12 of the Weirdest Star Wars Novels in the Galaxy
Sometime in 2014 the Star Wars universe got retconned. Hard.
Yes, The Mouse got a hold of the property, and when it was decided to make three more movies, I can only imagine some dork stood up and said, “Well, with the expanded universe of novels, we're pretty hemmed in, story-wise.”
I don’t know whether that guy ever recovered from the Wedg(i)e Antilles they gave him. But I know the death of the expanded universe gave most nerds a feeling as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Anyway, they slapped a “Legends” label on a boatload of old books, making them non-canonical but still available for purchase. As the newest Star Wars trailer reminded us, "No one's ever really gone." I assume there's an implied "if we can make a few bucks off 'em" tagged onto the end of that statement.
Some of the Star Wars storylines that show up in these books are, frankly, bonkers. Which ones? I’m so glad you asked.
First of all, awesome cover.
In this book, Han Solo is after a legendary treasure. Which sounds suspiciously like another character I know of...who also appeared alongside the image of a crystal skull…and is played by Harrison Ford.
Someone wrote a Han Solo book that is, essentially, Space Indiana Jones.
Want to really blow your mind? Han Solo and the Lost Legacy predates Raiders of the Lost Ark by almost a full year.
Who ripped off who, here?
Wedge Antilles, famous for being in a ship and having the name Wedge, puts together a new squad. Rogue Squadron was the best of the best, and Wedge decides to build his new team from a bunch of misfits. Does the book’s description refer to the team as “ragtag”? You bet your ass.
Who do we get?
- Admiral Ackbar's niece, Jesmin
- "Runt," a pilot with multiple personalities
- "Face," who is an "imperial child recruitment actor"(?)
- Kell Tainor, demolitions expert
- Ton Phanon, part man, part machine, all doctor
- Falyn Sandskimmer, who suffers from "chronic insolence"
The book doesn’t do a great job of explaining why Wedge is building this squad from the reject pile. There’s some nonsense about how these “dregs” from other units see combat differently or something, but c’mon. Do they see things differently because they’re misunderstood geniuses, or is it more likely they washed out of other squads because they see things differently, and in this case “differently” means “completely incorrectly”? It’s like staffing a Starbucks entirely with workers who were fired from other Starbucks locations. Maybe they’d be amazing, but more likely you’d discover they show up late, steal $20's from the register, and give me the shits when they mix the regular milk and the soy.
Darth Maul is in space jail, where, of course, there is a tournament fighting element. It's all very Running Man, which is fun. It's also pretty damn violent for Star Wars.
In the first pages Darth Maul gets a tooth knocked out, which his opponent takes and crams into a tooth hole in his own mouth. There’s a rod-like weapon that turns out to be a space snake that blinds people, the snake gets his head popped off, Darth Maul jams his head horns into his opponent’s eyes, and some dude gets elbowed so hard his spine is broken. This all happens within the sample pages on Amazon.
If there’s something that we don’t get enough of in Star Wars, it’s eye gouging using head horns.
Fun fact: Did you know Darth Maul’s brother is named “Savage Opress”? I mean, damn.
Death Troopers is a zombie horror novel set in the Star Wars universe. The author, Joe Schreiber, said he was inspired by The Shining and Alien.
It’s pretty cheesy, but c’mon, are we really complaining? Is that not what we came for?
Schreiber also wrote a prequel book, Red Harvest, in which a Sith lord has some cockamamie plan to combine the force with some weird flower or something to make an army of the undead. It’s very crazy, which is what I love about it, and it’s got a pretty high gore factor as Star Wars goes.
I have nothing to say about the book and lots to say about the bio of its author, L. Neil Smith:
Writing in the libertarian tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, L. Neil Smith may be the most widely-published and prolific living libertarian author in the world, with over 20 books to his credit, two of them winners of the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Fiction: The Probability Broach and Pallas.
I’d never heard of this Prometheus award. It turns out L. Neil Smith CREATED the award and won it three times.
He has also published numerous short stories and articles, has contributed gags to such comic strips as "Ziggy" and "Frank and Ernest", and has lectured annually in the Colorado State University Physics Department on the physics of alternative realities.
Have there ever been two weirder types of credits so close to each other? Ziggy and lecturing in a university physics department?
He attended the same university 1964-69, majoring in philosophy and psychology. He has served as a reserve police officer for the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, is a skilled competitive shooter, and is a Life Member of the National Rifle Association.
At this juncture I’d like to say that I regret anything negative I just said, and my editor forced me to do it.
