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thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

A Long Time Ago, in a Another Thread Far Far Away...

(Yeah, that was a cheap way to start the thread, but I couldn't resist.)

What started back in March of 2007 as a Geeky Star Wars Questions thread evolved over the years (and a few threads) into the Star Wars Book thread. A place where Star Wars nerds could come to talk about Star Wars books and exchange recommendations and theories. Because unlike a lot of other Expanded Universes (EU from here on out), the Star Wars EU was entirely canon. This wasn't true for something like the Star Trek EU, where books could reference or ignore other books. In Star Wars, if it was in a book, it counted. Everything was interconnected. Sure, it wasn't perfect, and occasionally George Lucas came in and stomped all over it with a movie and the EU would have to course correct, but for the most part it worked and a massive EU tapestry was created of some great books, and a lot of lovely books, all weaving in and out of each other. And everyone was happy and no one ever fought about anything.

And then in 2012, something happened...Lucasfilm, and everything it owned, including Star Wars, was purchased by Disney. And, as a part of this buyout, an announcement was made. The EU of old would be rendered non-canon, to make way for a new trilogy of movies. The response from the fans for this was...well let's say it was split. Many people were upset to think that their favorites like Thrawn, Mara Jade, Jaina and Jacen Solo, Kyp Durron, Exar Kun, the Wraith Squadron, etc. were no more, and that we wouldn't get any more stories from them. That all the time and emotional investment they had put into them had been wiped out to make way for the new. Personally, I don't see that Lucasfilm had any choice. If the new trilogy was to include Han, Luke, and Leia (whether this was a good idea in hindsight is a different discussion, they were obviously going to include them from the outset), there was no way they were going to try to cover all that history. "So, okay, Chewie is dead. Someone dropped a moon on him. Han and Leia had 3 kids. 1 was killed by a masochistic race of aliens who were invisible from the Force. 1 went evil and was killed by the 3rd. Luke has a kid. The kid's mother? She was killed by the evil Han and Leia kid. All caught up? No? Doesn't matter. Let's go!" But no matter what you thought, it happened, and the old EU was dead.

Why am I giving this long recap? To explain why we're here. The old Book Barn OP (which I will link below) is from 2010, before the Disney buyout, and references things that are no longer canon, and had become basically useless. People coming to the thread would have to ask for the same recommendations people had already asked for a few pages ago, so I felt it wise to go ahead and try to consolidate some info and recommendations on the current(ish) state of Star Wars books. I'll try to keep it somewhat current, but let's be honest, that won't last forever.

What Books Should I Read?
New EU
This list is the generally accepted list of "Good New EU Books." If I left anything out, please let me know and I will correct it. I will try to make this OP be a work in progress.


Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Tells the story of a boy and a girl growing up during the events of the Original Trilogy, and is generally accepted by most people as the first great book of the new EU. Technically a Young Adult novel, but it didn't bother me at all while reading it. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, great characters, well written.


Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn, one of the originators of the old EU, was asked to bring his most famous old EU character, Thrawn, back into the new EU. This tells the story of his early days in the Empire. There are more Thrawn books written by Zahn after this that have a mixed reception, but this book is solid.


Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed
The spiritual successor to the Rogue and Wraith Squadron books of the old EU, this tells the story of a group of New Republic pilots hunting down an Imperial group called Shadow Wing. The first in a series, the second of which is already out, and the third of which is due out next year.


Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston
Tells the story of Ahsoka Tano after the fall of the Republic and the end of the Clone Wars, and what she was up to before showing up in Rebels. Has a very Western feel to it, and, to me, matches well with the tone of The Mandalorian. Also, if audiobooks are your thing, it is read by Ashley Eckstein, who voiced Ahsoka in both Clone Wars and Rebels, so that feels very cool.


Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson
Tells the origin of Captain Phasma prior to the events of The Force Awakens. I know, who gives a poo poo about Captain Phasma, right? You, after reading this. Described by forums user Teek as "kind of like a Mad Max meets The Long Walk tale of Phasma as a teenager". It's biggest sin is making you care about a character that is ultimately wasted by the movies.


Bloodline by Claudia Gray
From the author of the previously mentioned Lost Stars, Bloodline takes place 6 years before The Force Awakens, and tells a story of Leia dealing with threats to the Republic, both internal and external. It's a really entertaining look at the state of the galaxy leading into the sequel trilogy, which those movies tend to gloss over, unfortunately. Some major events, which should have been covered in the movies, happen here. And Gray really is at the top of her game.


Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
Do you want to read about Palpatine and Darth Vader tearing some poo poo up on Ryloth? Well, look no further! Pretty simple, but good, fast paced fun.


From a Certain Point of View series
A series of short stories set during A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, using view points of various minor background characters throughout the movies. The quality of each one varies, but overall fun stuff. And the ESB one has a goon writer for one story!

I heard about the Aftermath trilogy? What about those?

Ugh. Okay, so the Aftermath books are...different. They were the first new EU books, and set post Return of the Jedi, so we were all very excited to get them to get our first glimpse at what this new EU galaxy would look like! And then we got them.

First thing you should know is that they're written in the present tense. That can be a huge hurdle for some people to climb, as this is different than most novels people read, and can be very jarring for most readers. Just want you to know that going in. The books also occasionally jump away from the main storyline to cut to "interludes", which are basically moments of checking in on the galaxy at large to see what it's up to. Some of the interludes connect to each other, some don't. It gets weird.

