Michael Stackpole’s novel I, Jedi has many qualities and ideas that Disney can learn from for the Sequel Trilogy. For those that know me it should come as no surprise that I am writing this article. Corran Horn is one of my favorite characters in Star Wars and part of the reason for that is what I experienced while reading this book. Stackpole wrote a book where he wasn’t afraid to be different, he correctly used a wide array of characters, his inclusion of romance and put together a fantastic journey for the reader to follow along with.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different
On the surface Stackpole’s main character, Corran Horn, sounds a lot like Luke Skywalker. Corran is an excellent fighter pilot in training to become a Jedi. However, as Horn goes through training we discover that he lacks one of the most basic and most utilized force powers we see from the movie Jedi, telekinesis. On screen this would make for some less than spectacular fight scenes, but I greatly enjoy the concept of a Jedi with a handicap. It was refreshing to see how Stackpole wove this lack of skill into the story and how Corran was able to overcome his inability to do telekinesis. Disney should develop unique Jedi for the ST.
Another way Stackpole showed that different is good is that he wrote the first Star Wars novel written in first person point of view. The book format was well received and it was exciting to be inside the character’s thoughts while in the Star Wars universe. Again I understand this concept can’t translate to the big screen, but I want to see something different from the ST. Though I will point out that perhaps the book format could give us this while the movie shows us the big picture. The ST needs to understand that we don’t need to see the Original Trilogy again or the Prequels again, we need to have something new and different with the Sequel Trilogy while still giving us the basics of what makes Star Wars, Star Wars.
A central theme of Star Wars has really been a love story. I’m sure eventually Lucas Jackson will do one of his genre write ups on Romance but I will touch briefly here on what we’ve seen and what we need to continue to see. In Episode IV Luke sees a holo of Leia and remarks “She’s beautiful.” He then goes on a journey to rescue her. At the end of Episode V Leia tells Han she loves him before he is encased in carbonite and they have to rescue him in Episode VI. Episode VI also shows the power of Luke’s love for his father which isn’t romance, but is still a type of love story. His love is what helps redeem Vader and propels Luke along on his journey. In Episode I little Annie calls Padmé an angel and their love story continues through Episodes II and III coming to an end when Padmé makes a desperate plea for Anakin to stop going down the path of the dark side and ultimately losing her life because of it. The thought of losing Padmé is what drives Anakin to seek out other answers than the Jedi can give him.
The previous Star Wars movies have given us a good pattern of love stories and I, Jedi continues that. In I, Jedi we experience Corran’s thoughts on having kids and we get familial tidbits on what married life is like for a member of Rogue Squadron. Because of his love for his wife Corran embarks on a journey to save his wife who has been kidnapped. The ultimate love story following a main theme from the movies.
Corran’s journey takes us through many different places. The galaxy is a big place and it will be beneficial for the writers to use it. A big part of why I enjoy Star Wars is being able to see all the different planets and nonhuman species that inhabit those planets. Corran’s journey takes him from Coruscant to Yavin to Corellia and Courkus and a few other places. They spend a small amount of time on Kerilt where the nonhuman species the Caamasi live. Corran saves one, Elegos A’kla, and develops a partnership with him.
A journey is also not complete without the help of a droid. In the case of I, Jedi Corran gets information and advice from his longtime partner an R2 unit named Whistler. I have always thought that R2-D2 was the glue that help the Star Wars stories together and I firmly believe he needs to have a presence in the ST. If not R2, then the writers need to create a new loveable droid to keep the next generation of Jedi from failing.
I, Jedi used two antagonists: Exar Kun (a Sith) and Leonia Tavira (an ex-Imperial). Kun’s storyline was piggybacked from Kevin J Anderson’s The Jedi Academy Trilogy. Corran Horn is doing his own thing investigating into the comatose state of Luke Skywalker and how several apprentices have fallen under the spell of the imprisoned Sith Lord’s manifestation. Horn eventually figures things out and uses his piloting skills to take out a hydra and later uses explosives to take out the temple of Exar Kun. Horn faces down the temptation of the dark side when Kun offers to give Corran the means necessary to save his wife and destroy the Invids who are holding his wife. The hero facing temptation from the antagonist and turning it down is a necessary part of a hero’s journey and something that we need to see again in the ST. We get to experience the Sith in the story of I, Jedi without them being the sole focus as antagonists. It is difficult to imagine a new story involving a Sith being more powerful or a better villain than Darth Sidious and Darth Vader so I think the writers can learn from how Stackpole used the Sith while still not letting them diminish how good Sidious and Vader were as villains.
While thinking about Leonia Tavira as an antagonist I am impressed with Stackpole for using a female. I liked the temptations she offered Corran in her pursuit of him as a suitor and how we got to see his strength as he kept turning her down. This also goes along with the love story I was discussing earlier as his love for Mirax helps him overcome the obstacles placed in front of him by Tavira. Here Corran meets back up with some old friends in the form of Luke Skywalker and his Rogue Squadron wingmate, Ooryl. The duo save Corran from a new force using group and join him in rescuing Mirax. Corran uses his different force powers of illusion to distract the leader of the Jensaarai so he can defeat someone more powerful than he is.
The Use of Luke Skywalker
Luke’s presence is welcome and not at all detracting from Corran’s own story. Stackpole effectively uses a movie character without making the story completely about that character. I hope to see Luke Skywalker in a similar role in the ST. He appeared as the Jedi Master at the academy training a new group of Jedi to take over the mantle of peacekeeping in the galaxy. His timely rescue of Corran after he made a classic cocky hero mistake was necessary and a good way to include Luke more without making him the focus. Luke’s involvement in rescuing Mirax was in a supporting role. Something the rest of the Expanded Universe and Disney should have learned from Stackpole is how to use Luke Skywalker without having him be the main focus. We’ve seen Luke’s story and we don’t need to have him be the main focus anymore but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to see him at all. He can exist to help others in a supportive capacity without becoming the focus of the story.
I’m pretty sure I could just keep going and I’ve already written more than I intended to so perhaps this is something I’ll need to revisit later or I will add more in the comments. I, Jedi is a phenomenal book that I can’t say enough good things about. If there was one story from the Expanded Universe that I would like to see as a movie, it would definitely be this one and that isn’t only because I love Corran Horn as a character, but because of how effectively Michael Stackpole integrated movie characters into a completely separate story that embodies everything I want to see in my Star Wars stories.
Thanks to Wookieepedia for the images.
3 thoughts to “Everything Disney Needs to Know, it Can Learn from I, Jedi”
I agree that I, Jedi is awesome, but if there’s one thing I don’t want to see in the ST, it’s an abducted female character. I can appreciate how the damsel-in-distress archetype fit into ANH, but even then Lucas went well out of his way to give Leia as much agency in her own rescue as possible–and then doubled down by having her lead a rescue of Han in RotJ.
I think I’m going to have to write up something on how Zahn and Stackpole really like playing with their readers, to see if they’re paying attention!
To wit, I Jedi gets a lot of flack for how it does and doesn’t use Luke, but, to me, it depends greatly on a partial look at the book. Considered holistically, Luke is used well and is well-portrayed. Corran? Comes a cropper more than once, often due to his ego!
I, Jedi will always remain one of my favorite Star Wars novels of all time. The decision to write it from the first person perspective was truly inspired, and I applaud both the originator of the idea and its approver. One of the great strengths of the universe is the ability to explore almost any kind of story within it, and what better way to do that than to experiment with the very format the story itself is written in?
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