Last year at GeekGirlCon’s Star Wars Expanded Universe panel, an audience member posed the question – Where should I start?
In the Star Wars Expanded Universe where the books and comics present one continuous canon, this question pops up with regularity. I’m always interested to see how fans answer it. It’s natural to want to pitch our personal favorites in response, but not everyone who’s asking is going to have the same tastes. So when I’m presented with that question by a curious potential fan, I try to return a question to him or her before considering my response – What is it that you like?
In his recent interview with the ForceCast, Frank Parisi talked about creating gateways into the Expanded Universe. I believe that the key, if you really want to suck someone into the fandom, is to give the person the flavor they prefer the most first. For instance, what if I’m talking to a friend who mentions, “I really love The Godfather”? Well, the Galaxy Far Far Away has something that just might float their gangster-loving boat. That’s when the lightsaber of an idea would ignite in my head and I’d say, “How about you give this new book Scourge a try?”
I’ve been turned on to books or television shows I might not have chosen on my own based on recommendations from sources varying from personal friends to online personalities. Recently, The Hunger Games books and The Legend of Korra television show come to mind. I trusted the judgment of the people who recommended them to me. As a blogger, creating that kind of trust with my own audience is very important.
Over the past year, after answering many tweets and emails with that daunting question of where to start reading the Star Wars Expanded Universe, I put together a little cheat sheet. My selections come in part from my own sensibilities, but all of these books are well regarded by a broad spectrum of fans. I’ve also found that one-shots or duologies are much less imposing as a place to begin. If one or two characters grab their attention, though, readers are often hooked. For each of my selections, I’ve tried to give a frame of reference – if you like this franchise or genre or movie, then you’d probably like that book.
Are movie novelizations your thing? Then you can’t miss Revenge of the Sith. Author Matt Stover sat down with George Lucas to get a peek inside the characters’ heads. This is one of the very best novels in the entire Expanded Universe, and it expands on the film in brilliant and unexpected ways.
Do you like romance? Are Han and Leia your dream team? If you were wondering how the pair finally tied the knot, read The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. Sure, parts of it are a little cheesy, but that’s to be expected in a space opera romance. Or if you’d prefer to read about them as newlyweds, I suggest Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning.
Is Top Gun one of your favorites? Do you think the trench run was the best part of A New Hope? Ever wondered what it’s like to fly an X-wing? Pick up X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar by fan-favorite author Aaron Allston. This is also one of the laugh-out-loud funniest books in the Expanded Universe.
Did you like frontline storytelling like M*A*S*H – assuming you’re old enough to know what that is – or medical practitioner procedurals? Do you like stories about side characters? Medstar I: Battle Surgeons and Medstar II: Jedi Healer by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry feature doctors and a female Jedi healer struggling to make a difference in the Clone Wars.
Are you a fan of the original Star Wars movies? Timothy Zahn set the high bar with the Thrawn trilogy, which some fans consider their Episodes VII, VIII and IX; the first book is Heir to the Empire. Allegiance, which takes place shortly after A New Hope, has Luke, Han, Leia, an intriguing squad of honor-bound stormtroopers, and Zahn’s signature strong female heroine, Mara Jade, in her days as the Emperor’s Hand. His latest Star Wars book, Choices of One, has a similar tale.
Would you prefer something from the prequel movie era? James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis shook the collective fandom mind with its carefully crafted exposure of the Sith machinations to take over the galaxy. If you think Mace Windu is the man, Shatterpoint digs into the Jedi Master’s backstory and Force philosophy. And if clones are more up your alley, Republic Commando: Hard Contact turns the troopers-beneath-the-armor into human beings.
Have you wondered about Han’s and Leia’s children, or had an inkling to taste-test the epic nineteen-book New Jedi Order but felt a little daunted about jumping in without knowing much about it? (Or wondered about that character Jaina Solo who FANgirl Blog won’t stop talking about?) Get Ylesia. It’s an ebook short story with a little romance, some Jedi swinging their lightsabers, a good sense of the Yuuzhan Vong villains of the series, and some fighter pilot action to top it off. You can find the story in print in the first book of Troy Denning’s Dark Nest trilogy, Dark Nest I: The Joiner King.
That’s my list. I hope it didn’t boggle the newbie mind too much. And, of course, if you have some others, please feel free to make suggestions in the comments.
Tricia Barr is a transportation engineer, who in her spare time blogs about fangirls, storytelling, and Star Wars at FANgirl Blog. This August, she is hosting a panel on the Star Wars Expanded Universe at GeekGirlCon in Seattle.