Your basic Dwarf+Giant Overview is a comprehensive survey of an author or series. It is not an in-depth analysis, nor is it a summary. Think of it as a buying or reading guide, telling you what’s out there, what’s essential, what to avoid and so forth.
Editor’s intro: This is the fourth post in our Star Wars novels Overview. For brief introductory notes, please see Star Wars Overview: The Old Republic.
*** Indicates the Best.
** Indicates Good.
* Indicates not the best, but still Star Wars, so not bad either.
Han Solo Trilogy: Paradise Snare ***
Now we’re getting into the “original” characters: Han, as a kid. Man, did I get into this book. I mean, like affected my mood during the day got into it. This first one is all about Han’s childhood (told through flashbacks) and young adulthood. The majority of the book is spent inside Han’s head, so you know why he is the man we meet in “A New Hope.” It also brings back the grittiness that existed in the Old Republic books but for some reason went missing during the Clone Wars Era. If you’re like me, you’re going to really like this book, but be warned, Han goes through the ringer, and tends to get one raw deal after another.
Han Solo Trilogy: The Hutt Gambit **
This book starts a few years after the ending of Paradise Snare, and all of Han’s “old buddies” come into the picture. Here Han comes into his own not just as a smuggler, but as a man. A bounty is on his head, and so he spends a good part of the book dodging bounty hunters, which leads to some decent action, including a meeting with Boba Fett.
The final chapters really show Han coming into his own. I must say, with the exception of a single historical WTF*, this book got me really excited to re-watch the first movies (four, five and six).
*Quick note: This book tried to give a history on Fett – totally does not match anything in the movies, shows, or anything else in the canon or expanded universe. Not sure how it made it through. It’s all of three sentences, but be ready.
The Force Unleashed 1 *
This book is a novelization of the video game of the same name. I really like Starkiller, aka the Apprentice, aka Galen, and the fact that his name was Starkiller (Luke Skywalker’s original surname while A New Hope was in production) is a nice touch.
Overall, though, I couldn’t escape the fact that this book is based on a video game. I didn’t realize this at first, and was confused why a very compelling story with a great protagonist wasn’t arousing my interest. The problem is, the book is written like it’s based on a video game. The storyline seems contrived at times, and the action can be really overblown. I just couldn’t get into it. If you’ve played the video game, or even watched any of the numerous Youtube movies made from the video game, you can skip this one.
Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu *
Ugh, I had the hardest time getting through this trilogy. It adds nothing to the overall Star Wars storyline, and the book feels like the author may have been a little high when he wrote it. The dialogue is okay, but frankly, this book mixes supernatural and scifi in a way that I did NOT enjoy. There is even an actual sorcerer (though he may not be entirely magic, I have no idea where his “power” comes from).
This sorcerer’s powers seem to be greater than that of even Palpatine, and his ambitions are high. He’s thousands of years old, and yet somehow hasn’t even blipped the radar on any Sith, ever, including Palpatine himself. And don’t even get me started on the Sharu themselves, somewhere between a highly developed race that voluntarily vanished years ago to hide from an even more powerful race that has ALSO mysteriously disappeared. If you don’t have to read these, skip the whole trilogy.
Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon *
In keeping with the overall “Ugh” of this trilogy comes the second book. Really, all these books would make more sense if they were a spoof of the original Star Wars books. The sorcerer from before, having been foiled (accidentally) by Lando in the last book, is out for revenge. He uses, no joke, what he calls “torture by chagrin” on Lando. It’s a real thing that really messes with Lando. Torture by Chagrin. Really.
On top of that, we meet a random assortment of fighters from a planet Lando’s robot assistant, Vuffi Raa, unwillingly destroyed. Random as you know what. Maybe that story will come back in the third book, we’ll see, but it came out of nowhere in the beginning and seemed to disappear back into nowhere at the end of book two.
Lando Calrissian and the StarCave of ThonBoka **
This was the best of the trilogy, though really that isn’t saying much. The author employs the same plot mechanism that in the second book created an effective, if uninteresting, misdirection. In this book, it’s not so good, because I was expecting a misdirection.
Vuffi Raa’s story is wrapped up rather well, though again a bit farfetched and redundant. Two new species are introduced and they are symmetrical in a way that is annoyingly convenient. That is another problem with this entire trilogy. Yes, Lando Calrissian is a lucky man, but the sheer amount of coincidence and convenience employed during each book just seems lazy.
Death Star ***
I really really liked this book. It covers the brief life of the Death Star, and balances the stories of “everyday” characters with that of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. I found all of the storylines very compelling and well interwoven.
The most fun comes about halfway through the book, when the stories on the Death Star start to overlap with A New Hope. Only, everything is told from Vader’s, Tarkin’s, or an average resident of the Death Star’s point of view. Everything is covered, from Leia’s first arrest, to Obi Wan’s death (told from Vader’s POV, which is amazing) and the Rebel attack at the Battle of Yavin. Definitely read this one, preferably right before rewatching A New Hope.
