'wanky' here in my notes; take from it what you will), I really do like his character. I guess I just have a soft-spot for brilliant intellectuals. :P Something noteworthy is that as of the current point in time, this book covers the RS's present location in the timeline. So it's interesting reading about things that have recently happened in the RS 'news', and reading up on things soon to happen. One thing that's well and truly crap, is Kenobi's Force ghost leaving Skywalker. That's bullshit. What happened to 'Yoda will always be with you?' I understand that from a narrative perspective it's frustrating to have omnipotent beings helping the main characters through every crisis, as if they're incapable themselves, and that it's easier to avoid trying to deal with an entity you're not sure how to deal with . . . but . . . still, it just sucks and seems to go against all of Skywalker's learnings of the Force from Kenobi and Yoda that Force ghosts just . . . vanish after a while. I know the Jedi of old didn't commune with their dead, but Jinn, Kenobi, Yoda, and even Anakin Skywalker are exceptions to this. So yeah, it seems pretty crap to me that Kenobi's just abandoning Skywalker to his own devices. It's a cop-out, and it still reeks even after all this time. Oh, also, an example of another annoying Zahnism: Broken sentences, he thought to himself, are really annoying when they happen all the bloody time. And they do. Whenever someone's thinking something or saying something, you can bet your ass there's a gap where it explains they're thinking or talking mid-sentence. Um, ysalamiri are a stupid concept. I know they're established canon now, but I still think they're stupid. Seems to go against the whole notion of the Force binds the galaxy together, when you have parts of it completely devoid of it. The 'cool' scenarios it opens up isn't really worth the drawbacks it introduces to one of the key concepts of the series, but that's my dissenting opinion that's probably not shared by many. Oh, Threepio pretending to be Organa Solo, that's another similarity to the protocol droid Squeaky impersonating General Solo in the X-wing series, which again seems odd that Solo doesn't realise he's come across something like this before (I think he thinks something along the lines of not having seen anything like it before, or something similar). Again, that's not a drawback of this book, though, it's the inclusion of the concept in a later released book that takes place earlier in the timeline with the same characters. Oh, same with the Millennium Falsehood rehash. Again, the idea here was new, and it was repeated later in an early-timeline moment, which makes Solo's comments of 'they actually found another YT-1300 that can fly' ring a bit false and seem a bit silly. Again, not this book's fault, though. Also, thanks to West End Games, all hyperspace trips in this book, and indeed this trilogy, take far too long. Four days to reach Coruscant? Screw that, Palpatine travelled from Coruscant to Mustafar — in the Outer Rim — in mere hours, as did Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace when he travelled from Coruscant to Tatooine — in the ass end of nowhere — in less than a day. Obviously these films were released after this book, but in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released before the book, Piett comments to Vader that the Millennium Falcon 'could be on the other side of the galaxy by now', when the Imperial forces fail to capture them. And this was only an hour or so later. So yeah, travel times are far too long. I guess we can retcon them being to do with the quality of trade routes, and having lots of recalibration stops or something, but really it's just a drawback of the book and trilogy. Anyway, just thinking about what I've just written, it makes it sound as though I have major issues with this book and series. I don't really, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but there are points that drag it down which are easily memorable. Backtracking to Thrawn for a moment, whenever he's in combat scenes not against the main characters, I really can't help rooting for him. I want him to succeed, and I wish him success . . . even though he's the bad guy fighting the good guys. I just can't help wanting him to win, as long as it's not to the main character's detriment, who we naturally feel an affinity for. Time for a few more finishing up criticisms, though. The frigate captain that gives Antilles shit has really flip-flopping politics. I think this is just a flaw, can't really excuse it unless the officer was just being an ass and saying things to rile Antilles. One moment he's pro-Fey'lya, then the next he's 'oh yeah, you'd better hurry up, or that dastardly Bothan will make his move!' Crap. And . . . these aren't necessarily flaws of the book, because it's later released material that's broken things established earlier in this book, but I can't really finish this without mentioning the timeline mess-ups, with Solo's resigning his generalship much earlier than the book suggests, the age of the Empire being much longer than it was, the Clone Wars being much more recent than the book indicates, and any and all dates mentioned in the book flat-out being wrong. Again, these were not errors in the book . . . until later material released by Lucas broke them. In summing up, this was a really good book, and I enjoyed it immensely. But there were all manner of niggly points that dragged it down a fair bit for me, as mentioned above.

Dark Force Rising

Book II of the Thrawn Trilogy

VERY GOOD — A solid read that I would recommend to others.

