The Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) was made up of numerous video games, comics, and novels. Some of these were great like the Thrawn Trilogy books, the Knights of the Old Republic video games, and the Dark Empire comic series. Others were bad like the book The Crystal Star. The EU was, however, the only new source of Star Wars for years… before the dark times… before the prequels. I was an avid fan of all things Star Wars growing up. I have read over 70 of the novels, seen all of the movies (even the ones we won’t mention here), and played the majority of the games at least once. From 1996 until 2014, the EU was my Star Wars.
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Here I will share with you three of my favorite EU stories. I use that word instead of books because many stories are made up of several books. This list is not definitive and doesn’t mean these are the best-written books. It is merely the stories I enjoyed the most. In hopes that you will check these out, I will remain spoiler free in my descriptions and will focus on what aspects of each book I like.
The X-Wing Series (Books 1-4) by Michael A. Stackpole
This series is a great place to start in the EU. It takes place roughly two years after Return of the Jedi and tells the stories of a newly re-formed Rogue Squadron and the fight to take Coruscant and the aftermath after they do. The story is focused and each book does well to tell it’s part of the story.
The first book, Rogue Squadron, sees our titular heroes training together to become as fierce as the squadron was under Luke Skywalker. Wedge Antilles is its leader and he brings together a great team filled with diverse personalities. Each pilot gets enough pages to develop, especially my favorite Corran Horn, and you really begin to feel a part of this world. It also introduces Ysanne Isard who leads the Empire at this time.
The second book has the Rogues on Coruscant as they plan to bring down the defenses so that the New Republic fleet can come in and siege the capital. During this time, Isard has developed a backup plan in the form of a virus that will cripple the New Republic. Book three sees Corran Horn, who was captured in the second book, trying to survive the prison ship Lusankya and return to his team. It also deals with the Krytos Virus, created by Isard, tearing apart the government of the New Republic. This book has an interesting thread through it in the form of a legal trial where Rogue Squadron’s Executive Officer is on trial for murder. I never thought I’d read about the justice system of the Star Wars galaxy. Then again, we got an entire trilogy of movies about trade disputes.
The fourth book wraps up the story of the Rogues. They have resigned their commissions in order to fight a private war against Isard who is holed-up on the planet Thyferra. Isard is maintaining control of the Bacta supply which can be used to cure the Krytos virus. This book has a great conclusion to this epic saga.
All four books work very well and even though huge things happen, the books feel small in the grand scheme of things. I think this is likely due to the lack of Skywalkers and Solos in it. They appear and have things to do, but the books are very focused on the Rogues. I love the action of the heroes and really enjoy their personal interactions. There is a lot of comedy in these books too and I love to laugh. They really give you a feel for what starfighter pilots, and possibly real-life fighter pilots, are like on a personal level. This story would have made a great TV series. Each book could easily be a season of 12 to 15 episodes with some filler. I have read through this series, and the other five books in it, two times and after writing this may return to it for a third round.
I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole
Let’s stick with Stackpole for a little longer. This is my favorite book in the whole EU. The story is personal in nature and the book is written in the first person. It’s a very strange feeling for the first few dozen pages as most Star Wars books are written in the third person and follow many different characters and locations.
Corran Horn is a force sensitive pilot in the famous Rogue Squadron. He comes home from a mission to find his wife has been kidnapped and feels a disturbance through the force connected to her disappearance. He seeks the advice of Luke Skywalker who has recently set up a new Jedi Academy on Yavin 4. Events that happen in the Jedi Academy Trilogy are spoiled in this book, so keep that in mind if you plan to read those books. After making very little progress Corran decides to continue on his rescue mission his own way. Using his skills as a pilot, detective (he was once part of the Corellian Security Force, a police force on that planet), and force user he tracks down his wife’s kidnappers. In order to save his wife he infiltrates a pirate group and lives in a world he once tried to erase.
The book is incredibly fun. I would describe it as a swashbuckling adventure. It’s a great standalone story too if you don’t plan on reading the Jedi Academy Trilogy or care about spoilers for it that is. It has everything a great Star Wars story needs like the force, lightsabers, starfighters, pirates, and a Skywalker or three. All of this makes for a great read. I have read it at least five times and I am never bored. Basically, I am saying “this is the book you’re looking for.”
The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
No EU list can exist without the books that, for all intents and purposes, launched it. Timothy Zahn wrote a better story than George Lucas himself and he created the most iconic villain since Darth Vader. As a matter of fact, I don’t think you can top Thrawn with any other baddie in the Star Wars Galaxy than Vader. These books are must-reads for any Star Wars fan, even if you never read another book.
These books are so intricate and well-written that I can’t say too much without giving away everything.
The New Republic sits on Coruscant while a dark force hides in the shadows. That force is Grand Admiral Thrawn and he has a plan to take back the galaxy in the name of the Empire. He enlists the help of a hidden mad Jedi, collects creatures that can negate the Force, and uses a race of nearly perfect assassins. Mara Jade is introduced in this series and she has a dark past directly tied to the Emperor. Thrawn proves to be the greatest tactician the galaxy has ever known and pushed the fledgling New Republic to the verge of defeat.
These books dig deep into the hearts and minds of our core heroes. Leia plays a massive role in this trilogy and can be seen by many as the lead through much of it, Luke faces things within himself he never saw coming, and Han returns to his roots and plays the scoundrel again. I got to these books a little later than most, they were the third series I had read. I can’t express enough how much you need to read these books. Maybe, if you want, I can do a spoiler-filled review on them in the future (let me know in the comments below, if you’d like to see that).
So there you have it. Two series and a solo adventure to get your feet wet. The Star Wars Legends books aren’t all winners, but these ones and many others are a great way to spend a lazy weekend at home. There are so many more I could talk about like The New Jedi Order and the Darth Bane Series. I would also love to talk about the games and the comics, but the question is do you want me too? Let me know in the comments below. Also, tell me if you’ve read these stories and what you think and may the Force be with you!