Adventures of Han Solo: Han Solo at Stars’ End **
This trilogy is a fun, quick read, and while it doesn’t really add much to the movie canon, it does fill in some time during the third book of the Han Solo trilogy. The main pain in the butt is that for the entire trilogy, the author keeps shifting POV, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph, which can be disorienting.
This story moves quickly, and Han is still growing into himself with his new partner, Chewbacca. It doesn’t have the grit of the Han Solo trilogy, which I missed. In fact at times it gets a little convenient and far fetched, reminiscent of the awful Lando Calrissian trilogy, but is still a lot of fun.
All in all, if your are a Han Solo fan I think you’ll enjoy this trilogy, and this book is fun with plenty of action.
Adventures of Han Solo: Han Solo’s Revenge ***
Frankly, the book isn’t as dramatic as the title makes it sound. He really doesn’t get any kind of revenge. As per usual in this trilogy, it’s more Han blundering into something and then using his wits and skills to get out. I will say I thought this was a better book than the first. Han’s “luck” is still around, and starts to become a thing that is mentioned, but it also fits who he is in the movies, so it didn’t bother me too much when something just magically worked out in his favor. Usually because it soon went south and he had to figure his way out again.
All in all, if your are a Han Solo fan I think you’ll really enjoy this trilogy, and this book is the best of the bunch.
Adventures of Han Solo: Han Solo & the Lost Legacy *
This book felt more Indiana Jones to me than Han Solo, especially at the end. Well, until the very end, then it got back to Han Solo. Ancient lost civilizations and treasures that have somehow stayed hidden for over 1,000 years on a populated planet only to be discovered by people who just happen to be old friends of Han and Chewie? The whole thing was a little too convenient for me. But if you don’t take it too seriously, it’s entertaining. Especially all the ways Han and Chewie find to get out of a jam, they are inventive and a lot of fun.
All in all, if your are a Han Solo fan I think you’ll enjoy this trilogy, but this book is the worst of the bunch.
Han Solo Trilogy: Rebel Dawn **
This book begins almost 10 years after the events in Paradise Snare. Some parts of this book I really liked, and others were… eh.
What the book does well is set up Han’s entire storyline for the film. His strained friendship with Lando, his near love affair with the Millennium Falcon, his deep friendship with Chewbacca, and his relationship with Jabba are all cemented so as to pave the way for his entrance in “A New Hope.” In fact, that’s where the book ends. Jabba’s storyline continues to be interesting, as does Bria Tharen.
However, in the middle of the book, Han heads to the Corporate Sector to get some special work done on the Falcon, leaving the supporting cast to become the main focus of the book for a while, with three “Interludes” randomly jumping in to let us know what Han has been up to. The supporting characters do a fine job of carrying the story and Han’s story is kind of filled in with “The Han Solo Adventures” but still, strange storytelling. There’s also the matter of Boba Fett’s past continuing to be way off canon, so prepare for that.
In summation, I feel like the Han Solo trilogy started out really strong and then deteriorated from there. This final one is still worth a read, but don’t stress yourself to make it happen.
The Force Unleashed 2 ***
This book is also a novelization of the video game of the same name. A ton of action, and Starkiller is more badass than ever. Juno’s storyline is great as well, and the author fleshes her out far more than in the game. Also, I think some of the action scenes are superior to the game.
I do have two issues with the book, though being based on the game there wasn’t much that could be done about this. First, Starkiller is a little TOO badass. Nothing can stop him, at all. Second, could people PLEASE stay dead? Starkiller is brought back from the dead, again, at the beginning of this book (I’m not giving anything away). Enough already.
Enough kvetching. Even if you’ve played the game, I’d recommend giving this one a read. It totally surpasses it’s predecessor.
Dark Forces – Soldier for the Empire **
Also a novelization of an interactive game. It’s got a ton of illustrations, which are gorgeous, but which also can give away what happens at the end of the page before you get there, so be careful. That combined with a very short length at times made me feel like I was reading a children’s book, but the material is very much not for children. Plenty of action, and the action, while developing quickly, unfurls more naturally than some other video game novelizations (I’m looking at you Force Unleashed). It’s fun, interesting, but not necessary reading for the Star Wars Universe.
Death Troopers **
Like Red Harvest (same author), it’s an old fashioned horror story, though this one is far more cruel to its characters. The story starts out kind of slow as we meet all the characters involved, but once the action gets started, the action – and the gore – really heat up.
You have the standard horror characters, but there are a few truly surprising twists thrown in. Most of the deaths/survivals I could not have called. I felt that the appearance of a couple of characters from the original movie was forced, but quickly adjusted. Overall, this is a fun book if you don’t take it too seriously.
Next Up: Rebellion Era