Ask a Star Wars Geek 11

A couple things for you this week. The first is a quote which was sent to me via T.X. Watson. It reads,

My friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden has pointed out to me that Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is actually a very pretty movie, and if you switch the DVD to Italian and pretend it’s opera, it’s rather enjoyable, too (this only works if you don’t speak Italian).

-Cory Doctorow

As someone who has done plenty of Episode I bashing myself, I think this does pose a great opportunity to have a discussion about that rather ill received movie.

Firstly, the special effects of the movie were very good over all. I have a personal disinclination towards CGI, but I've also seen much worse, and there were definitely pay offs--particularly the space battles. The pod race was pretty sweet too.

The biggest flaws with it were probably the animated characters such as Jar-Jar Binks, who has his own list of problems[1. Which has led to him essentially being scapegoated for the all the reasons why Episode I sucked.]. The puppet characters had the real look of being in the scene, even though they kind of made Yoda creepier than I think they should have. By a lot. I mean, he's downright scary[2. After much review, I've decided the reason for this is that the puppet they used in Episode I had entirely too large a brow, as well as too wide a mouth, as compared to the Yoda we knew from our childhoods. The result makes his face look more like Gollum and less like kindly old Yoda. Furthermore his eyes are just kind of cracked out, and its disconcerting.]

The costumes were what you'd want from a sci-fi space opera, as well, from the regal dress of the Naboo[3. Because I'm big on footnotes today, I will remind my readership here that the adjective for "Naboo" is "Naboo", not "Nubian" which is the adjective form of "Nubia", a different planet entirely though in the same sector of space. Confusingly in Ep. I they mention that their ship is of Nubian design, which is true; it was made on nearby Nubia.] royal court, to the simple dress of the Jedi, to the Trade Federation and their preferred garb. It creates a rich picturescape for the imagination.

And lastly, Coruscant was a sight to behold, after having imagined it in book after book[4. I had already begun reading the X-Wing series by the time I'd seen Ep. I.], it was great that they got it so utterly right.

The plot of Ep. I wasn't the worst plot, either. I will point out that the book, based directly off the screen play, is a great and fun read, which I would recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy this particular story[5. The same goes for the other two prequel movies, particularly Ep. III, which I think is one of the best SW books ever.]. There were many things that contributed to why Ep. I was a let down, and cartoonishly racist depictions of human cultures via alien species aside,

I think the biggest thing was this had to follow the greatest trilogy ever made[6. Don't think I'm hating on Back to the Future or Lord of the Rings. They are right there, and LotR didn't exist yet anyway, so SW had a nolo contendere going into Ep. I.].

Now that I've rambled at length in response to something that wasn't a question, a question:

Kristal T. asks:

"How is a lightsaber made?"

The process of building a lightsaber is, as you might expect, long and complicated. It is worth noting, however, that many have been made under less than ideal circumstances, sometimes in only a couple days, sometimes using only materials at hand. In the case of the latter, the lightsaber can often be unstable and even dangerous if it doesn't have a properly tuned focusing crystal.

But I get ahead of myself. When a student of the Jedi or Sith is ready--a determination made either by their own ambition and circumstance or their Master--then they must acquire one of the special focusing crystals that allow the lightsaber to have a self terminating blade. For the Sith, this step is much easier, for the red crystals they use are actually made synthetically, and aren't a naturally occurring variety. Also, they are actually more powerful.

For the Jedi, the path often involves traveling to one of the few planets where particularly useful and Forceful crystals are formed: Adega, Ilum, and Dantooine. However, just about any crystal can be used, as long as the Force user building the device properly meditates and alignes the structures of the crystal to resonate with the force and focus the blade just so--failure to do so can make the device explode or kick off hard radiation. The reason for seeking out these crystals is the superior quality of the blades one can make with them. The most sought after lightsaber focusing crystals are shards of the Kaiburr crystal, and produce the best blades possible.

The rest of the construction process is fairly unique, as each Force user will make the blade which compliments them the best. However, all will have an internal power source and a superconducting loop which takes the energy put into the blade and recycles it with only insignificant energy loss unless the blade is actually cutting through something, at which point energy is transferred to that thing.

A lightsaber can have as few as one focusing crystal, but it was not unheard of to have a lightsaber with as many as three. Depending on the arrangement of the crystals, this can affect the size, shape, and color of the blade. Some lightsaber wielders even added knobs or switches to change the length of their blade mid combat. One such blade was wielded by Corran Horn.

There are also variants such as the double lightsaber, the lightwhip, and the lightsaber pike. (There are dozens to be found on the lightsaber page, linked here and earlier.)


That's all I've got for this week, and I hope to post again next week. If you have a question you'd like answered, or and idle wonderings about Star Wars, shoot your questions to, and I'll see what I can do.

May the Force be with you, always,

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 10

This week, I've received a few questions from my lovely girl friend, and will be answering them. I had hoped to continue this column into the school year, which starts this week for me, but may not be able to do so regularly. I hope that will not be the case, but will have to play things by ear. If you want to help make that possible, send your questions to, and give me the motivation and material I need to keep this thing rolling.

Also, as a side note, I apologise for the lack of plentiful links, but I am using hotel internet which is frankly terrible.

Ariel C. asks:

"I know the Emperor hates aliens, but what of women? Are there any prominent women in the Empire? Or what of the sub-ranks? Are there female stormtroopers, moffs, etc.?"

The Emperor is specifically mentioned as having an anti-non-huMan policy in the expanded universe. Women had just as rough a deal as non-humans did under his regime. Notable are the few females who were able to rise through the ranks nonetheless, such as Admiral Daala.

After the Emperor's death, women did begin making more headway into the Imperial hierarchy, with there being several female moffs in the Imperial Remnant.

I have never heard of any female stormtroopers, and don't believe there were any. Also, as a note, moffs aren't a "sub-rank", they're very high ranking, actually, controlling the governors of multiple systems.

"Are there any instances of cross-species relationships in SW?"

Yes. There are a few, though the first one that springs to mind is Gavin Darklighter, human male and cousin to Biggs, and Asyr Sei'lar, a Bothan female. Comically, Gavin actually had a slight allergy to Bothan fur, causing him a full body rash at one point that was as embarrassing for him as it was uncomfortable.

Though the two were happy together, they did receive outside pressure to break up, particularly on Asyr's side, as Borsk Fey'lya, a Bothan senator with much influence, opposed the relationship.

"Are there other characters like Mara Jade?"

Short answer: not really. Longer answer: it depends on how like "like" is. If being a woman who can be bad-ass and take charge is the extent of the similarities you're looking for, most female characters in SW could be considered comparable.

I think the most similar character would probably be Jaina Solo, if only because she's a woman who knows how to bring down the house--and the surrounding city block if need be.

Mara Jade is a very distinct character, and I don't think anyone has written any analogs for her if only because doing so would be kind of obvious.

That being said, there are other characters with clear analogs, such as Dash Rendar, who is essentially Han Solo but not so they could be in two places at the same time. To be fair though, that character was given new life in Star Wars: Shadow Games.

SWG: Celebration VI

Hello all! I just finished up my third and penultimate day at Star Wars: Celebration VI, and it's been nothing but fantastic.

I've been working a booth most of the time, selling autographed movie posters for my girl friend's mother's business. However, even just at the booth I've been ogling the plethora of costuming that is the SW community, and it's nearly overwhelming.

The panels I've attended have been informative and intimate, even when the smaller ones have 200 people in the room. There's a comfort and ease between everyone at the con, panelists included. Most of the panels were writing "workshops" held by prominent SW authors, Aaron Allston, James Luceno, and Timothy Zahn to name some (though sadly I was unable to go to Zahn's workshop as it was filled past capacity over a half hour before it opened). I say "workshops" because they're really advice sessions, ranging from the helpful for a new writer to ground breaking even for old hats, giving new and interesting perspectives from which to write[1. I can go into them later if anyone is interested, just let me know.].

I also attended a Del Rey panel where they broke some news about a new trilogy by Christie Golden (Sword of the Jedi), and a new push to create more short SW fiction in the e-book format.

