About the Author:
John Whitman is an editor for Time Warner AudioBooks. He lives in Encino, California, USA.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - Army Of Terror
0 ABY. Sadly the benchmark set in the previous book is completely missed here. This book is the culmination of the Project Starscream plot that has been common to the last five books but the pinacle of Gog's evil creation is both ridiculous and inane.
Not even the scene in which the bio-engineered monster goes toe to toe with Darth Vader manages to redeem this terrible book. Its only saving grace is that we finally discover the details of Hoole's past and his relationship to Gog.
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: The Brain Spiders'.
1 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - City Of The Dead
0 ABY. The second book of the series sees Tash and Zak on a planet where the dead are apparently rising from their graves.
I didn't enjoy this book so much as the first one largely because the Star Wars horror idea isn't a novelty any more.
On the plus side this book does feature Boba Fett and Doctor Evazan (the scarred guy who tell Luke "I don't like you either!" in the cantina scene).
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: Planet Plague'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - Clones
1 ABY. Book eleven of the series (I've yet to find books 7 - 10) has Tash, Zak and Hoole hiding from the Empire on Dantooine.
This book is one of the better written ones in the series, but it is tragically let down by the plot's lack of credibility. You see, it seems ancient Jedi droids have stolen genetic samples from the Rebels who had a base on the planet and created an army of flawed clones. This is a bit hard to credit, but with Episodes II and III, not impossible. No, the big problem is that Vader also finds himself cloned. The clone Vader, for reasons that escape me, dresses in a replica of Vader's armour and wields a lightsaber that doesn't work. Surely a clone of Vader would actually come out as Anakin Skywalker?
It's all just too far fetched for my tastes.
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: The Hunger'.
2 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - Eaten Alive
0 ABY. The first book of this series aimed at young adults takes the Star Wars franchise in an interesting new direction. This series is almost like R. L. Stein's Goosebumps books with a Star Wars coating. We are introduced to Tash and Zak, two children orphaned by the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star. They have come into the care of their mysterious uncle Hoole, a Shi'ido shapeshifter, and Hoole's droid DV-9.
On the planet D'vouran Tash begins to discover strange goings-on involving people disappearing. The story is genuinely interesting, with a nice degree of mystery and tension. I also enjoyed Tash and Zak's reaction to a group of people they meet consisting of two droids, a Wookiee, a pretty young woman, a smuggler and a young man wearing a lightsaber.
Finally, the revelation of what's really going on on D'vouran is genuinely surprising, meaning the end of the book has a good pay-off.
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - Ghost Of The Jedi
0 ABY. Without a doubt my favourite book of the series, this fifth installment sees Tash, Zak, Hoole and DV-9 join a band of treasure hunters on the abandoned Jedi city Nespis VIII.
The plot is full of lots of wonderful surprises as Tash and Zak discover the dark secrets behind the supposed haunting of the city. I really wish I could talk about the the character of Aidan Bok, but it would give too much away.
Familiar faces in this book include Jabba the Hutt, Dannik Jerriko (smoking a hookah in the cantina scene) and Darth Vader himself. This was the first book of the series I read and, despite the fact that my mates laughed at me for reading what they saw as a kiddies' book, I really enjoyed it.
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: Army of Terror'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - Planet Plague
0 ABY. Book three finds Tash, Zak, Hoole and DV-9 on a planet troubled by mysterious gelatinous blobs. It's not quite as daft as it sounds. They then team up with Wedge Antilles to investigate the Imperial Bioweapons Research Centre when Zak comes down with a strange illness.
There's nothing wrong with this book, but Whitman's irritating habit of ending every chapter with a dramatic cliff-hanger (which often turns out to be something really anticlimatic on the next page) has started to wear on me.
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: The Nightmare Machine'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - Spore
Book nine of twelve, set 0 ABY. After visiting the jungle planet Ithor, the Arranda siblings and their uncle Hoole find themselves on an asteroid where a mysterious vault has been discovered. Once the vault is opened it unleashes a creature of pure evil, intent on galactic domination; Spore.
This series has featured various threats and sinister plots but for me, this one is by far the best idea. I loved the concept of an evil entity trapped for centuries and then released by unwitting miners. This book's cameo character, the Dark Jedi Jerec (from the Dark Forces series, novelised by William C. Dietz), also added a nice facet to the story as he tries to harness Spore's potential in order to further his own plans to overthrow the Emperor.
