The universe of Star Wars is enormous and detailed, yet somehow, it remains tiresomely repetitive. Only a handful of planet types exist. Every world is about the size of a Sam’s Club parking lot, with one homogeneous environment stretching from stem to stern. All races are basically humanoid, unless they’re monsters. If someone is on a planet, don’t worry about looking for them: somehow, you’ll land right on top of them.
But to criticize the Star Wars universe for tea-tray shallow world-building that takes the Rule of Cool as gospel would be to miss the magic. It’s a science *fantasy* universe, and that distinction is meaningful. But while that can be liberating for writers and initially intoxicating for the reader, the universe’s threadbare verisimilitude quickly wears thin, and we quickly come to a universe with all the internal logic of a Superman comic, where the reader can do nothing but go along for the ride, unaware of the rules that govern the universe.
Characters need some kind of limits: that’s why Superman is a boring character, he’s perfect. And the world need’s some sort of consistent rules, or there are no stakes for the reader. So, here are some of our pet peeves and personal hang-ups, as found in the Star Wars Legends novels.
In the mistaken belief that a mid-word apostrophe makes a name sounds space age, dozens of characters in the Star Wars universe sport a apostrophic caesura. It’s like a cool hat, serving all the same valuable purpose in character development.
The trope goes beyond simple punctuation. No one in the Star Wars universe has a normal name. It’s against the law. No Jedi Master Kevin and Admiral Vincent for us. It creates the impression of a writer focused so tightly on the appearance of an alien universe that they forget to establish anything interesting. Funny names do not an exciting universe create.
Clones, Clones, Clones
Along with a fetish for forced amputations, Star Wars writers eagerly borrowed George Lucas’ chop-licking excitement when it comes to cloning. So, clones have always been a major part of the Star Wars expanded universe, and in other science fiction stories besides.
Virtually all the major characters get cloned at one point. Luke fights a clone of himself (helpfully named Luuke so we dont forget) in a climactic lightsaber battle. There’s a whole storyline about a Jedi that clones himself, but turns evil. Yes, the Star Wars Legends universe extended to the dizzying heights of “evil twin” plots, a trope so laughable than even soap opera writers reject it. How does that not feel goofy?
Super-Powered Ninja Soldier Bad-Ass Action Girl
Virtually every women in Star Wars is a villain or a bad-ass action chick. The action chick is a familiar trope to moviegoers: it’s the girl who acts exactly like a traditional icon of masculinity would act, except she has profit-swelling boobies. Profits aren’t all that swells: twelve-year-olds with suddenly uncomfortable pants are the chief market for these characters. Sometimes, they’re held up as an icon of female power, but outside of their physical traits, these characters are rarely distinguishable from men. The cinematic ideal of self-reliance and heroism is a good one, but it traces an unavoidable masculine shape. Surely there’s room for more than one type of hero?
That’s why it’s frustrating to see this trope scattered throughout the Star Wars universe. Are there no traditional icons of femininity? Does no one in the Star Wars universe run a daycare or a family restaurant? In our world, probably 1% of all humans could qualify as action heroes: we’re talking about Delta Forces, CIA spooks, high-level ninjas. So why are 99% of the women in Star Wars brooding, black-clad, tattooed assassins with a personality as dull as their daddy issues are clichéd?
Yer a Wizard… Everybody?
Nearly every long-term character is Force-sensitive, or discovers they are Force-sensitive. If a character survives for more than a single book and they’re not named Han Solo, you can expect a Force-sensitive reveal. The first time, it’s neat. But when everyone is a Jedi, the neatness wears thin. Soon, there are more robed ninja warriors running around doing close-up magic and levitating people. Considering the Force is barely integrated into the economy or politics of the universe at large, it quickly strains credulity when everyone can use the Force. Why aren’t Force-sensitives used in manufacturing? Should cops be Force-sensitive?
Did You Hear The One About the Skywalkers?
Repetition is unavoidable in a world as sprawling as the Star Wars universe. But there’s virtually no variance between books. A repeated storyline goes like this: a morally gray character is introduced in a cantina. They’re human, but surrounded by all kinds of merchandisable alien races. This guy kick off the events of the story through some sneaky roguishness. Then The Good Guys™ run around the galaxy for a while in the Mystery Machine, collecting Scooby Snacks before a dramatic punch-up with the baddies. The scales are stacked against the heroes, and things look bleak — surely, this time, Luke and Co. are done for! Then, some sudden twist (often a Force-mediated deus ex machina) swoops in and dramatically saves our heroes.
It becomes increasingly improbable that all the main characters, despite leading nominally separate lives, would constantly be in the same place at the same time so they can get roped into the story. The degree of coincidence required to support these narratives is unbelievable, but somehow, all the Skywalkers and all the Solos are involved in every major event in the galaxy. So eventually, they simply stop trying to explain it and just make you accept it. Listen, they just went there together, okay?
It’s a plot so hackneyed that the A-Team wore out long before Star Wars go its hands on it. An entire universe of invented possibilities, and the best we can do is the plot of Super Mario? Where are the political dramas, the spy thrillers, the war dramas? We should give some credit: there actually is a romantic comedy book. That one book was the sole attempt by the franchise to explore, and it feel smack on its nose.
The Yuuzhan Vong Last Too Damn Long
If you had to name one thing that defined Star Wars, it would be the Force. The rules governing the Light Side and the Dark Side might not make much sense, but that’s fine. The Force is a hand wave, sometimes literally, that makes the Star Wars universe exciting and unique. But the writers must have missed that memo. How else can there be a major series (nearly 20 books) that functionally bans the Force?
When the Yuuzhan Vong invade from Here Be Monsters land, the Jedi quickly discover that the invaders are immune to their Force wizardry. The books describe the Vong as a void in the Force, untouched by the power that’s supposed to suffuse all living things. Oh, and they fight with snakes made rigid by the power of throbbing battle boners.
Worse still, the Vong are nothing but a tapestry of worn-out Evil Race cliches. There have a rasping, guttural language (check!), a culture centered exclusively around war and conflict (check!), gloppy biological computers (check!), and spiky black armor (quadruple check!). Fourth-graders have doodled better character designs during math class.
You would think that an anti-Force zone would raise the stakes, but it just makes them far less interesting. But that’s a natural consequence of the Force being too powerful: for any real danger to occur, Force powers need to be turned off. That’s what happens when you let literally any idiot write a book in the universe.
In Conclusion, Chewbacca Gets Killed by a Moon
Yeah, it falls right on him! And Han Solo’s whiny-ass kid spends BOOKS bitching about how he should have tried to save the talking teddy bear and family friend. Han Solo gets drunk about it for at least three consecutive books! So clearly, it was supposed to be a dramatic and powerful scene. But it’s hard not to laugh when Chewbacca gets crunched by a literal moon.
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