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The early years of Star Wars novels : 1976-1990 (or rather... 1976-1983)


An introduction and some info on ‘the early years of Star Wars novels’ - as they were, back in the day…

Hopefully this thread will serve as a half-decent introduction for anyone on here wanting to know a bit about the history / state of play regarding the early Star Wars novels. Or for those of us wanting a refresher / a little help to jog the old grey matter… 😉

I still find it surprising there were only a total of ten Star Wars novels (including the three OT film novelisations) - the last of which were published in 1983 - and then nothing at all until 1991.

An Index:-

• The Original Trilogy film novelisations
• ‘The Making Of’ books for the Star Wars Trilogy films (I know, they are NOT novels…)
• Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye
• Han Solo (trilogy of books)
• Lando Calrissian (trilogy of books)
• The Dark Times (1984-90)
• The Thrawn Trilogy (1991-93)
• Further reading on the EU novels (+ comics, games, soundtracks etc)
• Some articles on the early Star Wars novels - and the following ‘Dark Times’
• Chronological release order of the early Star Wars novel releases




The Original Trilogy film novelisations:-


Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker - by George Lucas (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster).

Released on November 12, 1976.

About this book:-

‘Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker is the novelization of the 1977 film Star Wars, ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, but credited to George Lucas. It was first published on November 12, 1976, by Ballantine Books, several months before the release of the film. In later years, it was republished under the title Star Wars: A New Hope to reflect the retroactive addition of a subtitle to the film in 1981. Although the book contains some differences from the film, it also includes references to Palpatine and his rise to power in the prologue, setting up the backstory for future films.’ - wikipedia

Further reading:-


Star Wars at 40 novelisations -
Original Trilogy novelisations: A Look Back -
Good Reads reviews & info -
An Examination of the Prologue of the Star Wars Novelization -
Weird Differences Between the First Star Wars Movie and Its Preceding Novelization -

It is well worth checking out the ‘Differences from the film’ sections of the above Wikipedia & Wookieepedia pages.


Empire Strikes Back - by Donald F. Glut.

Released on April 12, 1980.

About this book:-

'The Empire Strikes Back is a science-fiction novel written by Donald F. Glut and first published on April 12, 1980 by Del Rey. It is based on the script of the film of the same name. Along with the film, it introduces new characters, most notably Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett (though Fett had been seen in the earlier low-canon Star Wars Holiday Special, which was made completely apocryphal in 2014).

Glut’s novelization was originally released in two forms; a standard edition and a special Young Readers’ Edition that was condensed into 150 pages. Initial printings of both versions contained 8 pages of color photographs in the middle of the book. The novelization sold two million copies within the first week of The Empire Strikes Back’s theatrical run.’ - wikipedia

Further reading:-


Empire at 40 Novelisations -
Original Trilogy novelisations: A Look Back -
Good Reads reviews & info -
Book Review 1 -
Book Review 2 -

It is well worth checking out the ‘Differences from the film’ sections of the above Wikipedia & Wookieepedia pages.


Return Of The Jedi - by James Kahn.

Released on May 12, 1983.

About this book:-

‘Return of the Jedi is a science-fiction novel, written by James Kahn and published on May 12, 1983 by Del Rey. It is based on the script of the film of the same name. According to Publishers Weekly, it was the bestselling novel of that year. Author James Kahn’s manuscript included a chapter about Leia Organa’s backstory on Alderaan, but George Lucas removed it as he had his own ideas for the character.’ - wikiepdia

Further reading:-


Book Review -
Original Trilogy novelisations: A Look Back -
Good Reads reviews & info -
Book Review 1 -
Book Review 2 -

It is well worth checking out the ‘Differences from the film’ sections of the above Wikipedia & Wookieepedia pages.




‘Making Of’ books for the Star Wars Trilogy films:-


Okay, these are obviously not Star Wars novels - yet they are very much worth a mention in here.

This is especially so given the quality of writing, the amount of freedom given to the author, amount of access to cast, crew and film-makers (including various talks withKershner, Kurtz, and Lucas - and a visit with John Williams)… as well as countless other insights and information in Alan Arnold’s superb book - ‘Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back’.


• Star Wars (1977) - none. Strangely, there was no ‘Making Of’ type book at the time of shooting the original 1977 film.

There is a ‘Star Wars: The Making of the Movie’ book by Larry Weinberg, in 1980 - yet it is a 70 page book for 7-9 year olds.


Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back’ - 1979 book, by Alan Arnold.


About this book:-

‘This book covers many aspects of the filming, and as Arnold has covered decades of movie making before writing this book, he is obviously genuinely impressed with the scale of the production. Good interviews with important members of the cast and crew; even includes Sir Alec Guiness. Especially illuminating chats with Lucas about the overall nine part structure of Star Wars. It’s interesting to compare Lucas’ initial ideas about the sequels and prequels with what was finally released. The highlight of the book is a transcription of a day spent following Irwin Kershner filming on the carbon freezing chamber set. As a collector of Star Wars related books, I have amassed over a hundred, but this remains my favourite.’ - book review

Further reading:-

• ‘Exploring the book’ -
• ‘The One Thing Every ‘Star Wars’ Fan Absolutely Has To Read’ -
• ‘Dispatches from ESB’ -
• ‘Book Info’ -
• ‘Blast Points Podcast - Episode 232: Making an Empire. The Once Upon a Galaxy Book’ -

Amazon link (for info only) -


The Making of Return of the Jedi’ - 1983 book, by John Phillip Peecher.


About this book:-

‘This 1983 book is 292 pages long, and it has everything in it that you would want to know about the making of this film. It includes a detailed, diary account of the day-to-day making of “Jedi.” It is in the same style and size of Alan Arnold’s definitive Making of Empire Strikes Back journal - however does not have the personal touch that Arnold brought to his subject. There are no intimate opinions regarding the cast and crew, but we do get a detailed tour of the Elstree Film Complex (as it once was) and how the ROTJ production company settled in there. A highlight of the book is Producer Kazanjian showing the author around the various Soundstages and describing which constructed sets will be torn down to house new ones. The minutia of creating this type of film is staggering and this record of it near blows your mind! This paperback also hosts a selection of B & W production stills.’ - book review.

Further reading:-

Review -
Reviews & Info -
Reviews & Info -
Basic Info -
Review -

^ although for a review for Rinzler’s ‘Making Of’ for ROTJ - it acknowledges some content is taken from the original 1983 book.

Amazon link (for info only) -




Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye - a 1978 book, by Alan Dean Foster


About This Book:-

‘Imagine if you will, Star Wars hasn’t taken off quite as well as we now know. George Lucas had a contingency plan. He approached writer Alan Dean Foster, who ghost wrote the novelization of Star Wars, to come up with a story that could be knocked out as a quickie screen sequel. That story became the first Star Wars spin-off novel, and later comic adaptation, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye.’

^ The above text, and more information can be found in the link below…

The Great Unmade? Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye - article at the Cinetropolis website. Alternative Link - Internet Archive


'In the midst of fraught post-production on Star Wars, George Lucas was planning ahead. As we reported in our previous ‘The Great Unmade: Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye’ article, Lucas was hedging his bets. He wasn’t convinced that his space opera would be a great success, and considered using his ghost author for the novelization, Alan Dean Foster, to help him thrash out a sequel.

Rather than just be a tie-in novel, this could be a cheaply filmed follow-up. In October 1976, Lucas, Foster and Lucasfilm vice president Charles Lippincott had protracted story conferences about how to follow up Star Wars, and adapt this sequel for the screen.

Their conversation was recently transcribed by J W Rinzler, author of the acclaimed “Making Of” books on the Star Wars films, and appeared in Star Wars Insider magazine. Among the surprises that result from their brainstorming is the fact that:

  • Lucas didn’t think Vader was a strong villain
  • Leia could run off with a Wookiee, and possibly be killed off, or at least get a gruesome pummeling
  • Luke would be tougher and more worldly (they didn’t think they’d get Harrison Ford back)’

^ The above text, and more information can be found in the link below…

Star Wars Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye Story Conference - article at the Cinetropolis website. Alternative Link - Internet Archive


Further reading:-

‘Star Wars’ Author Alan Dean Foster on ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye,’ the Sequel That Might Have Been - at Yahoo
Star Wars’ original sequel wasn’t Empire Strikes Back… - at Digital Spy
Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye: The Star Wars Sequel That Could’ve Been - at Warped Factor
Forty years of Star Wars. We interview the author Alan Dean Foster - at La Fosa Del Rancor
Star Wars Book Review: Looking Back at “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” - at Star Wars Reporter
Book Review: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye - at Fantha Tracks

