This week, I have recieved a question that both made me feel good to shed a little light on a galaxy far, far away, as well as make me feel a tad ashamed of myself. I let a friend, who I've tried to look out for like a little sister, wander through a life devoid of Star Wars. This post is for everyone who is afraid to admit that they might not have actually seen the movies, read the books, or dare I say even handled an Admiral Ackbar action figure and shouted, "It's a trap!"
(A brief sidenote: If you don't know much about Star Wars and don't like spoilers, it's almost never a good idea to click anything I link, especially when the link leads to Wookieepedia.)
Kara Jade asks:
As your little sister, a self-proclaimed nerdy girl, and a student of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, my lack of Star Wars exposure/knowledge is appalling. I am frequently ridiculed (especially by my friends here at school) because:
1) I have never seen any of the movies
2) I have never read any of the books
3) I have never played any of the games
4) I’ve never even perused the comic books
5) And I frequently do not understand witty/comical references to Star Wars characters, events, etc.
So recently I have begun to read your “Ask a Star Wars Geek” blog entries, and am intrigued. I had no idea (SPOILER removed[1. But placed here.]) had died! Or even that he was one of the main characters! I am ashamed. So my question to you is this: As an aspiring Star Wars geek, what would you recommend to a person just learning about Star Wars: movies, books, or something else? Is there a Star Wars for Dummies book I can keep an eye out for or find online?
I greatly appreciate your assistance in this matter, and I hope all is well.
~Your foolishly uneducated little sister"
As far as I have seen, there is no official SW for Dummies. That's ok. You just need to take it one step at a time.
Step 1: Watch the movies.
Now, it is a matter of some contention in which order should the movies be watched. For you and for everyone who is fresh to the series, I've sat in meditation as well as combed the internet, and I think I have found a suitable answer:
As posted here, there are a few different orders which make sense, but there is one that stands out for the new viewer. So my suggestion to you is the modified flashback sequence: Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. This is called the flashback sequence because the prequel episodes are viewed as flashbacks, giving the back story on the older characters in the series, and setting you up for the grand finale in Episode VI.
The astute reader will notice I've omitted Episode I: The Phantom Menace. While you can't get away with skipping it forever, there isn't much plot in it that isn't immediately covered in the beginning of Episode II. Of course, you'll never be up to scratch until you've seen it as well (after all, how else will you see the epicness that is Qui-Gon Jin?), but you can watch that later.
For the greatest possible first exposure to the movies, I reccomend to collect those five and watch them in that order. The reasoning is detailed in many places on the internet, that article included. Without ruining too much for you, realize that it makes sense continuity wise, plot twist wise, and graphics wise to watch them in that order. And skipping Ep I just saves time, and reduces the gap between Episodes V and VI while "flashing back."
Step 2: Read some books.
My next suggestion, if you wish to level-up your Star Wars geekdom, is to consider reading some of the Expanded Universe. The EU consists of everything that is officially liscenced SW material, but is not the movies (which includes the novelizations of the movies). If you want the prequel movies to make sense and be good, I might reccomend reading the novels of each, which are rather more enjoyable, give greater depth to the characters and their actions, and don't contain any of the widely disparaged acting of the prequel movies[2. I won't comment either way on the acting.].
If you'd rather jump to some completely unexplored territory, and think watching the movies was good enough, then possibly the best possible starting place to jump into the EU is Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy. Some of the earliest EU books ever, they are written for an audience that wasn't steeped in SW lore. They are excellently written, exciting, contain a great mix of characters old and new[2. Oh, Kara Jade, you may be surprised by the name of one of them], and start preparing you for SW outside of the movies, where things aren't black and white, and where you need a working knowledge of seafaring vocabulary[3. In space, you have a navy.].
Depending on what you think is cool about SW, there are myriad other places I could suggest from there. If you have more of a thing for fighter pilots and side characters, the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston gets one of my highest reccomendations[4. Stackpole himself loves the series, which only went out of print last year.] as a fun read, and has nine books (a tenth is in the works, I'm so excited!), so it offers a lot of reading. If that sounds daunting, the series can really be broken into parts, with the first four books being the Rogue Squadron arc, and the next three being the Wraith Squadron arc, and the last three being semi-independant. Certainly the last two happen after long gaps of time during which many other things happen in the SW galaxy, and those might be best waited for.
If you like the Jedi of old, then you'll be interested in the books around the time of the prequels, particularly the Clone Wars[4. Huge note here: The clone wars are a subject which make my blood boil. Due to George Lucas's rehashing of the period twice (as in there are 3 versions of events which are different), this era can be very confusing to the new fan. There were the original novels of the clone wars, which laid out the events first, and which I will always view as the real way it happened. Then there was a cartoon made, which changed some events around in a minor way that was mostly annoying but I could live with. Then there was a CG series which completely upset the entire coninuity of the Clone Wars and had repercussions across the SW Cannon, as well as books which agree with this new history which are published as the Clone Wars series (books which I am specifically boycotting). The original novels were fantastic, and to say they were all for nothing is an insult to the good work done by the authors who wrote them.]. In that period, my highest reccomendation goes to the novels of the Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss.
If the ancient Sith and Jedi battling it out is more your bag, then I'd point you to the Old Republic novels, which have been really cool at exploring the origins of the rivalry so familiar to SW fans.
If you want to see what Luke does after he takes the reigns, then I suggest the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson, which shows Luke founding a new order, and also Michael A. Stackpole's I, Jedi, right after that, as that novel tells the tale of the Jedi Academy trilogy from a different perspective, adding a character seemlessly into the events of the other novels. It's really quite an interesting read. After laying that ground work, you're ready to take the long road of the New Jedi Order, then onward to the Legacy of the Force and the Fate of the Jedi, to what I think of as galactic "present."[5. Which is 44 ABY, at the moment.]
To figure out when books happen chronologically in relation to eachother, you can look at the beginning of each, will have a timeline of books, or if you have the internet handy, you need look no further than my favorite page ever.
Books not nerdy enough for you?
Step 3: Video Games
There are a few video games which really bring the SW experience to life. Harkening back to the days of my youth, my first suggestion would be Dark Forces[6. This link leads to all of the games in this paragraph.] and Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. Unfortunately, most new PC's won't run DOS, so getting the former to run can be a challenge. Jedi Knight has an expansion, Mysteries of the Sith, which provides some of the backstory that's gone into such books as the Darth Bane trilogy. Not to mention they are SO FUN. There is also Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (which I've never played), and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (which I've seen a bit).
Another must play (which I'm a little embarrased to say I haven't) is Knights of the Old Republic (AKA KotOR) and Knights of the Old Republic II: The SIth Lords. These games are chock full of goodies in the Old Republic era, as well as being the source material for the Old Republic: Revan novel.
If you can find good oldies like Rogue Squadron (for the comp or for N64) play 'em! They're a great time. And even Battle for Naboo for the N64 does some fun playing with the story line of Episode I, in classic movie-video game tie in fashion.
Step 4: Become an even bigger geek than me by reading the comics.
Star wars has a rich comic/graphic novel tradition that has parralleled the growth seen in the novels. Many a time I lament my lack of comic book knowledge, when there is so much more to the EU that I've not even touched. The comics go a good 150 years after Episode IV, to a time that I still regard as the future of the SW universe.
Well, I hope that this isn't too much to handle all at once, but if you just take it easy, start with the movies, and enjoy SW as a hobby, in a few years, you'll find yourself at a parties going, "Then Wedge Antillies said, 'I said "proton torpedo", not "proton burrido!"' Ah-hahaha!"
May the Force be with you, young padawan, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek