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Lit From a literary, non-fan perspective... which EU stories are the "best" written?

Discussion in 'Expanded Universe' started by Ghost, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Ghost Jedi Grand Master

    If you were to look at the entire Expanded Universe, but from the perspective of someone who isn't a fan of Star Wars.... someone who doesn't mind Star Wars but isn't devoted to it, doesn't feel like he/she needs or particularly wants to read any EU books at all... someone who just wants a well-written book to read, something different, and is willing to give a Star Wars book a chance... which ones would you recommend?

    For example, can you see any EU stories being potentially good enough for a high school English teacher to assign one for homework, and want to discuss its literary merits, alongside books like "The Great Gatsby," "Animal Farm," "Grapes of Wrath," "Pride and Prejudice," "Hamlet," etc...?
  2. The Loyal Imperial Census & Games General Manager

    No.
  3. Ghost Jedi Grand Master

    Maybe not QUITE up there :p but still, what do you think are the EU's most well-written stories, that even a non-fan would enjoy for its writing?

    I was thinking perhaps one of the Stover books, but I'm not sure.
  4. The Loyal Imperial Census & Games General Manager

    It'd have to be something closely related to the films, I think. One of the novelizations, perhaps.
  5. GoodValors Jedi Master

    Ah, literary value... that's an essay in itself right there.

    For my degree I did a linguistic deconstruction of a scene from Lost Tribe #2... does that count? :p
  6. Jedi Ben Jedi Grand Master

    Surely two things that define the works you've cited Ghost are completeness and a singular vision - the SW EU is really neither of these! Sure, there works that tell a complete story on their and Stover's are amongst the best of those but they still draw power and have appeal from fitting into a larger framework, being written in part to address a certain strand of it. I think where EUs are concerned the interest in it is something of a pre-requisite to reading it at all.
  7. instantdeath Jedi Grand Master

    Revenge of the Sith would actually be an excellent example for a non Star Wars fan, or even someone who doesn't read, on the power of well written prose. ROTS in terms of plot is basically the movie. With an extraordinarily tight third-person limited viewpoint (as well as a few examples of second person), it's as good a counter example as any to the old "everything's better filmed" idea. It also shows that literature, like every medium, can accomplish certain things that other mediums simply cannot. Anakin's spiral into madness could probably have been told much better in the film, but even if it had, I find it difficult to imagine that it could be portrayed in a more intricate manner than what's described in the novel.

    Ultimately, tie-in fiction by nature carries some stigmas that prevent them from being "great literature", at least on the level of some of the examples you listed. It's hard to simply say, "well, if this didn't have Star Wars on the cover, this would be great literature". That said, let it never be said that there aren't some really great books under the Star Wars license.
  8. imiller Jedi Master

    At this point, I'm not sure I can do that, despite loving (and majoring in) the so-called "great" literature of the past and present. I think as far as stylists go, I admire Aaron Allston. Stover is quite baroque and skilled, but his philosophy and attitude annoy me too much (and he edges into purple prose too often). None of the others really come close to a "literary" style - which is perfectly fine. Aiming at telling a good story well is its own art form, which I think too many of my colleagues overlook.
  9. instantdeath Jedi Grand Master

    Interesting, I find Stover edges away from purple prose; for the most part, I find his writing unpretentious, yet not so light on exposition that it enters into KJA territory. His Acts of Caine books, in particular, almost seem to mock the use of overly extravagant descriptions (with Caine's frequent cynical soliloquy's.) Should be noted that I have not read Traitor, so I don't know if that applies there.

    I could definitely see why the philosophy and attitude could be annoying, though. That general, somewhat hamfisted "f*ck you" vibe is present through most of his work, in great abundance in his Caine books, though I've grown to really enjoy it. Especially since he's shown that he can lose it (through writing Luke in Shadows of Mindor, even if Luke was a bit more confrontational there than in most places).
  10. imiller Jedi Master

    Really? In Shatterpoint, where the clones die in space? Or, like, any of his fight scenes ever? Or anytime he talks about stars (especially dying ones)?

