A New View of Star Wars A New Hope

Star Wars A New Hope PosterWatching the original movie back in the day we had no clue there would be more. An unexpected hero had big dreams but was afraid to leave the familiar old responsibilities for new ones. Then he was forced too. The hero had a chance to save the beautiful Princess and save a Rebellion fighting a powerful evil empire.

We knew the Empire was evil for 2 reasons: we instinctively associated choking a man to death, an intimidating ball droid with needle as a torture device and blowing up entire planets with evil. The fact that the bad guy was clad in black and the heroes in white no doubt had something to do with it too – a color scheme left over from the white knight vs the black knight and the cowboy with white had vs the evil doer in the black hat.

It cost Luke dearly to follow his dreams. He hadn’t even committed when his Aunt and Uncle were killed. Obi-Wan was killed protecting him for reasons we didn’t entirely understand at the time. Leia lost her entire home world trying to help stand up to evil.

Han? Han started on his first steps to being a hero by doing something that wasn’t likely to give him a reward – saving Luke.

Years later we now have the complete story.

That moment we see Vader on screen is leavened with sadness: this is Luke’s FATHER. Once he was a hero, not the stuff of nightmares. He has power, but he isn’t truly free. He and Obi-Wan finally meet again. Perhaps killing Obi-Wan is his act of revenge for being trapped in the horror suit, but Obi-Wan’s vanishing denies him this victory.

We now know that Han’s quest to pay off Jabba the Hutt and those bounty hunters doesn’t end well. Ultimately his friends have to save him. Staying with the Rebels cost him: it cost him time to pay off the debt (though we know he had the reward, he apparently kept losing it before he could pay off Jabba!) As for Chewie: its no wonder he’s become jaded toward Jedi and heroics. He watched the Republic fall and the Jedi along with it. Still, he’s Han’s conscience.

We know Leia is Luke’s sister. This is a reunion long in the making. Luke’s instinctive attraction to her apparently isn’t the crush everyone (including him) thinks. And the scene where Leia is tortured by Vader is suddenly more horrible. In spite of just the intimidating presence and implied injection, we now know the man facing her is her biological Father. And he not only tortures her and tries to break her, he also makes her stand and watch Tarkin blow up her adoptive world and family. Given her similarity in appearance to Padme (and similar role as Senator Diplomat) it’s all the more tragic.

Extras courtesy of the Expanded Universe:

Expanded Universe fans were thrilled to see Dash Rendar’s Outrider from Shadows of the Empire added in to the Mos Eisley scenes.

The destruction of Alderaan is even more painful. While we glimpsed it in Revenge of the Sith and met Bail Organa, many of us have now had the opportunity to experience it in Star Wars: The Old Republic. We’ve explored Organa Castle, wandered and met the noble houses, helped fight to save them for Republic or lead them into the Empire.

For an extra shock, if you play the Imperial side Planetary Story arc, you encounter a rebel faction trying to stop the Thul House and their Imperial Allies. During the Conversation, the leader makes the rather prophetic statement that he’d rather see Alderaan destroyed than part of the Empire.

In the radio drama as well as the comics, we get to know Biggs Darklighter. Even in the special edition, all we got was a bit of Biggs added back into the Yavin hanger scene. The radio drama and novelization give us Bigg’s earlier meeting with Luke, when he was going to join the Rebellion and why. Dark Horse comics gave us a view of how those events played out. Suddenly that sudden death over the First Death Star hurts a great deal more because we’ve gotten to know and like him.

In Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina we get up close and personal with denizens of the Cantina, each with their own name, species and interesting story. This one is exiled because he was forced to collaborate with the Empire. That one has rebel ties.

The destruction of the Death Star is now a lot more complicated, if one read the novel ‘Death Star’. The space station didn’t just contain Imperial soldiers. It contained all the personnel needed to maintain them, including cooks, librarians, cantina and bar personnel and conscripted Doctors. Even the soldiers didn’t necessarily believe the Death Star would be used for anything but intimidation. The destruction of the Death Star was absolutely necessary: not everyone on Alderaan was a rebel! But it sadly came at a cost that at least some of the people on board were innocent, or at the very least, capable of wanting out.

Yavin 4. This is another one that has had enormous history. You run around this world in Star Wars the Old Republic, taking on the Shadow of Revan. It has a history thousands of years before in Tales of the Jedi, a history of Sith Temples, battles with Jedi and will one day be hope to the home to the new Jedi Academy. We only glimpse it in the movie, but now we’ve had a chance to peek around the corners that we can only imagine.

It’s been a long time since the first movie, a long time since the additional title ‘A New Hope’ was added. The more one knows about the story before and after the more one sees it differently. But it adds a glorious richness. In 40 years, there have been many discoveries. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Obi-Wan X-Box Review & Continuity

Continuity and the Story Obi-Wan plays.

Obi-wan x-boxIn between the story bits there are training / sparring levels in between the main ones.

The game starts out before The Phantom Menace, and has Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon investigating the Black Heth gang and their Jin Ha allies. It starts on Coruscant and moves to Obredaan. On Coruscant Obi-Wan actually meets Chewbacca for a brief alliance.

From here we move on to the Phantom Menace. The adventures are ‘in between’ bits. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon apparently separate to find the Queen in Theed before coming together in the movie scene with Jar Jar where they find her.

