My Top 10 Changes To The Star Wars Expanded Universe

Prologue: In light of this week’s news about Disney acquiring Lucasfilm Ltd. and the possibility of a Star Wars sequel trilogy, I feel a strange optimism about where things might go for the saga.  I know my opinions as listed below aren’t and may never become canon, but the chance that at least some of them could be is very, very interesting.

I’ve talked a lot before about what I would do to fix the Star Wars prequel films and I’ve also expressed my issues with the recent string of Expanded Universe novels (namely, everything since the New Jedi Order series).  So I figure I might as well talk about what I would have done if Lucasfilm had given me a budget, an editorial and research staff, and the chance to define a new generation of heroes for the Star Wars universe.

10. The New Republic Simply Becomes “The Republic”

Copyright © 1992 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

It’s minor, but this is something that’s bugged me all throughout the Expanded Universe: the New Republic keeps calling itself the “New” Republic (and later on, changes it to the inherently silly and bland “Galactic Federation of Free Alliances”).  Why not just be “The Republic”?  If the official name of the Rebellion was “The Alliance to Restore the Republic,” and it’s been proven you’ve defeated the Empire and even wrote up a peace treaty, then why not be truly legitimate?  You’re the Republic now.  It’s time to govern.

9. Make Lando Calrissian The New Chief of State For The Republic

Copyright © 1980 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

It started off as a kind of running joke throughout the EU that Lando is always starting up some crazy new get-rick-quick scheme, though he’s never one to exploit others for the sake of making a profit.  At first, it was funny and a good way to set up Lando providing resources to the heroes.  But now it’s old and tired.  And if Lando really is “‘respectable” now, then why not run for office?  He’s a successful businessman, a veteran general, and has a record of integrity that’s hard to beat.  Plus, it’d be hilarious to watch him run circles around some of the less scrupulous politicians in the Senate given his background as a former smuggler and con artist.

8. Han And Chewbacca Join Talon Karrde’s Intelligence Bureau

Copyright © 1994 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Following the peace treaty signed between the Republic and the Empire, ex-smuggler Talon Karrde decides to start up an intelligence service specializing in keeping both governments in touch to avoid any further armed conflicts.  Given the stealthy nature of the intelligence business, this seems like a nice way for Han and Chewbacca to stay active despite being more or less “retired.”  While Luke and Leia are off being Jedi and looking after the government, Han and Chewie are still getting into trouble on behalf of the Good Guys.  Only instead of being smugglers, they’re covert operatives who’ve grown more dangerous with age.

And yes, I realize that I would not be killing off Chewbacca and retconning everything Han went through in the New Jedi Order.  But I’m okay with that.  It’s Han and Chewie.  They’ve got plenty more adventures left in them.

7. Anakin Solo Trains Under Corran Horn; Jacen Solo Trains Under Luke

Copyright © 2001 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

With the New Jedi Order series, we seemed to lose some of the characterization that Anakin and Jacen Solo had in their respective Junior Jedi Knights and Young Jedi Knights series.  Anakin was an adventurous, puzzle-solving whiz kid, and Jacen was a courageous but sensitive animal lover.  While Jacen’s temperament makes him a good pick to apprentice under his Uncle Luke, I think Anakin needs someone with more of his kind of experience… someone like Corran Horn, Jedi Knight and former CorSec detective.  This would mean that Anakin can bolster his natural problem-solving skills with Corran’s criminal investigation training, turning himself into an uncanny hunter.

