The Waru Express: In Conclusion

Well friends, at last we have come to the end of our journey and what a long strange trip it’s been.  A weird thing happened this morning.  I woke up and for the first time in a very long time, there wasn’t a Star Wars book on my nightstand waiting for me.  I love the Expanded Universe but I am so incredibly relieved.  Over the past seven months, I’ve read 130 different books.  If my math is correct, that averages out to about a book and a half a day.  That’s a lot of Star Wars.  Guess how happy I am to be done.  Just guess.

So what have I learned from this experience?  First, that if your editor ever challenges you to do a project like this?  Run very far away.  There is not enough alcohol in the galaxy.  Second, you commenters and readers seem to respond more when I snark closely followed by when I gush.  More importantly though, I learned and confirmed for myself that there are far more good books than there are horrifically bad ones.  My sanity was hanging on by a thread and my liver was desperate for a reprieve at some points but I sincerely enjoyed reading so many of these books, even some of the cracktastic ones like Courtship of Princess Leia.

I’ve also learned that no matter how much everyone tries to peer pressure you, livestreaming yourself reading The Crystal Star with a six-pack of hard cider at the ready only leads to bad things.  We will never again discuss my Han Solo voice.

I’ve reaffirmed for myself that Aaron Allston and Matthew Stover are my favorite Star Wars authors followed closely by Mike Stackpole and Timothy Zahn and I’ve gained an appreciation for James Luceno that I didn’t realize that I had before.  I will also be sitting here impatiently awaiting the day that we get more X-Wing novels from both Allston and Stackpole, the story about how Mara and Mirax got arrested, a political Padme novel from Luceno, a short story about Mace Windu and Nick Rostu set after Shatterpoint, the We, Jedi book about the Horn siblings, some sort of closure about the Skiarta clan, and a new Revan book.  Yeah, I know.  Those last two are never going to happen.  No but really, Del Rey: More X-Wing novels.  Pleeeeeeeease?

Honestly though, I just want to reiterate that there are a ton of good and enjoyable books out there.  The next time you’re wondering what to read, branch out and try a book out of your Star Wars comfort zone.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.  I might’ve snarked a lot along the way but I love Star Wars and I can honestly say that there are probably only a dozen or so books that I have an active dislike for and that’s a pretty good ratio!

As promised, I’m going to answer some of the questions that you asked me on Twitter!

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EU Retrospective: Fate of the Jedi Part 2

Well.  It’s done.  I’ve finished reading these books and I’m ridiculously relieved to be through with Fate of the Jedi.  To be completely honest, even though there are a lot of things in Legacy of the Force that upset me, I’d rather read a series like that than this one.  I hated the character derailment that some of them were subjected to but I prefer that series as a whole to reading about anything with Abeloth ever again.  No more tentacles please.  There were a lot more high points in that series than this one.  To top it off, I just never felt as invested in these books.  There was both too much and too little going on.  I know that sounds impossible but I don’t know how else to describe it.   Basically, the majority of the series made me do this:

At least there was Mercy Kill waiting for me at the end.  Observe my Wraith Squadron related tears of joy.

Warning: There are some NSFW words on some of these gifs

My sentiment about having to read this book again can be summed up in one word: Ugh.

This book is bad.  It’s not Jedi bug sex bad because I didn’t cringe and resort to drinking but it is bad.  I literally just finished it and tossed it down and said “Stupid.  So stupid.”  Was half the galaxy replaced by Skrulls?  Honestly, I’m running out of reasons for why so many people acted the way they did.  Everyone makes bad decisions that in turn make me want to bash my head against a wall.  I can’t even rage like I usually do.  It’s just all so gosh darn frustrating.  We’ll go down the list.

First and foremost is everything involving Kenth Hamner.  I have yet to understand why “The Villainization of Kenth Hamner” had to occur and I think it’s ridiculous.  While I don’t think that he (or anyone in the order really) is looking at the situation from an entirely rational point of view, I also don’t think that anything that happened with his storyline was logical.  I especially disagree with how he dies.