They're mostly god awful bullshit, with slight glimmers of wonderful. They introduce Sinjir, who is one of my favorite new characters ever. Heís great. And honestly, the depths of which theyíre bad reach a level that I think has to be seen to be believed. And some of the Interludes they do are fun. An older Jar Jar comes up in one of them! If you listen to podcasts a lot, Iíd recommend giving the audiobooks a listen as a change of pace for a laugh. Then the present tense doesnít bother you as much either, because it sounds like a radio play, with sound effects and score and all. But seriously, theyíre loving nuts. Some people will disagree with me, and they can feel free to do so. But I feel like the general consensus on the books is, "...ugh." Also, it's my OP, so there.

That being said, if you ever wanted to know why all that wreckage was on Jakku, here's where you need to look.

Upcoming

The High Republic
The biggest thing coming up is The High Republic, which is a multimedia project, spanning both books and comics, planning to tell one cohesive story set two centuries prior to The Phantom Menace. As it comes out, if they turn out to be good, I'll include them here in the recs.

What about Legends?
As the old EU became non-canon, those books were rebranded as "Legends". So they're still out there and can still be purchased and enjoyed. Just because they're not canon doesn't mean you shouldn't read them. Here's a quick list of recommendations that I won't put much effort into, but if you're interested, check them out, or feel free to ask questions!

The Thrawn Trilogy
Shatterpoint
Revenge of the Sith Novelization (better than the movie itself)
The Han Solo Adventures (the Brian Daley ones)
The Lando Calrissian Adventures
The Hand of Thrawn Duology (once you've read the above Thrawn Trilogy)
X-Wing Series, but basically just the ones by Aaron Allston, so:
-The Wraith Squadron Trilogy
-Starfighters of Adumar
-Mercy Kill

Links
Wookieepedia - Silly name, very useful for an insane amount of Star Wars info.
Last Geeky Star Wars Book Thread
Let Us Read Terrible Star Wars Books For You (Archives Needed) - Something silly I started years ago that turned into a fun huge group goon project where we all read terrible Star Wars books and made fun of them. Originator of the Bounty Hunter Wars backstabbing chart (seen below) that I wish I could take credit for.

thrawn527 fucked around with this message at 14:43 on Jan 3, 2021

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jivjov
Sep 13, 2007

But how does it taste? Yummy!


Dinosaur Gum

You're gonna namedrop the backstab chart but not actually link it in the OP? That thing belongs in a museum!

Also, I'd highly recommend tossing Bloodline in the OP if for no other reason than it gives a good overview of the political state of the galaxy in the lead-up to the Sequel Trilogy, something that TFA only glosses over in vague detail

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

jivjov posted:

You're gonna namedrop the backstab chart but not actually link it in the OP? That thing belongs in a museum!

Also, I'd highly recommend tossing Bloodline in the OP if for no other reason than it gives a good overview of the political state of the galaxy in the lead-up to the Sequel Trilogy, something that TFA only glosses over in vague detail

I couldnít find it! If anyone has it, Iíd love to put it in the OP, so itís easy to find moving forward.

And yeah, thatís a good point about Bloodline. Iíll add that in later today.

VaultAggie
Nov 18, 2010

Best out of 71?

Anything by Claudia Gray is as good as gold.

fartknocker
Oct 28, 2012

Damn it, this always happens. I think I'm gonna score, and then I never score. It's not fair.




Wedge Regret

thrawn527 posted:

I couldnít find it! If anyone has it, Iíd love to put it in the OP, so itís easy to find moving forward.

And yeah, thatís a good point about Bloodline. Iíll add that in later today.



Also, the only thing I'd add or make a minor correction to is recommending the entire Wraith Squadron trilogy plus Starfighters of Adumar, as all the Aaron Allston X-wing books were really good.

EDIT: Oh, I'll recommend the Essential Guide to Warfare from 2012 as something that was really cool. It's basically presented as an in-universe history of all the major conflicts of the Star Wars universe, both the films, books, comics, and whatnot of the old EU, and does a really good job of hitting all the high points while skipping the bad ones (Like Darksaber!). It's got some good art, and includes lots of little stuff. The author of it, Jason Fry, has also done short stories in both of the From a Certain Point of View books focusing on Red Squadron stuff, if you're a fan of X-wings and stuff related to that.

And from the new canon, the first Battlefront novel, Twilight Company, was pretty good. It's by Alexander Freed, who has also done the Alphabet Squadron books, and I think the infantry unit it focuses on showed up in the second of those books as well.

fartknocker fucked around with this message at 16:05 on Dec 17, 2020

surf rock
Aug 12, 2007



For the Legends section, those are some pretty good picks. I would add Traitor, but it's smack-dab in the middle of a 500-book series so I understand leaving it out.

I'll actually nominate Yoda: Dark Rendezvous and A.C. Crispin trilogy of Han Solo books. Maybe those don't actually hold up, but I remember them being better than most old EU fare.

surf rock fucked around with this message at 16:06 on Dec 17, 2020

Jazerus
May 24, 2011



i bid the new moffthread dark greetings

Hazo
Dec 30, 2004

SCIENCE





Kyp Durron was nobody's favorite character, OP.

fartknocker
Oct 28, 2012

Damn it, this always happens. I think I'm gonna score, and then I never score. It's not fair.




Wedge Regret

Yub yub, commander.

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

Hazo posted:

Kyp Durron was nobody's favorite character, OP.

It is with great shame that I admit I liked him a lot back in the day. He hit that exact right teen angst, angry at nothing spot for me when I read those books back when I was a lovely teenager.

jivjov
Sep 13, 2007

But how does it taste? Yummy!


Dinosaur Gum

I like Kyp a lot as being one of a very small handful of characters that goes dark and then comes back to the light to speak about and teach on his experiences. Much more valuable than Redemption Via Death

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

Okay, OP updated to add Bloodline and the backstabbing chart. Also some slight tweaks to the Legends recs (just adding the Allston books mentioned). Thanks everyone!