And it’s also worth pointing out that Jacen Solo doesn’t need to fall to the dark side, especially if he’s just going to be a blatant ripoff of Anakin Skywalker.  I could see Jacen turning because of his empathy being used against him, a kind of dark side “infection” that he would need to be cured of by his siblings.  But no, that’s much too creative a concept…

6. Jaina Solo Enlists With Wraith Squadron And Trains Under Mara Jade

Copyright © 2012 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

One of my biggest disappointments in the current EU has been Jaina Solo–not because of her gender or her talent as a pilot, but because no one seems to have a clear view of her character.  I was initially excited when she was written to be apprenticed to her new aunt Mara Jade Skywalker, but this was quickly dropped in the NJO series and everything thereafter.  I figure the best way for her to get a solid Mara Jade-style training and fulfill her role as an ace pilot is to have her join Wraith Squadron, a Republic fighter and commando unit assigned to critical missions.  She seemed to shine as a character when she was paired with such colorful personalities during the Enemy Lines duology, and she’d be learning all the best take-down moves from an ex-Imperial assassin.

5. Leia Becomes A True Jedi Knight And Ambassador (Finally)

Copyright © 2009 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Leia Organa Solo is another female character that some authors seem to have trouble deciding where to place.  Half the time she’s in politics, half the time she’s disgusted with politics, and almost all the time she’s Han’s copilot on the Millennium Falcon (just replace “Wookiee” with “part-time Jedi”).  I figure that if she is going to shine, she should focus on her Jedi training as soon as she steps down as Chief of State for the Republic.  And then she might be one of the first New Jedi Order diplomats, since it seems like most of the modern Jedi don’t bother with settling disputes except with lightsabers and mind tricks.  This isn’t to say that she couldn’t be traveling with Han, Chewbacca, and Threepio as well, but I envision her having a more public role as a negotiator.  Maybe as an Obi-Wan type who gets along well with everyone and only kicks ass when necessary.

4. Luke Skywalker Is A Proud (And Working) Father

Copyright © 2007 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Instead of dithering around for the sake of dramatic tension, I would have Luke and Mara’s son already born and in his early childhood.  I’m not disputing that Mara Jade Skywalker would be a good mother, but if she’s training Jaina and working for Wraith Squadron, she wouldn’t have much time for motherhood.  Plus, I would want to see how Luke balances his fatherhood with his Jedi Mastery.  It would make having a new Jedi Council crucial to his family life, since other Masters could help manage the Order.  And I would love to see how Luke handles being a father considering all the issues he must have after his foster parents’ murder and being Darth Vader’s son.

3. Vigilantes Emerge In The Wake Of The New Jedi Order’s Rebirth

Copyright © 2002 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

One of the more interesting–and yet equally annoying–issues of the current Expanded Universe has been the relationship between the New Jedi Order and the Republic.  While it was taken for granted that the Jedi of old served the Old Republic, the new generation of Jedi Knights are less blindly loyal and more willing to question or disobey their government.  However, in the middle of a war like the kind the NJO series proposes (and in every series thereafter), it seems like the two groups can never work together until the crisis is at its worst.

Instead of that, I would look at the problem a different way.  Instead of the Jedi going rogue in their service to the Republic, what if vigilantes and paramilitary groups arose, inspired by the Jedi’s example?  They’d remember the valiant Luke Skywalker who struck down the Emperor and Jabba the Hutt, and they’d want to do the same instead of abiding by the Republic’s legal system.  It’d be a nice parallel to the concerns of vigilantism in so many superhero tales, as well as an issue that would make Luke and the other Rebellion heroes rethink their usual tactics.

2. Turn The Yuuzhan Vong Into The Equivalent Of The Precursors

Copyright © 2009 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

For the most part, despite being an menace from another galaxy, the fanatical alien warriors known as the Yuuzhan Vong were hardly that strange.  Sure, they had organic technology and a nihilistic doctrine of conquest, but they were easy to comprehend and fight once the Republic and the Jedi got their act together.  And once their war was over, the reconstruction of the galaxy was glossed over and everything seemed to go back to the status quo, which was frustratingly dull.

To really give the new generation of heroes something to tackle, I would have rewritten the Yuuzhan Vong into being descendants of the Celestials.  In the EU, the Celestials are ancient and long-disappeared precursors who built such marvels as Centerpoint Station.  They’re cast in the same mold as the Protheans from Mass Effect and the Forerunners from Halo.  I think this would have been an interesting development: to have the inhabitants of the constantly war-torn Star Wars universe take on an enemy that knows almost everything about them and has powers far beyond their comprehension.  It would be users of the Force against the galaxy’s own Creators, a rage against the heavens that only good space opera can deliver.

1. Give “The Big Three” And The Old Generation Less Screen Time

Copyright © 2000 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

For all my concerns about the New Jedi Order series and all the storylines that have followed it, this is my biggest issue: Luke, Han, and Leia never seem to quit.  It’s less about them as characters and more about them as the Ones Who Save The Day.  The Solo children and the other new Jedi Knights don’t get their own mature novels.  Their parents and older relatives are always in the limelight, always cutting down the Dark Jedi leader or exposing the corrupt politician or negotiating a peace treaty with an ancient enemy.  Everyone else might as well be distantly in the background.

If you’re going to have a “New Jedi Order,” you’ve got be serious about it.  Let the kids take the helm.  Let them make mistakes and earn their own wisdom.  Don’t keep writing them as perpetual hotheaded teenagers when their elders are around.  Let them grow up and get a chance to save the galaxy two or three times by themselves, and let the old heroes of the Rebellion settle down and keep their hard-earned government in place and active just for once.  The Star Wars: Legacy comics understood how to break up a lot of conventions about the Star Wars saga while still respecting them, and in my mind, that’s why it was such a success.

I’m aware that I’m slamming a lot onto these recent character arcs and novel series as produced by Lucas Books, but I don’t mean them any ill will.  I just want to see a little more thought put in, a little less shock value, and, overall, a lot more respect for the audience’s intelligence.

The Prequel Trilogy By Any Other Name: Star Wars: The Legacy Of The Force Series

Copyright © Lucasfilm Ltd., 2006.

This marks my third and final review of a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel series.  Here we can see the culmination of Jacen Solo’s tragic character arc that began in Dark Nest, along with new character conceptions and plots that certainly aren’t like the characters and stories we remember from the old days (and I apologize for how jaded that just sounded, but that’s how hard I’ve been taking these developments).

So here now is Star Wars: Legacy of the Force!

Betrayal, by Aaron Allston

After fighting two hellish wars, peace has finally come to the galaxy… except for some reason the Galactic Alliance decides to become a bully and provoke Corellia into a civil war (but hey, it’s not called Star Peace, now is it?).  Han also decides he’s Corellian now and turns against his brother-in-law, Luke freaking Skywalker (why, exactly?).  Also, Jacen goes investigating the cause of this war, discovers a Sith Lord named Lumiya behind it, and then decides that he’ll become her apprentice because he can be strong enough to bring peace to the galaxy (a vision with no basis in reality whatsoever).  In other news, Wedge Antilles is awesome, delivering incredibly sharp insults to both sides of the conflict.

Bloodlines, by Karen Traviss

Jacen takes over a new secret police force and terrorizes innocent citizens to prove himself worthy of Sith Lordship.  Mara Jade, for some reason, has no problem letting her son help Jacen out.  Luke debates if Jacen’s turning evil or not without actually confronting him.  Also, Jacen ends up killing Boba Fett‘s daughter, so Fett decides not to take revenge on Jacen just yet because that’s just what all his fans would have wanted to see.

Tempest, by Troy Denning

Remember that daughter Allana that Jacen and Tenel Ka secretly had in the last series?  Well, Jacen decides to be a halfway decent secret father and go visit the two of them.  He then proclaims that his parents are dead to him and decides that he’ll sacrifice them in his quest for Sith Lordship.  Apparently, the “rules” for becoming a Sith say you have to kill the thing you love to become powerful, although it’s really more of a way to establish a once compassionate character as a heartless villain.

