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Star Wars
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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Few SF media tie-in series are as extensive as the series of novels and stories based on the Star Wars movies. My experience with them is limited -- frankly, I haven't the time or money to keep up with them, and after a while they all started to read the same. I haven't read any of the novels or novelizations based on the "prequel" movies or the Clone Wars, nor have I read any of the ones set more than five or ten years after the movies. Most of my experience is with the original movie trilogy and the novels based on them.

Novelizations and Early Novels

The Star Wars book series started with novelizations of the three movies. While none of these are especially well-written, they're still good reads, and I think they add a lot to the movie experience. The very first Star Wars novel also fits here, as it's set in-between the first two movies.

  • SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE
    Author: Foster, Alan Dean
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-26062-7
    The very first novel based on Star Wars, published even before The Empire Strikes Back was released. Stranded on an Imperial-occupied planet, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa find themselves racing against Lord Vader to claim a strange crystal that gives its holder tremendous mastery over the Force. Not the best Star Wars tie-in novel, but far from the worst. Foster's authorial touch is unmistakable, from the plentiful alien life-forms to the distinctive descriptions of characters and combat sequences.
  • STAR WARS
    Author: Lucas, George
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-26079-1
    Novelization of the movie STAR WARS. Based on an early version of the screenplay, so there are a few noticeable differences and a lot of additional material that got cut from the film. It adds a lot of background and character development that's missing from the movie, including Luke's friendship with Biggs Darklighter and some other valuable exposition.
  • STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
    Author: Glut, Donald F.
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-28392-9
    Donald Glut's novelization of the second SW film. Like the first novelization, it's based on an early version of the script that allowed more depth, and includes several scenes that never made it into the movie. Most interesting are some additional scenes from Luke's Jedi training on Dagobah, which give more glimpses of how he learned to use the Force.
  • STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI
    Author: Kahn, James
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-30767-4
    James Kahn's novelization of the third SW film. Like the first two, it's based on an early version of the script with more depth and more exposition, but there's not all that much of it and it sticks closer to the film as finally shown.

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The Thrawn trilogy

Timothy Zahn's trilogy was the first entry in the Bantam Spectra line of SW novels. Set about five years after Return of the Jedi, these three novels tell of a new campaign against the New Republic by the remnants of the Galactic Empire. The Empire's troops have reason to be confident: they're led by Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the greatest military minds the Empire ever knew. The Zahn trilogy is considered by many to be the best of the Star Wars tie-in novels. I agree. The Zahn trilogy is one of the few examples of an SW novel being written the way SW novels should be written: as political-military thrillers of the kind made famous by Tom Clancy and Stephen Coonts.

  • STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE EMPIRE
    Author: Zahn, Timothy
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-29612-4
    Five years after Return of the Jedi, the remnants of the Empire and its military have been taken over by new leadership: Grand Admiral Thrawn, the only non-human ever to reach that rank and the greatest military mind in the Empire. Thrawn has great plans for destroying the New Republic and restoring the Empire. To this end, he combines technology from the Emperor's "treasure-trove" world with several other elements, such as an insane Jedi Master and a creature which counters the Force and therefore makes Jedi powerless, and uses them to begin forging a grand new Imperial Fleet.
  • STAR WARS: DARK FORCE RISING
    Author: Zahn, Timothy
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-56071-9
    Thrawn's complex, seemingly infallible plan begins to unfold, besieging the New Republic with assaults both real and imagined, from both within and without. Meanwhile, the Jedi Master Joruus C'baoth begins his own plan to trap Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, and make them into his followers. For their parts, Luke and Leia and their friends find some new allies in unexpected places as they seek to rally the Republic against Thrawn's campaign. Unfortunately, they also find some new enemies, such as a power-hungry politician who will do anything and accuse anyone in order to increase his power base.
  • STAR WARS: THE LAST COMMAND
    Author: Zahn, Timothy
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-56492-7
    Grand Admiral Thrawn's plan is finally revealed in all its complex facets, and the New Republic finds itself faced with an enemy that is truly capable of defeating it. Thrawn's ingenious use of his cloaking technology has cut off the capital world of Coruscant and left the Republic scrambling to find countermeasures. While the Republic's Fleet plans a complex operation to neutralize one of Thrawn's traps, Luke, Leia, Han Solo, and allies old and new come together in a final confrontation with the mad Jedi C'baoth.

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The X-Wing Series

Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston worked together to write a series of interconnected novels known as "the X-Wing series." Based on the character of Wedge Antilles from the movies, and the idea of the elite X-wing fighter pilots called Rogue Squadron, these novels form an elaborate story arc that stretches over several years and numerous battles with pirates, warlords, smugglers, and Imperial Remnant forces.

