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.
The Star Wars universe became so vast, they decided to wreck it and start over: just like in Genesis. Except in the Bible, God only trashed one planet. Disney is wrecking an entire galaxy. But – again, just like in Genesis – they are keeping what they need to rebuild. This Star Wars Overview will cover the entire Star Wars Extended Universe (the adult novels and published stories, anyway), so that all this depth, all these stories, backstories, histories, prehistories, legends and origins do not get lost under the weight of the upcoming 3rd Golden Age of Star Wars, which will be awesome in its own right and I am sure full of “I am your father” surprises. (But hopefully no “Vader built Threepio” surprises – that would be dumb.)
Your guide for this Overview is my ol’ war buddy Jedi Master Matt Jaeger, who’s been scouring the archives in between missions. We went thru the Academy together and served under General Skywalker, back in the day – before Skywalker, you know, flipped out. Master Jaeger is the epitome of the Jedi Code and reliable as hell. The Mandalorians have a special bounty on him, so that’s cool. Anyway, you’re in good hands.
*** Indicates the Best.
** Indicates Good.
* Indicates not the best, but still Star Wars, so not bad either.
Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void ***
The best reason to read this book is that the reader gets a peek into the struggles of the early Jedi when the Force was in balance.
This first book focuses on the Je’daii, an early incarnation of the Jedi, and their own history and lore. The most interesting part of this book is that the Je’daii sought balance in the force, pulling from both sides without either committing to the Light or falling to the Dark. As such, force sensitives were allowed to fall in love, marry, and have children. Entire cultures were built around the Force and its study, with knowledge passing from parent to child in addition to traditional training.
The story by itself is well written, and the main character, a young Je’daii Ranger named Lanoree Brock, is a compelling character. You also get a feel for the motivations behind the primary characters on both sides of the story, as opposed to a simple “good vs. evil” narrative.
Lost Tribe of the Sith – The Collected Stories **
These 9 intriguing novellas (which end up about as long as a novel) are spread over three time periods of the Old Republic. The series gives the reader an in depth look into the culture, mind, and philosophy of the Sith, like no movie could ever hope to, at a critical point in their history – when the term “Sith” was transitioning from an ethnicity to an ideology. A fan can take this new perspective into the movies and subsequent books in the Star Wars Universe and find a new appreciation for its complexities.
The Old Republic: Revan ***
Revan drives home what seems to be a running theme in the Star Wars histories. The black and white view of the Force: Light vs. Dark, Jedi vs. Sith, is inherently dangerous to the Galaxy, which sets up the arrival of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, who bring balance back to the Force.
Because he has gone from Jedi Knight to Sith Lord, then back to Jedi Knight, Revan regularly bends the rules of the Jedi order, including marrying another Jedi Knight and fathering a child. His dual experience makes him very wise in the Force, making him not only strong but subtle. This makes for a fascinating read as he uses his abilities to fight for the Jedi and the Republic while being shunned by the very same groups. The final battle scenes are a ton of fun to read, and the ending brings a twist that is, well, I won’t ruin it for you.
The Old Republic: Deceived **
Continuing the theme of the Old Republic Books, Deceived delves into three characters, giving an in-depth view into each person’s motivations, including a non-Force user who nevertheless is swept into the maelstrom of the fight between Light and Dark.
Darth Malgus opens the book by destroying the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and killing everyone within. Aryn Leneer feels the death of her master through the Force during peace negotiations on Alderaan, and leaves to take revenge on her own. She enlists the help of an old friend, Zeerid Korr, a former soldier turned smuggler who cares for his disabled daughter after his wife’s death.
Aryn and Zeerid’s stories are compelling, but Darth Malgus is the real star of the book. He is a terrifying man who nevertheless carries great compassion and love for his T’wilek companion. His struggle for power and greatness while trying to honor his love is fascinating, and his actions at the end of the book to resolve that conflict demonstrate the inner turmoil the Sith face in following the Dark Side.
Red Harvest **
This is a old fashioned horror story. Some of the leaps in logic and physics, even for Star Wars, require the reader to really suspend their disbelief, but it moves quickly and is a fun read if approached with this in mind.
The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance **
Unsurprisingly, given the title, this book is all about alliances, some of convenience, some of respect, all of necessity. The dryness of the first half is paid off as a very tangled web of attraction, trust, hatred, and betrayal unravels during a race to get a package recovered from the mysterious Cinzia, a ship which self destructed in deep space when faced with boarding.
All sides of the story are well developed. Far more attention is given to the minor players on both sides (a Padawan, a Sith Apprentice, a former soldier, and a mysterious pirate) than the leaders. Through this lens, the reader is given new perspective into the politics and methods of both Light and Dark in the outer reaches of the galaxy, ten years after the destruction of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.
The Old Republic: Annihilation **
This book is written by Drew Karpyshyn, and all of his books have been among my favorites. This is without a doubt an action-packed story, focusing on a non-Force user as its main character, which is a departure for the Star Wars books so far. Theron Shan is the secret son of the current Jedi Grand Master, though she gave him up to stay true to her path as a Jedi. He was raised by another Jedi Master and so knows the ways of the Jedi, which at times he follows and at others he flouts.
As is standard, all the characters are well-developed, but there is definitely a good guy, and it’s Theron. He is a spy, and following his exploits as he battles the Empire without the aide of the Force is a lot of fun.
The Old Republic: Knight Errant *
This book is very much from a single perspective, that of Kerra. The most fun is traveling throughout Sith space through the eyes of a Jedi, but the book is a little slow. What stuck with me most was just how messed up the Sith family at the center of the storyline is.
Darth Bane: Path of Destruction ***
Darth Bane is the most fascinating Sith Lord since Darth Malgus, at least among the Star Wars books. The reader gets to see him as a young man, very powerful in the Force and yet unaware what it is. He lives on an Outer Rim planet, working in a mine for a company that supplies the Republic, but treats its employees as slaves. Anger towards the Republic is strong.
As Bane is discovered for what he is by a Sith and begins his training, his strong will and anger seem perfectly paired to the Dark Side. But it’s the times he fails, and how he rises from the ashes each time, that really get the reader rooting for a truly evil man. Unlike Darth Malgus, who had strongly held beliefs about how the Dark Side works, Bane KNOWS. He learns from ancient Sith teachings, and single handedly remakes the Sith, setting up the eventual appearance of Darth Sidious a thousand years later.
Darth Bane: Rule of Two ***
Watching Bane and his apprentice plant the seeds that will come to fruition 900 years later is both fun and frustrating. I was actually rooting against Bane for much of the book, all the while knowing he must be successful because, you know, the Star Wars movies exist. But the cunning he and his apprentice display in planting the seeds of the downfall of the Jedi is so interesting. It stands in stark contrast to what I consider the naïveté of the Jedi.
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil ***
This one is better than the second, almost as good as the first book in the trilogy. Zannah and Bane are at odds; the inevitable enmity the Dark Side breeds has made it time for their confrontation. Bane is not convinced Zannah is the right person to lead the Sith, so he is trying to find the secret to immortality (I swear every powerful Sith lord eventually goes here, it gets old after a while).
It was maddening to see how the very philosophy that had brought the two of them together was now driving them apart, but I was on Zannah’s side for much of the book. Bane finds what he is after, but he and Zannah still meet, and she has powers he is unaware of. I promise you, the ending rocks.
Continued in Rise of Empire, Part I