Disclaimer: I read these novels back in middle school (when I should have been discovering actual literature), so I’m going on memory for this entry (with some help from the friendly folks over at Wookieepedia, which is where you can go for more in-depth and un-biased information on these devices).
*header image by Bill Hughes, taken from Star Wars: The Essential Chronology (Del Rey, 2000)
After scanning our previous entries (here and here), you probably realize how dangerous existence on a planet’s surface is, right? Much better to relocate to a station in independent orbit around a star. You kick back, sip some blue milk, and chuckle at those suckers living on giant targets…and that’s when you notice a snow cone-shaped starship firing something at your sun. Which then goes supernova, blasting your rickety tin can home with hard radiation.
Your system has just been hit by the Sun Crusher. That’s right, its name is the SUN CRUSHER. And unlike the misleadingly named Star Destroyers, it does what it says on the the label. The Sun Crusher appeared in three novels written by Kevin J. Anderson in 1994; Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force (collectively known as the Jedi Academy Trilogy).
Anderson’s fingerprints were all over the Star Wars Expanded Universe in the 1990s; he wrote over a dozen books and short stories (including the very entertaining Young Jedi Knights series), as well as Dark Horse Comics Tales of the Jedi series (the basis for the popular Knights of the Old Republic games). Love him or hate him, the man had a huge impact on the expansion of the Star Wars universe and gave us many beloved characters and worlds. He also collaborated with Brian Herbert to continue the Dune universe (Duniverse? is that a phrase people use?) following Frank Herbert’s death, which I feel like he gets hated on a lot for.
I won’t go too in depth on the plot of these books, they’re set about 7…maybe 8 years after Return of the Jedi, timeline-wise they take place after The Thrawn Trilogy and Dark Empire. The trilogy chronicles Luke Skywalker’s quest to found a new Jedi Order, while an Imperial die-hard crawls out of the woodwork to menace the New Republic. Pretty much the same as any 1990s Star Wars novel.
In these books we learn that many of the Galactic Empire’s weapons of stellar destruction were developed at a secret research base called the Maw Installation, constructed on some asteroids in the heart of a dense cluster of black holes (the knot of singularities is located near the planet Kessel, which is what makes the Kessel Run so dangerous). The base was completely isolated from the outside galaxy and was still an Imperial hold-out several years after ROTJ. The Death Star was designed there, and a skeletal proof-of-concept model of the battlestation was anchored in orbit (this was before the prequel films flipped the script on the Death Star’s design & construction history).
After Han Solo uses his legendary piloting skills to escape the Spice Mines of Kessel (you can go to the library if you really need details), he flies into The Maw and is captured by the Imperials still manning the station…and I think he eventually escapes in the Sun Crusher? I believe Chewie was was with him, and Lando too. They steal the Sun Crusher and smash through one of the Star Destroyers guarding the outpost during their escape, emerging out the other side completely unscathed.
By now you probably realize that the Sun Crusher is absolutely ludicrous. It’s a starfighter-sized craft carrying several “resonance torpedoes” that cause a chain reaction in a star to induce a supernova. It’s sheathed in near invincible “quantum crystalline armor” that allows it to smash through a giant starship without being damaged, and later in the books the ship survives being sunk in the depths of the gas giant Yavin to prevent misuse (a Dark Jedi pulls it up using the Force and it is none the worse for wear).
A ship smaller than the water tower of a backwoods town fires a projectile smaller than a Volkswagon Beetle at a star, star goes boom. It’s a touch too much, both “in-universe” and on a meta-level. All other superweapons in the Star Wars Saga (both in film and in the Expanded Universe) use applied brute force; they harness incredible power drawn from massive reactors at the heart of space platforms that span kilometers (or in the case of the Starkiller, an entire world!). The Sun Crusher is too small to deal this much destruction in a satisfying way, and what’s more, it cheats. Blowing up a star with a scientific trickery-induced chain reaction feels like something from Star Trek (specifically TNG-era Trek), not Wars. And I’m not saying that to denigrate Star Trek (I love Roddenberry’s ‘verse as much as George’s), it just has a different style of technology and storytelling.
But at the end of the day, it’s an imaginary ship from an imaginary story. Aren’t they all? The books were entertaining reads (again, going on almost 20 year old memories here) and prominently featured Admiral Ackbar, so there’s that. You can probably find them at your local library or at a used book store, and I’m sure they’re probably going for pennies on Amazon.
BONUS BANTAM SPECTRA ERA STAR WARS SUPERWEAPON:
THE ORBITAL NIGHTCLOAK
And now for something completely different; the Orbital Nightcloak used by Warlord Zsinj in Dave Wolverton’s novel The Courtship of Princess Leia (1994).
The Warlord was a former Imperial commander who carved out his own pocket Empire four years after the Battle of Endor, fighting with both his former comrades and the New Republic. Zsinj considered Han Solo his personal nemesis, and when his fleet had the smuggler-turned general and his friends trapped on the surface of the planet Dathomir he didn’t wait long to bust this bad boy out:
Taken right out of Lex Luthor’s anti-Superman playbook, the Nightcloak is designed to block sunlight from reaching the surface of a planet when deployed in orbit. A network of satellites distorts and absorbs light before it reaches the atmosphere, and within days plant life dies and temperatures drop below freezing. Hey, people of Earth! You could use this to stave off that soon-to-be catastrophic greenhouse effect you’ve got going on there! Just be sure to keep the dial set at low.
The Nightcloak only appears in Courtship, and I don’t recall whether it was developed by the Empire during the reign of Palpatine or by Zsinj’s forces after its fall. The Warlord commanded vast resources and was a proponent of advanced weapons development (particularly in the X-Wing: Wraith Squadron novels), so it may have been cooked up in one of his laboratories. It certainly shows more finesse than most weapons of the old Empire.
We’ll be bringing to light more awesome Star Wars superweapons (both official and exiled from canon) in the coming weeks, Wagoners! Keep your subspace transceivers aimed at this quadrant of the sky, and keep a look out on your sensors for any suspicious objects in the outer reaches of your star system.
If you missed our earlier installments of Attack Rundown, be sure to catch up on parts I & II: