We’re in the homestretch now. Only 3 books left in the main YA/adult timeline (not counting the two Black Spire books which we’ll also cover). Though this project isn’t quite over yet, the biggest chunk is behind me now, and I’m getting a little misty-eyed and nostalgic. Nostalgic for the history of the GFFA, even. Appropriate for this book, I think.
I hadn’t read this book before, even though it came out almost a year ago. It was part of the Rise of Skywalker publishing campaign, but I remember it getting swallowed up by the buzz around Resistance Reborn. Which I think is a shame, because this book is so much fun. It’s got all the Jedi and Freaky Force Stuff that I absolutely live for. Let’s dive into this sweet surprise of a novel: Force Collector by Kevin Shinick.
Outer Rim teenager Karr Nuq Sin has the Force. Kinda. What he has is an ability called psychometry, or the ability to see the memories of physical objects when he touches them. This ability isn’t unknown to the Jedi (Quinlan Vos had it, after all): anytime Karr touches an item, he gets a splitting headache, and occasionally passes out. But at the same time, he is able to see visions of events that took place around the item he is holding.
The only problem is Karr lives in the late days of the New Republic. The Jedi have all but faded from memory. Anytime they ARE brought up, it’s usually for people to say they don’t exist. People like Maize, the new kid at Karr’s school.
But Karr knows they existed. His grandmother told him so before she died, while she was training him to use his ability. But now, with his grandmother gone and no one to train him, his headaches persist, and his parents want to send him away to a less stressful environment to train as a tailor and carry on the family business.
Not ready to settle down into a life of monotony, Karr, with the help of Maize and his droid RZ-7, runs away from home and heads on a planet-hopping adventure to uncover the truth about the Jedi and see if he can learn enough from the items he finds to somehow continue his training.
4 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. The use of nostalgia
Star Wars walks a fine line. For a story that means so much to so many, memories of first experiences with it are often firmly rooted in childhood or adolescence. Because of that, it is the inclination of many story tellers in this Galaxy to cash in on nostalgia. Most recently, the conversation has turned to the use of nostalgia in the Sequel Trilogy films, and whether or not this is an effective use of nostalgia. But I’m not here for that conversation today.
What I am here to say is that I love the way this book approaches the nostalgia of the series as a whole. The entire plot once they get off their home planet is essentially two kids who know nothing about Star Wars learning the plot from primary sources.
You see Karr piece together the story of the Skywalkers through objects he comes in contact with, but without added context, his interpretation of them is fairly removed from the truth. It isn’t until his third Skywalker related vision that he realizes Luke and Anakin are two different people, or that Luke wasn’t alive during the Clone Wars.
I can’t quite describe the effect it had on me, seeing the first 6 movies shown in highlight reel form. As someone who knows the full story, watching someone else discover it piece by piece filled me with such an eager anticipation. Like oh honey, you have no idea what’s coming next.
2. A new kind of Star Wars teenager
We have a lot of teenagers in Star Wars. So far we’ve had: teenage royalty, teenage rebel pilots, teenage Jedi, teenage spice runners, teenage runaways, teenage gang members, teenage guerrilla fighters, teenage Imperial officers.
But in this book we get…teenage high school students.
I didn’t notice until I read it how rare these kinds of teenagers are in Star Wars. Kids who live in what is essentially suburbia, with their parents, who get in trouble when they leave home to go on some kind of life changing adventure. Kids who have a home to come back to, that they actually want to come back to. And sure Karr has a special ability, it wouldn’t be a sci-fi young adult novel if he didn’t, but this was still so new for this universe that it kind of left me reeling.
I think this aspect is what also helps root the story in a very familiar kind of nostalgia. I’m not sure many people who grew up with this story were actually teenage royalty, or pilots, or officers, or Jedi.
