Scoundrels Review

Star Wars ScoundrelsGoing into Scoundrels one knows 2 things: it’s bound to be a good read, because its by Timothy Zahn. That said, how much it is enjoyed depends on what one is in the mood for. If one is expecting Jedi, space battles, or Rebel vs Empire action, one may be disappointed. If however one is in the mood for Han Solo and his ne’er do well smuggler buddies joining forces for high stakes against dangerous foes, one is in  for a treat.

There are nods to Oceans 11, Indiana Jones and the whole ‘who shot first’ in the cantina scene. Lando returns, Chewbacca is alive and well right by Han’s side, and a few familiar faces from old stories join new ones both to aid and stop Han Solo in his attempt to get money (or credits) to pay off an outraged Jabba the Hutt. The familiar faces plus the opposition are familiar from the rest of the Expanded Universe, including the Black Sun Crime Syndicate. The Imperials are sniffing around too. There is even a brief mention of how Han lost the money he’d been given to the Alliance, before he could repay Jabba the Hutt.

While in places the plot seems to be heavy on someone overthinking things, the fact that the stakes are life and death for failure on both sides means they have reason for being paranoid. Even members of Black Sun don’t want to tick off Black Sun and it’s Prince Xixor. Meanwhile Han is no slouch when it comes to figuring out when not all is as it seems.

It does seem a bit odd to  place it where it is in the timeline. Set after Ann Crispan’s Han Solo Trilogy, when Lando is already ticked off at Han and blaming him for being ripped off. That already explained why Lando might not be thrilled to see him at Cloud City.

Stories like this are where Han shows how smart he is and how able to convince a diverse group of people to function as a team for a common goal. The movies may show his skill with a blaster and piloting, but this is the kind of story that tells you he has what it takes to one day be the General the rebels will need in Return of the Jedi.

 

MedStar 2: Jedi Healer Review & Continuity

Medstar 2 picks up the pace from the first book. Barriss makes a startling discovery about the Bota that brings her to face the real, subtle temptations of the Dark Side. Her questioning is a serious question on what one should do for the greater good.

The drama is high with this one and it just gets more intense. The saboteur is still on the loose and targeting what most civilized species avoid in a war: the medics. The characters are all face to face with their own mortality and concerns about the future. The jokes and camaraderie and shared pain make them easy to empathize with. Love, friendship and lives are at stake and one is a traitor. Here we finally get clues to narrow down who the traitor might be.

This story left me wanting more about the characters and lives the door open for many of them to carry on.

Influence on the Continuity

Introductions

Uli Divinian: male human doctor from Tatooine. He will appear in later stories.

Eyar Maranth: sullustan singer. Will be mentioned in future stories.

Teedle: serving droid

Expanded Characters:

Barriss faces a bigger challenge this time, a temptation new to her.

I-Five faces the slow return of memory on events from Darth Maul: Shadowhunter that will influence his course.

Den Dhur faces the temptation to settle down with a female sullustan. But he also faces the challenge of whether a public’s right to know and his duty as a journalist is more important than danger it could bring to friends.

Jos Vandar has to deal with loss, having his world view upended on top of an attraction not considered acceptable by his people.

Mentions:

Sorcerer of Tund (Lando Calrissian Trilogy)

Falleen (Shadows of the Empire)

Cultural Expansion:

Umbaran people.

Major Connections:

Implied Death Star Superlaser

 

Honor Among Thieves Review

Honor-among-thievesDescription:

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

 

I had a hard time rating this one…really I’d go 3 1/2 stars. The story itself is good its just the niggling details that bother me.

 

Continuity:

This story fits between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

For Han Solo, the attitude of being unsure of his place matches that he has in Allegiance. Although the timeline in the book suggests it goes after Choices of One, their is an event in this book that should’ve affected his attitude in this one. So it could be it’s before Choices.

