Are any of the Star Wars novels any good?

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was 2 years old (my oldest memory is going to see the first movie), and have recently discovered the Star Wars RPG (the d20 version from Wizards of the Coast). I absolutely love the game idea, and much of the game book material mentions the Expanded Universe, which I’ve come to understand is the novels. So my question here is, are any of these novels any good?

I’ve read the Phantom Menace novel, which was forgettable but not bad, and the first Star Wars movie novel, which was ok, but I’m wondering if that’s more a reflection of the respective quality of the movies they were written for than the writing itself. Either way, our DM lent me Heir to the Empire, which I just started reading and which seems good, but I’m wondering if the other novels compare. Any opinions from fellow Star Wars geeks out there? Are all the novels crap? Some good, some bad? I’m not necessarily talking about HG Wells calibre or Tolkien calibre in terms of writing, but I’m looking for something that is not in the bland-and-pointless to execrably-awful range that the Forgotten Realms novels have become (which I used to read but gave up on after the silly and utterly ridiculous Return of the Archwizards trilogy made me roll my eyes all the way around).

I read Heir to the Empire and the two books that followed. I liked them, but wasn’t exactly inspired to go out and get any more.

I decided a couple of years ago that I was being a book snob by spurning the Star Wars books without having read any, so I poked around here to find out what were commonly considered to be the best ones out there. I went out, picked them up, and read them. I found them barely readable. Not the worst books I’ve ever read, but far far far from the best.

YMM, of course, V

No, they’re not any good, for the most part. I kinda liked the Timothy Zahn ones, although I would not call them quality by any measure. Some of them rank among the worst books I’ve ever read.

They’re still better than the recent movies, though, so if you liked those, our tastes are clearly sufficiently different that you might want to go ahead and give the books a shot.

I enjoyed Shadows of the Empire. Other than that, the only advice I can offer is to wholeheartedly recommend that you avoid anything written by Kevin J. Anderson, up to and including the much-vaunted Jedi Academy series (let alone the insipid “Darksaber”). KJA seems firmly convinced that Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi Masters, successor to Yoda, has trouble using The Force well enough to, say, hop across some rocks or knock a guy over. Meanwhile, Jedi trainees can, if they work in conjunction, huck a Super Star Destroyer across a solar system. The stories of the novels are sufficiently competently crafted, but the inconsistencies in the characters and in the universe itself have completely destroyed my enjoyment of every novel of his that I’ve ever read.

Some are downright stupid (the aforementioned Kevin J. Anderson books). The others are silly fun, full of stupid action for the sake of stupid action, like the X-wing series. I can dig those, even though I know they’re SO RIDICULOUS (why are fighter pilots doubling as spec-ops?). But really, the entire Star Wars series is completely ridiculous, so why not continue the myth?

Ones that I think are good, and the reasons why:

-The Zahn trilogy: Excellent characters, great story twists. Not much else to say, although many later writers basically tried to rip on Zahn’s structure (new, mysterious, unheard-of Imperial dude shows up with some new superweapon or another, Yet-Another-Crazed Jedi dude…)

-The Black Fleet Crisis: Great political intrigue, and great battle scenes. There are two subplots, one for Lando and one for Luke… Lando’s is pretty good if you can dig a sort of hackneyed mystery, but Luke’s horrible subplot exists solely to keep him away from the main plot (because if he was involved in the main plot, it would have been resolved very easily). Actually introduces NEW SHIPS in the galaxy, instead of the rehashed and tired Mon Cal cruisers and X-wings.

-The Corellian Trilogy: Finally, something that DOESN’T involve a resurrected Empire. Han & Leia’s kids are pretty (okay, REALLY) annoying, but the usages of technology are pretty interesting, and there’s a great, grand story arch to the whole thing. It’s nice to see the Great Good Guys separated from their fleets for a change, and in a pretty believable manner, too.

