What’s this? A book review coming out the same week the book was published? Shocking.
I didn’t realize until I came to write this review how much I rely on having a written copy of whatever book I’m talking about to refer back to for everything from plot points to the spelling of characters names. Which is important here because this also marks my first foray into the chaotic world of Doctor Aphra.
This one was a LOT of fun. I love the Star Wars audio dramas and I absolutely hope we get more of them. I am a little nervous to write this one though. I feel in over my head because people don’t just like Aphra. They LOVE Aphra. So I’m just sitting here hoping I do her justice. Without further ado, Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn.
Adapted from the 2015 run of the Darth Vader comics, Doctor Aphra tells the story of the titular doctor’s recruitment by the Dark Lord of the Sith, as she does his bidding and helps him piece together the mystery of just who it was that blew up the Death Star.
Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra is an archeologist who believes that technology doesn’t belong in a museum but rather in an arsenal. Ideally, her personal arsenal. She steals components to build two droids of her own, BT-1 (Beetee) and Triple-Zero. One is a mechanic, the other is a protocol droid and both have murder and torture hardwired into their systems.
Once Aphra is recruited by Vader, she is sent out on solo missions to help him meet his mysterious ends. Along the way she recruits and tricks a group of bounty hunters, winds up apprehended by none other than Princess Leia and Han Solo, and even has a run in with Emperor Palpatine.
And she manages to talk her way out of every single problem. And we love to see it.
3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. Aphra the Unreliable Narrator
In Dooku: Jedi Lost, the narration is partially Dooku narrating a story into a recording device, and partially Ventress narrating inside her head to an unseen and unknown audience, meaning her thoughts are unfiltered. There is no notion that anyone within her universe will ever know what she is saying and thinking.
But in Doctor Aphra, the entire story is an account she is telling to a recording device, with the intention of someone in-universe hearing it one day. And unlike Dooku, Aphra proves to be an unreliable narrator. She overtly withholds information from the listener, flags emotionally vulnerable moments within the recording so she can delete them later, and at one point directly addresses someone she expects will hear her account one day.
2. I’m a sucker for a love story
Speaking of that someone. Sana Starros.
Sana Starros was a classmate of Aphra’s at university, and is also her ex-girlfriend. They broke up when Aphra got an offer to join a dangerous expedition and left without telling Sana. Though of course the real problem is Aphra’s fear of being emotionally vulnerable and experiencing the loss that comes with love.
I have no idea what happens with these two crazy kids, since the last we hear of it in the audio drama is Aphra’s tearful confession of her feelings. But then again, she marked that section for deletion, so who knows if they worked it out? I hope they did. Come one Star Wars, don’t let me down.
3. I’m also a sucker for Darth Vader angst and family drama
I know I complain when there is an over reliance on familiar characters in these stories. And with Vader, Luke, Leia and Han in this book, there is certainly plenty of that. But the difference is that unlike some creators in our world, Aphra barely knows anything about these people.
She knows Vader and Leia obviously. They are public figures. She knows Han by reputation, but not well enough to know that Chewie would be hanging around. She doesn’t know Luke AT ALL which is kinda refreshing I must say.
She accompanies Vader on a trip back to Tatooine where the visit both the Lars homestead and Kenobi’s old house. She is then sent to Naboo to interrogate the mortician who prepared Padmé’s body for burial. All of this is leading towards Vader’s discovery that Luke is his son. There is a lot of Vader’s familial angst, and I love seeing it when it isn’t the main focus of the story, just a little side thread
Aphra actually puts together the mystery of why Vader is so interested in Luke before the end of the book. She is an archeologist after all, and is used to digging for clues. When she overhears Luke say that he can sense his father nearby in the Force, Vader is very close by and this is all the information she needs. But like the unreliable narrator she is, she withholds the information from the listener until right at the very end.
4. I’m going to have to read the comics, aren’t I?
OK this isn’t exactly a problem with the audio drama itself.
Actually I’d wager this was part of what they were going for.
The story is extremely accessible for people like me who haven’t read an Aphra comic before. But There are parts of the story that don’t get a full explanation, or aren’t explored at all, purely because Aphra wasn’t present for them.
For instance, Vader and Aphra make a couple of references to the fact that Luke bested Boba Fett in a fight on Tatooine. I don’t know for sure, but I bet this happened in one of the comics.
When Aphra is apprehended by Leia, she finds that her ex, Sana Starros is there too. Sana and Leia bring up the awkwardness of their first meeting, but don’t say any more than that. WHAT HAPPENED? I NEED TO KNOW!
Plus I need to know if Aphra and Sana ever work it out!
I’m going to have to read the comics, aren’t I?
Triple-Zero is very into droid independence, so I would love to see what he and L3-37 could do together
Someone on Twitter observed that Triple-Zero sounds like Jarvis from the MCU and I can’t unhear it.
Aphra wants to take things from museums and use them, which makes me really want to see what would happen if you sent her and Indiana Jones off on an adventure together
When Aphra is spying on Luke in the Jedi temple, he observes that some of the writings he sees were done with a lightsaber. So of course now I’m just picturing a Jedi carving into rock, glowing, humming lightsaber in hand
Aphra’s dad deals in Jedi artifacts. I’m a sucker for that, I would like that story please