Leia also matches the attitudes and behavior in those two books, still trying to woo Alliance members (this was also how Splinter of the Mind’s Eye begins) but also acting as a military leader in choosing what risks to take and whose life to risk.

Luke is a bit iffier in spite of his small role in the book. The problem here is really Wedge Antillies being Commander. Wedge is definitely not in command in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is.

It’s not insurmountable but its confusing. Is this before or after they flee Yavin? Luke was initially promoted to Commander when they fled, but it didn’t stick since the only one who knew it apparently died there (Classic Star Wars comic strips). He was then promoted to Commander of Red Squadron AKA Rogue Squadron after Commander Narra died. (This is in TESB Radio Drama and right when they are setting up Hoth.) Rogue Squadron was initially part of Red Squadron, with Renegade Flight led by Narra as another part.

It IS possible that Red Blade Flight (mentioned in this book) was meant to be another part of Red Squadron and it was decimated and the survivors moved into Rogue group, thereby forming the new Rogue Squadron. That still leaves Wedge a mystery though. He has been with the Alliance longer and had more training, but somehow Luke ends up outranking him. Demotion? A refusal of promotion? Was Luke promoted due to more courageous (or at least more obvious) acts? Either way Luke is the one who created Rogue Group (according to the X-Wing series) and Wedge ends up his second (according to The Empire Strikes Back.)

-Noghri. At one point Han sees a noghri female, a species he shouldn’t know about until post Thrawn trilogy. However, since the book is NOT told first person, its possible this just is a description for the reader. The species was out in the galaxy, and even Han didn’t recognize every species out there.

-The Weapon.  Given there are numerous species with ancient superweapons lying around such as the Rakata, the Gree and whatever drove the Sharu into hiding, its not unreasonable for this weapon to exist. It did however bother me the scale of it.

SPOILERS.
While races like the Rakata and whatever drove the Sharu into hiding might inspire extreme technological advancements, it seems odd one would invent something that had the power to wipe out hyperdrive ANYWHERE would be forgotten, its people lost. I’d have had a much easier time keeping my belief suspended if the device had been something more limited, even if it was still potentially devastating.

Ultimately the niggling little continuity glitches (I mean the Wedge and Luke thing is right there in The Empire Strikes Back, never mind the rest of the Expanded Universe) makes me lower my rating of it since yanking me out of the universe due to confusion isn’t a good thing.  I had trouble believing the second macguffin (the first being the data, the second being what it claimed) was for real.  Also it bugged me just a bit how the woman struck me as always being smarter and quicker on the uptake than Han. This could be just how it came across, as Han was feeling out of place still working for the Rebels. But  Han has always been a fast thinker (for better or worse) and most of the best stories have the characters as equals. Witness how he and Leia balance in other stories, or Luke and Mara for instance.

Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley Review

Some of the oldest stories in the Expanded Universe, before it had an official name or continuity. In fact, at the time of writing they their was no original trilogy, just one movie called Star Wars. Brian Daley did a fabulous job of staying true to the movies. Han’s early adventures introduced the Corporate Sector, an area of space that the Empire largely left to its own devices for a piece of the action. But that doesn’t it make a freer place than the Empire, on the contrary. Speaking out against the Corporate Sector and stealing from it the take very seriously, and they are just as likely to exploit, if not more so, the natives.

Han Solo Adventures trilogy by Brian Daley

Han Solo Adventures trilogy by Brian Daley

The Han Solo Adventures:

Description:

Han Solo soars again–in this awesome trilogy of his extraordinary exploits. Ride with him as he rides to the rescue, narrowly escapes certain death, and foils evil in its ruthless tracks!

The Novels:

Han Solo at Star’s End

The first of the trilogy involves Han and Chewie doing their thing, being smugglers. Finding themselves disadvantaged by the new tech the Authorities have, they seek out to pay debts and get new upgrades. This leads them to a quest to find lost people, those who spoke or acted against the Authority. It also leads to some hints that Han is a more complex character than he has a chance to show in A New Hope.

