Today’s book is a milestone for a couple of reasons. It’s the first in this read through to star a Sequel Trilogy character (no Snap Wexley doesn’t count). It’s also the first of the canon books to be published post-TROS (and likely owes it’s existence to that movie, but I’ll get to that later).
Teeeeeechnically, I think this one actually falls between Last Shot and Bloodline chronologically, but I’m certainly not going to be the one separating Han and Leia. Poe can wait his turn. But we won’t wait anymore. Let’s dive (or perhaps….free fall? *badum tss*) into Poe Dameron: Free Fall by Alex Segura.
16-year-old Poe Dameron, growing up on Yavin IV, dreams of living the kind of adventurous life his parents did during the days of the Rebellion. He wants to be out exploring the galaxy, preferably while sitting in the pilot seat of a star ship. His father, Kes, is having none of it, and would prefer Poe stay at home. This is made worse by the fact that Poe’s mother died in a flying accident 8 years prior.
But like every teenager ever, Poe feels like his dad just doesn’t understand him. When presented with the opportunity, he takes up with a shady group who are in town on business and need a pilot to fly them out. They are the Spice Runners of Kijimi, led by none other than Zorii Bliss, she of helmet-wearing, smokey-eye-having fame.
Over the course of a year, Poe tags along with the Spice Runners, eventually being accepted as one of their number, only to realize he is in way over his head and wants no part of this life. Meanwhile back on Yavin IV, his father is worried sick about him, and a New Republic agent longing for vengeance finds herself on the trail of Poe and the Spice Runners.
3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Disliked)
1. This book proooobably should have been about Zorii
OK, so I am very deeply, cynically aware that this book was probably deemed necessary to explain Poe Dameron, ace pilot for the Resistance, suddenly having a past as a spice runner.
That said, this book absolutely should have been about Zorii.
Poe stars in an entire series of comics (which, full disclosure, I haven’t read yet). So we have plenty of time to dive into who he is as a person. What we do not have, however, is anywhere near enough time spent with Zorii Bliss.
Her mother is the leader of the Spice Runners of Kijimi, and she spends the whole book, along with Poe, “training” to become full members of the gang. She is tough, has a lot of emotional angst where her mother is concerned, and also seems to have very little qualms killing people. Having an entire book about who she is as a person would have been so interesting. What little we got of her here WAS very interesting.
We could have also had Poe be in this book. but it would have been Poe through Zorii’s eyes. How this Yavin IV farm boy showed up and threw a wrench in her plans to take her place as her mother’s right hand. That would have satisfied the need to give Poe a backstory without needing to constantly return to the same character over and over.
2. Oh, Poe, you sweet, sweet boy
People really need to stop trying to shove Poe Dameron into a Han Solo shaped hole. The number of times “scoundrel” was used to refer to Poe in this book was something to behold. Yeah he’s a little cocky, of course he is when he’s that good a pilot and fighting on the side of right.
Really, if anything, he reminds me a lot of Luke Skywalker at the beginning of A New Hope. A sweet, sheltered farm boy, a kid who’s not such a bad pilot, seeking adventure in the great, wide, somewhere.
But even then, he’s really his own character more than anything else, and what I like about this is the moments where that shines through. He’s silly, flirty, loyal to a fault and determined to do the best he can at all times. All things I love about him in the movies.
But, another way I think he could have benefited from being a secondary character in Zorii’s story is that there wouldn’t have been the need to give him such a lengthy moral dilemma in the book. He realized about halfway through that he doesn’t like the way the spice runners operate, but has to stick with them for the rest of the book for character arc reasons, and this weakens his arc for me a little.
3. Kes Dameron book when?
Though up till this point I’d only seen a little of Kes Dameron in the Shattered Empire comic, I still really liked his character. Unlike Luke’s guardians, he’d seen the horrors of war up close and personal, and has different reasons for not wanting his son to be a part of that. He was such a sweet, devoted dad who only wanted to do right by his kid. (headcanon mode: imagine him and Han Solo having discussions about fatherhood, and wanting to be good dads to their boys, I may cry).
Also, according to Poe, his dad told him that he encountered a Zabrak who fancied himself a Jedi during the war and if that doesn’t sound like Darth Maul, nothing will. I want this one story so badly.
4. Spice Runners of Kijimi: All run, no spice
For supposedly the biggest, baddest gang out there, who takes the spice running game extremely seriously…
The Spice Runners of Kijimi never actually run any spice in this book (or if they do it’s blink-and-you-miss-it).
They sure do run a whole lot though. They run away from other criminals, they run from the law, they run to keep Zorii safe from her mothers enemies, they run around looking for her mothers helmet.
But they never run any spice.
You hear a lot about people making 1:1 parallels with Star Wars story points, and how that’s not how the media should be consumed. On that point, I agree.
But this particular plot element, that Poe was a spice runner, was met with a lot of criticism because of the Latinx drug dealer stereotype. It’s not my place to comment on this beyond that, I can’t speak with any kind of authority. But if you have a book where you have the opportunity to explicitly differentiate spice running from real world drug running, why would you not take that opportunity? Especially since the book’s whole existence is really to just explain that one plot point anyway?
The book got demonstrably better when Babu Frik showed up.
This book is also where Poe learns to light speed skip. Honestly though, parts of this book feel like the footnotes to TROS. The spice running stuff especially.
I actually think that Poe and Zorii’s dynamic in this book strengthens their dynamic in the movie. It definitely feels like the same relationship. I just reeeeeally wish they hadn’t made it romantic. I think the partnership side of it was better and far stronger.
For some inexplicable reason. Not one. Not two. But SIX (6) characters are incapacitated in some way in this book (and on a couple of occasions, killed) by getting stabbed in the “midsection”. It got to the point that by the 4th time, I laughed out loud, which I’m willing to bet was not the intention.