I knew this book was coming and I was excited, but as details of the book were revealed my excitement grew. Every Star Wars novel was going to be summarized in chronological order, with info on planets visited, characters, and pictures! This is an Expanded Universe fan’s dream come true! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I did get my hands on it a few weeks ago and I was determined to wait and review it until after I read the whole thing. Reading it in its entirety took longer than I expected but here we go…
The Essential Reader’s Companion (ERC) is a book written by Star Wars expert and Lucasfilm employee Pablo Hidalgo. The book was released on October 2nd and is available in both print and ebook formats. The ERC is basically a complete guide to every Star Wars novel, ebook, and short story that has ever been officially released. What is not included are the stories from comics, books meant for very young readers, video game stories, and stories from roleplaying guides (although stories of note from these sources are mentioned). It makes sense to me that these were excluded, otherwise the book could have been twice the size, and it is already pushing 500 pages.
The ERC is broken down into eight chapters, each one covering a major era of Star Wars. I like how the book went with a chronological order of the stories. It gives the book a nice flow and makes it easier to follow. Each chapter begins with a short introduction and then goes right into the story entries. Each story entry includes the name of the author and cover artist and the publication history of the book, like when it was released and if there were various editions. It also includes where the story falls on the in universe timeline as well as a list of the worlds visited and the main characters. The galaxy map location for each planet visited is listed as well, and you can look up the location in the Essential Atlas if you want to get that nerdy with it. This is an example of the great detail included in this book.
After all of that info, you will find a concise story summary. Be aware that the story summaries do contain major spoilers. So if you haven’t read a particular book, and you plan to, you might want to skip that story summary. After most of the story summaries you will find additional information. For me this was the best part of the book. This is where you will find behind the scenes info on the story. Anything from original story pitches to continuity errors to info on Lucas’s involvement can be found here. I only wish there was more of this in the ERC. I for one would buy a book that dives a little deeper into some of this behind the scenes info about Star Wars publishing.
One of my favorite things about the ERC is how the author handles discussing continuity errors. This can be a sore subject for many fans and the author could easily have not mentioned the numerous errors that have occurred in Star Wars fiction over the years. Instead he readily points out continuity errors with an attitude of “it happens”. It’s a big universe and it would be impossible to keep every little detail straight. It was refreshing to see this subject taken on in a very matter of fact way.
Although comics and other stories are not the main focus of this book, there are info boxes scattered throughout the book highlighting these stories that have had a major impact or deserve mentioning. Also found in the book is some amazing artwork by Jeff Carlisle, Joe Corroney, Brian Rood, Chris Scalf, Darren Tan, and Chris Trevas. This is one of the major draws of the book for me personally. There are numerous brand new character portraits and full page illustrations depicting major scenes from our favorite stories. I specifically really enjoyed the character portraits at the beginning of each chapter and would have liked to see more.
This is an amazing book. It may be my favorite Star Wars publication yet. I can see myself coming back to this book time after time to reference things as I am reading through new novels. Wookieepedia is nice but the summaries in this book are official and uncluttered and, since everything is in chronological order, easy to find. Having the digital version of the ERC with me on a mobile device at all times will be fantastic. The ERC isn’t just for diehard EU fans like me though. This is also the perfect book for someone who is interested in the Star Wars Expanded Universe but just doesn’t have time to catch up. With the ERC you can read though the summaries of the books and eras you are interested in and quickly get caught up to where you want to start reading in the Expanded Universe.
Highlights, Curiosities, and Random Thoughts
If you’re wanting to be completely surprised by everything in this book and don’t want to see detailed spoilers you may not want to read any further.
Timothy Zahn originally wanted to establish the Sith as a species that at one time was subservient to Darth Vader which would have made the title “Dark Lord of the Sith” make sense. Lucasfilm rejected the idea because they weren’t quite ready to set what the Sith were in stone. Zahn’s idea eventually became the Nohgri. (page 26)
There is a lot of great info on the merging of the EU Sith into George Lucas’s vision of them. (page 27)
The Jedi Quest young readers novels were originally meant to be part of a multimedia event including action figures and comic book tie ins. (page 59)
Really cool image of C’baoth Force choking Thrawn from Outbound Flight. The most memorable scene for me from that book. (page 62)
If you are interested in Clone Wars continuity check out page 75.
Author Sean Stewart made his participation in writing Star Wars novels contingent on Lucasfilm giving him permission to write a Yoda novel. (page 118)
Asajj Ventress was originally slated to die in the novel Labyrinth of Evil. (page 121) The ERC says, “…though that story would ultimately be told elsewhere.” Curious comment since her death has yet to be depicted in any media. Is this comment a clue that her death has already been determined but we are just yet to see it? I’m probably thinking way too much into this.
The ERC claims that events in Season 5 of The Clone Wars will show Lucas’s true vision for the roots of the Rebel Alliance and will take precedence over Starkiller’s involvement. (page 161) I wonder how definitive this will be and will future writers be able to retcon a way that both stories can still fit.
A Squib character named Mace Windu debuted in 1996 in a short story that was not written by Troy Denning.
George Lucas had something to say about Mara Jade having a telepathic link as a means of communication with the Emperor. In a July 1994 memo he said that this power should be unique to Mara and not a common Force power. (page 253) There are actually multiple instances in the ERC where Lucas put in his two cents about a project. He even had involvement in shaping the direction of the New Jedi Order books. (page 369) So there you go people who say GL doesn’t care about the books.
Great picture of Luke facing off against Luuke from The Last Command on page 307.
I love that there is now a really nice portrait of Allana Solo. (page 416)
I was really hoping for a Ben Skywalker portrait and how is it after 18 years we still don’t have a good image of Gantoris? I need to start a petition or something.
This book is awesome. Go buy it.
– Aaron Goins