Getting through here one finds oneself on Tatooine in another ‘in between’ scene. Apparently while Qui-Gon and Padme were in Mos Espa meeting Anakin, the decoy queen, Sabe was taken by sandpeople. No clue how this happened. Possibly she and her entourage got a bit of cabin fever in the ship and stepped out to watch the sunset or sunrise. It’s more likely than the sandpeople coming aboard ship. Obi-Wan has to rescue her.

Returning to Naboo, in yet another in between scene, Obi-Wan is sent to rescue captured pilots before the main attack. He has to break them out, return and then destroy turbolasers that could stop the starfighters from launching.

At last we get to the hanger where we (temporarily) block the doors to keep out the Trade Federation troops long enough for the launch. After that is the infamous ‘defeat Darth Maul’ bit.

As is usual in these games the how you defeat Maul isn’t canon. However nothing in the in between scenes contradicts anything.

Obi-Wan Review:

The basic game itself is fun. The graphics are nothing to brag about. But Obi-Wan has a fun jump/ force push/pull ability (and probably more I didn’t get the hang of). One gets to use a sniper rifle and grenades too. There is a fair bit of jumping and some hanging off ledges inching around.

There is some strategy needed. I liked that.

Sandpeople with firebombs need to be dealt with from a distance if possible, maybe with force push.
Exploding droids you deal with from a distance.
Grenade launcher droids you hit fast and up close.
Droids with the pikes you don’t let get too close.
There are explosive items and things you can throw.
some of the assassins as well as the droids drown if you toss them in water or just lure them in.

The downside of game play is bugs. At first I thought it my controller but eventually decided it wasn’t.

One bug had Obi-Wan’s lightsaber stuck ‘on’ when he jumps in water so he can’t climb out. Another had him just stop moving. The annoying bit was when one couldn’t look away from the enemy. There is supposed to be a trigger to lock on, but I wasn’t hitting that trigger. It was fatal when I needed to retreat and give Obi-Wan’s force power time to recharge or grab a health power. The most bizarre one was Darth Maul. End level involves breaking his lightsaber, then fighting him again as he re-powers. Several times he did not re-power. He froze, leaving the game stuck unable to finish since one can’t beat him when he’s just stuck.

Crucible Review & Continuity

Crucible Book Cover Crucible
Star Wars
Troy Denning
Sci Fi
Ballantine Del Rey
January 1, 2013
Hardcover & Paperback

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. They will stop at nothing to control the lucrative Outer Rim mining trade—and ultimately the entire galactic economy. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

The Last Adventure Of Han, Luke, Leia and Lando – the Original Trilogy Heroes

This is the culmination of a lifetime of service that began with the Original Trilogy, as well as a chance to unexpectedly reflect on the past and decide on the future.  Youth has been replaced with age, but also with wisdom and confidence in each other.Han, Luke and Leia are off on a last adventure to help old friend Lando Calrissian.

Luke and Leia had devoted their lives to one thing, fighting the power of the dark side. It was that simple. Wherever the dark side rose, wherever the the Sith had dared show themselves – there Luke and Leia had rushed, never hesitating, never flinching. It had been their destiny to shepherd the galaxy into a new era of hope, and not once had they shrunk from that calling.
~Crucible, by Troy Denning.

From the release of the first Star Wars novelization of the original trilogy, to this, the last book published with Han, Luke, Leia and Lando Calrissian, this quote sums up these characters perfectly. And it’s a story..a story of shepherding in hope, that you can ONLY get in the true Expanded Universe. For there to be hope, their must be more victory than failure, more triumph than tragedy, and love and friendship that overcomes all failings.

The Story itself and what I thought of it:

Our original trilogy heroes have stayed true to themselves through long years in spite of the violent changes. And that means that even though the galaxy has problems, they never forget to make time for an old friend. While the path has been long and winding, while it took terms I didn’t expect (and would prefer not to have been done) this story restores something I’d missed. A sheer adventure, clearly meant to be a last hurrah for the original trilogy heroes, not due to failure of their mission to restore democracy and the Jedi,  but because they had succeeded and it was time to let a new generation lead.

“A Jedi can’t get so caught up in matters of galactic importance that it interferes with his concern for individual people.”  ~ Luke Skywalker, Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn.

Decades later, this is still true. Leia Organa Solo, fully a Jedi Knight is off with husband Han Solo to a meeting with old friend Lando Calrissian, who is having pirate troubles at one of his mining operations. To make matters worse, they may be involved with someone threading Lando’s family. As usual, this leads to some shocking discoveries, an old enemy who Han did not even realize he’d made, and some true villains who are plotting a galactic takeover. Their advantage: vast wealth, vaster intelligence, hired Mandaloreans, and an ally who is of the lost tribe of the Sith. Their weakness: a hatred of Han Solo for a crime he did not commit.

Han and Lando though have an advantage too: allies who are Jedi, including the Grand Master Luke Skywalker who is ready for a little time away from being the Grand Master. He’s also ready to check in with his son, Ben Skywalker and Tahiri Veila, who happen to be in the area investigating a Jedi who is missing. She was off searching for the mysterious Force rich and legendary ‘Mortis’.

There are some surprising new twists in the story, not least of which is the mystery of what the villainous Qrephs have found and are protecting. The battle to stop them from unleashing…something…is a view of not only the sheer toughness of Luke and Leia (no matter their age), but also how Han Solo has come to view them and what he has learned from them, life and the Force.

