Thematically, "Tales from the New Republic" (1999) isn't all that different from "Tales from the Empire" -- both collections chronicle the little guy, either amid the galactic war or amid everyday life in the galaxy far, far away. It's also about the little guy in "Star Wars" publishing. West End Games' Star Wars Adventure Journal was canceled in 1997, but a few lucky authors saw their stories get salvaged here (along with some of the best works that had already been printed in the journal) in the very last book of Bantam Spectra's "Star Wars" license.
However, a couple of big names start off this collection (I guess the editors knew fans would flip to this story anyway), as well as my rankings:
1. "Interlude at Darkknell" by Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole -- This 84-page, four-part novella is an absolute treat for EU fans. Not only do we see Hal Horn, Ysanne Isard and Garm Bel Iblis in action, but it also has the kicker of an epilogue where we see how Isard takes over for her father as the head of Imperial intelligence. Also, thief-with-a-conscience Moranda Savich is a great new character. It's interesting to note that the maguffin here is the Death Star technical specs; some day I'll have to read all the "hunt for the Death Star plans" yarns to see if they tie together smoothly.
2. "Jade Solitaire" by Zahn -- Here we get to see Mara Jade not through the eyes of the Emperor, Karrde or Luke, but on a one-woman rescue mission. It allowed me to really appreciate Mara and all her intuitive skills in a tough situation. Also, we see how Mara acquires the Jade Fire, and how she transitions from working for Karrde to running her own shipping business.
3. "Conflict of Interest" by Laurie Burns -- I mentioned up top that "Tales from the Empire" and "New Republic" are similar thematically, and this yarn illustrates the surprising sameness in some people's circumstances. On an out-of-the-way bacta-producing planet, the average worker doesn't see much difference between being controlled by the Empire or being "protected" by the New Republic. Obviously, as omniscient readers, we know the Empire is worse (we aren't blinded by propaganda explaining away Alderaan), but Burns shows us -- and New Republic Intelligence agent Selby Jarrad -- why the idea of putting your life on the line for liberty wouldn't be high on these citizens' priority list.
4. "No Disintegrations, Please" by Paul Danner -- People who felt ripped off by the lack of a Boba Fett story in "Tales from the Empire" despite his presence on the cover get compensated here. In a vintage Fett yarn, he takes on an entire Imperial garrison. The framing mechanism, where Fett (perhaps controversially) chooses to let his target go, arguably serves as a nice lead-in to the mellower-with-age Fett that Karen Traviss would explore in the "Legacy of the Force" series.
5 and 6. "Simple Tricks" and "Hutt and Seek" by Chris Cassidy and Tish Pahl -- These solid character pieces explore a couple of women just trying to get by in the galaxy, one of whom works for a Hutt. Both stories intriguingly tie into the wider mythos, as well: "Simple Tricks" delves into how Kyp Durron is feeling after his "Jedi Academy Trilogy" murder spree, and how other citizens feel about his actions. Kevin J. Anderson had dropped the ball on exploring the aftermath of Kyp's genocide, but that oversight provides a nice springboard for these authors. "Hutt and Seek" (which is also notable for having four women as the main characters) features Zahn's Mistryl, an order of skilled infiltrators who are highly ethical by fringe-of-the-galaxy standards.
7 and 8. "Gathering Shadows" by Kathy Burdette and "The Longest Fall" by Patricia A. Jackson -- These brutal war stories are undeniably page-turners just the same. The first gets into the confused heads of two Rebels recovering from Imperial torture sessions, and the second is a life-flashing-before-his-eyes story of an Imperial officer being choked to death by High Inquisitor Tremayne. Jackson, by the way, is one of the originators of the Imperial Inquisitors, Dark Jedi whom Palpatine uses to track down Force-users. They'll finally step out of the shadows of "Star Wars" lore and into the spotlight next year: It's recently been announced that an Inquisitor will be the main villain of the animated series "Rebels."
9 and 10. "The Last Hand" by Danner and "Day of the Sepulchral Night" by Jean Rabe -- Here we have a good old-fashioned card-sharp tale and a good old-fashioned high seas treasure hunt. They're both fun, although a bit short on "Star Warsiness" compared to the previous entries on this list. (Also of note, "Sepulchral Night" is written in the first person.)
11. "Uhl Eharl Khoehng" by Jackson -- The story of Dark Jedi Brandl (another High Inquisitor, according to Wookieepedia) was the one misfire in "Tales from the Empire," in my opinion. This second installment in his saga is much better, although it also has a weird, dreamlike quality and an obsession with the dramatic stage arts. Still, I am starting to get intrigued by the Brandl family (and High Inquisitors in general) and wouldn't mind further stories. Unfortunately, Jackson's final entry in her Brandl trilogy has gone unpublished, although Wookieepedia has some notes about it.
How would you rank the 11 tales in "Tales from the New Republic?"