Exile, by Aaron Allston

Jacen spends an entire book arguing with himself if he’s truly evil and is this all the right path (despite the readers loudly telling him no).  He also sends his cousin, Ben Skywalker, out on a mission to retrieve a Plot-Advancing Amulet from the ancient Sith world of Ziost, whereupon Ben slowly comes to reject his crazy cousin’s visions and prove himself to be a very moral Jedi (although the next two books kind of screw around with this character development).  And then there’s Wedge Antilles, who awesomely calls Jacen out on his new turn for idiocy and evil.

Sacrifice, by Karen Traviss

After a lethargic pace thus far, things finally heat up as Jacen takes over the government in a fairly quick coup d’etat, sends his young cousin off on his first assassination, and then declares himself “Darth Caedus” after killing Mara Jade as his “Sith sacrifice.”  Luke kills Lumiya after thinking she killed Mara, then drops into a severe depression that will last for two more books.  Also, the Mandalorians show up, only to contribute nothing except commentary.

Inferno, by Troy Denning

Jacen Solo Darth Caedus tries to further alienate himself from the galaxy by holding a bunch of Jedi students hostage, having the former Chief of State killed, torturing his cousin Ben, and setting the Wookiee homeworld on fire.  By several unexplained flukes, neither Luke Skywalker nor any of the other heroes are ever able to simply walk up and destroy this hideous character.

Fury, by Aaron Allston

Caedus tries to force Tenel Ka to commit the Hapans to war by stealing their daughter Allana.  Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t work.  Tenel Ka teams up with the Jedi to sneak onto Jacen’s ship and steal back Allana, and then destroy a Corellian superweapon just to rub more salt into the Sith Lord’s wound.  Also, Wedge Antilles and Kyle Katarn make a few cameos just to lend their awesome presence to the whole spectacle.

Revelation, by Karen Traviss

Jaina goes to Boba Fett for training on how to fight and kill her brother, rather than to Luke Skywalker or any of the other qualified Jedi Masters she knows.  Fett decides he’ll get his long-put-off revenge by doing this, which leads to Jaina spending the whole book thinking that Mandalorians are so much cooler than Jedi.  Also, Caedus goes to Fondor to nuke it into submission, then watches in surprise as half his fleet starts a mutiny, gets his ass kicked by Mandalorians, and then runs home with his tail between his legs.

Invincible, by Troy Denning

After being so utterly hammered in the last book, Caedus actually starts to become an effective villain.  Then his sister stabs him through the heart when it looks like he might start to show remorse for what he’s done.  War ends, his daughter Allana gets adopted by Han and Leia, Jaina mourns for her dead twin, and a crazy, incompetent female admiral with an eye patch gets elected Chief of State.  The End.

Final Verdict: I was initially very reluctant to start seeing this series after the travesty of Dark Nest.  When I did get around to reading it, I found all my fears proven true, if not exceeded.  It’s not that I truly despise them for their attempt to recast Jacen Solo as a villain, but that there were so many better ways of doing so and I could think of plenty of other characters they could have turned into more effective and interesting villains.  And not only that, but the authors basically copied Anakin Skywalker’s fall from the prequels, so it’s not even that creative.  Karen Traviss also has a tendency to write up the Mandalorians and other soldiers as amazingly epic, while casting the Jedi as arrogant, aloof, and incompetent.  Still, this series did have one redeeming grace…

Wedge Antilles is awesome.  He gets five out of five stars, now and forever.

Bibliography: Allston, Aaron.  Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Betrayal.  New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Traviss, Karen.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Bloodlines.  New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Denning, Troy.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Tempest.  New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Allston, Aaron.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Exile.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Traviss, Karen.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Sacrifice.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Denning, Troy.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Inferno.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Allston, Aaron.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Fury.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Traviss, Karen.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Revelation.  New York: Del Rey, 2008.

Denning, Troy.  Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Invincible.  New York: Del Rey, 2008.

“Why Did It Have To Be Bugs?” (Seriously, Why?): Star Wars: The Dark Nest Trilogy

Copyright © 2005 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

After the thrilling conclusion to the exhaustively-long New Jedi Order series, Del Rey came out with a sequel series in 2005, which was only three books long and all written by the same author, Troy Denning.  It’s called the Dark Nest Trilogy and, wow, was it bad!

Just to give you an idea, Denning had decided that Jacen Solo needed to be the one who turns evil (the same Jacen Solo who talks to animals and spent most of NJO having philosophical dilemmas about everything).  He also wrote a strange plot involving bugs, mind-melds, power politics on the new Jedi Council, and a pair of comedy relief characters named Jae Juun and Tarfang (whom I won’t discuss because they are annoying as hell).

We also get “exotic” new curse words for the Star Wars galaxy, words like “bloah” and “rodders.”  I bring this up only because anytime someone swears in this trilogy, these are the words they use over and over again (try saying them out loud; this is not how you swear).

One rant concludes and another begins!

Dark Nest I: The Joiner King, by Troy Denning

Jacen Solo returns from a five-year journey of searching for meaning learning cool new Force powers, and apparently everything he learned in Traitor only made him more ruthless and definitely not compassionate.  Also, the Jedi and the Galactic Alliance go to war with an entire race of sentient bugs (game over, man, game over!).  Also, Artoo-Detoo reveals he’s got the entire prequel trilogy locked away in his memory banks just so Luke can see how whiny and mean-spirited his father really was.

Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen, by Troy Denning

The Bug War continues!  Also, Leia decides she wants to be properly trained as a Jedi after some thirty years of never getting around to it.  Then, Jaina and her old boyfriend Zekk undergo some kind of mind-meld that’s supposed to be romantic but is just creepy for the rest of us.  Also, Jacen has a love affair with Tenel Ka, Queen of Hapes, and has a daughter with her that no one can know about.  To protect his child from his horrible vision of the future, Jacen escalates the bug war just as any loving father would.

Dark Nest III: The Swarm War, by Troy Denning

Luke Skywalker declares himself Grand Master of the Jedi Knights so that his fellow Jedi Masters will stop bickering over every decision.  For some reason, this doesn’t work.  Also, Luke forces himself to watch Artoo’s recording of Anakin killing Padme and grows from it (and for some disturbing reason, Jacen only thinks Anakin looked kinda cool).  Luke goes to the bug armada, cuts their Dark Jedi leader in half, and everybody’s happy.  His sister Leia is declared a Jedi Knight because she’s awesome and because no one wants to argue with the daughter of Darth Vader.

Final Verdict: This trilogy was mercifully shorter than the nineteen-book New Jedi Order series, but it didn’t raise the quality.  Aside from the fact that we could have had a better plot focusing on the reconstruction of the galaxy instead of a contrived bug threat, my biggest complaint is that the character of Jacen Solo–the savior of the last war and hope for the New Jedi Order–had to be recast as ruthless and aggressive in order to raise the dramatic tension!  Final score for Dark Nest is two out of five stars.  Next time, we’ll look into Legacy of the Force, a series that all but killed my deep love for Star Wars.

Bibliography: Denning, Troy.  Star Wars: Dark Nest I: The Joiner King.  New York: Del Rey, 2005.

Denning, Troy.  Star Wars: Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen.  New York: Del Rey, 2005.

Denning, Troy.  Star Wars: Dark Nest III: The Swarm War.  New York: Del Rey, 2005.

Oh, It’s Got Atrocities, All Right: Star Wars: The New Jedi Order Series

Copyright © Lucasfilm Ltd. 1999. Designed by Cliff Nielsen.

Let’s face it: my love of fiction started with Star Wars.  It fueled my budding imagination and, though I am somewhat ashamed to admit it, I got my start in creative writing with a lot of Star Wars fan fiction (fortunately, none of it ever saw the light of day because it was God-awful).  Even so, I really got into the Expanded Universe novels thanks to a series that started back in 1999 called The New Jedi Order–and now, some twelve years later, I am ready to finally present my readers an opinion on these books.

