Crucible (Star Wars)
“When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.
Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.” — Publisher’s Description
Crucible is the latest in the long line of Expanded Universe Star Wars novels. For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Expanded Universe, these are the stories that fall outside of the canon of the six Star Wars feature films. The events in this universe remain very true to themselves and range from times thousands of years before the first Star Wars film (called BBY – Before the Battle of Yavin) to forty-five years After the Battle of Yavin (ABY) which is when Crucible is set. We are treated to a much older cast of characters than I was used to in Crucible, and obviously much has happened to these characters in the time between last seeing them on screen and this novel.
I was only familiar with some of the events in the Expanded Universe, having read a few novels set immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi, but to fast forward 40 years was a little intimidating. Fortunately, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this novel as Denning provides ample background to understand characters’ motivations and enough back story to keep the reader informed without having to read the entire EU backlog. If anything, it’s intrigued me to delve deeper into some of the series that I have missed over the years.
The story itself in Crucible is an enjoyable space adventure. The action is fast paced, with a few intermittent moments where is slows, but stops just short of becoming dull in those moments. Even those not wholly familiar or invested in Star Wars or its Expanded Universe may enjoy this novel, but it’s not recommended. The audience for this will end up being those who have seen at least the original trilogy of movies and/or have read most of the EU books or won’t mind the research.
That said, it was great seeing characters we were familiar with including Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, and even Lando Calrissian. On the downside, from the first sentence it seems like we’re constantly being reminded that this is a Star Wars novel. Constant references to the films and some of those obscure at best (how much mileage has the phrase “nerf-herder” gotten over the years, I wonder) became tiring after a while. Add to this continual reminders that the Jedi deal all the time with the Force — we have Force lightning, Luke feels something in the Force, Leia reaches out with the Force, objects are moved with the Force — We get it by now, the Force is ever-present and used by Jedi for a great many things, so the phrase “with the Force” became tiresome after a while.
Aside from these minor points, the feel of the novel was definitely Star Wars for me, however. Interesting villains on many levels with different stages of adventure, wit, and humor with a sprinkle of spirituality keeps the novel moving at fast clip and kept me engaged throughout. Even with missing many of the previous EU novels, it was pretty obvious that Crucible is going to serve as a bridge between previous stories and a new series of adventures. As such, it makes for a great one off adventure for those looking at trying a new Star Wars adventure without feeling the need to commit to a five to six novel series.
Four out of five stars.
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