"Jedi Search" - by Kevin J. Anderson. Book 1 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy.
(Note: Oddity 1 - why is it called the Jedi Academy trilogy when Luke is so persistent that it should be called a praxeum in book 2)
The EU - Pacing/ It FEELS like Star Wars - To be blunt, I was dreading rereading these books. I didn't really like them (as will soon be obvious), however, in re-reading the books, I need to give Anderson credit. This book feels like a Star Wars movie would feel. The pacing is right. There is action, there is motion, there is movement. The scenes feel like a Star Wars book - and very much so. Anderson does this well - and this is probably why he is a fantastic editor.
The Setting Anderson does do a nice job describing Kessel, and the Maw, and fleshing out Yavin. Those feel like Star Wars places. Things feel like Star Wars in Anderson's book.
The EU - The Bad - It Feels Like Dumb Star Wars - While the pacing is good, the actions of the characters are just. . . off. The choices they make... are sometimes dumb. It is as though this book was some how prophetic of little Anakin from Episode 1 and 2... except everyone is just sort of off. (I'm on to book 2, so I'm thinking of stuff there too, but still).
The Ugly - The Villain..villains.. plot foils? One of the hallmarks of Star Wars is a strong villain. Think about the first movie - you have the huge, imposing Star Destroyer - you have Darth Vader. Imposing villains. And in this book... who's the villain? A coke-head, half blind frog man? Doesn't quite work. Maybe the scarecrow guy with all the Xs in his name? Nope. Um, or Jedi students - oh, they will be scary. . . no. I know, the evil Imperial Tourist who runs a Stormtrooper school... he throws a drink in Mon Mothma's face (don't worry, it will be a sinister drink. . . bwahahahaha!). Now I am intimidated and worried about the threats the characters will face. No, wait - ah, there, on Page 227 we get Admiral Daala. . . anwoman Admiral, a military genius who rose even with the sexist attitudes of the Empire, a wondrous, super, vil... um.
... Daala is the dumbest super-evil-threatening-admiral ever. Seriously - just tactical error after tactical error. She might have been intimidating if we were used to merely the Empire Strike Backs Admirals. After Thrawn, she seems like like a fool. You mean, if no one checks up on your secure, secret installation in a decade, you aren't going to send out a fact finding mission? When your lover is the person supplying you? Maybe you aren't rusty, maybe you are just dumb. Of course, maybe the true villain is the. . .
The SUPER UGLY The Sun Crusher.
Okay - this is the worst plot device ever. Why? First of all, it's an indestructible (literally) craft that can blow up solar systems. Really? Really? Come on, man! How could you hope to defeat it. . .give us at least an exhaust port or something.
Oh, wait, that's right - we don't have to worry about defeating it because at the end of the book IT IS IN THE NEW REPUBLIC'S POSSESSION! Oh, wow, instead of having a looming threat, we get to look forward to a moral quandary!
See, this is the main problem - you need conflict to drive a novel -- for a short story, it doesn't have to be big. Han and Chewie on Kessel - a neat short story. But a novel? Or a Trilogy? This needs something more than what Anderson gives us. Darth Vader is what makes Star Wars Star Wars, and not because he's actually Anakin Skywalker, former hero -- he drives it because he is SCARY and kicks all sorts. Who is going to kick anyone around in this book? No one, unless they have overwhelming force in a matter of surprise.
The Grade I'm going to have to give this one a C- It felt right... it was well written... but the story itself was just... bleech.