The New Jedi Order series was an attempt to redefine Star Wars outside the classic format we were used to seeing: the Rebels vs. the Empire, with Luke Skywalker being more or less the only real Jedi Knight left in the galaxy, and the “Big Three” (Luke, Han, and Leia) being the main cast of characters.  With NJO, more emphasis was put on the next generation of Jedi–in particular on Han and Leia’s three children: their daughter Jaina and their sons Jacen and Anakin.  It also gave us a new enemy: the Yuuzhan Vong, an extragalactic race of alien warriors with a fanatical devotion to pain, a mission of conquest, and an obsession with eradicating all forms of technology and the “infidels” who used them.  While these were not necessarily bad concepts to work with, the way they were handled is… well, I’ll explain below.

Normally, when I review a series, I don’t go through each particular episode or installment, but there are nineteen books in NJO and only a few by the same author.  So instead of my usual treatment for a single book, I’m going to provide a short but sweet review for each novel.

Vector Prime, by R.A. Salvatore

So it’s twenty-something years after Return of the Jedi.  Han and Leia’s kids are growing strong (with Jaina becoming a starfighter pilot, Jacen becoming a pacifist/philosopher, and Anakin becoming a Jedi who’s here to kick ass and chew bubblegum).  Then that all goes to hell as aliens from outside the galaxy start their invasion by way of crushing Chewbacca with a moon pulled out of orbit (I really wish I was making that up).  Han goes into a spiral of despair and alcoholism, but the fun’s only just getting started.

Dark Tide I: Onslaught, by Michael A. Stackpole

Luke Skywalker’s wife, Mara Jade, has been afflicted with a terrible illness that mysteriously began just before the Yuuzhan Vong (Why, you ask?  Because, dramatic tension!).  He sends Anakin to escort to Dantooine for recovery, only it happens to be right in the middle of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion path.  Big surprise, it gets invaded; cue massive ground battle-turned-space battle.  Also, Jaina Solo joins Rogue Squadron, while her twin brother Jacen grapples even more with whether or not actually fighting the malevolent aliens with the power of the Force is a good one (even Obi-Wan Kenobi knows the answer to that one, you so-called Skywalker).

Dark Tide II: Ruin, by Michael A. Stackpole

What’s left of the Empire (who finally stopped going to war with the good guys a few series back) decides to get in on this war, although this is compounded by the sudden anti-human bent in the New Republic leadership (again, for the sake of dramatic tension!).  Jedi Knight Corran Horn fights a duel with the local Vong commander for the fate of the unspoiled planet of Ithor and wins, but then the Vong decide to be jerks and just waste the planet anyway.  In other news, Jacen still has trouble grappling with how he should be helping out besides talking to animals and being generally pacifist.

Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial, by James Luceno

Han Solo attends a memorial service for Chewbacca and then decides to get over his crippling despair through a trip to the Outer Rim with an old friend named Roa.  When their trip bring them right into the path of the invaders, Han actually starts to be his old adventurous, carefree self again, in addition to getting a temporary new partner, Droma, whose species is basically the Star Wars version of the Romani.

Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse, by James Luceno

Han and Droma get into more adventures as they try to find Droma’s family among the millions of refugees displaced by the invasion.  They succeed, and Han even reunites with his friend Roa, who had fallen into enemy capture.  Also, a once-cocky Jedi named Wurth Skidder does a complete one-eighty and sacrifices himself while trapped behind enemy lines.

Balance Point, by Kathy Tyers

Jacen tries to solve his moral dilemma by denying himself all contact with the Force, which not only makes him even less heroic, but also blind to all the obvious villains in this story.  Mara Jade Skywalker is revealed to be pregnant despite the horrible disease ravaging her body, while Leia Organa Solo tries to make the planet Duro a haven for refugees, only for it to be invaded (noticing the pattern here?).  However, Jacen does embrace his Jedi heritage at the climax, when he fights and defeats the Vong’s commanding general, Tsavong Lah, in an epic duel to save his mother’s life.  Savor this characterization while you can because it will be forgotten until Matt Stover gets to make his own contribution to the series.