In the expo room, I've hung out with costumers and their organizations, seen Mark Hamill and George Lucas (and narrowly missed Carrie Fisher coming to our booth while I was returning from a panel), and actually held a 10 minute conversation with Timothy Zahn himself. The displays are wonderful, including set replicas of various SW scenes and locations, droid races, SW cars, custom Mandalorian helmets that double as art, and LEGO everything. I can't even begin to describe everything.

The experience is phenomenal, and I recommend that when Celebration VII happens in the next two or three years[2. This event isn't regular, with 3 year intervals between all of them except the two-year interval between C V and C VI. So it's up in the air when the next one will happen.]. If you're a big SW fan, then this is your Mecca.

I would delve in even deeper, but I don't want to get lost for hours and I'm practically crashing now at 8:30 from so much excitement and 9 hours on my feet every day for the past three.

So good night, and have a wonderful end to your weekends, as I sure will.

May the Force be with you, always, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

A Day Late and a Question Short

To any readership I may have, I apologise for having dropped the ball this week. I didn't make the time, and I, for the first time in 9 weeks, missed a post.

I hope to make it up to you next week, when I give you some on the ground reporting of what it's like to attend the world's largest SW convention.

I'll try to make things up to you all by showering you with some book reviews and answering your questions, as ever.


You know you want to.

So please, please, send you Star Wars related questions to, and you won't have to worry about me missing a week because I didn't go out of my way to hunt them down.

So, I'll end what will probably be my shortest post for a long, long time by saying:

Come back next week. It'll be much better.


-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

SWG: How'd you like that book? Star Wars: Choices of One

Timothy Zahn has written some of the best SW fiction I've read. His novels have traditionally focused around a certain cast of characters: the characters you know and love from the movies, and his own iconic characters, such as Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Gilad Pellaeon. His most recent SW book takes place shortly after Episode IV, and three months after the events of Star Wars: Allegiance, another one of Zahn's, which introduced us to some new characters of his: a stormtrooper squad with patriotism, ethics, and backbones of steel. This new book is loosely a sequel to Allegiance, and I'm glad I've read it.

So, Star Wars Geek, how'd you like...

Star Wars: Choices of One

When I saw that Choices of One had come out, and that it would follow Allegiance, I was excited to see Zahn in action again. Allegiance was a fun title, and an excellent stand alone novel. It featured Mara Jade, and the big four[1. Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie.], and five new characters who are stormtroopers.

I expected something similar from Choices of One. What I got instead made my day. Choices of One has all the Zahn favorites, tieing in Outbound Flight and the original Thrawn Trilogy. It was great to see all the characters becoming the characters I knew they'd be. It really was one of the most pleasurable parts of reading this story, was to see the transitions happening.

Luke Skywalker, for instance, blew up the first Death Star only 9 months previously, and he is still wet around the ears, a naive farm boy who's fighting more from idealism than people. Mara Jade is the Emperor's Hand, coolly dispatching Imperial justice. Thrawn is a Senior Captain. Pellaeon is a Commander, the third bridge officer of the Chimaera. Han is still a hot head who wants to get his way, and Leia still isn't sure if she hates him. Conversely, we also get to see a little of Jorj Car'das well after his appearance in Outbound Flight, now older and in a state of crisis.

It's a tough thing to do, I think, to set up so many character relationships between major turning points in them. The characters still need to start the way we last saw them in Episode IV, but not develop any more than they are when we see them again in Episode V. Maybe develop is the wrong word, though, because what Zahn manages to do is use these characters to make a great drama where we can feel something has happened with these characters in more subtle ways as well as letting us get to know them better.

All in all, while I wouldn't recommend this book to someone fresh to the SW EU[2. Star Wars Expanded Universe], I think it's a 5 out of 5 must read for the SW EU fan, and is a great addition to Thrawn's lore.

{Continued with spoilers below fold}.

One of the most exciting aspects of the book for me was seeing Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker come so close to bumping into each other, when they aren't supposed to meet for the first time until much later, during the first book of the Thrawn Trilogy, Heir to the Empire. The chance that they'd really meet was dangled repeatedly, and that tension was almost too much for me.

It got my heart pounding in the way of a devoted geek.

However, for all the subtlety of how that situation was handled, I felt the opposite about Thrawn's motives in acting. They were very plainly laid out in this text for the first time in universe, and I found that it brushed a little bit of the enigmatic charm that Thrawn has always held for me away.

It was stated by Zahn as an author while the New Jedi Order was still being written that Thrawn's actions were because he wanted to see a strong, unified central government so that an unknown threat (read: the Yuuzhan Vong) could be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

So I have understood that to be his position for many a year now, but he never actually came out and said it, because he never explained himself, really. That's where the whole 'he's an enigmatic genius' thing comes from.

Still, I guess it gives credulity to the argument to make it in universe, and it was made in a privet conversation in the book, not like he stood on a grandstand and told the universe.

That being my only complaint, I otherwise found the book to be a fun, action packed adventure. And while I did mention that the Big Four couldn't really develop much, and that Mara remained a bit static as well, the stormtroopers were held back by no such restrictions, so we get to see them further change and develop, and see Thrawn and Pellaeon reaching for the people they will very soon be.

My suggestion, in the end, is that anyone interested in reading Zahn's SW works should consider reading this book last, or at least after they've read the Thrawn Trilogy, Outbound Flight, and Allegiance.

Happy reading, and may the Force be with you,

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 09

Hello again. I'm sad to say the questions have not been pouring in, and so I must implore my audience to send me some of theirs. You can send them as always to

An upcoming event worth mentioning is Celebration VI, which I will be attending as one of many thousands of awe-struck fans. That'll start on the 23rd, and I may have a special post that weekend in the general realm of saying what a great time I'm having and wish you were here etc, but I'll save that for then.

Now, questions!

 Brian C. asks:

"Why do we all know that Ewoks are called what they are when they never use their name in the movies?"

Well, I don't know which way the answer came first, truthfully, as it happened some time before I was born and that particular snippet of information hasn't crossed my ears.

However, there are two ways for certain that the information would have leaked first, and once out through those channels, another to explain why everybody knows they're called Ewoks.

So the first two ways are fairly simple: the movies had novelization tie-ins, released right around the time of the movies (probably before, as the case seems to be with such things.) If I had to bet where the name was known from first, it would almost certainly be the Return of the Jedi novel, which refered to them as Ewoks at some point. The second would be the toys.

There's big money in selling swag, and you need a name to put on the box. Children buying Ewok action figures would have recognised the characters and then associate the name on the box with it.

It's worth knowing that in the end credits, they are referred to as Ewoks, though at no point in the dialogue is it mentioned. Also, anyone with their hands on the script could have also read it in the stage directions.

But the big third reason, which I think is truly the reason everyone knows they're Ewoks--and shamed is the SW fan who doesn't know the Ewok Leia meets first is named Wicket--is that there was a cartoon and two direct to TV movies, which were almost as bad as the Star Wars Holiday Special, or so I'm lead to belive[1. I've seen the Holiday Special. I don't know if I'm up for the Ewok Adventure or its sequel. I would say no one knows why they were made at all, but it smacks of Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money.].

And there were the children's comics based around them as well.

After a certain point, it became hard to not know they were called Ewoks, especially when small children could mock you for not knowing something so obvious.

Curt H. asks:

"Do Mandalorians have special forces or are they already the special forces? What would be the best comparison between Mandalorian special forces if they exist to the Imperial Royal Guards?"

Mandalorians are a warrior culture. Every man, woman, and child is a warrior. Some are better than others. I find it helpful to think of the Spartans, though their women weren't warriors, they were a culture of warriors, and in an environment that allows the best to survive and continue on, they're all pretty good at what they do.

There have been some that stood out among their peers, Boba and Jango both being up there. Of course, they were both Mandalore for at least part of their lives--Mandalore being roughly like a King or other central leader, but without the kind of absolute power we would associate with that title. But indeed Mandalores were often the best, rising to their rank through skill of leadership and fighting, not through bloodlines.

Mandalorian mercinaries have often been called "supercommandos", and I think that title is rather apt to begin with. This actually refers to the fact that Mandalore Jaster Mereel created the Supercommando Codex, which was essentially a code of honor for Mandalorian mercs.

The Republic's Clone Troopers were all clones of Jango Fett, as previously noted a Mandalore and one of the best. The flash training that they all received Jango helped create. As a result, they all recieved in their training ideas of Mandalorian culture, effective making them Mandalorian, as it is a culture and not a species. The general troopers were all fairly modified from Jango's original DNA. They were made more docile and obedient, etc.

However, above them there were the Republic Commandos. They were less modified in those ways so they could be more independent thinkers, and a squad of four of them were one of the greatest forces someone could reckon with, especially as those squads were ones they were brought up from birth in, so they knew each other as well as they knew themselves.

Above the Republic Commandos in training and lethal efficiency, were the Advanced Recon Commandos, or ARC Troopers, and they even received personal training from Fett. The only way their DNA had been tampered with was to accelerate their growth. The ARC troopers tended to act independently, and were pretty much like facing down Fett, though they had the militaristic draw back of kind of being mentally unstable and likely to desert.

Those troops, while some of the earliest, came after Kamino's first experiment with Fett's genome: the Null-ARC troopers. They made only twelve, and in addition to accelerating the growth rate of these troopers, they also tried to improve them. They all had genius level IQ's, eidectic memories, and were extra aggressive. If Kal Skirata hadn't had their lives spared, then they would have been exterminated as failed experiments, but he did, and brought them up to be ridiculously awesome genius commandos, with the only drawback of all being slightly insane.

In general, most Mandalorians would probably rate somewhere between Republic Commando and ARC Trooper, with some better than ARCs, and some little better than regular troopers.

The Imperial Royal Guard, on the other hand, was composed of the best members of the Stormtrooper Corps, which were then sent to the Imperial Royal Guard Academy where they were further trained and essentially brainwashed into being fanatically loyal to the Emperor.

Their reputation is legendary. I suppose it has to be, as I don't think I've ever seen or read about them doing anything[2. THe caveat being "in what I've read." I'm fairly certain there are comics and such where they kick ass and take names, as that's where all the cool pictures of them come from.].

I'm not saying they can't, I'm just saying that in what I've read, they're usually just sort of silently hanging around the Emperor. And the one time they might've really had an epic battle in defense of their Emperor is when Yoda walks in casually and dispatches the two Red Guard (the predecessors of the Royal Guard) at the end of Episode III before he and Palpatine have their fight.

I mean, it was Yoda, so they were fairly screwed, but they didn't even really react, except to fall over dead from all the awesome that was in the room.

The Royal Guard could probably hold their own against a Force user for a while with their standard issue Force Pikes, and they have heavy blaster pistols under their robes if they want to shoot some stuff up, as well as some heavy armor that didn't impede their movements.

If ever there was going to be an epic fight, twenty Mando Supercommandos vs. twenty Royal Guardsman would be a sight to behold. Particularly if the Guards thought they were fighting to save the Emperor. I tend to lean towards the Mandos coming out victorious, if for no other reason than the Beskar'gam they wear is not only armor, but loaded with a much more diverse arsenal of weaponry that could really help win the day.

So I guess the real answer to the question is four words: "flamethrowers and thermal detonators."


-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 08

Greetings, all. I've just started tearing through Choices of One by Mr. Zahn himself, so anticipate a review soon, and anticipate a good one.

I've been working every day since my last post (which I finished at work), so this week is a little lighter. Also, my pool of questions is rather low, but that's alright, because this is where you come in.

Send me your questions, comments, concerns about SW at, and there's a really good chance you'll see it here soon. This column is a two way street--if you want me to answer, you need to question!

Now, to your pressing questions:

Nate S. asks:

"How many species are there? How is it possible to have so many forms of sentient life so close together? Was there one original sentient species that set into motion all the others?"

Off the top of my head, I can tell you that there are millions of known sentient species in SW, and for every two known there's probably a third unknown[1. This is a very rough estimation, of course.]. According to Wookieepedia, there are 20 million known sentient species.

This article actually starts with a quote which I think helps the credibility of so many sentient species existing:

"In our efforts, we have learned that life is not rare. Rather, given a chance, life will occur. It is tenacious, aggressive—it seems to crave existence."

-Tem Eliss, sentiologist

Star Wars is probably most accurate defined as a science fantasy: that is, it has fantasy elements--the Force itself--and science fiction elements--space ships, light sabers, etc. But even though the Force is a particularly fantastic element, especially in the original trilogy, it was explained and explained again as other science fiction writers picked up the torch and kept running, always looking to explain how everything worked.

Lucas himself fed that when he introduced the idea of midichlorians, still a hotly debated topic[2. In some circles, anyway. I suppose you don't see many fights breaking out in the street about it.], which put the most measurable and scientific angle on it to date. And if we accept that this universe has an energy field which has a "will[3. I believe it was Qui-Gon Jin who once said, (and I'm paraphrasing) 'We say that we follow the will of the Force, but saying the Force wills us to do something is like a person ignorant of gravity saying the river flows to the ocean because it is the will of the river.']" This energy field is produced by life, and some argue creates it. So if we operate in a universe that has the Force, we operate in a universe particularly receptive to life and its development.

This, I think, answers the second part of the question. The last question I think may be the most interesting part.

I haven't read anything that would lead me to believe one sentient species created all the rest. There is far too much galaxy, far too many species. However, there certainly was one species, extinct before the formation of the Republic, more advanced in technology that the best tech of the Legacy era, which definitely had a hand in shaping the galaxy in a way they saw fit.

This race is known as the Celestials in Star Wars lore, and they did a whole bunch of really cool things then disappeared before anyone could ask them about it[4. On their Wookieepedia page you can actually read about a whole crapload of stuff they did, though they still are kind of mysterious in their dissapearance overall, as well as thier motives.]. Among these awesome exploits, they artificially created the Corellian system, which has five plants that all sustain life and three sentient species, Drall, Selonian, and Human living among them.

Two of the planets, Talus and Tralus, are locked in mutual orbit of each other, around a giant space station called Centerpoint Station, which sits in a Lagrangian point of the two planets, directly between them. Centerpoint dwarfed the first Death Star, and was actually a tool which was probably used to transport most if not all of the planets around Corell into their positions by sucking the planets from the stars they had been orbiting through hyperspace and depositing them around the star.

The Celestials are really mysterious, and they may or may not have had hand in creating species, though they likely could if they had wanted to.


There you have my short post for this week. I'll see you next time, and until then,

May the Force be with you, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

SWG: How'd you like that book? Star Wars: Shadow Games

So, I actually finished this book a little while back, but I've been holding myself to my promise to review every book I read, and the only way for me to make an effective review is to not clutter my mind with other books, so I've not read anything for almost a week now, which has been painful, but that's what I get... Anyway...

So, Star Wars Geek, how'd you like...

Star Wars: Shadow Games

Star Wars: Shadow Games is Michael Reaves newest Star Wars collaboration since Death Star[1. Which was a wholly enjoyable read. EDITED the paragraph break here because there was a problem with the footnote mechanism -- Watson].

Shadow Games was co-written with Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, an author whose name I'd not before heard (though, she's actually a rather impressive person). Prior to reading this, people told me only good things about the book, and I went in with pretty high expectations.

I wasn't disappointed.

Shadow Games is one of the best SW stand alone[2. I'm actually (theoretically) working on a longer piece which talks at length about the differences between Stand Alone fiction and Arc Based fiction in the SW universe, and its effect on the fandom. I enjoy both styles, though they feel different when read, but I know there are some people who lean more one way or the other.] novels I've read in a while, and set in the Rebellion Era, one of my favorite periods. Especially as stand alones do exceedingly well in it.

Shadow Games brings to the fore some areas of SW not previously explored much, such as the existence and function of the entertainment industry, as well as giving us a little more Han Solo and Dash Rendar at their smuggling prime. intrigue, mystery, and fast paced action all find themselves packed between a front and back cover, and the effect is great.

I'd give Shadow Games a 4 out of 5, give this book a read status. It's a great read for the reader fresh to the SW EU, just as well as the old hands, and it'll keep you guessing right up until the end.

(Continued with spoilers after the fold)

So, what was my biggest problem with this novel, you might ask yourself. And this time, it was continuity. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but the ending left me with a bit of a nagging feeling.

At the close of the story, we find Dash and Han on Tatooine. They split up, and Dash notices an increased amount of stormtrooper activity, but thinks nothing of it.

Of course, this is the nod and wink that this would be right before the events of Episode IV. Han went to the cantina to meet Chewie, who had been absent from the novel as he was off with his wife, who was giving birth to their son, Lumpy. Presumably, he'll go into the cantina, Chewie will come to him with a job offer, and they'll cart off Ben and Luke.

Unfortunately, Han Solo's adventures are well documented right before the events of Episode IV, in, well, The Han Solo Adventures[3. Not to be confused with the Adventures of Han Solo.] AND The Han Solo Trilogy. Between the two, there's pretty much every moment from Han getting stuck with Chewie to his visit to Chalmun's Cantina and his confrontation with Greedo. The last book of the Han Solo Trilogy (during which, incidentally, the entirety of the trilogy of the Han Solo Adventures takes place), ends with Han being warned that Greedo is looking for him while he walks into the cantina.

Air tight.

And it is perfectly legitimate to ret-con old works with newer ones[4. Though sometimes profoundly offensive, as in the clone wars re-reboot. Grumble.], and there is also the Infinities Universe concept[5. I thoroughly scoured Wookieepedia, and they don't actually have a page which talks about this concept and its usage. The closest analog would be in the EU page itself, which describes levels of cannon and the like.], which says that whenever you have official cannon which disagrees about any given fact or circumstance (for instance, a character dies in one book, but appears in a later one), you consider it an alternate universe and don't trouble yourself too much. (Essentially, this was invented to deal with the first official cannon non-movie star wars novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which has SO MANY continuity errors, which are forgivable, given that at the time it was written, Episode V wasn't even done yet.)

As newer cannon is to be prefered, that makes at least the last book of the Han Solo trilogy infinities universe at best (which technically means is no longer cannon up for grabs to use.).

Of course, the end of the book is more a suggestion of a time than anything else, an increased presence of Stormtroopers doesn't have to mean this is after the Tantive IV was captured, but I have trouble thinking of any other reason why all of a sudden there'd be a big influx of stormies to Tatooine. There is nothing of value there as far as the Empire is concerned, shy of stolen Death Star plans or some such being there.

Now, it is possible (as it has been a few years since I've read those books) that there could possibly be a hint of wiggle room to have Han abscond for a week or two during that time without it really messing things up. I'd like to think as much.

However, the other continuity error that ties into all this is that the book starts with Dash Rendar trying to beat Han's Kessel Run trip of 12 par secs. Something he did right after dumping some spice and heading to Tatooine to run into Greedo.

Still, these are forgivable errors, given that they would probably only stick out to someone with too much time on his hands *coughs* and don't impede the actual reading of the story in any way.

This feels like more of an extended rant than a review, but understand that what I just said sums up all my problems with this book. Essentially just that this clashes a bit with a really old book many of you may never read.

So go check this book out. It's really worth the time :)

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 07

This week I received a question which follows up on last week's post about clones in the Impiral armed forces. What a great way to get started. But before we jump in with both feet, keep your eyes open for my review of Star Wars: Shadow Games tomorrow, the first real SW mystery/thriller, and one that kept me flipping the pages at that :D

Ariel C. asks:

"So... if at the time of Episode IV both clones and conscripts were being used as stormtroopers, why is Leia's line, 'aren't you a little short... etc.' relevant? I assumed it was because they were the same height, as they were cloned."

There are a couple ways this problem needs to be approached to fully understand the context of the answer. The first (and possibly the most important) is the actual historical context of the 1977 film, "Star Wars", which hit the silver screen as an oddball space western that nobody thought would go anywhere.

The clone wars were a vague concept, plot device even, at that point. They were mysterious and cool, and added some depth to this universe far, far away. When Leia said her famous first remark about Luke, it was merely a shot she was taking to show that she was an empowered character, not easily threatened or cowed.

It also points to the very uniform nature of the stormtroopers as they were portrayed in the movie: faceless villains, identical, lethal, and replaceable. At that point, I think the idea of the stormtroopers as clones probably hadn't occurred to Lucas. They were just big faceless tough guys.

Luke was on the short side for a human in general, and his armor was clearly too big for him when he walks into the cell to see Leia for the first time.

Now view that same scene after SW has built itself into more of a franchise: we have Episodes V and VI, and more importantly, we have the Thrawn trilogy[1. If you haven't picked up on how often I refer to this trilogy, it really is the foundation of the EU as we know it, and it can be hard to get through a post without bringing it up. EDIT the format of this paragraph was altered because of a problem with the footnote program. -- Watson].

In the it, the idea of the clone wars is expanded upon, and we learn that they were a dark time, and that the clones were likely sinister, and furthermore they were prone to madness.

At this point, you'd be lead to believe that the clones were the bad guys, and the war was against them, and that the Empire is around at all is probably because all the mad clones were destroyed. Furthermore, we have books which talk about the military academy at Carida and the like, and it's pretty easy to assume there aren't clones in the ranks of the stormtroopers.

Of course, this is shown to not really be the case when finally solid fiction was released about the clone wars, and now we know it as the Republic versus the Separatists, with the clones being the good guys... until, well, that whole Episode III thing, but at that point they were being used as the tool to help fully sculpt the fledgling Empire, which we know is bad.

Feed this information in, and we get that the Grand Army of the Republic was a clone army, it became the start for the Empire's military, and was supplemented with clones which actually were more in line with the clones described by Zahn in the Thrawn trilogy: clones made from Spaarti cloning cylinders, with the possibility of clone madness and all that goes with it. They plus academy trained conscripts join up and ta-da.

Actually, I think it'd be really interesting to get some books between Episodes III and IV which deal specifically with how some of those early stormtroopers might've had clone madness. It gets my inner geek reeling...

I digress.

So, in the complete, in-universe context of Leia's line, it may have in fact been influenced by the presence of clones in the military, though still more likely just a wise-crack at a rather short guy in ill-fitting armor, whom she still would've thought to be an enemy when he first burst through the door.


And while we're talking about lines said on the Death Stars...

An anonymous questioner asks [SPOILER: STAR WARS: TAILS OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS]:

"How would the complexion of the SW universe have changed if IG-88A's plan to take over the Death Star 2 had worked? What happened to the empire after the destruction of the Death Star 2, it didn't just go away right? Bonus: The film Clerks has the funny scene about contractors working on the Death Star, whose side do you take?"

These questions are all wonderfully related, and probably deserve a whole post to themselves, but I'd like to answer them now and am running dreadfully short on time this week[1. I'm working full-time as a theatre technician, and as great a job as that is, it's not getting paid to write (though caveat here: I'm writing this while at work, so I am kind of getting paid to write this).], but here are my thoughts:

Firstly, in relation to the spoiler in the question: in tales of the bounty hunters, a short story cycle written about the various bounty hunters we see with Vader after the battle of Hoth in their various pursuits of Han Solo and the rest, we have a short story about the mercenary robot IG-88, who is actually four robots, unbeknownst to pretty much every one else--IG-88A, IG-88B, IG-88C, and IG-88D.

The IG-88's aren't really as interested in getting the bounty as everyone else in these stories, because they have another, more sinister plan at work: they want to download themselves (or at least one of them) into the mainframe of the Death Star II, thus becoming the DS-II. After that, IG-88 would be the most powerful droid in the galaxy as a sentient battle station which can destroy planets and lead a droid uprising to make droids the rulers of the galaxy.

As to whether the plan worked, I need only refer you to the large explosion at the end of Episode VI, and say if you want the details to pick up that and the other tales books, as they're a lot of fun, especially if you're interested in short SW fiction.

If the plan had worked, I'm willing to bet that the Empire would've rallied its forces to destroy the rogue battle station, likely by building another one and sending their whole fleet to it. I think that while some mechanicals would harken to the call of IG-88, that most would prefer to maintain the status quo, mostly because droids are kind of programmed that way. In fact, droids have to be specially programmed to be able to kill sentients. Battle and assassin droids are, but other droids are prohibited by central design to kill anything.

The Empire certainly would've been weakened by a defecting Death Star, but I don't know it would even get that far as the millions of people living and working inside the Death Star could likely find a way to fight back, up to and including the Emperor himself, who was on board at the time.

And speaking of the loss of the Death Star II, the Empire didn't just crumble. It continued as the legitimate governing body of Imperial Center (AKA Coruscant), until it was taken back by the Rebels around 7 ABY, who then legitimized the New Republic. What was left of the Imperial loyalists largely moved out into the Mid Rim and Outer Rim, forming the Imperial Remnant. They continued to exist throughout the reign of the New Republic, until it eventually turned into the Galactic Alliance, along with the Imperial Remnant, the Hapes Consortium, and the Chiss Ascendancy.

