I LOVED this book. What is it about these Luke Skywalker books that always surprise me? Could it be that deep down I actually like the character, but have instead just come to resent the weird, self-insert sway he holds over many a fanboy? Very possible.
This sweet farm kid from Tatooine who shoulders an impossible legacy has somehow had to be anything and everything to everyone in out world which makes him a whole lot of boring nothing. But when he’s allowed to shine within his own universe? He’s actually really interesting. In this book, he gets to take centre stage as a mythic figure, yes, but also in a way that’s a whole lot more human than some other things I’ve seen recently. This is The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu.
This is a little bit of a cheat, because the premise of the book is actually one of the 7 stories. A cargo freighter approaches Canto Bight. On the night before it docks, the deckhands stay up all night getting into hijinks. But more importantly, they are up all night exchanging stories about Luke Skywalker. Over the course of the book, they hear and share 6 stories about the legendary Jedi, stories which will affect how they choose to live their lives and the outlook they’ll have going forward. Interestingly, as a reader, we never get confirmation about whether or not any of the stories are true. Luke appears in all the legends, but he never appears in the frame narrative to confirm or deny them. They’re all told second or third hand, so in theory they could all be true, but they could also be total bullshit. It truly doesn’t matter, because it’s all about how the stories made you feel. And isn’t that part of the fun?
The Story That Got Meta About Star Wars: The Myth Buster
I live for Star Wars getting meta about Star Wars. Sometimes I think there’s a tendency to get caught up in the ~*seriousness*~ of it all that we forget how goofy, silly and fun it can be.
This story, the first one told, is certainly that. It is an account of the original trilogy told by someone who has “done the research”, and really looked into these events and come to the conclusion that almost everything we see in the Original Trilogy is political spin by the rebels/New Republic. According to her, Luke is a useless criminal, who fell in with the O’Kenoby gang, who fly on a ship called the Century Turkey. All details were of course changed by the Rebellion to make things sound better and cooler. But don’t worry. Our narrator knows the truth.
I love this because not only is this super meta (they refer to Han as the “shoot-first” type) but because of how far down the conspiracy rabbit hole the narrator has fallen. Or what do I know, maybe I’m just buying the lie the Rebellion is selling me. I would go into detail but I really don’t want to ruin the delight that is this story.
Luke’s appearance here is brief and only implied, as there is an “older bearded man” drinking blue milk at the cantina and listening to this story in amusement.
The Story That Felt Like A Canon Novel:The Starship Graveyard
When I say this one feels like a canon novel, I mean that it hits all those beats. We have an Imperial who thinks the rebels are terrorists. We have the climactic battle over Jakku as the Empire falls, we have the Imperial, now stranded and injured, fighting to get back to what’s left of the Empire while living among the common folk, and finally we have them learning that it wasn’t all that great to being with.
Take out the aspect where Luke Skywalker is the one who saves the Imperial, and this could easily be a canon novel on its own. It honestly probably is in some form, as it had shades of Alphabet Squadron (or I guess I should say Alphabet Squadron has shades of this). It felt less like a Luke story and more about the Imperial.
Of all of them, I think this one is the least likely to feature Luke, though I don’t necessarily think that makes the Imperial’s ordeal untrue. I just think it was someone else helping him and claiming to be Luke for whatever reason. Perhaps because the name inspires hope when nothing else will.
The Story That Is Most Likely To Be True: Fishing in the Deluge
On a remote world lives a small community that live in harmony with the world and the animals around them. They call their home The Deluge. They live their lives in tandem with the Tide, an unseen element that surrounds them, guides them, and binds everything together (sound familiar?)
One day, a mysterious man shows up. Known as Seeker, this man wants to learn more about the Tide, and about how to use it. But he is quickly told by the leader that the Tide is not something you use, it is something far greater than that. It is not a tool to be bent to our will. Still, if he can pass the three tests children of the Deluge are given, then he can learn more about the Tide. Guided by Aya, a young girl of the community, the Seeker tries to take the tests, and learns about himself and the Tide along the way.
So the Seeker is obviously Luke. Over the course of the story, he learns so much about the Force, and specifically about how it isn’t just a power you have that makes things float. Because so much of what he learns here sounds like what he would go on to teach Rey, I think this story is the most likely to be true. Luke is great, but without a Master to teach him the way of the Force, I don’t think he could intuit those lessons. But learning them on his travels is absolutely an idea I can get behind.
The Story That Took Longest To Get Into: I, Droid
Though this was meant to be one of the lighter stories, since it essentially features Luke Skywalker in droid cosplay, I did find it the hardest to get into. This is mainly because the first half of the story is entirely about droids and their new owners, and I don’t think droids make for super interesting main characters.
I mean…we all remember that Clone Wars arc with all the droids and the weird little frog.
Once Luke shows up, the story picks up and becomes funny. But getting there was probably the biggest challenge in the whole book.
The Story That Is Almost Certainly False: The Tale of Lugubrious Mote
This story is also the most WTF of them all. It’s all told from the perspective of a flea that lived on Salacious B. Crumb’s head, until that fateful day in Jabba’s palace when Luke showed up to barter for the freedom of his friends.
According to the flea, named Lugubrious Mote, she jumped onto Luke’s head when he fell in the rancorous pit and talked him through the fight, and stuck around to talk him through the fight over the dune sea.
I mean, this isn’t technically any more outlandish than some other stuff in Star Wars, and the only reason I call bullshit on this little flea is because she wasn’t around for any of the other Force-related hijinks Luke got himself into. But you know what? This is her truth, and I’m not going to take that from her.
The Story With The Freaky Force Stuff: Big Inside
Hoo boy do I love the freaky Force stuff, and this story has plenty of that.
This is another one of those that I suspect is true to some extent. It is being told by a biologist studying in a remote system. She puts out a call for a ride to the second planet in the system, and is picked up by Luke, who is happy to take her where she’s going. The two of them are, unfortunately, swallowed by a space slug in the system’s asteroid belt.
They then spend days, if not weeks, wandering the inside of this impossibly large slug. She takes the opportunity to study it as a new ecosystem, while Luke looks for the origins of mysterious luminous symbols present throughout the inside of the creatures.
Just calling them “luminous” at all made me think of “luminous beings are we” and “project luminous” so of course my mind immediately went to Freaky Force Stuff.
I was not disappointed.
It is here that Luke encounters an ancient form of the Force, known as the Mist. This is where he truly gets the concept that it surrounds and binds every living thing. Combined with what he learned in Fishing in the Deluge, these two lessons seem to form a lot of his outlook on the Force in The Last Jedi, and it partially why I think they’re the most likely to be true.
The only reason I doubt bits of this tale is because I’m truly having trouble imagining the insides of a slug that would take weeks to explore, and that would also sustain human life for that long. But there’s no reason the Freaky Force Stuff, or the strange ecosystem stuff can’t be true
During Luke’s challenges in Fishing in the Deluge, he is told he will have to “cloud walk”. He asked if this means he has to “walk in the sky” and yes I ugly laughed.
I highly recommend the Lipstick and Lightsabers podcast episode on this book. It’s with Marie-Claire from What The Force, and it’s a great deep dive.