Since Disney bought-out the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars has gone from bad to worse.
Disney's first — and most — disastrous decision was removing all established non-movie canon. I was disappointed because my favourite character, Thrawn, would be removed from the series. I was so excited when they decided to write him back into canon (using the original writer of the character, Timothy Zahn), but nervous because I wasn't happy with how Disney handled The Force Awakens.
I was utterly disappointed with Thrawn. It simply lacked the spice, the flair of pre-Disney novels — here is where I think they went wrong.
Here are fours ways that Disney has ruined Star Wars novels
1. Generic, bland characters
Ever single interesting character in Disney's Star Wars universe predates Disney — Disney have not created one interesting new character. Heir to the Empire gave us Thrawn, Pellaeon, C'baoth, Mara Jade and Karrde. The new Thrawn gave us Pryce — who was okay at best. As I write this a few weeks after reading Thrawn I can't name one other new Disney-created character from that book — a sure sign of weak, disengaging characters.
2. Lacking descriptions and detail
I remember my excitement when I was discovering more about the Noghri with Leia when she first visited their planet; my delight as I learned more about the planet Kashyyyk, where the Wookiees live. In the new Star Wars books, the descriptions of the planets are vague at best, the bland characters existing in a world which feels grey. It's like all the new Disney writers assume we've seen all the Star Wars movies and think that they don't need to describe the location, items or technology to us. Without descriptions — the sights, the smells, the atmosphere — locations don't come alive in the reader's mind.
Likewise, we lack the detail of strange alien species and their cultures. Part of this is tied in with my third point — writers are afraid to add to the cannon.
3. Afraid to add to the cannon
Star Wars novels are stuck in stasis — they can't add to the cannon for fear of messing with Disney's overarching plan. Thus, we get a book where nothing new is introduced into the universe — no new spaceships, technology, planets, cultures, or alien species. This is the exact reason why so many people read and love sci-fi — to see what the future may hold. But without all the details and descriptions, while the writers are so afraid to add to the cannon, the Star Wars universe is bland and uninviting.
4. No moral value
Before, Star Wars was about the battle between good and evil — not just defeating the bad guy, but also defeating the evil within one's self. Few moments stand out more than Darth Vader saving his son, Luke. Mara Jade and Han Solo have a similar character arches — defeating the evil within to be good. Likewise, with the idea of bringing "balance to the force" Star Wars teaches us that anything in excess — whether the hate and fear of the dark side, or the legalism or pride of the light side — is a bad thing. Thus the "grey jedi" are those that have brought balance to the force within themselves — they maintain their own moral integrity while working for the greater good of society.
This entire concept is lost in the new Star Wars. Like a lot of modern novels, it focuses on "the moment", giving us a string of good scenes — while contain engaging writing — are not enthralling because they lack the interesting characters in which good moments are anchored in.
... Bonus: The Force!
The best and most interesting thing about the Star Wars universe is The Force, and with in, the Jedi. George Lucas went overboard with The Force in the prequels — he barley needed an excuse for Jedi to use the force or to whip around their lightsaber. But the new Thrawn book went in the other direction, it hardly even mentioned The Force or the Jedi.
The Force's role is best when it is used for what it was intended to be — as a teacher of lessons. With The Force, the smallest creature (Yoda) can become the most powerful being in the galaxy — but just as Yoda hardly uses The Force, so should we not force our power on others. The Force teaches us to be in touch with our physical surroundings and with people. Star Wars books without The Force — and the philosophy surrounding The Force — lack the glue which holds the Star Wars universe together.