The Crystal Star is bad… But not that bad

I am not here to deny that Vonda McIntyre’s much-maligned 1994 Star Wars novel The Crystal Star is not a good book. It is perhaps one of the few Star Wars books that could be considered significant (Sorry, Ruins of Dantooine) that I cannot recall ever once being praised by anyone. (Except perhaps Abel G. Pena, and only then mildly.) Even my own personal Jar Jar, the works of one Kevin J. Anderson, have fans.

My own experience with Crystal Star is one of mixed reviews. Coming as it did on the heels of Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy, I found it kind of a relief. No, it wasn’t a great book, and it was kind of weird, but at least it was better than Anderson. (Granted, I rank the Jedi Academy trilogy among the worst things I have ever read, period.)

But that aside, there is one reason above all else why I give Crystal Star a pass: It is a completely self-contained book. There is absolutely no reason that anyone needs to read it – unless you’re undertaking some personal urge to read every single Star Wars book ever published, or have a deep interest in the childhoods of the Solo kids.

What is the lasting legacy of The Crystal Star in the Expanded Universe, really? Waru? He’s a punchline. Prozac Luke? McIntyre is far from the only culprit there: Luke is a mopey dope throughout the entire era spanning Dark Empire and the Hand of Thrawn duology.

There are a lot of bad books in the Star Wars stable, in every era. Your mileage may vary, but I find it hard to hate a novel that had no real lasting effect on the Expanded Universe as a whole. There’s something to be said for standalones: Whatever your opinion, they are generally easy to skip over.

Thankfully fannish attitudes towards the book seem to have (mostly) evolved from outright hatred to loving snark, and The Crystal Star is treated exactly as it deserves: As the Expanded Universe equivalent of the Holiday Special.

21 thoughts on “The Crystal Star is bad… But not that bad

  1. kataja

    I so agree that JAT is the worst of the worst. Still, I managed to READ it. I didn’t with CS… Maybe I shoudl try again, though, I have an idea I should erad everythign with Luke in it, no matter the nightmares it gives me… ;-P

    “Luke is a mopey dope throughout the entire era spanning Dark Empire and the Hand of Thrawn duology.”
    Unfortunately so very true… A few of the books manage to make him a sympathic mopey dope, but that’s about it…

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  2. Dunc Post author

    Paula: I remember reading Dreamsnake pre-CS and liking it. I gave up trying to pre-screen authors for good after Rusch’s New Rebellion. (Another awful, awful Bantam offering. Her original stuff wasn’t fantastic, but it gave no inkling of how awful TNR turned out.)

    Kataja: I haven’t been able to get through a KJA book since the late-90’s. I blame YJK, which somehow managed to be even worse than his ‘adult’ stuff.

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  3. Michelle Lunsford

    Hmmm… it probably says something that I can’t recall what this book was actually about. (Is this the one with pink bubbles in it somewhere?) But I have a similar reaction to Dunc – this book coming on the heels of Anderson, I do seem to recall it feeling like something that wasn’t that bad.

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  4. Dunc Post author

    Michelle: Bubbles (and the poison sheepdog) were The New Rebellion. It doesn’t get quite as much guff, probably because it came out later, but it’s at least equally as cracky as CS.

    Crystal Star’s claim to fame is Waru, the golden scaly cube… Thing.

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  5. Nancy

    I’m with Paula – to me it’s a scifi story with SW names slapped on. Which doesn’t even remotely work as SW. For me, it’s on the bottom of the EU book pile, under Darksaber.

    From an EU perspective, CS is notable to me because it’s the first appearance of Xaverri, who later appeared in A. C. Crispin’s Han Solo trilogy, which I very much enjoyed.

    FWIW, I didn’t mind New Rebellion at all.

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  6. Doyle

    I can’t say that I ever pictured Waru as a giant cube, even though he was described as such. I always imagined him as more of a huge, animate Indian deity statue, or maybe a Buddha. I also thoroughly enjoyed the book the first time I checked it out of the library. Then again, I was pretty young at the time and wasn’t yet prepared to admit that Star Wars could do wrong. Now I’m pretty much in the same boat as the rest of you. It isn’t terrible; it just isn’t good.

