?It’s hard to remember that there was ever a time when Star Wars was not that popular, but that’s exactly the terrifying world nerds lived in during the Presidency of George H.W. Bush. People born in the mid-’80s could not buy a new Star Wars toy for the first decade of their life, nor know the joy/disappointment of seeing a Star Wars film on the big screen until the end of middle school. If you’d somehow discovered the out-of-favor saga of a farmboy-turned-space-samurai, you didn’t have many options to enjoy Star Wars in 1991 other than re-watching the VHS tapes. Sure, G.I. Joes went nicely with your inherited Kenner Star Wars figures, and you could read the words you understand in Timothy Zahn’s newly released adult fiction epic Heir to the Empire, but that’s about it. Otherwise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ruled and Darth Vader drooled.
So in that context, the six-part young adult Jedi Prince series of novels by Paul and Hollace Davids (with illustrations by Karl Kesel) was the inhaler to many a lack-of-Star Wars-induced asthma attack in ’91. It had everything it needed to be a success — namely, the Star Wars logo on it, words like Jedi and Darth Vader in the titles, and pictures Luke and Han and Leia on the covers! We thought these books totally ruled because we had virtually no competition for young Star Wars fans — but a closer look at them reveals that their ruling is actually highly questionable. In fact, they’re kind of terrible. Sure, they might not be Holiday Special level bad, but lord, they aren’t good.
10) It’s a Ridiculous Star Wars Rerun
?Just in case you forget you’re reading a Star Wars book between all the princes, zoochberries, planetary concerns and mutants that pop up in this series, pretty much every iconic plot point or image is either referenced or straight-up reenacted. They visit Bespin, Dagobah and Tatooine numerous times, a character gets frozen in Carbonite, the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive breaks, the Rebel headquarters is on Mount Yoda (Mount. Yoda.), the Emperor (‘s son) tries to woo a Jedi (Leia) to the Dark Side, the heroes wear Stormtrooper outfits and the hero (Ken) finds out he’s related to an evil Jedi (the Emperor). Also the speakers on Hologram Fun World, the amusement park that Han and Leia elope to, are 1,138 THX Ultrasound Speakers. I know there has to be a Howard the Duck reference in here somewhere, but I missed it.
9) M.O.A. (Massive Overuse of Acronyms)
?Star Wars and acronyms go hand in hand, much like Bib Fortuna and an economy-sized tub of tentacle moisturizer. The original trilogy gave us the acronyms AT-AT and AT-ST and gave nerds across the country a means to measure trivia cred (“All-Terrain Armored Transport, duh!”). The authors took the trilogy’s passing interest in acronyms and ran with it until their feet blistered. The core group of Rebels work for SPIN (Senate’s Planetary Intelligence Network) and operate out of DRAPAC (Defense Research and Planetary Assistance Center), the Imperials have a group called COMPNOR (Commission for the Preservation of the New Order) and use TNT vehicles (Treaded Neutron Torch) and CAVs (Compact Assault Vehicles). Luke even references Jawas as JDTs, which is short for Jawa Droid Traders. You really need to differentiate the JDTs from the JDAs (Jawa Defense Attorneys) and JDHs (Jawa Dental Hygienists). But the award for most ridiculous use of an acronym goes to the following quote from Zorba the Hutt:
“CB-99, show Lando the hologram of your file called JTHW — Jabba the Hutt’s Will!”
8) There’s a Hutt with Hair
?A full decade before we were subjected to the flamboyant, Truman Capote-esque Ziro the Hutt from the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated feature film, a similarly offensive Hutt was introduced into the Star Wars canon and somehow made Jabba seem well-mannered. His name is Zorba the Hutt and he’s never met a plate of food that he can’t spit up all over his scaly chest. More disgustingly, Zorba has a rare genetic malformity that makes him one of the few Hutts ever who is covered in hair; indeed, this hair is so long that it can be tied in dreadlocks. Yes, he’s a massive, hairy space slug who vomits a lot — who wouldn’t want to see that, right? Luckily, the illustrations in the book depict him in positions that not even the creepiest of online fetishists would find appealing. If you always wondered what a Hutt’s undercarriage looked like then these books are for you. To top it all off, his spaceship is named the Zorba Express, which sounds like the one restaurant in the food court that can give you both the runs and tetanus.
