It was the summer of 1997. I had just completed my first year of middle school and my first (and last) year of Boy Scouts. But all of this seemed overshadowed by a book that took place between two episodes of the greatest sci-fi movie series ever–Star Wars!
The novel is called Shadows of the Empire. It bridged the movies Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi together by filling the gap of searching for the bounty hunter that made off with Han Solo’s frozen body. Along the way, we were introduced to the criminal organizations that controlled half the galaxy and met some new characters.
While I wasn’t really into reading books during this time, this book stood out amongst all the rest of the Star Wars novels. It wasn’t just a book release, it was the multimedia event of the decade!
First of all, the whole project was created and pushed out by Lucasfilm which meant it had George Lucas’s full blessing. Not only was a book published, but vast amounts of toys, a comic series, a video game and hell, a soundtrack–practically everything short of a film!
After buying the toys and playing the game, I just had to get the novel and open my mind further into the world of Star Wars and literature. I was not disappointed. Shadows of the Empire revealed so much about Star Wars than any other project, and the fact that its demographic seemed to be for more mature audiences just sort of puts everything that is Star Wars post-1999 to shame.
The idea that no movie was ever made from this novel makes it unique in its own right. I don’t think any other books, short of RPGs, ever had such an incredible marketing campaign going for it. How cool was it that an author was commissioned to write a book and then have all of this lore created for it along the way? When I’m ready to publish my fantasy series, I have every intention of capitalizing on this idea.
There was so much going for it–Prince Xizor attempting to seduce Princess Leia while just before he was sharing a bath with his human-looking android assassin. Dash Rendar, who I thought was a great replacement of fulfilling the “scoundrel” role (sorry Lando) and his ship The Outrider, and the overall story of how the Bothan spies got their hands on the plans for the new Death Star–this book captured the very gritty essence of the original trilogy and enhanced it. This book remains in my library today and will always remind me of “The Summer of Star Wars.”