The Mandalorian Armor
by K.W. Jeter
Published by Bantam Publishing
Scott's Rating: 3 out of 4
Steve's Rating: 2.5 out of 4
This is book 1 of the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy.
Boba Fett has just crawled out of the Sarlacc as seen in Tales of the Bounty Hunters. He's alive, but only barely. Dengar and a mysterious woman named Neelah help save him from certain death in the Dune Sea. However, some people are taking absolutely no chances that Fett may be alive. They go out of their way to make sure he's dead. Who are they? Why are they doing it?
You find out a little more information through flashbacks to right after A New Hope. Boba Fett accepts a job from a mysterious employer to become part of the Bounty Hunter's Guild....then destroy it from within. This means that Fett must become involved with his competitors Bossk, Zuckuss, IG-88, and others. Little does Fett know that he's simply a pawn is a plot by Prince Xizor and the Emperor himself. Fett should take a little advice from the X-Files: Trust No One.
If you're a Fett fan, then this is the book for you. It's all Boba Fett. And in my opinion, he seems to stay pretty close to character in this novel. But it's not just Fett who's interesting in this book. It's also the new characters Jeter has created. One is Kud'ar Mub'at, an odd spider-like alien who consists of many smaller organisms that all serve different functions. His whole body makes up a large, floating space station. For example, one creature is an accountant, another is a light, another a listening device, etc etc etc all hard wired back to the central consciousness. It's a little hard to figure out at first, but he's one of the more creative aliens you'll encounter in the Star Wars Universe. Then there's D'harhan, a strange cyborg/reptilian bounty hunter. He's built up to be incredibly bad to the bone, and you certainly feel that way about him. Unfortunately, Jeter doesn't make full use of the character as you see in the novel. Then there's also Kuat of Kuat, the Shell Hutts, Neelah, and more. But read it for yourself and find out about them. This is definitely one of the more creative novels.
The bounty hunters have probably been the most inconsistently handled characters in the books and comics. I was pleased that for the most part, Jeter had these characters stick to my preconceived impressions of them. There's a lot of plotting and mystery in the novel; I'm interested in finding out who Neelah is and look forward to the introduction of 4-LOM and Fett's Slave II. It was also nice to see more interaction between Xizor and Vader.
First off, towards the end of the novel, Jeter uses the word "barve" to describe people over, and over, and over. You'd think the editor would have caught it and given him another word from a thesaurus, but no such luck. Second, there seems to be a whopping load of continuity errors in this novel. Just to name a few, in the book Fett disappears when Boushh shows up, then reappears just when he/she pulls out a thermal detonator. In the film, Fett was flirting with the singers during that time. Why's it inconsistent? Then in the book, Dengar has a secret cave hidden in rocks near the Sarlacc in the Dune Sea. In the film, wasn't the Dune Sea just a bunch of dunes? No rocks? Then, in the previous Tales of the Bounty Hunter novel, Dengar saves Fett then has him as best man in his wedding on his ship right after. (Yeah, odd, I know.) In this book, Fett is totally unconscious and Dengar's fiancee flies off before they are married. Finally, in the Boba Fett comic, Boba Fett hooks up with the Bounty Hunter's Guild for a job while he recuperates from his Sarlacc injuries. In this book, the Guild is disbanded at this time and Fett is already back in armor and kicking butt. There are a few others, but I believe I've made my point. I can't blame Jeter for getting everything to work perfectly, but you'd think Lucasfilm's continuity people would have caught the inconsistencies. However, if you don't care about timelines and stuff, you'll love this book. It's pretty good by itself.
It was bad enough trying to reconcile the Shadows of the Empire comic with Tales of the Bounty Hunters and this story makes it even worse, as Scott mentions. Sure, there's such a vast amount of material out there it's impossible to get every detail right, but some things are so painfully obvious that there's no reason for errors to crop up. I imagine in the next two books there's a chance of finding out the Guild's situation, as Twin Engines of Destruction (the comic Scott alludes to) is a year after The Mandalorian Armor and gives time for it to be re-established.
I guess the biggest problem with this book is that it seems utterly pointless. I've already read what happens to these bounty hunters, just how much suspense do they think there can be? If the powers that be think they're appeasing people with this series because the bounty hunters are so popular, shouldn't they also know it's mostly due to their mysteriousness? Bossk used to seem big & nasty. Now he's stupid and whiny.
What happens when you deep fry a Hutt? The Mandalorian Armor answers that, and the gruesome description wins the ugly award for this novel.
It's far beyond bad for me: the continual use of the words "barve" and "Kuat" were so incredibly distracting I cringed at each repeated occurrence.