I'm pretty sure that my reviews for this book and the next will be very similar to the previous one, but here goes anyway. I can't think of anything specific to demonstrate this, but I think I enjoyed this book more than Heir to the Empire. Maybe it's because things start properly happening, rather than being set up and established? Or maybe I've just adjusted to the author's writing style, and got myself more into the series and become more invested with it? As said, despite enjoying this book more than the previous, this entire trilogy seems very homogenous. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it just means it's harder to remember exactly when certain events transpired, because it's hard to remember which book they happened in as the writing style is all very similar. Again, that's not a criticism. It helps gel everything together as one consistent story. Another Zahnism that pushed my buttons is: whenever a character 'mentally crossed their fingers', which happened a hell of a lot. Some interesting public knowledge points, that being the name "Thrawn" was not known until the middle-end part of this book. Before that it's "the Grand Admiral". And before that it's simply "the new Imperial commander". Glad that I read this before we got into too many news articles; good to know not to use the name "Thrawn" for a while yet. And it was good to see some Skywalker action in this one. And I don't mean he got laid, just that there were lots of cool Jedi Skywalker kicking ass moments.

The Last Command

Book III of the Thrawn Trilogy

EXCELLENT — Wow! This was pretty damned good. This is one I'll definitely be re-reading at some point.

Oh crap. It seems in my infinite wisdom, I decided not to record notes about this book when I finished it. Obviously I thought I would get off my ass and get the reviews done quickly enough that I would still remember what happened in this book. Silly me. Um . . . let's see. For some reason I ranked it higher than the previous books in the trilogy, probably because things passed through to their conclusions, so things of permanence happened. The bad guys were defeated. Thrawn was killed — Sad Panda — and the book ends the trilogy on a . . . very optimistic note. I really, really wanted an extra chapter at the end, just to kind of savour the victory and see what life's like for these poor bastards who are always fighting, when they finally get some time off. And by time off, I don't mean they're on holidays, just that shit isn't exploding around them and life going to hell for a few moments. Didn't like C'baoth much, but I think that's intentional. He's really the villain of the trilogy; Thrawn's just doing his job while C'baoth's fucking insane. Can't get over how much the series ends on a positive, hopeful note . . . especially when knowing in advance what kind of crap is about to go down mere months from this point in time. Still, nice for the characters to enjoy a brief reprieve, even if it is too far too brief. Throughout the series, the only pilots you really see first-hand or during battle are Antilles, Hobbie, Janson, and Pash Cracken. That last one surprised me — I didn't realise he was introduced in this series, I thought Wedge's Gamble was his first appearance. I'm probably just spoiled by the X-wing series, but the use of the pilots in space battles was kind of weak. Merely had Antilles talking to 'Rogue Two', or whomever, with no more description of who that was than their squadron position. Also, I'm not sure why Antilles is 'Wing Commander'. I'm pretty sure this is the only place in continuity he's given this rank. The rest of the time he's either 'Commander' or 'General'. In fact, I can't even see why he's a wing commander, because he commands only a squadron, nothing more. Erm, kind of struggling for memory now. I really should have written down some notes. Oh, I like Pellaeon, and look forward to seeing him in future works, even if he's penned by the useless Anderson. I'm sure I should have something to say about Bel Iblis and Mothma, or even Organa Solo's Force skills, but I can't really think of anything coherent. Well, that's all from me for this book. I've now over the past few days caught up the last three and a half months of readings. Up until this point in the timeline I've been reading these books and stories while commuting to and from work on the train, but from here on in I'm driving, so I won't be reading every day a few chapters at a time. So, my readings and contribution to the reviewing project will probably be much slower, since I'll only be reading in my free time, but on the bright side I won't let the reviews slip behind my current reading placement. So, here's to the next twenty-odd stories, to the end of the reading project!

Blaze of Glory

Part VII of Tales from the Empire

GOOD — A good book, above average.

Yeah, I've been busy with other RS crap and didn't get around to writing this review. I read this short story about . . . oh, just under two months ago, so this will be a very brief review. Especially since I didn't take down any notes. Um . . . where to begin? Overall, I didn't mind this one; it was pretty good. It continued with the theme of 'the New Republic isn't as good as the Rebel Alliance, woe is me' idea that comes up now and then, mostly in short stories. The antagonist in this story — well, not the slavers themselves, but who they're working for, the Pentastar Alignment — were interesting. Basically it's a bunch of ex-Imperial officials and military who want to maintain hold of the Imperial way in their regions, but aren't going about it as foolishly as the main Imperial Remnant and the other splintering parts of the Empire. They've established themselves as a major commercial and political entity, not waging full war against the New Republic (but would be very happy if the New Republic did collapse), playing it smart enough that the New Republic don't gun for them because they have more aggressive Imperial fish to fry. From my understanding via Wookieepedia, the Pentastar Alignment wasn't too evil. Of course, as seen in this story they're more than happy to resort to slavery and extortion to hold on to their constituents, so I think that tarnishes the notion that they're a 'good' part of the splintered Empire. I have to admit it took me a while into the story before I appreciated the characters. I didn't dislike them, they just didn't really mesh with me (or maybe I just didn't understand them and their role in the story) until a fair way in. The mercenary who dies in a blaze of glory; I didn't remember it was him, so I was wondering as I read which of them sacrificed themselves for the good of the mission. Poetic that it was the person who was explaining the 'blaze of glory' premise, obviously. Anyway, can't remember much more of this except for the fact that I wouldn't mind seeing these characters again. I doubt that I will, though, since the short story anthology business was ended a few years ago.