Stackpole, Michael A.
About the Author:
Michael A. Stackpole lives in Arizona, USA.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4.4 out of 5
Star Wars: I, Jedi
11 ABY. Once again Stackpole manages to take an entirely new direction for a Star Wars story. Not only is this the first such book written in the first person, but is also unique in the way it is set parallel to and a part of Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy.
The 'I' of the title refers to Corran Horn, Stackpole's favoured creation and with Corran having been an officer of the Corellia Security Force, then a pilot of Rogue Squadron, it seems like the perfect next step for him to become a Jedi Knight. The first person writing style works excellently here to further reveal Corran's beliefs, passions and motivations and literally gives a new perspective to the events of the Jedi Academy trilogy.
The story here is basically that Corran's wife Mirax has disappeared and in order to find her, Luke Skywalker convinces Corran to develop his force powers. Very interesting is Corran's interaction with the characters of Kevin J. Anderson's trilogy, be it his fierce rivalry with Gantoris, his close friendship to Tionne, the grudging respect between him and Kam Solusar or his intense dislike and distrust of Kyp Durron. Most interesting of all is the three-way relationship between the very different characters of Corran, Luke and Mara Jade. A very clever plot element involves Corran's investigation of the Sith spirit of Exar Kun as though he were investigating a normal murder. Corran falls out with Luke over the nature of the Jedi training and he decides to use his skills as an undercover security officer to infiltrate the forces of Admiral Leonia Tavira (a character from the X-Wing comic books), who he believes can lead him to Mirax.
Once again Stackpole raises the entirely realistic question of sexual tension as Tavira attempts to seduce Corran. Eventually Corran realises that he must combine his CorSec training with his Jedi training and it is then that Luke seeks him out and together they confront Tavira's forces.
All in all, this is one of the finest Star Wars books around, but I will say that prior knowledge of the Jedi Academy trilogy is essential.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Dark Tide: Onslaught
Book two of the NJO, set 25 ABY. This is the book that first got me hooked on the New Jedi Order series. Stackpole manages to perfectly capture the feelings of the New Republic as it reluctantly comes to realise that the Yuuzhan Vong are a real threat.
I was very glad to see Stackpole finally let loose on the core characters of the Star Wars universe. He did very well with Luke and Mara Jade in 'I, Jedi' but here he excels making the most of his talent for seeing the nature of other auhtor's characters. Jacen, Anakin, Jaina and Leia are all brilliantly represented here as they each undertake their own missions to head off the Vong invasion. The author also gets to update his own creations and we see Gavin Darklighter as the leader of Rogue Squadron and Corran Horn as a Jedi Knight. The interaction between Corran and Ganner Rhysode is really masterful as their dislike for each other slowly gives way to grudging respect.
The tension of the growing war is the chief element here and it builds and builds until, at Dantooine, all hell breaks loose. This isn't a revolutionary Star Wars novel as some of Stackpole's other forays into that universe were, but I'd still say that 'Onslaught' is one of the best parts of the New Jedi Order series.
Followed by 'The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide - Ruin'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Dark Tide: Ruin
Book three of the NJO, set 25 ABY. The second part of the excellent Dark Tide duology sees Corran and Jacen joining forces with the arrogant Jedi Ganner Rhysode in leading an infiltration team to the Vong occupied world of Garqi to see how the Yuuzhan Vong operate. Meanwhile, Luke, Anakin and Mara set off in search of a Jedi Knight who may be planning to resurrect the Death Star.
I found this latter element to be a very exciting concept, the idea that the Jedi themselves are hit so hard by the invasion that one of them considers using such a weapon of evil. The later relationship between the rogue Jedi, Daeshara'cor and Anakin Solo is a very clever one, with each learning from the other as they try to avoid the slippery slope of the dark side.
Another fascinating aspect of this book is that Stackpole introduces the first really interesting Vong military leader in the form of the psychotic Shedao Shai and we finally get a glimpse into Vong ideals and motivations.
All the threads combine in a confrontation at the planet Ithor which has a joint New Republic and Imperial forces (the latter led by one of my favourite characters, the charismatic Gilad Pellaeon) facing off against a superior Vong fleet. I shall warn you now that the series continues getting darker (after Chewie's death in 'Vector Prime'), so be prepared for some shocks. What the Vong do to Ithor itself is an excellent display of just what a duplicitous and deadly enemy they are.
