Hello, and welcome to a nostalgic trip through the old Star Wars Expanded Universe. This time, I’m looking at the first EU books I ever read, Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy. Brace yourselves, because there’s a lot of stupid going on in here.
Twenty-year-old spoilers follow.
To this day, I remain shocked that third-grade me read these books first and then chose to keep reading EU books. Because the Jedi Academy trilogy is full-on bananas.
The three books—Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force—contain two basic intersecting plots. They are 1) Luke Skywalker’s failure to start a Jedi School and 2) Admiral Daala’s failure to defeat the New Republic. The first is somehow much worse than the second. Daala’s not a great military mind, but Luke is the worst Jedi Master. Daala was also Tarkin’s lover, so enjoy that mental image:
The trilogy begins with Luke discovering a machine that detects Force sensitivity. I know that there was no Phantom Menace at the time, but the chronology does mean that Qui-Gon Jinn was able to do a basic medical test to check Anakin Skywalker’s midichlorian levels while Luke has to use the Star Wars equivalent of a Scientology stress test.
Luke decides to set up his new Jedi school on Yavin 4, a moon that just happens to have an evil Sith ghost wandering around it. The ghost’s name in Exar Kun, and Luke didn’t do any research into Yavin 4’s Sithy history before putting his school of vulnerable Jedi trainees on it. So, immediately, one of Luke’s brand new students has a vision that he’ll die if he goes with Luke to Yavin 4. He goes anyway.
Luke then has to start by teaching, by himself, a bunch of new Jedi that are all basically adults with emotional scarring. Anderson really backs up the prequel-era Jedi Council’s policy of only teaching babies. Let’s take a look at how some of Luke’s first students turned out:
- Kyp Durron (gets possessed by Exar Kun, the evil Force Ghost)
- Dorsk 81 (dies in Darksaber. Which I will get to, I promise)
- Kam Solusar (previously evil)
- Brakiss (super-evil, goes on to set up a Sith Academy)
- Streen (becomes influenced by Exar Kun, tries to kill Luke with a tornado. It should be dramatic, but it is instead hilarious. Because imagine Leia holding onto Luke’s floating body in a magic maelstrom)
- Gantoris (evil and then burnt)
Luke might be the worst teacher in the history of time. My god, I know it’s the spirit of Exar Kun using Kyp Durron that puts Luke into a coma in Dark Apprentice, but he could very well have been reacting to Luke’s training—like a very angry entry on Rate My Professor.
Speaking of Kyp Durron... Han should never have left this kid in Luke’s care without a mountain of therapy. We’re talking about a kid whose brother was conscripted into the Empire when he was eight, while he and his parents were sentenced to hard labor in the Kessel mines. By the time Han rescues him and hands him off to Luke’s academy, Kyp spent around a decade in total misery. So sure, why not start training him to use an immense power on a planet with a Sith cloud living on it?
When Durron turns evil, he does so with the knowledge of the Sun Crusher. My colleague and friend Rob Bricken does not like the Sun Crusher:
Can a weapon be a Mary Sue? Thanks to Kevin Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy, we know the answer is yes. The Suncrusher is a small ship with the ability to destroy entire star systems, thanks to its 11 “energy resonance torpedoes.” It has a hyperdrive, indestructible armor, can withstand shots from the Death Star laser and is basically completely unstoppable — oh, and even the Emperor didn’t know about it, because no one would have possibly been able to explain its existence post-RotJ otherwise.
Respectfully, he is wrong about it being one of the 12 worst things in the EU. It is an amazing thing. Someone looked at the Death Star and went “But what if it was smaller? And indestructible? And blew up suns?” It is everything excessive and unrestrained about the EU. It is, in its own way, beautiful in its stupidity.
I love everything about the Sun Crusher. I love that it was designed by a bunch of amoral scientists on a lark, since they’d already made the Death Star(s). I love that their research center is hidden in a collection of black holes. I love that the lead scientist on the matter was named “Qwi Xux.” I love that the New Republic’s plan to deal with the indestructible murder ship was to just fire it into the center of the gas giant Yavin. You know, right near a school filled with people with otherworldly powers and a penchant for going evil.
Of fucking course Kyp goes evil and retrieves the Sun Crusher! What kind of person wouldn’t?
Also, Kyp uses the Force to basically take an ice cream scooper to Qwi Xux’s mind. She’s under the protection of Wedge Antilles, a general in starfighter command. They’re traveling undercover, despite him being a famous hero of the Republic. She should have a commando team or even a police officer. The only reason to put her with Wedge is for name recognition and the half-baked romance between the two. Excellent use of time.
Kyp takes the Sun Crusher to the Imperial academy that his brother ended up at. He’s clearly unstable, and what the people there decide to do is “stall” Kyp by telling him his brother died. So an angry Kyp sets the sun there to “splodey” at which point the Imperials bring out the brother in a big “Just kidding!” reveal, all so Kyp gets to see him one last time before his brother dies for real, along with every other inhabitant of the solar system.
Eventually Kyp pilots the Sun Crusher into a black hole, because good triumphs blah blah blah. And then he becomes a Jedi, despite all the millions of dead people. I believe in second chances, but these books do not make a case for it.
The whole trilogy has some bewildering set-ups, with Luke’s Jedi school being the most doomed. But special attention must also be paid to Han and Leia’s insane decision to send all three of their babies to an isolated planet to spend the first two years of their lives in a fortress, tended to solely by the Alderaanian aide Winter and a pile of nanny droids. Of course, when a team lands to kidnap baby Anakin, only the appearance of Leia and Admiral Ackbar saves the day. And they only showed up because they’d found out what was happening. The planet’s defenses weren’t enough on their own. I hope it was worth the mental scarring of the child.
I will give the Jedi Academy books this: Exar Kun is a better name than a lot of the evil Jedis get to have.
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Book illustrations via Amazon