That brings me to point two which is Saba.  I liked Saba when she was originally introduced.  I really did.  I feel like I’m not dealing with entirely the same character anymore.  It’s nice that she doesn’t take any pleasure in killing Kenth but it doesn’t change that she did and the last time I checked?  You don’t reward someone for that by making her the new Grand Master.  Seriously, Cilghal and Corran?  Seriously?  Kyp Durron or Kyle Katarn would’ve been better choices.  I’ll agree about wanting someone who’s more of a warrior in charge but I certainly don’t think that staging a kriffing COUP is going to help things.  There’s general distrust of the Jedi Order because they’re too powerful and act only as they see fit.  Clearly the best way to counter this is to remove the Chief of State from office.  EXCEPT NO.  NO IT IS NOT.

On the other side of the galaxy, we’ve got Skrull!Luke Skywalker.  Everything about this Luke feels wrong.  I don’t know what else to say except that this isn’t the Luke Skywalker we know from the films and previous books.  I’d also really like to know when his storyline went from ‘Retrace Jacen Solo’s Force Odyssey’ to ‘Retrace Luke Skywalker’s Love Life’.  Oh and hey!  We can throw in some Sith while we’re at it.  😐

Fourth, I still don’t get Abeloth.  If I could never read again about her tentacles and giant mouth that eats people or whatever, I’d be happy.  She is ridiculous.  Everything about this storyline is ridiculous and I want it to end.  I’m so done with all of this.

This next one doesn’t anger me as much as it annoys me.  I honestly don’t get the point of including this slave uprising storyline.  I know it gets used more later and does tie into the overarching story but it feels overall like wasted page space to me.  Sorry.

Finally, who thought this Barabel nest thing was a good idea especially when it comes to ending a book?  No, don’t answer that.  It was rhetorical.  On a scale from 1-10, this ranks an 8 on the Unnecessary Scale.

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EU Retrospective: Fate of the Jedi Part 1

Well.  Here we are.  Reading Fate of the Jedi again.  I had actually just gotten around to reading the series in its entirety the month before I started this project and I can’t really say that I was looking forward to reading it again so soon especially given how long I delayed reading it in the first place.  This series was first published in March 2009.  By then, I was a poor college student and the prospect of reading and buying series published entirely in hardcover was not very appealing to me especially after Invincible.  At some point, I picked up the first book because it was Allston, liked it well enough, but wasn’t overly inclined to run out and read all the others.  In the summer of 2011, I finally convinced myself to read the first four books… and then got side tracked by a New Jedi Order reread and didn’t return to them until fall 2012.  Basically, this is a very long winded way for me to say that this series never really managed to grab my attention and draw me in like some of the others.  Unfortunately.

I blame Abeloth.

Well, they Allston-ed me again.  It’s nice to see that the previous galactic war had consequences and that they are carrying over here.  However, I still cannot figure out why the heck anyone would put Daala in charge.  It makes zero sense to me.

The good news is that this book has a lot of my favorite Allston moves.  We get a pilot reunion over on Kessel and thankfully, Wedge seems to still be retired.  We also get the Darkmeld group which I positively LOVE and not just because Winter finally get to reappear.  It’s a rather excellent mix of people.  I also loved that we get Jag referencing his relationship to Wedge because that’s brought into play far too infrequently.  The relationship between Jaina and Jag is also very well written and it’s nice to see them together and functional again.  Also, every time Jag corrects someone about it being the ‘Galactic Empire’ instead of ‘Imperial Remnant’, I crack up.

In typical Allston fashion, the Horn siblings (and family) finally get to take center stage only for their lives to end up seriously sucking.  Valin Horn, stop being crazy.

The other high point of this book has to be the father/son relationship between Ben and Luke.  I love getting to see Ben’s ridiculous sense of humor (Grand Master Whango Mittpool!) and how well they work together.  The whole plot line of retracing Jacen’s steps and trying to figure out what happened is actually rather intriguing although I think his problem was named Lumiya.  Regardless, it will be neat to see these other Force using orders.  But really, it’s just great watching these two play off one another especially with their different strengths and weaknesses.

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EU Retrospective: The Calm Between The Sith Storms

This was a much nicer trio of books to read between long series than my previous “palette cleanser.”  SO MUCH NICER.  All three are actually books that I haven’t had the chance to read yet and neither had I heard much about them so this was one giant blank slate for me.  The verdict?  Well, you’ll just have to read the post for that!

I had no idea what to expect from this book and yet I’m fairly sure that this wasn’t it.  I’m not saying that in a bad way.  I’m just saying it in a way where I tilt my head to the side and go “huh”.