Followed by James Luceno's 'The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos I - Hero's Trial'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Union
(Art by Robert Teranishi and Chris Chuckry)
19 ABY. Set after the events of Timothy Zahn's Hand of Thrawn duology, this graphic novel is about the wedding between Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. There's a plot here in which a group of Imperial dissidents attempt to disrupt the wedding, but it is superfluous and, frankly, rubbish.
There are two reasons to get this book and the first is Teranishi's near-photorealistic artwork. You will not see as acurate a depiction of the movie characters in any other Star Wars comic and that makes it all the more interesting to see how the Expanded Universe characters look (weirdly, Teranishi has used famous actors as the basis for some; for example, Kam Solusar looks like Bruce Willis, the Imperial Guardsman looks like Jack Nicholson and Mara looks like Mira Sorvino - there are others too).
The other reason to buy this book is that it is a who's who of the EU, as dozens of familiar characters put in cameo appearances (be it the female characters in the sauna scene or the male ones in the stag night brawl). Not an essential for fans but a nice little curiousity.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Isard's Revenge
Book eight, set 9 ABY. Although this book isn't Stackpole's best Star Wars work, it is nevertheless an excellent and exciting read. The book begins dramatically as Corran, Wedge and the other Rogues fight in the Battle of Bilbringi, the climatic battle of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy. Where Zahn gave us an overview of the battle as a whole, Stackpole weaves into Zahn's work the gritty perspective of the actual people fighting the battle. I think it is one of Stackpole's greatest gifts that he so effortlessly blends and mixes his characters with those already established by other authors and, in particular, his work and Zahn work well with one another.
The story then turns as the New Republic council decides to oust the tyrannical Prince-Admiral Delak Krennel from the Ciutric Hegemony and free the former prisoners of the Lusankya facility. Krennel is a very believable sort of villain, being effectively a brutal military officer who sees only assets where he should see lives. Some Star Wars fans will recognise him as another character from Stackpole's X-Wing comic book series, as he actually gained control of Ciutric in the storyline 'Mandatory Retirement'. People who enjoyed those comics will also welcome the return of former Rogue Nrin Vakil, one of the comics' best characters. Krennel is differentiated from the standard Star Wars ex-Imperial warlord in two ways; first, the war against him is unpopular and he appeals to the people of the New Republic to prevent the illegal invasion of his sovereign space and second, Krennel has a deadly ally in the form of Ysanne Isard, who survived her apparent death at Thyferra (you can never really count a Star Wars villain as dead, I mean, the Emperor came back to life in 'Dark Empire'!).
The Rogues are captured whilst fighting Krennel's forces and forced into a pact with an unlikely ally, another Ysanne Isard. It seems that the one helping Krennel is a clone and the real Isard offers her help in defeating them in exchange for amnesty. The clear distrust between these former enemies provides excellent tension as you wait to see whether Isard will betray the Rogues or whether the New Republic can bring her to justice.
The development of the Rogues we know and love continues well, with Corran beginning to explore his Jedi potential and Wedge finally and reluctantly accepting a promotion to General. The battles against Krennel's forces are written with Stackpole's usual perfect mix of action, strategy and personal involvement. Just wait until you see what happens aboard the Lusankya at the end too, a perfect conclusion.
Followed by Tom Veitch's 'Dark Empire'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Rogue Squadron
6 ABY. In this, the first of the X-Wing novels and Stackpole's first foray into the galaxy far, far away, the author takes an entirely new direction for a Star Wars story, making it not only a military story, but also managing to create entirely new primary characters and still maintain the essence of the classic trilogy of movies.
Stackpole brings the adventures of the famous Rogue Squadron (the pilots who flew with Luke at Hoth and Wedge at Endor) to life with his vividly realised dogfight and battle sequences that perfectly capture the feeling experienced when you see the battles above the first and second Death Stars in the movies. His grip of unusual tactics allow for some of the most inventive battles of all the Star Wars books. 'Rogue Squadron' is most unusual though because it is a book about the soldiers fighting the ongoing war against the Empire, they're not Princesses or the last Jedi Knights, but they are nonetheless heroes who you will fall in love with.