Wikipedia Page:'s_Eye
Wookieepedia Page:'s_Eye
Amazon Page (for info only):




Han Solo - a trilogy of novels, by Brian Daley


• Han Solo at Stars’ End (1979)
• Han Solo’s Revenge (1979)
• Han Solo and the Lost Legacy (1980)

About these books…

‘The Han Solo trilogy of novels set is in the Star Wars fictional universe by American science-fiction novelist Brian Daley. It follows the smuggling days of Han Solo and Chewbacca ten years before the events of the original Star Wars film. The books were released in 1979–1980, making them the first non-movie Star Wars books published, except for Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (1978). They were also the last published until Lando Calrissian trilogy of books in 1983.’ - wikipedia


Synopsis: ‘Han Solo trusts no one. So when the Authority demands that the Millennium Falcon be brought in for “inspection,” Han knows he has to prepare for ulterior motives. And when the best illegal ship rebuilder in the galaxy disappears, Han and Chewbacca must find him. After all, the Falcon’s overhaul will require very special talents. Their search pits them against powerful and ruthless enemies out to destroy them, and leads the loyal pair through a dramatic series of twists and turns. It takes them to an Authority Data Center on Orron III, and even to the uncharted, airless speck of desolate asteroid that is the Authority prison planet known as Stars End…’

Wookieepedia Page


Synopsis: ‘Han Solo, super smuggler and Chewbacca, his loyal Wookiee sidekick, blast off into interstellar action against the dread tyranny that threatens the galaxy… When space ace mercenary Han Solo and his Wookie partner made planetfall on Lur in their starship The Millennium Falcon, they landed in one whole lot of trouble. The cargo they’d agreed to carry was worth a cool 10,000 - credits they desperately needed - until they discovered the nature of the consignment and the penalty they risked if caught. But for Han and Chewie it was just the start of their problems as they tore through space in hot pursuit of a deadly conspiracy that led back to the ghostly planet Ammuud and the tyrannical Authority deep in preparation for the ultimate space war…’

Wookieepedia Page


Synopsis: ‘The fabled hoard of the mad tyrant Xim was beyond measure—it was also, as far as Han Solo and his Wookiee partner Chewbacca were concerned, strictly legendary. But the pleadings of an old spacebum who had once saved his life—plus the fact that a trifling misunderstanding had set the deadliest gunman in the galaxy on his trail, making a secret expedition to almost any place seem highly desirable—were enough to grab Han Solo’s interest. But within hours of landing on the planet rumored to hold the treasure, Han’s beloved spacecraft Millennium Falcon was hijacked, and his party had to content with assassins and an army of killer robots. This was no way, Han Solo felt, for a pair of honest smugglers to make a living…’

Wookieepedia Page


1992 saw the three books repackaged into a compendium release - named ‘The Han Solo Adventures’:-

1992 compendium release (all 3 books in 1) - Wikipedia Page:
1992 compendium release (all 3 books in 1) - Wookieepedia Page:




Lando Calrissian - a trilogy of novels, by L. Neil Smith


• Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu (1983)
• Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon (1983)
• Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka (1983)

About these books:-

A 1983 trilogy of science fiction novels by L. Neil Smith. Set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the novels chronicle Lando’s smuggling days before the events of the original Star Wars trilogy. The series has been described as “space pulp”, and highlights the differences between Lando and Han Solo. The series is set 2-3 years before the original Star Wars film.

For the duration of the trilogy, Lando is accompanied by a droid named Vuffi Raa. The novelization of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ makes reference to the events of the first book as a previous adventure of Lando’s, which he recounts while composing his autobiographical “Calrissian Chronicles”. He further estimates that it will be the first in a trilogy of his adventures.’ - wikipedia.


Synopsis: ‘Gambler, rogue, and con-artiste, Lando Calrissian was born with a well-developed taste for the good life. More comfortable at the dealer’s end of a fast shuffle than at the rear end of a blaster, Lando always had his sensors scanning for the chance to pick up easy credits. So when he heard that the planets of the Rafa System were practically buried in ancient alien treasure, he hopped aboard the Millennium Falcon and brushed up on his rusty astrogation. He never stopped to think that someone might be conning the con man…’

Wookieepedia Page


Synopsis: ‘A solar system with little more than luxury hotels catering to the underemployed filthy-rich, the Oseon was every gambler’s dream come true. And so it was for Lando Calrissian, gambler, rogue, and con-artiste. Until he broke the gambler’s cardinal rule: never beat a cop at high-stake games of chance. Soon Lando and his feckless five-armed robot companion were being stalked by two enemies—one they knew but could not see, and one they saw but did not recognize…until it was too late.’

