When Disney acquired the rights to "Star Wars" and announced they would be making a new trilogy, many fans began speculation on how the so-called Expanded Universe would play into the new script.
The Expanded Universe was essentially hundreds of officially licensed "Star Wars" books, comics, and games that took place within the universe. Because it was officially monitored and regulated by "Star Wars" officials, it was considered by many fans as canon.
But while fans may have been excited to see the Expanded Universe made on screen, Disney had other plans. Disney decided to make an original story and script, something that would be difficult if the Expanded Universe was recognized as canon, since it covered up to a century after the events of the movie.
So on April 25, 2014, Disney officially stated that the old Expanded Universe would not be recognized as canon, and moved into a category of "Star Wars" called "Legends."
While this move angered some fans, it also cleared the way for Disney to create an Expanded Universe that would fit in with the plot they had worked out for their new trilogy. So far only a few novels and comics have been added to this new official Expanded Universe.
And so, with just a week left until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" releases, here's a look at "Star Wars" novels and comics that those interested in what exactly has been going on in the "Star Wars" universe can pickup and read before seeing the movie.
The list starts with the novels classified as the "Journey to the Force Awakens," a series of novels and comics released within the last year marketed by Disney and Lucasfilm Press as what to read to learn about the fate of the galaxy in between "Return of the Jedi" and "The Force Awakens." These often reveal information or characters that will directly impact the new film.
Next we look at the few novels and comics that, while not essential to understanding the upcoming films, still take place within the new "Star Wars" universe.
"Aftermath" was the most marketed of the "Journey to the Force Awakens" novels.
Taking place several months after the battle of Endor, the books shows that the Empire is losing, but by no means defeated, even as the Rebellion transitions into the New Republic and attempts to create a stable democracy in a war-torn galaxy.
While the main plot focuses on new Republic hero, Wedge Antilles's capture by the Empire and his liberation by fellow New Republic operatives, the book also features brief chapters and discussions about the state of the universe, with mentions to Han and Chewbacca, a scene with Luke Skywalker, and the beginnings of a cult-like following for Darth Vader.
There's also plenty of discussion about the state of the Empire, and their struggle to find a path forward. How exactly this translates into the forming of the First Order by the time we get to 'The Force Awakens' is yet to be seen, though "Aftermath" is the first in a trilogy of books set to take place between the original movies and the new films.
Considered by many fans to be the best book of the new series, "Lost Stars" went rather un-promoted and was marketed as a Young Adult novel.
Despite this, it offers a great Star Wars tale. Telling the story of two Outer-Rim world children who grow up and find their friendship — and eventual romance — complicated by the sides they take in the Galactic Civil War.
Nearly all the events of the original trilogy are visited in this novel, from the view of the new characters, both on the Rebellion and the Imperial side.
The last few chapters of the book take place a year after "Return of the Jedi" and cover the Battle of Jakku, an major event in the war between the New Republic and the Empire that takes place above the desert planet seen in the trailers for "The Force Awakens."
Four individual comics available in a single paper back novel by Marvel, these comics feature two New Republic fighters as they cross paths with each other and original characters such as Luke Skywalker, in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the second Death Star.
SPOILER: We find out that the two soldiers are in fact the parents of Resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron seen in the trailers for "The Force Awakens."
Another Young Adult novel, "Weapon of a Jedi" takes place in between episodes four and five, when Luke Skywalker has yet to become a Jedi and needs to learn to use his Lightsaber. While the story itself has little to do with the upcoming films plot-wise, it is actually being told by none other than C-3PO to an X-wing pilot near the start of "The Force Awakens."
Also set between episodes four and five, "Smuggler's Run" is a story of Han Solo and Chewbacca tasked with an important rescue mission by the Rebellion. Whether or not any of the new characters in the short novel will end up impacting the new film remains to be seen. In the meantime you get to read about Han and Chewie getting into fights and doing other ne'er-do-well activities.
Princess Leia leads a small crew of rebels on a mission to disrupt the Empire in the lead up to the Battle of Endor in this short story. But like "Weapon of a Jedi," the story is in fact being told near the beginning of "The Force Awakens," and introduces some new characters like the droid PZ-4CO, who will appear in the upcoming film.
