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.