Wookieepedia Page


Synopsis: ‘For a year Lando Calrissian and Vuffi Raa, his five-armed robot astrogator, had roamed space in the Millennium Falcon, seeking or creating opportunities to turn an easy, but not too dishonest, credit. But now their partnership seemed doomed—for Lando’s uncharacteristic impulse to help a race of persecuted aliens had suddenly made him and Vuffi vulnerable to several sets of their own enemies…not least of whom was the evil Rokur Gepta, the Sorcerer of Tund!’

Wookieepedia Page


1994 saw the three books repackaged into a compendium release - named ‘The Lando Calrissian Adventures’:-

1994 compendium (3-in-1) - Wikipedia:
1994 compendium (3-in-1) - Wookieepedia:




The Dark Times : 1984-1990…


After the Return of The Jedi novelisation and the three Lando Calrissian books were released - all in 1983… there were no more Star Wars novels for a long, long time.

‘Begun the dark times, had’ - or something like that…

There were still comics, board games, and videogames - but there would be no more Star Wars novels for quite a while.

It would be 1991 before the next novel was released - the first of the Thrawn trilogy of books by Timothy Zahn - ‘Heir to the Empire’ - set five years after the events of Return Of The Jedi, and considered by some to be the Sequel Trilogy in the Star Wars saga at the time.


A decent and concise video covering the first few years of Star Wars novels…

'Star Wars Bookshelf Episode I: The Expanded Universe Begins:- - a 15 minute video, at the Cereal At Midnight youtube channel.

The blurb:-

‘In this video, we take a look at the origins of the Star Wars Expanded Universe with the ten novels that established the entire first 15 years of Star Wars books! We also look at how the first generation of expanded universe books provided elements and characters that are still being used in today’s Disney era of Star Wars!’




The Thrawn Trilogy : 1991-93…



Wikipedia Page:–1993)
Wookieepedia Page:

Wookieepedia Info Pages for each of the three novels:-
• Heir to the Empire (1991) -
• Dark Force Rising (1992) -
• The Last Command (1993) -

A brief story overview:-

'Five years ago, the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and drove the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights.

But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made a vital discovery that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build.’


‘Heir to the Empire reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and the trilogy sold a combined total of 15 million copies. The Thrawn trilogy is widely credited with revitalizing the Star Wars franchise. In The Secret History of Star Wars, Michael Kaminski suggests that this renewed interest was a factor in George Lucas’ decision to create the prequel trilogy. It has been called “influential, much-loved, and ground breaking”. In August 2011, the series was voted into NPR’s top 100 science-fiction and fantasy books (coming in at place 88), as voted on by over 60,000 participants.’ - wikipedia

Further Reading:-

How Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire Turned Star Wars into Science Fiction - at Tor
Building a Galaxy: Heir to the Trilogy - at Transfer Orbit
The Thrawn Trilogy - at TV Tropes
Immediately Following Release of Heir To The Empire - at FanLore
How the Thrawn Trilogy Changed Star Wars Forever - at CBR
Critical Opinion: Heir To The Empire Reviews at StarWars•com
The Trilogy That Gave Us the Expanded Universe - at Heights Universe
How the Thrawn trilogy changed Star Wars forever - at Hot Movie News
Thirty Years of Thrawn - at Edwards Edition
Grand Admiral Thrawn, Star Wars’ amazing, once-erased villain, is now official and real - at Polygon (2016)
How Star Wars Can Adapt The Thrawn Trilogy (Without Creating Plot Holes) - at ScreenRant
Disney botched ‘Star Wars,’ but there’s a perfect sequel trilogy you might not even know about - at BGR
Star Wars Heir to the Empire: Timothy Zahn on 20th anniversary - at EW

^ there are also a number of OT•com threads for the Thrawn books in An Index & Help Thread for The Expanded Universe


A decent and concise video covering ‘The Dark Times’ - and then the Thrawn Trilogy of books…

Star Wars Bookshelf Episode II: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn’:- - a 15 minute video, at the Cereal At Midnight youtube channel.

The blurb:-

‘In our second trip to the Star Wars Bookshelf, we explore the importance of Timothy Zahn’s “Thrawn Trilogy” and discuss how Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command changed everything!’




