Mystery solved! What are the ‘Essential’ Star Wars novels?

Knights Archive also spotted 2 sets of (presumably eBook) bundles on the Random House online catalog: The Essential Novels: Star Wars 10-Book Bundle and The Essential Novels: Star Wars Reads Day Special Edition: 4-Book Bundle. Could this why Del Rey’s Darth Internous was asking about EU books for newbies last month?

UPDATED! Well, it didn’t take long for us to find out! Del Rey has revealed the contents of the bundles, and they’re all over the map.

The Old Republic: Deceived
Republic Commando: Hard Contact
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
Death Troopers
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
Heir to the Empire
New Jedi Order: Vector Prime
Legacy of the Force: Betrayal
Crosscurrent

That’s quite the sampler plate. I definitely agree with the inclusion of Heir to the Empire, Rogue Squadron and Shadows of Mindor, but some of these are just puzzling.

Here’s the 4-book bundle:

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
Heir to the Empire
New Jedi Order: Vector Prime
Legacy of the Force: Betrayal

For instance, I wouldn’t wish Vector Prime on my worst enemy. Yes, the New Jedi Order is a gigantic chunk of the backlist, and there are worse Star Wars books, (though not that many,) but it’s definitely the series starter that flopped the worst for me. (And no, I’m not talking about the Chewbacca thing, stand down: I just find it horribly written.) Legacy of the Force may not be everyone’s favorite, but Betrayal is at least a solid book.

With absolutely nothing to go on aside from the titles, I’m a little intrigued at what they’ll consider ‘Essential,’ aside from the Thrawn trilogy. If you could only pick 10 Star Wars books what would make your cut? And what about the 4-book bundle?

27 thoughts on “Mystery solved! What are the ‘Essential’ Star Wars novels?

  1. SarahK

    I haven’t read anywhere near everything, but I really like Zahn’s Rebellion Era books ‘Allegiance’ and ‘Choices of One.’ I’d definitely recommend those. His books are tactically smart, and I love that.

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  2. jawajames

    The first is a ten-book bundle of Essential Novels, and the second is a special four-book “Reads Day Edition” that will be available for a limited time at a massively-discounted price of $7.99. The novels featured in the two editions are:

    STAR WARS: THE ESSENTIAL NOVELS (10 Books):

    The Old Republic: Deceived
    Republic Commando: Hard Contact
    Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
    Death Troopers
    Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
    X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
    Heir to the Empire
    New Jedi Order: Vector Prime
    Legacy of the Force: Betrayal
    Crosscurrent

    THE ESSENTIAL NOVELS READS DAY EDITION (4 Books for $7.99):

    X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
    Heir to the Empire
    New Jedi Order: Vector Prime
    Legacy of the Force: Betrayal

    Both will available on all major e-reading platforms.

    Reply
  3. Brian

    Well, I suppose we could add in the Hand of Thrawn books and bring the Zahn up to 5. I wouldn’t be surprised if they put the first books of their longer series up, so Vector Prime, Betrayal, and Outcast might be in there, bringing it to 8. I’d LIKE to see something like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, I think that’s a good, fun standalone that people would like. I’d probably put Truce at Bakura in there as my last one. Taking place so soon after Return of the Jedi is a strong selling point for that book. Even if it’s a little goofy, outside of the Thrawn trilogy it’s one of the most easily ‘movie knowledge only’ books, until Scoundrels comes out and replaces it at least.

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  4. Brian

    I wanted to guess Crosscurrent also, but I thought that was just my personal bias because I LOVE that and Riptide. Kemp’s duology is my most anticipated EU right now.

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  5. Aaron G

    7 of the books are series starters or at least have a sequel. Looks like this is more a marketing effort than them actually picking 10 essential books.

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  6. Dunc Post author

    I’ve only read half those books. Well, actually, four of them. I’m reading Rogue Squadron right now.

    Haven’t read:

    The Old Republic: Deceived
    TOR? No interest.

    Republic Commando: Hard Contact
    Extreme no interest. This actually strikes me as a somewhat cruel pick, no matter what they said at CVI.

    Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
    I got this out of the library once, and returned it unread. Luceno’s mojo generally doesn’t work on me, though.

    Death Troopers
    Crosscurrent

    No interest. I got a chapter into Crosscurrent and couldn’t continue. These two are the oddest picks for me. I mean, I can see justifying Vector Prime, no matter how awful I found it, but these?

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  7. Amanda J.

    I’ve been a lurker for a really long time, but felt the need to ditto the ^ “Death Troopers?…really???” statement.

