As I have copped to before, I read most of the Star Wars comics and novels up through the late 1990s. But despite this, I’m pretty bad at expanded universe trivia. Luke Skywalker got married to Mara Jade after she stopped being the Emperor’s Hand, right? Were there numerous Emperors’ hands? Was he like an octopus? What about the Emperor’s foot? I’m pretty sure the Emperor’s foot was Grand Admiral Thrawn. That sounds right.
But one place I can lay down the smack with EA buffs is with the Star Wars read-along storybooks from the 1980s. Okay, so all of you know the complete history of the New Republic and the exact hour of the day Leia’s twins were born. Well, I can tell you all about Kligson the cyborg ruler of Droid World! Kligson? Droid World? I’m not making this stuff up! Read-a-long with me and the truth of the Star Wars read-a-longs will make you more powerful than you can possibly imagine. We’re going to revisit three of these daring Read-A-Longs, and first up is the epic adventure of Droid World!
In the interest of complete honesty, I don’t actually remember these read-along storybooks from my childhood. Rather, a good friend of mine introduced me to both Droid World and The Planet of the Hoojibs in 1998. Unlike me, he owned these read-a-along books and remembered them very well. In fact, as a child, he totally tried to reconcile the events of both storybooks with the canon of the films.
A little bit of research reveals that both Droid World and Planet of the Hoojibs derive their plots from specific issues of the ongoing Marvel Comics Star Wars series which ran from 1977-1986. And while the read-a-long versions of both stories were released in 1983, their comic-book origins come from 1981 and 1982, respectively. So both stories take place after The Empire Strikes Back but before Return of the Jedi; meaning Han Solo is nowhere to be seen. The thematic elements of what our favorite characters are feeling is not even remotely relevant to any of these stories. When you’ve got an electronics cyborg genius named Kligson, the emotional pathos of Luke grappling with the Vader revelation just doesn’t seem important at all.
It is telling that not a single “real” Star Wars cast member does a voice for Droid World. Not even Anthony Daniels. Even R2’s whistling sounds fake. (They couldn’t get the “real” R2 to do it?) Maybe it’s R4 from Attack of the Clones or something. Even more jarring is that R2’s whistling is meant to tell you when to turn the page. Since many scenes of dialogue end with R2-D2 “talking” it’s a little confusing as to when you should actually turn the page. Wait? Now? R2, what? What did you say? Now? Wait, is that even R2? Who is moving now? Respond!
Droid World opens with the ultimate conundrum: just how are the Rebels going to get a full technical read-out of a damaged war-bot they’ve managed to procure? Already, just from the start, the stakes are mind numbingly low. War-Bot technical read-out? Oddly, the Rebel Major What's-His-Face says capturing the War-Bot was “no picnic” yet they still managed to do it. It seems like they know everything about taking one of these things down. But I guess they still need the technical read-out for some reason. Okay.
Luckily, the Rebel Fleet is a hop-skip-and-a-jump from a place called DROID WORLD which is run by a “mechanical genius” (they hit you over the head with this) named Kligson. This guy’s name sounds like Klixon in all the dialogue by the way. Even though Major Whatever thinks that Kligson sounds “downright weird,” Luke, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are off to Droid World to have Kligson look at the War-Bot.
Now ol’ Kligson is a cyborg and as such surrounds himself with nothing but “ROW-BUTTS!” (That is seriously how he pronounces “robots.”) But because C-3PO and R2-D2 are totally Rowbutts, he’ll let them come and hang out on Droid World as he checks out the damaged War Bot. (“War RowButt” to the listener.) Pretty soon it becomes apparent that all is not well on Droid World, as a reconditioned Imperial Battle Droid named ZX3 starts a Rowbutt revolution! ZX3 further reveals that he was sent by the Empire to take over Droid World. It’s too bad there are illustrations of ZX3 depicting him as a kind of droid stromptrooper, because if you just listen to the audio, your mind pictures that evil robot Maximilian from The Black Hole. Also, an audio-only experience doesn't make you think Kligson looks like an unmasked Robo-Cop like he does here.
Either way, the ZX3 thing is where the story of Droid World all starts to fall apart. Droid infiltration doesn’t seem like the Empire’s style. I mean, if they wanted Kligson, they could probably just go in there with like a bunch of stormtroopers and get him. Right? Well, I suppose they would have a tough time because Kligson is so badass that he has a rowbutt duplicate of himself that manages to fool both the readers and ZX3 into thinking he is dead for a little while. I must say the moment when Kligson is “blasted to pieces” by ZX3 is actually pretty surprising, considering the character had just been introduced. Naturally, he comes back and it’s all smiles from there.
At the very end of the story after “droid world is in ruins” Kligson steers the planet into deep space. This prompts the faux-Luke to say, “The Empire can’t capture Kligson if they can’t find him.” Whoa. This seems like a pretty good strategy, faux-Luke. Hey! Isn’t this what you guys tried to do on Hoth? That didn’t work out so well, right? How’s it going with the whole search for the new rebel base thing? I know you guys are going to miss Kligson and everything, but we should probably get back to that stuff! (I also discovered in my research that Kligson showed up again in the New Jedi Order novels. Bizarre.)
Luckily, in the next Read-A-Long adventure the Rebels are back on the case to find a new hideout. Find out what happens when Leia and Chewie land on the Planet of the Hoojibs! Until then, you can experience the entirety of Droid World below.
Ryan Britt is a regular blogger for Tor.com. He loves and misses Kligson.