It was pure chance that put the best book in the Expanded Universe and the worst one next to each other in the Waru Express reading list. It was also a blessing because after rereading The Crystal Star? I don’t think I could’ve kept going on this project without Starfighters of Adumar being there to hug me and tell me that everything’s going to be okay. So with no further ado, let’s talk about the Best and the Worst that the Expanded Universe has to offer.
The Crystal Star
This book has the distinction of being so awful that I had managed to block everything about it from my memory (except the existence of Waru) until the other night. For those of you who joined me on my livestream, you got to witness my descent into madness. (I believe Brian noted that the Waru Express finally broke me around 9:16 EST.) There was drinking, there was cursing, there was defeated sobbing. There was also the world’s worst Han Solo impression and some singing and some off-color jokes. And then more cursing and more drinking and more pleas to be released from my agreement to read the book. But most importantly, there was Waru. He loves you.
Let’s start with the positives. Uhm. Uhhhhh. Well. We’re introduced to Lusa who goes on to be a fun character in the Young Jedi Knights books. Jaina is shown to be a very precocious five year old. It was also a nice lesson on the dangers of poorly used dialogue tags. And uhhh… That’s all I’ve got here. Although, I suppose that this book could be considered a gift from a higher power if you’re in the liquor business and that each of you who turned into the livestream thought it entertaining.
There really aren’t any words that can describe how bad this book is. Like the Matrix, you have to experience it for yourself. Luke Skywalker is, without a doubt, on spice throughout this entire book. Leia’s characterization leaves plenty to be desired. And then there’s Han. Poor Han Solo who seems to be the only self-aware character who gets exactly how ****ed up this book is. Perhaps he was some part of Vonda McIntyre’s subconscious manifesting on the page. I honestly do not understand the thought process behind who ever approved this book. What was that pitch like?
“So I think what the Star Wars universe really needs is a book where the Solo kids get kidnapped again by someone who’s trying make the Empire happen again by giving Force Sensitive kids to this giant gold blob thing as tribute. And the blob’s going to be called Waru and it can heal people but sometimes it kills them for sustenance. And Luke and Han and Leia are going to go INSIDE Waru. But it’s okay, they’ll win.”
I just don’t understand. The book is so awful from the plot to the characterization to the writing. Everything just went so wrong. I’d say that it’s like a train wreck where you can’t look away but I promise you all that I could’ve easily looked away except everyone on the live stream told me that I had to keep reading. It was just so painful.
Okay. Let’s be honest. There’s not much I else I can say about this book. I think I cried and cursed enough about it on Wednesday night. Waru is horrifying and he loves you.
Starfighters of Adumar
Nothing makes me happier than this book. It has been sticky-noted to death and signed by Aaron Allston and I reread it at least once every few months. The more I think about it, I think this might actually be my favorite book. Spoiler Alert: This portion is just going to be lots of gushing because this book is flawless but you should’ve guessed that by now.
Poor Wedge Antilles. All the man wanted to do was take some time off and reevaluate his life. Instead, he gets rope into some crazy diplomatic mission by General Cracken and gets to go to a world where pilots are revered (woo!) but everyone has a very strange view about how honor works and seems to think that killing each other for honor is a valid life choice. Then he finds out that the Empire also wants to bring Adumar under their control. And everyone seems to want to tell him exactly how he’s going to behave and complete this mission. Any guesses about how that goes for the other person?
Starfighters of Adumar basically has it all. If you’re looking for epic Jedi vs Sith battles, you’ll be disappointed but everything else is right here. It’s a witty character driven novel that’s still a battle between the New Republic and the Empire. There’s romance, there’s action, there’s introspection. The plot moves forward, the characters move forward. It’s perfection in a novel.
I will note that this trip on the Waru Express has made me realize that I owe much of my witty remarks to Mr. Allston (in addition to Joss Whedon). I don’t know how many times I’ve told someone that I’ve been composing a symphony and drafting a plan for world piece when they ask what I’ve been up to. That ties into another reason why I love this book: it is exactly my type of humor. Puns? Banter? I am so there.
This might be an odd thing to point out but I kind of love that the one conversation in this book that starts with “I feel fat”/”You’re not fat” is between two men (Hobbie and Janson) and not two women. Seriously though, New Republic: why would you include spandex as part of your dress uniform?
I think that aside from THE Wedge/Iella scene (my copy is heavily creased and naturally falls open to that scene) and the subsequent “Sithspit! What’s that?”, my favorite scenes happen when Janson and Hobbie both just get fed up and mad. For Janson, that scene comes when he gets into a blastsword duel to save Cheriss. He astutely explains to Wedge precisely why it makes more sense for him to take this fight, mocks his opponent by drawing with his blastsword, and then proceeds with the “Your orders are simple: I punch, you suffer.” part of the evening. And then, of course, there’s Hobbie and his “Because I’m sick of it. I’m sick to death of ‘Hello, I’m so-and-so and I’ve killed this many enemies, and I challenge you, and we bow and go by the rules and say cute things to one another, and isn’t it nice that we’re all dead now?’” speech. If you’ve run down the patience of someone who is best friends with Wes Janson then you must’ve done something very wrong. Both bits just help reinforce that there’s more to these characters then people usually assume.
I already mentioned that this is a very character driven novel and subsequently, I either love all of the characters or, in the case of Tomer Darpen, I love to hate them. This is the first book where we really get to see the Fab Four all together for an extended amount of time and what I wouldn’t give to have a dozen more books that focus on them. I even find myself quite fond of Admiral Rogriss who makes his return. Allston has a talent for making me enjoy reading about Imperials with well-honed wits.
What it comes down to is this: I think that this book is perfection is novel form and I could either continue to ramble about every last bit that I adore (spoiler alert: that’s every word) or you could go read or reread this book for yourself. I promise you, it’ll only bring happiness and joy into your life.
I think I’m still in recovery from The Crystal Star (along with my liver) even after the joys of Adumar but at least it’s only up from here, right? Woo,Woo! Everyone jump back aboard the Waru Express as we speed away from his ridiculousness and on to the Corellian Trilogy. As always, you can follow my reading progress in real time on Twitter @chaosbria or the hashtag #WaruExpress.