    My top 10 would be:
    Heir to the Empire
    Traitor
    Truce at Bakura
    Crosscurrent
    Luke Skywalker & the Shadows of Mindor
    Rogue Squadron
    Death Star
    Allegiance
    Shadows of the Empire
    Shatterpoint

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  8. Brian

    Don’t judge Crosscurrent on the first chapter. The stuff that takes place in the past is a bit of a drag, but the stuff with Jaden and the crew he meets up with is gold.

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  9. jawajames

    Most of their picks fit into a scheme as not so much “Essential to the EU” but “sampler/starter into different series – Essential to start with” – we’ve got the first RC book (which i enjoyed), first of Paul Kemp’s books (with more coming), first NJO, first Thrawn trilogy, first X-Wing, first LOTF, and a TOR that fits right into the game (Fatal Alliance was a bit more setup, while Deceived i think is a better novel), and a few random samples: horror (Death Troopers), wackiness (Mindor), and prequel era (DV) .

    All over the map is the idea – in this set, you’ll hopefully find a few that appeal to you. The 4-pack is all series-starters, (and older backlist).

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  10. jawajames

    and Amanda, I like that you added Shatterpoint to your list – it stands out as one of the best from the prequel era novels.

    While I enjoyed Death Star, it doesn’t really add anything overall to the larger set of novels.

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  11. Beth

    I agree, they are all over the map. I can only think that the idea is that major events happen in the books they have cited, but even considering that, I do not agree. Someone new reading only these choices would be just a bit confused.

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  12. Dunc Post author

    Brian: Don’t judge Crosscurrent on the first chapter. The stuff that takes place in the past is a bit of a drag, but the stuff with Jaden and the crew he meets up with is gold.

    Doesn’t matter. Honestly, this happens with almost Star Wars OC books for me – and no, I don’t care if that Jaden dude was in a video game, that still makes him an OC to me. I give OC and PT books a chapter. If they don’t work, they don’t work. And most of the time they don’t. Which is fine – it’s not the kind of thing I’m reading SW for anyway.

    Trying to convince me to read SW books I’ve decided not to read it a lost cause. Keep in mind it took me 16 years and the release of Mercy Kill to start reading the X-Wings – and that’s with hearing all the praise for as long as I can recall AND them being being written by two of the best authors in the stable AND being in a time period I care about. If I’m not interested, I am so not interested. I always have plenty of books to read regardless.

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  13. Common Sense

    Shadows of Minor made the list? Really? That was a massive train wreck of a book. Not *quite* as bad as Death Troopers, but darn close. Easily one of the worse SW novels published. I just don’t get the praise that some have for it.

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  14. Carla Lute

    Picking ten is very hard…keep in mind the EU and I have had a bit of a falling out after certain characters died, but I still have two sets of shelves dedicated to my SW novels…so mostly older releases on my list…. >_>

    But if I could only guarantee someone 10 SW novels:

    The Han Solo Adventures (3-in-1 book)

    The SW Trilogy (1 book with all 3 film novelizations)

    Tales from Jabba’s Palace

    Truce at Bakura

    Heir to Empire
    Dark Force Rising
    The Last Command

    The Jedi Academy Trilogy (it did come in a 3-in-1)

    Spector of the Past
    Vision of the Future

    That’s my “don’t be cruel” list which I don’t believe leaves any dangling plotlines to torment the reader. It leaves out several of my favorites, which are multi-book series.

    The Jedi Academy Trilogy isn’t particularly good, but helps fill in the 10 year gap and sets up important characters, settings, and situations. Particularly if the person who starts with this set wants to do further reading.

    My Four book bundle is easy:

    Truce at Bakura

    Heir to Empire
    Dark Force Rising
    The Last Command

    Personally, I would not buy a bundle containing a partial trilogy or series. However, if I were creating a Ten book Sampler pack intended to get people to buy more books:

    Jedi Apprentice #1
    Rogue Planet
    Tales from Jabba’s Palace
    Shadows of the Empire
    Truce at Bakura
    Heir to Empire
    X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
    X-Wing: Wraith Squadron
    Junior Jedi Knights #1
    Young Jedi Knights: Heirs to the Force

    Rogue Planet may not be the best book, but it does double duty as introducing both prequel era and NJO plot lines but doesn’t deliver the trauma of killing off a beloved character. I thought the living planet was rather inventive…and it delivered some nice foreshadowing.

    Jedi Apprentice, The X-Wing books, Junior Jedi Knights, and Young Jedi Knights all kick off multi-book series. Personally I loved JJK, wish they’d rounded it out with 3 more books. YJK was awful, but in an oddly addicting way.

    While Rogue squadron sets up certain things for Wraith Squadron, I consider them different series with distinctive styles, and Aaron is a superior writer who brings humor into the galaxy in a brilliant way.