It’s a rip roaring adventure with some tense moments. You know the heroes must survive. But what about their new allies, who you come to like just as much?

Speaking of the modern marketing term diversity, Daley was doing it back in the ‘70s. Rekkon was a black man, and it also features critical roles for Jessa, leader of the outlaw techs and Attuare, a feline female ranger.

Han Solo’s Revenge

The second book features Han and Chewie desperate for cash and taking a chance that leads to near disaster. Tangled up with a fight against slavers alongside an Authority Exec looking to shut them down, they find themselves once more on the run and finding foes and allies in strange places. They aren’t always who you’d expect.

Chewie has a great role in this one. Many stories treat Chewie as the big hairy sidekick. This one gives him a chance to shine on his own, being creative to survive.

It also introduces a great female character: Fiolla of Loord. She is described as having rich brown skin and black hair. She isn’t just some female love interest…instead she is a determined young woman seeking justice working within the system.

It also introduces Gallandro, a real gunman. He doesn’t get much play yet.

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy

This third book is a real treasure hunt. Han and Chewie meet an old pal hard on his luck and needing help to find a treasure that could bring him out of poverty. This leads to the planet Dellalt, home of the fabled treasure of Xim the Despot. But their is competition and someone has already died for it. When the enemy gets ahold of the Falcon, they are forced to trek across the planet, fighting a cult of Xim worshippers as well as the local competition…and then there is the enemy they made last time. Gallandro is on the trail and he wants revenge.

Once more we meet new characters and species. Badure is a former officer and flight trainer who reveals more hints of Han’s military past. Hasti, his friend and ally, whose sister was murdered at the hands of the competition and Skynx, a ruurian historian who will one day metamorphous into a newer but less active life form.

Tie Ins

Han solo at Stars End comic 1 small

Han solo at Stars End comic 1 comic

Han Solo at Star’s End Comic Strip.

Only the first story was adapted into a comic strip, later turned into a comic book and colored by Dark Horse Comics. As a comic strip in and of itself its a decent story but as an adaptation it suffered in 2 ways.

While the line art is generally good in this, it suffers some that the artist had apparently not seen the movie in awhile. Everyone who has will remember the Falcon’s game board and know its round and surrounded by a couch. It is not a flat square table with a regular Earth game of checkers.

The second issue is specifically for those who read the books. If you only read the comic it may not matter. But the entire opening is cut short and altered, perhaps its too long or difficult to illustrate. At the end, the story is altered drastically in how they escape. Again maybe they thought it more exciting or easy to illustrate. Or maybe they just had a limit of how many strips they could do and couldn’t fit it in. All told though as an adaptation it suffers for it. Also is the detail that trianni don’t wear clothes according to the book. Why they felt a need to clothe them in the comic might be explained by modesty standards, but only if one ignores that Chewie is also furry and has none.

It’s a decent comic, if cheesy and dated. It’s just not a great adaptation.

Fiolla of Lorrd: Wizards of the Coast and Death in the Slave Pits of Lorrd.

It’s unfortunate that for some reason artists got her totally wrong. The one most guilty of this is Wizards of the Coast, which ignored the ‘rich brown skin’ description. They may have gotten the idea from the short story “Death in the Slave Pits of Lorrd”, a hyperspace feature that short story available only to subscribers of starwars.com. In the story Tash Arranda (of Galaxy of Fear series) is telling of an adventure where she met Fiolla. Her scribbled picture had lighter skin. This however could be the in universe equivalent of not having the right color of crayon. Wizards of the Coast chose which version to use. This is a shame. (Except for color the artwork is otherwise good.)