Edge of Victory I: Conquest, by Greg Keyes

Anakin Solo gets his own pair of novels, which is nice considering how much heroism was left to Luke, Han, and Leia in the previous novels, giving only the occasional act to the Solo children.  Here, he has to save a bunch of Jedi students from the Vong, although his love interest, Tahiri, gets captured, then scarred and brainwashed into thinking she’s been a Vong all her life.  Anakin has to team up with a disgraced Vong warrior named Vua Rapuung in order to save her, while also giving Rapuung an excellent heroic sacrifice for the Jedi.

Edge of Victory II: Rebirth, by Greg Keyes

Anakin tries to help Tahiri rediscover herself in the wake of the torture and implanted memories she received in enemy captivity.  Along the way, they finally declare their love for each other.  Things further improve when Mara Jade Skywalker gives birth to her son, Ben, and the new family of three uses the Force to somehow eradicate the Vong-born disease from Mara’s body.

Star By Star, by Troy Denning

The New Republic and the Jedi finally get their act together and start wailing on the Vong, even though they wind up losing Coruscant.  Also, the Vong start breeding super Jedi-killing creatures, so that promising young hero from the last two books leads a strike team to wipe out their cloning labs.  He is then killed so the fans can realize that this is a serious war (because killing off Chewbacca wasn’t enough, you see).

Dark Journey, by Elaine Cunningham

Jacen gets captured, Jaina wants to crush the enemy with all of her hatred, and Jedi Knight Kyp Durron tries to stop her when he remembers what it was like to fall to the dark side.  Jaina gets over her fall pretty well, although it doesn’t bring her brother back.  We also get some Hapan court intrigue that does little except piss off the heir, Tenel Ka, to the point where she accepts her heritage and becomes the next Queen (hooray for her).

Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream, by Aaron Allston

The New Republic starts falling apart again, especially when the leadership seems convinced it can’t win against the enemy after losing Coruscant.  Wedge Antilles, the awesome veteran of so many battles and former leader of Rogue Squadron, decides to screw over the cowardly leaders by actually fighting back the Vong and making them impressed by their “infidel” enemy for once.

Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand, by Aaron Allston

While Wedge and Company are kicking Vong ass, Luke, Mara, and Tahiri go into enemy-held Coruscant, where they fight a Dark Jedi with lightsabers embedded in his elbows and kneecaps (don’t ask, it wasn’t well thought out).  It was never exactly clear how this threat put the entire galaxy at risk, but if Luke Skywalker says it must be destroyed, then so be it!  Also, Han and Leia get to spend their time setting up resistance cells on different planets, while Artoo-Detoo gets to shine by breaking them out of prison despite being stuck on the other side of the planet.

Traitor, by Matthew Stover

Jacen Solo is being held captive and tortured daily by the Vong, but then remembers that he can talk to animals… and that everything the Yuuzhan Vong use for technology is based on living creatures.  He makes friends with said biotech and proves he’s a Skywalker by kicking ass, taking names, and getting over his philosophical issues in a very mature fashion.

Destiny’s Way, by Walter Jon Williams

We get our first real glimpse of the Yuuzhan Vong leader, Supreme Overlord Shimrra, along with the first definitive victory by the New Republic.  Jacen is reunited with his family, his mentor Vergere is enigmatic for a while before she sacrifices herself for him in the final battle, and Jaina proves herself a Jedi when she duels and kills Warmaster Tsavong Lah.  Also, the New Republic makes a hilariously bad (and pointless) name change, now calling itself the “Galactic Federation of Free Alliances” or the Galactic Alliance for short.

Force Heretic I: Remnant, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Luke Skywalker leads an expedition for the long-lost planet of Zonama Sekot, which may hold the key to defeating the Vong.  Han, Leia, Jaina, and Tahiri go on their own trip, trying to check in on those important allies trapped behind enemy lines, but Tahiri has a major freak-out as her Yuuzhan Vong persona resurfaces at the worst possible time (Hey, look!  It’s dramatic tension!)

