Tag Archives: Star Wars Expanded Universe

Book Review: ‘Star Wars: Scoundrels’

I really, really wanted to love this book.  It was written by Tim Zahn, the man who defined the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  It was a Star Wars version of the movie Ocean’s Eleven, and I loved that movie.  The main character was Han Solo.  This book had to be awesome, right?

Well, before I get too deep into it, here is the official book summary.

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

A story about Han Solo leading a team of scoundrels to steal a lot of money is a cool idea.  The problem is we kind of already know how it’s going to end.  Ok… maybe not exactly… but we know Han can’t end up rich at the end.  So throughout the book we are left wondering what exactly is going to go wrong.  This actually isn’t so bad though.  Zahn is a masterful storyteller and he does a great job of not tipping his hand until he has to.  You literally do not get the full payoff of the story until the very last line of the book and I loved that

And the story wasn’t bad.  It was actual a great story.  The problem for me was how much of the story was unnecessary.  The meat of the book comes in the last 7 chapters.  Everything before that is set up.  Long, repetitive setup.  I kept thinking to myself, please just rob the place already!  I know a story like this needs to establish the characters and the gameplan, but I felt it just took way too long.  By the time the story started ramping up I had all but lost interest.  I really think Scoundrels would have worked better as a short story rather than a full length novel.

The characters were also lacking for me.  There were so many of them, but very few of them I found interesting.  Han, Chewie, and Lando were pretty much themselves although there were a couple of moments where I felt Han was out of character.  He seemed a little too calm and collected and not the same Han that runs headfirst into a squad of stormtroopers in A New Hope.  I wish Chewbacca was used more.  He was basically there because he had to be.  Fans of other EU stories will be happy to see Winter and Kell Tainer on the team, but neither of those characters were my favorites in the book.  The standout characters in my opinion were brand new to this book.  The imperial agent Dayja and the “ghost thief” Bink Kitik were both very interesting and I hope to see them both again in future Expanded Universe stories.

I think some people will love this book, but it just wasn’t for me.  Like I said earlier the overall story is great, and if you are a more patient reader than I am, you may actually enjoy all the set up.  I just found myself bored through most of it.  Once the book did pick up speed it got really good… but then it was over.

That’s three Star Wars novels in a row about undercover missions and daring heists which do not focus on Jedi characters.  Can I have my Jedi and lightsabers back now?

 

Random Thoughts and Observations

It’s still weird seeing Clone Wars references in a novel set in the Original Trilogy era. (page 16)

There was also a seemingly forced reference to the Old Republic era characters Revan and Malak. (page 183)

Loved the use of the Z-95 Headhunter.

Jaxxon’s species makes an appearance. (page 243)

Zahn uses the phrase “carry the football” which I thought was an odd real-world reference.  Apparently it’s not the first time the word football has been used in Star Wars though. (page 341)

Now we know Lando has a “number-three-type mustache”. (page 376)

Oooh, I know some people who will just LOVE the very last line of this book and others who will HATE it.  Should lead to some fun discussions.

Scoundrels will be released on January 1st and will be available at Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere.

- Aaron Goins

SWR Staff United: Why We Love Star Wars

Disney bought Star Wars, Disney bought Star Wars…those are the words that have been rippling through not only the Star Wars community but the Disney community as well. Fans have been tested as to what kind of fan they truly are. We have seen many fans that have now denounced Star Wars and George Lucas because of this move. We have seen others that it has strengthened their belief in the Star Wars saga. It is amazing to me how this kind of news can shift someone’s fandom of something they have probably loved their entire life. While the reactions to the news have ranged from anger to elated with some anxious/confusion mixed in I think we can all agree that the Star Wars universe will forever be changed.

The Staff at the Star Wars Report were just as effected by this news only all of us were effected differently. Some of us just want to sit back and wait to hear what the new movie will be about while some of us like to speculate and develop theories. We all have our own concerns based on what part of the universe we care about the most and I think it is our passion that pulls us all together. During times like this as the rumor mill begins to circulate we have all taken an introspective look at our own personal fandom. We have all been trying to answer the question of why we love Star Wars?