-The aforementioned X-wing series: Totally ridiculous over-the-top James Bond-esque characters, all of whom is supposedly an ace fighter pilot, a tip-top ground soldier, and a master of espionage, doing completely unrealistic things with stupefyingly grand success… and one of the main characters, Corran Horn, is just a Mary Sue, essentially. However, it has some really funny dialogue, and it DOESN’T star Luke, Han, or Leia, so it’s a nice change of pace. If you stupid action movies like Commando, you’ll probably enjoy these.

That last sentence should be “if you like stupid action movies…” Sorry.

In case you missed it the last two times it was mentioned, do not, repeat, do not read any of the Kevin J. Anderson novels. They are bad. Really, really bad.

I had this weird relationship with Kevin J. for about a year, when I was reading a lot of Star Wars novels. I read one, I think it was Darksaber, found it so awful that I vowed never to read another one of that author’s books, forgot the name of the author, next trip to the library ended up checking out another one of Anderson’s pieces of drek, vowed never to read another one of his, forgot the name of the author… I think this went on until I had pretty well read all of the Star Wars novels Kevin J. Anderson had written up until that point. I think the books were so bad that I just developed a mental block about the name of the yutz that had written them.

Aside from that, I would have to say that the SW novels range from OK to pretty good. No great works of literature, but they are, for the most part, entertaining reading, especially the first Timothy Zahn trilogy.

Considering that the novels widely regarded as the very finest of the “Expanded Universe” feature an evil clone of Luke Skywalker grown from the hand that Darth Vader dropped off on Bespin, Force-immune arboreal salamanders and the introduction of Mara Jade (who may not be a traditional Mary Sue, but comes close enough to drive me nuts), I would say probably not.

They’re easy, quick reading, and a couple of them are more entertaining than sitting and staring into space, but none of them are any good. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire books are okay as long as you don’t have any kind of real attachment to the Star Wars thing and aren’t upset by the idea of clones of major characters and animals that can repel the Force. (If, for instance, the concept of Midichlorians doesn’t make you sigh and shake your head.) And the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron ones are fine for what they are, disposable action novels.

Whatever you do, don’t read Shadows of the Empire, unless you like bad things and enjoy being sad and angry.

As a fan of disposable action novels and ridiculously over the top James Bond-esque characters, I may be willing to give the X-Wing books a shot.

I’m not thrilled by the idea of yet another obnoxious Mary Sue character though. What is the rest of the cast like? Are any of the main characters from the movies prominently involved?

I like them, but then, I’m pretty easy to please. My favorites are the X-Wing novels, especially the ones written by Aaron Allston. Yub Yub Commander!!!

The Timothy Zahn books are another good bet, and Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover is excellent.

What do you guys mean by “Mary Sue”?

“Mary Sue” is a term used predominately in fanfic. In most cases, the character is female and is basically an idealized version of the author (most fanfic is written by girls or young women).

Mary Sues are invariably beautiful, of near-genius level intelligence, musically gifted, liked by all of the other characters, is usually written to be the love interest of whatever male character the author has a crush on, and good at, well, just about everything.

Wesley Crusher, BTW, is a textbook Mary Sue (yes, there are male versions, often referred to as Gary Stus)

I’ve only read one (and I seem to recall Kevin Anderson’s name so maybe he had a hand in this one). Anyway, it was written by a host of sci-fi writers, so maybe he was the editor or something. It’s named Tales From Mos Eisley. I liked it. Especially how all the stories were intertwined to show a lot of different subplots all taking place at the same time.
After a quick search I found it. It was edited by Andersen, but mostly written by others. I’m surprised it’s the only one I’ve read though, considering I’ve been a fan of the series for over 25 years.


Timothy Zahn’s trilogy was ok. I really liked Thrawn.
Kevin Anderson’s books must be utter dreck if the 1/3 of the book I had started is any indicator.