For the most part, it’s an enjoyable book.  It took me a good 100 pages or so to really get into it though.  The start felt a bit slow but also jumbled with the introduction of a lot of new characters.  It took me a little while to keep everyone straight.  I’m also not sure how I feel about the time travel.  I liked the character of Jaden Korr though as well as Marr and Khedryn.  On the other hand, I’m really not sure what an Anzat looks like exactly but I don’t think I want to because they sound weird and a bit disgusting.

The clone thing was… different.  Although actually, I guess it doesn’t really surprise me that they would’ve tried to clone Jedi but I’m not entirely sure I buy mixing Jedi and Sith DNA.  It makes the choice between following the light or the dark like much less of a choice.  On the other hand, I absolutely buy that they’d be a bit crazy.  That part makes plenty of sense.

My biggest problem with the book is the lack of female characters.  Where were they?  I know it was a small cast but that doesn’t mean that every single one of them had to be male.

Mostly, I’m really just still head tilting at this book.  I’m wondering if a second read through might help but no time for that right now.  It is a good read though and it’s certainly a nice break from watching all of my favorite characters take stupid pills.

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EU Retrospective: Legacy of the Force Part 2

We’re so close to the end of this project and also so close to me dying of high blood pressure.  I’ve said before that I didn’t hate this series completely the first time I read it and that still remains true now.  However, there is a definite turning point where my enjoyment of the books shoots waaaaay down and that turning point was the ending of Sacrifice.  I’m also realizing that reading all these books so close together isn’t doing me or the series any favors.  When there are months between publications dates or you’re just casually reading the books, you have time to cool down between each book.  When you’re reading them for a blog, you don’t get that breathing space so I apologize, I really do, for the fury displayed in this post.

Ironically enough, much of that fury isn’t directed at Fury.

I’m trying really really really hard right now to take some deep breaths after finishing this book.  It’s possible that this book upsets me even more than Sacrifice did because I’m honestly scraping the bottom of the barrel here for any positives about this book.  I guess that I can’t really hate on the writing style?  It didn’t offend me or anything.  Oh!  I did like the brief scene with Han, Leia, and Tenel Ka towards the end.  It’s a nice moment and I love that the Solos see Tenel Ka like part of the family.

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EU Retrospective: Legacy of the Force Part 1

I’m not going to lie: I’ve been dreading reaching these books in my reread not because I dislike them as a whole but because of how controversial they are.  Actually, I don’t hate everything about these books, just certain parts.  In the mean time, observe as I use humor as a red cape to distract all of you for yelling at me for being wrong!  Can you tell I’m nervous?  I think I’m doing that thing where I write too much.  Maybe we should just start with the actual post.

Kids, in spring of 2006, I was ready to give up on the current timeline of Star Wars books.  The Dark Nest trilogy had left me mentally scarred and the Prequel Trilogy books just seemed so much nicer and safer even though I knew everyone was going to die.  And then Del Rey did something very smart: they Allston-ed me. What is ‘Allston-ed’, you ask?

Allston-ed (verb)  1 The act of bringing in Aaron Allston to write more books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe therefore enticing readers who might have otherwise quit to come back and continue reading.
2  Experiencing a heart-breaking character death that makes you want to sob uncontrollably and from which you shall never recover.

To top it off, we were told that the planet Adumar would be making an appearance and that Wedge would be in the book.  You have no idea how disappointed I was that the Adumarians hadn’t put up a statue of Wedge somewhere and written a charming song called ‘Hero of Adumar’ to go with it.  SO DISAPPOINTED.   (Wedge!  The Man They Call Wedge!)

Speaking of Wedge, why can no one just let him retire?  Or maybe you should just not kidnap him and hold him prisoner.  I’m told that’s a sure way to convince him to fight against you simply because he’s pissed.  On the other hand, I find it hilarious when Wedge takes advantage of his pilots’ reflexes and military instincts and yells things like “Rogue Two! Break to port!” at them and makes them look ridiculous.  So much about this book reminds me why he and Tycho Celchu are some of my favorite characters especially when you put the two of them together.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  There was many a time where I was downright grinning like an idiot as I read through it.  It was like I was reading this book for the first time again.  I will never be over the Donoslane and Kolot references or Shalla’s brief unnamed cameo.  To top it off, we get to see both Doran Tainer and Syal Antilles as characters in this book.  Characters who do things and get page time.  I have such a strong love for all of the Wraith and Rogue kids that this made me happy beyond belief.