Smith was born in Denver, Colorado on May 12, 1946 to an Air Force family, which led to his growing up all over North America. A highly prophetic author, his writings have predicted, among other things, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the Internet as we now know it, and the digital watch.
When he says “predicted,” what does that mean, exactly? Can I take credit for "predicting" the bio-wearable music player if I say it's a thing that could exist? Is it really the predicting part that's hard, or is it more the making part?
Alan Moore wrote Star Wars comics? Alan Moore of Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell and some other stuff with mediocre movie adaptations?
In Alan Moore's Star Wars tales, Han Solo and Princess Leia go through a “hellhoop” and end up facing a weird religious cult obsessed with pain. Chewie releases a demon (that goofball!). A ghost turns Princess Leia’s heart into a diamond, which kills her. Vader burns a dude to death. We get a 5-mile-deep droid graveyard.
What the hell were they thinking? You can't give Alan Moore Star Wars. I mean, it's obviously great for me, but it's sort of hard to imagine BB-8 bumbling his way into a "hellhoop."
This is a graphic novel based off George Lucas’ original ideas for A New Hope. And holy balls does it read like it.
If you thought the prequels had a ridiculous amount of politicking, get a load of this one.
The best part of this book? It makes you appreciate how far the movies took the story. If A New Hope had gone down like this, there's no way in hell I'd be writing this column right now. Star Wars would be as much a franchise as Robot Jox.
I have to dock this book points on two fronts.
Its main character is named Dusque Mistflier. Sounds like a Yankee candle. Even in a universe with some stupid-ass names, Dusque Mistflier is pretty heinous.
But that transgression pales in comparison to the cover. Good god. What was even remotely the point? This looks like a self-pub book, and not a good one. I know the book is based on a video game universe, but that's no excuse. They didn’t have the resources to give it a decent-er cover? Was this a project to test whether the Nintendo 64 could be used to generate book covers?
Yeah, because there’s nothing I want to know more than what that ballsack-head guy was doing before he learned to play the space oboe.
This is the problem with Star Wars. There’s nothing small enough that it can’t be turned into an entire goddamn book. And why does everyone think we want to know every backstory of everything? Wasn’t it better when Han Solo just sort of shot Greedo and we didn’t need to know who Greedo’s parents were, which albums were his favorite, and whether he was a side sleeper or a back sleeper?
Star Wars falls flattest when it's filling in backstory instead of going in new directions. There's supposedly a whole universe out there. Can we see some of it?
Star Wars books have come from some unlikely sources, like Jeffrey Brown, who was mostly writing super-personal graphic novels about his relationships and his battle with IBS until he came up with Darth Vader and Son.
But no Star Wars authors are more unusual than K.W. Jeter.
Before he got into Star Wars and Star Trek novelizations, K.W. Jeter was one of the forefathers of cyberpunk. Maybe THE forefather. Dr. Adder, his first finished novel, had its publication delayed by over a decade, supposedly because it was so horrific.
I wonder if any of Jeter's Boba Fett novels include any of the Dr. Adder hallmarks, such as the titular surgeon who modifies penises to make them ridiculously enormous? Let’s hope!
This one also has a terrible character name, even for Star Wars: Dash Rendar.
Shadows is weird in that it was one of the more commercial Star Wars products ever conceived. And let's just remind everyone, we're talking about STAR WARS, the most commercial endeavor of all time. Just about anything you want, you can get a Star Wars version of it. Not to mention some things NOBODY wants.
The idea with Shadows of the Empire was to create a "multimedia project" to A) see if a Star Wars property could be created without a movie, and B) to rouse interest in the (at that time) upcoming prequels.
When all was said and done, we had a novel, a video game, a full score, trading cards, toys. All the things that make Star Wars. Except, you know, the basis of the entire endeavor, a movie.
Did I play the game? Yes. Did I read the book? Also yes. Will I regret the time spent in this corner of the Star Wars universe while on my deathbed? Almost certainly.
This book answers the burning question: What if we had a hard-boiled detective story in the Star Wars universe?
It is pretty fun to imagine, though:
The dame walked into my space office. Her legs went all the way up. Past her face even because, you know, she's an alien. I have a soft spot for hard luck cases, and her luck looked harder than the skin of the Zillo Beast of planet Malastare.
Why do people do this? Didn’t we learn anything from Baywatch Nights? Adding “Nights” to something doesn’t improve it.
If I want to read a hard-boiled detective story, I can read any number of them, lots of which are great. I've also got plenty of Star Wars, more than I could ever get through. Who is the audience for this combo?
Favorite weird corners of the Star Wars universe? Please, no images of that tape dispenser that looks like C-3PO is dispensing tape from his crotch.
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