Further reading on the EU novels (+ comics, games, soundtracks etc):-


An Index & Help Thread for The Expanded Universe - featuring info and discussions on many Star Wars novels & comics.

Canon & Legends: The Multi-Split Timeline - a 2021 thread, by dgraham414


Star Wars Canon and Legends Explained’ (2016):- - a 3 minute video at The Lore Master youtube channel.

^ a quick and simple explanation of ‘Canon and Legends’.




Some articles on the early Star Wars novels - and following Dark Times:-


40 years of Star Wars (A New Hope) novelisation covers - at StarWars•com
Original Trilogy novelisations: A Look Back - at StarWars•com
How books & comics adaptations expanded and changed the Star Wars films (Part 1) - at StarWars•com
How books & comics adaptations expanded and changed the Star Wars films (Part 2) - at StarWars•com

How the Star Wars Expanded Universe Was Born - at IGN
A guide to Star Wars Legends - at Youtini
Here’s 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Star Wars Books - at Electric Literature
Sphere Books, the 70’s and early 80’s home of Star Wars novels in the UK - at Fantha Tracks

Star Wars’ Darkest Age: 1985-1991 - at ScreenRant
Star Wars in the UK: The Dark Times (1987-91) - at StarWars•com
Dark Times: Examining the Star Wars Franchise at its lowest point from 1987-1991 - at The EU
Star Wars Fandom: The Dark Times – How It Changed My Fandom - at One Saga
Full Of Sith podcast: Pablo Hidalgo and the Dark Times - at Full Of Sith

Star Wars reading list: where to start after you finish the movies - at The Verge
Advice on where to begin reading Star Wars Legends stories - at SWBooks
How to Read ‘Star Wars’ Books in Order - at Collider
A Brief History Of The ‘Star Wars’ Universe That Once Was - at SlashFilm

^ more articles and sources of info to be added soon - any suggestions for inclusion are most welcome.




Chronological release order of the early Star Wars novel releases:-


  1. Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (film novelisation) | November 1976, by George Lucas.
  2. Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye | February 1978, by Alan Dean Foster.
  3. Han Solo at Stars’ End | April 1979, by Brian Daley.
  4. Han Solo’s Revenge | October 1979, by Brian Daley.
  5. The Empire Strikes Back (film novelisation) | April 1980, by Donald F. Glut.
  6. Han Solo and the Lost Legacy | August 1980, by Brian Daley.
  7. Return of the Jedi (film novelisation) | May 1983, by James Kahn.
  8. Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu | June 1983, by L. Neil Smith.
  9. Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon | September 1983, by L. Neil Smith.
  10. Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka | November 1983, by L. Neil Smith.

List of Star Wars novels by release date:



If you have any suggestions for articles or info to be added to this thread, please post them below.

Plus feel free to add your own thoughts on any of the above novels - including the two ‘Making Of’ books for Empire & Jedi.

Also, if you see any broken links or errors, please also post them in here too - thank you.

Last Updated: 4th November, 2021. Moderator

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man,you´re a hardcore nerd…😃 😃


Awesome and entertaining .informative thread . Thank you ! I recently started jumping back into the old and Legends EU and some of those links are very helpful as I want to revisit The New Jedi Order series and beyond ,but don’t want to make a 20 book commitment and more , so it points to the essential books which provide the core story .I read NJO up to Balance Point when they first came out ,but life got in the way after that and I just got the bullet points from the rest from Wookieepedia etc for the rest of the legends eu .


I can’t wait to dive into this era of books. I’ve only read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye so far and I have a collection of comics from around 1982/83 (The Original Marvel Years vol 4). It’s fascinating to explore a time when writers were still in the process of defining the Star Wars EU.

“Remember, the Force will be with you. Always.”


I’ve always wanted a full set of the Sphere paperbacks. They appeal to me because they aren’t available in the US. Of course to get all of them i’d have to also get the Futura Return of the Jedi because a Sphere books edition doesn’t exist. I do know they published Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and all 3 Han Solo novels.

I’m reading the Alan Dean Foster Novel of the first movie, Star Wars. My reading copy is Classic Star Wars a new hope, despite the added subtitle there haven’t been any textual changes. The abridged audiobook on the other hand was edited to bring it in line with the film and the then in development prequels, from Time Warner audiobooks and its disappointing. I don’t recommend the audio version read by Tony Roberts and abridged by John Whitman.