Star Wars Novels Part 6

Since I’m here, I may as well finish up with the books I’ve read to date.

The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi

A 214-page novel by Ryder Windham – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. First off, after four months of reading mostly about the Sith (early on) and Obi-Wan (lately), to see Luke Skywalker’s name in a book was …exciting? Very cool. Those my age can relate, as I was a little boy when I first met Luke on the big screen and have watched Star Wars (later dubbed A New Hope) at least once per year ever since. The story takes place after Empire Strikes Back but before Return of the Jedi. Luke returns to Tattooine and Obi-Wan’s hut in hopes that he can find some clue in how to build a lightsaber (since he lost his at the end of Empire…remember?). He stumbles on Obi-Wan’s journal and from there we are taken on a journey through Obi-Wan’s adventures. Just brief snippets, but snippets that go over and above what we saw in the movie or read in other books. And I always wondered how they would explain away Ben Kenobi saying “I don’t recall ever owning any droids” to Luke. They were clever to have the droids memories wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith…but they couldn’t explain away that quote. But this book takes care of it. And it even describes how Kenobi put the journal in a place where only Luke could access it!

Fun scene – the battle with Darth Maul, from Obi-Wan’s perspective. Loved it. Just like I loved reading that same battle from Maul’s standpoint in The Wrath of Darth Maul.

Secrets of the Jedi
This one is a tale of two generations and forbidden love – and addressing the ramifications of that same forbidden love in a third generation. Early on, Qui-Gon is still grieving the loss of his love (which plays a part in what makes us so attached to him and thus makes his death in Phantom Menace more powerful). He and Obi-Wan are sent to protect a boy from bounty hunters and they are joined by another Master-Padawan team Adi and Siri. The two duos have worked together a few times before, only this time Obi-Wan and Siri develop feelings for each other. Later, well after Qui-Gon’s death, Siri and Obi-Wan are again sent to protect the boy (who obviously has become a man at this point) and Anakin and a Senator – Padme Amidala – join them. Of course, you know from the movies that Anakin and Padme are secretly married. An easy, fun read that takes you a little deeper into this new angle of the Jedi and the rules that they must follow.

Darth Maul: Saboteur
A quick, 54-page short story about Darth Maul sent out to sabotage two mining companies on a distant planet. Well worth the easy, fast read, because it gives some background on some of the machinations put in place by Palpatine (Darth Sidious) in his slow, patient plan to throw the galaxy in turmoil. This story really helps you appreciate Episodes 1, 2 and 3 (and we all need help there). Hundreds of years of Sith planning, staying hidden while they pull on this string and that string, gradually setting the Republic up for a fall. And of course – there’s Darth Maul. And who doesn’t enjoy reading about him?

Cloak of Deception
A novel (342 pages) by James Luceno, who also penned Saboteur, above. This one takes Saboteur further – going deeper into the background as Palpatine sabotages the Republic and the Supreme Chancellor Valorum. Fascinating interaction between Senator Palpatine and Valorum. Palpatine is friends with Valorum – friends with everyone, in fact, as he cleverly maneuvers the Senate into the direction he needs it to go while at the same time maneuvering the Trade Federation towards gathering an army of droids and slowly having them position themselves towards a blockade of Naboo. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan foil an assassination attempt on Valorum…but that was exactly how Palpatine planned it. The actions…and the reactions were all planned out in advance as Palpatine positions the Sith for Galaxy domination.

Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
A great novel (320 pages) by Michael Reaves. Another Darth Maul adventure, this one takes place almost immediately before Phantom Menace. A key member of the Trade Federation flees, looking to sell information on the secret plans for a blockade of Naboo and then disappear to live a comfortable life. Palpatine sends Darth Maul to hunt him down. Some great characters were introduced here – a droid who actually had a personality, a shady trafficker of goods, a bounty hunter and a Jedi Padawan do well to draw you in. Of course, you know that since the blockade caught everyone by surprise and the appearance of Darth Maul in the movie was also a surprise – that anyone who sees Maul either dies or is somehow incapacitated and prevented from telling the Jedi. But even with that conclusion known, this was an entertaining read. Obi-Wan played a big role in the final quarter of the book even though he didn’t make his first appearance until after page 200. A wonderful set up for the movie Phantom Menace. And now I feel as though Episodes 1, 2, and 3 make a lot more sense. But of course, movies should do that on their own.