VaultAggie posted:

Anything by Claudia Gray is as good as gold.

I'll admit I couldn't get through her Princess Leia book. Just something about her and young Holdo in the junior Senate bored me to tears. Does it get better? It's still sitting on my Kindle, I just stopped wanting to keep going with it around 1/3 the way through it.

But Lost Stars and Bloodline are both fantastic, yes.

surf rock posted:

For the Legends section, those are some pretty good picks. I would add Traitor, but it's smack-dab in the middle of a 500-book series so I understand leaving it out.

Yeah, while Traitor is good, I find it hard to just drop a recommend for anything in the New Jedi Order without giving a massive explanation for what the gently caress was going on with that, and really you'd have to read the whole series to get why it was good, so it's hard to recommend it.

NJO was so loving weird. I both appreciate what they were going for and hate how it turned out.

thrawn527 fucked around with this message at 17:00 on Dec 17, 2020

Chairman Capone
Dec 17, 2008



Obviously Traitor is great, but I also really like Destiny's Way. For that being the one book Walter Jon Williams wrote in Star Wars, and it being set in the middle not only of a big series but one that was really only tangentially linked to the movies, he did a great job. I'll also do a (maybe?) hot take and say that I think Vector Prime is really solid too as an intro to not only the NJO, but also the first book of both the new publisher and the new movie era.

I think my big problem with Disney dumping the EU is twofold (and I acknowledge up front that of course they were going to do it and there's no way movie viewers should be expected to have followed the NJO or whatever):

First, they could keep the old EU going as a separate continuity. The exact same way they do with Marvel comics vs. movies. I understand the argument that "it will confuse people to have two continuities" but, by keeping the old EU stuff in print anyways, they're effectively still putting out the "competing" stuff regardless.

Second... for dropping the old continuity to make room for the movies, the new movies are completely unoriginal. "Oh, what if Han and Leia had a son... and Luke trained him... but he turned to the dark side! And then there were Imperials who kept fighting after ROTJ... and they made a bunch of superweapons! And everything went back to the status quo of ANH! And what if Palpatine returned from the dead and had a secret Jedi grandchild!"

I think it's really telling that for years, movie purists slammed the EU for having terrible ideas like a reliance on recycling movie stuff, superweapons of the week, grimdark heroes failing or tangling with the dark side, negating the end of ROTJ by bringing back the Emperor and dark siders and having the Empire survive and all that... and then those same movie purists all love the sequels for doing those exact same things. I mean, probably the most maligned works of the EU were Dark Empire and Glove of Darth Vader and those are the works the sequel movies have the most parallels with.

VaultAggie
Nov 18, 2010

Best out of 71?

thrawn527 posted:

I'll admit I couldn't get through her Princess Leia book. Just something about her and young Holdo in the junior Senate bored me to tears. Does it get better? It's still sitting on my Kindle, I just stopped wanting to keep going with it around 1/3 the way through it.

The Leia one is pretty solid, although a lot slower than her other ones. The last third of the book picks up, and sets up threads for TLJ. It still is a lot of politicking, and quite different from her other works.

Master and Apprentice is also a lot of fun.

Cross-Section
Mar 18, 2009



thrawn527 posted:

Ugh. Okay, so the Aftermath books are...different. They were the first new EU books, and set post Return of the Jedi, so we were all very excited to get them to get our first glimpse at what this new EU galaxy would look like! And then we got them.



The first EU book released was A New Dawn, a pretty solid Rebels prequel that introduces us to Kanan, Hera, and noted recurring Imperial Rae Sloane.

Also known for reasserting bathroom over refresher as the preferred terminology

edit: Also if I could add a Canon rec: Lords of the Sith

320 pages of Vader and Sheev wrecking poo poo on Ryloth, it's simply written but fun nonetheless

Chairman Capone
Dec 17, 2008



Cross-Section posted:

Also known for reasserting bathroom over refresher as the preferred terminology

Which did not last, either.

Cross-Section
Mar 18, 2009



Chairman Capone posted:

Which did not last, either.

Yeah, I think that and "coffee" were not long for the new canon, sadly

Chairman Capone
Dec 17, 2008



On the other hand, there are all of those menu items at Galaxy's Edge that originally had Star Warsy names but then had to be replaced with their Earthly equivalents because no one knew what they were ordering.

I have to say that while I have no desire to go to Galaxy's Edge, I do really want to drink blue milk.

Arcsquad12
Mar 4, 2013

I Love Satan


Kyp wasn't even the best new character in his debut trilogy. Then again I'm the weirdo who unironically loves Admiral Daala and her batshit lunacy and how everyone is afraid of her despite getting punked at every turn.

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

Cross-Section posted:



The first EU book released was A New Dawn, a pretty solid Rebels prequel that introduces us to Kanan, Hera, and noted recurring Imperial Rae Sloane.

Also known for reasserting bathroom over refresher as the preferred terminology

edit: Also if I could add a Canon rec: Lords of the Sith

320 pages of Vader and Sheev wrecking poo poo on Ryloth, it's simply written but fun nonetheless

My mistake, Aftermath was the first announced new EU book if I remember correctly, but A New Dawn was the first released, you are right. A New Dawn was...fine, but nothing really all that interesting.

Also, holy poo poo, I can't believe I forgot about Lords of the Sith. I honestly really enjoyed that book. Tons of fun.

Hazo
Dec 30, 2004

SCIENCE





Chairman Capone posted:

On the other hand, there are all of those menu items at Galaxy's Edge that originally had Star Warsy names but then had to be replaced with their Earthly equivalents because no one knew what they were ordering.