    Tales from Jabba’s Palace – introduces the Tales series of books, and shows that short story collections have their place and special charm.

    Shadows of the Empire & Truce at Bakura – are nice stand alone books that don’t require much more than movie viewing to follow and tie-in with the videos games.

    Heir to Empire – Self explanatory, but it would be less cruel to include a Thrawn trilogy bundle.

    Far as I can tell, they never put out the Thrawn Trilogy in a 3-in-1.

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  15. Nic

    Death Troopers??? What, you want to make certain fans run away screaming?

    (It was a great horror book, but as someone who hates horror, I will never, ever touch that book again.)

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  16. jedifreac

    Crosscurrent? Really? Ookay…

    I think some of the older Bantam books are definitely more classic…random stuff like Shadows of the Empire or Courtship of Princess Leia are pretty iconic. Shatterpoint is oddly iconic. The Crispin Han Trilogy is also a good gateway drug.

    Traitor. The book everyone seems to want to forget because it tried to push Star Wars beyond black and white morality. Way more significant than Betrayal.

    Rogue Squadron is absolutely painful for anyone older than 16 to read through…Wraith Squadron is a much stronger book.

    The list is written from a marketer’s standpoint. Put the first book of every series (TOR, NJO, LOTF, even TTT) in and hope people will keep buying. But a lot of the firstbooks aren’t very strong…

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  17. Greg

    *Shadows of Mindor* is a book I really wanted to like, but something was just off in the execution and it didn’t do anything for me. I can see why they’d put it in a sampler set, though?

    Am I the only one who thinks *Shadows of the Empire* or *The Force Unleashed* would have been good to include? (Yeah, I’m probably the only one.)

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  18. Dunc Post author

    I loved Mindor and hated Shadows of the Empire, so…

    Though I’m not sure how accessible Mindor may be to anyone who doesn’t have a real grounding in the less stellar parts of the Bantam era, (ahem, Courtship) which is what it really fed on in a mockingly loving way. I certainly agree there needs to be Stover in there, but I wouldn’t mind swapping it out for his Revenge of the Sith, probably his most accessible SW book. But I can understand why they went for Mindor, as I can see newbies skipping over a movie novelization because they ‘already know the story.’ I’m just not sure how Mindor reads without being familiar w/ the subtext.

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  19. Greg

    To be fair, I never said *Shadows of the Empire* was a great book, but at least it’d be accessible to someone who isn’t well-versed in the EU.

    Dunc, I’d be curious to know more of your thoughts on *Mindor*–I was unimpressed when I first read it, but I’d reread it if there was a different way to appreciate the book.

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  20. Amaranthine

    The only reason I could think of for Death Trooper’s inclusion is that they had a lot of books lying around in the warehouse to use up. Then I remembered they were ebooks. …I have no idea.

    I can see Vector Prime on the 10 list as part of the NJO, but definitely not on the four book cut. I like the idea of more people getting started on the NJO, but I would start people on Dark Tide or even Edge of Victory.

    I don’t really like the whole “give people first book in series” idea, because while it does get them jump-started on a lot of good series, reading a bunch of unrelated books that are years apart from each other is not really encouraging for a person that has never heard of the EU. I mean, one book Anakin Solo’s not born. The next book, he’s a teenager, and the next book, he’s dead?

    My starter’s guide to the EU would basically be the Heir to the Empire trilogy…..but they have one of those.

    But I’m guessing their goal is to build connections in the EU, to get readers to put down roots somewhere, in hopes one of them takes root.

    -Amaranthine

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  21. Aaron

    It would have been better (and somewhat more honest) to call it “The EU Launch Pad” instead of “The Essential Whatever”. Calling something essential is always tricky to say the least.
    But speaking of essential… I think the Lando stories (or to be more precise the Vuffi Raa stories) are a great starting point. As is the novelization of The Phantom Menace. Or Shadows of the Empire. Or either Han Solo trilogy. Or Shadow Hunter.
    Lots of good stuff there. Vector Prime… Yeah, it wouldn’t have been on my short list either. Star by Star was kind of nice. The rest, with the exception of Traitor, is a bit fuzzy. ;-)

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  22. MattDoc

    I think the problem here is the use of the word “essential”. Sure, arguments can be made as to how good or bad each of these are (talking about the 10-book bundle) but I think the better word they should have used was “sampler” because it’s really just a taste from all of the main eras of the timeline.

    I think someone new to SW books who picks these up thinking they can just read these 10 and enjoy themselves will be very disappointed and/or confused though since many of them have other “required reading” in order to know what’s going on.

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