That leads me on to say that Stackpole's new characters are some of the best ever introduced into the Star Wars universe. Corran Horn in particular is a masterful creation, being a former law enforcement officer he is completely the opposite of the dashing criminals that we're used to in Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. He is an intelligent and honourable character, but Stackpole manages to keep him human by giving him character flaws such as arrogance and a suspicious nature. Another excellent creation is Tycho Celchu, who Stackpole effortlessly weaves into the fabric of Star Wars by having him as one of the Snowspeeder pilots in 'The Empire Strikes Back' and as the pilot of an A-Wing that flew into the second Death Star in 'Return of the Jedi'. Tycho is suspected of being a traitor simply for having escaped from Imperial imprisonment and his noble dedication to duty despite the distrust of his superiors makes him instantly likeable.
Ysanne Isard is also a very clever creation, she is not some insane tyrant who has aquired a superweapon, but is instead a cold and calculating character who was the secret power behind Imperial Intelligence. The more familiar characters are also done justice here as we see Admiral Ackbar's grim and straightforward military command and, my favourite element of the book, Wedge Antilles, the character who was in all three Star Wars movies is remoulded with perfection into a caring commander whose clear dedication to duty doesn't mask the regard he holds for those under his command. His absolute faith in Tycho is a very touching emotional element.
To sum up, this book has brilliant character development, an intricate and clever plot and enough action to keep the pace fast and exciting. The Force is strong with this one.
Followed by 'X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - The Bacta War
Book four, set 7 ABY. Although all of Stackpole's Star Wars books are great, I think that 'The Bacta War' is his best. It has a lot in common with the first book of the series, being about an ongoing conflict against a superior enemy, but here there is an excellent twist. The men and women of Rogue Squadron have resigned from the New Republic military in order to wage an unsanctioned war against Ysanne Isard, who has risen to power on the world of Thyferra, the only planet in the galaxy that can produce the healing compound bacta.
It is fascinating as Wedge and the others slowly amass allies and resources. At the beginning of the book they have only Tycho's Z-95 starfighter and Corran's X-Wing, but by the end when they confront Isard's forces they have their X-Wing squadron, a hoard of heavily armed freighters, a long-lost Alderaanian cruiser and even a Star Destroyer.
Another fantastic element is the insurrection on Thyferra against Isard's control. It is led by Iella Wessiri, who is emotionally broken after her husband's murder, as well as Elsco Loro and Sixtus Quinn, characters that fans of the X-Wing comic books will recognise from the 'Battleground: Tatooine' series.
The characters all continue to develop wonderfully and, to give the conflict a harsh realism, not all of the Rogues survive to see victory. The romance between Corran and Mirax continues apace and, not too much a fan of soppiness, I found that their witty banter kept the romance away from the hearts-and-cherubs realm of cheesiness.
Yet again Stackpole's remarkable tactical creativity comes to the fore as he creates innovative strategies that allow such unlikely fights as a group of freighters and X-Wings against the Super Star Destroyer Lusankya. Without a doubt, this is Stackpole's finest addition to the Star Wars universe and is a strong contender for the title of best Star Wars novel of all (although, personally, I lean towards 'The Hutt Gambit' by A.C. Crispin).
Followed by Aaron Allston's 'X-Wing: Wraith Squadron'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - The Krytos Trap
7 ABY. In the third X-Wing book, Stackpole once again tells a very different kind of story, proving that he has considerable ability in a wide range of styles. This is a book of three major story elements. In the first Stackpole shows the troubles faced by the fledgling New Republic as it attempts to affirm it's place on Coruscant, a planet ravaged by a terrible and politically provocative plague that kills only non-humans. The subtlties of this complex political and social situation are expertly handled by Stackpole and in one notable scene, in which Gavin Darklighter (cousin of Biggs who died in the first Star Wars film) visits the home and family of a Gamorrean who has advanced Krytos plague, the author shows the true horrific face of war that Star Wars sometimes glosses over.
The second element of the story is Corran's imprisonment in Isard's secret facility, I personally never much take to imprisonment scenes in novels, but this one manages to avoid much of the monotony that those types of stories inevitably, and undoubtably accurately, contain. I very much enjoyed Corran's escape and his slow realisation of exactly where the Lusankya facility is located. T
he third and final element of the story is the trial of Tycho Celchu, accused of treason and Corran's murder. Now, we all know that he can't be guilty, so it's deliciously frustrating when all the evidence seems to go against him. The very end of the book has a cherry on top when a certain Luke Skywalker reveals a surprising element of Corran's past.
