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.
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.
Greetings Fanboys, Fangirls, EU Fans, and returning Beyonders!
And welcome to Star Wars Beyond the Films!
This week true believers, The Defender of the EU; Mark Hurliman, and your EU Guru; Nathan P. Butler, continue on their merry adventure unlike any other. You’re invited as they discuss the next four (e)books of John Jackson Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories in part two of their three part coverage of the newest premium trade paperback by Del Rey.
Mark and Nathan discuss maps, as well as the choice to keep the second map tucked away mid book. Mark gushes about the Tolkien-feel to having the maps in his SWEU books. As well as if he could ask Mr Miller some questions about envisioning Kesh.
Nathan touches on the cover images of the ebooks. Mark mentions the older books would do that with their series. Nathan sets the dates as well as touches on other SWEU works in play at that time. You know… the basics.
A tie to Star Wars: Vector? Wait…
How many stories are their? 4? 3? 5? Well… couldn’t that be a point of view thing…
Who found the next four books more boring? Who enjoyed the ride more? You’ll want to tune in!
Yaru Korsin…. the Darth Bane of his time.
Nathan makes some Game of Thrones comparisons while exploring timing of the book. The hosts cover the “need” to connect things, and how John Jackson Miller handles it well.
Mark’s internet connection gets attacked!
And don’t forget to check out Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral when you finish up reading The Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories! The hosts discuss some of the first issue and how it could play out in conjunction with the collected stories.
Hilts- what do you think: more like Luke? Or Indiana Jones?
Does Hilt’s changes to the Tribe’s way of doing things eventually get undone off the page? Nathan points out that there are 3,000 years to play with.
Another week with too much to discuss in one episode! Be sure to stay tuned as next week the guys cover Pandemonium!
You also have until the start of Celebration VI (8/23/12) to like our Facebook page for a chance to win Mark’s (once-read) hardcover of Star Wars: Fatal Alliance. On the first day of Celebration VI, one of our “Facebook friends” will be chosen at random to win!
Another must listen episode with your dynamic duo, way too much to cover in one set of shownotes. So once again, the guys will be spreading this great book over another episode! Enjoy and may the Force be with you!
Hey everyone and welcome back to Star Wars Beyond the Films!
On this special episode, your hosts the Defender of the EU (Mark), and the EU Guru (Nathan) answer your questions and read your feedback!
X-wing: Mercy Kill Review
Warning: This review may contain very minor spoilers. Characters and locations are mentioned but no major plot points or events are revealed.
I have a confession to make. Until now I had never read an X-wing novel. When I started reading the post Return of the Jedi novels back in the late 90’s I skipped right past the X-wing novels. I read Star Wars novels to see what happened to the movie characters after they blew up two Death Stars. I read Star Wars novels to learn more about the Jedi and the Force. I wanted lightsabers and Luke Skywalker not space battles and Wedge Antilles. I have since learned to appreciate Star Wars books that aren’t about Skywalker or the Jedi (although I still very much prefer those stories), but I am so far beyond the X-wing novels that I am not sure I will ever go back and read them all.
When I heard about X-wing Mercy Kill coming out I thought it might be another one to skip. But lately I have been reading every new Star Wars novel and Mercy Kill was set after the events of Fate of the Jedi. How could I not read the latest novel in the Expanded Universe timeline? I had to, space battles or not.
Here is the official summary…
The intrepid spies, pilots, and sharpshooters of Wraith Squadron are back in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which transpires just after the events of the Fate of the Jedi series!
Three decades have passed since Wraith Squadron carried out its last mission. Taking on the most dangerous and daring operations, the rogues and misfits of the elite X-Wing unit became legends of the Rebellion and the Second Galactic Civil War, before breaking up and going their separate ways. Now their singular skills are back in vital demand—for a tailor-made Wraith Squadron mission.
A powerful general in the Galactic Alliance Army, once renowned for his valor, is suspected of participating in the infamous Lecersen Conspiracy, which nearly toppled the Alliance back into the merciless hands of the Empire. With orders to expose and apprehend the traitor—and license to do so by any and all means—the Wraiths will become thieves, pirates, impostors, forgers . . . and targets, as they put their guts, their guns, and their riskiest game plan to the test against the most lethal of adversaries.
The good news for new readers is that this book, although titled “X-wing”, is basically a stand-alone novel. The story does not rely on prior knowledge of the X-wing series, but having that knowledge will most likely expand your enjoyment of the book. I will give a bit of a warning though. If you plan to read the initial run of the X-wing novels, you may want to do that before reading this book. Yes it is a stand-alone story, but there are mentions of events from past novels and some of those mentions are spoilerific.
As I started reading the book I immediately got an A-Team sort of feel. As the book went on I also got some Mission Impossible and maybe even some Ocean’s Eleven. It is very much a special unit/team-up/caper/undercover kind of story. I was also very happy that there weren’t a lot of space battles. In fact there was only one time in the book where I found myself zoning out because of spaceships maneuvering and chasing each other. Mostly it was just great characters planning missions, going on missions, and getting the bad guys.
And the characters really were great. Initially I was turned off by the main protagonist, a genius Gammorean who goes by the name “Piggy”. Being a big fan of the Expanded Universe I had heard of this character but had never really thought that much about him. Now I was having to follow him as a main character. It didn’t take long for me to warm up to him though, and his character progression was interesting to follow. “Piggy” was also surrounded by a team full of impressive characters. I really enjoyed most of the Wraiths in this book and I would love to see where some of this new generation end up in future books. They even managed to slip a Force user onto the team which made this Jediphile very happy.
Aaron Allston really knows how to write humor and this book is full of it. It maybe has a little too much. I liked the lightheartedness of the book but it started to feel like every line was a quip or sarcastic jab. I know many appreciate this type of humor in a Star Wars book but it got to be too much for my taste. Not that there weren’t serious moments. When Mercy Kill got serious, it got very serious. Mixed in with the humor there were exciting moments of action and even some heart wrenching emotion. Although a little heavy on the humor, It was actually a really good mix and I found myself highly entertained for most of the book.
As someone who needs lightsabers and the Force in my Star Wars I was not expecting to like this book nearly as much as I did. It was the characters and storytelling that won me over. Even though the book did not have some of my favorite Star Wars elements it did have things like Star Destroyers, X-wings, and familiar alien species that place it firmly into the correct universe. Don’t expect any Luke or Han cameos or galaxy shaking events, but if you are looking for a fun stand-alone Star Wars story I would highly recommend this book to you. Established fans of the X-wing series will utterly love this book.
(More spoilery stuff below)
I loved the characters of Myri, Trey, and Jesmin and hope to see them again.
I didn’t really like the Vong character of Scut. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to.
I took the main character much more seriously when he was going by Voort instead of Piggy.
Referring to people by names, code names, AND numbers got really confusing.
A Clawdite Wraith. Very convenient.
Using the Force to make people need to pee. That’s a first.
Some great flashbacks fill us in on what’s been going on with the Wraiths.
Just when you thought you had heard the last of the pilot with a horse head.
Look for me wearing my “Quad-Linked Militant Pacifists” shirt at Celebration 6 next month.