I actually stopped reading about a third of the way through and, right in front of the roommate who had reccomended it to me, dropped the book to the floor and “crushed it out” like a cigarette. ugh…

I likes Zahn’s trilogy. One reason was that it seemed most like the original trilogy.

The Corellian Trilogy was fun too.

Anderson’s a hack and a half. He turns everything he touches to shit. He’s half of the writing team responsible for the horrible, blasphemous, I’ll-never-give-them-my-money Dune prequels, too. The other half is Herbert’s kid. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, indeed…

In my perfect bookstore there isn’t just a big ol’ Science Fiction and Fantasy section. There’s a Science Fiction section. There’s a Fantasy section. Then there’s the “Science Fiction and Fantasy Tie-In Genre Novel” section. But that’s neither here nor there.

My older brothers apparently bought a few of these, and I found them not too long ago. Han Solo and the Lost Legacy and Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu are the only ones I could identify from this page… but some of the others look familiar. I find the claim that Lost Legacy was never released in hardcover very interesting, since it means the copy I have might be worth something.

I’d say that they’re novels by authors that can’t be bothered to create their own worlds… and all the quality that implies. It’s random spurts of entertaining stage business with all the trudgingly written dull bits that have to be there to tie together an essentially unrelated assortment of interesting ideas. Something to read at a airport… that kind of thing.

Granted I’m basing my opinion on something written in the early 1980s at the latest, so the situation has probably changed since then. Not necessarily for the better.

I’ve read quite a few of them and (cough) actually liked most of them. Quickie reviews:

Heir to the Empire Trilogy (Timothy Zahn): probably the closest thing we’ll get to a “real” third trilogy. 4.5 ewoks out of five.

Hand of Thrawn Duology (Timothy Zahn): sometimes contrived, sometimes surprising, and Luke gets hitched. 4 ewoks.

X-Wing Series (Michael Stackpole): some good action and spy stuff, but really awful characters and dialogue. 3 ewoks.

X-Wing Series (Aaron Allston): Allston continued Stackpole’s series but made it way, way funnier (intentionally) and introduced more endearing characters. 4 ewoks.

The Courtship of Princess Leia (Dave Wolverton): a mess. Terribly written and just, uh, a mess. 1.5 ewoks.

I, Jedi (Michael Stackpole): horrible title and stars Corran Horn, one of the most annoying fellows ever. 2 ewoks.

The Crystal Star (Vonda McIntyre): imagine some really bad generic science fiction, except worse. 1 ewok.

Jedi Academy Trilogy (Kevin J. Anderson): sure, it’s silly, but I kind of, you know, sorta liked it a little bit. 2.5 ewoks.

The Corellian Trilogy (Roger McBride Allen): I think I liked these books, but it’s been a while. 3 ewoks.

Children of the Jedi and Planet of Twilight (Barbara Hambly): waaaay too much weirdness for me. Not Star Warsy at all. 1.5 ewoks.

Shadows of the Empire (Steve Perry): the N64 game was better. 2 ewoks.

The Truce at Bakura (Kathy Tyers): nothing extraordinary, but not bad either. 3 ewoks.

The New Rebellion (Kristine Kathryn Rusch): more generic “ehh” sci-fi. 2 ewoks.

The Bounty Hunter Wars (K.W. Jeter): the story of Boba Fett, told moderately competently. 2.5 ewoks.

The Han Solo Adventures (Brian Daley): some of the oldest Star Wars extra-film material. 2 ewoks.

The Han Solo Trilogy (A.C. Crispin): more Han Solo! Yay? 2 ewoks.

The New Jedi Order (various): a long series of books (chronologically the latest in the Star Wars universe, I believe) written by many different authors. Decent but textbook stuff, most of it - the problem is that you have to read through all of the books to follow the story. Don’t like R.A. Salvatore? Too bad! Gotta read his book before Aaron Allston’s. 7 Kowokian lizard-monkeys.
Okay, in my defense, I only actually own four or five of the books. I’m really not that much of a Star Wars geek, despite the evidence provided here.