Return of the Jedi Annual by Archie Goodwin (Marvel, 1983) A 62-page graphic novelisation, drawn with moody backgrounds and an occasionally lurid palette. The story is a bit rushed once it reaches Endor, but for the most part this is an exciting, faithful retelling and a boon prior to home media release.
Star Wars Holiday Special dir. Steve Binder (1978) Christmas programming is traditionally stultifying but there remains a whole generation of youngsters who never recovered from this feature-length Star Wars variety-show-cum-amateur-theatre-production fever dream. Unfathomable in conception, execrable in execution; just all-round unendurable (save the 10-minute Captain Kremmen-style animation introducing Boba Fett).
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden (Lucas Books, 2015); audiobook read by Marc Thompson (Penguin Random House Audio, 2015) Golden’s epic, refreshingly linear and focussed dark-side narrative suffers from gargantuan plot holes, and is cheapened in the audiobook by an ever-present soundscape and stock effects that force drama down the listener’s throat (likewise Thompson’s ‘telling it to a 6-year-old’…
Star Wars: Leia – Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray (Lucasfilm, 2017) Gray does a remarkable job plotting a story for 16-year-old Leia that stands on its own merits, offers a credible backstory, contains plenty of surprises, yet still fits in perfectly with everything the character will become. An easy but quite captivating read.
Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse (Century, 2019) A fairly dour effort serving to highlight the sorry plight of the Resistance and its once-celebrated heroes after The Last Jedi, yet offering little of the escapism upon which the Star Wars films are founded. Winshur Bratt is an ordeal too many.
Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed (Century, 2019) Inevitably fans will judge this against the Rogue Squadron books (now Star Wars Legends), and many will find it wanting. Rogue Squadron offered escapism, pure and simple. Alphabet Squadron is serious-minded and morose, and notably lacking in wisecracking adventure heroes. Both work.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dir. J. J. Abrams (2019) Star Wars was trailblazing in its use of special effects. Fittingly, this final instalment in the trilogy of trilogies sees a return to visual pioneering, its currency begetting not mindless action scenes but rather moody end-of-days backdrops and crackling, red-sulphurous Sith imagery.
Star Wars: Thrawn – Alliances by Timothy Zahn (Century, 2018) Zahn’s big picture storytelling doesn’t amount to much but Thrawn remains good value in the moment – a military virtuoso with Sherlockian powers of observation and deduction. Here the chronologically removed but intertwined narratives pair him with both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel José Older (Del Rey, 2018); audiobook read by Marc Thompson with Daniel José Older & January LaVoy (Random House, 2018) The audiobook reading of Last Shot gives fervent and overly dramatic voice to everyday situations. This exposes not only the mundaneness of Older’s writing but also the more general propensity (Star Wars house style?)…
Star Wars: The New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Bantam, 1996) Kristine Kathryn Rusch was one of few authors who managed to tell a proper Star Wars story without bemiring herself in the minutiae of that universe. Granted, the dénouement leaves something to be desired, but the preceding narrative is hard to fault.