The Mandalorian Armor
[K.W. Jeter, Bantam Books, 1998]


There are 2 stories in this novel, "Now" [just after Jabba's death in ROTJ] and "Then" [just after ANH].

The "Now" tale is a follow-up to the stories in "Tales of Jabba's Palace" and Dengar's tale in "Tales of the Bounty Hunters" [TOTBH] - Dengar and a mysterious former dancing girl called Neelah look after Fett, escaped from the Sarlacc's maw, and attempt to protect him from the enemies who want to finish what Han Solo and the Sarlacc started.

The "Then" story is the main bulk of the book, told as a flashback. Fett is hired to join the Bounty Hunters' Guild [full of "amateurs" he despises] in order to spark off a conflict between the Guild Elders and the younger, greedier members.


One of the things most commonly remarked about this book is the author's use of language, particularly the word "Barve". IMHO it is not used excessively; it appears about 5 times in all, but twice in the last 50 pages. It is used in place of a stronger word like "bastard" which was no doubt deemed unsuitable and replaced with a more "Star Wars" word. On the other hand, Bossk's line "That which does not kill our species makes us even more pissed off" stands out as the only use of strong language in the Star Wars universe.

As well as the author's use of Star Wars vernacular, there is also his use of Star Wars characters to be looked at. For example, here Zuckuss is portrayed as a bumbling rookie in this book, rather than the Gand findsman of TOTBH. It is notable, of course, that the TOTBH character was in permanent need of medical treatment due to his ineptitude in the capture of a fugitive.

The "Now" story features the reptilian Bounty Hunter Bossk, last seen in TOTBH as a captive of the Imperials, his ship "Hound's Tooth" commandeered by the Rebel Alliance. Bossk has made good the escape hinted at in TOTBH, but he has also somehow recovered his ship.

As well as TOTBH, the other book Jeter draws characters and influences from is "Shadows of the Empire" [SOTE]. Prince Xizor [pronounced "Sheezor"] is an all-powerful gangster who manipulates Fett and the other Bounty Hunters to his own ends. Also, the swoop-gang that worked for Xizor appears in the "Now" section of the novel - they foolishly believe that even in his weakened state, they can defeat Fett!

Jeter introduces new characters of his own. "Kuat of Kuat" is a archetypical human genius, manipulator and businessman - but an interesting addition to the upper echelons of the Empire. Until now all we saw was Palpatine, Vader and Xizor; now we can see into the mind that operates Kuat Drive Yards, the Corporation that builds and sells Imperial-class Star Destroyers!

Another new character is Kud'ar Mub'at, the arachnoid "assembler" which acts as a go-between for Fett and his employers. In some senses this new life-form stands out and does not fit into the Star Wars universe - but while I do not like the idea of including an alien just for the sake of having one in the book, the character is original and makes a nice counterpoint to the mundanely human Kuat of Kuat.

However, the third major character Jeter introduces is rather OTT, to say the least. This character, D'harhan, has had his brain put in a bottle, and his skull replaced with a "laser cannon" - what I believe West End Games calls a "heavy repeating blaster", and Kenner called a "tripod laser cannon." Not the most believable of attachments a cyborb might choose.

All in all, I have to say that I prefer Jeter's work to that of, say, the indomitable Ann C. Crispin. To start with, Jeter gets on with the plot, and does not invest the characters with touchy-feely emotions. Okay, Jeter is writing about Bounty Hunters, by necessity a harsh and cold-blooded group - but Han Solo was a smuggler and gangster, too.

Rating: 80%

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