With all the hype(rspace) lately about Star Wars: Episode VII, the inner child in me who once ran around his apartment holding onto the built-in handle of his Millennium Falcon has had his lightsaber reignited, especially by the news a few weeks back that the original cast will be joining the ranks of the Rebellion once more.
At one point, I stumbled on this article from io9 about some of the best Star Wars Expanded Universe stories every told, and while there were some solid contenders like Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy of novels and Dark Horse Comics’ Dark Empire, but I was a bit surprised that none of the novels by Kevin J. Anderson made the list.
Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy was my re-introduction to the joy of Star Wars, which I sort of left behind during that one time I decided that maybe I should grow up. I picked up the first book because of the cover itself: a crash-landed Millennium Falcon and a female Imperial Admiral, all flanked by the familiar faces of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa. Were it not for that evocative cover shining forth in the small confines of Bergenfield Bookstore back in 1994, I’d never have picked up with Bantam paperback; clocking in at a staggering 368 pages with no pictures, it was decidedly more than my sixteen-year old attention span could ever handle.
But it was Star Wars, and this was the novel that launched me back into that galaxy far, far away, that reignited the lightsaber of my mind with a snap-hiss of a newfound excitement for the original (and only) trilogy.
I was able to get through Jedi Search, even though it took quite a while, as I’m a very slow reader, but I enjoyed every chapter. And once I was done, I went out and picked up the second book, Dark Apprentice, and devoured that, as well, and ended it all with the finale, Champions of the Force.
I supposed what I enjoyed most about this particular trilogy of books is the nostalgia factor, as so much of what’s in these books harkens back to the original trilogy. The opening scene pits Han Solo and Chewbacca crash-landing on the planet Kessel, where our one-time scoundrel “made the Kessel run in twelve parsecs.” The Jedi Academy is housed on the planet Yavin IV. Even Darksaber, Anderson’s follow-up novel to these three books, is loaded with references to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, from the “Banthas plodding single-file” on Tatooine to a rematch between Luke Skywalker and the wampa that lost its arm to his father’s lightsabre.
Earlier this month, I went to the weekly book sale at Grace Church in Jersey City, and lo and behold, I saw the entire Jedi Academy Trilogy on the shelves beside classic science-fiction stories, and the Star Wars fan inside of me couldn’t help but smile. I don’t have my copies any longer, because I sold them to a woman from Vancouver who wanted to surprise her son with some Star Wars criteria reading. I certainly place these four books right up there with X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, the Thrawn Trilogy, and the greatness that will ultimately be Star Wars: Episode VII, though little to none of the Expanded Universe will be the same.
But these books will be with me, always.
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What are some of your favorite Star Wars books, graphic novels, or other stories, and why?