The next book, the one I’m halfway through as I type this – Phantom Menace. Yes, I’ve made it.

Star Wars Novels Part 5

I haven’t posted an update in awhile, but the reading has been going at full throttle. Putting together and publishing my Fantasy Hockey Guide pretty much wiped out July and early August for me, but I’ve pounded through a bunch of Star Wars Novels and ready to share my thoughts to the, uh, five people who may or may not read this. Ah well, I enjoy the exercise.

Jedi Apprentice – Books 1-18

This is a series of young adult novellas based on the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Each book is maybe 100 to 180 pages long and very fun, easy reads. Mostly written by Jude Watson, but the first one was written by Dave Wolverton. I have no idea why Wolverton stopped at one and co-wrote the third book…but then moved onto other things. Adventures were broken up into three novellas. And then a year or so would pass until the next trilogy.

Books 1-3

Obi Wan is 12 years old and looking to become an apprentice, but is running out of time. He has until his 13th birthday and then it is too late. After being baited into losing his temper by a fellow student, Bruck Chun, the Jedi assigned him to a farm planet where he would use his affinity with the Force to aid with the crops. However, before he was to leave he was given one last ‘spar’ with Bruck, this time witnessed by Qui-Gon, who had yet to choose an apprentice (and didn’t really want one). Obi-Wan emerged victorious, but Qui-Gon informed him that he would not become his apprentice. There was too much anger in him.

However, Qui-Gon’s next assignment was to the very planet that Obi-Wan was sent to. And on the journey there, the two found themselves battling together (as well as Si Tremba, an Arconan miner who befriended Obi-Wan) against a band of pirates. Later, when Obi-Wan is off to his new duties, he is reunited with Qui-Gon after he stumbles on a plot by the mining corporation ‘Offworld’. Qui-Gon’s former apprentice Xanatos is the leader (or a key leader) of Offworld and is plotting to destroy farmland in favor of a big mining contract. At the end of that second book, Qui-Gon asks Obi-Wan to be his apprentice.

Throughout much of the 18-book set, Xanatos emerges and re-emerges as a pretty solid villain. But what I enjoyed the most out of these books was the fact that Qui-Gon grew on me. And watching Phantom Menace with my four-year-old daughter I found the movie more enjoyable…and when Qui-Gon was killed, it actually made a big impact on me. Thanks to these books. Watson’s writing and story-telling improved tremendously throughout this series. Granted, there were silly shortcuts, such as the frequent ‘good timing’ of happening by a window just when the bad guys on the other side review their master plan to each other. But to move the plot along quickly in a small book, shortcuts have to be made. And the books weren’t meant to be Game of Thrones anthologies, just fun books geared towards younger teens.

I also enjoyed getting to know some of the other Jedi. Obi-Wan’s friends Bant Eerin, Siri Tachi, Garen Muln as well as Qui-Gon’s friend and the woman he falls in love with – Tahl. There is further insight on how the Jedi Council operates, which of course means frequent appearances by Mace Windu and Yoda. And you get to follow along as Obi-Wan grows into a 19-year-old and improves as a Jedi. You can breeze through these books in a hurry and I think they’re well worth it – if only for making Phantom Menace more enjoyable.

Jedi Apprentice Special Edition – Deceptions

This 188-page novella was also penned by Watson and combines two generations of Master/Padawan. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan run into some trouble with (the late) Bruck Chun’s father and brother…and then 10 years later when Obi-Wan and Annakin Skywalker are off on a mission they discover that the leader of the ship/community is Bruck’s brother, who still blames Obi-Wan for Bruck’s death. This was a fine read, but if I’m picking and choosing which books to recommend to those who want more background on the Star Wars movies, this is probably not required reading.

Jedi Apprentice Special Edition – The Followers

As with the other Special Edition, this one ties in the two generations with a story that ends and then is reborn 10 years later. This one is a little more relevant to Star Wars history because it explores the growing Sith “cult” – normal beings who aren’t Force-sensitive, yet are eager to learn the teachings of the ancient Sith. The storyline revolves around the acquisition of a Sith holocron and how it taints those who touch it.

I’m closing in on the books that directly surround the movies and at this point the buildup was getting powerful. No regrets in my decision to read all of the books in chronological order. Although I must admit that with Ender’s Game coming out as a movie – I’m tempted to take a break from Star Wars to quickly plow though those books. And I’m also eager to read the new Drizzt Do’Urden book. Stay tuned.

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