Best of Star Wars in 2011: The novels

We’d be the first fansite on the internet to tell you that being an Expanded Universe fan is not always a picnic. Every publishing cycle brings a new mystery: Will it work? Will it not? Glide on, my little mookas, for our take on the year in the Expanded Universe.

The big trend: Fresh faces
It’s been building for a while now, but this year, there’s no denying that original and minor characters have been the headliners. From Knight Errant, Riptide, and Shadow Games to the two Old Republic tie-ins, it was entirely possible to get your Star Wars fix with nary a Skywalker in sight.

For those of us who get our OCs elsewhere, the cupboard seemed a little bare, but we did get Fate of the Jedi novels from Aaron Allston and Christie Golden, plus Tim Zahn’s Choices of One and the annotated anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire.

Runner up: Return of the short. Another trend we noticed was a big return to short stories in the Star Wars Insider. 2011 brought us a half-dozen or so in the magazine, as well as some short fiction in reprints of longer works, like the novella Crisis of Faith, and two more Lost Tribe of the Sith eBooks. Of the handful of short stories from the latter half of the year (when my magazine subscription kicked in), my favorite is probably Matthew Stover’s ‘The Tenebrous Way’ from the January 2012 issue, though ‘And Leebo Makes Three’ by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff was also good stuff. - James

Hello, goodbye
We saw a few changes behind-the-scenes this year, most notably the retirement of LucasBooks’ longtime Executive Editor, Sue Rostoni. We welcomed her replacement, Jennifer Heddle, and hope she’s prepared. Very prepared.

This year also saw the rise of the Star Wars Books Facebook page, run by Del Rey’s team which, as I wrote in yesterday’s entry, has given us a whole new method and rhythm for EU news, and author interactions. Facebook isn’t the best forum for a live chat with an author, but it does have reach.

This year’s big step forward: eBooks
In addition to being the #1 thing on the mind of everyone with the remotest connection to the publishing industry, the (almost) complete backlist of Star Wars titles came to eBook format this summer. Folks were into it.

Kerfuffle of (every?) year: Canon and continuity

This year, proponents of a unified Star Wars canon took up arms (not really) over the Clone Wars death of a background character from The Phantom Menace who looks like the love child of Yoda and Captain Barbossa. No, I don’t get it, either.

Most stinging disappointment: No more annotated Zahn?
It might not be set in stone yet, but Timothy Zahn announced earlier this month that the 20th anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire had not met initial sales expectations – so it’s unlikely we’ll see Dark Force Rising and The Last Command rereleased. Sadness.

James’ Picks for 2011
Out of the eight EU new novels this year (five of which were in recession-busting hardcover), we had a whole mess of stories in different eras. John Jackson Miller put competing Sith philosophies to the test with his lone-Jedi Knight Errant. Paul Kemp’s The Old Republic: Deceived turned the first TOR trailer into a well constructed story focusing on just a few key characters. Fate of the Jedi: Conviction by Aaron Allston continued the ongoing battle of Luke and Ben vs. Lost Tribe vs. Abeloth, and sent Daala off to jail, only to spring out with Tahiri. Tim Zahn returned to his favorites in Choices of One, with the Big Three and the Emperor’s Hand caught between Thrawn and his nemesis. Christie Golden’s Ascension kicked Fate of the Jedi up a notch, with the Galactic Alliance getting subverted, and the Jedi making a major push against Abeloth, and Vestara Khai and Ben Skywalker having some revealing moments. Paul Kemp returned with Jaden Korr hunting some darksiders in Riptide, with a twist. Zipping back to the KOTOR era, Drew Karpyshyn’s The Old Republic: Revan hopped inside the Anakin Skywalker of his era, Revan, as he confronted the threat of the dark side. In Shadow Games by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Dash Rendar ends up as a bodyguard to a holostar while having to deal with Xizor and his rival, Han Solo. My picks for 2011: Ascension and Deceived.

In the category of Star Wars non-fiction, we had an assortment of reference books and behind-the-scenes books, from the U.S. release of The Complete Vader (and the Darth Vader: A 3-D Reconstruction Log), to DK’s image-heavy guides, including the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. But the big winner wasn’t from DK or Del Rey, but from Epic Ink: J. W. Rinzler’s Star Wars: The Blueprints. Having gotten to see the preview copy at Comic-Con and also check out a few sample pages (I’ve got some scans for you all!) from a press kit, it is kriffin’ amazing. For those among the 99%, DK’s LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia is good stuff. And for those looking to make SW instead of read SW, Bonnie Burton’s The Star Wars Craft Book is a winner. I’m sure Paula would plug the clever origami adventures of Darth Paper Strikes Back. -James

Looking ahead to 2012.
Next year is looking pretty full and we probably don’t even know half of it yet. James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis is getting a lot of hype, but so is August’s X-Wing: Mercy Kill, Aaron Allston’s return to the series that made him an EU star. We’re getting the conclusion to the Fate of the Jedi series, Troy Denning’s Apocalypse… And coming with it may be the details of the next step for the post-ROTJ novels. And for those who like a little set dressing for their ancient lore, there’s the Book of Sith. Also: Two new Essential Guides, another Old Republic novel, and works from two all-new authors, Jeff Grubb and Alex Irvine.

2 thoughts on “Best of Star Wars in 2011: The novels

  1. Michelle Lunsford

    The short stories were one of the main draws that encouraged me to re-up my Insider subscription. :)

    Have really enjoyed all the year end “Best of…” posts. Thanks to all who have worked on them.

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