Oh wait.  These books are supposed to be about the Skywalkers and Solos, aren’t they?  I think that Allston writes a really good Jaina and I love getting to see her as a pilot again.  Wedge and Tycho are right: she is indeed a traitor for not sticking with the piloting thing.  It’s such a shame since she’s so good at it.  As far as Han and Leia go, I just roll my eyes and shake my head at them.  I think they’re actually making the GFFA/Corellia situation worse by meddling.  Allston also writes a really great Ben.  That kid’s sense of humor cracks me up every time especially with his Lando impression.

I’m not a huge fan of Jacen Solo taking stupid pills at the end of the book though nor am I fan of Nelani dying.  She had potential to be a really great character but alas.  Damnit Jacen.  Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to listen to Shire Brie?  This will end in so many tears.  Many of them will be mine.

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EU Retrospective: Dark Nest

I thought that the book I was most dreading was The Crystal Star.  I was wrong.  It was actually the Dark Nest Trilogy.  At least Waru is so awful and ridiculous that you can laugh at it once you finish that one book and get over the trauma.  On the other hand, I had to deal with the Jedi Bug Sex for three books.  THREE.  I’d like to thank everyone who sympathized with my reading plight on Twitter.  These are some of the only Star Wars books that I haven’t read more than once.  I’m now recalling exactly why and exactly how bad they were that my 15-year-old self made that excellent call.  I’m also going to apologize right now for what will be by far the most negative post I will make for this project.  There was no livestream for these books (because I learned my lesson with Waru) but instead, you do get a lot of ridiculous facial expressions.  Enjoy?

The Joiner King
“Bugs!” Han groaned and shook his head. “Why did it have to be bugs?”
That basically sums up my feelings about this entire trilogy.  I got all of 103 pages into the book and was already cringing and wanting to run away.

I made it another 119 pages before I had to pour myself a very tall and very stiff drink.  Thank goodness for good tequila otherwise this experience could’ve gone very poorly.

These books are bad, guys.  They are really really bad.  As usual, Han seems to be the only one who gets what’s going on and just wants to get the heck out of there.  I wouldn’t even mind much of the book if the characterization train hadn’t gone so far off the rails that it was in a ravine.  The idea of the Myrkr missions still affecting them this severely so they can’t make connections with others is just ridiculous.  Jaina thinking about how that mind meld is what made her drift away from Jag is ridiculous and a disservice to her character.  When she and Jag parted way at the end of The Unifying Force, it was because she wanted to live her life a bit more before settling down not because they couldn’t connect properly or whatever stupid reason the book claimed.

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EU Retrospective: The New Jedi Order Part 4

At long last, we’ve reached the end of our journey through the New Jedi Order and the Vong War.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as I reread these 19 books and at the end of the day, I must admit that I really do enjoy this series.  Sure, it’s really long and sure, there are definitely some low points but there are also a lot of high points and overall?  I just really like the story that it tells.  A lot of people have used the Battlestar Galactica comparison in regards to this series and it’s often used in a negative way.  I agree with that comparison but for me, it’s a positive.  I like a story that’s willing to take characters to dark places and put them through hell.  I like getting to sit back and watch and see who emerges stronger than before and who never does.  I like a story that has lasting consequences for the universe but we’ll get to more of that later.  So while it has its flaws, I think the story works and I like the series a fair bit.

On a note not related to the New Jedi Order specifically, I just wanted to mention that despite all of my snark and bemoaning about my loss of sanity, I really do love the Expanded Universe.  Some bits of it might drive me up the wall or make me want to bash my head against a table but as a whole, I adore it.  There are probably only a handful of things about it that I truly dislike and I wouldn’t be working my way through this challenge if I didn’t love it.

With that lengthy introduction out of the way, let’s cover the last five books of the series!

Force Heretic I: Remnant
I have a few problems with these books in general and I’m going to start with some of them here.  The biggest one is that this did not need to be a trilogy and that I would’ve enjoyed the books much more had their plots been condensed into two books instead.  The other problem I have is that this feels like a travel through the Bantam Era’s “greatest” hits.  Sean Williams and Shane Dix take us back to the Yevetha and the Fia in this book and then Bakura in the next.  By the end of this book, I’m really not sure what exactly Han and Leia’s mission is supposed to be.  I was also rolling my eyes at this secret Ryn spy network.

Also, I thought Jag’s second in command was Shawnkyr?  I’m confused as to why Williams and Dix introduce another character named Eprill to fill the same role.