I have to say that while I have no desire to go to Galaxy's Edge, I do really want to drink blue milk.

This isn't true by the way. I went to the passholder preview last year before it opened to the public, and the only difference I can tell between then and now is that they're maybe more descriptive about the ingredients. The menu item names are still the same. The ronto wrap is amazing and might be the best quick service snack in the park. And yes the blue (and green!) milks are fantastic, both with and without alcohol.

edit: Well, I did some googling and I guess I didn't visit during the brief period where they had Earthly names for the food before they switched back because it was dumb. I can guarantee you that the original Star Warsy names are now there, just with additional descriptions

Hazo fucked around with this message at 18:16 on Dec 17, 2020

Van Dis
Jun 19, 2004


Thanks for rebooting the thread, it needed it. I'll contribute my reviews of some of the new books and maybe some of the old books too.

My review of Thrawn 2017, which is okay at best:

quote:

The book covers Thrawn's discovery by imperial forces on a distant outer rim world and his subsequent climb up the navy ranks. The narrative borrows a lot of elements from the EU storylines related to Thrawn, including Thrawn having been exiled by his people, his military genius and ability to psychoanalyze via art appreciation, his unparalleled ascension up the military ranks, general anti-alien sentiment among the predominately human empire, Thrawn's brief run-in with Anakin during the Outbound Flight fiasco, and the vague hints that a greater threat to the galaxy exists beyond the outer rim. Those are sufficient similarities that one wonders why they needed to throw out the EU at all, though of course the rationale is Disney's cravenness re: intellectual property.

That said, there are some changes to the narrative from the EU. Thrawn's exile is not as simple as it was written in the aftermath of Outbound Flight. Mara Jade is not present at his promotion to grand admiral, and is seemingly not present in the Disney canon at all. I doubt she'll appear, which is fine, as she's not really needed in this new canon. Pellaeon does not appear either, which sucks because he was actually interesting and cool. Also, Pellaeon's military bearing brought a much needed solemnity to the antagonists; Disney has unfortunately decided to go for farce with Hux & Co. So far, Thrawn has not pissed off the emperor and been punished with a remote posting of any sort, though I suppose that could be on the docket for a later installment - but there's no sense of a Hand of Thrawn setting anywhere. One of the bigger changes is the inclusion of Clone Wars-era tech. In fact, that stuff plays a significant role in the novel, so things like droidekas and buzz droids and vulture droids make appearances. In conjunction with how the clone wars are the exact opposite of what everyone (and Zahn of course) assumed they were up until 2002, the Disney canon is definitely leaning into the shallow imagery of the prequels to give them narrative relevance, and also to sell more toys. Ugh.

The novel's style is mostly fine, and certainly more than apt for, you know, a Star Wars novel. It drags in places and there is maybe one too many set pieces about Thrawn's military genius, but Zahn can at least write sentences and paragraphs that don't make you want to give his editor a hundred noogies, which sets him apart from the Kevin J Andersons of the EU. Each chapter of the book begins with an excerpt from Thrawn's personal journal, which is written like the drat Art of War. I found it a very annoying frame for the story and I wonder why his editor didn't tell him to knock it off and just write the dang story without a needlessly pretentious and amateurish gimmick. The novel ends with Thrawn's promotion to grand admiral and where he meets Darth Vader, which is also annoying in the same way ROTS ended, where everyone is basically in their starting positions for the next installment. The vague threat beyond the galaxy is gonna materialize in some future story and while it won't be the Yuuzhan Vong (of course) I don't expect Disney to introduce anything less stupid than they were.

On the bright side, the novel introduces a new character, Eli Vanto, who is circumscribed decently and gets the most satisfying arc of the novel. He's basically a combination of Pellaeon and Car'das (from Outbound Flight) and accompanies Thrawn throughout the book. Arihnda Pryce, who I guess has a significant role in Star Wars Rebels (which I did not see so correct me if I'm wrong), gets her backstory fleshed out, and the novel does a decent job of making her journey from sympathetic to utterly ruthless mostly interesting to watch (though this is one of the narrative elements that drags a bit, partly because the political maneuvering is so heavy handed and caricatured - at least one of her political enemies is a cartoony mustache-twirler, and most of her dialogue is pretty bad). Thrawn's nemesis in this book is also a decent foil for him, but is kinda wasted, narratively. This is probably not so much Zahn's fault as Disney's, I suspect.

Another thing this book does well is take its time. Unlike the breathless pace of the new movies, this book draws out events and movements and takes place over (estimating here) about seven years. Maybe more. So while parts of it do move a bit slowly at times, that is much preferred to the movies' style of everything happening in an afternoon, because it gives characters and relationships time to breathe and grow. So when Vanto turns down a military promotion because he realizes that his loyalty is to Thrawn, it's much more believable than when Jyn Erso goes from a cynic to the Rebellion's greatest advocate in less than 30 seconds.

There's an interesting thing happening with Thrawn's treatment in this canon. Like a lot of imperials in the Disney EU, he's being humanized and made much more sympathetic than in his original incarnation. I'm sure part of this is due to the fact that he's basically a protagonists in this book, but beyond that he is explicitly positioned as against the more brutal tactics of the Empire in their quest for galactic subjugation. I suppose even Zahn was leaning this way in Outbound Flight but it seems more blatant now, and in a time when actual literal Nazis are praised by the New York Times it seems like a questionable character choice. Disney is already leaning into that in other media though, and I guess Star Wars fans are kind of infamous for that. I'll be interested to see what happens in the new Thrawn book this summer, because his humanizing may be conscious decision by Zahn, with the intention of making the character more purposefully driven by Imperial sympathies over time.