A little history for the story and it’s continuity:

This book stands alone, but it also ties into both The Clone Wars TV series Mortis story arc and Fate of the Jedi series. While The Clone Wars had continuity clashes that Fantasy Flight Games (RPG) retconned as ‘COMPNOR altering the records’ the Mortis arc stands pretty well on its own, with no specific reference to continuity to really alter.  It is a mysterious place where the Chosen One is challenged by beings known as the Ones who are ancient and those who for eternity have, until the clone wars era, kept the Force in balance.

According to Fate of the Jedi, Yoda did mention this odd adventure of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s to Luke. In Fate of the Jedi an entity known as ‘Abeloth’ who was associated with these ‘Ones’ caused chaos in the galaxy. Mortis seems like the kind of place the New Jedi Order might just be interested in finding. At the same time an ancient tribe of Sith, who had long ago been lost and marooned for generations on a forgotten world return to cause chaos.  Among them: a young Sith named Vestara Khai, whose deception caused deep pain for young Ben Skywalker.

Recent events of the battle with Abeloth, the Sith, the fall of one of their own to the Dark Side (Legacy of the Force), the wars with the Yuuzhan Vong (New Jedi Order series) are mentioned, highlights and tragedies of Luke, Han and Leia. Lando’s wife and son are also mentioned, his wife, Tendra, first appeared in the Corellian Trilogy by Roger Macbride Allen. Chance AKA Lando Jr.  first shows up in Fate of the Jedi series.

A little planned (and canceled) future for the story:

Crucible is the ending of an era, that of the original trilogy heroes taking lead, and the intended setup of another, one curtailed by the Disney purchase. This is where our heroes decide to step aside and retire and why they make that decision. The stories after were meant to be about the next generation, Jaina Solo, Jagged Fel, Ben Skywalker, Tahiri, Allana Solo and their friends. There was just enough mystery left at the end of this to lead to interesting stories for the future. One can but hope those now in charge of the franchise come to realize that these stories deserve to be told.

Crucible-HC - Troy Denning, with the original trilogy trio

There were 2 promotional covers and 3 actual of Han, Luke and Leia for the Crucible novel. The hardcover shows a grayer, older looking Han. The paperback (seen at top) shows a grayer but not quite as gray Han. The third one, the last release, features different art for all 3 characters. But the oddest choice is giving Luke a beard as in the ‘other’ galaxy. Luke in the expanded universe never wore a beard except when needing a disguise.

Jedi Academy Game Review & Continuity

The Jedi Academy Game is a tie in that goes in all directions. By this I mean previous games, comics and books, as well as those that come after. For that alone I would love it. I also find it most helpful in that I had previously been stuck on Jedi Outcast. After playing this I found it gave me skills I needed to succeed at the earlier game.

Released the year after Attack of the Clones, it is a follow up on the popular ‘Dark Forces’ series. In this game, instead of playing Kyle Katarn, you play his apprentice, Jaden Korr. As you work up through the levels, you start out choosing whether to play male or female from 4 species and what styles to wear. You also get to choose from different lightsaber hilts.

Jedi Academy Player Character Options

Jedi Academy Player Character Options

The opening encounter introduces Rosh Penin, a fellow student and involves a shuttle crash onto the Yavin moon. We quickly find trouble at work in the form of Imperial allies who have dark Jedi companions. This sets the story for the game.  We also learn Jaden does already have at least some skill in the Force: already has built a lightsaber with no training.

The very important detail to continuity comes in the form of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker assigning students to teachers. He explains that the ‘old’ Jedi Order kept it one on one, but they did not yet have enough Jedi for that. This explains that this is not a contradiction with the Phantom  Menace and Attack of the Clones, (Revenge of the Sith wasn’t out yet) but a natural result of a decimated order. As he assigns students to teachers, familiar names from the Jedi Academy books are among them.

Jedi Academy Temple Training Area

Jedi Academy Temple Training Area

The first level is an awesome tie in  level. Jaden gets to run through the Yavin Academy and solve puzzles as the player learn about using the Force and the lightsaber. We get the basics immediately: push, pull, speed, jump. Some of this scenery we experienced in Jedi Outcast. And previously we had to earn (or re-earn) those powers. But it also ties in to other stories. This is what Jaina, Jacen, Anakin Solo and their friends would’ve gone through between scenes of the Young Jedi Knights and Junior Jedi Knights books.

Having warmed up, we are now ready to take on missions. We get to choose our weapons and which Force powers to boost first. Here we get to choose which order they come in. On one, we get to team up with Chewbacca. Some of the missions are just good deeds, others are a quest to find out why the Empire was sneaking around Yavin 4. We meet sandpeople, jawas, pirates and (of course) imperials.

Tie ins in the first set of missions:  (Jedi Initate)

Emergency Assistance – Bakura: is set on the world introduced in the Truce of Bakura by Kathy Tyers, first novel after the Thrawn trilogy.

Cult Investigation – Corellia: We’ve long heard Han Solo was Corellian, but the movies never showed it. It has popped up in Rogue Leader & X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics, I,Jedi and the Corellian trilogy novels. It is a hotspot in the Legacy of the Force novel series. We admittedly don’t see much outside of the flying tram.

Nod to another franchise:
Merchant Rescue – Blanjeel was inspired apparently by the Dune series.

Tie ins in the second set of missions: (Jedi Apprentice)

Jedi Academy Video Game - Vader's Stature on Vjun

Jedi Academy Video Game – Vader’s Stature on Vjun

Vjun – Exterior / Vjun – Castle Basement / Vjun – Vader’s Castle : the planet Vjun was first revealed in Dark Empire 2 comics and visited by Anakin Solo in Junior Jedi Knights, Vader’s Fortress. The planet was also base to Dooku in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.