Force Heretic II: Refugee, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Luke and Company go further into the Unknown Regions, where at one point they actually try looking up Zonama Sekot in the Chiss library (Rhapsodist Note: Just a reminder to please support your local Expeditionary Library, because reading brings knowledge and Knowledge is Power!).  Meanwhile, the Solos and Tahiri visit the remote world of Bakura, where a different alien race is trying to invade: the Ssi-Ruuk, first introduced in Truce of Bakura.  However, their invasion is easier to put down thanks to a slave revolt, but Tahiri’s Vong psychosis puts her into a dramatic coma!

Force Heretic III: Reunion, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Zonama Sekot is found, and because it has its own giant hyperdrive (just go with it), it decides to come along with the Skywalkers to help out in the war.  Han and Leia repair a communications port after the galaxywide HoloNet suddenly goes out, while Jaina helps Tahiri integrate her Yuuzhan Vong self with her original personality.  So all the dramatic tension is over… FOR NOW!

The Final Prophecy, by Greg Keyes

Tahiri and Corran Horn infiltrate Coruscant (which is surprisingly easy given that it’s the enemy capital and all) on the pretext of helping a Yuuzhan Vong defector escape.  However, the defector turns out to be Nom Anor, the savvy and charismatic enemy spy who helped engineer the entire invasion in the very first book.  Everyone is then shocked (shocked, I tell you!) that he turns traitor and tries to get his people to bombard Zonama Sekot with a virus.

The Unifying Force, by James Luceno

The Battle of Endor Coruscant takes place as the Alliance beats back the Vong with a little help from the Ewoks Shamed Ones.  Climatic battle ensues.  Luke Jacen faces the evil Emperor Supreme Overlord and rejects the temptation of the dark side, saving both his sister Leia Jaina and the galaxy.  The End.

Final Verdict: This series was ambitious for its scale and its direction… and both those counts, I think it flopped.  Granted, it has some decent plots and characters (the best of which were in Matt Stover’s Traitor), but there’s no consistency in the character arcs, a lot of the deaths and development are for shock value, and some of the moral dilemmas being posed are a bit artificial.  I give this series something like three out of five stars, which is very good considered how I feel about its successors, Dark Nest and Legacy of the Force, which I’ll be reviewing next week.

Bibliography: Salvatore, R.A.  Star Wars: New Jedi Order: Vector Prime.  New York: Del Rey, 1999.

Stackpole, Michael A.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Dark Tide I: Onslaught.  New York: Del Rey, 2000.

Stackpole, Michael A.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Dark Tide II: Ruin.  New York: Del Rey, 2000.

Luceno, James.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos: Heros Trial.  New York: Del Rey, 2000.

Luceno, James.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos: Jedi Eclipse.  New York: Del Rey, 2000.

Tyers, Kathy.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Balance Point.  New York: Del Rey, 2000.

Keyes, Greg.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Edge of Victory I: Conquest.  New York: Del Rey, 2001.

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Denning, Troy.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Star By Star.  New York: Del Rey, 2001.

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Allston, Aaron.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand.  New York: Del Rey, 2002.

Stover, Matthew.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Traitor.  New York: Del Rey, 2002.

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Dix, Shane.  Williams, Sean.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Force Heretic I: Remnant.  New York: Del Rey, 2003.

Dix, Shane.  Williams, Sean.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Force Heretic II: Refugee.  New York: Del Rey, 2003.

Dix, Shane.  Williams, Sean.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: Force Heretic III: Reunion.  New York: Del Rey, 2003.

Keyes, Greg.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: The Final Prophecy.  New York: Del Rey, 2003.

Luceno, James.  Star WarsNew Jedi Order: The Unifying Force.  New York: Del Rey, 2003.