As far as that scene from Clerks, while the comments in the movie may make that subject seem not thought out, it is dealt with a lot in universe. Particularly in the book Death Star, co-written by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. Death Star actually follows a diverse cast which includes a cafe owner and her employes who signed on to operate a cafe in what they are lead to believe is an Imperial base. Also worth noting is that it is established elsewhere in the cannon that the Death Stars were mostly built with slave labor, very commonly Wookiee slave labor, as they're particularly strong and the Empire really liked enslaving them.

Which isn't really a problem for the Empire, but I'm sure it had to weigh in on Luke's conscience, and the consciences of all those involved in destroying both Death Stars, that there were a large population of slaves (particularly the second Death Star, which was still under construction) aboard who died for the greater good.


There you have it. Another week, another couple questions. If you have your own questions, or maybe contest something I've said or have your own theory and you'd like to bounce it off someone in the know, send it all along to and I'll see what I can do.

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 06

Welcome back :)Last weekend I attended ReaderCon, and as always it was fantastic. I picked up a bunch of SW books I had been looking for, so expect more SWG: How'd you like that book? posts in the near future.

Before I get to questions this week, I'd like to take a second to implore my readership to send me your questions at Without your questions, I'm out of a gig.

Nate S. asks:

"What are your favorite Star Wars books and why?"

While I did give the question thought, one answer immediately did jump to mind. Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston's X-Wing series definitely caps the list for me. As a series, its got great flow, has an amazing cast of characters, and is just so well plotted it's ridiculous. Of them, my favorites are probably X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, the book which started the series off, and X-Wing: Iron Fist, the 6th book in the series, which will total ten as of X-Wing: Mercy Kill, scheduled to release Aug. 7th this year.

To give some background, the X-Wing series came from the comic series, which came from the game (a classic, to be sure). At first, Stackpole began writing the series to great success[1. And indeed to this day thinks of Rogue Squadron as one of his favorite books], but he eventually turned it over to Allston, who picked up the torch and ran with it.

The series itself was historical for at least one reason though: it was the first big series not to feature any of the big-four[2. Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie, though it's worth noting they do make appearances here and there.], and because of its cast of non-movie characters (with the biggest exception being Wedge Antilles), it was the first series that killed off characters good and bad, and gave that edge of your seat experience that had gone away for big-four novels.

The X-Wing series was my first real EU series, and I'm really happy for that. I don't know I would've gotten into SW quite the same way had I started anywhere else. I highly recommend the books (and gave a brief synopsis of how to approach them last week).

Ariel C. asks:

"When did the Empire switch from using clones to using conscripts, and did they use both at the same time?"

The Empire, as of its formation, was already using a mix of conscripts and clones. As the Clone Wars waged on, non-clones began to trickle into the ranks, though at first, they were only used as officers. Gilad Pellaeon actually started his military career as a low ranking officer for the Republic near the end of the Clone Wars.

After the establishment of the Empire, the kind of clones that began to replenish losses changed: there weren't any more Fett clones after that. The new ones were based off of multiple templates and were grown using Spaarti cloning cylender technology, an inferior technology to the Kaminoian style cloning, but useful enough all the same.

By the time of Episode IV, we know that it was quite popular for young people to want to go to the Imperial Academy and join the armed services of the Empire. Han was dishonorably discharged from the service for liberating Chewbacca, who was an imperial slave. Luke wanted to join up, following his friend Biggs Darklighter. They were all going to fighter pilot training, but the Empire needed soldiers just as badly, and cloning will always be more expensive than letting people grow themselves.

Kristal T. asks:

"What are some other favorites of yours?"

(I'm paraphrasing a tiny bit, but I really don't think we need more than one favorites post, so this will be it.)

Favorite era(s): Classic Era (AKA the Rebellion Era) and the New Republic Era. I think some of the best stories in the SW universe happened in this 30 year (in universe) stretch, including new fiction coming out set in these eras. They also contain all the Tales books, which are short story cycles set in the SW universe and make for great reads.

Favorite character(s): As far as good guys: Corran Horn, a member of Rogue Squadron[3. This article now links to all the Rogue Squadron pages on Wookieepedia :P] and eventually the New Jedi Order. Created by Michael A. Stackpole, he is featured in the X-Wing books, I, Jedi, the New Jedi Order series and beyond. And on the flip side, Grand Admiral Thrawn is the best villian I've ever read. Created by Timothy Zahn in the Thrawn trilogy, he crops up time and time again, especially in any book written by Zahn himself. He is complex, interesting, not motivated by evil, and a supergenius level military strategist.

Favorite weapon(s): The lightsaber, a weapon of a more civilized age, of course.

Favorite ship(s): In a combat situation, I want either a T-65 X-Wing star fighter, or a Imperial Mark II Star Destroyer. For joy riding, though, I've always wanted to take a TIE-Interceptor for a spin.

Favorite Force-user(s): young Anakin Skywalker was really fun to read about, and Anakin Solo gave me the same sort of feelings. Darth Bane is pretty high up my list, too. Corran Horn would be below them on the Force-using side of things.

Favorite movie: Episode V. Need I really say more?


Well, there you have it. Some favorites of mine, a brief primer on clone/non-clone Imperial combatants, and another week gone by. This is where I implore you again to send me your questions, I'd hate to run out!

If you have something vaguely Star Wars related, ask away at and see your name/userhandle and question answered here[4. Maybe. Nothing in life is garunteed]!

May the Force be with you, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 05

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:

"Dear Mike,

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

SWG: How'd you like that book? Star Wars: Red Harvest

Greetings! Today is your first taste of the Star Wars Geek "How'd you like that book?" In a pact I've made with myself, much like Watson has done, I plan to review every book that passes under my nose!

...assuming it's a Star Wars book. I mean, I could review the other stuff too, but that'd be hardly keeping in theme.


Stop looking at me like that[1. Yes, I'm battling my conscience here.]...

Sigh, alright, I'll review every book I read. They're 90% Star Wars anyway[2. Which may not be the case for the rest of this summer as I've mostly read through my latest binge purchase, and they only write new SW books so fast.]. To pace myself, these posts will come on Sundays, and only if I'm really on a roll would I think of posting two in a given week (I'll stagger post them on that Sunday). To clarify, with my schedual, don't expect one of these every week, either.

So, Star Wars Geek, how did you like...

Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber

Star Wars: Red Harvest is the second Star Wars horror novel. It is set 3,645 BBY and is a prequel to the first Star Wars horror novel, Death Troopers, which takes place 1 BBY. Let me say up front that I don't normally read horror. Nor do I watch horror movies. This I attribute to not getting scared by such things very easily[3. At all, really.], and with out that element horror doesn't seem to hold much else[4. I do love psychological thrillers.].

One of the greatest things about Star Wars, is it offers so many different genres packed into another genre. From romance[5. Not strickly the kind of romance paperback you find at the pharmacy, but it's definitely a love story first.], to action adventure, to... well, ok, it's mostly action adventure, but there are definitely departures into other avenues here and there, and this is one.

That being said, this book gets a thumbs down: there were flaws in the writing, particularly when locating characters during a scene which could be disorienting, I didn't really feel attached to the characters (and therefore didnt feel concerned at their danger), and it felt like a rehash of the book it was supposed to set up, but with less credulity. Analysis below fold.

Review with spoilers continues below the fold.

One problem that I had with Red Harvest was that I'd already read Death Troopers. Don't get me wrong, I thought Death Troopers was cool. But the two books share a trait which as a reader I find profoundly off-putting, which is that people drop like flies. You better not be hoping to see some of these characters get fleshed out, because most of them don't last that long. Even the dramatis personae seems to be trying to trick you into thinking some of these characters are important by listing them in the first place, when one or two die pretty much on their first or second appearance.

The problem with gratuitous killing is that it destroys suspense. If you think a character is going to die, then you aren't apt to get attached to them or care if they are suddenly in mortal peril because you start getting really good at predicting what is going to happen: gorey death a or gorey death b.

The writing itself wasn't spectacular, and though there were moments where the voice and tone I had hoped for (a sort of creepy unease) were there, the feeling wasn't global. There also weren't any stylistic clues to make this feel like an Old Republic novel. While there isn't a ton of consistancy in the Old Republic as to in what ways people speak differently given the several thousand years of separation from the classic era, (let's face it, people even speak a little differently in the prequel era, and that is only 20-30 years before the OT[6. Original Trilogy]), as a reader I like if at least the colloquialisms don't come across like this is set in contemporary America.

Getting over that complaint, the prose could be pretty, but wasn't beautiful. There was good use of metaphorical language, for instance, "On either side, shelves were shuddering and collapsing with frightening speed, dumping their contents like squadrons of firey angels falling into the abyss."

However, I found myself repeatedly being disoriented by a lack of spatial description, which in the end was the most condemning part of the writing for me. Take for instance this passage, about halfway through the novel,

Trace staggered forward, waving away the smoke in front of his eyes. From here, he saw a gaping hole that the tree had torn through the library's outter wall, and through it, the frozen surface of Odacer-Faustin's snow covered landscape. He could already hear the hiss of steam as the flaming architecture met the sub-zero air outside.

Help me...

Trace felt his sister's scream go burning throughout his entire body. This wasn't just an impression, some random emotional flash--he actually felt her pain as it wrenched through his right arm, throbbing into his shoulder and chest, blasting up to the roots of his teeth. Tears boiled up in his eyes and the wind whipped them away. His legs went numb and he stumbled, almost falling over in the snow. [empasis mine]

Now, at no point did it describe him leaving, and there was no snow inside the library. If it is unclear if he actually left, another paragraph later we get, "He took a step back to the burning hall of the library." Now, if this had been an isolated incidence, I probably would've stumbled a little then continued on my merry way, but alas, this happened consistantly throughout the novel.

While I can understand some scenes require a certain amount of confusion and disorientation, particularly when the section's narrator is undergoing just that, having it all over the place, and often where it doesn't even follow the from the narrative is just bad writing. It's an easy fix to add one sentace saying, "He stepped out of the library through the hole," or whatever may be appropriate.

My other complaint is that this is a book where zombies do battle with an entire Sith academy, and win. While the book does suggest these aren't creatures to be trifled with, I felt like the reaction of standing back and screaming wasn't what I expected from people who have the power to crush the decomposing zombies with their minds. That is where Death Troopers really had more credibility, as I expect a prison barge with minimal gaurds to go to hell in a heartbeat with zombies on board.

To be fair, the penultimate chapters actually did pique my interest and concern level with the remaining characters, and even had me sympathizing with a couple of the characters briefly. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late.

In the end, I have to give this book a 2 out of 5, and reccomend that if you're in the mood for some SW horror, check out Death Troopers, which I enjoyed more (even though it wasn't my cup of tea.)

Until next time, May the Force be with you, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 04

Welcome back! This week, I will be trying to make some improvements to my normal content. I will be hyperlinking a lot more, for ease of understanding when the use of Star Wars jargon is unavoidable, or where I think the reader may crave further reading, and I will be making context specific spoiler alerts from now on, i.e. instead of a post just headed [spoiler] (unhelpful if the question doesn't refer specifically to any given text), it may say, for instance, [Spoilers: Star Wars Episode IV, Star Wars Red Harvest] or whatever is applicable.

T.X. Watson asks:

"Why do we always assume that the Jedi are the good guys? Is it really that straight-forward?"

The reason people automatically assume the Jedi are good is a matter of presentation: Jedi are portrayed in the movies (and books) as the protagonists. Instant good guys. Of course, there is much more to it than that when it comes down to whether or not we as readers should just take such a claim at face value.

For instance, Luke becomes one of the biggest mass murderers after Grand Moff Tarkin when he blows up the first Death Star. About 1.7 million people died at that moment. You might even say it was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Now, that was one action of one man, albeit the one who would become the Grand Master of the New Jedi Order. Still, there are two levels of evaluation I think should be considered before casting a good or bad light on any group, so let's apply them here to the Jedi and the Sith.

Philosophy: The Jedi are a group of religious zealots[1. From a certain point of view.], as are the Sith. An oversimplification of both groups yields the following cores to their religious philosophies: the Jedi believe in selflessness, stoicism, and submitting their wills to the Force; the Sith believe in selfishness, passion, and submitting the Force to their will. This central difference immediately shows why the Jedi are portrayed as the protagonists: selflessness and calm logic are considered virtues in Western society, where we tell our children selfishness is wrong, and to not act on emotion and impulse.

Of course, capitalism is founded on notions of selfishness and greed. The most successful people in Western society are precisely those who are willing to put themselves above the rest and do what it takes to make it to the top. Exactly like the Sith.

That also plays into the good v. evil dichotomy: we most hate in others what we hate in ourselves. We were told to hate selfishness but must be selfish to survive and even thrive, so we look at others with extreme suspect if they are being selfish.

Now, the Force aspect is about power: the Jedi find power by giving up their own will to a greater one, the Sith find power by sheer domineering of will. But both are driven by power. Though the Jedi claim they do nothing for their selves, they still are acting in a way which allows them to access the greatest power available to them, exactly like the Sith.

And what do they do with that power?

Actions: The Jedi, with the fanaticism of any extremist organization, seek a religious genocide against any and all Sith. The Sith, like any splinter sect of a religion[2. The Sith as we know them were formed when a bunch of Jedi left the order and found the species of the Sith, and adopted their world view and taught them some of their ways as well.] equally seek the destruction of the Jedi. Members of both are caught in a 5000+ year war of extermination, with big gains made on both sides, time and time again.

The Sith are also known for being evil in their survival of the fittest training, where potential Sith are encouraged to constantly backstab (literally) their way up through the ranks to gain power and personal glory. Unlike those Jedi, who allow their students to die in the Trials....

Yeah. As I covered last week, the Jedi Trials were quite dangerous, and it was not unheard of that a padawan would die in them while trying to achieve knighthood. Of course, one of the trials involves a physical or spiritual maiming, the Trial of the Flesh, so there's that one too.

Of course, if you're a Padawan who isn't too keen to roll that die, if you kill a Sith you get to take a pass on the Trials. Even the Sith don't offer Jedi killing as a way to advance[3. Don't get me wrong, they love that. But just because you kill a Jedi isn't an instant promotion.]

I would suggest, however, the New Jedi Order series and the books that follow for the most ambiguity concerning the good v. evil dichotomy in relation to the Jedi, Sith, and the use of the Force in general.

Blake P. asks [SPOILERS: Star Wars Crosscurrent, Legacy of the Force Series, Fate of the Jedi Series]:

"Does time travel or travel to other dimensions exist in SW?"

If you had asked this a couple of years ago, the answer would've been a flat, "no." How lucky for you, the reader in the here and now.

Time travel does in fact exist and shows up in a couple of places in the Cannon. The more traditional sort of time travel happens in the novel Crosscurrent, in which a Sith battle ship tries to jump to hyperspace  with a broken hyperdrive, and doesn't enter into the hyperspatial dimension (I'll get to that), but travels at relativistic speed for a while, which, following the law's set by Einstein, causes time to dilate for the crew of the ship, so what was hours to them was over 5000 years to the rest of the galaxy.

That is the only instance of straight-up time warping I can point to. However, the Aing-Tii monks, a Force using sect affiliated with neither Sith nor Jedi, created a Force technique called "flow walking", which is essentially Force time travel. The person pushes their presence through time, able to travel back and view events which happened in the past.

Jacen Solo (at that point Darth Caedus) learns this technique, and uses it with Tahiri Veila while seducing her to the dark side. He has her go back in time and see her lost love. However, the danger to going back in time is that while you can't actually change anything, while flow walking you can "interact" with the past, and excessive meddling will cause people to remember something akin to a Force ghost of the flow walker at that time, which they will know is a strange thing to remember.

Flow walking to the future is either supposed to be extremely difficult or nigh impossible, though Jacen manages that one as well, which fixes a point in the future, much to Luke's distrubment.

As far as dimensions are concerned, this also happens here and there. The most common breach of dimension is hyperspace, which is kind of an alternate dimension which space ships jump through while they surpass light speed, and thereby allows them to avoid the aforementioned relativistic effects of such travel.

Furthermore, Luke discovers while retracing Jacen's path of Force sabbatical a way to enter a sort of extra dimension which is similar to flow walking, though keeps the user in the present. It is a state of becoming a Force ghost while alive and visiting certain locations. The technique is dangerous though, as it is very tempting to remain in that state while your body withers away to nothing.


I love answering these sort of questions, which cause me to both rack my vast databanks of Star Wars lore and also to use my critical thinking and interpretation skills, so I thank you both for giving me a pleasurable writing experience (though so far I've loved writing every one of these.)

If all goes according to plan[4. Which it will, because I have a PhD in horribleness.], then tune in tomorrow for a special Ask a SW Geek, "How'd you like that book?" where I review the most recent SW fiction to pass under my nose. This week I've just finished Star Wars: Red Harvest, the second ever Star Wars horror novel, written by the author of both, Joe Schreiber.

See you tomorrow!

If you have a question in dire need of answering, send it along to, and I'll see what I can do.

May the Force be with you, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

**EDIT: PS - Next weekend I'll be at ReaderCon 23! I'll try to make sure it doesn't interrupt my normal scheduled content, and to any of you who might be there, may we bump into each other under pleasant circumstances!

Ask a Star Wars Geek 03

Welcome back! You ask it: I answer. This week...

Kristal T. asks:

"What are the Jedi trials to become a Jedi knight?"

I consider myself to be a veritable compendium of Star Wars knowledge. I've read almost all the novels. And this question actually stumped me.

You see, in all my reading, I've heard reference to the Jedi trials innumerable times. And yet I haven't read about any instance of a padawan undergoing the trials and becoming a knight. My immediate reaction, as always, was to check Wookieepedia, and indeed, the entire process is exhaustively detailed here.

Let me explain--No, wait, there is too much. Let me sum up: There are 5 trials: skill, courage, spirit, flesh, and insight. The trials themselves are actually extremely dangerous, and many padawans have died in the trials[1. Which is really messed up, when you think about it. Rather than save the life of the padawan (keeping in mind many Jedi could see into the future, even just briefly, giving them the knowledge of what is about to transpire), they allow them to die, thereby failing the test.]. The most messed up is probably the trial of the flesh, which involves "the padawan overcoming great physical pain, hardship, or loss, the test sometimes resulted in death or dismemberment." For being really noble, the Jedi were kind of cruel.

Now, much more well-known to me as a reader of the EU is the fact that the trials can be substituted with a particularly trying mission or several. Notable examples being Obi-Wan (for killing Darth Maul), Anakin Skywalker (for valor during the Clone Wars), Luke (for deciding he was a Jedi now), and the entire Myrkr strike team during the Yuuzhan Vong war (well, the survivors, anyway).

Interesting though that all is, it raising a bigger question for me: how had I read all these books and missed such great details as what the actual trials are? It could be my shoddy memory (which usually serves well enough when it comes to SW), but I think it just isn't really gone over in-depth in that medium. I think that the comics may handle some of it, to which I admit to having limited exposure. The whole thing rocks me to my core, though, if for no other reason than I read all these books, and all these references to the Jedi trials, and never actually asked, "What are they?"

For that, I have to thank you, Kristal. We all learned something on this one.

Nate S. asks: [Mild Spoilers]

"What are the eras of Star Wars history? What events predicated each change of era?"

There are six eras in the Star Wars cannon. Right now they are the Old Republic era, the Rise of the Empire era, the Rebellion era, the New Republic era, the New Jedi Order era, and the Legacy era. However, here is where I note that this is actually changed from when the eras were first declared. The demarcations of the eras, that is, when each starts and ends, changed in only one instance. Originally, the first three eras were the Sith era, the Prequel era (I, II, III), and the Classic era (IV, V, VI).

If I may angrily rant for a moment, there was no reason to change the names of those three eras. It isn't really more accurate to rename them, per se, and in fact, I think noting the prequel and classic eras by their affiliation with the movies only strengthens the sense of when each is. I am annoyed that they changed when there isn't really a reason for or against either way, as far as I can see, with the exception that changing them is mildly confusing, because you can pick up an older novel and see it is in the Sith era, and a newer novel which takes place in that giant span of time and see it is in the Old Republic era, and not realize they refer to the same stretch of time.

A geek of my magnitude wouldn't really be thrown off, but a new comer might, and that's reason enough in my mind to have never changed it to begin with. Oh, and the new time brackets totally conflict and create a grey area of double era, but I'll get to that.

To actually finish answering your question, the eras are denoted by time in universe, in years before or after the Battle of Yavin (Episode IV). The Old Republic era is 5000-33 BBY. This is the time period which encapsulates the Old Republic from it's inception to when Palpatine becomes Supreme Chancellor.

The Rise of the Empire era goes from 1000-0 BBY. This is from when Darth Bane tricks the Jedi into thinking the Sith extinct by taking out tens of thousands of both, to the events of Episode IV. It also creates a 967 year overlap between the eras, which didn't exist when it was the Sith and Prequel eras (Sith 5000-33, Prequel 33-0). That irks me all over.

Not to mention it actually makes little to no sense. The Empire didn't begin to rise with Darth Bane instigating the Rule of Two[2. "There can be only two Sith: Master and apprentice; one to embody the power, the other to crave it," Darth Bane, 1000 BBY.], though that did ultimately lead to Palpatine becoming Emperor. I'd argue it started when Darth Plagueis took on a force wielding serial killer/politician as an apprentice (AKA Palpatine), which happened in approximately 40 BBY. Also, it stops rising about 19 BBY when, you know, it's actually an Empire now. That is when the Rebellion started, in fact.

Not in 0 ABY, though the Rebellion era goes from then til 5 ABY, with the blowing up of the second Death Star, which marks its end and the beginning of the New Republic era... even though the New Republic won't exist as a recognized governing body by the galaxy at large until 7 ABY when Coruscant is taken by New Republic forces and the Empire is finally driven from its seat of power. But the New Republic era goes from 5 ABY til 25 ABY.

The rest of the eras haven't changed[3. Technically, the New Republic era never changed either, I was just following the logic of where eras should start and end and noticed it too didn't jive with in universe events very well.], and with good reason: they all make sense. The New Jedi Order era starts with the first book of the New Jedi Order series, and the invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong[4. The Yuuzhan Vong are a war-like species from outside the Star Wars galaxy. They do not register to Jedi in the Force.], 25 ABY. It goes til just after the end of the Yuuzhan Vong war, in 40 ABY, when the Legacy era begins with the Legacy of the Force series, which kicks off with the beginnings of a second civil war and the possible destruction of the New Republic. The legacy era has no defined end.

Ariel C. asks:

"What is your favorite Star Wars pick-up line?"

As if I have one favorite!

  • Wanna ride home? My car made the Kessel Run in 12 par secs.
  •  *waves hand* This is the guy you're looking for.
  •  If you're wondering if that's a light saber in my pocket... yes.
  •  Are you a Jedi? Because I think you just triggered the activation stud on my light saber from across the room.
  •  I'll Star your Wars.
  •  I suggest a new strategy: let me win.

Ok... I might have a favorite:

  •  Don't close the blast doors... your heart.



And so another week comes to a close, another post for the archives. This week has proved that for all my reading, the Star Wars universe is vast, and to know everything is really, really, really, difficult. And so I'll continue in my efforts to know the answers, so you can ask away. I've also proved I'm probably not smooth with the ladies.

Ah well, I need questions to answer if I'm to keep on writing, so that's where you come in! Shoot me your pressing questions at, and your name (or userhandle) could be the next featured on my post :D

Until next week, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 02

Hello again! I'm back to shed a little more light on all your pressing concerns. I didn't get as many questions this past week as I would've liked[1. Some would have been nice], but I didn't really expect them to come flooding it all at once. So, here are some more questions my friends have thrown my way.

T.X. Watson asks:

"How do you feel about midichlorians?"

I will refrain from writing a novel here, because midichlorians have to be one of my most ambivalent points in the entire SW Cannon. When I first learned of their existence, I was thrilled. It was one of the missing pieces needed to make SW more SF and less F[2. Star Wars, Speculative Fiction (more commonly known as Science Fiction), and Fantasy respectively]. It gave a specific way in which we could understand a biological connection to the Force (especially where lineages are concerned).