We all have come together because we all have a very strong passion for the Saga but how we got here and why we are still here are different stories. As we talked about this we decided that we wanted to take a look at why each of us has this passion and what exactly it is about Star Wars that keeps the force flowing through us.

As we started down our introspective journey we had to first take a look at how we got here. One thing we found is that none of us saw the original trilogy in the theater when it first came out. This was astonishing because generally speaking there is always one person in a group that is old enough to remember the OT being released in theaters. Not in this group! All of us were introduced to the films either on VHS tape or on TV if it was being aired. We were introduced by our parents or even by our Catholic Grandparents. Some of us saw them when were very little like me (Teresa), Ryan and Pete. The rest of us were about 9 or 10 years old, well unless you are Riley and Bethany. These two first saw Star Wars by watching the Phantom Menace when they were in their teens! It does not matter what age we got introduced or how we got introduced the key thing is that we all found Star Wars!

Even though we all may have been introduced to Star Wars there came a time when we actually liked Star Wars. For some of us it took us a while to truly like it. We liked the action and we definitely were entertained but it would be later in life that we would really start to understand the story. As kids the character development and the story development was a little underneath us, but as we grew and watched it more we began to understand the story and the depth that Star Wars would take us. For some of us however the things that got us hooked were the sounds, music and visuals. The special editions were huge for the Staff of the Star Wars report as many of us got to see the Original trilogy in theaters and this experience far eclipsed watching it at home, thus getting us hooked further.

Liking Star Wars does not get you to where are all of us are today in our fandom. There had to be at least one thing that when we saw the films we got ourselves hooked. I actually think this topic is one that shows how different yet alike we all are. For some of us it was the Jedi vs. Sith and they way the interacted with each other in the saga. For many of our staff it was the existence of the force and the way that it flows through the universe. Still for other it is the themes that comprise the story and the mythology of the characters. Then there are the few of us that can remember one simple thing that hooked us, it could be small like a lightsaber or as simple as a character like the Ewoks.

Everyone always gets asked what their favorite film is and that is no different here. We all have different favorite films and sometimes that even changes depending on where we are in our lives or what our mood is. For almost all of us it is a toss up between 2 or 3 films. With having a group that is as young as we are it is inevitable that some of our favorite films are going to be the prequels. While my favorite film is not a prequel film my order of preference has them before Empire Strikes Back, which tends to blow some other fans minds. The two films that take the majority of the votes from our staff were Return of the Jedi and Empire Strikes Back with Revenge of the Sith in a very close 3rd.

As we dug a little deeper past our favorites and began to analyze our lives because of Star Wars I felt it was fitting for us to look at the things we do in our lives that are because of what we have learned. Here is a quick list of the life lessons we have taken away:

  • Always commit to the things you want in life. Do them with passion and with strength or don’t do them at all
  • Never just be yourself…make yourself. Choose your own fate.
  • Never give in to your dark side.
  • If you have a chance to do the right thing…Do It! Do not be afraid and don’t step back.
  • Your choices make a difference and they shape your personality and character
  • Never be afraid to show your true self
  • We all make mistakes, to change all you have to do is choose to act

 

It is always easy to think about who your favorite character in the Star Wars universe is. However, it is harder to decide which character you most identify with because sometimes this character is not your favorite. Sometimes this character is someone that you do not even like. I identify the most with Padme Amidala I have a set of skills very similar to her and what she uses to keep the peace in the senate. I am also a fighter for peace and equality just as she is. Her strength is something i also see in myself but at the same time I admire her positivity and sense of self. Each one of us identifies with a character in a similar way. Riley most identifies with Han Solo because of his ability to take things in stride. Mark also identifies with Han but for much different reasons. Mark sees the Han that evolved in the Expanded Universe. He sees a person that was dealt a lot of hardships and learned to evolve from the pain and become even stronger. I think there were a lot of young fans out there that identified with Luke but we have four staff members that truly identify with Luke because of his compassion for others, willingness to do what is right and his passion for adventure. We only have one staff member that identifies with Chewie and his loyalty. The reason that Star Wars impresses me is the fact that there are so many diverse characters to choose from.

The final aspect of being a fan is recognizing all of the things that the world of Star Wars contributes that has nothing to do with the movies. We as a staff can all agree that the world of Star Wars fandom has brought many things to our lives. From friends that we make because we all love the same thing to the books that we read so that we can dive deeper into the world we love. The one thing we can all agree upon is that the world of Star Wars has never stopped growing regardless of the fact that the last film came out in 2005. We have gotten so much content through the years on top of the fan conventions that we have also gotten to enjoy. With this new evolution as Star Wars continues through Disney the one thing we know will happen for sure is that we are getting more Star Wars. It is a great time to be a Star Wars fan and to appreciate all the reasons that we quite simply Love Star Wars.

Teresa (@icecoldpenguin@fangirl_ND) 

Star Wars nerd at heart and a pop culture fanatic. Fangirl blogger, movie and book reviewer. Avid reader and film goer.I love penguins! Creator of the Fangirl Next Door website and podcast and staff for Jedi News UK.

http://www.fangirlnextdoor.com/

X-Wing Omnibus Vol 3 – SWBTF #43

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Michael A. Stackpole, Thrawn, Barron Fel, and more, Star Wars: Omnibus: X-Wing Rogue Squadron, Volume 3, on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films. YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR ticket to the EU!

This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, The Defender of the EU; Mark Hurliman, and your EU Guru; Nathan P. Butler, sit down to discuss the third and final volume of the three volume Star Wars Omnibus: X-Wing Rogue Squadron series. Strap in and tighten your crash webbing, Mark’s piloting and likes to turn the internal compensator down to zero! Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip to a galaxy far, far away!

Jumping right in with a few announcments, we have a winner of the Star Wars 2012 Del Rey Convention Exclusive Sampler Contest! Congratulations to lucky winner: Drew Nick.

Nathan’s new Webisode series, From the Star Wars Library has launched.
Mark’s new column on The Star Wars Report: Expanding Story Opportunities.

This episode covers the issues collected in the the Star Wars: Omnibus- X-Wing Rogue Squadron Vol. 3: (Be sure to check out the links for some epic cover art)

It’s no secret that this is the volume of the Omnibus series both host most enjoyed. The rise of Ysanne Isard, Barron Fel’s defection, Sate Pestage’s fall from grace, and an X-Wing comic not collected?! (Relax- it’s just not in THESE Omnibi)

Art and story blow away the tone set in the first two omnibi. There is more dialog in this one issue than any other, allowing for more character development this time around. The guys also discuss payoff, and whether you need to have that payoff to have a satisfactory story? Thinking along the lines of Star Wars: Invasion’s recent “satisfactory ending” the hosts wonder if Fel’s plot will ever be picked back up. They hope so, or at least some editor at Del Rey has it on their wishlist.

With so much going on in the show, it’s difficult, nay impossible, to capture it all in the shownotes. You’ll just have to listen for yourself. You be the judge.

Looking to buy it?
Dark Horse Comics
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

Once again, your dynamic duo cover entirely too much Rogue Squadron action in their ONE hour, but don’t worry, give it a go; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you might even get a little education on the EU while you’re at it. But no matter how you slice it and dice it, you’ll be having another adventure Beyond the Films. So sit back, hang on, enjoy the show, and may the Force be with you!

Email:         SWBeyondfilms@starwarsfanworks.com
Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/swbeyondfilms
Twitter:      twitter.com/#!/SWBeyondFilms

Top 5 EU Characters- TWL #32

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Join Karl and Jason as they are joined by special guest Mark Hurliman of the “Star Wars Beyond the Films” podcast to discuss their Top 5 Expanded Universe characters. From Mara Jade Skywalker to Corran Horn and numerous others, your hosts have a great time what it is they enjoy so much about the other great characters from Star Wars which have been created outside of the film franchise.

Book Review: The Essential Reader’s Companion

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