After the incredible success of the Timothy Zahn trilogy in the early 1990s, the Star Wars Expanded Universe virtually exploded in a wave of novels which eagerly set out to continue the story of our heroes from the Original Trilogy. Dozens upon dozens of books later, this Expanded Universe (EU) was essentially declared defunct when Disney purchased Lucasfilms and appreciated not just the simplicity of starting everything from scratch from a creative stand point, but also the lucrative nature of getting to fill the same literary spaces previously filled by the old EU with new novels. The first of these novels hit the shelves in the fall of 2014.
Two books arrived in 2014, A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller and Tarkin by James Luceno. In 2015, a half dozen novels were released, which consisted of, in no particular order, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, Kevin Hearne’s Heir to the Jedi, Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple, Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith, Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, and finally, Alexander Freed’s Battlefront: Twilight Company. This rush of novels, no doubt timed to coincide with the excitement of The Force Awakens’ release in 2015, resulted in a fresh new wave of EU novels and many hours of enjoyable reading. Not included with either of these sets of novels are the junior novels and other books, aimed primarily at children below the age of ten. There were also several reference books released in the same time period and a few more to come. With so many novels and options to pick up in 2015, it’s not just surprising, but shocking at the fictional desert that fans of Star Wars novels are finding themselves in 2016.
Only two novels, not specifically targeted for readers awaiting elementary school graduation, are so far set to be released this year and both are returning writers. Claudia Gray will return first with Bloodline, a novel about Leia Organa in the build up to The Force Awakens, and Chuck Wendig will follow with Life Debt, a sequel to Aftermath. Beyond these two novels, nothing else has been announced or hinted at by Lucasfilm or Disney and this is most definitely disappointing.
While a number of books are slated for release, only the aforementioned works by Gray and Wendig are targeted for the general readership. This feels as if Disney and Lucasfilm simply are not placing as high a priority on the readers who have buoyed Star Wars publishing for the last two and a half decades, and as much, misses out on an audience which would happily snatch up every new piece of the EU it can. Obviously, quality is always important and projects should not be rushed, but it does seem there was not nearly as much planning for the year to follow The Force Awakens premiere as for the year of the movie’s release. There is no easily understandable or officially offered reason for this absence of additional novels, and we can only speculate any number of scenarios, be it desired authors are busy, there’s a belief the market has enough novels to sustain it for the moment, or even possibly, the powers that be don’t want to immediately repopulate the new EU as quickly as the old.
Regardless of the why, the fact remains that for the near foreseeable future, readers who happily consumed the half-dozen novels of last year, will have to tighten their belts and sit on empty hands until more titles are announced and more books are released. Given the generally positive reception of the recent releases, we can at least be assured that when we finally have new options to select from, they will almost certainly be worth the wait. Nonetheless, let’s not make that wait too long.