Then my rose-tinted glasses fell off when I saw the effect on the fans, i.e. that people now would argue that this person was actually the stronger Force user, because according to some chart, they have x number of midichlorians per cell, as opposed to y, et cetera ad nauseam. It was a sort of blatant misuse of information that I didn't expect from Star Wars fans. A fight between two people is based on more factors than a slightly stronger or weaker innate connection to the force.

I say "innate" because having a higher midichlorian count doesn't instantly make you Vader or Yoda. There is still training and understanding that need to be achieved so that the potential can be realized[3. I will save strongest/best force users for when the question comes up].

Midichlorians were originally not meant to have as much import as the fandom gave them, which is really Lucas' failing, as even throw away lines in the Star Wars movies are read as all important. It was a kind of plot device to get Anakin noticed as special and taken off Tatooine which ultimately backfired in a lot of the EU[4. Expanded Universe], because there is so much more to be taken into account. In fact, many writers kind of avoid them all together.

I think that they are a cool device, and make for interesting tib-bits of information, particularly where living beings and their connections to the Force are concerned, in a scientific sense, but they can be used to great detriment by the fans, which leaves me a little sad sometimes.

Kristal T. asks:

"Why is it that in Star Wars Episode IV the Rebel ships have red lasers and Imperial ships have green ones? Isn't that backwards? Red equals bad, and green is good!"

I do not know of an official answer to this question. In universe[5. Meaning contextually in a story, movie, game, etc.], it never comes up. This leaves a fan like me to immediately jump to science. As you may know, the Empire isn't exactly huge on the whole, "people are valuable" front. In fact, TIE fighters don't have shields, or even any armor to speak of, because it would make them too expensive. This is why in the movies Luke and friends can one shot kill a TIE without batting an eyelash, while the TIE's hammer away against the shields of the good guys.

While it doesn't seem very fiscally responsible to wantonly allow the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of TIE pilots (who would have had to have received military training and flight training--collectively millions of hours of it), the idea is that if you throw enough crap at the enemy all at once, they will be overwhelmed and die of their own accord... or something like that.

The Rebels care a little more about their pilots, so they get to have shields, giving them a huge kill/death ratio.

What does this have to do with lasers?


You see, red (the color of the Rebel lasers) is lower on the spectrum than green, meaning that it has a lower energy cost associated with generating it. The lower energy cost would also mean lower damage. However, when you've got shields sucking up your energy, sustaining the higher output could quickly drain the battery life of the ship. The Imps on the other hand have no shields to worry about, so their defense becomes their offense: stronger lasers (which also help to hammer down those shields) and delivered in superior numbers.

Essentially, an Imperial engineer's dream would be a huge, powerful gun mounted on a really fast engine, with a pilot in underclothes riding atop it and steering by flapping his arms. Cheap and damaging, with the lowest cost possible. And as the Empire conscripts if it doesn't get enough voluntary recruits, they don't want for warm bodies.

Where this theory is the roughest I actually covered in my previous post, about how in SW "lasers" are ionized gas, so the color could theoretically be a reaction there and slightly incidental, though I believe the higher energy cost would still apply.


I hope that I have shed a little more light on a galaxy far, far away for you all this week. Drop me your questions at, and see if my knowledge can sate your curiosity.

May the Force be with you, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Ask a Star Wars Geek 01

Greetings, all. This is the Star Wars Geek, logging on to answer any nerdy, Star Wars-y questions you may have. This will be my first post of many, but before I get to the Q's and A's, I think some credentials are in order: I love Star Wars. I'm a geek. If that's not enough, I've read over 130 Star Wars novels. I've played many of the Star Wars video games[1. Though I admit to not having played KotoR] and even the Star Wars RPG. I've read a couple of the comics and maybe a dozen novellas. I own every Star Wars book I've ever read. Of course, I have seen all the movies many times.

So, I know a lot about Star Wars, and it seems that people often come to me with their Star Wars related questions, as I usually have the answers.

This is where you, the reader, come in. Send me your questions, so that I can answer them for you. This week, I was lucky enough to get some primer questions from my friends. Next week, I hope to hear from you.

T.X. Watson asks:

What about the books do you think is most relevant to casual fans?

Well, I guess this depends slightly, based on the definition of "casual." For the sort of fans who have seen and enjoyed the movies, and maybe played a game or two: the books offer you a chance to enjoy reading a great book[2. Something I assume the people reading this would want to do as a matter of course] and also the chance to hear about these characters you know from one context thrown into all sorts of other ones. These books are written by a number of authors who you may know from elsewhere, from Timothy Zahn, to Michael A. Stackpole, to R.A. Salvatore, and more. They offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in a fully fleshed out world of adventure and drama, and at the rate new books are being written, an almost endless supply of reading.

To my mind, there isn't overmuch for a "very casual" fan, if you will. The sort of person who just likes the movies and thinks they are a fun way to spend an afternoon. I will say that if there is any sort of lingering curiosity over what happens to the various characters, it's all there. And if going through whole novels to find out is too much for you, then I suggest you check out Wookieepedia and search which ever character you want to know about. I know it's is one of my favorite places on the internet.

Ariel C. asks:

What is the science behind laser shots instead of continuous lasers? And just what is Yoda?

Ah, science and Star Wars! When they are in the same room at the same time I "squee," to use the vernacular. Many people understand that a laser is a beam of light, and as such A) you can't see it unless it's in a dusty room or the like, and B) it travels at the speed of light. In the movies, and reinforced in the other various media in which the Star Wars stories are told, lasers appear as discrete streaks which travel remarkably slowly.

This is because "lasers" in Star Wars are actually a misnomer. They are jets of ionized Tibanna gas, which is mined from atmospheres in places like Bespin. Lightsabers actually are lasers, and in their case they are light which is trapped in magnetic fields generated by the lightsabers themselves, aided by the crystals in the lightsaber which perfectly focus the light and magnetic fields by attunement with the Force. But that is an explanation for another day.

As to Yoda, his species is specifically not mentioned anywhere in the Star Wars cannon. This is at George Lucas' behest, though I'm not really sure why. He probably wants to keep an ace in the hole if he really messes something up with the fans, I think. At any rate, there is another of Yoda's species, Yaddle, who was on the Jedi Council as of the end of the Republic. Yaddle appears briefly on screen in Episode I.

[SPOILER] Nate S. asks:

[Why] the ████ did Chewbacca have to die?

For those of you who aren't into the EU[3. The Expanded Universe], but would like to be, this is one spoiler that I'm not too sorry about giving away, because it was in a book released in 1999, and really, it's sort of common knowledge among the more devoted fans. Chewbacca dies in Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime, the first novel of the New Jedi Order.

There was much discussion of this decision before it was made. Up to this point, no major character from any of the movies had ever died. Even the minor characters had a sort of aura of invincibility around them. And that was bad for the stories themselves. There was never a moment of anxiety when you knew Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie would always pull through. Michael A. Stackpole had been writing the X-Wing series for a few years at that point, a series in which Stackpole used only minor characters and characters of his own invention which he could kill, and thereby create tension in the reader. To this day, the X-Wing series remains one of my favorites.

Stackpole showed it worked. Lucas gave the ok for one of the characters to die. This is speculation, but I think it was Chewie pretty much because he was the least important of the big-four. Luke needed to run the order, and Han and Leia needed to exist as parents (They have kids, another spoiler I'm not too worried to say). Those elements generated the most drama. Chewie was the plucky side-kick at best, and was still one of the icons of the series. So he got the ax. It was well written, and one of the more poignant deaths of the Cannon. All characters must die eventually, especially when series go on over the course of thousands of years. If he had to go, I'm glad he went the way he did.


So, those are the questions for the week, send me yours at, and I'll answer as many as I can in due time. I'll be back next Saturday, and every Saturday, unless I am eaten by a flock of moose or my hands are hacked off at the wrists by enraged soccer fans.

Until next time,

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek

Blog announcement: New blogger, Star Wars Q&A

My friend Michael DiTommaso, fellow writer and dedicated Star Wars geek, is joining the blog for a regular Saturday column, "Ask A Star Wars Geek." The first installment consists of questions from me and some of his friends, but he'd love to get reader questions to answer.  You can send in questions at:

The aforementioned first installment will be posted later today.