Anyway, Thrawn was decent. It wasn't as good as Heir to the Empire, but it was as good as Outbound Flight, Specter of the Past, or Vision of the Future, and better than anything KJA wrote in the EU.

And also of Thrawn: Alliances, which sucked rear end:

quote:

My review of Thrawn: Alliances, mostly spoiler-free:

The second of Zahnís new Thrawn trilogy, Alliances reads like two lesser novels put together to pad page count rather than one coherent novel. This is quite a feat, since the bookís two narratives are intended to mirror each other, but they do so without providing much of a deeper meaning or emotional connection to the events described that they end up feeling more repetitive than anything else. Itís not quite the successor to Thrawn that I hoped for.

Like in Thrawn, Alliances has a structural gimmick. Chapters alternate between a Clone Wars-era story about Anakin and Thrawn (and Padme) infiltrating a Separatist factory and a rebellion-era story about Vader and Thrawn going on a mission for the Empire. Zahn leans more heavily on such compositional devices the older he gets; recall that the prior novel begins each chapter with an excerpt from Thrawnís private journal, now in the hands of newly-minted ambassador Eli Vanto, retroactively turning the book into a sort of epistolary text. In Thrawn this device felt a bit amateurish, but the problem with Alliances is that the gimmick eventually loses steam. The book switches back and forth between timelines more frequently toward the beginning, while later segments sometimes go three or four chapters before switching. Itís almost as though Zahn himself gets bored of keeping up with the structure he sets out with, and coupled with the fact that neither story is terribly gripping, the structure does not accomplish the chapter-ending cliffhanger suspense it aims to. I noticed that I did not find myself thinking ďoh good, back to this story, Iím engaged in whatís about to happenĒ very often, which is not something you want readers to notice.

The lack of engagement is something I attribute mostly to the character presentation. The biggest problem is Thrawn himself. Of course heís the Star Wars version of Shelock Holmes, but Alliances makes the same mistake the BBC production of Sherlock makes (and which is detailed very well in Hbomberguyís video on the topic): confusing unexplained genius for an engaging character. In almost every chapter, Thrawn solves a mystery or predicts his opponentsí actions and reactions. He is consistently shown as thinking several steps ahead of everyone. The problem arises when the readers don't get to go on the journey with him. Our main role is to sit and listen to him explain things, using information we are not presented with until after the fact, giving us little chance at appreciating mystery at all before it is explicated. It is impossible to appreciate deductive reasoning if conclusions are contingent upon information hidden from the audience, so we are reduced to passively ingesting the novel.

Sometimes these miraculous conclusions involve knowledge of the behavior of Star Wars technology and cultures. These things can be convenient fictions and they do a lot of the work of worldbuilding in an in-universe novel like this, but unless we possess intimate knowledge about the droids and materials and peoples involved, Thrawnís conclusions feel unearned. A balance needs to be struck between feeding us details about the world and creating mysteries that only Thrawn seems to be able to solve, and unfortunately Alliances does not achieve that balance very well. In the original Thrawn trilogy, Thrawn bases many of his conclusions on similarly mysterious data - the psychological character of a species or the time it takes to travel between two docked ships, to name just two that readers could not reasonably be expected to deduce on their own - but the audience is allowed to watch Thrawn make deductions and learn along with him (and our reader stand-in, Pellaeon), lending credence to the fiction that we too could use deductive reasoning with the data given and draw acceptable conclusions. This is a key distinction! We experience deeper engagement and greater pleasure when we get to see something being done rather than being told how it was done. The closest Alliances comes to bringing readers into Thrawnís deductive thinking is the final space battle, involving Thrawn testing TIE Defenders against a new enemyís capital ships. So unfortunately Thrawn is presented in a way that neutralizes the primary interesting thing about him.

Thrawn is also a tremendously static character. The two time periods of the novel seem to be about 20 years apart, but he exhibits no dynamism at all between the two stories. He seems to have changed only his uniform. This echoes a similar problem in Thrawn, but there at least Vanto got a chance to grow and mature appreciably, and even Thrawn is shown learning how to interact in the Imperial military and political systems. In Alliances, heís just Thrawn, genius tactician, no matter the era or context.

Vader and Anakin are also presented oddly, though perhaps more reasonably so. Vader seems to have been Vader for a while, but he acts so much like Anakin pre-Revenge of the Sith that the character seems to have simply dialed up his sense of superiority from 10 to 11. The trouble is, we already saw that happen in Episode 3, so thereís not much new or interesting about either Vader or Anakin in this book. Heís just the same Force-wielding rear end in a top hat with no real depth. Zahn makes motions at giving Vader some jealousy-fueled doubt regarding Thrawnís loyalties and the Emperorís faith in the Grand Admiral, but itís so one-note and Vaderís so flat that by then end, when he finally accepts Thrawnís position in the Empire and acquiesces to taking battle commands from him, his inner monologue tells us in so many words: ďWhat Thrawn was telling Vader was that he trusted him.Ē A whole lot of the book is given over to Vaderís distrust of Thrawn (and Anakinís trepidation about Thrawn in the past) but it ends up being banal and tedious, especially with the heavy-handed dialogue laying out everything for us.

Padme is a non-character. Sheís pretty much a less-interesting version of Leia on Honoghr. There is nothing evocative, noteworthy, or compelling about her. Iím incredibly shocked at this because Zahn gave us Mara Jade and an active and forward-thinking Leia, not to mention Winter, Hísishi, and a Pryce with more depth than weíd seen before. These arenít the deepest characters in Star Wars but at least they have memorable traits. Padmeís chapters in this book are actually more interesting than everyone else's, but that's only due to getting a break from pouting Anakin, one-note Vader, and tactical magician Thrawn. It ends up throwing into sharp relief what a non-entity she is. I guess I canít blame Zahn entirely since the character barely ranks above furniture in the prequels, but Padme in Alliances is shockingly boring. Thereís no there there.