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  7. K

    It was one of a very few Star Wars books in my local library, and lacking better fare I read it more than twice. I can’t really say I ever hated it. It was bad – it was a bad book, it was a bad idea, it should feel bad – but it had the Solo kids, another of Vader’s secret apprentices, neat former Imperial titles, spooky doom, *and it existed*. Come on, I was 14. I had the novelizations (excellent), the Zahn trilogy (earthshattering), Truce at Bakura (good times for all), JAT (Kyp Durron), (and Courtship of Princess Leia (execrable). I didn’t discover Star Wars novels at all until 1993, so these were a veritable flood of new updates on what my best childhood friends had been up to, and I ate it with a spoon, all of it. It wasn’t until later when I had the luxury of being discriminating that I realized how awful it had been.

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  8. ImperialGirl

    I am in the happy position of being able to say I read it, but have absolutely no recollection of anything about it. Not a word made any lasting impression on me. There are Tandy Kids comic books from the 1980s that had greater influence.

    I wish I could say the same for JAT or D*rks*b*r.

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  9. jawajames

    Do not make a mockery of the Church of Waru, lest the Prophet of Waru and all of Waru’s holy followers extol the virtues of His Golden Globbiness.

    Besides the introduction of Xaverri, Lusa (the centaur child Jedi youngling) was also first introduced in this novel, and went on to be in several YJK books before getting whacked in a throwaway line in Star By Star.

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  10. Michelle

    At the risk of hitting a nerve here, why all the hate for Kevin J. Anderson books? I wouldn’t call myself a fan of his, but I never understood why he seems to be so universally disliked. While its been a long time since I’ve read the JAT, I for one very much enjoyed the YJK series.

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  11. jedishampoo

    Like ML, I totally don’t remember what happened in this book, either, and thought it might have been the one with the bubbles… but in my mind it sort of hovers in there with Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as one of those “huh?” books. :)

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  12. RK_Striker_JK_5

    This isn’t too bad a book. Waru’s neat. Lusa’s awesome. The kids parts were VERY well done…

    And the Church of Waru welcomes all!

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  13. Dunc Post author

    Michelle: Honestly, it’s been discussed to death over the years and I’m really not interested in doing it again, but if you really want to know more about why KJA’s books get such a bad rap, check out the Big Shiny Robot review of Jedi Search linked above. There’s even a pro-Anderson section.

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  14. Bardan Jussik

    Michelle, I’m with you here. i like personally liked the Jedi Academy series. But I was like 18 at the time. I’m re-reading all of my star wars books from start (Old Republic) to finish so maybe when I get to KJA’s stuff i’ll change my opinion.

    The Crystal Star was…. ok ish. But I don’t feel any motivation to read it again. So it was removed from my collection.

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  15. Michelle

    That’s true, maybe my fond memories of the YJK series stem from the fact that I read them when I was 13 or so and they were the books that kind of introduced me to the EU. But I have read parts of them more recently (I’m slowly trying to add them all to my collection) and I think they hold up ok as YA books.

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  16. jawajames

    i think the KJA dislike stemmed primarily from his work on the Jedi Academy trilogy, and not for his work on the YJK series with Rebecca Moesta. I never got why KJA was so universally disdained either, but my wife was not favorable on his collaborated works in the Dune series.

    But anyway, this thread is about the Crystal Star and how so-so it was. One of the key things to think about with the Crystal Star is that McIntyre introduces an actual science fiction plot into Star Wars – a crystallizing star and the concept of beings from another dimension, which would work well in Star Trek (another sandbox she wrote in, and even was the one to give Sulu a first name). I think that SW fans at the time didn’t want the GFFA to go in those directions (no one in SW studies stellar phenomena or astrophysics, and interdimensional globs were just too alien). but Threepio got painted purple!

    Waru loves you!

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  17. Bardan Jussik

    Fair point there James. Probably isn’t enough actual science in star wars which is a shame as there are probably some good stories to be told, new angles to look at characters from.

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  18. jawajames

    Science-focused plots in Star Wars could be entertaining, but I think the main audience for Star Wars is more into characters, and good fighting evil than trying to explore the cosmos or explore what makes us human or simpy ask what if.

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