From the moment Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy was published, the Star Wars universe was never the same again. The Expanded Universe that developed over the next two decades was an intricate place home to many of the stories that fostered my love of science fiction. But with over a hundred books to choose from, the timeline now branded as Legends could be an intimidating place, especially when so many of those books were part of longer series. But among all the epic tales were more than a few standalones. These individual stories may not be the best place to begin, but they will give you that Star Wars fix you crave without needing a series-long commitment. Watch out for spoilers below.
Red Harvest – Joe Schreiber
A prequel of sorts to Death Troopers, this is one of those rare books to stray into the realm of outright horror. Set in a Sith academy during the time of the Old republic, Red Harvest tracks the outbreak of a zombie plague among the force-sensitive students. If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is. Schreiber makes the combination work however, and the backstabbing, feuding Sith hopefuls make excellent fodder for flesh-eating monsters. If you’re not worried about Zabrak under the bed for a few nights, then you’re made of stern stuff indeed.
Fatal Alliance – Sean Williams
Another Old Republic tale, this one is a little more traditional. Take some evil Sith, bright-eyed heroes of the Republic, and a Mandalorian or two, and what do you get? You get a squabbling horde begging for an eventual team-up. Even if you’re not familiar with the Old Republic, this is a great adventure story, filled with twists, turns and great characters. It manages the difficult task of having no familiar characters, while being absolutely true to the spirit of Star Wars.
Outbound Flight – Timothy Zahn
Outbound Flight is probably the most famous book on this list, and deservedly so. I like to think of it as Star Wars’ take on Star Trek, as it features a great expedition into the unknown parts of the Galaxy. There are colonists, soldiers, scientists, and Jedi on board, but what makes this book so popular is appearance of a young Thrawn. You don’t need prior knowledge going into this one, as the story is gripping enough on its own, but the foreshadowing is masterful stuff indeed.
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader – James Luceno
Set in the days immediately after Revenge of the Sith, this book shows us how the newly christened Darth Vader made his first appearances on the galactic stage. Like Episode III itself, this is a dark book, with not much hope to be found, but it does an excellent job of showing why Vader became so feared. As a study of how evil takes power, it’s hard to think of a Star Wars book that does it better than Dark Lord.
Death Star – Micheal Reaves & Steve Perry
Everyone knows how the Death Star ended, but what about how it began? Death Star is the story of the people who built and served aboard the battle station in the lead-up to A New Hope. Reaves and Perry do an excellent job of humanising the Empire, showing them to be more than just caricatures of evil. If you wanted to know where people on the Death Star go to drink, then this is the book for you. Slice-of-life books are rarely my favourite, but this one is is one of my favourites.
Allegiance – Timothy Zahn
Also focused on humanising the Empire, Zahn’s story sees a squad of stormtroopers take centre-stage when they decide to go rogue. Inevitably, they cross paths with familiar faces from the original trilogy, but the way this is done is anything but predictable. This is a book that shows the darkness within the Empire, while not shying away from the fact that stormtroopers are people too, not just lightsabre fodder. This is probably y favourite standalone Star Wars book, and while there was a sequel some time later, I still count it as a standalone for the completeness of the story it tells.
Millennium Falcon – James Luceno
Towards the end of its timeline, the Expanded Universe became increasingly obsessed with the Skywalker/Solo family and the nature of the Force. Millennium Falcon is a pleasant diversion between longer and thematically darker series. It starts with Han and Leia telling the story of their ship to their granddaughter, but soon expands to an active investigation of said history. Tracking the (in)famous vessel across several decades is some of the most interesting storytelling Star Wars ever did, and seeing its appearance at various key moments in time will warm the heart of any nostalgic fan.
So those are my favourite Star Wars standalones. I encourage you all to give them a look, and be sure to let me know about your experiences and your own favourites in the comments.