  • X-WING: ROGUE SQUADRON
    Author: Stackpole, Michael A.
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: Bantam Spectra
    ISBN: 0-553-56801-9
    First of the X-WING series of novels, set a couple of years after the movie RETURN OF THE JEDI. The New Republic is beginning its campaign to conquer Coruscant, capital of the now-leaderless Empire. To spearhead the assault, Commander Wedge Antilles reorganizes Rogue Squadron with all-new pilots and takes them into battle against the remnants of the Empire. Chief among the new Rogues is a skilled Corellian starfighter pilot named Corran Horn. The story follows Horn and the rest of the new Rogues through the selection process, flight training, and their first few missions, some easy and some not. An excellent novel that also demonstrates one of the right ways to write Star Wars novels. This isn't true SF in the grand tradition; rather, it's a military technothriller set in the Star Wars universe.
  • X-WING: WEDGE'S GAMBLE
    Author: Stackpole, Michael
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-56802-7
    The pilots of Rogue Squadron become undercover commandos, trying to find a way to make Coruscant fall to the Rebellion without a pitched battle. Meanwhile, Imperial commander Ysanne Isard is engaged in scheming of her own to make sure that even if the Rebels win, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.
  • X-WING: THE KRYTOS TRAP
    Author: Stackpole, Michael
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-56803-5
    Coruscant has fallen, but the Rogues have paid a high price: Corran Horn is missing and believed killed. Now the Rogues must lead the fight against a new kind of enemy. Before Coruscant fell, Ysanne Isard loosed a virulent plague, codenamed Krytos, on its population. The plague is designed as not a military but a political weapon: it affects only nonhumans, and it can be easily cured with the healing fluid bacta. However, there's not nearly enough bacta to go around. So the Rogues must get more bacta by any means necessary. Meanwhile, unknown to them, Corran Horn is still alive and being held by Isard while she attempts to break his mind and turn him into a covert agent. Eventually Corran escapes, resulting in Ysard's departure from Coruscant in an almost unbelievable way.
  • X-WING: THE BACTA WAR
    Author: Stackpole, Michael
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Bantam Spectra
    ISBN: 0-553-56804-3
    Ysanne Isard has abandoned Coruscant and fled to the planet Thyferra, only source of the healing fluid bacta. With her Super Star Destroyer and three smaller ships, she's seized control of Thyferra and the bacta supply, leaving the New Republic critically short of bacta to fight the Krytos plague. The New Republic won't move against Isard ... but Rogue Squadron will. After resigning en masse from the New Republic military, Wedge Antilles and his pilots and friends are out to beat Isard and free Thyferra. To do it, they truly will have to do the impossible: starting with no base, no supplies, almost no ships, the ex-Rogues and a few unorthodox allies must somehow defeat Isard's fleet of a Super Star Destroyer and three Star Destroyers.
  • X-WING: WRAITH SQUADRON
    Author: Allston, Aaron
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-57894-4
    Wedge Antilles leaves Rogue Squadron to organize a new commando squadron, codenamed Wraith Squadron. Nicely written, but unfortunately it's very much a formula story: a squadron-ful of misfits and washouts given one last chance to make good.
  • X-WING: IRON FIST
    Author: Aaron Allston
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-57897-9
    Wraith Squadron succeeded in its first operation, so now they get to up the ante. This time they're up against Warlord Zsinj, one of the most powerful remaining ex-Imperial warlords. Their mission is to infiltrate Zsinj's fleet and discover his plans. The first step is to become interstellar pirates. The second is to win Zsinj's trust. The third ... is to join Zsinj in an attack on Coruscant.
  • X-WING: SOLO COMMAND
    Author: Aaron Allston
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-57900-2
    Warlord Zsinj has been defeated, but not destroyed. He's still out there with a large fleet. Now, the new Republic is out to beat him in a more conventional way. Wraith Squadron is ordered to join a task force led by Han Solo in pursuit of Zsinj. But Zsinj seems to be always one step ahead of the New Republic forces. And back home, behind the scenes, a series of bizarre, unpredictable one-person attacks are weakening the New Republic just when it needs to be strongest.
  • X-WING: ISARD'S REVENGE
    Author: Michael Stackpole
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-57903-7
    With this novel, the X-WING series jumps ahead a couple of years, to the events that ended the Thrawn trilogy. Rogue Squadron thought they killed Ysanne Isard on Thyferra. They were wrong. Isard is alive, and plotting her revenge against the New Republic in general and Rogue Squadron in particular. As usual when Isard is involved, nothing is what it seems, and the Rogues will have to be very, very lucky just to stay alive. Because Isard's idea of "revenge" is to make the Rogues help her return to power...

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