This leads to one of the more annoying things about Alliances and this series in general: these books are saturated in Clone Wars-era tech and gadgets. Battle droids of different types play significant roles in the narrative, as does one of Padmeís handmaidens and to a lesser extent vulture droids. These things are so pivotal in the text that itís practically branding. In addition to reminding us that these are Star Wars novels, as if we could forget, it feels more like the novel is a vehicle for showcasing these things rather than a story that takes place in a universe that contains them. I strongly suspect this is the result of pressure from Disney on the NEU authors. One of the narratives even takes place primarily on Batuu, the location of the new Star Wars Disneyland experience set to open next year. So the inclusion of all the branded items as pivotal plot devices feels more craven and venal than the earnest sense of worldbuilding in Zahnís earlier novels.

In classic Zahn form, Alliances includes a few twists. The secret Separatist factory is producing droids and body armor that canít be defeated by lightsabers (using cortosis), and the Grysk use Force-sensitive Chiss children to dominate hyperlanes in the Unknown Regions (but the children lose their powers as they mature). Both of these twists end up being underwhelming. Partially thatís the fault of the universe, since Zahn could not functionally include a plot device of greater impact without it affecting other texts and movies, but that doesnít alleviate the sense of triviality when Anakin immediately figures out a way to defeat the droids and Thrawn defeats the Grysk without even a sense of tension that the Grysk ever had the upper hand.

The novel picks up toward the end. The best part is definitely the scene of the 501st First Legion storming a ship to rescue some prisoners. That scene evoked Zahn at his best, with well-defined action and characters we could follow as they try to achieve a goal. There are a few other well done scenes and a few easter eggs pointing to the original Thrawn trilogy, which are fun to catch. But I didnít find it as good as Thrawn, and it never coalesces into something that justifies either its structure or the poor characterization.

And also of Aftermath, which is the worst book I've never finished:

quote:

I'm kind of in shock at how awful Aftermath is. I couldn't even get 100 pages into it before putting it down, and I'm definitely not going to pick up any of Wendig's other novels, NEU-related or not. Here's just a sampling of things that were bad about the book:

  • Really awful writing. Way worse than you'd expect, even from licensed genre fiction. I go into these books expecting to cut them some slack but the writing here is completely without merit or charm.
  • Dialogue that feels like it was generated by a Markov chain that's been instructed to assume that readers are allergic to anything that isn't explicitly explained. Nothing anyone says feels remotely real.
  • The primary antagonist is utterly non-threatening. She is feared by her subordinates because her subordinates are buffoons, not because she is competent or compelling. She is not feared by anyone else.
  • Mr. Bones is there in an obviously cheap tie-in to the prequels in order to reinforce the brand and sell more toys, as if we could somehow forget we're reading a star wars novel.
  • The defecting Imperial agent is also secretly a drunk martial arts expert a la James Bond.
  • Two characters play a game that is a star wars version of Settlers of Catan.
  • The Imperials are humanized not only through plotting but by Rebel Hero Wedge Antilles literally explaining to the readers that "the Imperials are just like us"

You know how people describe Tommy Wiseau's The Room as a movie that feels like it was made by someone who has never seen a movie? That's what Aftermath reads like. Wendig had previously worked on scripts, which comes across in his inability to use anything but the present tense and sentences longer than 140 characters. I'd heard that the book caused an uproar with MRA idiots because some of the characters are gay, but I didn't even get to those parts of the book because it was so bad. Wookieepedia says he wrote the book in 45 days, and it shows.

And what is with these books taking time to explicitly advance the cause of humanizing the space Nazis? In an era of right-wing resurgence, do we really need milquetoast justifications of the ones who were just following orders on the Death Star, like we got in Lost Stars, or Wedge going out of his way to distinguish between the pilots of TIEs he shoots down and the people giving the pilots orders on their comms? This stuff isn't the basis of a carefully considered critique of the political dialectic, it's just a cheap attempt to add complexity to characters and situations that ends up justifying fascism. Thanks, Chuck, we really needed that.

Wendig himself responded to critiques of his writing on his blog:

quote:

As for my voice: I canít do much about that. Iím me. My writing is my writing. I took a long time to find my voice and if itís not your thing, I respect that. (That said, it also doesnít make it ďbadĒ writing, as some have suggested. Itís just not what you prefer, which is entirely okay.)
to which I say,

And of Lost Stars, which is troubling, to say the least:

quote:

Lost Stars is my favorite example of how shallow thinking results in accidentally supporting fascism. The premise of the novel is Romeo and Juliet in space, set against the backdrop of the original trilogy. Two kids, who grow up together and of course fall in love, who are both talented Imperially-trained fighters, end up on opposite sides of the galactic civil war. Ciena remains in the Imperial ranks, climbing the Navy's ladder from cadet to captain of a star destroyer; meanwhile, Thane defects to the rebellion and becomes a hotshot starfighter pilot. They fight for their respective causes, meeting each other in battle as well as in the bedroom, as their love never dies even as they support mutually exclusive ideologies.

But how can a young adult novel have a protagonist that supports fascism, and does this get called out? Claudia Gray attempts to thread this needle by giving Ciena an acute sense of honor. Her sense of honor is so great that she considers any promise she has made to be binding for life. So when she signs up for the Imperial academy as a child, she goes all-in. Thane and other friends of hers defect as the Empire does things like "institute slavery" and "blow up planets," but she along with other characters can excuse that, and indeed she does, right in the text, explicitly stating that if there is any chance the Empire might be a force for good, she is duty bound to preserve it. She supports the space nazis right up to the last page of the novel.

