So, who read it in 1991?
Memories of Heir to the Empire
(sorry it's long)
I was a pretty big Star Wars fan just prior to this, but I was at the point where I thought I was ready to move on. I was reading tons of Sci Fi books at the time, and I was at the mall with my parents when we passed a "Walden Books" (may it rest in peace). Heir to the Empire was prominently displayed on a table that was half out of the storefront. My parents pointed it out to me as we were leaving, and I immediately declared that it must be a compilation of the 3 movie novelizations. Upon closer inspection, the title didn't make any sense (actually, I'm still not sure what/who it means exactly... but I guess that's still true of "Return of the Jedi" too) and why was Obi-Wan shooting lightning out of his fingertips? So I ended up buying it.
I remember I just couldn't get into the first chapter starring the Imperials. I ended up skipping a couple pages to get to chapter 2 starring Luke & Co. I think I got the audiobook (3 hours on two tapes!) for Christmas and I listened to that several times. But when my wife and I read the trilogy last year, I remember reading the first chapter and having the distinct sensation I had never read it before. Then I remembered that I hadn't. :)
HTTE to me, and the rest of the trilogy, was everything I never knew I wanted from a quasi Episode 7-9. I was very in love with it at the time.
I didn't stumble upon Dark Empire until 1993. I stayed with my cousin in Urban Boise Idaho (compared to unincorporated Davis County Utah, anyways) for a month or so in the summer and made my first trip into a comic shop. I bought issues #3 & #4 of the British Star Wars magazine, which included reprints of Dark Empire issues #3 & #4, as well as the same from Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. We ended up going back the next day so that I could buy the rest of the series. I think issue #6 wasn't quite out yet, and I couldn't find issue #2 or something, but I snagged #1 and #5. Many months later, I picked up Dark Empire #6, but it happened to be Dark Empire 2 #6, so I had to start all over.
Heir to the Empire is probably responsible for my still being a Star Wars fan. I was probably ready to set it on the porch for recycling pick up at that point in time, but reading HTTE got me to re-read the movie books, and the Lando books and the Han & Chewie books. I was a very faithful EU reader for many years, even though I knew that Truce at Bakura and the subsequent Jedi Academy novels weren't as good. Children of the Jedi, I think, was the last book I bought and then never read. Or maybe it was Planet of Twilight, whichever one came after Dark Sabre. I maybe bought a few more books at that point in time, for that was what I did. But I didn't read any of them.
The Special Editions were a fun time in '97, but they didn't lead me back to reading any more books. I guess I was into the Dark Horse comics full tilt at this point in time... Until whenever the original Tales of the Jedi megaseries ended. Then '99 happened. That's when I left for Albania for a couple years and didn't get to see TPM until 2001. But I didn't leave without reading the Terry Brooks novel, which extremely disappointed me.
I came back to the states curious to watch TPM, and cautiously hopeful for the rest of the PT. Over the next couple of years, with the Star Wars on DVD problem, the PT sucking so hard, and the new fans that just didn't love SW the way I had... I started to give up on it again. And then a tri-fecta happened that brought me back in. I found Star Wars Revisted, I played The Force Unleashed, and I started reading Star Wars Legacy comics. All of those things hit me at the same time, and it reawoke that old geek inside of me. I started hitting OT.com regularly, and I decided to revisit the book trilogy that had had a similar effect on me almost 20 years prior.
I don't have as much time devoted to reading as I did when I was a teenager, so I get a lot of my "reading" done in the car with audiobooks. The other Zahn books had come out in my dark times, so I decided to catch up with the Hand of Thrawn Duology and the Survivor's Quest books. I realized that Zahn (and Veitch, to a point) were the only authors I really cared for in the modern EU, so his were the only books I really wanted to catch up with.
I found them to be terrible.
So I dug out my tapes of the HTTE trilogy and relistened to those as well.
I found them to also be terrible.
But my wife and I had had an interesting experience with audio books. I started reading the Wheel of Time books in about 1997/1998 and thoroughly enjoyed those, though I didn't consider myself a "fantasy" fan at the time. My wife and I were preparing for a road trip in about 2004 and we came across an audiobook of The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) and I told her we should listen to it. It was abridged to 2 tapes/3 hours. We listened to it, and I couldn't believe how terrible the whole thing was. I had read them only 7 years before... could I have been that wrong about how terrible the book was? I found myself apologizing to my wife the whole time about how terrible it was. But soon, it was over, and I was just left scratching my head. I knew it must have been severely abridged to get it down to three hours, but I couldn't remember anything specific in the book that wasn't in the abridgement. When we returned the tapes to the library, I saw that they had UNabridged CDs for the Eye of the World. 30 CDs, 33 hours. WOW, that is some abridgement. I borrowed the CDs and started listening to them in my car. I found it to be as delightful and compelling as I had in 1997.
So I wrote my younger, single, more time to read, brother and asked him if the HTTE books stood up to the test of time, or if they were as sucky as the audiobook abridgement, or if it was a poor abridgement. He hadn't read them recently either, but he had read Survivor's Quest and thought it was pretty good.
There are not (as far as I know (please tell me I'm wrong!)) unabridged audio versions of the Zahn books. I decided I had to read them again to know if they were any good. I further decided that my wife and I would read them aloud (as we commonly do together) to each other so that I could actually get through them, and that she could maybe enjoy them as well.
I found them, again, to come back alive in the full text and be just as good and as exciting as I remembered. My wife was less of a fan. She didn't think they captured the characters very well- especially Han and Leia. I think we can all agree that this is not her opinion... that she is simply mistaken in the matter. About a great many things.
Now I'm trying to decide what's worth reading (the two of us) between the end of Last Command and the start of Spectre of the Past. We started Courtship of Princess Leia. Which is plain awful in any state of bridgement. But ironically, my wife was enjoying. I gave up on the book, just when it was maybe getting good... but I don't care. I think we'll read Dark Empire 1 & 2, and maybe suffer through 3. We'll read the Jedi Academy books, which I don't think are on par with Zahn's books, but they're better than average. And I think that's about it.
And then the DSIII Blows up. THE END.