Now we need to choose whether to add a new style of lightsaber combat. Or we can choose to stick with what we got but choose duel lightsabers (pick your hilts and colors) like Anakin used in Attack of the Clones, or a double bladed saber, such as introduced by Exar Kun and later used by Darth Maul as well as Bastila Shan.

Tie ins in the third set of missions: (Jedi Knight)

Dismantle Device – Yalara – This level features the Noghri, made famous in the Thrawn trilogy. These noghri have been out of touch for awhile. They are not allies, even though they are fighting Imperials and will attack with poison gas.

Force Theft Investigation – Byss :  The planet Byss was first revealed in Dark Empire comics. It was destroyed in Empire’s End comics. It is the destroyed system that is visited in the game.

Taspir (which is all new) is where you are faced with the test of rescuing Rosh Penin, fellow student who (apparently) was captured and turned. At this point you have to choose whether to forgive him (and stay in the light) or kill him (and go to the Dark side.)

marka-ragnos-ghost

Korriban, Tomb of Marka Ragnos. He was first introduced in Golden Age of the Sith by Dark Horse Comics

Korriban – Catacombs / Korriban – Valley of the Dark Lords  : Korriban first appears in Tales of the Jedi,  comics. It reappears in Empire’s End (comics),  Knights of the Old Republic (game and comics), The Old Republic (game and comics), Legacy of the Force, Fate of the Jedi, Jedi Quest: The Final Showdown,Crosscurrent and Riptide (both of the latter starring Jaden Korr).

Somewhere in the third set of missions you have to choose to stay a Jedi of the Light or fall to the Dark Side.

For a real walkthrough, Check out this Gamespot article.

Jaden Korr - canon version

Jaden Korr – canon version as he is described in the books.

Each video game has one ending which is considered canon. In this case, it’s the light side ending. While Jaden Korr can be played with various options, the canon version is a white human male since that is ow he appears in the follow up books Riptide and Crosscurrent. (Which is a bit disappointing to me, given how many other options there were.)

Medstar I: Battle Surgeons Review & Continuity

Medstar I: Battle Surgeons Book Cover Medstar I: Battle Surgeons
Star Wars
Michael Reaves & Steve Perry
Ballantine Del Rey
2004
Paperback

As Civil War between the Republic and the Separatists rages across the galaxy, nowhere is the fighting more fierce than on the swamp world of Drongar, where a beleaguered mobile hospital unit wages a never-ending war of its own . . .

A surgeon who covers his despair with wise-cracks; another who faces death and misery head-on, venting his emotions through beautiful music . . . A nurse with her heart in her work and her eye on a doctor . . . A Jedi Padawan on a healing mission without her Master . . .  These are the core members of a tiny med unit serving the jungle world of Drongar, where battle is waged over the control of a priceless native plant, and an endless line of medlifters brings in the wounded and dying -- mostly clone troopers, but also soldiers of all species.

While the healers work desperately to save lives, others plot secretly to profit from the war -- either by dealing on the black market or by manipulating the events of the war itself. In the end, though, all will face individual tests, and only those of compassionate hearts and staunch spirits can hope to survive to fight another day.

SW-CloneWars-Battlesurgeons-BarrissOffee

Barriss Offee faces a trial: find corruption while dealing with the ethical issues of the Clone Wars.

This is not an adventure in the sense where the heroes are running from or blasting bad guys. These are the kind of heroes who fight to save lives with medical supplies. This is the Star Wars version of M*A*S*H with a mystery twist set during the Clone Wars.

Barriss Offee is sent to the RIMSOO (really RMSU: Republic Mobile Surgical Unit) for 2 reasons. She is a Jedi healer to help the doctors, but she is also to investigate suspicious issues with the BOTA healing substance being shipped from the planet.

Barriss Offee finds herself among people asking hard questions, and what its like to have power but not be able to help. It’s a thought provoking journey into what the doctors and other personnel behind the lines are going through. Clones were bred for war, does that make them less human? Droids are built, but what if they grow beyond their programming. What makes one truly alive? And what makes one a hero? If a murderer is on your side, does it make him a hero instead of a criminal?

The war going on sometimes hits too close. In addition Black Sun (crime syndicate) has agents involved. Murder and sabotage ensue and there is a traitor in their midst.

This kind of story had to grow on me. At the time of this novel’s writing we’d only glimpsed Barriss in the background in Attack of the Clones and Genndy’s Clone Wars. We did get a deeper story on her in The Approaching Storm. Here, she really grows as a character and is forced to confront the temptations of the Dark Side.

Influence on the Expanded Universe

Expanded Characters:

Barriss Offee: Jedi Padawan & Healer  is expanded on in this. She remembers details of her past training with Luminara Unduli. This is our first serious view of Jedi Healing powers.

IFive: the independent droid of Darth Maul: Shadowhunter makes a return appearance and is striving to regain some of what he lost.

Expanded Cultures:

Sakiyans haven’t had much insight up until now, Admiral Bleyd makes up for this by pondering on his past and future.

Corellia is revealed to have traditionalists who strongly disapprove of marrying anyone not from their own planet. A minor hint of this was revealed in The Corellian Trilogy in it’s outerworlds.

Introduced:

Den Dhur: Sullustan journalist. Dhur will have many adventures in future books.
Jos Vandar: Chief surgeon
Zan Yant: Zabrak Surgeon
Klo Merit: Minder. (AKA Mental Health Therapist)
Tolk: Lorrdian Nurse
Admiral Bleyd (Sakiyan)
Yanth (Hutt, supply officer)
Phow Ji – Bunduki marshal arts instructor.
Kaird – Black Sun Agent

Introduced Culture:

Nedijii

Other Introductions:

Bota: a powerful healing plant native to Drongar.

