Some of the earlier novels were, in my opinion, quite good. Splinter of the Minds Eye (by Alan Dean Foster) was awesome—a great way to pass the time between Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back. Okay, so, in retrospect, there is a lot of creepy brother-sister lusting going on between Luke and Leia, but at the time, nobody (including Lucas) knew they were related. I just... umm, edit those parts out in my mind.
Brian Daley's Han Solo Trilogy were absolutely great. The best group of Star Wars books ever presented. I thought they captured Han Solo's smuggling career wonderfully, with a great mix of action, comedy and cleverness (I still love the part where Han, gaining access to an enemy base's computer system, decides that instead of trying to kill the alarms he has already set off he's going to set off every alarm in the facility, just to throw everything into confusion). These books also included a slew of memorable supporting characters. Bollux the labor droid and Blue-Max, his tiny computer counterpart; Gallandro the Gunman (a complete badass); Skynx the alien historian (a fluffy catepillar with a doctorate); to name just a few.
I was excited when Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy kicked off, too. But as those books continued, my enthusiasm began to wane. Too much emphasis seemed to be focused on Mara Jade...so much that it was starting to feel like 'Mary Sue' to me. Still, when all was said and done, I liked the books.
Started reading Truce at Bakura. Stopped because I got bored. I guess a boring book is better than a bad one.
Then...The Courtship of Princess Leia. Horrible. Utterly horrible. The author, Dave Wolverton, just modified the character's personalities to suit his convoluted plot. Seemingly without regard to everything that had happened before, Leia just began to snub Han, who became simultaneously insanely jealous. And all of Han's friends? Chewie? Luke? They're either too busy or just don't seem to care if Leia does dump Han. Reading what I did of this book (it soon pissed me off to the point I had to stop), everything just seemed to make no sense. Where was that tight-knit group of friends who trusted eachother with their lives in the movies?
The Rogue Squadron Novels. Being a HUGE fan of Wedge Antilles, I was incredibly psyched to hear of this project. And then...I started reading all about the adventures of the hella-cool Corran Horn! The Half-Han Solo, Half Luke Skywalker poser and all his wonderful life as the bestest pilot ever in Rogue Squadron! Yay! Oh, and Wedge was there, in the background as usual. Needless to say, after the let-down of the first novel in this series, I didn't continue with the others.
Jedi Academy? It had a few interesting ideas...so much so that I actually read through the whole trilogy. But some of the pseudo science involved (i.e. the SunCrusher) was just too much. It can ram right through the bridge of a Star Destroyer? Okay, I'l buy that the hull is tough enough to survive that. But unless you have some massive inertial dampers, everyone inside is likely to become jello. It can survive a hit from a supernova? Yeah. Right.
Children of the Jedi. Again, started reading. Got bored. Another mary-sue for Luke to fall madly in eternal love with...until the end of the story, at which point (according to 'official canon') the two of them just looked at each other and said "Welp. Seeya.". And Callista was never heard from again. Yeah. Great continuity there.
The Black Fleet Crisis was the next series I read. I liked the plot-lines that actually dealt with Leia as Chancellor, reacting to a crisis and border war. The political intrigue and military maneuvering was interesting. Luke's plot? Boring and seemingly completely unrelated-with another mary-sue type force-user for him to woo. Oh sure, they bring this school of 'hidden force users' back for the finale but...bland. Lando's plot? I was almost excited about. Trying to figure out an enigmatic drifting alien ship. I kept wondering in what wonderful way this would work into the main story. It never did. Boo.
There were a slew of other novels, including eventually all the crap based upon the prequel trilogy. By this time, I was jaded, and ignored most of it. Then came Vector Prime. Its biggest selling (out) point was the death of Chewbacca. Hey, kids, want to know how to drum up press for a series of novels! Kill off a major character! Needless to say, this didn't start me off on the right foot with the series.
The overall idea I liked (and in fact, I am using a modified version of it in my own Star Wars campaign). A powerful alien force, unlike anything the galaxy has ever dealt with. The joining together of old enemies—New Republic and Empire—to face this overwhelming threat. I'm with you. Cool. Bio-technology? Also cool. But...where it starts to lose me is in its handling of characters and its drop into the worst of cliche.
First of all, as stated in my "Heroes" post, Luke has become an indecisive twat. He's so concerned about somehow screwing up and 'failing' at running the Jedi Order that he pretty much just refuses to participate in the war. Oh, right, because going to war is totally against anything the Jedi did in the past. Right, they weren't generals in the clone wars. They didn't fight for the republic in every other major conflict since the dawn of freaking time. No, its suddenly a 'new and frightening' concept. Whatever.
The Peace Brigade? Give me a freaking break. Okay, so the alien menace has destroyed entire planets, killed billions, has utter disdain of all life-forms but their own. They've backstabbed and betrayed everyone, left and right. But noooooo. Its all the Jedi's fault. And suddenly, the scum of the earth is lining up to join forces with a group of people they KNOW are going to betray them eventually because they are seen as lesser life forms. The whole 'persecution of the Jedi' plot was done already. It was done in the prequel trilogy and (surprisingly enough) it was done well.
And finally, my biggest gripe and the ultimate cliche. The Republic is corrupt and paralyzed by its own political infighting. Wow. Where have I seen THAT particular plot point before. Oh, right. That was the main plot of the prequel trilogy. I'm sorry, but that is just lazy writing. If the New Republic (which has only been around a few decades at this point) has already reached the point where it is too corrupt to function through a major crisis, then they should just hang up their hats. Hell, it took the Old republic what.. 10,000 years to finally get to that state? In my opinion, it would have been even more terrifying if the New Republic WAS functioning and still getting their asses handed to them. It would have made the invasion seem even more threatening.
In any case, I am fully jaded now. I don't hold out much hope for good novels from this point out as they are either based upon what I consider a 'flawed' post-movie history or they're set in an equally 'flawed' prequel trilogy timeline. Depressing. But at least I've still got my own campaign world.