What makes this insidious is that the novel justifies her outlook. A simple reading might point out that, militarily, she loses in the end - the Empire has fallen, the Death Stars were destroyed, Ciena herself is a captured POW. She got her comeuppance, didn't she? And isn't the point of the novel that even ostensibly good people can end up supporting morally reprehensible things? Such a reading would be a base analysis, missing critical things about the text and characters. Per the premise of the conflict, Ciena is defined by her honor, resulting in - whoops! - unquestioningly supporting fascist ideology. Not only does this not get called out, Thane himself agrees that if she were to go back on her word, she would be morally compromised. Moreover, she would be a sufficiently different person than the person Thane fell in love with. Stated another way, the rebel pilot acknowledges that his fascist beloved is morally obligated to continue supporting, commanding, and enacting fascism, because her support hinges on her fundamental character. Ciena isn't "good" by any kind of measure, because Claudia Gray has relied on the most facile attempt at character complexity to create this conflict.

To accept the setting Lost Stars creates is to tacitly accept that the Empire's military machine consists of primarily "good" people, who are tricked and led astray by powerful evil leaders. This is of course a repulsive and degenerate understanding of political power, and the fact that the rehabilitation of the Empire coincides with a resurgence of right wing movements in real life is doubly concerning. There are other annoyances in the book, such as the fact that scenes constantly take place "just offscreen" of scenes in the original trilogy. But the book's real problem is that its attempt to create characters with depth results in a facile conflict that requires characters to justify and excuse space nazis.

General Battuta
Feb 7, 2011

This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, you keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the posts from the screams.

You should read my OFFICIALLY CANON star wars story "The Final Order" which is all about the fascism of the Empire and how there's no 'clean Starfleet' (to echo the noxious 'clean Wehrmacht' myth). Except we're not allowed to call it the Imperial Starfleet, despite that being the term from the Empire Strikes Back opening crawl, because it's too Star Trek.

Crazy Joe Wilson
Jul 4, 2007

Justifiably Mad!


Obviously this thread is going to try to avoid bitching about wiping out the old EU, but is it okay to still reference or discuss the Legends stuff? I recently read the original Thrawn trilogy a few months ago and got my hands on "Spectre of the Past" or whatever. I really enjoy them.

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

Crazy Joe Wilson posted:

Obviously this thread is going to try to avoid bitching about wiping out the old EU, but is it okay to still reference or discuss the Legends stuff? I recently read the original Thrawn trilogy a few months ago and got my hands on "Spectre of the Past" or whatever. I really enjoy them.

Oh absolutely. Talk about it, praise it, bitch about it, go crazy.

Specter of the Past is clearly the first part of what was never originally intended to be a two part book (Zahn has confirmed this), but it's decent set up, and Vision of the Future is really good.

General Battuta
Feb 7, 2011

This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, you keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the posts from the screams.

Crazy Joe Wilson posted:

Obviously this thread is going to try to avoid bitching about wiping out the old EU, but is it okay to still reference or discuss the Legends stuff? I recently read the original Thrawn trilogy a few months ago and got my hands on "Spectre of the Past" or whatever. I really enjoy them.

No, absolutely not, Disney will put you in the memory hole. This thread is strictly canonical!

Teek
Aug 7, 2006

I can't wait to entertain you.


Also about the "young adult" moniker, in case that turns you away. Claudia Gray has said that she doesn't target teenagers with her YA books, her take is that "young adult" means that the work focuses on young adults to some degree, rather than the prose being written for that level.

Chairman Capone
Dec 17, 2008



Van Dis posted:

My review of Thrawn 2017, which is okay at best:

The first new-canon Thrawn novel is one of the few books where I think the comic adaptation is superior. Condenses the plot in a good way, and the art is fairly good.

Van Dis posted:

And also of Aftermath, which is the worst book I've never finished:

Speaking of Aftermath, there have been a few references to it in this season of The Mandalorian, which really stuck out for me because before this, the only reference to the new-canon EU in the live action productions was the valachord mention in Solo. I think it speaks a lot that even after the continuity reboot, the new EU just hasn't made an impact on people writing the actual scripts. Especially stuff like both Mandalorian and Episode IX explicitly stating that the civil war ended with Endor.

General Battuta posted:

You should read my OFFICIALLY CANON star wars story "The Final Order" which is all about the fascism of the Empire and how there's no 'clean Starfleet' (to echo the noxious 'clean Wehrmacht' myth). Except we're not allowed to call it the Imperial Starfleet, despite that being the term from the Empire Strikes Back opening crawl, because it's too Star Trek.

Battuta, I thought of you mentioning this when they used the term "Starfleet" in the Ahsoka episode of The Mandalorian. Guess the official policy of "everything is equally canon" has a big asterisk next to it when Filoni wanders in.

Crazy Joe Wilson
Jul 4, 2007

Justifiably Mad!


thrawn527 posted:

Oh absolutely. Talk about it, praise it, bitch about it, go crazy.

Specter of the Past is clearly the first part of what was never originally intended to be a two part book (Zahn has confirmed this), but it's decent set up, and Vision of the Future is really good.

Good to know, I knew of the original Thrawn Trilogy as a kid only through the comics, and read the actual books after the ST came out. It was nice to a well-plotted set of sequels, and the characterization of everyone was fun. I'm looking forward to seeing Mara and Luke's relationship evolve past "I hate you and want to kill you but I can't" on Mara's side.

