Not the best Star Wars book (among the best are the X-Wing series and the Mos Eisley Cantina trilogy of short story compilations), but certainly not the worst either (that would be The Crystal Star which I almost donated to the society library before deciding to be kind and spare you). One undeniable plus is that it's the story immediately following on from Return of the Jedi, so as long as you've seen the films you don't need any other background knowledge - unlike most other Star Wars books and comics.
The plot: Within hours of the death of the Emperor and destruction of the second Death Star, a distress call is received from a distant Imperial colony under attack from an alien fleet from another galaxy. Hoping to bring one more world into the Alliance, the rebels set off to join forces with the beleagured Imperial forces there and drive the invaders out of the galaxy. The aliens themselves pursue the vile tactic of capturing humans and using them as the living cores of their fighter ships. Therefore the challenge is twofold - to cement an alliance with the suspicious Imperial forces and to find a way to stop the common enemy.
This is a book about all the familiar characters - Luke, Han, Leia and the droids - and they all come across pretty much as the same people in the third (or should that be sixth?) film. The endless trilogies of books about the same characters that came later got very repetitive and boring, hence the welcome change to stories about different characters in the X-Wing and Mos Eisley Cantina series - but this is the first, so everything is still fresh and new. Anyway, read it. It'll make a change from the hundreds of Star Trek books we've got.
This book is a collection of short stories about people in the Star Wars universe, when it is under control of Darth Vader and the Emperor. These people have appeared as secondary characters in other books (apparently) and now they get their own continuing story.
If the description makes it sound boring that's because it is. Some of the people and situations are actually quite interesting, but most of them could be anyone, and not anyone that we care about what happens to either. Read it if you've run out of other things to do, although it did take me a couple of months to get through, it was that bad. Although part of that problem is I'm really not interested in that era of the Star Wars era. If you are, then you might enjoy the book. Although I wouldn't count on it.
The story starts off before the film does, with Anakin's podrace. Then we are into the film. Does anyone not know the plot? OK then, there's a few lightsabre fights (don't work if you a) fence and b) watch closely) and Anakin is revealed to actually be a nice guy. Well, boy. And Sidious is Palpatine if you look closely at his nose and chin.
The book has lots more extra bits than the film, some of which were cut, like Anakin telling Padme he was going to marry her, but some of them are probably new, and help to flesh out the characters. Anakin Skywalker is a much more detailed person, as is Qui-Gon Jinn, and the realtionship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is explored and revealed to be not dodgy at all.
Its a bit slow to start off with, but after a while the story does get going, and the book is much more readable. Although because the film is so action-oriented, its better than the book, but at least the book doesn't suffer from any of the problems in the film, like a ship blowing up in a vacuum and the amazing switching braid trick of Obi-Wan Kenobi's. (And lets face it, he's a very good reason to see the film, rather than read the book.)