    Sorry, I was really irritated with Traitor, and that's colored every book of his (only Star Wars - I didn't like any of those well enough to seek out his other stuff) I've read since.
  11. blackmyron Jedi Master

    I'm a firm believer in Sturgeon's Law.. I don't think any of the SW books ranks up with the Great Books of the last century or so - but as far as something read in English class? Yes, many of them are better-written and certainly more interesting. The main contention is that most really can't said to be "stand-alone" novels - you have to have at least a passing familiarity with the movies to really read them.
  12. JaijeeDzashe Jedi Master

    "Traitor" is great fiction in any capacity. One of the great novels I've read. It's a story of human hardships, transformation, transcendence and courage. Sits among the classics I've read like "One-Hundred Years of Solitude", "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Eye of the World".
  13. Havac Moderator of Your Temporary Lit Substitute

    I'd support anything by Stover in that category.
    Ulicus, RC-1991 and ESg like this.
  14. instantdeath Jedi Grand Master

    Are you talking about Shatterpoint, or the included short story Equipment? I do, now that I think about it, find that story a bit heavy on purple prose. It's been awhile since I've read Shatterpoint, but I remember the short story having a scene like that, but can't immediately recall that happening in Shatterpoint.

    And I couldn't disagree more on the fight scenes being overwritten. His fight scenes are easily at their best in his non-SW work (the whole series pretty much revolves around hand-to-hand combat, and leaves out very few details), though I find his fight scenes to be one of his overall highlight as an author. They're easily the most what I'd call "cinematic" of any Star Wars author. Of course, it might all depend on your personal definition of purple prose; for me, the key word in that definition is "unnecessary". I personally never get the description that anything in the majority of his fight scenes are unnecessary. For me, the "wrong way" to do a fight scene is exemplified in the Bane books. In those books, all too often it comes down to a very lifeless, very impersonal fight, where one person throws a lightsaber swipe, the other parries and throws a Force push, the other blocks and uses Force lightning, and so on. Essentially, just diagramming what's going on. I suppose it all depends on preference, but for me, a good fight scene is one where I can practically feel the impact of every punch, whether it's filmed or written.

    However, I do somewhat agree on "every time he talks about stars". Yeah, in a few places, he does have the tendency to really get into the descriptions on stars, and many of the more "science-fictiony" elements of SW. He also has a few tics that kind of annoy me (the tendency to italicize every other word, the frequent use of capitalizing terms to emphasize importance), though I can't say any of them bother me any more than some other tics other authors possess.

    But yeah, to reiterate, haven't read Traitor, so for all I know that one could be chalk full of what I consider purple prose. Shatterpoint had it to a degree, though I found it very forgivable, considering he was describing such an alien world (and as a very visual reader, I usually like vivid descriptions).
  15. WIERDGREENMAN Jedi Knight

    I know of a few interesting, well-written books but you need to really appreciate Star Wars to understand the references, "facts", etc. The expanded universe in general is not very easy to just pick up.
  16. LexiLupin Jedi Master

    That's a really difficult question, when you consider how much of the EU relies on existing knowledge of already-established material. My knowledge of the EU tends to take place after the movies... the only novels I've read pre-ANH are Outbound Flight (because I'm a huge Zahn fan), Rogue Planet (which made me want to gouge out my eyeballs), and the RotS novelization. All of those things rely on knowledge of existing material to really "get it" in its entirety (Outbound Flight- Survivor's Quest/other Zahn works; Rogue Planet- NJO; RotS- tPM and AotC). Everything I've read set after ANH directly relates to established characters from the movies, so there's always back-story that adds nuance.

    Having said that, as far as story-arcs go: the Hand of Thrawn set always gets my vote. The building chaos element, the last-ditch attempt to maintain Imperial dominance... political intrigue, a bit of mystery, and a portrayal of an Imperial leader who isn't a cartoon-like villain... but again, you really need the back story of the new Republic/Rebellion vs Empire, and then the whole arc involving Luke & Mara & Nirauan would mean nothing without having read the Thrawn Trilogy first.
  17. Heat Jedi Knight

    Sorry, but IMHO, Stover is overrated. Shadows of Mindor was just bad.

    From my experience, teachers prefer books based in reality. The only sci-fi book I remember from HS was Brave New World.
    COMPNOR likes this.
  18. Heat Jedi Knight

    How would you guys feel if a teacher made you read a Trek book? :)
  19. LexiLupin Jedi Master

    I read Fellowship of the Ring in HS. :D
  20. instantdeath Jedi Grand Master

    My brother has to read Ender's game currently. I also believe Heinlein is taught in some schools? Lord of the Rings is another one that many middle schoolers are required to read. And of course, one could argue all day about how based in reality some classics are.

    Anyway, I actually consider Shadows of Mindor to be better than Shatterpoint, and probably just below ROTS (though that may be because it stars much more likable characters). Well executed pulp that simply hasn't been seen SW since Brian Daley IMO.
    Dark Lady Mara likes this.

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