With The Force Awakens a little over than a month away, nobody could have possibly predicted ten years ago that the Star Wars empire would be in such a radically different position.
That is, nobody except R2-D2 and C-3PO, voicing the thoughts of author James Luceno, in 2003.
The extremely controversial New Jedi Order storyline was launched in 1999, beginning with R.A. Salvatore’s Vector Prime and ending in 2003 with James Luceno’s The Unifying Force. The best way to describe the series to a casual fan? It’s the Star Wars equivalent of A Song of Ice And Fire, adapted as Game of Thrones on HBO. The series, beginning with the death of a beloved character, threw the Star Wars galaxy into complete chaos with the invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong, an alien race of religious zealots from another galaxy hell-bent on causing as much destruction as possible. Nobody was safe, and the status quo would organically shift with each and every novel.
Though derided by many fans for its radical reinvention of the Star Wars mythos when it was first released, the serise and its impact on the franchise has been reappraised in recent years; Matthew Stover’s Traitor, released in 2003, is the most profound Star Wars novel ever written, stripping away layers of heavy-universe building in favor of a four-character narrative that redefined the role of the Force and eschewed the notion of “light” and “dark”, while the finale The Unifying Force is perhaps the single most ambitious and action-packed novel in Star Wars literary canon.
The New Jedi Order was the last real groundbreaking storyline in the adult novel canon before derided storylines The Dark Nest Trilogy, Legacy of the Force, Fate of the Jedi, and Crucible were released, eating up the majority of the Star Wars publishing timeline until LucasFilm was purchased by Disney in 2012 and the Expanded Universe canon was thrown out of the equation in 2014. These later novels remain criticized by many fans for their lack of originality, charm, and warmth characteristic of Star Wars, and were almost unreadable by new fans for their heavy references to earlier works.
It’s fitting that R2-D2 and C-3PO, the comedic duo who acted as sort of a lens into the Star Wars galaxy for naive filmgoers in 1977, realized that the franchise was beginning to go stale and that big things were on the horizon in the final pages of The Unifying Force. In a sort of touching metafictional banter in the novel’s final pages, the droid duo reflect on the franchise’s status in pop culture, its continued dwindling in popularity in comparison with other films, and, perhaps unintentionally, the eventual Disney buyout and the Expanded Universe’s discarding by the Lucasfilm Story Group.
“A far more dangerous enemy? Who or what could possibly be more dangerous than the Yuuzhan Vong?”
“Obsolescence?” After mulling it over, the protocol droid loosed what amounted to a sigh. “Perhaps I am deluding myself. With all the advances that have been made in droid technology, I suppose we are in danger of being considered obsolete. But what are we to do, Artoo? Retirement isn’t an option for us. We will continue as relics, of a sort, passed along to new masters until our parts can no longer be replaced, or until we suffer some irreparable system failure. Oh, it’s all very… bittersweet, I think is the proper word.”
R2-D2’s response was a surprisingly cheery burst of squeaks and peeps.
“Do you really believe that life will remain as unpredictable as ever and that our adventures will continue? I hope so, my little friend, even if they don’t quite measure up to adventures we’ve had, and even if they are lacking a dash of the old enchantment…”
R2-D2 made a razzing sound.
“What do you mean, I used to say that all the time? Just what are you going on about” C-3PO paused, then said. “I don’t mind at all that it’s a long story. After all, Artoo, we have nothing but time.”
Of course, at the time, Star Wars novels were dwindling in sales, and 2002’s Attack of the Clones was beaten at the box office by the latest installments of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Spider-Man.