|Posted on December 20, 2019 at 8:55 AM|
Today I shall speak of something near and dear to my heart. Something I have spent two decades enjoying. Something that inspired me to continue writing. I am talking of course about Star Wars: Expanded Universe. Yes that most nerdy of things which I have indulged many hours into. I have my favorite EU characters (Tenal Ka!), series (Jedi Academy), and I am especially interested in Anakin/Obi-Wan adventures pre-Clone Wars.
There are clearly duds (Kenobi was so terrible, which seems impossible, yet here we are), but there are some serious triumphs (Knights of the Old Republic, yeah it's a game, but it counts). With Disney's acquisition of Star Wars I was hesitant of their handling of EU. Obviously once The Force Awakens was announced I knew EU would be scraped as canon. But you can see clear influences in the movie from EU. Rey certainly shares characteristics with Jaina Solo and Kylo Ren bears a resemblance to Jaina's twin, Jacen aka Darth Caedus. I would even say there's clear correlations between Solo and the Han Solo trilogy (Imperial soldier? Frees Chewie from Imperial slavery? Sound familiar?) But on the other hand the Disney machine should not be churning out books.
I've read (or in one case attempted) four Disney's new canon books and all but one have sucked and it is not the one you'd think.
Leia by Claudia Gray - This piece of unrelenting trash offers exactly one good thing, the introduction of Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern in The Last Jedi). That is it. Leia is made to be a naive idiot in the junior Senate who is totally blind to her parents' rebel activities until near the end, who nearly risks it all for a boy. So a few things. Leia withstands torture not once, but twice. In A New Hope on the Death Star and Empire Strikes Back on Bespin. She has clearly been trained her entire life by Queen Breha and Bail Organa to fight until the last. Leia does not despair. Even when her home is blown away she goes on to make sure no one else suffers. Plus, Lucas had his actors provide some of their own backstory and Carrie Fisher stated that Han Solo was Leia's first love because she never had time. She invested her life into politics and the rebellion. And this book decides the new canon is Leia falling in love and being blind at like SIXTEEN to the actions of the rebellion and her parents' involvement. Ah, hell no. Disney, if you're going to try to pass a turd off as a nugget of gold, at least paint it yellow first. I saw an Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon book just came out, but then I saw this author wrote it and immediately passed. Granted, I'm sure the author can't just go willy-nilly with ideas since this is Disney, but I cannot forgive that love story.
The Force Awakens Novelization by Alan Dean Foster - Up until this one, I had read every novelization. I actually enjoyed the prequel ones a lot, but this book. I gave up several chapters in. I may as well have just read the script. Details were sparse, internal monologue was boring and sparse, it just exists as some sort of wormhole where interesting character development goes to die. Let's be honest, Star Wars is pretty straight forward, especially the prequels, good vs. evil, Hero's Cycle, etc. The joy I got from the novels was it added depth that wasn't always present in the movies. If you're barely going to expand, don't bother.
Princess Leia the Comic Book by Mark Waid - It was just forgettable. Something about rounding up the survivors of Alderaan, people who were from the planet, but not on it when it was destroyed. There was some conflict about a kidnapping? I don't know. I also don't care. At least the Leia in this stayed true to the Leia we all know and love. However, this is Leia. I should be able to remember more than “it takes place after A New Hope.
Queen's Shadow by E.K. Johnston - A preface on this one. I read one other Johnston book, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, about a rape survivor coping with her trauma. It didn't have a plot, the plot was the therapy and getting on with life, which given the subject matter makes sense (it’s a good book, read it). This plotless writing is not how a Star Wars book should be. The plot was Padmé and her loyal decoy/handmaiden, Sabé joining the Senate....and, that was kind of it. There's some mention of the Trade Federation on trial for their actions and how there were death camps on Naboo during the blockade, but there's also a lot of wasted potential. A review on Amazon from library reviews "Johnston offers readers a plot-driven science fiction tale chronicling Padmé Amidala Naberrie's transformation from the Queen of Naboo to its representative in the Republic." Ha no. Plot-driven indeed. The weird thing is, I liked this one the most. There was a lot of double speak and politics and in Phantom Menace I actually liked Amidala. Not Padmé, Amidala. She's naive, but still carries herself well. So getting the backroom politics was interesting. I just want more plot. It doesn't have to be an action plot, just beef up the politics. Johnston is a good writer and I bought her other Star Wars book and will probably read her next Amidala book. But if this just OK book is the best I can say about the new EU, then there's a problem.
Disney has a cash cow and they're clearly trying to bring new fans into the fold. However, a thing hardcore fans have loved for decades is the EU. Mara Jade is among the most beloved Star Wars characters and she didn't even appear in a movie. Same for Admiral Thrawn (who is now canon apparently and Timothy Zahn is still his writer so high hopes there). If Disney wants to milk this even more, they should be looking to expand on "Legends" and create new book series in the same vein as EU. I try not to be an unruly, bitter Star Wars nerd, but among my first writings were Star Wars EU fanfic. I hold the canon in these "Legends" very close to my heart and I will nerd rage about it until someone pries my keyboard from my cold dead hands.