Followed by 'X-Wing: The Bacta War'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Wedge's Gamble
Book two, set 7 ABY. In this book Rogue Squadron, firmly united by their struggles in the first book, are given the difficult assignment of infiltrating Imperial Center, the world also known as Coruscant, the heart of the Empire and home of Ysanne Isard. Their plans to begin insurrection mean that they must reluctantly free criminals from the spice mines of Kessel and convince them to help bring down the Empire. T
he problem is that among them is Zekka Thyne, a deadly enemy from Corran's past, who swears revenge. Slowly they work with other Rebel agents such as Winter (seen in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy) and Iella Wessiri, Corran's former partner in the Corellian Security Force as the deadline for the arrival of the Rebel fleet looms closer.
This is a very different novel to 'Rogue Squadron', but does not suffer from the change in the slightest. Perhaps one of the most revolutionary things Stackpole introduces to Star Wars here is sexual tension. He manages to create realistic intersexual relationships, particularly in the love triangle of Erisi, Corran and Mirax, whilst keeping it clean enough to be suitable for all ages.
Once again his talent with creating unconventional tactics means that Stackpole's version of the capture of Coruscant is both epic and subtle at once. It's always good to see fish-face Admiral Ackbar in action too.
Followed by 'X-Wing: The Krytos Trap'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Blood And Honor
(Art by Steve Crespo, Jim Hall, Drew Johnson, Chip Wallace and Gary Martin)
4 ABY. The sixth graphic novel of the series tells the story of Baron Soontir Fel. Fel recounts his youth on Corellia, his training at the Carida Imperial Academy (alongside a certain 'Cadet Solo'), his time as an instrutor (teaching young pilots such as Biggs Darklighter, Hobbie Klivian and Tycho Celchu) and how he ultimately goes on to command the Empire's greatest starfighter squadron; the 181st.
There's an excellent bit, tying in with Stackpole and Timothy Zahn's novella 'Side Trip', in which Fel flies with a fleet commanded by Star Wars' two best villains; Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn.
This book is let down, however, by its second half, which features a rather half-hearted story involving the Rogues rescuing a kidnapped child on Corellia. This latter part of the story does have the redeeming element of featuring the CorSec officers Corran Horn and Iella Wessiri.
Followed by 'X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Masquerade'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - In The Empire's Service
(Art by John Nadeau and Jordi Ensign)
4 ABY. The fifth and probably best X-Wing Rogue Squadron graphic novel. This book tells the story of the Rebel campaign to liberate the planet Brentaal IV from the Empire. Cleverly, the story is also told from the point of view of an Imperial pilot, the renowned Baron Soontir Fel.
As ever, Stackpole's writing is excellent, but this book is truly made by the stunning visual feast provided by Nadeau's artwork.
Followed by 'X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Blood and Honor'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Mandatory Retirement
(Art by Steve Crespo, John Nadeau, Chip Wallace and Jordi Ensign)
4 ABY. The final graphic novel of the series sees Emperor Sate Pestage fleeing towards the protection of the Rebels as Ysanne Isard cements her hold on the Empire. On Ciutric the Rebels attempt to rescue Pestage but are trappen by Imperial Admiral Delak Krennel, meaning they will have to face overwhelming odds if they are to survive and escape.
I was disappointed that this book doesn't feature Rogue Squadron's disbanding (remember, they're being reformed at the start of the X-Wing novels) or reveal what happens to the Rogues of that time; the book's title is misleading in that sense. However, the story we are given, which closely links to the novel 'Isard's Revenge', is an excellent one. But once again the show is stolen by Nadeau's gloriously dynamic and detailed artwork.
A good end to the series albeit not a perfect one.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Masquerade
(Art by Draw Johnson, Gary Hall and Gary Martin)
4 ABY. The seventh book of the series and one of the worst. The plot involves Winter masquerading as Princess Leia whilst the real Leia meets with Emperor Sate Pestage to discuss the surrender of Coruscant. This plot is clearly intended to be clever and intricate but completely fails at both.
Worse, however, is the bit where Soontir Fel and Han Solo head off together, each sniping at the other's character. The art too is unremarkable, being far too simplistic in style. The only thing good here is the love story between Tycho and Winter and that's not nearly enough to redeem the book.
Followed by 'X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Mandatory Retirement'.
2 out of 5
Collaborations & Anthologies:
Star Wars: Mara Jade - By The Emperor's Hand (here)
Star Wars: Tales From The Empire (here)
Star Wars: Tales From The New Republic (here)
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Battleground: Tatooine (here)
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Requiem For A Rogue (here)
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - The Phantom Affair (here)
Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - The Warrior Princess (here)