But teenagers who break the rules in the name of the Skywalkers and their story? Far more relatable. High schoolers who cut class to see Star Wars or get their hands on some part of the story? People who discussed the saga with their friends in person and online? Teenagers who cosplayed their favourites? Kids who read their copy of the novelizations so much the books are falling apart (not that I’m speaking from experience)? Ninth graders who carried the May 2005 copy of Premiere magazine with Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker on the cover everywhere with them and read it under their desk in history class (still not speaking from experience)? We were Karr. We were Maize.
3. The History of the Galaxy feat. Freaky Force Stuff
As I’ve said countless times before, both in the blog and in person, the part of these stories I absolutely live for is the Jedi related plot. All the Freaky Force Stuff is very much my jam.
I didn’t expect a story about the Jedi in any way going into this (despite the title). Frankly I don’t know what I expected. But I absolutely loved what I got.
Each of Karr’s visions was a thrill. I would go into each one waiting to see if it was a moment I recognized, and of course they all were. In a book this short, we need to hit the big moments and don’t have time for the smaller/new ones.
That said, one moment that stuck out to me was Karr’s discovery of a message from Sifo Dyas explaining his motivation for creating the Clone Army. I know this was touched on in Dooku: Jedi Lost (and possibly in the Clone Wars?) but I always found it a little vague, so it was nice to have it spelled out here.
We also get a better look at the effects of Palpatine’s long-term propaganda about the Jedi and about how evil they were, illustrating how it is that such a presence in the Galaxy could be so forgotten a couple of generations later. This had been something I’d always assumed, but it’s nice to see it spelled out here.
I don’t think every little detail of a story needs to be explained necessarily. But if it fits the story and it’s going to happen anyway, then a book is the place to do it.
4. Relics from the past
So because this whole thing is about significant items from the past, items that bore witness to the story of the Skywalkers and the Galaxy at large, of course they’re going to be things that we the readers recognize too. My two favourites are:
Chirrut’s staff. Though Karr doesn’t know who it belonged to, he does know that it’s Force-adjacent and was in a great battle. This is one item Karr acquires before the book starts, and he never learns the full history behind it. But we know what it is, which makes this all the more fun.
C-3P0’s arm. Yes, the very reason he has a red arm in The Force Awakens. Now we don’t know how exactly he lost it, but it somehow ended up in the possession of Dok Ondar, who gives it to Maz Kanata, who lets Karr touch it to see what he can learn about the Skywalkers. This is the item that ultimately gives him the most insight into who they were and what happened to the Jedi.
5. You don’t have power, you have his power
UGGGGGH ok fine. Let’s talk about this.
Really, given that this was in the lead up to the Rise of Skywalker maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.
But it turns out Karr isn’t just naturally gifted with the Force. No no. His great grandfather was a Jedi! He left the order to have a family, but yeah. A Jedi.
I’m genuinely starting to wonder how the Jedi lasted 1000 generations, and numbered in the hundreds if not thousands while not being able to have kids if genetics are apparently a prerequisite?
It was compelling enough that Karr’s grandmother believed in the Force despite not being able to wield it. That she remembered the good they had done and had somehow learned some of their principles and lessons. But no. A great-grandfather gave Karr his power.
Also, something that made me scratch my head was the way Karr’s great-grandfather, Naq Med, died. He didn’t disappear into the Force, his body remained, but the text goes to the trouble of telling us that he’s at peace. So….which is it? Confusing.
All the planets they travel to are worlds that we see in the movies. They even go to Kijimi at one point. They also go to Batuu! One notable place they don’t go? Tatooine.
Maz has Luke’s Yavin medal, which she got from Han Solo. Either the mystery of how this changed hands is going to stay a mystery, or this is yet another reason for me to read the comics.
Obi Wan Kenobi makes a couple of appearances here via flashback. Please just note that if you ever see him pop up on the page, that my brain made a noise like this. But like, in a happy way.
Karr’s droid, RZ-7, often has his name spelled out Arzee. Which is so close to my own name it was a tiny bit jarring every time I saw it.
At the end of the story, Karr decides to record his adventures, and the history of the Jedi. So he sits down and begins to type “A long time ago…” and if you think I didn’t scream WHAT DOES IT MEAN??? then you are mistaken