We all shed a tear when Disney condemned the old Expanded Universe and all those genuinely astounding novels with it, but a clean slate does set the stage for an exciting new take on the Star Wars saga. To celebrate the opening of The Force Awakens worldwide, we bring you five our favourite new books alongside a special interview with Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company author, Alexander Freed.
Lords Of The Sith by Paul S Kemp
Usually the threat looming in the shadows, LOTS launches Vader and Palpatine out of their comfort zones and into the midst of an uprising on Twi'lek homeworld Ryloth. Forced to work together to survive, we get to see flickers of Anakin beneath the black armour, but also just how much of a slave Vader truly is to both the Emperor and his own rage.
Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed
Don't let its videogame tie-in status fool you into thinking this is some cheap knock off to promote Star Wars Battlefront - Twilight Company takes the integral 'wars' in Star Wars and recreates the fear and dread of fighting a war on the ground. Think Rogue Squadron, only with more camaraderie and fewer X-wings.
Dark Disciple by Christie Golden
Based on a script for a cancelled storyline for the brilliant Clone Wars animated series (originally written by George Lucas' daughter, Katie), Dark Disciple is part love story/part tragedy that follows the intertwined stories of unorthodox Jedi Quinlan Vos and former Sith badass Asajj Ventress as they pursue the unctuous Count Dooku.
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
Easily the most hotly anticipated novel of the new Extended Universe, Aftermath picks up after Return Of The Jedi. Surprisingly, there's very little of Luke, Leia and Han here - author Wendig instead presenting a new status quo from the POVs of a fresh set of characters and, more importantly, from within the crumbling Empire itself.
Tarkin by James Luceno
Who would suspected the best idea for a Star Wars novel would come find itself orbiting the bristling power of Grand Moff Tarkin? In the hands of experienced Star Wars novelist James Luceno, Tarkin's childhood and rise to fame (and his bristling relationship with Darth Vader) are given the time to grow organically, resulting in the best canon tie-in novel yet.
An interview with author Alexander Freed, writer of Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company
T3: First off, could you tell us how you came to be involved the project and the origins of the Twilight Company story?
Alexander Freed: The project came as a bit of a surprise, in all honesty - I'd worked on a handful of Star Wars short stories before, so Del Rey was familiar with my work, but I wasn't expecting the offer to write a novel tying into the Star Wars Battlefront videogame!
My goal was to take some of the essential elements of the game - massive ground battles set during the original trilogy plus a sensibility derived from those first films - and create a narrative in the same spirit. What we see of 'ordinary' soldiers in the background of the films is absolutely brutal, and therein lies a story...
T3: What it's like to getting the chance to write a Star Wars novel, especially at the moment where everyone is so excited for The Force Awakens?
AF: It's a tremendous time to be a Star Wars writer, and it's an enormous privilege to get to work on the franchise at this particular point. Star Wars is one of those properties that not only does everyone know, but everyone loves. So as an author, you're writing for what may be the largest and most passionate and most invested audience you'll ever have the pleasure of working for.
T3: This isn't your first time writing in this universe either - how has your experience working on The Old Republic MMO and the tie-in webcomic helped you prepare for Twilight Company?
AF: There are certain themes and motifs that are key to Star Wars: the sense of a universe where good and evil truly exist (regardless of the shades in between), an emphasis on the importance of family and friendship, and so on. Figuring out these things and learning how to use them as storytelling tools is the biggest boon past projects have given me.
T3: How much freedom do you as a writer to create new characters, places and events?
AF: Disney and Del Rey have been excellent creative partners, but I think this is also where knowing "what makes a Star Wars story" pays off. If I pitch a new character or an event that fits as part of a good Star Wars tale, everyone will find a way to make it work within the larger Star Wars tapestry. I can't begin to count how many new planets I name-dropped in Twilight Company without complaint.
Plus, you know, the galaxy is a big place. It's not hard to find room for new people and places, and so long as I'm not stepping on anyone's toes (say, introducing Chewbacca's long-lost evil twin or killing off Darth Vader!) I've rarely had to worry about introducing original creations.