Tales from the New Republic
edited by Peter Schweighofer and Craig Carey
Published by Bantam Publishing
Helen's Rating: 2 out of 4
Scott's Rating: 3 out of 4
Star Wars: Tales from the The New Republic is a compliation of short stories from various authors, including fan favorites Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole and from a few exciting newcomers. The last of the Star Wars releases from Bantam Books, these stories are a collection of new tales and re-issues from the Star Wars Adventure Journal, a role-playing game handbook issued by the now bankrupt West End Games. As with the previous Star Wars: Tales From the Empire, the Adventure Journal re-issues focus on new characters of the Star Wars Universe, while Zahn and Stackpole add to the backstory of established characters such as Hal Horn, Garm Bel-Iblis, Ysanne Isard, and Mara Jade. For the truly great stories it contains, this volume should be on the "must read" list of anyone looking to know all that there is to know about Star Wars. As we move into the New Jedi Order and Del Rey Publishing's era of the Star Wars Universe, it is a fitting end for the great job done by the folks at Bantam.
Not surprisingly, there were some great stories in TFTNR. I particularly liked the Zahn/Stackpole novella "Interlude at Darkknell." It was a real treat to see Hal Horn in something other than his son's memories, to find out what propelled Garm Bel-Iblis into the Rebellion, and to see Ysanne Isard less than perfect, as she began her rise to power. "Gathering Shadows" by Kathy Burdette deserves mention for revealing how being a rebel very, very dangerous business indeed, the value of friends, and the human cost of living with one's life on the line with every breath.
However, I reserve special mention for the two stories contributed by Chris Cassidy and Tish Pahl, "Hutt and Seek" and "Simple Tricks." These two stories were my personal favorites. I've been a big fan of the Star Ladys and Club Jade for a long time (Club Jade and the Star Ladys are two online groups with whom Ms. Cassidy and Ms. Pahl are affliated with), and it's great to see them publish. Of all the stories in the volume, I found these to be the best written in terms of content, humor, pacing, originiality, and cleverness. They created truly original characters from what could have easily been cliches. For example, Fenig Nabon could have been extremely one dimensional, because honestly, how many Corellian smugglers are there in the EU now? Instead, she is loyal to her partner when she'd rather strangle her, struggles with the loss and legacy of her late departed father, and still manages to learn something in her travels. Ghitsa Dogder could have been just another con artist looking for a quick buck, but instead manages to somehow do the right thing despite a natural urge not to and does this despite the influence of a very troubled history that is hinted at enough to be real while not being overplayed. Also, there are hidden gems in these stories for the long time EU fan - Easter Eggs to be found, if you will.
There were a few others that were really good, like the fun "Jade Solitaire" and interesting "The Last Hand," but I have to leave something for you to discover on your own. All in all, definitely worth the time reading it for the stories I have mentioned here.
The great thing about these collections of short stories is that if you don't like one story, it's not very long till you get to another. You get that great variety here, plus the added bonus of reading stories written by fans for the Adventure Journal. I think the fans have a massive amount of untapped talent, and this is one of the few ways it was used for the Star Wars Universe's benefit.
Like Helen, I loved the stories by Stackpole and Zahn. It's always great to see back stories on your favorite characters, and they deliver in their usual style.
I enjoyed all of the stories on various levels, but I particularly enjoyed Paul Danner's Boba Fett story and his "The Last Hand" story. The Boba Fett one was, in my opinion, one of the better stories about the character. Danner makes full use of ALL of Fett's weaponry in the adventure, plus puts the bounty hunter up against stormtroopers, TIE fighters, and even an AT-AT. Gotta love it. I thought the stories ended a little awkwardly, but it didn't take away from the rest of the story.
I'll also note Jean Rabe's "Day of Sepulchral Night" story with it's fun treasure hunt/pirate adventure theme, Cassidy and Pahl's "Simple Tricks" featuring a character from the novels, and "Gathering Shadows" by Kathy Burdette. I enjoyed these the most and will probably remember this book for them.
It was hard to mentally make the stories "fit" together. A reader must work a little too hard in order to place the stories chronologically relative to the movies and other EU material. It often made for a confusing read, and difficult to put the stories in perspective. Additionally, many of these stories originated in the now defunct Star Wars Adventure Journal. Although this is mentioned in the editor Craig Carey's Forward, I would have liked to know which stories had been written for this volume. Not that it would make the stories necessarily any different, or would have changed my opinion of them, but it would have been nice to know.
With a mix of stories like this, some stories will suit you, and some won't. There were a few that the styles and stories just didn't work for me. Sometimes the writer would jump around or something would not be clear. It was just a matter of taste. I also think Helen's comment about the placement of the stories was a good point. Where did all these extra Jedi come from? Where did the extra Dark Jedi come from? A lot of that is not clear. Between the stories I didn't care for and the ones I loved, the book as a whole evened out to about a 3 for me. Not bad, but not the very best.
Some of the stories just weren't that good, in my opinion. I didn't care for the story that focused solely on the Imperial, or the one featuring the Weequays. I found myself asking why the Imperial story was included at all, since there was a "Tales From the Empire" compliation not too long ago. There is one story featuring Boba Fett, "No Disintegrations, Please," that just left me shaking my head, as it didn't seem to fit character continuity for the always effective and always ruthless bounty hunter. But this could be me, and I could simply be missing the point of the tale. Moreover, there was an element of predictability to these stories as well, evidenced in "No Disintegrations, Please" and in the story "Conflict of Interest." As a result, in my opinion, the inclusion of these stories weighed the rest of the volume down.
Lots of ugly here. There's the character missing his eye, Bel Iblis' family being blown to bits, Mara Jade in the slime, aquatic melks (sharks) eating corpses, etc etc etc.