Last month, Del Rey released advance preview chapters of its first four Star Wars novels to be released in the “new era” of Disney ownership of the Star Wars franchise. (You can get them as a free e-book on all the major platforms.)
Of course just as it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, one chapter isn’t enough to render a true verdict on any of these talented authors. But the relegation of decades of “Expanded Universe” Star Wars fiction to a non-canon “Legends” status still smarts, frankly, and I’m going to go there.
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
Release date: Sept. 2, 2014
This is the prequel to the new Star Wars Rebels animated TV series. At Comic-Con, it was revealed that there would be no flashbacks in Rebels, and that’s why we’d be getting books such as A New Dawn.
It was fun. I’m looking forward to reading the full novel. But I don’t think Lucasfilm should eschew flashbacks as a storytelling tool on-screen just to sell books. I don’t buy Star Wars books to “fill in the gaps,” I buy them to have fun adventures with characters I love. I haven’t even met the Rebels characters, officially (I’m sure they’re very nice people …) and presenting me with an origin story in a different medium, right off the bat, feels like a blatant money grab. Which it is.
Tarkin by James Luceno
Release date: November 2014
The Grand Moff is brilliant, and every sentence exists just to highlight this. And that’s very annoying. We know he was brilliant — until he underestimated the Alliance.
I’m willing to give this one a chance when it comes to me in full, but what I’m hoping to get out of this is a believable chain of events that builds up Tarkin’s hubris over time and sets him up for that fatal stumble.
I also want to see what goes into the making of a man who can give the order that destroys an entire planet just as a show of force — something I don’t think even Darth Vader would have done.
Verdict: Do, or do not
Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
Release date: Feb. 17, 2015
This is the first-person novel, from Luke Skywalker’s point of view. It made the least positive impression on me of the four previews. I didn’t like this taste of first-person Luke; he’s young and whiny again. I don’t like being inside his head, either. It feels like going backwards — that’s probably because it’s set after A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but the EU has spoiled me with a Luke who’s supremely in control of his destiny, and the upcoming Episode VII seems to be giving us a wizened mentor-Luke.
Worst of all? While we’re blatantly pre-judging, the title Heir to the Jedi feels like a cheap slap in the face now that the classic that started the whole EU as we knew it, Heir to the Empire, is no longer considered canonical. Heir to what Jedi? The Luke-trained ones who won’t exist in official lore anymore? Just an awkward, bad move.
Verdict: Do not
Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
Release date: April 21, 2015
Darth Vader is an unstoppable force. If you get on his radar, he will track you down quickly and kill you. We get it. We got it nearly 40 years ago. This sample just reads like torture porn.
I was disappointed the Emperor didn’t make an appearance in the preview, but of course you don’t necessarily always want to bring your star player out for an exhibition game.
Let’s face it, I’m going to get this one just for the “Sith Lords meet Lethal Weapon” vibe …