On the other hand, any time we get to see Gilad Pellaeon being awesome is a good one.  The speeches where he yells “EMPTY” at the Vong commander and then says how the Empire will always strike back and also the one where he essentially bullies the entire Moff Council into doing what he wants are great Pellaeon moments.  It reminds me why I love his character so much.  It does feel off though when numerous characters refer to him by his first name especially when they’re subordinate officers but Pellaeon is awesome enough to make up for it.

The book itself is an okay read.  It’s just not one of the high points of the series.

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EU Retrospective: The New Jedi Order Part 3

The Yuuzhan Vong just keep on coming.  Really, they must have an endless supply or something.  The good news is that things are starting to get slightly better for the New Republic.  The really good news is that I got to read more Allston and Stover books!  (I have my priorities straight.  Honestly.)  The really really REALLY good news is that I have not only passed the halfway mark in the New Jedi Order but that I have now read more than 100 books on this crazy little venture of mine.  Huzzah!  With all of that said, onward!

Dark Journey

I really like this book. I honestly do and it’s not just because we get to go back to Hapes. For starters, this is clearly a Jaina Solo book and I love when we get to see her take a leading role.  Even though she goes to some less than ideal mental states in the book, she emerges that much stronger.

The title gives away that Jaina has a brush with the dark side and I honestly don’t blame her.  She thinks that both of her brothers are dead and the war’s taken its most drastic downward turn yet. I’d be pretty ready to dabble in the dark side too at this point.  I like how Elaine Cunningham uses Kyp Durron in the book first as someone who’s willing to help her use whatever means necessary to strike back at the Vong and then as someone who helps pull her back from that edge.

Although it is Jaina’s book, Tenel Ka gets to go through some neat character development too.  Taking up her mother’s crown is easily one of the two most significant events we’ve gotten to witness this far.  Even though she is the heir, it’s not exactly the role that I ever thought she’d fill.  I just wish that we’d gotten a chance to watch her learn how to deal with being the Queen Mother in those first few years.

I’m also a huge fan of Jag Fel finally returning to the picture (along with the Baron Fel cameo) but more on that in the next two books.

What I especially love is how Cunningham introduces the Trickster plan.  It’s a clever idea from Jaina and there’s something rather delightful about her raising an eyebrow at the Vong and going “Yeah, I’m basically Yun-Harla.  What are you going to do about it?”

On top of that, this book is incredibly quotable.  From “Is every third human in this galaxy named Solo?” to “In his opinion, there were far too many dark haired, green eyed men in Jaina Solo’s orbit.”, I’m consistently amused.

The one problem I have with the book is the pacing.  It’s not that it’s terribly done but she doesn’t even arrive at Hapes until over a third of the way through. Of course, that can partially be blamed on how Star by Star ended because this book basically had to pick up immediately afterwards.  Actually, the other problem I have with the book is that poor Teneniel Djo gets used as a plot device and is a far cry from the strong willed woman we met back on Dathomir.

Aside from that though?  I love the book and I’ll just link this classic gif to illustrate my response to those who give me a hard time about it.

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EU Retrospective: The New Jedi Order Part 2

Things might be going really downhill for the galaxy but boy are they going uphill for me as a reader!  I actually find the middle chunk of New Jedi Order books to be incredibly solid reads and rather enjoy all of them despite the emotions they might provoke from me.

Balance Point:
It’s a marvel I stuck with the New Jedi Order because Balance Point is the third book in a row that just doesn’t impress me. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, it’s just meh and I find it to be boring.

Again, the bits with Mara and Anakin working together are definitely a highlight. Actually, everything with Mara in this book is a high point. And that’s about it.

The entire point of the book seems to be an excuse for the Solo family to continue to have its issues and to resolve most of them by the end. The other point seems to be for Jacen Solo to continue to have his philosophical issues with using the Force and I still don’t buy any of that reasoning. By this point, the war’s been going on for a year and the Vong are clearly an issue. I don’t believe for a minute that Jacen Solo would sit back and not give his all to defend the galaxy. It just doesn’t fit with this character. With Tsavong Lah declaring that he wants all the Jedi dead and singling out Jacen, this feels like it was almost tacked on editorial meddling when they realized that he wouldn’t be the Solo kid dying.

I’m sure there are other people out there who liked this book but not I.  I’m going to stick with my resounding ‘meh’ for my review.

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