Honestly, I didn’t plan for all my challenges to prompt me to talk about Star Wars books in the same two month period, I really didn’t. But since it asked, well, I’m bound to answer! I don’t want to do an official review for a challenge, though — my recent enthusiasm for I, Jedi might lead you to conclude that that was my favorite, but no. Don’t confuse something that I think “is the greatest” with something I know “is my favorite.” And without any further ado, allow me to introduce to you my absolute favorite Star Wars book of the expanded universe (pending a proper review):
K.W. Jeter is an highly acclaimed author who is credited with coining the term steampunk, everyone’s favorite cogs-and-gears bespangled new fashion statement. These books, however, take a beating in the ratings department — which is part of why I’m so keen to do a series of reviews that gives them justice — and so I shall frame this post as a defense of The Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy as my very favorite in the EU. The three books, The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise take place on a split timeline and follow the most popular of all peripheral characters from the films: the bounty hunters.
The books start “Now,” or during the events of Return of the Jedi, but move back and forth to “Then,” just before A New Hope, which is when the titular bounty hunter war takes place. Now, the first time I read book 1, I actually listened to it on tape and was 14 years old, and had absolutely no difficulty tracking the shifts in time throughout the narrative. K.W. Jeter has a clean, dry, acerbic storytelling style that I think meshes well with the character of his, well, characters.
Dengar — the fellow with the bandaged head there — is a Corellian who is in to survival. Having met a woman who has changed his life, taking him off the path of vengeance against the man who scarred his features (Han Solo), he’s just looking for enough of a break to get the money to settle down with her and retire forever. Where can money be had on Tatooine? Well, Jabba’s sail barge has recently exploded in the Dune Sea, and that’s where our story begins, with Dengar scanning the wastes for anything he can make some cash on.
What he finds should properly shock any genuine Star Warrior: the soft, armor-free body of a human man, Boba Fett, stripped and shelled and vulnerable. “Sarlaac swallowed me. I blew it up,” he tells his rescuer before lapsing into silence. Dengar takes him to his hideout in the rocks, not sure what to do with him — but a young dancer from Jabba’s Palace, Neelah, she is sure what to do with him. She was mind wiped and Boba Fett holds the answers to who she once was. And she wants those answers in a bad way.
The question of Neelah’s identity isn’t the only mystery going on. Kuat of Kuat, one of my favorite characters of all time, has intercepted a message pod with some chilling evidence about who was really behind the destruction of the Lars’ homestead. And Prince Xizor of Black Sun reappears, just following Shadows of the Empire, with all his machinations and Falleen foibles. And you’ve got Bossk — the scaly fellow — out on a vendetta against Fett. It’s a largely peripheral book, with our main characters serving little more than cameos, which is something I always enjoy.
The events of “Then” are all about how Boba Fett was hired by a strange creature called The Assembler to start a war among the bounty hunters, with the eventual aim of breaking up the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. And it’s his involvement there that explains why Bossk is gunning for him so fiercely. The first book ends on such a cliffhanger, I will absolutely never forget the sensation of my panic between the books . . .
This is one of those rare trilogies that I was aware of as it came out. In fact, I remember clearly one day going into the local bookstore with Mom and making a beeline for the one shelf of “scifi/fantasy” near the front door (prime for sun damage) while Mom did whatever boring Mom stuff she was doing — and I saw Slave Ship on the rack and snatched it up in my unsteady fingers to belt down the first chapter before we had to go. Just to find out . . . did Slave I really explode on the final page of the previous book?! Well?!
I hear a lot of criticism about Jeter’s storytelling style, that the mystery is not well-developed and there’s a lot of telling without showing, but these are not objections I share. First of all, I dislike mysteries and the words “it really wasn’t a mystery at all!” will always be a compliment from me. And, as I said already, I feel that his narrative style exactly suits his subject matter. Jeter has remained one of my favorite Star Wars authors, and the warm feelings I have for this trilogy have even made me think I might, maybe, sometime go read his non-Star Wars stuff. (High honor, from me.)
And if nothing else, this book has given me Kuat of Kuat — head of House Kuat and ruler of the planet Kuat, and isn’t Kuat awesome to say? — one of my enduring EU crushes. Hmm, I have an abrupt memory of listening to this trilogy while playing Deer Hunter on our Windows 98. Wow! There’s an old chestnut. I do love these books; I moved them to Indiana with me, and even the other day when I was packing stuff in my storage unit, I had to take them out just to pet and smell them and say hi.
I feel like this post is a little more disjointed than most and a little rambly, but I’ve had a stressful week and am going to do a proper book-by-book writeup of this trilogy sometime in the future, so I think that makes up for it. The question was for my favorite EU book, and I have answered it, Sir!