Review: Hard Merchandise

by K.W. Jeter, Book 3.

BHW3

Well, it’s the end of Fettuary, y’all, so what else can I do but give you my final review of my favorite trilogy? I told you I might’ve cried during Slave Ship. Now I’m telling you I definitely cried during Hard Merchandise. People accuse me of not wanting NJO/Legacy because I can’t handle sad books and death scenes, but the fact is I just can’t handle soft reboots.

No, the end of this book hurts so, so good that I had to put it down and get my breath before continuing.

Again, as I said, it’s the characters that makes this trilogy such a bright constellation in the EU’s galaxy. As Kuat of Kuat tries to navigate turbulent waters of galactic neutrality in a time of civil war, betrayed by friends and best upon by his own people, Boba Fett likewise tries to unscramble the secret codes of the past and solve the mystery of Neelah the slave girl who saved his life.

One thing about this trilogy, I keep saying it’s about how Fett survived the Sarlacc, but that isn’t really true. His escape and survival is more of a footnote to the first book than anything else. I love how it takes for granted his survival, and how Fett is no longer man but machine when he is in his armor. He’s no cyborg, but he’s not a human anymore, either.

Again it’s a matter of, how can I review the 3rd book without giving any spoilers or repeating myself? This trilogy is masterfully put together, bringing the flashback segments forward from the past to join up almost seamlessly with the sections from the present, making it clear why the flashbacks were even a necessary part of the story.

Each character has a voice, is a living, breathing creation, and at times one wonders if they can even survive at all — even when you know they must! At the risk of tearing down Joe Schreiber, one of my favorites, Jeter is able to write the silently mysterious film character without destroying any of his mystery — a sharp contrast to Lockdown where Maul ceases to be a figure of the Dark Side and becomes a sardonic enforcer. Maybe you like sardonic enforcers; okay, I just thought it spoiled him. But not Fett. Jeter’s Fett is cold yet not amoral, silent yet expressive.

The final scenes are full of tension and heartbreak, leaving the reader shaken and raw like an adrenaline-fueled ride on a new roller coaster. In every way, this trilogy pushes itself and excels in the pushing. A brilliant piece of realcanon that I love every bit as much now as when I first read it in 1998.

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