The big downside to all this is the nature of this story as part of the Galaxy of Fear series, aimed at younger readers. Really, the narrative potential here probably would have been better served as a full-length adult novel, with perhaps a bit more background as to how the Jedi originally defeated Spore. Instead the story as a whole remains relatively undeveloped and the horror potential of an antagonist like Spore is dumbed-down by being in a younger reader book.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - The Brain Spiders
0 ABY. Book seven of twelve. Following their climactic clash with the Empire in 'Army of Terror', Tash, Zak and their uncle Hoole are wanted fugitives. In the hopes of making a deal with Jabba the Hutt in order to gain counterfeit identities they become guests in Jabba's Palace on Tatooine. However, among the usual intrigues and danger of the gangster's palace, there is an even more sinister plot underway.
It took me a little while to get into this book because immediately before it I'd been reading Stephen King and, by comparison, the cheap teen thrills of this series look rather silly. However, I did warm to it when I reminded myself that it was one of these books ('Ghost of the Jedi') that helped get me into the Star Wars Expanded Universe in the first place.
However, even with backup from nostalgia, this never really becomes a great book. It's okay, but not great. Full credit should be given to one horror aspect of it, however, and that's the fact that one of the main characters literally has their brain cut out of their skull whilst they're still alive. That's pretty dark for a younger reader story!
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: The Swarm'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - The Doomsday Ship
The tenth book of the series, set 0 ABY. Tash, Zak and their uncle Hoole become passengers aboard the passenger liner Star of Empire. When the ship is suddenly evacuated Tash and Zak are left trapped onboard with the rogueish smuggler Dash Rendar, but they soon find that a sinister intelligence is planning their deaths.
This isn't a particularly good entry into the Galaxy of Fear series unfortunately. Unlike in some of the better books such as 'The Hunger' or 'Ghost of the Jedi', there's no real mystery as to who is behind the sinister goings-on and you end up just feeling rather frustrated that the characters are too dense to piece it together. Worse perhaps is the dreadful anticlimax in which the protagonists defeat their deadly enemy by sitting quietly and not doing anything, all the while pretending that this is a clever twist.
Finally, the guest character here, Dash Rendar, just isn't as interesting as some of the others who've featured in the series, being little more than a Han Solo knock-off. That wasn't so bad in Steve Perry's 'Shadows of the Empire', where Han is out of the picture, but here they probably would've been better off including Captain Solo instead.
2 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - The Hunger
1 ABY. The twelfth and final book of the Galaxy Of Fear series proves to be one of the best. Fleeing from the wrath of Darth Vader, Tash, Zak and Hoole find themselves on Dagobah with the smugglers of Platt O'Keefe. They encounter a strange group of people apparently decended from a stranded Republic exploration team, but these individuals have a dark secret.
I was genuinely surprised that a book primarily aimed at younger readers would deal with a concept like the one here (I don't want to ruin the surprise) and, despite my advancing years, even found myself drawn into the horror element of the story at times.
However, there is something even better to be seen here as Tash and Zak encounter a strange green gnome-like creature living in the swamps of Dagobah ("Slimy? Mudhole? My home this is!"). There is a truly priceless moment in which Boba Fett confronts the strange little creature and Yoda puts on his crazy hermit act, causing Fett not to bother mentioning him to Darth Vader later on in the book.
It's also interesting to see Zak's journey into the dark side cave (where Luke sees the vision of himself as Vader). All in all a very entertaining read, which serves to round off the end of the series nicely as Tash and Zak, bolstered by Yoda's advice, decide to join the Rebel Alliance.
Followed by 'Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine' by Voronica Whitney-Robinson & Haden Blackman.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - The Nightmare Machine
0 ABY. Tash and Zak visit Hologram Fun World to avoid the evil scientist Borborygmus Gog, but end up embroiled in his latest plot. What're the chances of that?
The Nightmare Machine itself defies credibility even further. Not even the inclusion of a pre-Empire Strikes Back Lando Calrissian can save this one I'm afraid.
Followed by 'Galaxy of Fear: Ghost of the Jedi'.
1 out of 5
Star Wars: Galaxy Of Fear - The Swarm
0 ABY. Book eight of the series. Here Hoole takes Tash and Zak to the planet Sk'rrr to experience the unique gardens there, but after an Imperial officer is murdered, the Arrandas find themselves facing an infestation of deadly drogg beetles.
It's been many years since I last read one of these books and, picking this one up out-of-sequence, I worried that Whitman's writing would've lost some of the charm it had when I was younger. Thankfully, that's not the case. Sure, the 'scary' cliffhanger at the end of each chapter is rather tedious, but overall this book has just the right amount of mystery and chills to keep you interested.
I was equally pleased to see that the inclusion of Captain Thrawn was more than mere name-dropping. He's there to study the gardens as an expression of Sk'rrr art and, to anyone who knows their Zahn, this is very much in-character. Sadly he's not quite the Sherlock Holmes-esque genius that Zahn would write, but it's a perfectly passable guest appearance for the Chiss.
Followed, appropriately considering the presence of Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn's 'Choices of One'.
3 out of 5