Chairman Capone posted:

Speaking of Aftermath, there have been a few references to it in this season of The Mandalorian, which really stuck out for me because before this, the only reference to the new-canon EU in the live action productions was the valachord mention in Solo. I think it speaks a lot that even after the continuity reboot, the new EU just hasn't made an impact on people writing the actual scripts. Especially stuff like both Mandalorian and Episode IX explicitly stating that the civil war ended with Endor.

Not gonna lie, but between talking with some students who are into the new novels, and reading a bunch of the new comics via my local public library, I feel like the Disney EU is already pretty bloated and convoluted. Like, Luke and Vader have now officially squared off at least 3 times prior to ESB thanks to the comic stuff.

That's just crazy.

Crazy Joe Wilson fucked around with this message at 21:01 on Dec 17, 2020

McTimmy
Feb 29, 2008


Waru is canon in my heart.

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat




Saw the new thread and became curious about the goonsensus on I, Jedi, a book that I very clearly remember passing over at the library as a child in favor of Ben Bova's Mars, which was hard SF for adults and smart kids like me.

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

Sham bam bamina! posted:

Saw the new thread and became curious about the goonsensus on I, Jedi, a book that I very clearly remember passing over at the library as a child in favor of Ben Bova's Mars, which was hard SF for adults and smart kids like me.

I, Jedi is a curious book. It fixes a lot of the problems with the Jedi Academy books, while indulging in a lot of the problems with the Rogue Squadron books, like making Corran into a super important Jedi, when he should have just stayed a cool fighter pilot who was part of a larger group. But on the whole, I remember liking it. Especially when it would "Yes, and..." a literal scene from Jedi Academy to make it better, which it did more than once.

fartknocker
Oct 28, 2012

Damn it, this always happens. I think I'm gonna score, and then I never score. It's not fair.




Wedge Regret

I remember I, Jedi also being one of the few books to explode the idea that not all Force users have the same control or abilities with it. IIRC, Corran basically had zero ability at telekinesis or some of the physical aspects Jedi are shown doing, but he was very capable at projecting visions or ideas into other people's minds, which gets used a lot in the back half of the book. I reread it a few months ago and enjoyed it well enough in spite of it's flaws. The weirdest thing about it is that it's written in first-person, which takes some getting used to if you're coming into it from other Star Wars stuff such as the highly related Jedi Academy trilogy.

Animal Friend
Sep 7, 2011



Corran, as further evidence of being a vessel for Stackpole's wish fulfilment, also had a special lightsaber that could be expanded into a longer blade.

Didn't know consensus on Aftermath was so negative. Should have brought back Kevin J Anderson! He'd slide right in given TFA was all about a new system destroying superweapon...

Arcsquad12
Mar 4, 2013

I Love Satan


People don't give KJA enough credit for how good a joke the novel Darksaber is predicated on.

MazelTovCocktail
Jun 23, 2012

Gritty's gonna cut you.


Good to see Lords of the Sith on the list. Itís a great audio book too.

thrawn527
Mar 27, 2004

Thrawn/Pellaeon
Studying the art of terrorists
To keep you safe

MazelTovCocktail posted:

Good to see Lords of the Sith on the list. Itís a great audio book too.

I only added it when someone reminded me of it. But yeah, I really enjoyed it.

MazelTovCocktail
Jun 23, 2012

Gritty's gonna cut you.


thrawn527 posted:

I only added it when someone reminded me of it. But yeah, I really enjoyed it.

Yeah I had a bunch of audible credits and when I saw that cover I was like...oh hell yeah.

Also it has Vader and Sheev fighting Xenomorphs...I forget the fake name...but it was cool.

The Star Wars audiobooks that use multiple voices are such a good value or a narrator that can do different voices better.

Oh and while comics the Marvel Vader run was really nice. Especially when Vader realizes he got played by Palp

MazelTovCocktail fucked around with this message at 01:29 on Dec 18, 2020

surf rock
Aug 12, 2007



fartknocker posted:

I remember I, Jedi also being one of the few books to explode the idea that not all Force users have the same control or abilities with it. IIRC, Corran basically had zero ability at telekinesis or some of the physical aspects Jedi are shown doing, but he was very capable at projecting visions or ideas into other people's minds, which gets used a lot in the back half of the book. I reread it a few months ago and enjoyed it well enough in spite of it's flaws. The weirdest thing about it is that it's written in first-person, which takes some getting used to if you're coming into it from other Star Wars stuff such as the highly related Jedi Academy trilogy.

I do remember liking that part of it. I think he also had the power of energy absorption? Like when Vader just hand-waved Han's blaster bolt at their Cloud City dinner. Honestly, make Jedi more like X-Men imo.

From that book, I also remember:

- The author constantly portraying Luke as a naive dummy for how he handled the Jedi Academy stuff, at least compared to how Cool Corran would've handled it; if I recall correctly he also portrays Mara Jada as being more into Corran than Luke because they were both ~~~street-smart~~~
- The antagonist being a sexy pirate lady who regularly prowls her ship's gym looking to bang
- Corran ending up naked at least once and maybe multiple times
- Corran dogfighting with Rogue Squadron and thinking Gavin sucks but that Tycho was like impossible to beat
- There being some weird manservant companion who was his dead cop dad's buddy (or the son of that buddy) who had MEMORY POWERS
- A Jedi offshoot branch that were basically Power Rangers who all got their poo poo kicked in by Luke and Corran

surf rock fucked around with this message at 12:48 on Dec 18, 2020

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Milkfred E. Moore
Aug 27, 2006

The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth.


Corran Horn is a loving hero and this thread better show him some goddamn respect or

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