"The Perfect Weapon."
"High Noon on Jakku."
"The Face of Evil."
"All Creatures Great and Small."
"The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku."
Ranging from 40 to 60 pages each, these short stories highlight characters who will be appearing in the upcoming film. While it's unlikely their plots will have a direct impact on the plot of the upcoming film, they do take place in roughly the same time frame, so they give you a good look at the galaxy the upcoming films will be in.
They are also short enough to be read on the train ride to work.
Disney owns Marvel and "Star Wars", so it shouldn't be surprising that you would find Marvel comic book writers writing "Star Wars" tales. These series of comics take place between episodes four and five and are generally about Luke, Leia and Han starting to work together as a team.
Currently you can buy two paperback collections of the comics titled "Skywalker Strikes" and "Showdown on Smuggler's Moon."
Kevin P. Smith at Entertainment Weekly calls this book about Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine undertaking a rare mission together, "as close to a road movie starring Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine as we’ll ever get."
The Sith duo embark on a mission to bring the important planet of Ryloth firmly under control of the Empire amidst rebel ambushes and personal distrust.
Like "Lost Stars," some fans consider "Lords of the Sith" the best book yet in the new canon.
Yet another book taking place between episodes four and five, "Heir to the Jedi" was the first new book in the new Expanded Universe. It follows Luke as he attempts to track down and free a gifted cryptographer from the grasps of the Empire.
The stiff and autocratic sounding Grand Moff who had Darth Vader on a leash and ordered the destruction of an entire planet without a moments hesitation, Tarkin has long been a fan favorite. But little was known about the man, as he met an untimely end after failing to evacuate in his moment of triumph.
The novel named after him attempts to remedy that, taking place before the events in "A New Hope" and explaining the rise of Tarkin in the imperial bureaucracy.
Made as an attempt to tie in the relatively story-less "Star Wars: Battlefront" video game by EA and DICE Studios, "Battlefront: Twilight Company" is a look at the Galactic Civil war from the eyes of otherwise nameless soldiers fighting on the frontline.
Twilight Company is a mobile infantry unit in the Rebel Alliance's army, one that takes particularly heavy casualties in operations that could potentially change the tide of the war.
Told mostly through the eyes of a jaded rebel sergeant, there's also an imperial defector, an ex-bounty hunter and a stormtrooper. While it doesn't directly tie into the new films, the final part of the book does pay homage to a brief line in "Return of the Jedi."
Rather than tie into the films directly, "A New Dawn" is the origin story of some of the main characters of the Disney Channel show "Star Wars: Rebels" which tells the story of a group of rebels fighting against the Empire several years before the events in "A New Hope."
The book shows how former Jedi Padawan Kanan Jarrus, who has been avoiding his Jedi past and living as an outlaw, gets caught up in an act of rebellion against the Empire and meets several other characters that appear in the show.
Taking place in the last days of the Clone Wars, this novel shows a darker side to the Jedi Order than is typically portrayed.
As the Jedi struggle to end the war against the Separatists, they authorize the assassination of Count Dooku himself, something which many Jedi consider a path that leads to the Dark Side.
Quinlan Vos, a Jedi Knight with a history of rule bending, is ordered to carry out the mission. He teams up with former Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress to track down the Sith Lord and bring an end to the war with an act of darkness.
Alright, this actaully isn't part of the new Expanded Universe at all. In fact, it's as old Expanded Universe as you can get.
The "Heir to the Empire trilogy" is perhaps better known to fans as the Thrawn trilogy after the name of it's iconic antagonist. It is considered as the start of the Expanded Universe, being the first series of books to take the Star Wars story to a time after the movies when the New Republic and remnants of the Empire battle for control of the galaxy under the command of brilliant leaders.
The trilogy features crazed Jedi clones, the Emperor's Hand and Grand Admirals with force neutralizing pets. The "Heir to the Empire" trilogy had a huge impact on Star Wars. For instance, the capital planet of the Empire and Old Republic, Coruscant, is named in these books before it is in the prequel trilogy.
While not canon or having anything to do with the upcoming films, if you haven't already read what some consider to be one of the greatest science fiction series of all time, according to NPR, "Heir to the Empire" should be on your to-read list.