Okay, you’ve finished The Mandalorian and started the final season of the animated series The Clone Wars last Friday (And one episode at a time? Come on, Disney+!). With no new movies on the horizon, where will you get your Star Wars fix?
Don’t worry, there are still plenty of stories from a galaxy far, far away to tide you over. Star Wars adventures outside of Lucas’ tales of Luke, Han, Leia, and Vader have been around since shortly after A New Hope.
And those novels and comics have gone to some strange corners of known space, exploring the blossoming romance between Luke and Leia (in the first Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye), and introducing a bizarre menagerie of characters, including a sapient rabbit smuggler, transvestite Hutts, and even a Jedi droid named Skippy. All were dutifully added into the Star Wars canon as part of the so-called “Expanded Universe.”
(This isn’t even counting the infamous Holiday Special, with Chewbacca’s family, including his dad Itchy and son Lumpy.)
But not all of the Expanded Universe was surreal, or tragic. Once the original trilogy finished, the Expanded Universe mushroomed in print and also through video games, with beloved characters like the Imperial military genius Thrawn and the Imperial smuggler turned Mrs. Skywalker, Mara Jade, in classic novels like Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire.
Readers learned what happened after the Battle of Endor, the history of the Sith, and the rise of the Empire. They witnessed Luke rebuild the Jedi Academy, teaching Han and Leia’s children the ways of the Force. And they angrily said goodbye to Chewbacca in R.A. Salvatore’s Vector Prime.
Unfortunately, as the movies started up again, these diverse and beloved stories did not fit into the official Star Wars timeline anymore. And in 2014, to much fan protest, they were designated non-canon as the “Star Wars Legends,” with a new series of novels interwoven into the canon taking their place.
So whether you want to read about the now legendary young Ben Skywalker, or find out about Bazine, the mysterious fetish-goth spy in The Force Awakens, there are plenty of options. Here is a look at the best of both the Legends and the new canon.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
By Alan Dean Foster
The first Star Wars novel gives us a hint of what might have been, had the movie not been a hit. This hastily written sequel was originally conceived as a low-budget backup plan in case A New Hope flopped. It features Luke and Leia on a mission to recover a powerful crystal that helps control the Force. Of course, Vader and the Empire have other ideas.
Han Solo at Star’s End
By Brian Daley
The second Star Wars novel kicks off a trilogy of adventures featuring Han and Chewie, chronicling their exploits before getting caught up in Imperial entanglements as they try to — what else? — repay a debt. Instead, they get sucked into an adventure to save a missing mechanic and a pair of rogue droids.
By Michael Stackpole
The Valley’s own Stackpole kicked off his acclaimed “X-Wing” series with this 1996 novel. The novel follows ace pilot Wedge Antilles as he assembles an elite group of pilots to tackle the suicidal missions no one else can handle.
Heir to the Empire
By Timothy Zahn
The masterpiece of the Expanded Universe, Heir to the Empire kicks off the "Thrawn" trilogy and introduces two of fandom’s favorite characters: the military genius Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Imperial smuggler and assassin Mara Jade. The loss of those two characters was one of the biggest drivers behind the backlash against the new continuity, although Thrawn has since returned and Zahn hinted that another of his creations will as well.
By Kevin J. Anderson
The first novel in the "Jedi Academy" series, Jedi Search follows Luke Skywalker as he attempts to rebuild the Jedi Temple and establish a new generation of Jedi Knights. He must put his plans aside, however, when Han and Chewie are taken prisoner to spend the rest of their lives in the spice mines of Kessel.
The New Canon
By James Luceno
One of the first entries into the new continuity was this biography of the ruthless Imperial leader Grand Moff Tarkin. Once a promising and loyal Republic governor, Tarkin fell under the spell of Palpatine and soon became a feared leader in the Empire. The novel follows his fall and rise to supervising the building of the Death Star.
By Chuck Wendig
Wendig asked to write a Star Wars novel on Twitter, and a year later he was writing the trilogy that bridged the events in Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The series introduced new characters who would appear in the film (Snap Wexley) and revealed the tragic fate of a reviled character from the prequels.
By Timothy Zahn
He didn’t stay relegated to "Legends" for long. The blue-skinned Grand Admiral made his official canon entry in the third season of Star Wars: Rebels. Zahn’s latest novel tells the master tactician’s origin and rise through the ranks of the Imperial Navy. A sequel, Thrawn: Alliances, came out in 2018.
By Delilah S. Dawson
Before The Force Awakens hit screens, fans couldn’t wait to see the imposing, chrome trooper in action. Sadly, she had about as much action as Boba Fett in the film before being tossed in a trash compactor. Dawson makes up for Phasma’s ignoble treatment in this origin novel, which hit the bestseller list earlier this year. It even won the seal of approval from Phasma actress Gwendolyn Christie.
From a Certain Point of View
Celebrating 40 years of Star Wars, this anthology collects 40 short stories by some of the most acclaimed names in sci-fi, including award winners Ken Liu and Nnedi Okorofor. Each story examines a different character or event, from Rae Carson’s “The Red One,” an intimate look at R5-D4, the faulty droid who Uncle Owen originally purchased, to Pierce Brown’s “Desert Son,” about Luke’s friend and fellow pilot, Biggs Darklighter.
Editor's note: This piece originally ran in 2018.
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