Admiral Bleyd’s private ship: will appear in future stories and will be revealed in the future under the name ‘Stinger’.

Also mentioned:

Black Sun is heavily involved in this story.
Teras Kasi is mentioned.

Darth Maul Shadowhunter Review & Continuity

Darth Maul: Shadowhunter Book Cover Darth Maul: Shadowhunter
Star Wars
Michael Reaves
Ballentine Del Rey
Hardcover & Paperback

After years of waiting in the shadows, Darth Sidious is taking the first step in his master plan to bring the Republic to its knees. Key to his scheme are the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation. Then one of his Neimoidian contacts disappears, and Sidious does not need his Force-honed instincts to suspect betrayal. He orders his apprentice, Darth Maul, to hunt the traitor down.

But he is too late. The secret has already passed into the hands of information broker Lorn Pavan, which places him right at the top of Darth Maul’s hit list. Then, in the labyrinthine alleyways and sewers of Coruscant, capital city of the Republic, Lorn crosses paths with Darsha Assant, a Jedi Padawan on a mission to earn her Knighthood. Now the future of the Republic depends on Darsha and Lorn. But how can an untried Jedi and an ordinary man, stranger to the powerful ways of the Force, hope to triumph over one of the deadliest killers in the galaxy?

Darth Maul-ShadowHunter

The first adult novel with a Darth Maul adventure.

If one has seen Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and realizes where this book lies in the timeline, one might assume one knows how it ends. If Darth Maul gets halved by Obi-Wan there, he clearly doesn’t die here. But sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Sometimes, things don’t turn out as one would expect. Even the Sith are not infallible.

One of the Trade Federation neimodians has bolted, taking information that could reveal the Sith’s plans to have them blockade Naboo. Darth Maul is tasked with finding him and destroying all who have that information.\

This story is shockingly good.The characters pull one into their lives and make them root for their victories. With a Darth Maul breathing down their necks, its hard to put down. I cringed every time one made a wrong choice, knowing it could be there last.

Darsha Assant is a a Jedi padawan facing what she thinks are the trials to grant her Knighthood. But the trials laid out by the Jedi Council are not the worst of the trial she faces. What she ends up with is a journey through the worst of Coruscant, with a corellian who bears a grudge against a Jedi, his droid partner, and a Sith on there trail.

Lorn Pavan, Corellian information broker, lives on the shady side of the street. But this is only because of a very personal falling out with the Jedi Order. But now he has to deal with one or die and that means he gets to know the person, not just the Order. Lorn’s fate will impact future stories. His reasons for disliking the Order are revealed slowly through the book. But now that Darth Maul is on his trail, he’ll take what help he can get.

I5YQ-closeup

I5YQ-from the New Essential Guide to Droids

IFive, independent partner and droid, proves to be very far removed in abilities and attitude from C3PO, though they both started life as protocol droids. IFive has had a rough existence, bringing up the question of just what is ‘life’ and what rights do droids have, or should they have. Loyal partner that he is, he thinks for himself. He too has an important future.

Darth Maul remembers some of his training under the Sith and is forced to use stealth and cunning to deal with many of his targets. Kill them however he likes, but he cannot reveal the existence of the Sith. There must be no witnesses.

The destination is less important than the journey in this book making this an amazing story of forgiveness, redemption and growth for the hero characters.

Affect on Continuity:

Introduced Characters:
  • IFive will go on to star in the Medstar Duology followed by the Coruscant Nights series.
  • Tuden Sal, Pavan’s shady contact, will also appear in Coruscant Nights.
  • Anoon Bondara, Darsha’s Jedi Master, is mentioned again in Cloak of Deception, set right before this in the timeline.

Notable Continuity Mentions:

Black Sun, introduced in Shadows of the Empire (which is set during the Empire) is thriving. Their circumstances tie into the Darth Maul comic book storyline set before this.

Cthons, the mutants of the underworld of Coruscant are first named here, after being indirectly mentioned in Jedi Search.

Darsha thinks of other Jedi Padawans, notably those from the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson.

The Teräs Käsi fighting style used by Darth Maul and Anoon Bondara first appeared in the Shadows of the Empire novel.

Complications:

Darth Maul is mentioned as being the other half of the Sith, though Darth Plagueis was alive at this time. However, future stories suggest Maul did not know there were any others besides he and his Master.

Darth Maul is mentioned as Iridonian Zabrak. The Clone Wars stories later change his history to a Dathomiri Zabrak. There was no time for this to be explained in continuity due to the Disney buyout and cancellation of both The Clone Wars and the Expanded Universe immediately after.

This book was a New York Times Best Seller

Allegiance Review

Star Wars Allegiance Book Cover Star Wars Allegiance
Timothy Zahn
sci fi/fantasy
Del Rey
2007
Hardcover

Never before has the incendiary mix of action, politics, and intrigue that has become Timothy Zahn’s trademark, been more evident that in this new Star Wars epic. On the heels of the stunning events chronicled in Star Wars: A New Hope, the newly minted heroes of the Rebellion–fledgling Jedi Luke Skywalker, smuggler turned reluctant freedom-fighter Han Solo, and Princess Leia Organa, a bold leader with a world to avenge–must face the harsh realities of the cataclysmic conflict into which they have so bravely plunged. From this point forward, legends will grow, treachery will abound, and lives will be irrevocably altered, in the long, hard fight to counter the fist of tyranny and restore hope to a galaxy too long in darkness.

