—–WARNING, MILD SPOILERS AHEAD—–
One doesn’t go into Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves expecting earth-shattering events. The novel is part of a series set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, so there’s a limited scope of action. Luke can’t display any dazzling Force feats, because he still struggles with telekinesis in ESB. Han can’t fully commit to the Rebellion or romance Leia, because that hasn’t happened yet either. Leia still has room to be a Rebel leader and diplomat, but the scale of the Rebellion’s successes still has to be pretty small since they’ve just won their first truly major victory. So all in all, it can’t be very interesting, can it? The first book in this series, Razor’s Edge, was at least Leia-centric in a way that novels haven’t been for a long time, but a Han-centric book between the first two films surely has got to feel like a retread.
If you supposed that, you would be wrong. To be sure, the overall plot isn’t going to involve a galaxy-changing turn of events. There are little surprises in the situation of the Rebellion and the Empire at the end of the story, but that isn’t and shouldn’t be – excuse our pun – the whole story. James S.A. Corey – actually the pen name of two co-authors, but whom we’ll treat in the singular – does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the novel. Character development and world development are two issues that are extremely important to us as a reader, and these are strengths that this book has as a whole. It feels authentic, and it feels like a living, breathing galaxy. That’s important, because in the near future, we won’t be seeing any galaxy-shaking events in the EU since those will be reserved for the still-mysterious Episode VII. Instead, we’ll see more books like Honor Among Thieves and the Rebels television series, which will flesh out and develop periods of the timeline which we’ve generally already explored. If this novel is a prototype for future EU of that sort, we’re in good shape.
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In Part I of Checks and Balances, I speculated that Anakin Skywalker’s true purpose as the Chosen One was not only to kill Darth Sidious, but to “prune” an ineffectual and misguided Jedi Order down to a lower number which could more easily evolve to meet the challenges of the modern galaxy. Not everyone will agree with a perspective that doesn’t necessarily see the Jedi as positive actors in the Force’s interests, but it was important to start there so that you might understand where I’m coming from here in Part II.
A few years back, while reading a book on demography called The Coming Population Crash, I started wondering what the Jedi Order would look like if unchallenged for its entire 25,000-year history, given what we’ve seen of Force sensitivity’s heritability. From there, it occurred to me that perhaps the Sith were meant to exist, from a cosmic point of view—that widespread, high-level Force use was something of a threat to the general galactic population, and the fact that both Jedi and Sith—in service of the Force’s natural dualism—were constantly trying to wipe each other out was in reality a form of population control, baked into the galaxy’s natural state, to keep it from ending up with a civilization comprised entirely of dangerous and unpredictable Force wielders.
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This story happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.
–Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover
In my ongoing feature The Expanded Universe Explains, I go out of my way to maintain a lighthearted, conversational tone to add a little flavor to what is essentially just a recitation of secondhand information—book x said this, which was expanded upon by a stray line in reference book y. It’s all fairly absolute, to the extent that made-up information can ever be absolute.
What I mean to say is, I originally thought about covering this topic in an EU Explains piece, but I have to admit that as clear as it may seem to me, there are few things in the Star Wars saga that are more subjective than the Prophecy of the Chosen One. Reasonable minds can disagree on the following, but this is How I See It.
What does it mean for Anakin Skywalker to have brought balance to the Force?
When those blades met, it was more than Yoda against Palpatine, more the millennia of Sith against the legions of Jedi; this was the expression of the fundamental conflict of the universe itself.
Light against dark.
Winner take all.
Like most things of any significance in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, the history of the Sith is long and convoluted. By the time you read these words, the final thirteen episodes of The Clone Wars will have made their debut on Netflix, including an arc revolving around this very subject. But while the details are constantly evolving (to use a charitable word), what we can say is this: the dark side has always been with us.
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There’s been something rattling around in my brain ever since Mike recently asked us what story we’d like to see in The Pitch – Novels Humbly Requested by Eleven-ThirtyEight. At the time I requested a Romance novel and still stand by that, but I debated on asking for a completely different type of book. As I walk around a bookstore or browse an online site my travels take me all over the place. Sure I love Sci-Fi/Fantasy and the majority of things I read come from there but I also frequent the Young Adult section. I used to feel goofy about this until I went to a panel by Tamora Pierce at a Con last year that was specifically designed to talk to adults about reading Young Adult books. Sure everyone and their parents read Harry Potter but I’d been reading Young Adult books (series I started as a young adult that I didn’t want to give up) for a long time before that became a fad. With the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Ric Riordan’s Percy Jackson series plenty of authors have made the jump to writing a YA series on top of their adult series. Notable names like James Patterson and Brandon Sanderson have jumped into the genre with both feet hoping to capture some of the market share. So why hasn’t Star Wars made an attempt?
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The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook collects the material from the Heir to the Empire Sourcebook, Dark Force Rising Sourcebook, and The Last Command Sourcebook
Top Shelf has already celebrated the Dark Empire Sourcebook as one of West End Games’ best sourcebooks and an excellent entry point for the fan interested in gaining familiarity with the roleplaying game sourcebooks. The sourcebooks WEG released for Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, however, may be an even better introduction to the sourcebooks for the beginner. Rich in Expanded Universe lore, they flesh out Zahn’s trilogy with backstory and background information vetted by Zahn himself, providing an excellent avenue for those familiar with the Thrawn trilogy — and who isn’t? — to dip their toes in the sourcebook pool, while offering much to the experienced fan as well.
The West End Games sourcebooks are worth exploring for anyone interested in the Expanded Universe — ultimately, they’re the foundation of it. Though the books, comics, and Ewok paraphernalia produced around the movies are the earliest Expanded Universe material, they were largely ignored during the Expanded Universe boom of the nineties. It was WEG’s Star Wars roleplaying game, produced after the films concluded in the eighties, that began the task of building a systematic Expanded Universe, a dense web of background information, in the pages of its RPG sourcebooks. When Timothy Zahn kicked off the EU renaissance, he used the sourcebooks as reference material, building on an existing base. West End Games returned the favor by releasing sourcebooks expanding on each novel of the trilogy; the three were later collected in The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook, with relatively minimal cuts to the collected material.
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