7) The Inherent Shame of Identifying with Ken, the Jedi Prince
?The titular Jedi Prince was shamelessly included as an entry-point character for kids. His bedroom is filled with Star Wars action figures and vehicle playsets and thanks to his schooling, he’s as big of a Star Wars nerd as the readers. HC-100, Ken’s homework correcting droid (I know) has this to say about Ken’s schoolwork:
“You’ve learned to spell Emperor Palpatine’s name correctly. He certainly was a horrible emperor, no doubt about it…but, oh no, you’ve made a serious mistake in your quiz on the Rebel Alliance. Luke Skywalker didn’t pilot the Millennium Falcon in the first battle against the Death Star. It was Han Solo, and Chewbacca was his copilot. I thought you knew that, Ken!”
“I thought you knew that, Ken” is what every person he sees ever in his adult life is going to say about anything they ask him about any subject that isn’t Death Star-related. “No, two plus two is not Nien Nunb.” Even though he’s the titular character, Ken does nothing for the five books he appears in aside from withhold pertinent information from his allies and complain about his mooka. A mooka is like a cat or a dog, by the way. Also, Ken knows what cats and dogs are.
6) The Bad Guys Make Darth Maul and General Grievous Seem Subtle
?Return of the Jedi ended with the Empire leaderless and on the verge of dissolving. So in continuing the space opera, the Davids had every right to come up with a whole new rogues gallery to terrorize our heroes. What we get are bearded and dwarfish Sith Prophets in glittery robes, two three-eyed mutants with the painfully obvious names Trioculous and Triclops, and a half dozen new Grand Moffs with one personality between them. Everyone in the Empire bids each other “dark greetings,” vaporizing any shades of gray in their morality. You don’t say “dark greetings” and then think you are doing charity work. The most evil of all the Grand Moffs has to be Grand Moff Dunhausen, who wears earrings shaped like laser pistols.
Also, the Grand Moffs hold secret conferences called Mofferences. I wish I was joking.
5) The Rebels Become Planeteers
?If you thought that the Star Wars crew would be immune to preaching about the dangers facing our planet because they are in a galaxy far, far away, then you obviously underestimated the power of ’90s cultural awareness. The Jedi Prince series shoehorns in lengthy fact chunks about the dangers of famine, deforestation, air pollution, chemical dumping and the greenhouse effect in the most awkward places. If your life has been just a little bit empty because you’ve never read a story about Luke Skywalker and Admiral Ackbar saving alien whales from being held captive and hunted for sport, then read the first book of this series. Also reexamine your life.
4) Chewbacca Does Absolutely Nothing
?And neither does the rest of the main cast. If you’re checking out these books to read the further exploits of your favorite characters, don’t. Han is busy decorating his space house, Luke becomes an annoyed dad when put in charge of Ken, Lando gets booted out of Cloud City and has to run a theme park, Leia gets a droid replica made of her so she can skip out on the adventures she already isn’t going on and Chewbacca does nothing. Nothing. Actually, I take that back, he lets out a happy growl once. Good news though, since the characters are so ill-defined and inconsequential, you can easily Madlibs this into a pretty rad Captain Planet In Space series.
3) Han Solo Is Totally Emasculated
?Han is a rogue. He’s cocky, confident and plays off every serious situation with a welcome helping of snark. So when the first line he says in the entire series is…
“…Lando’s offered me a lease on a piece of sky near Cloud City. I’ve always dreamed of having a place of my own, and I figure it’s about time Chewie and I built my dream sky house…”
…you know you’re about to read six books full of your childhood hero tucking his tail between his legs. Han only makes a cameo in the first two books to put on a chef’s apron and cook “a spicy Corellian meal on his nanowave stove.” These cameos also make my childhood cry. Han Solo’s housewarming party takes place in the third book, which has Han cooking gourmet meals and teaching Leia how to do the Space Pirate Boogie to his favorite Corellian folk tunes. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the Han that shot second.
2) Leia Joins the Cast of Bridezillas
?If there’s one thing the Star Wars trilogy didn’t have enough of, it was TLC-style wedding documentation. After Han and Leia decide to tie the knot, we get to see them shop for wedding rings, fret over having proper identification to get a marriage license, discuss whether or not Chewbacca can really be a best “man,” try on tuxedos and dresses and argue over where to sit Admiral Ackbar at the wedding reception. This is comparatively exciting when you realize the main action of the series involves toxic methane gas in our atmosphere.
1) This Picture
?This picture comes from the fifth book of the series, Queen of the Empire. This is Princess Leia’s human replica droid shooting her eye blasts through the shoulder of the three-eyed mutant named Trioculous who is posing as the Emperor’s son at their wedding, which is being officiated by a razor-toothed Grand Moff who is now a cyborg in a floating pod because he lost all of his limbs in a vat of spilled chemicals. ‘Nuff said.