The destruction of the Death Star by the Rebel Alliance was a decisive blow against the Empire, but Palpatine and his monstrous enforcer, Darth Vader, are no less of a threat. The brutal extermination of Alderaan not only demonstrated the magnitude of their murderous power, but served as a chilling testament to their resolve to crush the Rebel uprising. Standing against them, Skywalker, Solo, and the Princess remain uncertain opponents. Luke is gifted and brave, but unschooled in the power he possesses. Han has doubts about waging someone else’s war–and his contentiousness is one more burden for Leia to bear as she struggles to help keep the Rebellion alive. The three have been sent to mediate a dispute between Rebel Alliance factions in Shelsha Sector–agitating matters by forcing Han to deal not only with pirates, but with his more dreaded enemy, politics. At the same time, Mara Jade–all of eighteen and years away from her fateful meeting with Luke–is serving her evil master, Palpatine, well in her role as the Emperor’s Hand: tracking suspected treachery in the Empire to what may be high places–while trying to stay out of Darth Vader’s way.

But the Rebels will prove to be only one of the Empire’s concerns. For Imperial Stormtrooper Daric LaRone, his faith in the Empire shaken by the wanton destruction of Alderaan, will commit a sudden and violent act of defiance, and take four other enforcers with him, in a desperate bid to elude their masters’ wrath.

Each of these fateful actions, whether sanctioned, secret, or scandalous, will expose brutality and corruption, spur upheavals destined to shake the Empire to its core, and shape momentous events yet to come.

Shannon McRandle as Mara Jade

Shannon McRandle as Mara Jade

My View:

The story jumps between the main trilogy heroes, Luke, Leia and Han,  Mara Jade (AKA The Emperor’s Hand), and the Imperial Stormtrooper group who find themselves on the wrong end of the Imperial Security Bureau. Forced to go rogue, the Stormtroopers name themselves the Hand of Judgement and set out to right the wrongs of corruption.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is that its a story about trying to do the right thing for the little person, no matter how hard it is. In this respect, while Mara Jade and the rogue Stormtroopers all believe in the Empire and Emperor, they also recognize their are times corruption has set in. So in their own way, while still not turning into Rebels, they seek to help the little guy. This sets them on a collision course with each other as well as the Rebels. As it turns out…they all have the same enemy this time around.

I really enjoyed how Luke and Leia, both trying to keep a low profile, can’t resist someone in need and take action. It showed that on some level, they think alike. It’s very appropriate for twins. And how Leia is expected to keep a low profile shows a whole new side to her. Luke meanwhile has to deal with the spirit of Kenobi whispering in his ear and guiding him…which also doesn’t help with the low profile business. Their allegiance to doing the right thing by the little guy is the core of being a Jedi, whether they know it (and whether the Jedi always remembered it) or not. Han’s attitude was very much of a guy who doesn’t yet want to admit that he’s really in this, because he believes in it, as opposed to just out of friendship.

The stormtroopers were a nice change, giving face to the faceless and revealing how people honestly believed in the Empire and yet could still end up in trouble with them. And their determination to keep helping the innocent while wearing the armor is heroic. They know, eventually, what may happen when the ISB catches up. Yet they don’t blame the entire Empire for the ISB’s corruption.  They were individuals, definitely not clones, with their own preferences and quirks. Each one had to face the question of what to do when you are given orders you know are criminally wrong. Each one had to decide between loyalty to one friend who was in trouble (and in the right) and whether going along with him was worth their careers and lives. Truly, where does their Allegiance lie? With the government and citizens they are sworn to serve or with it’s corrupt leaders?

Mara Jade’s relationship with Vader gets introduced. They aren’t together much but for those who know how Palpatine groomed Anakin Skywalker, one can see how Vader might react to this girl being treated the way he once was. Of course, she doesn’t know that.  And its also clear when it comes to his passions (Luke), Vader is, to use 3PO’s term ‘not entirely stable’ emotionally. Anyone who gets in between Luke and his father, even the Emperor’s Hand, is in serious danger.

The ending was a nice twist. Just when you think you figure out the stormtroopers, one surprises you. There is also a nice tie in to The Empire Strikes Back, as we see how ‘Ozzel’ ends up under Vader and hints that he’d been given just enough noose to…well, choke himself.

Other Stories about these Characters and Places

This book ties into the sequel ‘Choices of One’.

Mara Jade was introduced in the post ROTJ book Heir to the Empire as the Emperor’s Hand. This story is set before that. She is young in this, no older than Luke, but better trained.

Other stories with Mara:

  • Choices of One
  • Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade
  • By the Emperor’s Hand
  • First Contact (Adventure Journal/Anthology)
  • Jade Solitaire (Adventure Journal/Anthology)
  • Heir to the Empire
  • Dark Force Rising
  • The Last Command
  • Jedi Academy Trilogy
  • I, Jedi
  • Mysteries of the Sith (Video Game)
  • Ambush at Corellia
  • Assault on Selonia
  • Showdown at Centerpoint
  • Specter of the Past
  • Vision of the Future
  • Union (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Judge’s Call
  • Survivor’s Quest
  • New Jedi Order Series
  • Dark Nest Crisis Trilogy
  • Legacy of the Force Series

The character Disra, appears in:

  • Specter of the Past
  • Vision of the Future.