As it fits into the Expanded Universe, the other stories very effectively use Brian Daley’s set up. The radio drama’s he also wrote reference Han in the same way. The Ann Crispin Han Solo Trilogy brilliantly interweave with it, actually explaining why Han went to the Corporate Sector in the First place and showing it as interludes while explaining what was going on that would effect him back in the Empire. The Dark Horse comics story Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse, we get to see Imperial Agent Jahan Cross hire Han for helping his adventure while in the Corporate Sector (something Han says yes too since they were academy friends.) Much later, a few of people and species from these will show up as cameos in the New Jedi Order series.

West End Game also did a Han Solo and the Corporate Sector Sourcebook.

These stories were released individually in hardcover and paperback, as well as 2 omnibuses.

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.

Star Wars Sourcebook Review

star-wars-sourcebookThe Star Wars Sourcebook by West End Games even predates Heir to the Empire. merchandise, the first new companies to put out new products. It came out in 1987. Coming out even before Heir to the Empire, let alone the prequels, there were a lot of unknowns.

Some might assume the later works are contradictory. But that’s not really true. In fact, most of the later works are built on the inventions created by these West End Games Role Playing Games sources. One of the biggest advantages to countering contradictions is that they are written from an in universe perspective. That means one can expect limitations based on what the character writing knew.

Characters.

Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda all have a brief biography. According to the book, they are excerpt from the Official History of the Rebellion, Volume One by Arhul Hextrophon. The author served as secretary to Mon Mothma.  According to the excerpts the information comes from interviews with Obi-Wan, Yoda, Bail Organa and Luke Skywalker.  Boba Fett’s information is based on whatever vague sources they can find and they admit being unsure about some of it.  Here’s an obvious loophole: if you see a contradiction, the information is clearly presented as coming from people who had a vested interest in keeping the whole thing quiet. None of them are going to come out and admit Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker.  None are going to blare out to the galaxy anything that could reveal a truth that might endanger Luke or Leia.

MonMothma-Bail-Padme-ROTS

Mon Mothma and friends discuss what to do about Palpatine’s refusal to call for peace and taking more power.

Mon Mothma, is an example of the prequels drawing from the Expanded Universe. The character who first appears in Return of the Jedi, also has scenes in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith based on scenes cut from the movie. In these scenes the sourcebook revelations are confirmed, that she distrusted Palpatine and was debating with other Senators – including not only Bail Organa, but Padme – what to do about it. Various books and comics reveal that the events involving the changes Palpatine made to the Republic preparatory of making a new Empire and include her in them.

Boba Fett.

Boba Fett’s account is based on research and in itself admits a lot of emotions. The most out of step element might be the description that his armor is from the Mandaloreans defeated by the Jedi in the Clone wars.  This is one of those things Filoni, more than anyone blew up by altering it in the cartoon (for no reason). However the Expanded universe is consistent: the Mandaloreans hired out as mercenaries and cared little about sides at the time. Some were hired by Jango Fett to help train the clones (and being a Mando he is one defeated at the opening of the clone wars.) All the way from Tales of the Jedi to The Old Republic the Mandaloreans have gone to war with the Republic, leading to the Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2 backstory that Revan was the leader of the Jedi against the Mandaloreans and that it was when he returned from that war he turned to the Dark Side.

Seggor Tels

quarren-isolationis

Quarren Isolationist join the Separatists against the Republic & Mon Cals in Clone Wars by
Genndy Tartakovsky

The Quarren Seggor Tels apparently brought the shields down on Dac/Mon Calamari to allow the invasion of the Empire. He also talks about how Ackbar and his Council welcomed the visitors from the stars and his regrets. He indicates the Mon Calamari wanted to share things out in the galaxy but his people, the Quarren, did not want that.

Given that all the way back in the Old Republic game, people might assume its a contradiction.  But  by the era of Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller and the Darth Bane era vast stretches of the galaxy had been cut off from the Republic by war. Dac/Mon Calamari is far enough from the core that it likely would be among those cut off.

mon-cal-mounts-smash separatist droid

The Mon Calamari fought back. Here 2 use their eel-like steeds to smash a Separatist droid.

