Book Review: The Crystal Star
This week I’m taking a look at what is widely regarded as one of the worst books in the Star Wars EU.
Author: Vonda N. McIntyre
Publication Date: December 8th, 1994
Leia Organa-Solo is on a diplomatic mission to planet Munto Codru, to negotiate their entry into the Republic, when an attack on the home of her host leads to the kidnapping of Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin. As political kidnappings are a fact of life on Munto Codru, her hosts downplay the weight of the incident, beliving this was caused by a local faction. Leia takes it more seriously, and she takes her personal ship, the Alderaan, off to hunt down the kidnappers.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker have traveled to Crseih, a White Dwarf that crystallized into a planet, searching for a possible Force-Sensitive there who is currently serving as a political and religious leader.
The Solo children find themselves in the custody of a group calling themselves “The Empire Reborn” – they are kidnapping force sensitive children (generally Humans), as part of a plan to reconquer the galaxy. All these plot threads will unite at… The Crystal Star!
This book is almost entirely out of continuity, so I’m going to skip straight to…
This book is terrible. It’s written like a bad middle-grade novel. Not a YA novel aimed for high schoolers, but a middle grade novel. Everything screams this. Leia taking the kids with her on a diplomatic mission, leading to them being kidnapped and having Kid Survival Adventures is definitely a middle-grade/YA thing. The ways in which Leia acts out of character are ways that feel like they’d be logical for younger readers, though utterly nonsensical for an adult to accept. Even the sentence structure and vocabulary of the novel reads like something structured for younger readers.
However, this book was given the same treatment as the other Star Wars novels – something that was sold to adults and young adults, and sold through more conventional publishing channels.
So, why the discrepancy?
The first possibility is that this book was originally planned to be a middle-grade novel, like the books with Triclops and Trioculus (which I have deliberately skipped), but the publisher needed to fill a hole in their schedule so they took The Crystal Star and bumped it up to be a “mainline” Star Wars novel, to be sold to the mass market instead of focusing on book fairs and the juvenile section of the bookstore. If that was the reason, they did not do right by this book and they certainly didn’t do right by its author.
The second possibility is that the author held Star Wars, as a universe and as a franchise in contempt. I’ve read some of McIntyre’s Star Trek novels (though not her own original works – yet), and I enjoyed them and they certainly didn’t talk down to their readers the way that this book does. It’s entirely possible that she just thinks poorly of Star Wars as a series, but accepted when the job was offered because she thought it was an easy payday.
This leads to the third possibility. It’s not that McIntyre didn’t like Star Wars, but more that she just didn’t care. She wasn’t invested in the universe, she wasn’t interested in the universe, but writers don’t get paid to not write, so when she got offered the job, she took it because you’ve got bills to pay, and this book would help pay them.
I’m leaning towards the third option. It’s clear that Vonda was versed in the current status quo of the Star Wars EU, with Leia as Chief of State, her and Han now having 3 children, and Jaina and Jacen being able to walk and talk on their own. The concept of the Empire Reborn also kidnapping young Force-sensitive children to be trained also could be taken from the Emperor’s Dark Side Adepts from Dark Empire II – which is current enough that unless the turnaround on this book was incredibly fast, it couldn’t have been sitting in the YA pipeline for a while. Similarly, if McIntyre held the franchise in contempt, she wouldn’t have done the research either.
All in all though, this book is thus far the worst book in the Star Wars EU to date, and possibly the worst novel that Vonda N. McIntyre had written.