The way Mara is treated by the Emperor reminded me of how he treated Anakin Skywalker, in:

  • Jedi Quest, the False Peace
  • Labyrinth of Evil
  • Secrets of the Jedi
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith

In these, he acted the part of benevolent adviser to Anakin.

Luke, Leia and Han:

Dark Horse Comics

  • Empire Series
  • Rebellion Series
  • Shadows of the Empire (comic adaptation)
  • Evolution

Bantam

  • Shadows of the Empire

Del Rey

  • Han Solo Trilogy (Ann Crispin)
  • Han Solo Trilogy (Brian Daley)
  • Razor’s Edge (Leia)
  • Honor Among Thieves (Han)
  • Scoundrels (Han)
  • Rebel Forces (YA)

 

The appear in nearly anything post Return of the Jedi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenobi Review

Kenobi Book Cover Kenobi
John Jackson Miller
Del Rey
2013
Hardcover

The Republic has fallen
The Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything.
Everything but hope.

Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.

Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.

Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

How does a Jedi Master, a servant of Justice disappear? Not easily, when the Force keeps putting him right in the middle of trouble.
Wanting nothing more than to blend in, Obi-Wan finds himself discovering (or rediscovering) that for some people, there is trouble and drama enough in their neighborhood and those struggles are enough without galaxy wide wars, Empires and Republics and Jedi and Sith.

This is truly a ‘western’ of the Star Wars galaxy, with the colonists a mishmash of species (though mostly human), Tusken Raiders replacing the Native American Indians, and the Hutt henchmen for the outlaws.

The story is told from Anileen’s point of view, except for Obi-Wan’s meditations. It would be nice to have more of him, but it does work. We get to see where ‘crazy wizard’ idea began.

Obi-Wan finds an unlikely new friend in Anileen, who needs him as much as he needs her. It’s not a romantic friendship. But it is awkward as he can’t afford to be noticed. And just as an additional jolt her nickname is Annie…reminding him of the ‘Ani’ that he lost. He is wrestling with his own guilt, regret and loss of family as well as how to disappear and still watch over the young Luke Skywalker. How can he still be Kenobi, the servant of light and justice, yet sit by while injustice is done before his very nose?

This book is a nice change of pace. Obi-Wan himself is struggling with that very ‘change of pace’ he is so unaccustomed too just as we might wonder if a book without the blasterfire of rebellion, the starship action and lightsabers is really interesting enough.. But being here gives him the opportunity to grow to understand Anakin Skywalker, belatedly, in a way he never did before.

In regards to continuity, it makes some nice compensations for the changes the prequels made.
For instance:
In the Illustrated Star Wars Galaxy and in Junior Jedi Knights it was established that tusken male and female were equal, both were warriors and they couldn’t always be told apart.
In Attack of the Clones, however, the distinctions were obvious: males were the warriors and wore different gear.
By making use of  the influence of Sharad Hett from the Dark Horse comics (Asharad has apparently not reappeared at this point) we see how a transition began. Anakin Skywalker’s reaction to his Mother’s death definitely clinched it. Taking what was a contradiction and using that very contradiction to explain why things changed.
It  also mentions that Qui-Gon told Obi-Wan stories of Jedi, separated from the Order, and how they lived: Kerra Holt (Knight Errant) and Zayne Carrik (KOTOR Comics). Siri (Jedi Apprentice) is mentioned as Obi-Wan’s first test on turning away from love for duty. Satine of The Clone Wars is mentioned, but no details given so if you aren’t into The Clone Wars its not really a problem.

Other Stories about these Characters and Places

Other stories that touch on Kenobi’s life on Tatooine:

  • The Last One Standing – Jude Watson, only available in the paperback combo version of Legacy of the Jedi & Secrets of the Jedi
  • The Last of the Jedi: Desperate Mission – Jude Watson, book 1
  • The Last of the Jedi: Reckoning – Jude Watson book 10 (one chapter)
  • The Life and Times of Obi-Wan Kenobi – Ryder Windham
  • Legacy: Claws of the Dragon 3, 4 : John Ostrander (Author) Jan Duursema  (Artist) Dark Horse Comics issue 16

Stories about Obi-Wan before Tatooine:

  • Jedi Apprentice – Jude Watson
  • Last Stand on Ord Mantell – Dark Horse Comics
  • The Aurorient Express – Dark Horse Comics
  • Jedi Council Acts of War -(Dark Horse Comics)
  • Stark Hyperspace War – (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Legacy of the Jedi – Jude Watson
  • Secrets of the Jedi – Jude Watson
  • Episode 1 : Obi-Wan Kenobi – (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Rogue Planet – Greg Bear
  • Jedi Quest – – Jude Watson
  • The Approaching Storm – Alan Dean Foster
  • Precipice (Hyperspace short)
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars video game
  • Star Wars: Republic 50: The Defense of Kamino (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Republic: The New Face of War (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Republic 53: Blast Radius (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Clone Wars Micro Series (TV/DVD)
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Volume 1 – “Blind Force” (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Volume 8 – “One of a Kind” (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Storm Fleet Warnings
  • The Cestus Deception
  • The Hive (add on to paperback of The Cestus Deception)
  • Star Wars: Republic: The Battle of Jabiim (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Republic 59: Enemy Lines (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Republic 62: No Man’s Land (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Boba Fett – The Fight to Survive
  • Star Wars: Republic 67: Forever Young (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Changing Seasons – Timothy Zahn, Star Wars Insider
  • Star Wars: Republic: Dreadnaughts of Rendili (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Obsession (Dark Horse Comics)
  •  Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Volume 4 – “The Brink” (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Volume 9 – “Appetite for Adventure” (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Volume 10 – “Thunder Road” (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Brothers in Arms  (Dark Horse Comics)
  • The Last of the Jedi: Dark Warning
  • Labyrinth of Evil – James Luceno