What about the fact that they are already in the Republic by the Empire’s arrival if Ackbar was involved in getting them back to the stars? Well given that they never gave a first name that leaves plenty of room. Ackbar is a family name. Admiral Ackbar is Gial Ackbar, his niece was Jesmin Ackbar, who later joined Wedge Antillies Wraith Squadron. Those who welcomed the Republic back to their world might well have been related to him. But it isn’t specified. And even the future Admiral Ackbar, being on a world far from the Core, may well not have known that the new Empire which claimed to stand for security meant to subjugate non human species.

Kit Fisto and the Grand Army of the Republic

Jedi Kit Fisto and the Grand Army of the Republic come to the aid of the Mon Calamari. Remember, this is the same Republic that became an Empire RESCUING the Mon Calamari.

Seggor Tel’s account is a memory. A journal entry, and it’s a single person account. Given that the Republic did come become the Empire that isn’t really much of a leap.

Details such as starships often may seem contradicted. What appears to be an A Wing is in the Droids cartoon, set long before its said to be invented. This was later explained to be the A Wings predecessor, which makes sense in the same way Z-95 and Arc 170s are also predecessors to X-Wings and look similar in design.

Customs and details about species are so common place in the Expanded Universe  now we often forget this is where they began: that twilek  use their lekku (head tails) for communication, or the wookiee’s honor code.

Twileks-in-heatstorm-TOTJ

Jedi Tott Doneeta leads twileks thru a heatstorm on Ryloth. The culture came from the Star Wars Sourcebook.

Twileks:

The Bright Lands and the environment, the cunning of the twileks, the head clans with 5 members are confirmed in: X-Wing: Rogue Squadron books & comics, 
Tales of the Jedi: Redemption and more.

Wookiees:

Jolee-bindo-depths-kashyyyk-sm

Knights of the Old Republic takes you into the dangers of wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk’s depths.

The wookiee ecology of the tall trees with the it growing more dangerous as you go down.
This is used and confirmed in: KOTOR (game), Young Jedi Knights,Heir to the Empire, the Chewbacca tribute,Legacy of the Force,  the Han Solo trilogy by Ann Crispin and Chewbacca and the Slavers of the Shadowlands and more. The wookiee honor code is mentioned in many places regarding Chewbacca especially. It has a lot of fleshing out in the Han Solo trilogy by Ann Crispin.

Ithorians:

The Ithorian people and their reverence for mother jungle, their herdships, their devotion to plant life and harmony of the ecology, all appears in later stories.:
Tales of Mos Eisley names Momaw Nadon as a priest that was forced into exile, forced to choose between the destruction of the Ithorian jungle and giving up secrets of their genetic manipulation he was sworn to protect.
In Galaxy of Fear: Spore, we meet his mate and visit Ithor, where it is confirmed that the Ithorians  do not visit or allow anyone to visit the surface of the planet.
In Children of the Jedi Leia and Han visit the herdships with their 3 children.
In the New Jedi Order:Dark Tide II  Ithor is an important player and has a major role.

The Jawas and their natures:

Jawas and the fact that trading and scavenging is basically their whole culture:
Tales of Mos Eisley
Jedi Academy (game)
The Old Republic (game)

Quarren and Mon Calamari:

The quarren and their disagreement of and with the mon cal also appears in:
Clone Wars (Microseries)

Ewoks:
their worship of the trees and other details appear in:

Ewok cartoons
Ewok Adventures AKA Caravan of Courage
Ewoks: the Battle for Endor
Shadows of Endor
Illustrated Star Wars Universe

Gamorrean Culture of males and females:

Murder in Slushtime
Children of the Jedi

Sullustans and their living in caves:


Medstar 1 and 2 (Den Dhur)

Young Jedi Knights

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

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. I gave it 4 stars.

“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

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. It’s a fighting style and had a video game (with a less than stellar reputation).