The Clone Wars TV series also has many episodes (some contradictory) involving Obi-Wan
Novels based on that include:

  • TCW Gambit: Stealth – Karen Miller
  • TCW Gambit: Seige – Karen Miller
  • TCW Wild Space – Karen Miller

Other Stories involving Tusken Raiders/Tatooine:

  • Star Wars Republic: Outlander (Dark Horse comics)
  • The Illustrated Star Wars Universe – Kevin J. Anderson, art by Ralph McQuarrie
  • The Life and Times of Luke Skywalker
  • Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina (Anthology)
  • Tatooine Ghost, by Troy Denning
  • Junior Jedi Knights 3: Promises – Nancy Richardson Fischer

New Jedi Order Review

NJO Destinies Way

NJO Destinies Way

The New Jedi Order series drove some fans right out the door. But it had a reason. When you know beyond a doubt that your heroes always survive an win, the story doesn’t seem quite so cutting, you know that eventually you turn the page and find them escaping and defeating the foe. The New Jedi Order will make you feel because this time, they are not guaranteed victory.

The New Jedi Order series changed all that rather explosively with a tragedy so big that it hit the newspapers in our world. The death of a main character. A heroic, fitting death, but still, a hero falls. After the Rebellion and the many books dealing with battling the Imperial Remnant, this was a shock wave.

And if it affects us, it affects them. We find the other main characters still reacting to the shock of realizing their string of luck, or fate of the Force, no longer guaranteed their safety. And so grief drives one family apart for a time, young Jedi must become the new heroes of their age, in spite of, or because of their guilt and pain and loss. The Jedi must decide how they will respond when the Republic government continues to play politics at the expense of the people, and what actions should they take in this war.

Worlds and cultures are destroyed by an enemy invisible in the Force itself, so even that constant is being questioned.

Wedge-in NJO Rebel Dream

Wedge Antillies leads the defense-in NJO Rebel Dream by Aaron Allston

Every book begins with trepidation, which of our heroes is the focus? Will they even survive, and at what cost? Some books are more character driven, like Traitor and Dark Journey. Some are sheer heart stopping adventure like Star by Star. Others are tactical driven, the points of the war where the warriors are now in control and determined to defeat or at least hold off the brutal foe until the innocent have time to escape.

The New Jedi Order is both heartbreaking pain of losing characters we knew and loved on the movie screen and from books die. It is soaring courage of watching young Jedi like Jaina, Jacen and Anakin Solo face the temptations of the Dark Side, and find a cause that is their own, not a left over from their parents era.

By the end of the series, one has new heroes. One has wept for the pain of tragedy and horror, from the devastation of worlds, to grieved families and the loss of friends. One has cheered over the triumph of heroes smart enough and wise enough to win without genocide, against all odds.  And that is the essence, to me, of a great story: if its made me laugh, cry and everything in between, than its done something rare and hard to accomplish. And this series does just that.

Vector Prime Japanese

Vector Prime with Japanese Cover Art

 

View the Official Commercial for this Series by clicking the Cover:
New Jedi Order Review

Star Wars Heir to the Empire Review

Star Wars Heir to the Empire
Star Wars
Timothy Zahn
sci fi/fantasy
Bantam

It is a time of renewal, five years after the destruction of the Death Star and the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire.

But with the war seemingly won, strains are beginning to show in the Rebel Alliance. New challenges to galactic peace have arisen. And Luke Skywalker hears a voice from his past. A voice with a warning.

Beware the dark side….

First in a 3 book trilogy that fired up the Star Wars franchise novels.
This first book introduces thrilling new characters and challenges. The New Republic leadership is ripe with political backbiting. A new Imperial Warlord is uniting the remnants of the fleet and striking back successfully. And he has secrets of the Emperor and a dangerous new threat that could threaten Luke Skywalker, his friends and all they stand for.

The characters in these books are some of the most enduring of the Expanded Universe. It’s a can’t put down read that came out after a long hiatus and naturally it’s well loved. Mysterious species and unknown enemies this is a heart pounding adventure.

But the best thing is, that now if you get hooked you no longer need to wait a whole year until the next installment.

The Rest of the Trilogy:

Book 2: Dark Force Rising
Book 3: The Last Command

Characters Introduced:

  • Mara Jade,
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn,
  • Admiral Pellaon,
  • Talon Kardde,
  • Borsk Fey’lya

Other books / series / comics with these characters:

Books

  • I, Jedi
  • New Rebellion
  • The Corellian Trilogy
  • New Jedi Order
  • Legacy of the Force
Comics

  • Thrawn trilogy adaption
  • Mara Jade, by the Emperor’s Hand
  • Union

 

Other Star Wars Books by Zahn:

Outbound Flight (prequel era)

Scoundrels

Allegiance

Choices of One
Spectre of the Past

Vision of the Future

Survivor’s Quest

Other books / series with the characters created in these:

I, Jedi

New Rebellion

The Corellian Trilogy

New Jedi Order

Legacy of the Force

Comic / Graphic Novels with these Characters:

Thrawn trilogy adaption

Mara Jade, by the Emperor’s Hand

Union